Sunday, 26 March 2017

The MOJO CD - Pigs Might Fly

With a sub-title of "MOJO Presents A Compendium of Progressive Sounds", how could I resist a deeper look into the latest cover-mount CD from probably the best mainstream music magazine here in the UK? Ostensibly compiling tracks that MOJO claim are inspired by the progressive spirit of Pink Floyd's Animals album, a mere 40-years old this year, the cover note rightly makes the distinction between "progressive" and the sometimes pejorative
term "prog".

So far, so good...let's take a look to see what they have come up with...

Public Service Broadcasting - The Other Side
Last year's flavour of several months, the prog PSB never quite resonated with me. While individual tracks work well enough, like this pleasant synth melody underneath the soundtrack of Mission Control and Apollo 8 losing communication and then regaining it, as that first manned flight around the Moon disappears round the dark side and then re-emerges, the album as a whole may prove to have a very short gimmick-laden shelf life.

Hawkwind - Lost In Science
2016's The Machine Stops saw a return to form for the veteran space travellers, and this concluding track from that album regales us with one of those instantly recognisable Dave Brock riffs, and plentiful strangeitude.

Gong - Through Restless Seas I Come
Following founder Daevid Allen's death, Gong have gamely carried on with the the tousle-haired Kavus Torabi, aka The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz taking the reins. Having joined while the chief Pixie was still working with the band, Kavus has given the group a new direction and lease of life, as this song from the defiantly celebratory Rejoice! I'm Dead shows, while retaining the inescapable Planet Gong sound.

Six Organs Of Admittance - Adoration Song
Unusually for a MOJO CD, it is not until this fourth track that I come across a band I'd never heard before. The spookily named Six Organs Of Admittance only partly fulfills that description, as guitarist Ben Chasny is also the plank spanker for the wonderfully incendiary Comets on Fire. Adoration Song is a delicate country-psych confection, all winsome vocals and slow, echoing guitar. Rather nice!

Dungen - Jakten Genom Skogen
Taken from the Swedish nu-psych masters' wonderful instrumental album Häxan, written as a new soundtrack to the world's oldest surviving animated film, this tune rolls along with a languid easy confidence. More words will be written over at TPA in the near future.

Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
The first truly new name to me on this sampler, Jane Weaver, who has apparently sampled "everyone from Hawkwind to Cybotron" here sings a modern psychedelicised waltz tune that employs subtle motorik rhythm under a repetitive keyboard motif. Simple but effective.

Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation - Sister Green Eyes
Another new name to me. Way more influenced by Syd's Floyd than the later Waters' version of Animals, Sister Green Eyes has set the controls for the heart of the sun with some panache, producing a laid-back hypnotic groove in the process.

Mick Karn - Ashamed To Be A Part Of Them
The unmistakable elastic sound of Mick Karn's fretless bass places this elegant and stately outing from his final solo album released in 2009 firmly in the court of the band whose sound he had the major part in crafting more than 25 years previously.

Ulver - 1969
One of the few bands on here who can genuinely be called progressive, this track from the Norwegian's soon come new album, enticingly described as "pop" by leader Krystoffer Rygg, archly reflects on the fact that nothing seems to have changed since the year of the title. Sounds like Depeche Mode in a dreamscape, fronted by Neil Tennant. Always expect the unexpected with this group!

Foxygen - Rise Up
A group I have never got a handle on. It's grandiloquent pop I suppose, and the band's new album apparently features orchestrations and "progressive intent" according to the blurb. Sounds intriguing with a nice wonky guitar break at the end, but my jury is still out...

The Phoenix Foundation - Silent Orb
The next new one on me, this New Zealand band deal in off-kilter pop in unobvious time signatures with grand choral arrangements, if this tune is anything to go by. Interesting...

The Comet Is Coming - Final Eclipse
With an apocalyptic name and song title, this should be a fabulous and mighty racket, howling into the oncoming firestorm. It's actually a wonky dance tune led by a squelchy sequencer melody and groovy sax playing, but oddly, I am not disappointed. Their sax player is called King Shabaka, which should be good enough for anybody. More progressive than a lot on here, for sure.

Julie's Haircut - Salting Traces
Another fabulous band name - proggies, are you watching? - and yet another new one to this old fogie, Julie's Haircut is an Italian psychedelic band that started as far back as 1994. Unsettling rumbling electronica leads to a bowl cut and pupils as big as the sun.

Richard Barbieri - Solar Sea
A track from the ex-Japan and Porcupine Tree keyboard wizard's utterly lovely new album. I have written more than enough about this fine recording over at TPA, so I won't repeat myself here. Make sure you see the 360° video for this track!

Orchestra Of Spheres - Cluster
We finish with an acid-fried slowly building evil shamanic funk spectacular, featuring a fabulous but sadly all too brief guitar wigout to end. Their album Brothers And Sisters Of The Black Lagoon may well be worth checking out if this is anything to go by.

Well, there you have it. If asked, I doubt that very few, if any of these bands would state Floyd's Animals as an inspiration to their tracks represented here. The link is tenuous to the point of non-existent. Also how much of this album is actually progressive is moot, but even so, this is by far the best MOJO cover CD for many months. Keep tokin' Mr MOJO!

