Virus – Memento Collider
As any collector knows, back in those most fertile of times in the early 70s, buried deep within the German culture bunker that I prefer to term Deutschrock was a freaky acid rock-jazz collective by the name of Virus, who had the benefit of one Konrad Plank at the controls. This modern identically named band bear little musical comparison, but for all that I can detect a definite link to the loose limbed rhythms of classic Deutschrock.
Virus have been extant since 2003 and Memento Collider is the group's fourth album. The songs within are a combination of guitarist Carl-Michael "Czral" Eide’s dissonant chord riffing, Petter "Plenum" Berntsen’s surprisingly melodic bass parts, and Einar "Einz" Sjursø's propulsive elektolurch on the drum kit. Czral is aided in the guitar department by Voivod’s Dan Mongrain making a guest appearance.
Czral also sings in a similar portentous style to Pete Murphy, lending an inevitably air Gothic to proceedings. However the real star on this rather fine and very alt record is drummer Einz whose flailing rhythms are the thing that keeps this Virus infectious.
Virus are a part of the growing stable of Norwegian label Karisma Records, who are carving quite a name for themselves on the prow of their longship, with acts such as the fabulous Seven Impale, Airbag, Magic Pie, and others.
TRAM - TRAM
This album came as part of a slim package from that home for stray north western stoners, the aptly named Stone Premonitions label. There was no PR sheet and the cover gives very little away, but if that's not John Simms' guitar then my ears are in a worse state than I thought. The singer has to be to be Tim Jones too, so this sounds like it's the fabulously wiggy Census of Hallucinations under another name.
The music is mostly fairly languid, featuring much acidic guitar and drifting synthscapes with occasional bubbling pulse beats and noises off. Well trippy in fact...
Unfortunately neither band nor label appear to have a Bandcamp or Soundcloud page, and I can't even find a YouTube clip, so no samples.
Kevin Heard - Cydonia
One piece of info on the card cover of the TRAM promo CD was that the fab sleeve was designed by one Kevin Heard, who it turns out is a musical polymath. On this solo album he plays everything from flutes, saxes, guitars to synths, electronica and various percussion as well as signing, designing the cover, and writing and producing and engineering the thing. I hope someone made him a cup of tea now and again.
What comes out of the glorious stew of instrumentation is a well-crafted space opera with high production values that belies its DIY "bedroom" origins. With nods to Charisma-era Hawkwind and Sendelica the opening rocker of a title track flies by at warp factor 5, changing down the gears to drift idly by on the following Kingdom Come. With many "mission control" snippets between the tracks, this is a fun ride into deep space, exploring many different grooves on the way, from the rocking Cydonia to the space dust whimsical funk of Ice On The Pyramids to the space pop of Under Blood Red Sands, Kevin Heard proves that this pony knows much more than just the one trick.
Another fine shiny piece of plastic from the Stone Premonitions stable, who really should get themselves a Bandcamp page, but at least Kevin has put a few tracks up on YouTube...
Gary Lucas & Jann Klose - Stereopticon
I picked this up having appreciated ex-Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas' collaboration with Peter Hammill, Other World, from 2014. Suffice to say this album with singer Jann Klose, who among many other things was the voice of Tim Buckley in the film Greetings From Tim Buckley is as different as can be, but hey, my taste is nothing if not catholic. A collection of acoustic songs occasionally featuring close harmony singing, and drawing on Americana, this is a charmer of an album, and to be honest, I'm sorry I've let it slip by - I received it in February!
Downhome and with a warm heart, it is easy to get lost in Stereopticon's welcoming arms after a hard day at the computerface. And, it's as far from Prog as can be, so what's not to like?
Ashley Reaks - If I Hadn't Become An Artist And A Musician I Would Have Been A Serial Killer Or Killed Myself
Ashley Reaks the artist makes strangely unsettling and uncompromising collages usually featuring cartoon depictions of various sexual practices featuring our glorious rulers in sundry states of debauchery.
Ashley Reaks the musician makes albums that take inspiration from classic pop, ska, reggae, and punk where the music is in innocuous and complete contrast to the stark lyrics that narrate various ill-begotten strains of the lives of the disenfranchised, all for your enjoyment. For his sins he is cursed with supporting Sunderland AFC, but we all have our crosses to bear.
Assisted by a full band and the complimentary tones of Maria Jardardottir, the music makes this pleasantly listenable but if you listen too closely the lyrics will
deliver a sucker punch to your conscience. Oddly, it works!