Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sonic Rock Solstice

No, sadly I won’t be reviewing this festival, which takes place this weekend in Bulith Wells, Wales, but in honour of a great line-up here’s a bunch of reviews that have appeared over the last two or three years of releases by just some of the artists appearing at the event. Others, like Earthling Society and Vert:x, you’ll find reviews of elsewhere on this blog. Have a fabulous weekend if you’re going!

Pre-Med: Medication Time

Former Bedouin and Starfield vocalist Danny Faulkner has been working on his latest project, Pre-Med, since 2004 - alongside guitarist Lewis Turner, now departed for pastures new, and bassist/producer Alan Davey. They, in turn, have enjoyed assistance from drummer Danny Thompson (son of the Pentangle double-bass player) and one-time Landmarq keyboardist Steve Leigh.

Medication Time has previously been made available for promotional purposes under the title Invisible Spies but gets its first commercial release here. Pre-Med are drum and bass led purveyors of highly tuneful and immediately accessible Space Rock, and are travelling at the ‘speed’ of light. In fact they like to hint that there’s quite a bit of substance in their playing. Once Upon A Line is a bright, sparkly and slightly new-age piece overlaid with Faulkner’s vaguely Jaz Coleman-like vocals, Up All Night a pounding and grinding thrash and Medication Time has urgent guitars peppered with electronic backgrounds.

With another album in the pipeline, though no sign of live dates at the time of writing, Pre-Med sound like they certainly have some mileage in them. On the basis of this release they shouldn’t be reserved for medicinal purposes only.
Label: Voiceprint

(Originally appeared in Record Collector)

Pre-Med: The Truth About Us

Last year the talents of former-Bedouin singer Danny Faulkner and ex-Hawkwind bassist Alan Davey threw down an impressive statement of intent with the first Pre-Med album, Medication Time, and its anniversary is now marked with this new offering. There’s no ‘difficult second album’ syndrome here. They’ve really hit the mark by developing their sound in a linear way so that whilst there’s few surprises (apart from a delicate and intricate cover of The Demented Man, a lesser-known acoustic number from the Hawkwind canon) there’s certainly plenty of kaleidoscopic Space Rock in their interstellar journey.

Think Killing Joke circa-Night Time meets the ‘Wind in ‘80s mode and you’ve got something of the style of a Pre-Med album. Swooshing synthesisers overlaying chopping guitars with compelling lyrics delivered through carefully understated vocals – a thoughtfully created mind-trip played and arranged with intelligence as well as passion.

There’s a nicely developing space rock renaissance going on at the moment and this band is very much a part of it even though they currently remain a studio-based project. Pre-Med maybe creating lightshows in your head with their music rather than projecting one in front of your eyes in a live environment but the sensory effect is still well realised.

Label: Voiceprint

(Originally appeared in Record Collector)

Quintessence: Self

Forming right in the middle of the Ladbroke Grove hippie scene, Quintessence were part of the All Saints Hall set that also included Hawkwind, Skin Alley and High Tide. Considered part of the “I’m going to India mob”, they actually did the reverse and brought Eastern mysticism to Notting Hill instead. Discovered rehearsing in the Grove by Muff Winwood and Chris Blackwell, they recorded three albums for Island and then this, their fourth, for RCA. Recorded at Olympic Studios in 1972, it also includes two elongated live jams; for this release their single Sweet Jesus and its b-side You Never Stay The Same have also been added.

Playing gently spaced-out psychedelic freak music, they were really all about the spirituality of their Indian influences. Where others of their era played lip service, Quintessence had a sincerity about them that extended to an involvement with the local Ashram community and adoption of names appropriate to their interest in Hinduism. This was also reflected in the tranquillity of their music, so that even their more rocking numbers, such as Cosmic Surfer here, have a typically early 70s introspective sense of, as the title suggests, Self.

Label: Esoteric Recordings

(Originally appeared in Record Collector)

Earth Lab: Element

If your contact book runs to former High Tide and Bowie violinist Simon House, ex-Pilot/Hawklords keyboard player Steve Swindells, Culture Club’s drummer Jon Moss and one-time Hawkwind front man Ron Tree, you’ll surely gather an ensemble destined to hit the spot.

Earth Lab is the latest recording project of Jerry Richards, once of free festival favourites Tubilah Dog and previously lead guitarist for Hawkwind. It’s a 21st Century world music exploration that successfully blends pounding tribal rhythms and driving chords with a fresh take on electronic space rock, to encompass what Richards justly describes as ‘Musik Cinematique’.

Element is a tad loose, with linking sequences of background effects that sometimes are in danger of lessening the flow of the tracks. But it admirably delivers strong combinations of textural changes through its imaginative and often hypnotic compositions. Particularly effective are the opening sonic cacophony Separation By Skin, Wheels Part 2 (a reworking of a number previously written for Hawkwind) and the “Terra Mystica” aura of the close-out instrumental New Light. Richards & Co clearly relish experimenting in the Earth Lab and have concocted an absorbing and highly enjoyable trip.

Label: Earthlab

(Originally appeared in Record Collector)

Gunslinger: Earthquake in E-Minor

Before commencing on over two decades of service with psychedelic warriors Hawkwind, bassist Alan Davey nearly cracked the music business with the harder-rocking Gunslinger. Now at the end of his second stint in Hawkwind, Davey’s been revisiting old tapes and long-buried demos and seeing what gems are lurking in his archive. One fascinating result has been his 4-Track Mind demo collections, stretching back to the initial days of his involvement with the Hawks and including many early instrumental versions of his trademark driving bass and spaced-out synthesiser Hawkwind credits. Another is his reworking of the original Gunslinger songs, alongside original guitarist/keyboardist Nigel Potter, resulting in this album of eleven out-and-out belters.

Gunslinger is where Davey’s energies are principally focused now, both in the studio and out on the road, and it’s not hard to see why. Earthquake In E Minor mines a rich seam of Davey’s influences, sounding like a contemporary Motorhead with a ballistic urgency of rhythm that’s dynamic and as fiery as Hell. On 27th February 2008 the biggest earthquake tremor for twenty-five years hit Britain. In times to come, legend will cite that occasion as the night this album got finished.

Label: Earthquake Records

(Originally appeared in Rock N Reel)

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