Before kicking off this quick survey of things I've been e-mailed about or that have otherwise come to attention and need passing onwards, a quick mention of what I'm up to in the print world this month. R2 magazine has just published its January/February edition (if you're attending any of the forthcoming Levelling The Land Levellers shows, this issue will be available from the band's merchandise desk – otherwise from the usual outlets, or use the handy stockists locater here). My principle activity for R2 this month is way outside of the space rock arena, as I've a three-pager interview with Mike Scott on the Waterboys Appointment with Mr. Yeats shows that are taking place over the next few days, and chatting with 'white bluesman' Dirty Ray and his excellent debut album Big World for a Little Man, but I'm also covering a couple of reissues from the always dependable Esoteric Recordings, notably the Here & Now album Give and Take and the Soft Machine disc Land of Cockayne as well as releases by Dakota Suite, Mostly Autumn, Haight-Ashbury and The Daydream Club. Over in the February Record Collector I'm taking a turn at tackling the regular 'Label of Love' column by interviewing Dave Weller of 4Zero Records about the inception, development and future plans of the label, enjoying the diaries of Belle & Sebastian mainstay Stuart Murdoch, The Celestial Cafe, and covering a DVD of Ginger Baker's Airforce and EMI's Lindisfarne reissue package. Busy week then... other than all being written back in 2010. So last year!
Ciprian Costache from Romanian band Arc Gotic has dropped me a note about an instrumental track, "recorded in our garage", that's now available on Soundcloud, tagged as shoegaze and space rock, entitled 'Floating Upstream'. I really rather liked this well-named composition, one that feels intimate and yet spacious at the same time with a real dream-like quality to it. I'm interested to hear more and have added their Soundcloud page to the links on this blog – I'll get around to dividing the links into blogs and bands at some point, and start adding more links, so if a link would be useful to you then drop me an e-mail. I've not really got into Soundcloud so far though it seems to be something that has taken-off with the apparent demise of Myspace as a meaningful way of distributing new music – someone should have told Myspace that if it's not broke you don't need to fix it, now they have one miserable mess on their hands it seems to me – but I picked up, thorugh the Arc Gotic page, a link to another band who I think are called Harmony of the Spheres with some interesting, if defiantly lo-fi, sounds uploaded; also worth a look.
Soundawesome is, I assume, another music distribution system that is coming through to fill the gap left by the current poor state of Myspace. I need to mention here that the Hawklords have a presence there – and am most heartened by their status tagline advising that they are "planning UK gigs for Spring 2011". The principal reason for directing people to their page is that their Barney Bubbles concert from a while back is in the final stages of being released on DVD and looking, from the clips already released, as though it's going to be a very good film indeed. Advance order details are on the Hawklords' page, and Jerry Richards tells me that the actual release date is only a couple of weeks away.
One of my up and coming print reviews will be of the Tim Smith benefit album, Leader of the Starry Skies, a gathering of musicians including Julianne Regan, Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson and XTC genius Andy Partridge. I know there'll be a lot of fans of Cardiacs here and this is a respectful and enthusiastic reflection of the esteem in which Smith's music is held, a little idiosyncratic perhaps for the non-devotee but still a good reflection of the body of work so cruelly halted by Smith's massive heart attack back in 2008.
OK, more Soundcloud postings. I've heard from Joel Davis of Portland band Mars Retrieval Unit, or MRU, who recently had the opportunity to support Ozric Tentacles in Portland. They've just released a CD, Two Sides, and Joel's directed me to some tracks that he particularly thinks of as being space rock. I'll note these tracks here and plan to produce a proper review in due course. 'Amanita Dream' is a delicious mix of a rather clean and cool jazz sound mixed with a heavier spacey lilt in places, 'Osmosis' (featuring dual vocals that I believe are from Chelsea Luker, who is really good on 'Amanita Dream' and guitarist Rob Sipsky) is again a clean sounding, leaning almost to AOR, song with some lovely sax playing, also from Chelsea, extending out to ten and a half minutes so that MRU can lay claim to jam band status in the way that they extend and use the running time – though I don't know much about them aside from one live CD in my collection I'd say they touch a bit of the same ground as Phish. 'Ares' has space rock lyrical themes and resides to towards the modern progressive rock side of the genre, consummately professional in delivery and contemporary in feel. I've delved into their Facebook page and see that my old mate Roger Neville-Neil is a fan of theirs – that's a good enough recommendation for me and I'll follow up and cover this band in more depth in the future. I assume the Soundcloud link is for public consumption (again, I don't really know the ins and outs of Soundcloud yet) so I'll note that their page is here, and delete the link if I'm in error, but it seems to me a good way to sample before buying and naturally encourage appreciative ears to support the band with a CD purchase from their website.