Wednesday, 30 October 2013

King Crimson - The Road To Red

He powered down the central hub for the weekend, locked the pod, and made his way down the long flight of stairs to the exit. By the street door and lying on the floor was a small envelope. He picked it up, turned it over to inspect it, but found no indication of its origin; indeed, there was no writing or typed text on it at all. He opened the envelope and inside was a small craft knife and a handwritten note. "For the shrinkwrap - use with utmost caution" was the sum of its content.

Curiosity roused, as usual he took the Metrobus home, which deposited him at the city transport hub at the top of his street. He then walked the short distance down the hill to the entrance to his block. Taking the opportunity to forgo the elevator he ascended the three flights of stairs at speed, the only exercise he got all day in the week, and, breathing hard he arrived at his apartment door. He passed the keycard through the lock and stepped into the hallway.

When he walked into the living space, there it was. He approached it in a state of nervous apprehension. Viewed from the left side it appeared to be black. He noticed that subtly changed as he looked at it from different angles. It spoke to him without a voice. He sat down cross-legged in front of it and stared deeply at it. He was vaguely aware of a passage of time, for a faintly gnawing hunger eventually forced him to leave it and make his way to the kitchen. As soon as he opened the fridge door he realised he was missing it already. Hurriedly, he grabbed a bottle of beer, opened it and threw together a cold meat sandwich, and then rushed back to the living space fearing it would be gone.

It was still there. Instantly discarding his untouched sandwich, he took a deep slug from the beer bottle, put it down and resumed his position of supplication, this time at a different angle, to see if another perspective would be illuminating. Again it tugged at his soul. He was compelled to pick it up, and passing it from one one hand to the other he noticed it bacame heavier and heavier, weighing down on his very being, crushing his spirit and lessening his will to live. After an aeon that can have lasted no more than a minute, and unbowed by its ennui inducing properties he put it down, just then noticing a small tear in the wrapping. He was nothing if not determined, possessed of an iron will, he refused to be defeated by it. He rose from his cross-legged seated position and went back into the kitchen to retrieve a pair of scissors.

Then he remembered the craft knife. Changing direction, he rushed to the coat stand by the front door where he had hung his jacket, seemingly in another era. He retrieved the envelope, tore it open and extracted the knife, while running back to the living space. He sat back down in front of it. The tear was no longer there. Panic rose through the very core of his being. His heart rate was increasing alarmingly. He picked it up again in his left hand and it stung like a thousand wasps, but he could not let go. Shaking with the pain that had subsumed his fear, he discovered that simply by transferring it to his right hand, all the pain went away. He put it down again and the slight tear had magically reappeared.

Taking a measured approach, and with a steely gaze, he gently inserted the craft knife into the enticing opening offered by the tiny rip. Later, he could not recall removing the shrinkwrap, but he did remember being suddenly filled with a surge of joyous wonderment as everything was revealed in its stark beauty.

Days later, he told his psychepractor "I remember very little, but I know it took a long long time. And when it was over, it had really only just begun". 

...Meanwhile, back in the real world, if you bought the 2009 40th Anniversary Red remix with the 5:1 DVD-A disc, and you already own the Great Deceiver box set and the Collectors Club CDs from this era, you should be more than sated already. After all, just how many versions of Starless does one really need? Over 20 apparently, and should Santa send me this exercise in excess for Xmas I won't complain!

Even more perplexing than this mammoth slab of audio largesse is the recent separate issue of yet another version of the Red album itself with a new stereo mix from Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp and a few bonus tracks. Of course, this "2013 Stereo Mix" is also included in The Road To Red box set, both in CD and Bluray formats, although I lost the will to live searching the thing for the bonus tracks on offer with this new separate CD issue. Some if not all of them are in the box, I guess.

