Reviews page four
Reviews on this page include: David Kilgour "A Feather in the Engine", Okkervil River "Don't Fall In Love with Everyone You See", Paul Flaherty/Chris Cosano "The Hated Music", Discolor "III", Primordial Undermind "Beings of Game P.U.", Makoto Kawabata/Richard Youngs "Makoto Kawabata/Richard Youngs", Cerberus Shoal "Homb", Matt Everett "Little Epiphany", Julie Doiron "Desormais", The Stratford 4 The Revolt Against Tired Noises", Susan Alcorn "Uma", Maher Shalal Hash Baz "from a summer to another summer (an egypt to another egypt)", Pelt "Ayahuasca", Linda Perhacs "Parallelograms", Nikki Sudden "Waiting on Egypt/The Bible Belt" "Texas/Dead Men Tell No Tales", Mark Fry "Dreaming with Alice", Dipsomaniacs "Stethoscopic Notion", The Court & Spark "Bless You", Various "Bestrummed", Susumu Yokota "Grinning Cat", Bjork "Vespertine", Jeff Kelly "Indiscretion", Piano Magic "Son de Mar (Music from the Film by Bigas Luna)", The Witch Hazel Sound This World, Then the Fireworks, Hood "Cold House", Aiko Shimada "Blue Marble", Ohm "Raw Ohm", Slumber Party "Slumber Party"/ "Psychedelicate", Bevis Frond "Miasma" /"Inner Marshland", Readymade "On Point and Red", Dom "Edge of Time", Flaming Fire "Get Old and Die with Flaming Fire", Mushroom "Compared To What: Mushroom vs. Bundy K. Brown vs. Faust vs. Gary Floyd".
David Kilgour A Feather in the Engine (Merge) This is the 4th solo album by this New Zealand purveyor of music and some kind of magic. This is just extraordinary; taking everything he's done before and expanding in 13 different directions over the course of this delicious baker's dozen. Starting somewhere near the primal holy riffage of Velvet U, and casting these long smokey shadows in the mesmerizing swirling dust. But it's more than echoing eternities of momentary bliss clustered around electric guitar strums and spirals; it's wide open Byrds-sweet jangle, and effortless effervescent folkish emotional communication. Lyrics like drunk circles of rhythm, or simply ruminations of thoughts played out loud. There are sparkling tender melodic tracks like The Perfect Watch, and many others that defy easy definition like the shimmering instrumental Instra 2, that sounds like an outtake from the Makoto Kawabata/Richard Youngs album on VHF, the gorgeous Instra 2 Reprise with itŐs swaying orchestral arrangements by Graeme Downes, or the Nick Drake-like Which One. Today Is Gonna Be Mine (which Kilgour wrote with Nick Roughan and Tane Tokona) is a maddeningly catchy optimistic dream song. While overall the feeling is warmly euphoric and resonantly spacious.
Okkervil River Don't Fall In Love with Everyone You See (Jagjaguwar) This is wonderful; full of wonder and real feeling. Built around the core of childhood pals Seth Warren and Will Robinson Sheff originally from New Hampshire, where they played in a series of bands together before they transplanted themselves to Austin, Texas and became Okkervil River. This four piece (Jonathan Meiberg and Zachary Thomas both play lots of things as do Seth and Will) outfit is augmented by a dozen additional players on various tracks, including very effective guest vocals by Daniel Johnston (on the heart rending Happy Hearts), and playing and co-production by ex-Glass Eye dude Brian Beattie. Sweeping swooning pedal steel guitar, and a sorrowful moody sadness that permeates everything like a meloncholy fog. Country rooted, and colored by dirt roads, folk forms and pop music as an artform. Mandolins shimmer like campfire light, and the sounds range from quiet whispers to outright outspoken. The sweet horn charts on Lady Liberty recall a looser noisy Lambchop. Haunted and human, with wit and plenty of stories to tell, and lives to glimpse in passing.
Paul Flaherty/Chris Cosano The Hated Music (Ecstatic Yod) Flying over the musical map there are so many land parcels cut into neat rectangular rhythms that repeat endlessly until encountering terrain like this, where every structural rule is bent, broken or ignored. Those regular rectangles are forgotten, and wild spirals nestle next to vast expanses of volcanic activity venting steam, and liquid rock in chaotic pools and fissures that open onto wide meadow lands. Paul plays alto and tenor sax, Chris drums. The stark interplay between these two would only be obscured by any additional players, there are many times that feel like there are at least four or five players as it is. From total careening down the mountain headlong wildness, to melodic pastoral passages. The interplay is so tight and unbounded that it's like a series of practical demonstrations of psychic phenomenon, but part of the key is the room they give each other to play. This is like everything that's great about the best work of Jackson Pollock, it's vivid, it's free (or as free as it can be), and it's so human, enthused and mad. This is fucking amazing. High praise must also be made of the gnarly finely detailed cover artwork by ever stalwart Mr. Gary Panter.
