6 Dec 2017
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Those who enjoyed "Chante" the other week will want to pay attention for the next few minutes.
Lake Ruth has a long relationship with the Active Listener. We like them an awful lot. They seem to like us too. Everyone wins. Especially you because we're not going to let them release anything without you knowing about it. Which brings us to their brand new release "Intervention, Displacement & Return" - not an album proper I guess, but every bit as good as one.
Available as a limited edition cassette from French label WeWant2Wecord, "Intervention, Displacement & Return" features eight tracks, a combination of new recordings and a few covers that have appeared elsewhere. Best of all are three tracks recorded in collaboration with Listening Center, a music blogger's dream combo, but not a dream that one would ever expect to come true. Lucky us then.
Debut "Actual Entity" should really be quite a hard act to follow, being one of last year's better albums. Lake Ruth has cheated just a little bit in that regard by bringing us this sort of stop-gap release now then, but truth be told, it's every bit as good as "Actual Entity". Or better. While it doesn't harbour the same ambition or the same unity of purpose as a full album, it shows a band growing more comfortable and confident with who they are and the musical lineage that they follow in.
Even the two covers here, Stereolab's "Monstre Sacre" and Le Superhomard's "Dry Salt In Our Hair", are tackled with such confidence that they instantly become Lake Ruth tracks - I challenge anyone who doesn't know the original versions of either of these tracks to pick them out in a line up as the imposters that they are.
Vocalist Allison Brice continues to be a commanding presence, unusual given the delicacy of her voice, but whether it be the moody ambience of "A Captive Reaches The Sea" or more driving fare like "Dry Salt In Our Hair" she's able to command attention with barely a whisper. Full marks to Hewson Chen and Matt Schulz too for providing the wonderfully diverse backdrop here, equally well versed in psychedelia, space-pop, library music - you name it. Whatever the musical equivalent of well read is, these boys are it.
At only eight tracks I was left wanting a whole lot more, but isn't that a sign of the best records? And the good news is, we don't have very long to wait for more with Feral Child lining up a vinyl release for Lake Ruth's second album shortly, but more to come on that soon.
"Intervention, Displacement & Return" can be purchased on cassette and streamed in full at the first link below, or bought digitally for the bargain price of just $6 via the second link.
4 Dec 2017
Reviewed by Grey Malkin
Originally published September 2015, reshared to draw attention to Sugarbush Records new vinyl pressing, following up Sunstone's long sold out first pressing.
Melbourne based psych folk artists Trappist Afterland have been quietly but consistently releasing some of the most outstanding and distinctive albums in underground circles over the last four years or so. Consisting effectively of the trio of Adam Cole, Phil Coyle and Nick Albanis along with various friends and musical accomplices their use of unusual instrumentation and unique sound (as well as their easy but persistent way with a melody that will get its hooks in and not let go) marks them out as one of the most important and visionary bands currently working in the psych scene. Their new opus 'Afterlander' not only builds on the successes and strengths of past albums but takes the Trappists into a whole new realm of their own, with a set of assured, powerful and majestic songs tinged with mystery, ritual and beauty.
Album opener 'Lucifer Mosquito' begins with the simple sound of chimes before complex layers of dulciters, ouds, a hand drum and Adam Cole's distinctive and emotive vocals enter in a psyche haze of immense grace and beauty which then continues to layer, grow and build into a stunning and transcendent climax. It left this listener absolutely transfixed, let me be clear at the outset; this is mindblowingly good. At once otherworldly and yet also immediate and persuasively melodic, Trappist Afterland ably suggest a dark mysticism and esoteric sound whilst also maintaining a tight, rhythmic and controlled mastery of their song craft, similar perhaps to contemporaries such as Stone Breath, Six Organs Of Admittance or James Blackshaw. 'Saint Peter And The Rainbow's eastern drone leads into tense and intricate, inventive string work (instruments present on this album include bell citern, hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery and lute), eerie backing vocals and strident tabla, propelling the song ever forwards. Fans of the afore mentioned bands, acid folk acts such as the Incredible String Band and COB and also of Michael Gira's work with Angels Of Light will find much to adore here.