Why issue this separately, exactly? Those of us without the fat wallets or the obsessive inclinations to buy the box set who already own the 2009 40th Anniversary reissue don't need it, so who is it aimed at one wonders? It all seems like milking the cash cow dry to me, but I suppose keeping three drummers happy to be with whatever they're happy with does not come cheap, just think of their dressing room cleaning bill, for starters! :)


Line up:
Get outta here!

But it from I Have More Money Than Sense And A Very Understanding Wife And Probably Need My OCD Sorting

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Thieves' Kitchen - One For Sorrow, Two For Joy

Why had I not heard of this fab band before reading my good friend Raffaella's review for DPRP? Who knows, but, casting my net far and wide on the endless seas of left-field music in my never ending quest for the new, I seem to have missed what is right under my nose. A case of not seeing the wood for the trees, methinks.

Right, that's enough metaphor stew to be going on with. Thieves' Kitchen are a UK/Swedish band, who because of their geographical spread are unfortunately unable to gig at the moment. I hope this changes soon, as I'd imagine that this intimate and thoroughly musical album would sound mighty fine being belted out live.

This is the band's fifth album since 2000, and in that time they have gone through several combinations of personnel, the only constant being guitarist Phil Mercy. Now down to a trio, the other two are Änglagård keyboardist Thomas Johnson, who played on the band's fourth album, 2008's The Water Road; and last but by no means least, singer Amy Darby, who has been lending the band her expressive but unaffected tones since 2003's third album Shibboleth.

For One For Sorrow, Two For Joy, the core members are joined by a very fine rhythm section in Paul Mallyon on the drums and Brad Waissman plucking bass, which goes some way to explaining a fleeting Canterbury atmosphere on some of the songs, coming as they do from that very fine modern Canterbury band Sanguine Hum. 

Completing the guest list is Thomas's Änglagård band mate Anna Holmgren on flute, cellist Tove Törngren, and trumpet player Paul Marks. More Änglagård connections are present behind the mixing desk, and you would be forgiven for thinking that this is going to sound like a Scandi-prog workout. While that influence is there it is by no means overwhelming. This band have been going long enough to be confident of their own rather special identity, expressed through Phil's soaring guitar playing and Amy's unforced and distinctive voice. 

Right from the first 16 seconds, starring Amy's reading of the nursery rhyme from where the album title originates, some individual but not too quirky stylings are apparent, stylings that make this album appealing to both the the lover of angular sounds, and to the connoisseur of more traditional prog fare. The rhyme reading heads straight into Deor, dominated by Phil's none too obvious guitar runs over Thomas's Mellotron backing. Amy's lyrics are highly poetic, dealing with the cyclical passage of time, and on the following Hypatia, cryptic allusions to fate and religious belief. The verses are structured in the vein of a jazz song, blending perfectly with highly skilled guitar runs.

An atypically "rock" riff forms the backbone of A Fool's Journey, but it is not straightforward and indeed is in 6/4, I'm told. Another treatise on fate and fortune with a historical bent and more than a hint of menace reflects the magpie nursery rhyme theme of both the album title and the lovely artwork, taken from woodcuts by Lisa Brawn.

Germander Speedwell, a flower steeped in folklore, continues the mystical leanings, and is introduced with the sound of a wind-up musical box and birdsong followed by the winsome combination of flute. cello, and acoustic guitar, evoking just the right atmosphere. According to legend, if you pick a speedwell your eyes will be pecked out by birds; "Damned are his eyes, the man who would try to pull up the bloom". This song develops along ambiguous lines as the pastoral backing wends its merry way. It is a truly beautiful thing.

The Weaver channels Sandy Denny era Fairport and illuminates the ease with which the band can transcend genre pigeonholing while effortlessly making the album feel complete and whole. The album ends with the slowly building and anthemic and rousing Of Sparks And Spires, a song that plays around motifs from English classical music, and features that most famous of prog time signatures, 9/8. What more could you ask for?

Thieves' Kitchen is a place where classic English pastoral folk and prog influences meet with a modernistic sensibility and some highly skilled composition and arranging to produce a charming and endlessly interesting listen.

