Towards the end of last year I received a bundle of new releases from Malaga-based Alone Records which I've been looking for an opportunity to cover here; not a label that I've encountered before but a look at their website (available both in Spanish and in English) reveals a company that works in the general area of psychedelia – progressive – folk and has a number of releases coming to fruition currently.
Holy Picnic is the debut album from psychedelic folksters Aleppo Pine who came together in Barcelona during 2008 and who place their music in the context of inspiration from Fairport Convention, Pink Floyd and Soft Machine. "Coloured trees, sounds from the forest and space trips. Submerge inside the occult among folk, psychedelia and rock... The landscape transforms all around you." What they've produced is very much a late 60s, early 70s sort of feel using sitars and theremins to create a typically quasi-mystical hippie vibe that's also suggested by the surrealistic collage artwork of their cover and booklet. It veered too much towards that sort of 'fairy magic' for my own tastes, though some of the tracks that possessed a harder edge, such as 'It's all in Your Mind', I found much more successful in delivering a psychedelic mind journey into inner self... as it were. The eastern theme of 'Coloured Trees', very heavily dependent on sitar sounds, I also thought very pleasing and evocative and when they talk about their music leading to "hidden paths, where darkness and mystery become light," then I think these tracks particularly deliver on that intent, evoking an incense and mysticism based mediation and peace that has an gossamer and elusive charm about it. Not quite my thing, overall, but I can see the appeal for followers of this strand of psychedelia.
I always sit up and take notice of albums recorded at Dave Anderson's Foel Studios up in Wales as the amount of great music created there increases year on year and the musicians that I talk to that have recorded there have only good things to say about their experiences – particularly when Dave plays them In Search of Space in that environment, so The Soulbreaker Company's Itaca immediately grabbed my attention for that very reason. And indeed the Welsh studio seems to have worked some magic again for its part in recording this atmospheric mix of soulful, progressive and heavy space rock. Hailing from Vitoria in the Basque Country, this is their very accomplished third album, full of fury and with a really sharp edge – big, rounded sounds with a classic rock vocal delivery, some insistent drumming and really thrilling lead guitar lines offset with some excellent sax from guest saxophonist and flautist Kike Guzman. As with the Aleppo Pine, the vocals are delivered in English and in the case of Itaca these are very strong lyrics. 'Oh! Warsaw' talks of how 'I heard the chimes of war / Till the end of my life', while 'Where the Mermaids Sing Loud', a really powerful and energetic piece of work deals with rootless and inner turmoil while having a true wall of sound cacophony in its delivery. The overriding musical motifs are those of a heavy progressive persuasion tripping into the space rock genre by virtue of the sax and synths but it's an album of steely resolve and boundless power playing that's very motivational with the dial turned up very high.
Which leaves us pondering the final in this trio of releases, Barcelona-based Cuzo and their improvisational and experimental guitar / bass / drums and effects mesh, Otros Mundos, visually the most overtly space rock in terms of presentation and a really challenging mix of heavy and deliberate rhythms often overlaid with distortion and fuzz that actually never loses sight of its musicality despite that. 'Coche Imaginario' takes as its starting point a very slow bass line that develops with tribal drumming and a gritty guitar riff and works itself into a dark jam, densely textured even whilst it maintains a feeling of space between the instrumentation. 'Ni Vivos ni Muertos' has a brooding sense of unease that leads into 'Robots en Movimiento' with its aura of regimentation and repetitive action that has a Fritz Lang / Metropolis sense about it, certainly a black and white cinematic feel that lingers around a lot of Cuzo's music here. Rather dark in mood and texture, and very successful.