'Where The Willows Weep' enters with a pleasingly disorientating backwards loop before a processionary beat begins, an air of unease and incense pervading amongst the dulcimer and oud's raga melodies. 'Jessie's Root (Isaiah 11:1-10)' rides on a moving carpet of bells, sitar drones and chanted backing vocals, sounding both haunted and haunting in its vast and lysergic soundscapes; this is music for when the sun goes down and candles can be lit. Next, 'A Jar On Mystics' is a more reflective, hushed piece of wyrd folk with Naomi Henderson's spooked flute weaving Will O' The Wisp style throughout, a truly unique slice of bucolic beauty. Trappist Afterland are clearly masters of both dynamics and atmosphere and have crafted a perfectly paced and formed album which ebbs and flows with gentle force throughout, sometimes surging with a thrilling intensity and sometimes floating delicately but addictively with measured restraint. 'Black Dog Coast' is a case in point; starting with gentle washes of acoustic sound and fragile vocals this then breaks into an increasingly insistent sounding drum-led symphony, delivering shivers down the spine and huge emotional power. The following 'Feathers' tabla rhythms, eastern air and melancholic edge is absolutely hypnotic whilst the brilliantly named 'The Psalms Remain The Same (Psalm 31)' is a plaintive, gorgeous spectre of a song, resplendent with ghostly backing vocals and a sense of hazy doom. Album closer 'Hillsong Leeches' layers tanpura drone upon drone, string upon string, and vocal upon vocal to create a blissed out wyrd and wonderful reverie that is genuinely moving and close to anthemic. A suitable and fitting finale to what is a hugely impressive and highly evocative piece of work and an album which I guess will not just be one of the best I'll hear this year but one that I will hear for many a year to come. Really.
Trappist Afterland have many extremely fine releases already under their relatively young belts and a back catalogue that amply rewards investigation, however with 'Afterlander' they must (if there is justice) become much more of a name to be reckoned with in psych circles and underground music in general. A seriously superb album that needs to find a home in your record collection without delay.
Available now as a digital download from the Trappist Afterland Bandcamp page (below). A limited number of copies of the Sugarbush vinyl reissue are available directly from Adam via the Bandcamp link below (if you're nearer to Australia), or the vinyl can be bought directly from Sugarbush Records here with free postage worldwide.
29 Nov 2017
Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan
A change of tack for me dear readers. It was 31 years ago today that 'C86' taught the world to fey. Well almost. Anyway, new Melbourne band The Stroppies are here to get you olds to fish your anoraks out from the bottom of the cupboard, grow your fringe back and tell your now super-annuated mum that she still doesn't understand you, your friends and especially, the music you like.
Yes, I am really pleased to announce that The Stroppies gem studded seven track mini LP is packed with infectious, yet ever so effete lo-fi riffs and fabulous 'barely out of bed' vocals. You really can't go wrong with this approach in my view and if this is spearheading a renaissance for concise, jangly, intelligent guitar pop then count me in.
'Gravity Is Stern' is a joyfully half-arsed opener that shuffles along like my 15 year old self once did, punctuated by one of the most glorious peals of ringing guitar heard this side of the last millennium. An absolute and instant classic worth the price of admission on its own.
"Go Ahead" is a sulky teenager's riposte to their older siblings constant playing of Stereolab records in the bedroom next door. A two chord stomper replete with some tasty keys and submerged vocals. Touch of glam, touch of Velvets, touch of class.
"No Joke" is half a Television riff away from a Pavement song and chugs along like a good 'un before unleashing a short and very sweet guitar break close to its denouement.
"Under Your Sweater" gloriously nails that 1980's 'Sarah Records'/thrift store indie vibe to perfection - its delivery all lemonade and sherbet fountains.
"Courtesy Calls" is resplendent in its feel good, motorik driven reverie before unfurling its chorus/bridge that descends as beautifully and politely as a maple leaf gently floating to the ground.
"Celebration Day" is darker and carries a sense of cautionary story telling.
Matters are brought to a suitably charming conclusion with the chipper "All The Lines" which again features some of that chiming guitar that runs through this thoughtfully brief outing like a stick of (indie) rock.
So there you have it. The Stroppies. A band your teenage self would have been devoted to, and one your adult self is genuinely pleased to welcome into your record collection.
Now, can I really get away with trying to brush my hair forward from this far back on my head?
Available on limited vinyl here.
