Being a long time admirer of Game Theory and Loud Family, I was saddened today to hear of the recent passing of Scott Miller.
I remember picking up the ‘Real Nighttime’ album by Game Theory many years ago. It was released through Restless, and liking the majority of releases via them I thought I’d take chance. Initially I found the album tricky listening. This was something a little more sophisticated than the usual three chord tricks I was used to at the time. It contained very intelligent and complex song writing, with excellent titles and lyrics – I was intrigued. I persevered and I’m glad I did – everything clicked into place one time, and I was hooked – ‘Rayon Drive’, ‘Friend Of The Family’, ‘24’, there was something special about these tracks, quite unlike anything else around.
I subsequently tracked down the earlier Game Theory releases (even the rare pre-GT single by Alternate Learning) and went on from there.
The ‘Lolita Nation’ album is a masterpiece! It’s Game Theory’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and ‘White Album’ rolled into one. The wealth of ideas contained in these grooves…Phew!!! Check the song titles too! It must have felt like an achievment to have made an album like that!
Like a lot of the other 80s guitar bands I liked, I only read or heard about Scott Miller and Game Theory in Bucketful Of Brains magazine, or by popping into Plastic Passion down the Portobello Road. I’m glad I had these lifelines at the time as I wouldn’t have got hold of a lot of music that’s stayed with me all the way since then. A belated ‘thank you’ to you guys!
Once Game Theory wound down, Scott formed Loud Family and even made it to London for a gig at the old Powerhaus venue in Islington. I saw that gig and even got to talk to him afterwards. A friendly guy.
I followed Loud Family with the same zeal I had for Game Theory. Again, very interesting albums, cleverly arranged. I enjoyed the collaboration with Anton Barbeau too on ‘What If It Works?’ Their version of ‘Rocks Off’ by The Stones being a highlight!
After I heard the news about Scott I dug out ‘The Big Shot Chronicles’ and played ‘Like A Girl Jesus’, just to feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end like they always do when I hear this track. Beautiful!
Thanks for the music and memories Scott.
14.05.13 - Strange Fish are Happening!
Fruits De Mer’s latest venture lands sometime in June. The ‘Strange Fish’ series has been mooted for a while, and is four loosely ‘themed’ albums (two on single vinyl and two on double vinyl) with a free CD of unissued music for purchasers of the complete set! CDRs of the albums have arrived here recently and this is one Pandora’s Box of krautrock, progressive/acid jams, electronica, and much more!
Coming from a psych/blues background I knew I’d be in for a challenge with the series, but the whole concept has kept me coming back to it for the last few weeks. I’ve played the whole series from start to finish, I’ve ‘dipped’ into various volumes playing specific tracks, not just because I may have liked particular tracks but also the ones I couldn’t take to initially I wanted to give another chance.
OK, so I still can’t take to ALL of the music on offer, but it’s been an adventure checking these sounds out!
I’m still not into pure synth sounds, unless played alongside the standard rock fare of guitars, bass and drums. A few years ago I experienced an intense headache listening to an electronic album, and I don’t suffer from headaches as a rule. Even now while listening to some of the tracks in this series, I still feel uneasy with the electronica tracks. I can also feel the temperature drop around me. Luckily for me, there are guitars, bass and drums (even saxophones too!) to be heard within the series, so I was in my ‘safety zone’ for at least some of the time!
Strange Fish One features floating ambient sounds. Sendelica contribute the track ‘Strange Fish’ here. This 24 minute jam features a simple ringing guitar motif and a bass line alongside various sound effects (plus a little altered tape speed!) I wouldn’t say the various stages of the piece ‘fit’ together seamlessly, but they hold my interest. It’s been the track I’ve returned to a few times. There’s something about the guitar in it I like. Reminds me of temple bells.
Strange Fish Two is loosely based around kraut/prog rock guitar led jams. More like it, me thinks! Organic Is Orgasmic feature with ‘At Dawn Of Men’. Haunting/spacey saxophone sounds are suddenly shattered after 5 minutes when the track hits a cool groove that’s pretty much maintained up to its 13 minute limit. Nothing is too rushed, it’s very controlled. Sendelica appear again with the wonderfully titled ‘80% Neon Bridge Of Sighs’. Very Floydian! Actually the track titles throughout the whole series are very imaginative – they make you want to hear what a tracks with these kind of titles sound like - good bait! Best of all on this particular volume is ‘Space Orchid vs. Massive Drumkit’ by The Grand Astoria. Lovely Eastern/Hippy vibe that mutates into another solid groove.