Discolor III (Mizmaze/Lizard) This is (obviously) the third album Stefan Lienemann (aka Limo of Fit &) has done as Discolor. Stefan writes the songs, sings and plays: guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and sitar. He's joined by Harald Strecker on Micromoog, the Nereide Neith Trio on strings and Lotsi Lapislazuli contributes some vocals, otherwise it's a truly solo project for this modern German psychedelic pioneer. Stefan is also active as half of Fit and Limo, and as a member of Shiny Gnomes, Fim Froil and Weltraumservice, but Discolor is probably some of the work that's closest to his heart. Song chant zones that expand like thick fog or curling smoke, almost shapeless, certainly boundless and floating free of gravity. Like star clusters or microscopic inner space, the sound expands in every direction, droning wheels of color and light extend their rays into the darkness beyond. Some tracks pulse with alien momentum, others merely exude their fragrance like night blooming blossoms. All uniformly spacious, light-headed and sweet spirited, with a heavy contact-high fully tangibly intact.
Primordial Undermind Beings of Game P.U. (Camera Obscura) The fourth album by P.U. finds mainman Eric Arn (ex-Crystallized Movements) providing field recordings and electric guitar with Jared Barron drumming and Travis Weller on violin and electronics. They are joined by new band member Tom Carter (late of The Mike Gunn and currently part of Charalambides), who helps to expand the sound to wider and more spacious zones than ever previously explored. All instrumentals this time, opening with the mysterious 15 minute extraterrestrial expanse of Uva Urtana, that feels like a slow gliding tour of an ice factory on Neptune. Next up is the over 11 minute Glass/Spitt/ Revelation that sounds a bit like Abunai and Bardo Pond slowly generating a vast tornado of thick scorched snake dancing until reaching the upper outer atmosphere and floating free in a quiet passage that return to the opening salvos of swirling electric murk. Next at almost 10 minutes (do I detect a pattern emerging?); is the sprawling Eastern tinged Louse Dances for Laos that feels like an outtake from Sun City Girls' Torch of the Mystics, gradually gathering gravity and momentum until, it levitates like a revolving stained glass lantern that hovers and disappears. The 4th track; Mercury Shitstorm is a surprisingly short piece of ravaged weather and drone that sweeps through like a rustling herd of ghosts. Filament is almost a dozen minutes long and it feels like an epic tale, with Weller's violin floating sky high above this heady interplay between the duelling lead guitars and subtle drumming that feels like soaring worldwide waves of volcanic tectonic upheaval or just a breeze blowing through time and space. The final track; Liquid Facets feels like a farewell. High desert loneliness unraveling into silver filigreed phantoms that caper and shimmer in the gathering twilight at the end of time.
Makoto Kawabata/Richard Youngs S.T. (VHF, P.O. Box 7365, Fairfax Station, VA 22039 www.vhfrecords.com/) Makoto Kawabata, leader of Japan's Acid Mothers Temple, collaborates with Scottish sound experimenter Richard Youngs and the results are quite surprising. Opening with an almost folk song (there are stripes of color for titles so this is the blue one) Youngs sings about there being "so much beauty now" and plays acoustic guitar while the world around him melts and shifts in shimmering waves. The over 12 minute orange track is a cascading mirage of autoharp, organ, bells, and layers of acoustic guitars. It's like sitting on a perfect hilltop in an orchard that's raining blossoms that catch the light at the flutter and fall until you're covered and the hillside is one vast extended blanket of flower petals, like a gently fragrant dry springtime snowfall. The green track feels otherworldly with phased distant vocals in no known earthly language, and a surrealistic displacement of time and space that slides through your grey matter like butter on a baked potato. The red-magenta track is an over 9 minute study in grace, it feels like peace; inner and outer peace emanating in organic waves like prayers turned into sunlight. This kind of music is obviously very dangerous; imagine the repercussions if peace were to break out; it could spread and infect the world and even our hearts, souls and lives.
Cerberus Shoal Homb (Cerberus Shoal, P.O. Box 222, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107 www.cerberus-shoal.com) Very sorry now that I missed them opening for Magic Carpathians, as this has grown to be a favorite around the Dream Magazine headquarters. Only five tracks, but this 6-piece band from Maine make the most of them. Many indistinct voices layered like a slice of schizophrenia, a heartbeat pulsing and an ominous atmosphere open things with Harvest. Omphalos feels like some elegantly unfolding mystery, told by drums, guitar, bass, keyboards and a distinctive soaring trumpet among other things. Really powerful evocative music that might be compared to some of Mogwai's more inspired moments. While walking dangerously close to some elements associated with "New Age" music, Cerberus Shoal are too noisy and unpredictably anarchic to ever be truly easy listening. Their use of archaic instrumentation merges seamlessly with the more electric and electronic elements. Careful almost Sakamoto-like synth footsteps, bells, flute, tabla, and windchimes float down an avenue of evaporating guitars that feel like some eternal autumnal evocation, and when the singer finally begins to sing after about six minutes of instrumental freefall it only adds to the lonely beautiful desolation of Myrrh (Waft). Flowing into Myrrh (Loop), a hissing pool of voices return and the volume and gravity of the matter increase into this delicious massive sort of Mayan krautrock, thatŐs like a meeting of Ash Ra Tempel and Ennio Morricone before going all ghostly and fogged with ethereal nonverbal vocals. At just under 15 minutes; the closing Myrrh (Reprise) is like some ancient folk song, but I can't place the country of origin; it's somewhere between Turkey, with some (pre-1492) North, Central and Southern American elements, and an undulating jazzy "Middle Eastern" zone. Somewhere informed by chant, drone, rock, suspense soundtracks, the methodical, and the sacred; to make this potent dream music.