And unlimited download here:
20 Nov 2017
Claude Lombard's reasonably obscure 1969 debut "Chante" has recently been reissued on vinyl and CD by Guerrsen's offshoot Sommor label. While the sheer number of titles that Guerssen releases makes it impossible for all but the most dedicated listener to keep up with them, the occasional release like this and Cozmic Corridors which we've focused on here at the Active Listener must make it clear that the label are providing a considerable service for the discerning listener by bringing to light some of the most fascinating and worthwhile obscurities that I've had the pleasure to hear in recent times.
Belgian chanteuse Claude Lombard had represented Belgium in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest and would go on to record tunes for kid's cartoon television shows, so the content of "Chante" is something of a surprise.
Lombard effectively invents Broadcast, and to a lesser extent Stereolab on "Chante", and a lot of the credit for this must go to producer Roland Kluger (Chakachas, Free Pop Electronic Concept...), and arranger Willy Albymoor who have created an envelope pushing masterpiece here that embraces chanson, psychedelia, avant-garde and pure space-age pop in a way that confused listeners in 1969 but sounds like a delightfully nostalgic view of the future now.
The theremin-like sounds of the ondes Martenots features predominantly here as do chimes, David Axelrod style bass guitar leads and adventurous orchestral flourishes. And the end result sounds very much like Broadcast's "Work and Non Work" which would appear 28 years later.
Highlights are plentiful, but the delightfully breezy, almost tropicalia "La Coupe" must be very near the top of the list with its spacey keys and swooping ondes Martenots. "Sleep Well" (below) meanwhile is a gorgeous, lysergic dream sequence of a song delivered by Lombard with the perfect balance of melancholy and detachment.
It's not all delivered on dreamy, wistful pillows of sound though; "L'usine" is significantly busier with a much more progressive approach, perfectly complimented by Lombard's increasingly avant garde shrieks.
A groundbreaking classic that deserves to be heard by a much wider audience, and the significantly long shadow of Broadcast's influence on current bands shows that there is a huge audience just waiting to discover "Chante".
8 Nov 2017
Hi Team. We're back with the second in our revived and revitalised sampler series. This month we've got exclusives and premieres from Active Listener favourites Balduin, Psychic Lemon and The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies, as well as some new faces.
Here's the full tracklisting.
1. Garden Gate - Saturn (version) 03:15 2. Balduin - Norman Stanley James St. Clair 02:40 3. Pansies - Feels Like Yesterday 06:49 4. The 1910 Chainsaw Company - Good Friend 03:56 5. Zombie Girlfriend - Echo Echo 01:38 6. The Striped Bananas - Swirling Colors (In My Mind) 03:12 7. The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies - By The Light Of The Moon 02:59 8. Psychic Lemon - Interstellar Fuzz Star 09:53 9. Hermitess - Black Lake 03:21 10. Flange Circus - Kwak 03:07 11. Void Watcher - Succour 07:05 12. Peyote Coyote - Mirrors 04:43 13. The Soap Opera - Eggs To Hatch and Cats To Kill 01:28 14. Blue Hole - Strong Current 04:16 15. Sleepyard Feat. Judy Dyble - Rainy Day Vibration (Woodland Version) 03:08 16. Kosmo-0 - Black Lodge 13:49
Its a $1 or donation download with all funds raised helping to cover our running costs.
Get it here:
7 Nov 2017
Reviewed by Grey Malkin
In Gowan Ring’s main man and wandering troubadour B'ee, whose artistic vision has borne countless masterful psych folk releases over the last two decades, returns with the curious and intriguing new release ‘Bee’s Pent Pouch’. Describing In Gowan Ring’s music as ‘symbolist folk; music within a magico-poetic-folk tradition utilizing acoustic instruments, voice, and poetry to convey transcendent experience and to engage the listener in mythic realities’, B’ee ably delivers here on both this promise and description. There is also a curious history to this release, recorded back in 2012 in a specially constructed five sided tent/ dwelling behind a 16th century French chateau. It was within this structure that B’ee determined to record a five sided sound project. The album, initially given to those who helped fund the project, now sees the light of day in a variety of five sided packaging options, from vinyl to a pouch or box encased CD.