1. One for Sorrow, Two for Joy (0:16)
2. Deor (7:51)
3. Hypatia (8:56)
4. A Fool's Journey (8:19)
5. Germander Speedwell (14:32)
6. The Weaver (4:33)
7. Of Sparks and Spires (12:49)

Total running time - 55:56

Line up:
Amy Darby (Vocals)
Phil Mercy (Guitars)
Thomas Johnson (Keyboards)

Paul Mallyon (Drums)
Brad Waissman (Bass)
Anna Holmgren (Flute)

Buy from Burning Shed

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Progstravaganza 14 is here!

Another 507 hours of free music from those industrious folks at Prog Sphere. There just ain't enough time!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Prog/Comics Correlation

Where A = Obscure Music Fan, B = Obscure Comics Fan

Me, I'm somewhere in the top left corner of A, but you lot in the middle need to visit this funky new place to get your obscure comics fix...

Borderline Press

You know it makes sense!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Read It In Books - Part One

...and magazines, and the "inkies" as they were affectionately known. Music for me is, as anyone who reads my nonsense must have worked out by now, an obsession. Even more so back in the days when that which came under the all-encompassing umbrella of "rock music" actually mattered to the teens-to-twenties generation.

This means that we of a certain age don't just listen to the music, we devour the printed word on the subject, too.

Here, I begin an occasional series of discussion, mini-review, call it what you will ("bollocks" perhaps?), of the countless thousands of words I have read on the subject of Mr Rock & Mrs Roll over the course of my many years on this planet. This will unavoidably be UK-centric, and there are obviously important books on The Noise I'm not even aware of, so feel free to make your recommendations in the Comments section at the end.

As a mid-teen I first bought what would soon become my Rock'n'Roll Bible, the New Musical Express. Back in those days there were three weekly black and white broadsheets devoted to "rock" as opposed to "pop" music. They were printed on flimsy newsprint, and the ink used to come off on your hands, hence the affectionate sobriquet "inkies".

If I may draw parallels between this triumvirate and UK newspapers, we had:

Melody Maker
(Rock) Establishment in outlook, looked down on its rivals, scared of change, worthy and somewhat dry in tone, never swore, dots its "i's" and crosses its "t's", this was the Daily Telegraph. Note for non-UK readers - the Daily Telegraph is read by those who always have and always will run the country, even when The Guardian's natural followers think they are running it.

Brash, anti-intellectual, populist, swore a lot, no sense of irony, right wing, shouty, probably supports Chelsea. The only thing missing was a naked woman on page three. The Sun, obviously. Note for non-UK readers - Sun readers do not care who runs the country, as long as she gets her baps out.

New Musical Express

Gratuitous nudity...but it's OK because they're feminists
The NME to its readers, this was the oldest and first music magazine in the UK, but little more than a Vanity Fair for the UK music industry in its early 1960s incarnation. It even had its own massive annual awards concert.

Sometime around the late 60s and early 70s, and before I bought it regularly, inspired by the likes of Rolling Stone, Creem, Oz and IT, the title underwent a radical overhaul and became hipster friendly, increasingly left wing, radical, and later into the 70s, up itself. I was going to use the word pretentious, but "up itself" conveys the intended meaning far better! Add in annoying and posturing, and pseudo-intellectual. The latter description meant its swearing and put downs were oh-so-tongue-in-cheek, to point where I sometimes threw it down in exasperation.

It was by far the brashest and boldest of the three, and I loved it. It was of course, The Guardian. Note for non-UK readers -The Guardian is written and read by those who occasionally think they do run the country, only to drown in good intentions and a stiflingly politically correct attitude, while Daily Telegraph readers smile knowingly, sat in their private clubs, snifter in hand. 