Matt Everett Little Epiphany (Matt Everett, 21 Spruce St., Providence, RI 02903 http://as220.org/~matte/) Really gorgeous musicianship (and a superlative production by Joe Auger), with folks playing dobro, drums, upright bass, baritone sax; and Matt providing the vocals accordion, fiddle, bouzouki, guitar and mandolin. Haunting spellcasting with ancient folk roots, gypsy charms, and a whole flock of fine songs that range from almost theatrical evocations to simple bare-bones folk. Matt's previously played with the Amoebic Ensemble and the Eyesores, currently he strums and intones with the Iditarod. He's recently done some studio work with Will Oldham as well. This feels so true, simple and direct as morning sunlight or a glass of water when you're thirsty. There's the timelessness of an older soul, and an enveloping compassionate warmth that feels like kinship and renewal. He has the audacity and skills to do justice to the words of Yeats and Brautigan on two of the tracks, but there are no singular standouts here, as itŐs all cut from the same fine cloth. This could easily appeal to fans of: Stone Breath, Greg Weeks, R.E.M., Richard Buckner, Pat Orchard, Lambchop, Skip Spence or Vic Chesnutt. An essential album of living music.
Julie Doiron Desormais (Jagjaguwar) Following the trajectory of her solo (from Eric's Trip) work and the stuff w/the Wooden Stars, with the edge that all but one song is sung in French. It's a dream record of the highest order in any language. Spare but full, with powerful subtlety, this is transportational magical music. It takes the listener out of time; it suspends time in the same way Ben Watt's early solo stuff did and does. It's a pervasive rainy day atmospheric thing, insular and intimate. Coming into and out of watercolor focus in muted resonant tones. Not speaking five words of French; this is a cipher to me, as such it's more sensory than cerebral. This feels like deep sweetness out of heartache, compassion winning a slow battle with despair over long winter months. You can feel the winter in these songs, the warmth inside and the cold world outside. The sole English lyric is a stark and bleak goodbye. Elsewhere this echoes some of Brigitte Fontaine's best work with Areski Belkacem, Joni Mitchell's most blue moment sustained over the entire course of ten songs, and the chamber folk edition of Stereolab.
The Stratford 4 The Revolt Against Tired Noises (Jetset) This San Francisco band do several things very well. Kicking off with the thundery melodious beauty of Rebecca, which recalls MBV and Bardo Pond, while All Mistakes Are Mine is like some lost early Clean track, with a rushing noisy jangle and plenty of inner momentum to keep it together. The secrets of their success are a female rhythm section of; Bassist, Sheetal Singh and drummer Andrea Caturegli, while singer guitarist Chris Streng and guitarist Jake Hosek circle and stir the swirling mixture of space rock and pop aspects from Spacemen 3 to Sigur Ros, Velvet Underground to Nikki Sudden, which is all sort of the same neighborhood in a way. Good sound, good songs and a druggy blissed-out sorrow that's thick enough to wear as a scarf. They feel warm, familiar and lost somewhere in space at the same time. Weighty and lighter than air, they swirl and howl out cinematic vistas of moody sonic provocation.
Susan Alcorn Uma (Loveletter, 1846 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX 77098) On a hot afternoon in August of 1999 Susan Alcorn and her steel guitar, David Dove and his trombone, and Susie Wasserstrom's bells all shared a space in a recording studio to create the music you hear here. Crystal clear audio verite, mostly of Susan's solo steel guitar playing. Five original compositions and three well chosen covers; a solo interpretation of a piece by the Bulgarian Women's Choir, a seven and a half minute Thelonius Monk Medley, (comprised of A Crepuscle for Nellie, Pannonica, and ends with a portion of Dizzy Gillespie's Groovin' High), and a tantalizingly brief Amazing Grace, to close the album. There are few things more pleasing to my ear than the sound of a well played steel guitar, and Susan is masterful; she's played with folks that range from Eugene Chadbourne, to Pauline Oliveros. Her own compositions are freeform fluid melodic explorations of the sonic capabilities of this sublime instrument; swooping, soaring and unfurling wide smooth wings to glide. In lesser hands this could easily have become nu-age wallpaper pablum, but Susan's unpredictability and soulfulness keep things on a higher plane. Bringing to mind Loren Mazzacane Connors, classical Indian music, B.J. Cole, and Claude Debussy.