'Dream' opens the album with a drifting sitar drone, a steady hand drum and an unsettling, otherworldly chant that layers and builds as if a choir of ghosts, ever increasing in number. It is both tranquil and eerie, the sound of darkness falling and of dusk; magical yet ominous. A fitting beginning, it is followed by an able cover of Donovan's 'Wandering Aengus', solitary voices and acoustic guitar proving a powerfully bare setting for Yeats’s lyrical and evocative words. Nick Drake's little known outtake 'Blossom Friend' is another acoustic treasure, a delicate and yearning slice of fragile, bucolic beauty. B'ee is past master of interpretation with such songs as these and he doesn't disappoint here; indeed he never over-elaborates but rather inhabits the song in its stark and simple sadness.
Next, ‘The Open Door Of The Grand Invitation' uses B'ee's warm and emotive vocals to significant effect both as a lead and also as a multi-layered choral backing, recollecting such seminal acid folk artists as Perry Leopold (especially his ‘Christian Lucifer’ period) or Simon Finn. 'The Half Lumined Path' starts with the sound of leaves underfoot and distant crow song before percussion and subtle drones enter, creating both a nature ritual and an effective field recording. A re-reading of the stunning 'Leaf Patches On Sidewalks’ (from B'ees 2005 'Beirth' album) is most welcome and absorbs a new potency and poignancy in its stripped back form. 'The Moon Is Shining On My Guitar' offers a lament from B'ees tormented troubadour soul, a melancholy sliver of wyrd folk magic where such is the intimacy that it almost feels that B'ee is in the room with you, the sound of him taking off his guitar at the end only adding to this sense of connection. The album closes with a reprise of the opening ‘Dream’, the drone darker, stronger and more urgent as the circling chants float in and out of consciousness.
A true gemstone of an album, this is B'ee at his most minimal and nakedly genuine; recorded with mostly just his voice and guitar it only emphasises his mastery of his muse and musick. One then for sunsets on hilltops, dusk by rivers or sunrises over woodland; this is music that connects with something innate in both the heart and with nature.
6 Nov 2017
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
While it's primarily thought of these days as a folk label, an argument can be made that Transatlantic Records was one of the first and most influential underground rock labels too. Anyone wanting to present this argument would do well to have a copy of this new three CD box set on hand to silence any naysayers.
Nat Joseph originally started Transatlantic to license American jazz records on the Prestige and Riverside labels for UK release (hence the name Transatlantic I guess?). They then moved into sex education records before Joseph signed Bert Jansch and John Renbourn and started releasing ther records that they're remembered for today. Joseph continued to pursue other music that interested him however, releasing the Purple Gang's popular jug band psych hit "Granny Takes a Trip" in 1967, and within a few years he had an impressive range of underground acts on his roster.
"Let The Electric Children Play: The Underground Story of Transatlantic Records 1968-1976" focuses on these acts, with some crossover to some of his folk acts' more experimental material. There's some busy proto-prog from the ass-end of the sixties from Jody Grind and Circus as well as the Deviants representing the Ladbrook Grove scene, but things get really interesting amidst the offerings from the start of the next decade. The menacing prog-folk of Jan Dukes De Grey is represented by the title track from their second opus "Mice & Rats In The Loft" while highly rated prog rockers Marsupilami demonstrate their versatility on "Prelude to the Arena" from their excellent "Arena" LP. And while we're focusing on the progressive side of things, there are two excellent cuts each from CMU and Skin Alley. Elsewhere, there are very interesting experimental folk tracks from Mr Fox, whose "Mendle" is deeply sinister, as well as former Mr Fox vocalist Carolanne Pegg whose Transatlantic album "A Witch's Guide to the Underground" is a must hear.
There was more to Transatlantic's underground roll call than prog and folk though; there's McCartneyish pop from a pre-Stealer's Wheel Gerry Rafferty, hard rock from Stray, even a touch of glam from Metro, whose "Criminal World" (featured here) made enough of an impression on David Bowie for him to cover it on his zillion selling "Let's Dance" album.
Just a folk label eh?
It's a bargain and can be had here.
3 Nov 2017
Review and interview by Tom Sandford
Originally published November 2015, reshared to draw attention to Sugarbush's brand new vinyl reissue, replacing Sunstone's out of print first issue.