The third volume isn’t really for me. Based around kosmische/motoric/electronic sounds, I find it the most difficult volume to listen to, but I do have a liking for Vert:x (stars of the ‘The Crabs Freak Out’ CD). They contribute three tracks, two of which (’Bad Calibration’ & ‘Killer Beez’) feature their trademark ‘muscular’ riffing. I like the energy, it's relentless! And who let Hawkwind gatecrash too?
Now to volume four - the mood is gentle, and there’s acoustic guitar to be heard! Jewel in the crown is Hi-Fiction Science’s James McKeown. I’ve got copies of the two most recent solo outings from James and this guy creates some really beautiful instrumentals. He contributes four tracks here and each one is wonderful listening. ‘Euclid Dreaming’ is my particular favourite, but it could have easily been any of the others. The Vox Humana, who also feature members of Hi-Fiction Science, offer more gentleness with ‘Shortwave Radio And The Ionosphere’ another favourite of mine.
The Strange Fish 5 CD as I mentioned earlier, is only available with the purchase of all four albums. This features tracks that didn’t quite fit or work with the rest of the series, but there’s no slouching here. Jay Tausig’s ‘Shortwave’ is a beautiful groove, while Oceanfire fight off another Hawkwind intrusion on ‘Elevations’. Mustn’t forget ‘Cathedral’ by Purple Rock Trip either - this 11 minute track is a guitar orchestra! Finally, legendary songwriter Beau chips in with an unissued mid 80s track, originally recorded for a video project entitled ‘Rainbow Jam Theme’. This I really enjoyed! It’s a fuzzy Bo Diddley-esque work out. The ‘oddest’ track of the entire set for sure, but I defy anyone not to like it!
The Strange Fish series is definitely a challenging listen. Worth taking up though, you may get into something new - let’s compare notes at the end…
I’ll check in again soon.
It’s a good time to be a Steve Kilbey fan with yet another album of new songs available - ‘The Idyllist’. Like ‘Garage Sutra’, released last year ‘The Idyllist’ provides him a platform to try out the new recording software available, and make an album ‘mostly solo’ again like in the ‘old days’ of his portastudio efforts.
Unlike ‘Garage Sutra’, which contained songs pretty much in the ‘traditional’ SK style, ‘The Idyllist’ presents a diverse selection of songs, with him experimenting outside his ‘safety zone’. As a result, it makes for interesting listening…
Check the new toughened vocals and ‘rocky edge’ (with nods to T. Rex) in ‘Zara Thustra’, ‘Aero-Space’ and ‘Rock Song 13’, his sentimental side in ‘One Thing Before I Go’ - even ‘country’ in ‘Pitstop’!
How about the sing-a-long ‘Something Out There’, the glorious melodies and arrangements of ‘African Jesus’ and ‘The Truth Is Not Enough’, both with choruses to die for, plus a couple of gentle instrumentals to ease you in and out of the album? That’s not all the album covered either! Certainly we have here a ‘new phase’ SK!
He’s really hitting some stride with ‘The Idyllist’, and ‘Garage Sutra’ for that matter, I hope he continues the pace. Whether with poetry, prose, painting or music, this guy is here to create! Onwards and upwards Mr. K!
I’m a little late with this one, but another worthwhile listen lately has been the 2011 album by The Waterboys - ‘An Appointment With Mr. Yeats’. I’ve very fond memories of seeing the band at their peak (the so-called ‘Big Music’ days) and have always found Mike Scott an interesting artist who is never afraid to step aside from the expectations put upon him and follow his own path. He has lost his way once or twice, but his career is always worth investigating.
So, here I am with this album that collects a few choice poems by WB Yeats that Scott has ‘adapted for song’.
I’ve always thought that poetry works well with music, and for me it’s easier to appreciate words if they’re sung rather than written on a page. The emotion comes through better. I’m as easily swept away by a subtle chord change as I am by a couple of choice lines that knock me back in time, or stir an emotion deep within, and Scott really has achieved this in spades on ‘An Appointment…’ He obviously has an affinity for the poetry of Yeats, and certainly his singing of it on this album is probably his best ever.
Nowhere is this marriage of words and music complete than on track 2 ‘Song Of Wandering Aengus’…
’I went out to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head…’
No idea why, but I love that line! Listen to how Scott sings it…
The mood of the music too is overpowering, mostly melancholic, until the stirring refrain of ‘the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun’ section…Phew! I turn through emotions with every listen.