From being a callow proto-youth and onwards I was steeped in the writings of Mick Farren, Charles Shaar Murray, and to the most extent by Nick Kent, the UK's very own Lester Bangs, a man who wore his excesses and bruises as a R'n'R badge of honour. All of these three to a greater or lesser extent took the rock star lifestyle as a given, in Farren's case legitimately as he came from the agit-prop hippy music scene, and played and released records with, amongst others, his own band The Deviants and The Pink Fairies. Farren was the reverse of the truism that all rock writers are wannabe musicians. 

Slightly later, the Stalinist revisionism of Tony Parsons, and the trouser-wearer in their tempestuous relationship, Julie Burchill, suited the punk goings-on perfectly. The "up itself" pseudo-intellectualism referred to was personified in the post punk era by Ian Penman, a very annoying bloke who could write hundreds of words of self-referential Clever Trevor bollocks without once mentioning the music. That was probably when I started falling out of love with the rag. 

So, let's have a look at three books by or about rock journos...

Nick Kent - Apathy For The Devil

Nowhere is that old wannabe musician adage more true than in the case of Nick Kent, who it seemed was either very briefly in, or about to join, nearly every significant early punk band. Prior to punk Kent was allowed into the inner circles of the "TV through the 20th floor window" crowd of 70s excess, in particular The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin camps. 

Kent frequently indulged in more substances than the people he was writing about, and often more than met his match with his mate/idol Keef, and has also been the cause of many fights. As he is built like an emaciated pencil he has therefore lost as more fights than Frank Bruno.

On a serious note, along with Charles Shaar Murray and Ian McDonald, Kent turned the NME into a force to be reckoned with, another marker that makes our first book to feature here a must read.

I think I read it in two sittings, so I heartily recommend it. A collection of Nick Kent's writings, The Dark Stuff should be a good read too. I don't own this one, as I read most of his NME writings at the time, but I probably should get it!

Jim DeRogatis - Let It Blurt: The Life And Times Of Lester Bangs

Of course, there would be no Nick Kent as we know him without the daddy of 'em all, the one and only Lester Bangs. With Creem and later Rolling Stone Bangs changed rock scribbling forever. 

With his speed-freak-at-the-typewriter stance, Bangs introduced the music fan to gonzo journalism, channeling Hunter S Thompson and Jack Kerouac through the visceral outpourings of Iggy Pop and Moby Grape.

This biography chronicles his too short life in an honest and poignant fashion, telling the tale of an obsessive doomed romantic in an alternately sad, funny, but ultimately humane and reverential fashion.

Obviously this is THE must read for anyone wishing to take up the metaphorical pen in pursuit of The Noise. Read it in conjuction with Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung and Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste, both unputdownable collections of Bangs' writings.

Charles Shaar Murray - Shots From The Hip

When I tired of Nick Kent's louche demeanour and so-hip-it-hurts attitude in the NME, I would always search out the articles and reviews written by CSM, as he was known. 

More down to Earth than Kent but still living it large in the rock'nroll world, and not adverse to the leather trouser himself, and another disciple at the altar of Mr Bangs, CSM had a way with his descriptions of live gigs that made you feel like you were there. 

This, an introductory line to a review of an Ian Dury And The Blockheads gig from 1979 - " "Good evnin' I'm from Essex..." The Hammersmith Odeon is soft and warm and awash with beer and love" tells the reader all they need to know.

It has been said that CSM is being somewhat revisionist in his still burgeoning hate for anything "prog", a stance that shone through in the very personal and as a result very hit and miss The Seven Ages Of Rock TV documentary series. Well, having picked up this book for the first time in years, I can safely say he has never particularly liked the genre, as this review, in its entirety, from Oz magazine in 1971 testifies:

Yes - The Yes Album 

"Yes? Maybe."

More to come...
PS - E&OE as Blogger spellchecker refuses to work! :)

The Lancashire Groove Machine

Just a promo for Earthling Society's fabulous Zodiak CD, which, if you like your Detroit garage rock coming at you from a Starfighter orbiting Neptune, you should buy without hesitation, HERE.