The Byrds’ wingspan of influence stretched across three full decades and flew through the sounds made by some of the most important bands in the history of rock, including Big Star, the Jayhawks, R.E.M., Matthew Sweet, Hüsker Dü, Echo and the Bunnymen and countless others. For a time it was de rigueur – if not downright cliché – to see the Byrds name-checked in almost any band’s bio. They were part of the holy trinity of influential B-named bands: Beatles, Beach Boys, and Byrds.
But to everything there is a season, and an apparent decline in the band’s influence on popular music seemed to coincide with the deaths of two of its original members, Gene Clark (in 1991) and Michael Clarke (1993). Notwithstanding this decline, the Byrds have always flown high and commanded serious respect among certain pockets of fans and bands alike – folks in Northern England especially, for some reason. Since 1990, we’ve seen the likes of the La’s, the Stone Roses, the Coral and Shack flying the jangle-pop flag. Since 2007, Kontiki Suite, a talented sextet from England’s Lake District, has continued in this tradition, evidence of which can be readily found on their sophomore release, "The Greatest Show On Earth".
As with their debut release (2013’s "On Sunset Lake"), Kontiki Suite proudly flies its Byrds banner via some obvious stylistic hat-tips to 1968’s "The Notorious Byrd Brothers". This time out, the band boasts a batch of impressive new Rickenbacker-based janglers (mainly from the pen of guitarist Ben Singh) and a tougher sound from the rest of the band (Jonny Singh, lap steel guitar; Marcus Dodds, guitar; Mario Renucci, bass; Chris Brown and Craig Bright on drums and percussion respectively). The result is a cohesive, 50-minute flight high above exquisitely atmospheric psych/country-rock/chamber pop soundscapes.
The opening moments of guitar/rim shots in the rousing, Golden Smog-like opener “Bring Our Empire Down” recall David Crosby’s serene “Dolphin’s Smile,” after which some Neil Young-like crunch is thrown in as the song gathers steam. “My Own Little World” features the kind of textured ‘n’ trippy triple-guitar interplay (including lap steel and 12-string Rickenbacker) that characterizes the overall tone of the album – tone that is often upended by deliciously abrupt shifts in tempo: the lads in Kontiki Suite are more than happy to jolt you out of the hypnotized state in which they deftly placed you. Occasional, judiciously chosen blasts of harmonica tug on the same heartstrings as in Big Star’s “Life is White.”
“Free From Sound” and “Here for You Now” are tremendous pop songs, the kind of tracks that, back in the day, would’ve jumped out of an AM radio and grabbed you by the throat. The former features a keening pedal steel hook that’s hell-bent on becoming your next earworm. The latter blends a “Ticket To Ride” beat with power-poppy rhythm reminiscent of Gene Clark’s evergreen “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better.”
Elsewhere, the band flexes its muscle on two lengthy guitar workouts, “Burned” (with its nod to Younger Than Yesterday’s “Renaissance Fair”) and the slow-burning “Under the Rug,” while “All I Can Say” shows the effortlessness with which Singh’s vocals can reconcile an ostensibly bouncy rhythm with a melancholic melody. In places he sounds uncannily like Gary Louris. Fans of "Sound of Lies"-era Jayhawks would feel right at home with this release.
Ultimately, "The Greatest Show On Earth" reveals increased depth, both in Ben Singh’s writing and the band’s collective vision. Kontiki Suite has created much more than a simple paean to the legacy of the Byrds; they have taken vital steps in forging a legacy of their own.
Chatting up the Byrds with Kontiki Suite’s Craig Bright and Benjamin Singh
Tell me about the cover/title concept for the new record?
Craig Bright: During the time period in which we wrote and recorded The Greatest Show On Earth, three of the six band members have been fortunate enough to become parents. One of the lucky fathers, Jonny Singh, wrote the opening song on the album, Bring Our Empire Down, about the juxtaposition of the joy and virgin challenges of parenthood and, one line in particular in the song, refers to "the greatest show on earth"; Jonny's way of describing the wonder of witnessing the miracle of your own child being born. Moreover, when we identified the title of the album, it served to conjure a vision of an old school creepy freak-show in our minds.
So, looking at the front cover of the album, you will see a couple of key elements: One, a crowd observing the show; and two, the decidedly freaky dream sequence of a child at peace, asleep. Our brief was realised by the fantastic Luke Insect, a U.K. based designer.
Tell me about the Byrds’ influence on the band.