‘A Full Moon In March’ too…
’I sing a song of Jack and Jill, Jill had murdered Jack…The moon shone brightly, the moon shone brightly…’
Oh, man, the intensity of the performance...
Always known for interesting instrumentation, Scott continues the trend with this album – there’s not only guitars, but an array of keyboard/string sounds, flute and horns, the familiar violin, plus female vocals.
Excellent up-close production too (listen to the flute solo at the end of earlier mentioned ‘Aengus’, you can hear the intake of breath between each passage.)
Not a difficult album at all for me to play from start to finish and then again some…
He’s still making the ‘Big Music’ - I don’t think he ever left it behind. Whether delivered electric or acoustic – it’s always full of passion!
Finally, I recently received another intriguing album by the mysterious Frugal Puritan. Although I have an inkling of who is behind the moniker, I’m more than happy to listen uninformed, and appreciate the sounds. So, what do we have?
Well, it’s a mellow, loosely Christian psych folk affair with gentle vocals, in the tradition of The Trees Community, Water Into Wine Band et al.
The music is mainly acoustic based, but there are some really lovely electric guitar passages here and there, and they’re particularly effective in ‘(Give The Lord A) Handclap’ (it’s Bo Diddley’s beat, but not as we know it!) and the smouldering ‘Seven Stars’, my favourite track on the album. This is powerful music…
Two instrumentals ‘Dives & Lazarus Intro’ and ‘Dives & Lazarus Outro’ bookend the album, and are really beautiful pieces of music too…
The more I play it through, the more I appreciate the beauty of ‘Frugal Puritan’ as an album…It'll remain a while longer in my 'current play' stack!
Until next time…
The debut album ‘Cabinet Of Curiosities’ by Dutch multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner is in constant rotation here at the moment.
After two fast sell out singles (I completely missed the first one) I couldn’t wait to hear this, and a very intriguing listen it is too.
Hear the disc for the first time and the ‘pocket symphonies’ of Brian Wilson are an obvious influence. Listen again, and you find there’s more to Gardner’s music than being a straight copy of the ‘sunshine and surf’ vibe.
Like Wilson, Gardner constructs very intricate tunes, heavily reliant on keyboards (harpsichord and waves of mellotron – beautifully played) with a slightly ‘eerie’ feel to them. The ¾ time of ‘Watching The Moon’ for example - but then anything in ¾ time spooks me! It’s Victoriana revisited. The blurred image of a ‘top hatted’ Gardner on the inside sleeve of the album not only brings to mind 1965 Dylan, but also fog, cobblestones and horse drawn carriages!
The single side ‘Where Will You Go’ has that wonderful dreamy, drifting quality of Manfred Mann’s ‘Up The Junction’ era while the instrumental title track has a timeless quality to it.
It’s difficult to explain how this album makes me feel, but reflective is probably the best description. It’s the same feeling I get listening to Duncan Browne (the track ‘On The Bombsite’ in particular) and John Bromley. Yes, a Brit influence is strong on ‘Cabinet Of Curiosities’. Listen to the ‘other worldly’ vocals - it could be Syd Barrett singing! The final track ‘The Ballad Of Little Jane’ in particular.
Definitely something very special about ‘Cabinet Of Curiosities’. The songs sound better the more you hear them. It’s got to be hard not to like this album. It could even be considered a classic one day, I kid not!
Don’t miss the chance to hear it now…
Until the next time.
Three releases landed here recently that have been played repeatedly since. Three releases that make me want to listen to them. There’s been no effort involved on my part. Remember when sometimes just the look of a sleeve, an enthusiastic sleeve note, an interesting set of song titles or a recognised name in the credits could sell you on some music before you’d even heard it?
Firstly, the White Sails debut album. This new project features Leigh Gregory (Mellow Drunk, Memory’s Mystic Band) and Ville Vilpponen (dora flood, Bias, Memory’s Mystic Band) and Jaakko Vilpponen (Bias, Memory’s Mystic Band)…
Wait a minute! Mellow Drunk and dora flood? These bands have been a big part of the day to day listening here at Heyday for over a decade now. Here we go again…
Actually, this album has been eagerly awaited here since the two track taster CD arrived last October. It doesn’t disappoint either…
Leigh’s sing-speak vocal (a little huskier these days) and turn of phrase remains intact... ‘Waiting for the last boat, stuck in Normandy, sitting on the sea wall, staring out to sea…’ he sings in ‘Just One Wish’ and there I am again in Calais, many moons ago, in the freezing cold, waiting for a boat to get back to Blighty…It’s uncanny, just one phrase out of nowhere again, and I’m taken back years. Don’t get me started on some of the lyrics to his solo album ‘1973’ from a few years ago!