I expand further into the outer reaches of wibble in my recent DPRP review.

Meanwhile, here's a free to download killer live version of the title track...


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Fromuz - Sodom and Gomorrah

I have followed the development of the logically named Uzbekistani band Fromuz with interest since buying their first album, the prog-jazz fusion workout Audio Diplomacy, back in 2005. Since then this highly skilled group of musicians have largely left the fusion stylings behind to become the electric symphonic monster that we hear today on this new album.

Sodom and Gomorrah, their fifth album, is as you might surmise from the title, a concept work based around the famous Biblical tale, in which the human race gets its just deserts. Originally written as the soundtrack for a musical production by the Youth Theatre of Uzbekistan by keyboardist and band leader Albert Khalmurzaev, this collaboration rekindles an association with the young thespians that goes back to their debut, the DVD of which was filmed on their stages.

The quiet acoustic guitar beginning to Intro heralds a rather familiar sounding guitar figure that bugged be for weeks, until, with a little help from my mate Phill (ta!), I tracked it down. The riff is a more upfront but almost note-for-note copy of Dave Gilmour's riff at the beginning of Sorrow, the last and best track from the otherwise rather dull Momentary Lapse Of Reason album. I have to admire the blatant cheek, as it is even in the same key! Well, I suppose if Steven Wilson can get away with being...ahem..."inspired" by Floyd on Time Flies, then why not? The now established stadium-sized prog atmospherics are carried through to Prologue and City, the former having an air of foreboding, while the latter tries to remain upbeat, but with a sense of something bad coming round the corner. City expands on a simple but evocative guitar theme, which has now evolved into one of those melodies you might find yourself humming in the shower. The song ends with a sort of Euro-romp that might have sounded cheesy in less capable hands.

Lot begins with an elongated keyboard minor chord as an introduction to a very Gilmour-like liquid guitar solo, before ploughing a trough of Floydian symphonic melancholy in perfect harmony with its doomed subject matter. It is apparent by now that Vitaly Popeloff is in thrall to Mr Gilmour, but that does not stop this being a highly enjoyable instrumental prog album, and unlike so many others these days, it actually contains some memorable melodies.

The video clip above is not the best example of the album, but all I could find on YouTube. Streaming of the whole album is availble by clicking the 10T Records link at the bottom of this article.

The sweeping vistas of a soundtrack give this record a wide open and dreamy feeling, so much so that one is sharply jolted back to Earth by the charging riffing of The Capture, Vitaly contributing another soaring solo in the middle section. 

Albert has shown here that he is a very good arranger as well as composer, and although this is his project, the instrumental top billing throughout goes to guitarist Vitaly, whose sometimes derivative but always dexterous and melodic style fits the fast changing scenery perfectly.

Each distinctive part of the album forms a far greater whole, and although it may have been tempting to make this work a single fifty two minute long track to appease the easily led long track addict, Albert has sensibly edited it into far more agreeable bite size chunks, again showing no little skill in the process.

Listening to Andrei Mara-Novik’s bass parts, especially on The Orgy, a suitably frantically paced roustabout, it is clear that he is a fan of the Tree’s diminutive four (or five) stringer Colin Edwin. More riffs from the past appear in Folly or Mob, introduced on the back of what sounds like syncopated heavy breathing. Thankfully, this time the familiar melody was instantly recalled by my misfiring neurons as being similar to Don’t Fall by early UK indie legends The Chameleons, although it may well have been adapted by them in their turn from something else. There is nothing new under the sun where melodies are concerned, after all. The tune eventually morphs into something Big Country might have played out, which makes a nice change from worshipping Genesis and Yes, as is the wont for a lot of bands these days. This track has become my favourite on the album as it has bags of attitude and ventures into unexpected territories. The laughter, vocalisations, and heavy breathing work fine, too.