Maher Shalal Hash Baz from a summer to another summer (an egypt to another egypt) (Geographic, P.O. Box 549, Glasgow G12 9NQ, Scotland, UK) A loose collective of musicians and untrained musicians built around the work of Tori Kudo and his wife Reiko. Without getting too abstract about it these folks make some of the most emotionally direct and empathic music I've heard since the Modern Lovers played The Boarding House in the mid '70s. They are full of the melodic delight of living, sunlight seems to suffuse everything with warmth and light, the quietest sounds of dawn are cause for celebration and life's sweet mystery extends in every direction; making magic possible and real again and again. Some of the most sweet and gentle sounds this side of Burt Bacharch in a sensory deprivation tank or Simon Jeffes and Joe Meek mingling spirits in a surf-jazz-folk band? This is a consistent delight with the kind of sound that can only come from the right sort of human soul and heart, for thereŐs no other equipment adequate. Could translate to fans of Belle and Sebastian, Albert Ayler, Ghost, Syd Barrett, Raymond Scott, Sun Ra, Daniel Johnston, Penguin Cafe Orchestra or Dump.
Pelt Ayahuasca (VHF Records, P.O. Box 7365, Fairfax Station, VA 22039) Spread over 2 CDs this is Pelt's most varied and beautiful release. Over 2 hours of music recorded over a 2 year period at various live and studio settings. Delicate and overpowering this is soaked in classical Indian music, with it's instrumentation of tanpura, chord organ, banjo, tibetan bowl, concertina, hurdy gurdy, guitar, and it's droning core, but the sounds transcend any single earthly home in favor of something that is as vast and wide any river valley seen from a great height. Taking pieces of the puzzle from Tony Conrad, LaMonte Young, John Fahey, Sandy Bull, and Robbie Basho, stretching out skywide organic soundscapes, of improvisation, and ancient folk forms melted into the ether of Ayahuasca. There is a South American holy brew by this name, or one of several variations, made from the bark of roots and other plant parts into a fairly potent psychoactive agent. This sonic soup is it's own psychoactive agent, and an addictive one at that (thankfully minus the nausea that accompanies the S.A. drink); I haven't been able to stop listening to this since I bought it. Unlike previous outings here Pelt play a few traditional folk songs, which seem to fit flawlessly into the scheme of things and also to serve warm things a bit around the home campfires.
Linda Perhacs Parallelograms (The Wild Places, P.O. Box 150293, Brooklyn, NY 11215 Kudos to Michael Piper of Wild Places for unearthing this wonderful artifact. Originally released on Kapp Records in 1970, it's been unavailable since and has gained a deserved bit of semi-legendary status as one of those one-shot, mysterious fragments of magical '60s afterglow. She's got a clear unphony voice, that strongly recalls Joni Mitchell's first album, but Linda, unlike Joni, has obviously done her share of psychedelic exploration. There's a slight resemblance to Grace Slick and some of the same cool spellcasting is shared. The cap it off Perhacs is a great songwriter, producing work on a par with the best of her peerage. Delicate and heartfelt, with gorgeous subtle instrumentation and a lovely tendency to swirl into patterns of flowing psychoactivated surrender amidst the folkish musings. Maybe a bit of a US equivalent to the UK's Vashti Bunyan?
Nikki Sudden Waiting on Egypt/The Bible Belt Texas/Dead Men Tell No Tales (Secretly Canadian) These are the first two double CD reissues of the wonderful work of Nikki Sudden. Starting out in the '70s as Swell Maps with his late brother Epic Soundtracks when Nikki was 15 and Epic was 12, they recorded some of the most raw sounding DIY/punk pure music ever committed to vinyl. When Nikki "went solo" in the late '70s, he simply expanded his musical backing and started to take credit for the songs he'd been writing all along. Epic continued to drum with his brother off and on over much of the '80s, he also did a lot of session work and started writing and recording his own essential solo work in the early '90s. Waiting On Egypt ('82) picks up where Swell Maps left off, primitive catchy noisy stuff with some telling indicators of his future work. The 4th track is a slightly deconstructed cover of the Rolling Stones' I'd Much Rather Be with the Boys, who besides providing Nikki with a sartorial ideal he's faithfully followed ever since (mainly Keith Richards' rooster hair, velvet jacket, scarves and wasted late '60s early '70s look), also predated later work's stylistic ideals. A rainy day lost in the comfortable grey of all that interior and exterior insulation, and an abiding love of the romance of rock & roll. This presents the entire album's original 13 track and a bonus half a dozen singles and rarities from the same time period. By The Bible Belt ('83) Nikki had run into Dave Kusworth, with whom he'd become The Jacobites a bit later. Kusworth is probably the perfect glimmer twin for Nikki, besides the clothes the looks and the sounds there's some kind of alchemical magic that took place on the records they made together. During this time future Waterboy Mike Scott was also a part of the beautiful melancholia that is Nikki's first really great album. Sad songs that feel so good, makes you turn it up loud and drink hard liquor, for a walk down that road of broken dreams into some kind of temporary glory; a rise and a fall, in the arc of an angel flying too high. Another strong influence ingredient is Neil Young and Crazy Horse (and the occasional dash of T-Rex), and some of Dylan's lost Spanish opium dreaming reveries, and of course Johnny Thunders who was a sort of mix of much of the same gene pool himself. By Texas ('86) Nikki's Kusworth relationship was over, but he had hit his stride as a songwriter. (These reissues are not in sequence, the prime '84-'85, Sudden/ Kusworth classics; Jacobites, and Robespierre's Velvet Basement will be out in early '02.) He's joined by ex-member of The Birthday Party; Rowland S. Howard amongst others here, and the sound is a high lonely jangle that occasionally blasts off into Thunder-ously glorious excess. On Dead Men Tell No Tales ('87), Rowland is still onboard and Epic drums and handles a tambourine. Probably the saddest collection he ever put together, dripping with chiming acoustic guitars and a dusky gathering gloom; which makes it a personal favorite, if not one of the most beloved by itŐs creator. Each of these two discs feature an additional half dozen unreleased tracks of fine stuff. This is played all of the time down at the end of lonely street, where eyeliner traces the tracks of your tears in the twilight. The great liner notes and generous graphics stuffed into the accompanying booklets are a fine tribute to this guy and his beautiful work. This entire project is a case study in how to do this sort of thing right.