C.B.: The Byrds, and their various related bands and solo projects, are very important to Kontiki Suite. As children of the nineties, we were able to discover and appreciate The Byrds vicariously through a love of the bands they themselves inspired and influenced, in which I would include The Stone Roses, Ride and Rain Parade, among many others.
It never fails to blow my mind when I consider the volume and diversity of the music The Byrds produced, particularly between 1965 and 1969. I guess we would cite The Notorious Byrd Brothers as the zenith of their output, as it is a beautifully perfect culmination of all of the best elements of their albums (folk, pop, psychedelia and country). Undeniably, [it is] the template for our sound.
Of course, the consistency of The Byrds' output weakened thereafter, but the void was more than filled by the solo albums of McGuinn, Crosby, Gram Parsons and most importantly to us, Gene Clark. For me to attempt to tell you how vital Gene's post-Byrds music is would be complete folly. Personally, my favourite Clark song is “The True One” (from 1974’s No Other). Pretty much musical perfection in its simplest form as far as I'm concerned.
So, yes, The Byrds are a significant, direct influence on us, musically, aesthetically and culturally.
Take me through the steps in which a Kontiki Suite song typically comes together.
Ben Singh: A Kontiki Suite song will almost always start life as an acoustic piece – a folk song, I guess. If it sounds good with just the vocal and an acoustic it gives the song a good chance of sounding good embellished. The song is usually complete in terms of structure and groove before being presented to the rest of the band and if it's a song I've wrote and I've a strong idea of how it should sound I will sometimes record a demo in my home studio.
Down at the rehearsal room I'd play a handful of tunes to the band, either the recorded demos or just with the acoustic and we'd just jam through them. It's always nice if we hit the groove instantly. If it feels good we'll run with it and then we'll start to work on the guitars in more detail.
With the song beginning as an acoustic song I'll play the rhythm guitar while singing the melody. Jonny Singh plays a lap steel adding a kind of 'movement' to the sound, swooning in and out. We usually add a quite a bit of reverb and delay to give it more texture. Marcus Dodds plays a Telecaster for the majority of this album, usually either a clean tone with a touch of reverb or a classic fuzz. He tends to play the fills in between the vocal lines and more often than not he takes the solos.
Guitar textures are an intrinsic part of your sound, especially in terms of the interplay between them. Is this something you spend a lot of time consciously working on? Or is it just a natural by-product of how the band writes?
B.S.: The interchange between the slide and the lead occur quite naturally and aren't overly worked on; I guess that has came with the experience of playing together for the length of time we have. All the guitar lines are based around the vocal lines and melody and we try not to have too much going on at the same time. On the recordings I'll put down an acoustic track, this adds a percussive dynamic and then a picking 12-string Rickenbacker. I tend play this through a compressor with reverb. On a lot of the songs this is the main guitar of the track and other guitars play off it. The sound is very deliberate and we do consciously work on it but it does come very naturally to us. I think the reason why the three electric guitar parts work together so well is due to contrasting styles we play.
CD and digital available here. New vinyl issue from Sugarbush Records available here. Includes free postage worldwide.
31 Oct 2017
Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs' "English Weather" is quite probably my favourite album of the last year or so. Stanley and Wiggs have done a fantastic job of selecting and sequencing these tracks to provide a seamless and unspoiled listening experience that is quintessentially English and wonderfully pastoral. Not to mention one that introduced me to a number of artists that I wasn't really familiar with.
In tribute, I've put together a follow up volume of tunes from the UK from the same era that evoke a similar mood for me. I'd like to think that Stanley and Wiggs had some of these shortlisted for their comp. Sound quality may vary as tracks come from a number of sources.
I hope you enjoy it - you can download it in 320 kb mp3 format here, and please investigate the full albums of these artists as many of the albums that these tracks originate from are classics in their own right.
And you can get Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present: English Weather here.