As the album progresses the sounds become darker, denser, and the pace slows, as you would expect given the story it narrates. This has the minor effect of making the album lose a little focus in last third, but listened to in context it all makes perfect sense. These dark atmospherics supplied by Albert and Evgeniy Popeloff (son of Vitaly) on dual keyboards are added to by the latter’s displaced and distant vocalisations.

The riff theme returns in Procession Of Dead Stars and continues through The Escape, as the album heads off for climax and destruction with To The Flames. The Biblical smiting and smoting is not achieved by ham-fisted metal-mania, as lesser musicians may have predictably wrung out, but by a chilling horror movie ambience, including an eerie sample of Marilyn Monroe’s famous line “I wanna be loved by you”. This last track would not sound out of place on a Fantomas album, and is so far removed from the obvious prog influences, some of which have appeared on the record anyway, that it provokes a wry smile from this scribbler.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable listen from this ever-evolving band. However if I may offer a few words of advice for the future - try to keep away from the swag bag of plundered riffs!


1. Intro (3:12)
2. Prologue (3:24)
3. City (2:06)
4. Lot (4:54)
5. The Capture (3:32)
6. Black Feast I (2:48)
7. The Orgy (4:17)
8. Folly or Mob (6:44)
9. The Blindness/Wife’s Prayer (5:07)
10. Black Wedding (4:07)
11. Black Feast II (3:42)
12. Procession Of Dead Stars (2:52)
13. The Escape (2:10)
14. To The Flames (3:41) 

Total running time - 52:44

Line up:
Vitaly Popeloff - guitars
Albert Khalmurzaev - keyboards, guitars, vocals, harmonica
Vladimir Badirov - drums
Andrey Mara-Novik - bass

Evgeiny Popeloff - keyboards, vocals

Get it at 10T Records


Footnote: Al tells me that in actual fact this album was recorded several years ago, which explains the original line-up present on this recording. The original recording has been remixed and remastered for this 10T Records release.

Friday, 11 October 2013

RyN - Eternal Drift And Summer (Deluxe Edition)

RyN is Ryan Melanson, one half of refreshingly different Floridian space rock duo BSI, whose fun ride through innerspace, Clevarity, was reviewed by moi on DPRP fairly recently.

When left to his own devices Ryan takes us on a near two-hour long trip through the cosmos, that is unhurried, charming, and just the right thing to get that 5-day-week monkey off your back, in the company of a smoke, or bottle of wine, or possibly both, who knows?

Mostly improvised, the approach is expanded on by Ryan as he explains The Garden of Up (featuring Rick Horton and Scott Fitzgerald) on his Facebook page:

"Introspective piece of music.... With found Shortwave radio bits mixed in that happened to be playing at the time I hit RECORD.... amazing how these bits ended up in key of the song, and rhythmically correct.."

The short notes by Ryan that go with each track under the "Info" link are useful insights into the creative process, and hints are given as to the "on the hoof" nature of the improvisations, as well as illuminating explanations of the composed pieces. The tracks sometimes recall early Tangerine Dream at their most ethereal, and at others exude a playfulness and a passion for contemporary experimentation, and the album runs in parallel with BSI's positive approach to making ye olde Kosmische Musik in a modern way.

An example of his ear for the odd, Ryan makes Kweeno sound like Wire jamming with Klaus Schulze. There be funk in them synth patches, oh yes! Proceedings get even stranger on The Flooje', as you can find out for yourself. Essentially this song is a BSI track in all but name as it features Jay Lewis, the other half of that spectral duo. Blink and you'll miss them.

Aided by electronic ambient musician Adam Matza, Droning Man, the longest track on the album, is a menacing synth soundscape in the manner of Pete Namlook that flies away to the outer reaches of the pairing's cinematic imagination, and, as Ryan puts it in the accompanying note to the track "it's a tale that you create as you hear it".

Ryan's principal instrument is the bass guitar, and he messes about with them to great effect on the superbly titled The Shark Attack of Papa, a "Reverse Bass Guitar" being used to unsettle the listener. The two fuzz basses and organ of Dreftoi make for a heavy Suicide-like sound, yet another twist to enjoy.

Similar to the BSI album, this is a compilation of recorded works stretching from 2000 right up to date, and the joins are seamless. The album shifts through styles without being at all disjointed. The aforementioned synth workouts sit neatly alongside Cure-like psychedelia, lush ambient pieces, sampled beats, and off-kilter strangeness to produce an album high on the charm quotient.

Damn, it's free, so what have you got to lose?

1. Trispinial ByWay (4:34)   
2. Eternal Drift & Summer (10:45)
3. Droning Man (Featuring Adam Matza*) (14:11)
4. Undertone (Featuring Rick Horton) (6:07)
5. The Garden of Up (Featuring Rick Horton & Scott Fitzgerald**) (6:50)
6. Kweeno (4:47)
7. The Flooje' (Featuring Jay Lewis***) (9:26)
8. Dragone (5:55)
9. Juene (5:08)
10. The Shark Attack of Papa (5:35)
11. Shrawd (5:43)
12. Song for Brandis (aka Song For the Stars) (5:27)
13. Rubbery Furnace (Featuring Robert Sherber****) (7:35)
14. Dreftoi (6:03)
15. Congeste (6:19)
16. Graviture (5:03)

Total running time - 1:49:37

Line up:
Ryan Melanson - Keys, Bells, Basses (lots of different ones), Strings, Violin, Hi-Hat, Guitars, Synths, Shortwave Radio, Piano, Samples, Beats, Tweaks, Percussion, Found Sounds, Orchestra, Noise, Vocoder, Pads, Organs, Arps, Mixing, Engineering, and failing shoes...

*Adam Matza - Animoog, Auria, Mixing
**Rick Horton - Effected Guitars, Scott Fitzgerald - Alto Voice holds
***Jay Lewis - Nylon Guitar, Guitars, Distorted Spoken Word
****Robert Sherber - Bass Guitar

Friday, 4 October 2013

The Cream People - West Midland Wibbly-Wobbly

This is not a review, but a quick promo for a band recently discovered via my good mate Pete and his fab psych/prog Facebook group, Nice Enough To Eat. Hailing from the less than cosmic West Midlands, Kez (Guitar synth, percussion programming) & Lol (bass, effects) take us on three long trips into deepest Black Country on a mission to find the cow in Bovril...or summat.

All for a mere £0.75 each, too. Marvellous!

And...o blimey...if you click on "More Releases" you might have to book a weekend off!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Ligeia Mare - Songs We Never Thought Of

Rule one of Ligeia Mare; you don't talk about Ligeia Mare. At least that's what Dave Willey tells us: "To me this band is a freak of nature. We make it a point to not discuss the music". This is spontaneous improvised music that the musicians do not want to analyse, presumably fearing a loss of the spark that led to this strangely compelling body of work. The task of dissecting, disseminating, and generally wibbling therefore falls to the likes of yours truly.

Ligeia Mare is archly named after the second largest liquid hydrocarbon lake on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, a titular nod and a wink that makes me smile in a knowing fashion. I'd imagine "Kraken Mare" is an altogether heavier beast, possibly lurking somewhere in the imagination of one or more of this merrie troupe. That may well be a hint!

Songs We Never Thought Of is an assembled distillation of various "performances/events", recorded as far back as July 2010. It is also the second Ligeia Mare album, the first was released in September 2012, flying well under this writer's radar until I sat down to research this piece, and it is an album I now fully intend to investigate.

Songs We Never Thought Of was recorded live, and it must be something in the rarefied air up there in Boulder, Colorado that once in the bloodstream takes these players to places that are as inspirational as they are intuitive. If you are an aficionado of avant music then the players on this album will need no introduction. If you're not then you probably will not have heard of any of the other musical groupings these players are associated with. Suffice to say, check out Thinking Plague as a starting point.