Mark Fry Dreaming with Alice (Akarma) This is one of those albums that feels like a secret you can't wait to share. This 1972 artifact has been lovingly rebirthed by our Italian friends Akarma, which is fitting, as the LP first came out in Italy. The original gatefold sleeve-art is presented; if you loved Donovan's Barabajagal cover, you'll really like this a lot, and the influence of Mr. Leitch is also quite evident in the songs and how they're sung as well. But this isn't any kind of parody, and Mark's songs are really their own special mystic psychedelic brach of the folk rock tree, (that bears strange fruit today in the form of folks like; In Gowan Ring, Damon & Naomi, Ghost, Stone Breath, Green Crown, and Fry's contemporaries like, Incredible String Band, Bert Jansch, and C.O.B.). I like how the folkishness lets itself veer off the path into krautrock/West Coast jams, how Mandolin Man starts out like a Pentangle outtake, becomes something Amon Duul might have done and later a Grateful Dead jam with Quicksilvery vocals and finally some kind of stoned calypso. The instrumentation is tasty as well; sitars, flutes, acoustics, mandolin, all enveloped in a spectral haze of otherworldliness, that is in part, the mood of the day and partly a timelessly reverent respect for human psychic tenderness.
Dipsomaniacs Stethoscopic Notion (Camera Obscura CD/ Apartment LP) There are some records that can help restore faith you never knew you had or had lost. As many great modern bands mine the gold of the '60s psychedelic motherload for their inspirations, there is always the risk of merely mirroring past glories in an admired style with nothing new or personal to say with the songform. Norwegian singer songwriter Oyvind Holm, and his Dipsomaniacs (Robert Skaervik on bass, Thomas Henriksen on keyboards and harmony vocals, and Arve Gulbrandsen - drums), are ample proof of the ongoing vitality of this potent musical artform. Seems sort of crazy to care this much and be an unsung keeper of the flame in these new dark ages for pop and culture. This album climbs from strength to strength, challenging themselves, rising to the occasion and delivering one of the unqualified masterpieces of modern pop in the process. A dozen tracks that are so uniformly excellent that it's honestly difficult to isolate any one as outstanding. But here are a few glimpses: At Granny Moon's feels like an early Who/ Move compressed poetic punk pop that unfolds into some full throttle complex propulsive adrenaline classic with harmonic interludes and a dark internal undertow. Of Reaching Out (one of two songs he co-wrote with Art Difuria of Photon Band) feels heavy and light, like walking underwater, unreeling thick psychedelic layers of searing melodic gravity while Oyvind's vocals rise to the surface in silvery shimmering bubbles of considered consciousness until a gentle girls chorus lulls us slowly back to the surface where human voices wake us, and we drown. Me for One is Oyvind at his most Lennony, but dear John was seldom this supple in his solo days, in fact there's a bit of Brian Wilson's more ambitious aspects and some prime Beatles mixed in here, along with a wonderful use of stings, theremin, and vocal harmonies. The stratospheric harmonic space rock love song Show Me Every Color, that works on several levels and soars like a soul released, and the warm jangling heavy folk rock with a wonderful horn section and almost Dylanesque poetic verbosity of Turn Summersaults. It seems to me only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on to these fellows, why not beat the rush and check them out right here and now?
The Court & Spark Bless You (Absolutely Kosher, 417 Frederick St., San Francisco, CA 94117 www.absolutelykosher.com/) M.C. Taylor, Scott Hirsch, James Kim, and Joe Rogers are the Court & Spark of San Francisco California. They play the kind of country music that feels comforting and so sad it makes you remember why they put juke boxes in bars. It makes perfect sense that ex-Byrd Gene Parsons makes a seamless appearance on three tracks here. Lead singer Taylor has a voice that sounds like one of Merle Haggard's bastard children, though their sound is often closer to Gram Parsons with a Nick Drake undertow, and Lambchop kinship. Fade Out to Little Arrow is like Mark Eitzel might sound like if he were to write a country song. Big moody vividness and satisfyingly gorgeous craftsmanship with real feeling
Various Bestrummed Perfect Pop 1995-2001 (Perfect Pop, Waldemar Thranesgt. 63, N-0173 Oslo, Norway http://www.perfectpop.no/) This collection of mostly Norwegian bands (Silly Pillows are from the US, and Orange Alabaster Mushroom are from Canada) is united by it's devotion to the more enjoyable aspects of garagey psychedelic pop. Fine contributions from the Tables who have an almost comic take on compressed '60s infused Brit-pop that rivals the Move in their prime. 19 tracks and really not a clinker in the lot says a lot for the taste and standards of Perfect Pop, but this sampler only makes me want to hear full length releases by King Midas, the Superman Can Flys, the Loch Ness Mouse, Robert Birdseye and Haakon.