Tracklisting for More English Weather:
Tomorrow Morning Brings 2:39 Pacific Drift (from Feelin' Free)
Night Clouded Moon 5:41 Diabolus (from Diabolus)
Flying South in Winter 6:28 Tonton Macoute ( from Tonton Macoute)
October Witches 8:05 Still Life (from Still Life)
House on the Hill 4:05 Audience (from The First Audience Album)
Tell You I'm Gone 4:10 Woody Kern (from The Awful Disclosures Of Maria Monk)
We Can Make It If We Try 4:35 Aquila (from Aquila)
Dance In The Smoke 6:18 Argent (from Argent)
Skin Valley Serenade 3:45 Skin Alley (from Two Quid Deal)
The Garden of Jane Delawney 4:06 Trees (from The Garden Of Jane Delawney)
It Wasn't For You 5:33 Titus Groan (from Titus Groan)
Green Eyed God (7" Version) 3:50 Steel Mill (from Jewels Of The Forest (Green Eyed God Plus))
The House 3:28 Ginhouse (from Ginhouse)
Sun God a) Awakening b) Realisation c) Worship 11:14 Raw Material (from Time Is...)
Magical Love 4:37 Saturnalia (from Magical Love)
30 Oct 2017
Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan
Spillage Fete is a singular label that occasionally puts out highly conceptualised and wonderfully enigmatic records from a slowly rotating cast of players. I imagine it being run by someone who is completely bonkers but in a really nice way. The sort of person who would engage you warmly on the merits of making your own wooden furniture or birdwatching and doesn't watch much telly. Someone distractedly engaged with an outside world that they don't fully subscribe to.
Bons is the latest musical venture to spring forth from the Spillage Fete label, noted for its interest in the less trodden of musical paths. "Gras H'utsi" does not disappoint on this measure or on many others as it's series of seemingly unrelated and tribal musical interruptions criss-cross your mind and pull you into a world that is simultaneously intricate and straightforward, instructive and confusing. The records title seems to indicate ruminations on European and African culture but are filtered and abstracted in such a way as to not offer anything as musically straightforward or instructive.
These are field recordings of half remembered dreams that the listener is asked to complete. It is a deeply personal listening experience that involves you in a way rarely found in these days of mass media manipulation.
So, how to describe in words this series of 16 short sonic interludes? Well here we go...
It is a supremely home-made record and I mean that in the most respectful way possible. The production values and instrumentation of choice mean that the record lives and breathes in your sitting room. It is optimally an indoors record that you allow to take a seat in your home - a conjuror's suitcase of 16 sounds with a human edge that all seek intimacy with the listener and gently coerce you into giving them your undivided attention. It's a great trick to pull off and Bons succeed perfectly in this objective.
Song titles as far as I can tell are not instructive and neither are the exquisite prints of paintings that adorn the accompanying booklet. This of course adds to the fun.
The exceptions to this analysis are the oddly affecting 'Double Latin' which to my warped mind is the most clearly conceptualised piece on the record. It successfully conveys the impression of slowly walking past the closed door of a school classroom during lesson time. And just as I congratulate myself for this amazing piece of realisation it quickly dissipates into a cloud of wow and flutter.
The other is 'Winnowing' which as you all know is the ancient Asian art of separating wheat from chaff by throwing it up into the air and allowing the lighter particles to blow away leaving the seeds to make the bread. A lovely metaphor for this beautifully sparse and deeply rural snapshot of warmth. It's a beautiful piece of music and my personal highlight of the record.
Elsewhere, we find the double bass and backwards tape treatment of 'Radical Shush' and the sweetly revolving 'Landschaft'. The mechanical looping of 'Syntax' floats overhead before taking a dreamy vocal turning - a bit like Grizzly Bear if they abandoned any sense of structure. "Dot Hub" is a weird collage that bewilders before dropping you off at a random bus stop miles from anywhere, though at least it's a stop with a shelter. Proceedings are brought to a suitably abrupt close with 'Low Hangs the Fruit' which announces itself before almost immediately making for the exit.
Colin Newman's (of Wire) "A to Z" is a fairly hopeful if sonically more dissonant reference point. You can also hear the work of Eno, Basinski and the hauntological essays of Belbury Poly, but really I'm grasping at the air - Bons are far too singular to stable comfortably with others.
What is for certain is that Bons have arrived to bring clarity to your overly cluttered life. Stop for a moment, make yourself a cup of tea and luxuriate in the endless possibilities of this delightfully strange musical experience. They are abstract expressionists of sound and masters at their chosen craft. You should find the time to join in with them for a while and remove yourself from the daily punishment of orthodoxy and routine.
Available on vinyl from selected independent retailers and directly here: