13 Mar 2018
Here's a couple of things I've just caught up with over the last few weeks which came out during our extended hiatus but are very worthy of mention.
First is Perth quintet Mt. Mountain's album Dust. (which is almost a year old now).
If someone had described Dust to me before I heard it - the press release describes it as "capturing the atmosphere of the red/orange landscapes that consume the Australian outback" - I'd likely have thought something along the lines of "That sounds like my sort of thing", but I'd be lying if I didn't also admit that there would be an inner voice whispering "This sort of thing has been done to death, this sounds pretty unnecessary".
Repeat plays however have revealed Dust to be not only necessary, but essential listening. Sure Dylan Carlson's Earth have been doing this sort of thing for ten, fifteen years now - the cinematic, widescreen, windswept vista, but Mt. Mountain's take has an immersive, meditational quality that I've never experienced while listening to Earth.
Over four long tracks Mt. Mountain create and sustain a desolate atmosphere via simple structures that those who aren't quite on the right wavelength may find repetitive, but those who are will find intoxicatingly hypnotic.
The seventeen minute opener threatens to derail the listener's inner peace by bursting into a furious cacophany of noise midway through, appropriately demonstrating the outback's unforgiving qualities, but the remaining three tracks create an unspoiled mood that will slow the most feverish heartrate. From "Floating Eyes" with its appeallingly trippy Doors vibe (think "Riders on the Storm"), to the sustained mellotron drone of "Kokoti", this really ticks all of the right boxes for me.
Vinyl and digital available through the streaming link below.
Silo shows Bailey (who plays everything on here) to be a very diverse character indeed. There's little here to connect this to Dust in anyway. Silo is a much more song orientated affair for a start, but it's also an intriguingly fractured record with some tracks appearing to be very carefully structured while others sound like fragmentary sketches, awash with the excitement of the new.
It's a beautiful sounding record too which reminds me a lot of Richard Swift's production on Damian Jurado's recent albums, although the folky nature of those albums is not apparent in Bailey's appealing psychedelic pop confections.
Opener "Demure" is probably the stand out track here and would be a hit in a world where guitar based music still charted. It's got a pleasing Real Estate vibe to it, but this Real Estate grew up with the output of the Brain label rather than Flying Nun. "Sub Zero" on the otherhand showcases a falsetto that Jim James would be proud of over a vintage organ and flute backdrop with lashings of flower power.
More by good luck than good management this is a judicious time to draw your attention to "Silo". While the cassette edition is long sold out, a vinyl edition of only 80 copies is still available tthrough the widget below. Digital too.
6 Mar 2018
Prana Crafter, the one man psych project of Washington Woods resident William Sol, has provided some of the most visceral and exciting guitar based releases of recent times. 2015’s haunting yet ferocious ‘Rupture of Planes’ and 2017’s atmospheric and detailed ‘MindStreamBlessing’are perfect introductions to Sol’s work and ‘Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice’, just released on the splendid Beyond Beyond is Beyond label, is more than equal, an able and essential counterpart.
The album opens with ‘Bodhi Cheetah's Boogie Blues' amidst an explosive churning of molten guitar, sparks and debris scattering and dissipating, until an unholy scorched earth blues tears along the horizon that is both distorted and thrillingly exciting. Like fellow travellers Six Organs of Admittance there is an (un)easy alliance and movement between effective moments of calm, genuine beauty and melting, corrosive guitar work. Both add tension and power to the other in turn. Midway through this nine minute opus a saloon style piano emerges and picks out a lonesome and haunted melody, framed by a backdrop and symphony of feedback and waves of electrified hum. Gradually, the twisted blues refrain returns and fades, leaving a distinct impression of something primordial stalking the land, a roar from the woods themselves. This is music from the mud, the roots and the gut. 'Blooming of the Third Ear' follows, beginning at a canter with percussion framing the reoccurring harmony and swells of analogue synth, not unlike the theme from some folk horror western. Footsteps and distant voices merge into a Floydian cosmiche mass of keyboards and chimes before fading into a delicate and ghostly guitar motif that truly lifts the hair on the back of the neck. William Sol has an unnerving skill of making his music sound both intimate and universal at the same time and this track speaks of the vast emptiness of the night sky above the Washington Woods as much as it sits alongside you by the campfire.
'Holy Temple Of Flow’s melancholic keyboards and trebly guitar notes remind this listener of the atmospheric and spooked apocalypses of Godspeed You Black Emperor, the track morphing mid song into a furious, electrified solo that seems to summon the end times in all its wrath and anger. Here again is the dichotomy in Prana Crafter's carefully wrought songs; the quiet and the storm. 'Crystal Sky Wooden Cloud' is a case in point, its urgent acoustic rhythms and intense string bending propels the track into terrain inhabited by the likes of Jack Rose or Sun City Girls, before the clouds part and a quiet, reflective harmony breaks through. Next, 'Pandimensional Drifter' echoes into being, unhurried and deceptively languid until a truly epic guitar and organ melody arise from the darkness of the forest. Sounding not unlike an unhinged and inspired Ennio Morricone, in an album full of highlights this perhaps stands as a pinnacle moment. There is genuine dread, tension and release distilled here as the guitar howls against the encroaching night and the darkening of the woods.
'Old Growth Fortress' pits urgent piano against dynamic, multi layered guitar runs that you can feel in the pit of your stomach; indeed, there is real emotional force to these songs, something not always associated with instrumental or guitar based music. This distorted crescendo builds to almost Sabbath-ian proportions until a mournful drumbeat brings the piano back for a bare, funereal conclusion. Both affecting and exciting, you need to hear and experience this; the powerful ebb and flow of Prana Crafter. Finally, closer 'Vajra Mountain' is a brooding acoustic mantra, cascading waterfall like into calmer pools before descending and swirling, bubbling once more. As a conclusion it is as breathtaking as any of its predecessors and serves to remind the listener of just how special this album is.
Prana Crafter have once again sent a missive from their forests that both resonates with and transports the listener to their world and their surrounds. Whilst close and intimate at times, there is something larger, grander and more cosmic suggested in the nuances and scale of their output and vision that marks Prana out from other travellers on the same roads. William Sol creates a spell that seems both ancient and eternal, something human and something endless. Join him; you will not be disappointed.
Available now as a limited cassette and download now:
22 Feb 2018
I started my research for this review by listening to Lake Ruth guitarist Hewson Chen's other band, The New Lines. As I swooned to the intricacies of the fantastic song “Weatherman’s Apology”, I hear the commonalities with Lake Ruth. You see, the body of work presented herein and every other song I have heard by the marvelous Lake Ruth is glowing and gorgeous, painted with an ethereal, otherworldly light that I find it hard to describe adequately. The music transports you to a dream state infused with warmth and light that is both rare and precious. It is like stumbling upon a one of a kind gem and holding it fast lest it get away from you. While I want to share my affection for this band with the world, I also am tempted to keep it close.
Lake Ruth formed with two members of The New Lines (Hewson and Matt Schulz the drummer) and vocalist Allison Brice (The Eighteenth Day of May). They now have two full lengths and a smattering of EPs and singles. All are available from their Bandcamp page and should be imbibed as the musical crack that it is. But wait, what does the music sound like beyond the superlatives I am tossing down? I think it’s an amalgamation of all the best psych pop, folk, and dream pop you have heard down through the years, along with an almost tropical and sunny feel in spots. This band’s music listening cuts a wide swath through many styles, as I happen to know they adore Beautify Junkyards, Stereolab, Fairport Convention (they’ve covered "Tam Lin") and lots of soundtracks. They seem highly intelligent and two members love cats (Allison is allergic).
My response to "Birds of America" will be based on what I feel when I listen, rather than a technical dissection of each note, how it was recorded, and what influenced it. That is not how I operate, and I have only a layman’s knowledge of Krautrock or Hauntology. So I won’t be citing any sources, and won’t be dredging the lyrics for hidden meaning. Because you see, for me, this record is a sensory engagement, one best experienced by you the listener. Of course, the dichotomy between some of the dark lyrical elements and the sprightly melodies can be a bit startling, as is Allison’s unusually lovely, chipper vocals. So take that however it works for you, and strap in for a delicately rendered, exquisite ride through ten great tunes.
It starts off with the cool, fey strains of “VV”, meshing intricate instrumentation with what sounds like an oboe. And when Allison chimes in, the transition from the mortal realm to the hollow hills is complete. “Julia’s Call” is more immediate, and one of the first singles from this record. It reminds one of the aforementioned Beautify Junkyards, albeit with a faster pace and a care given to meticulous production and playing. “One of Your Own” veers into the same retro territory inhabited by Death and Vanilla and other purveyors of this genre. Fast moving synth lines wrap around spacey guitar and Allison swoops in between this fine tapestry of sound. “The Cross of Lorraine” is another favorite of mine, and it’s quite possibly the best song on this record. It sucks you straight in with Allison’s siren song and an appealing mesh of guitar and synths. “Radiant City” expertly combines bright, jazzy keys and guitar, and you’ll find yourself bobbing along with a smile on your face. The title track is an impressive example of psych filtered through noirish dream pop. Its expansiveness lend a cinematic air that I find greatly appealing. I can envision the Mother ship touching down as this marvel of a tune unfolds. And that unusual shading you hear on “Under the Waning Moon” is a mellotron, which melds perfectly with the somewhat unsettling but enthralling music. “Walter and the Taxi” is another favorite tune of mine, both for the Byrdsian guitar and the way it nestles around your ears like a favorite comforter. And I really dig the bubbles of synth that flit through the mix. “White Wall” is a glistening psych folk gem, and the ornate but trippy backdrop suits it perfectly. The hook at its heart will grab hold and never let go. “Westway” ends it all, and its shining jangle pop should be a hit. A fine conclusion to a magical and mystical journey through the hearts and minds of this wonderful band.
Vinyl and digital available here:
16 Jan 2018
In 2016, Cherry Red issued a 3-CD clamshell box set with the curiously unwieldy, if ultimately accurate, title of Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds – The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967. In that collection, familiar touchstones from psychedelia’s year in the sun sat comfortably alongside a connoisseur’s selection of demos, alternate versions and bona fide rarities. This year’s sequel moves on to 1968 and follows a similar pattern, both in its cumbersome title and noble agenda.
Clocking in at nearly four hours, Looking At The Pictures In The Sky – The British Psychedelic Sounds Of 1968 is a lovingly picked collection that yields many rewards both for longtime fans and newcomers. While it’s true that a handful of the tracks are either overly familiar or frustratingly over-comped (e.g. Procol Harum’s ‘In the Wee Small Hours of Sixpence’, The Factory’s ‘Path Through the Forest’, Fire’s ‘Father’s Name Was Dad’) there is also surfeit of truly inspired choices, oddball one-offs, and legitimate lost gems. Circle Plantagenet’s ‘I Will Not Be Moved’ is an example of a song with all three of these attributes. Featuring duduk-like keyboard, spidery guitar lines and a powerful chorus, it’s a welcome addition to any psych fan’s collection. I’m truly grateful for finding it here. Thankfully, there is a clutch of mini revelations like it scattered across the set.
One of the delights in a box that collects tracks from the same year comes in detecting the impact of contemporaneous sounds upon a wide assortment of bands. It’s the musical equivalent of watching seeds planted in spring bear fruit in the summer and fall. Of course, the Beatles always figure heavily in discussions like this, as one imagines groups scrambling to emulate everything from George Martin’s elaborate production touches to Ringo’s deceptively hard, always hypnotic drum fills. In a way, it’s almost comical to think how many bands seem to have heard McCartney’s ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and thought, “Right, let’s pen a thoughtful, quaint character study of a doomed English eccentric.” And so in Ms. Rigby’s wake, we are introduced to a cast of titular characters that includes Messrs. Pinnodmy, Lion, Dillbury and Partridge; Felicity Jane; Sycamore Sid (a song by Focal Point that shamelessly appropriates the piano riff from ‘Drive My Car’!); and a chap named Maxwell Ferguson. The Attack’s ‘Mr. Pinnodmy’s Dilemma,’ easily the best of these portraits, is perhaps too well-known for those who have been collecting psych for years, but it’s always a pleasure to hear John DuCann’s truly energizing, innovative guitar work. DuCann – who unfortunately passed away in 2011 without receiving due recognition for his contributions, having played pivotal roles in bands like the Attack, Andromeda, Atomic Rooster and Hard Stuff – holds the distinction of being at once the most ubiquitous and underappreciated guitar player in all British rock music (look for him on another standout track from the set, ‘Sunday Morning’ by Five Day Week Straw People and ‘Magic in the Air’ by the Attack, from the Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds collection).
It should be pointed out that this is not a collection aimed at chin-stroking audiophiles. Most of these tracks were not sonic marvels in the first place and were, in some cases, sourced from pop-and-crackle-addled acetates and treasured 45s. Quibbles about sound quality are rendered irrelevant, however, when discovering a track as darkly ethereal as ‘Yesterday Was Such a Lovely Day (Elsie)’ by Sadie’s Expression. Pops and sibilance abound, but it’s stop-you-in-your-tracks discoveries like this that make deep-dives into box sets worth your time and money. ‘She’ by Tuesday’s Children, ‘Nightmare’ by Gass Company and ‘Ice Man’ by Ice are all newfound favourites in this vein.
With sets celebrating 1967 and 1968, Cherry Red has created a formidable and affordable six-disc series. On top of delightful discoveries, the package is well annotated/illustrated, and provides a thorough overview of British psych that’s a must-buy, both for comp-hardened veterans and lysergically-curious neophytes.
Get it here.
7 Jan 2018
We're extremely lucky (blessed even) to be able to share the new album by Melbourne's hardest working psychedelicists The Citradels with you all today.
The Citradels have been on an impressive upwards trajectory over the last few years, with each new release besting its immediate predecessor. It's no surprise then to find that "God Bless" is their best yet by a considerable margin.
Their's has been an impressive and rapid evolution, from the densely packed shoegaze of their earliest recordings through to the sunny psych-pop symphonies of "God Bless".
But don't take my word for it; psychedelic bible Shindig Magazine had the following to say:
“....Brian Wilson-inspired psych/pop genius mastery....”
"...a tumbling delight of reverb drenched magnificence..."
They know what they're talking about.
"God Bless" is available today on Gatefold vinyl or as a 'name your price' download through the streaming link below which I strongly urge you to click right now.