The two songs taken from the album on the Bandcamp sampler below inform the listener that the clue to the workings of this music is not so much evident in what is played, but is revealed by the space left between the sounds. The wide open spaces of opener Dust And Tides is indicative of this. Initially a vast and sparse soundscape inhabited by percussive rattles and tinkles, the slow breathing of accordion notes is later joined by plaintive trumpet. The piece slowly forms out of the mists led by the keening brass instrument and strange vocalisations. Elongated and menacing low end chords, possibly on the electric piano, herald the slow and ponderous turning of this massive ocean-going vessel of sonics back to its sporadic beginnings, the lonely trumpet keeping watch.

It is often the case that the more esoteric experimental leanings of the collective are brought back down, if not to Earth, at least hugged to its close orbit, by Ron Miles' lyrical and magical trumpet playing. You can test this for yourself with the second song on the sampler, Mother Tongue.

When the band take on a more conventional melodic guise on Cover Me In Water an eerie contemplative ambience is created by Ron's trumpet, leading Farrell Lowe's distorted guitars over Elaine di Falco's simple but effective piano figure.

Where Is The Moon has bagged the spot of my favourite track on the album. As if slowing down a spool of tape by lightly pressing a finger on the guide wheel of the tape deck, the whole thing is varyingly decelerated to create a woozy vortex, inexorably to disappear down a very distant plughole sometime, way over there. Otherworldly interjections from the disconnected croon of Elaine intoning "All the things we could've been" over Ron's ecstatic trumpet, after a long intro from the same instrument over Dave's repeated accordion chord cycle, combine with the aforementioned deliberate wow and flutter resulting in the guitar wavering in and slightly out of tune. The sum of all this conspires to transport the listener to another world infused with organic psychedelic hues. Quiet but insistently deft drumming and percussion from Ernie Crews accompany Elaine's aching voice calling to space, making this a tripper's delight. Lovely stuff.  Oh, by the way, The Moon is in the sky, and it's called The Moon...sorry, couldn't resist! :)

Farrell Lowe plays something called a "prepared guitar", a description I've never fully understood. Surely a conventionally tuned guitar is "prepared"? Maybe an unprepared guitar simply isn't ready for the task in hand, or is easily surprised? Anyway, Mr Lowe prepares his guitar for battle towards the end of The Old Road Near Home, and I think it wins, charging through the tricksy chaos like a wilful distorted elephant. The song begins with accordion, trumpet and the RMI Electra piano seemingly at odds with one another until a carnival tune emerges from the piles of toys that have fallen from the overstuffed cupboard, opened unexpectedly. Strange guttural voices, perhaps in reverse, hold conversations with jaws harp and piano, before the accordion and trumpet answer at least some of the questions, the good sense only to be undone by rhythms created from staccato heavy breathing. This is crazy stuff, and a bloody good job, too!

Skilfully mastered by avant-rock luminary Bob Drake, the high production values are an added bonus on this fine record, an album that is a veritable pilates course for the mind, if you will.

If you dig this kind of cerebral carousel ride, then you'd probably like Juxtavoices too, reviewed recently on these very, and increasingly bizarre pages. What Martin Archer has crafted with the human voice Dave Willey and his mates have done here, in a parallel universe, up a mountain on the other side of The Pond.

1. Dust And Tides (16:25)
2. Cover Me In Water (8:33)
3. The Beekeeper (2:28)
4. Where Is The Moon (10:35)
5. The Old Road Near Home (10:55)
6. Mother Tongue (7:24)

Line up:
Ron Miles - Trumpet
Farrell Lowe - Prepared guitar, percussion, voice
Dave Willey - Accordion, bass, percussion
Elaine di Falco - RMI Electra piano, percussion, voice
Ernie Crews - Drums, percussion, jaw harp


2019, the insanity grows...

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