Friday, 17 March 2017

All Them Witches - Sleeping Through The War

"Ain't nobody gonna tell me howda run ma town"

All Them Witches are purveyors of desert rock, for want of a better term, but that's a way too limiting a description for this classic album that combines many strands to weave a dazzling day-glo fabric of mind warping rock'n'roll. Formed as recently as 2012, Sleeping Through The War is already the band's fourth album, they don't hang around. Despite looking incredibly young in their promotional photos, they are imbued with the wisdom of justified and ancient ur-rock, chanelling Blue Cheer, Hendrix, The Stooges, right through to Nirvana and Queens Of The Stone Age.

They were a name unknown to me until a few weeks ago when one of those rambling online music-related conversations I've been having of late with my American mate and fellow scribbler Shawn Dudley, a man who likes his rock to be heavy and righteous, mentioned this band. Connections were made and Shawn has now penned a review of the Nashville stoners' latest waxing Sleeping Through The War for The Progressive Aspect that probably tells you all you need to know, and his glorious phrase "ferociously stoned" is entirely appropriate when applied to this mantle-deep rock of an album. That I am now writing this on my blog as an "Addendum (Immaculately Wasted)"  should indicate how highly I rate this beguiling record, shot through as it is with a deep mystery of the kind that could only be conjured up in that vast cauldron of hope, fear, expectation, and unbridled ambition that is America. This is a stoner romance spread over a eight tracks seemingly arranged for vinyl, with the fast punchy stuff up front and the stretched out smokin' music sprawled across "side two". That will be why I bought it on that most aesthetically pleasing of formats, then.

As much as anything has the time to be chez moi these days, Sleeping Through The War has slowly risen to heavy rotation status. It was not an instant album, it is possessed of a slow, heavy groove courtesy of maverick country producer Dave Cobb that takes time to get in deep, but once in there, it ain't shifting. This is the romance of big skies and far horizons, the mystery of native magick, dust devils swirling in its wake. I wanted a tag line for this review, and that line from the furiously louche Don't Bring Me Coffee I used, drawled somewhere between stoned and threatening, fits like a glove.

A dreamy lull into false security is offered by the beginning of opening track Bulls, but when that lysergic sludge-riff kicks in, dragged all the way up from a time-buried Stoogian hell, you will be jumping around the room like a rhino taking ballet lessons. That the track later morphs into some kinda Krautrock freakout ending, like Damo had been fronting Nirvana seems somehow completely logical.

Don't Bring Me Coffee ups the ante some more, and that rhino will be destroying furniture. Many other opportunities to frug are offered on "side one", but Sleeping Through The War gets interesting when it stretches out, and "side two" is for the most part a surreal take on where the rock is buried now in deepest Murica. "Am I going up? Am I going down? Am I going nowehere?" asks the splendidly named singer/bassist Charles Michael Parks Jr. on the deep blooze of Am I Going Up? You have to roll, and roll some more before you and Charles with his strung out drawl come to the conclusion "If I can't live here, guess I'll go live on the internet" before howling the winds made moan via some gloriously sleazy harmonica. Yee, and indeed, Haw! Guess I'll Go Live On The Internet wends its lazy way through the swamp and out to the sea for nearly ten minutes in a retro-futurist languid bluesy space walk, chanelling Nick Cave, Dr John, and The Allman Brothers. Luvvly.

Before you get there you have to drag yourself away from the hypnotic voodoo call of Alabaster, a deeply impressionistic tale, pulling on the call of hearth and home, longed for escape and the coming days of reckoning. This song is six minutes and fifty eight seconds long, or maybe it is endless. "Every day they look more and more like me" sighs Charles as everything comes full circle.

As I was new to this band I gave myself a crash course in their previous albums, and it has become fairly obvious that Sleeping Through The War is a summation of everything that went before it, serving up a gumbo stew of Americana, rock'n'roll, country, ancient grungy primordial riffage that can be traced way back to the Stooges, and a large helping of dem blooze, all shaken and stirred with no little amount of psychotropic influence. It is fucking great! All Them Witches appear to have scaled a summit, and are gazing heavy-lidded into the hazy distance. It will be mighty interesting to see where they go from here.

"Don't bring me no coffee....nowahdun like the taste"

01. Bulls (6:41)
02. Don’t Bring Me Coffee (3:10)
03. Bruce Lee (3:12)
04. 3-5-7 (3:57)
05. Am I Going Up? (5:34)
06. Alabaster (6:58)
07. Cowboy Kirk (6:51)
08. Guess I’ll Go Live On The Internet (9:50)

Total running time - 47:13

Line up:
Charles Michael Parks Jr. – Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Mellotron, Percussion, Loops
Robby Staebler – Drums, Congas
Ben McLeod – Guitar, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion
Allan Van Cleave – Rhodes, Organ, Piano, Mellotron

Mickey Raphael – Harmonica
Caitlan Rose, Tristen & Erin Rae – Backing Vocals
Dave Cobb – Percussion

New West Records

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