Susumu Yokota Grinning Cat (Skintone/Leaf) If the Grinning Cat of the title is a reference to Alice's encounter with a Cheshire fellow, whose grin hung in the air after the rest of him disappeared, this has a similar reductive yet resonant quality; fragments loop and circle like leaves swirling in a breeze and linger on the air. Sunlight seems to sparkle through minimal elements, though largely inorganic this feels airy and full of life. Susumu says this was inspired by he and his girlfriend sharing their home with a family of cats, and it has a similar playful liveliness to it. A few tracks actually take the form of beats and a trip-hopular progression, but more often this shines, glimmers or flutters a few feet above the ground like a ghostly fog made of sound. Fascinating samples including a few from the classic Wonderwall soundtrack. Psychedelic upbeat and dreamy fun.
Björk Vespertine (Elektra) My favorite Björk album yet. Overflowing with springtime sensual energy. The seedheads crack open in electronic crispy shiverings as thin foil butterflies flutter around our Icelandic angel. The synthetic trappings breath in the dew, and exhale dreamy melodic subtleties. Too optimistic and kind to belong to much of the real world anymore, she offers us this warm opium pipe invitation; to slide into her dreams and make them our own. Her most quiet, spacious and tender slice of idealistic hedonism yet. It's that transcendent kind of narcissism that sees the world as a beautiful reflection of itself, and proceeds to invent the world again in it's own nearly perfected image. Atmospheric, eccentric, indulgent and spare, she weaves songs out of a music box, the sound of feet crunching through the snow, simple weightless loops of warm sound, pulses, tones, and flickerings form acts of faith and human magic.
Jeff Kelly Indiscretion (Hidden Agenda) Our hero Mr. Kelly explores the psychic terrain of sin, sexuality, morality, guilt (Catholic and otherwise), temptation (not always resisted), love, and all the feelings that haunt the human heart. His obsession with antiquarian doomed romantic imagery continues unabated, allowing the listener an a bit of a journey through time as well as emotion and storyline. What other singer songwriter on Earth would endeavor to set a painting to music as Jeff does with the eerily effective Balthus, King of Cats? Psychedelic and grandly melodic with Beatlesque elements and a dark streak of poetic morbidity; this is one of Jeff's finest and most engaging moments. Songs about witches and ghosts with lots of electric (and acoustic) guitar drawing swirling neon smears of color in the gathering twilight. Heavier and more "rock" than he's been in much of his solo stuff, but no less hooky or ambitious. For some reason Jeff's work here makes me think of Bevis Frond in a way none of his previous work has, perhaps it's his use of guitar, I'm not sure; but I'm certain this is a deliciously dark delight.
Piano Magic Son de Mar (Music from the Film by Bigas Luna) (4AD) This soundtrack work is so right for Piano Magic to be doing. Glen Johnson and Co., deliver a beautifully moody set of six untitled instrumentals, though part of this already appeared as Darla's Bliss Out Volume 13. The whole (rather short, under 38 min.) album has a dreamy atmospheric twilight-zone sense of displacement; feeling lightheaded, maybe slightly seasick, and high as a kite. Wonderful organic/ synthetic instrumentation and plenty of cool spacious distance to dissolve into as your own soundtrack or discreet headphone vacation.
The Witch Hazel Sound This World, Then the Fireworks (Hidden Agenda) Though hardly prolific; the Ohian band Witch Hazel Sound make recordings well worth waiting for. The dozen tracks here are dreamy excursions into the possibilities of melodic harmonious pop of the sort practiced by '60s stalwarts: the Zombies, Left Banke, Brian Wilson/the Beach Boys and later folks like the Sneetches or Richard Davies. A joyful sweet spirited sound with muted trumpets, subtle horns, sax, and keyboards complimenting the drums. bass and guitars. There's also some vibraphones, but where would we all be with vibes? Dreamy songs painted in the indelible colors of an endless summer that spill though like filtered sunlight throughout this.
Hood Cold House (Aesthetics) This is Hood's fifth full length album. A continuation and a refinement of their ongoing exploration of organic and electronic elements in contrast and compliment to one another. Often the sound of a lonely factory that's learned to assemble it's separate sounds into a kind of music, though in most places this is much more songlike and immediate than much of Hood's previous work. It also feels much more actively "processed"; as if they'd already remixed themselves. Tiny twitches and glitches, fizz in and out of songs like electronic insects hovering in the light. An acoustic guitar gets sliced and diced till it falls in segments like a shuffled deck of cards. Songs go forwards and sideways in several directions at the same time, but almost all still have a core of sorrowful and lonely lovely gravity, like small sullen planets circling through a void. Chris and Richard Adams are joined by bandmates Gareth Brown and Stephen R, along with a few guests on stuff like trumpet, flute, additional guitar and some vocal stylings from hip-hoppers dose and why, who weave in and out of a few songs like a chanting substrata in layers of textural detail. Co-produced by Hood and Richard Formby (Spectrum, Mogwai), who also adds some acoustic guitar; this is certainly beautifully recorded and mixed, with an accent on where and when to shift the focus. Moments add up into a cumulative pathos that seems to contemplate mortality, or maybe it's just the change of seasons ceaselessly rising and falling through time. Once again what Hood do best, is connect on some sort of emotionally true level. Music this honest is the best antidote to times like these.
Aiko Shimada Blue Marble (Tzadik) Aiko sings and sometimes plays electric guitar, she wrote all but one of the nine songs here. Co-recorded and produced by Eyvind Kang (who also plays: violin, viola, fretless bass tom-tom, recorders, mint-finger cymbals & ashiko drum), and Evan Schiller (drums, drum loops, bells). Bill Frisell plays on two tracks as well, but this is Aiko's show all the way. When she sings her beautiful voice becomes the warm center of everything around it, she's got a full and powerful instrument in her voice. Her songs are like artfully crafted smoke, shaping and reshaping itself into spectral forms and ancient pathways leading backwards and forwards through time and space. To trace the "shape of sleepy music" into another world, unfolding in wide harmonious chambers of layered vocals and inspired subtle instrumentation. This is music to lose yourself in, utilizing elements of folk, classical, pop, jazz, and more into this potent mix that never pushes, yet bears the listener aloft into a dream world. Born in Japan and now living in Seattle, she sings exclusively in Japanese here. This is essential to fans of Pop-Off Tuesday, Akiko Yano, or great pop as an art-form (though never "cute"), her work is consistently compelling and quite effectively transportational.
Ohm Raw Ohm (Mizmaze/Snowdonia) This Fort Worth quartet put out a distinct variation of the improv/space rock formula, with a mix of real drums, bass, and some very subtle guitar, mixing with melotron, other electronics and clarinets. The sound they make is a tranced-out combination of fascinatingly interlaced elements of free jazz, sci-fi krautrock visions of eternity, drone, groovage, mood and experimentalism. As the soundtrack to a lost episode of the original Star Trek by Tangerine Dream gets sucked into a black hole and spit out on the other side of the next dimension. Only one track of the five here is under seven minutes, with a couple near or past the quarter hour mark, this is about an organic sonic evolution, the flow of interaction, never playing the same song twice, going wild while still maintaining a mood. The lines between structure and the shifting tides of chaos blur and blend into one another; the results are pure aural psychedelia.
Slumber Party Slumber Party / Psychedelicate (Kill Rock Stars) The first album by this Detroit four woman outfit feels like a lost Kendra Smith sidetrip, somewhere between Opal and the Guild of Temporal Adventures on the way to the heart of the sun, marching to a Velvet Underground beat. Built around the voice, songs, organ and guitar of Aliccia Berg, who has a vocal sound similar to some of the classic 'girl-groups' of the early '60s, with a sound both narcotic and mesmerizing. By the second album Psychedelicate (2001), they'd changed two band members (a new rhythm section), but the core of Aliccia and second guitarist backing singer Gretchen Gonzales was still intact. The sound was a bit more diverse, and experimentally unhinged. New drummer Leigh Sabo sweetens the backing vocals a dit while providing a Mo Tucker simplicity to the skins, new bassist Marci Bolen also sing so the vocals have a greater fullness and range. Still bringing to mind Kendra Smith and maybe a little Strawberry Switchblade on the side.
Bevis Frond Miasma /Inner Marshland (Past & Present UK, Rubric/Woronzow US) For the sake of humanity, Rubric is reissuing these earliest of Bevis Frond albums, with deluxe wall to wall liner notes by Nick Saloman himself. No more skulking around eBay to pay insane amounts for vintage vinyl (Ha!). Miasma (1987) is the first Bevis Frond album, and a splendid truly solo debut, with Nick playing everything. Fairly fully realized even then as a musician and songwriter, this is an obviously a low budget home-recorded affair and that only adds to the enthused authenticity, and besides he's a good band all to himself. Obviously the debut of a fine artist with great musical tastes, listening to this make me want to look through his record collection, but he's already got his own voice, and though I can see his roots in places he never sounds like anything other than 100% Bevis Frond (British hybrid archaic modern psychedelic folk rock). Eighteen songs and it's all good to great; a few favorites: the urgent She's in Love with Time with it's searing guitar solo. The chiming jangle pop optimism of the gorgeous Splendid Isolation. The searingly furious Crazy Horse-like intensity of Maybe. There are seven additional tracks (different ones than the Reckless CD reissue from a few years back). Song from Room 13 is a really strong interpersonal drama set to a dreamy almost Santana-like sound. High Wind in the Trees is a byrdsy beauty. South Hampstead Rain is an almost Celtic haunted beautiful love song. Encouraged by the positive response he got to his initial pressing for friends and family he reissued the album and went on to record four more full length albums in the next two years. The second one, Inner Marshland ('87) is an even more overtly acid drenched album than it's immediate predecessor; songs stretch out into sound suites and the guitars get some room to wail, including a fine fried solo by Bari Watts on Once More. Reflection in a Tall Mirror is is an intense electrified propulsive rocker. Hey Mr. Undecided is a pleasantly Barretty peculiarity. I've Got Eyes in the Back of My Head reminds me of early Soft Boys which is a good thing. With a couple guests joining Nick this time on a three or four of the original eleven, which are fleshed out here with an additional six bonus tracks. (Mention must be made of the exquisitely trippy pen and ink cover art by Cyle Bancroft on both of these releases, that's been reproduced quite faithfully if shrunken to CD proportions).
Readymade On Point and Red (endearing) This is the second album by Vancouver's thickly melodic shoegazers Readymade, following '97's The Dramatic Balanced (No Records). Making some of the most satisfying music of this sort since the last Phineas Gage, or My Bloody Valentine for that matter. Sky high walls of guitar and synth build into some heavy vast musical soundscape that envelopes everything in a sweetly bereaved sense of awe and majesty. Quieter too and leaving light tracks in the snow, everything sounding insulated, clear yet softened. Gravity and glory in a long slow tug of war with this human rope of souls. The hidden track is a dreamy haunting thing (that's almost worth the irritation of enduring the "hidden track phenomenon"; which will, during your listening day, arbitrarily pencil in a little quiet time between the last track and "the last track", which invariably occurs when you are in the bathtub or otherwise unable to fast forward). All in all a dreamily flawless psychedelic pop gem.
Dom Edge of Time (Second Battle c/o Pandora's Box, Stubenrauchstr. 70, 12161 Berlin, Germany) This reissue of the 1970 German underground album also includes five additional tracks (including the irritating '98 recording Let Me Explain 5, though everything else here is thankfully early '70s vintage). Dreamy spaced experimental and moody. Deep mysterious and almost spooky with whispered spoken voices, spine tingling guitars and simmering keyboards seen through a heat haze of Egyptian light. Bearing some semblance to pre-D.S.o.t.M. Pink Floyd and the more free form aspects of Amon Duul, with folkish elements alongside fuzzed droning abrasives. Synthetic and acoustic elements happily coexist, the keyboards feel like sunlight, guitars alternate between feedback and acoustic folkishness. It all serves to mystify and evoke an infectious psychoactivated moodzone.
Flaming Fire Get Old and Die with Flaming Fire (http://www.flamingfire.com/) Well wow; this is so distinctive and homemade idiosyncratic that it's become a recent favorite. Lo-fi murky emerging into fuzzy throbbing twilight. Mixing male and female vocals, ranging from songlike to abstract. Overtly Residents influenced, with elements of mentally retarded funk, transistor radio '60s pop, a genre hopping schizophrenia, stoned inventiveness; sketching out new worlds out of tin cans and chalk. Calling themselves; "a spooky electronic chant band", sorta like Current 93 if they were all US dorks instead of UK druid moon men. Sorta goofy, with a Devo-Residential twang, but far more arty and stiff, but also far more unpredictable, authentically amateurish and primitively real. Great Halloween fun any time of the year, day or night.
Mushroom Compared To What: Mushroom vs. Bundy K. Brown vs. Faust vs. Gary Floyd (InnerSPACE, www.innerspacerecords.com) Putting out the remix album before the actual album is a new one one me, and maybe a good idea; for that's what this is. Songs from their full length Foxy Music are This seven song album kicks off with a roof-raising rendition of the old Les McCann and Eddie Harris hit (from their live 1969 album Swiss Movement). It was one of the most perfect fusions of jazz, soul and rock music ever made then and with the incredible soulful power of vocalist Gary Floyd to flesh it out, this really works beautifully while providing a fine showcase for the serious swagger of their musical musculature and wildness. Next follows an extended early morning phone conversation that falls into an all-too-brief Booker T on acid minute or two called I Got Blisters On My Fingers (Black Eyed Pig Rough Mix). The 2:30 soul groove of For Men with Beards (Brenda's Break Beat Edit), feels like some haunting fragment of a cosmic puzzle. Foxy Music (Mama Faust Remix by Hans Joachim Irmler) really sounds like a possible Faustian transmission, very fluid extraterrestial and kraut-pulsed. The warm propulsive groove of Let's Have Sex (Noise 'n Guitars Remix by Quintus Kannegiesser) is the kind of music they should use in porn films, slippery electric guitars slide down the middle of this slinky reptilian groovage. I Got Blisters On My Fingers (Belgian White Chocolate Remix by Kyle Statham, Anne & Nathalie) is this strangely softspoken hallucination. The seventh track with a title too long to write, is where Bundy K. Brown adds to the mix and it's spacey and a bit gruelling over the course of it's over 23 minutes, makes me want to hear the original. The hidden 8th track called Connecting the Molecules with the Light is a live demonstration of their power and range.