What’s really hits me about this album is the music, particularly the very effective guitar playing. It compliments Leigh throughout, either by following the vocal melody, or playing off the lyrics in a ‘call and response’ style. The soloing is never flash, and every note played is for a reason. Just strap on the headphones and follow it more closely.
Listen further, and you begin to appreciate the keyboards. Piano pretty much takes the lead on ‘All Of My Days’ and ‘Sunday Afternoon’, while organ is used on most of the other tracks. It’s only just about there in the mix - listen hard - but is a big part in the overall mood of the songs. Very subtle.
The final track ‘Seaside’ is the one. The music ‘becomes the sea’ much like the Velvet Underground achieved on ‘Ocean’. Guitars are waves and the drum cymbals crash as they reach the ‘shore’. Best track on the album.
Every song on this album ‘ends’, there are no fade outs. No song is ever longer than it should be either. ‘White Sails’ is precision from start to finish and…marvellous!
Next up is the debut by UK band Honey Pot, entitled ‘To The Edge Of The World’. The promo blurb mentions the band being influenced by the 60s UK and West Coast sounds. Promising me thinks, particularly with song titles like ‘Comly’s Honey Jar’, ‘Paper Garden’, ‘Sweet Orange Sunshine’ and ‘Hazy Recollections’…
Yes, this album’s got a 60s vibe, and first listens confirm this, but it’s not totally retro. It’s actually all about the vocals this time for me.
The male-female harmonies and sharing of lead vocal duties throughout the band are all well arranged and executed. I really enjoy ‘Florence’ with it’s ‘Deram Bowie’ lead and Small Faces-like sing-a-long chorus! Ray Davies would enjoy this one too, no doubt! ‘Comly’s Honey Jar’ keeps up the 60s UK influence, while other songs like ‘Paper Garden’ and ‘Sweet Orange Sunshine’ exude that West Coast Sunshine Pop/Folk Rock feel that the Rev-Ola label reissued regularly a while back with Eternity’s Children et al.
The more I listen, the better it all sounds. There’s the Mod Soul feel of ‘Roses Will Grow’, the bluesy (and slightly sinister) ‘Black Penny Avenue’ plus the instrumental ‘Dave’s Groove’. This one would go down a storm if they were the house band at the Scotch Of St. James!
An enjoyable release and a few of these songs aren’t that far away from ‘Fading Yellow’ or ‘Soft Sounds For Gentle People’ territory either.
Finally, a new mini album by Swedish band Dean Allen Foyd. Released in March, I think this is the first new music from them since their promising debut album was released last year.
‘Road To Atlas’ is a five tracker and an exciting journey evoking the sounds of late 60s/early 70s Blues Rock Psych. First track ‘Sadness Of Mankind’ from its opening guitar signature lands you right in late 60s SF, and it’s so ‘free’! It’s this freedom with their music that appeals to me most about the band. It’s also the reason I like the work of Jack Ellister too. Every track is like a wild journey, you’ve no idea where you’ll end up…The playing is so tight, the influence of Zappa and The Mothers never too far away….
Anyone into fellow Swedes The Soundtrack Of Our Lives will appreciate ‘Insects’, the second track. I thought it was SOOL at first! Again, it’s not about ‘three chords and a cloud of dust’ or verses and choruses, this is a trip!
Next up ‘Leave Me Be’ allows the band to exercise their Blues Rock chops, while the last couple of tracks ‘HWY Lost (Revisited)’ and ‘Road To Atlas’ make DAF sound better than some long lost West Coast band you’ve never heard of.
At just over 20 minutes long I couldn’t help hitting ‘repeat’ several times over to listen again. Love it!
I’ll check in again soon.
Fruits De Mer are busy this year already!
February sees the release of their Hollies tribute ‘Re-Evolution : FdM Sings The Hollies’ LP + 7” and the Soft Hearted Scientists collection ‘Whatever Happened To…’ double LP + 7” set. CDR promos arrived recently.
The tracks on ‘Re-Evolution’ are better than the originals in my opinion. Concentrating mainly on the work of the ‘psychedelic’ Hollies, many of these re-interpretations tend to look East with the use of sitars and drones, which is never a problem to listen to here at Heyday! Seventh Ring Of Saturn (‘All The World Is Love’), Jay Tausig (‘Elevated Observations’) and King Penguin (‘Dear Eloise’) deserve a special mention here, but I can’t ignore the two versions of ‘Butterfly that bookend the LP by Beautify Junkyards & Us and Them. Beautify Junkyards turn the song virtually to a chant - there’s definitely a spiritual vibe to the sound, while Us & Them seduce the listener once again. You can’t help but be charmed by this duo. Beautiful music!
Elsewhere, Bevis Frond perform an excellent world weary version of ‘Hard Hard Year’ and there can’t be many people who will have trouble relating to the lyrics, a very apt choice. There’s the element of pop too by the Re-Stoned (‘Then The Heartaches Begin’), Gathering Grey (‘Postcard’) and Langor (‘Everything Is Sunshine’) while moonweevil turn ‘Bus Stop’ upside down and inside out in Cranium Pie fashion to take first prize in the ‘If I Hadn’t Read The Track List, I’d Never Have Recognised The Song’ category…
It’s one of those compilations where there’s a new favourite with every listen. The sign of a good compilation right? An excellent start to a new year of listening!
Welsh wizards Soft Hearted Scientists are no strangers here at Heyday, I fell under their spell when they appeared a few years ago with a couple of interesting CDEPs. Unfortunately a few mishaps with labels made their subsequent releases either very difficult to obtain, or even find at all in some cases. I remember buying promo/advance copies of some of their releases second hand as the finished item never appeared, or if it did, I may have blinked and missed it!
Thankfully Fruits De Mer have collected their best work so far and even some new recordings, but you can’t guarantee it hanging around for long again - not because of the label disappearing this time (I couldn’t bear the thought!) but the speed with which FdM releases sell out!
Like a lot of Welsh bands in recent years (the Gorky’s in particular), the Soft Hearted Scientists influences are varied, so there are a few whimsical moments, folky touches and 'Syd psych' influences. The result is always interesting, very hypnotic too.
The mood is mostly reflective, with some lyrics that can really hit you. Often I’ll be listening to the band, a line will come out of nowhere and suddenly I find myself thinking about something from years ago.
What a coincidence that they cover ‘Whatever Happened to You’ (the theme from the 70s UK TV comedy series ‘The Likely Lads’) on this album! I remember watching that programme when I was growing up, I’d be about ten or twelve, and whenever the theme song came on I’d suddenly become very moved by it all. As much as I loved the programme, the theme music went deeper.
The same feelings came back while listening to The Soft Hearted Scientists sing the song. I’m so glad they didn’t add the ‘tomorrow’s almost over, the days went by so fast, it’s the only thing to look forward to, the past’ part or I’d be inconsolable! It’s been a long time since the 70s…No other song I know sums up growing older better than this one…
Another well put together collection, ‘Whatever Happened to..’ features favourites such as ‘Mount Palomar’, ‘Brother Sister’ and the epic ‘The Caterpillar Song’ too. There is a taster of their forthcoming album as well - I can’t wait! The band are a treasure.
Finally, just before I go, I’d like to mention that the year end double CD freebie for FdM members ‘The Crabs Freak Out / Sell Out’ is an absolute blast! Christmas has always been about ‘selection boxes’ I guess, and man, what a wide selection of music is on this set! Too much to mention here now, but I really enjoyed the contributions from Chemistry Set, Vespero, Vert:x, Anla Courtis, Helicon and in particular Seventh Ring Of Saturn (‘Pillsbury Palace’ – what a track!)…
Thanks Keith, and all the artists who contributed…Marvellous! Don’t hesitate, become a member of FdM, there’s no label quite like ‘em…
I’ll be back soon…
08.12.12 - Remember John Lennon
Back again…Another year nearly over! Where did the time go? Probably a lot of mine went listening to music…I’ve no complaints though!
Here is ‘Heyday’s Top Ten for 2012’, in no particular order of preference. Thanks for another year of listening pleasure folks!
Raise your glass to the following…
Steve Kilbey / Garage Sutra (album)
White Sails / Slipping Away – Just One wish (CD single)
Jack Ellister / The Man With The Biochopper (7” single)
Luck Of Eden Hall / Alligators Eat Gumdrops (album)
Bill Fay / Life Is People (album)
George Harrison / Early Takes Volume 1 (album)
Permanent Clear Light / Higher Than The Sun (7” single)
Peter Lacey / Worlds End Amateur Melodramatic Society Ball (album)
V.A. / Sorrow’s Children (album)
Jack Ellister / ‘Unissued Album’ (I know this isn’t released, but I heard it this year and it’s a big favourite!)
Many thanks to the labels and artists who sent promos, MP3 files etc. for me to listen to, they’re very much appreciated.
Thank you also to Heyday’s customers for another year of support. I’m very grateful to you all!
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy 2013!
See you soon…
A while ago Heyday advertised a limited vinyl EP by Italian neo-psych pop band I Fenomeni. It was an interesting listen, and soon sold out at source. I was contacted again by the band recently as they’ve just released their debut album entitled ‘Un Vuoto Apeso’. This is again a vinyl only release of just 300 copies (and these will probably sell out fast as well!)
The gatefold sleeve is typically 60s being hard board, and there’s a two sided poster included as a finishing touch! They like their retro/period packaging do I Fenomeni, but what about the music?
I’ve been playing ‘Vuoto’ quite a lot recently, actually preferring it to the EP. It’s very groovy, very 60s! The playing is tight, these guys are good musicians. Excellent Hammond organ, not only used for its ‘dance-abilty’ but for creating very moody passages too. Guitars? Very nice with plenty of fuzz on top! All the tracks are sung in Italian and the vocal arrangements / harmonies are interesting.
There are few classic 60s riffs and intros revisited, but as soon as you recognise them the band move off in other directions just as quickly! The music really swirls throughout the entire album, it’s hypnotic!
It’s a little on the expensive side to buy but well worth the money for the love that’s gone into making the music and presenting it. Very enjoyable.
Where I Fenomeni have that mid to late 60s vibe sown up on ‘Vuoto’, US psych band Sky Picnic have captured the late 60s/early 70s feel on their new album ‘Paint Me A Dream’. Another very strong release - I think this album actually shows more maturity than their debut ‘Farther In This Fairy Tale’ and I enjoyed that one a lot!
There’s a ‘Saucerful Of Secrets’ era Pink Floyd influence with some excellent acid guitar leads and moody Mellotron playing too. The tracks ‘Freak Out Ethel’, ‘Dream Yourself Away’, ‘Kaleidoscopic Cadence’ and ‘Rippled’ are firm favourites with me already, with ‘Slumbers Gate’ not far behind.
Really well structured psych/prog song writing throughout.
I hope to be listing the vinyl release very soon. Grab one before it’s gone!
Finally, Peter Lacey has just released a limited CD pressing (100 copies only) of an EP he’s called ‘Grinmace’. It’s a mini concept based around the story of the couple who run the Smile Shoppe featured on the cover intended for the Brian Wilson/Beach Boys project ‘Smile’. It really is a condensed version of the Smile album with instrumental passages and wonderful Beach Boys influenced melodies/harmonies.
Like he did on his previous release this year the ‘Worlds End Amateur Melodramatic Society Ball’ album, he’s got me all emotional again, not just with the lyrics but the music too, it’s obviously a gift!
‘Someday, somehow, better days but not for now’ – this line gets me every time. I’m getting soft obviously!
The couple fall on hard times but all works out fine in the end!
Excellent song writing again from Mr. Lacey.
Cheers for now!
Back again! There’s been plenty of exciting new and upcoming releases to listen to lately!
Beatles, Beatles, Beatles…There’s no escaping them or their influence, which conveniently leads me to Fruits De Mer’s forthcoming double ‘White EP’… Never an easy thing to cover a Beatles song, they’re a tough act to follow, but if it’s done in an interesting way then I’m all ears! FdM’s forthcoming ‘tribute’ is certainly interesting…
Immediately I was smitten by the Pretty Things covering ‘Helter Skelter’. Hands up everyone who thought beforehand it’d be a screaming, raunchy, R&B tinged epic? Yeah, me too! Expect the unexpected…
It’s a crooner, oh yes(!), gently creeping out of the speakers, at less than half the velocity of the original. Lots of mysterious babbling about something or other too, at the close of the track (a la ‘Walrus’). There’s a neat moody synth throughout, and some excellent guitar work too…It’s very subtle, and very beautiful!
Heyday fave Jack Ellister uses bells on ‘Dear Prudence’ and it works. Adds something to the optimism of the original, and I love it! Could be a Sunday morning…
Those charming deconstructionists Cranium Pie completely re-work ‘Bungalow Bill’ by adding new lyrics and tune from what I can hear! Of all the ‘odd’ covers of the Beatles, this one has to be up there with the best, completely original - as we’ve come to expect from these guys…Where do they get their ideas from?
It’s a strong line-up elsewhere, with other contributions from Bevis Frond, Anton Barbeau (plus assorted Soft Boys, under the moniker Three Minute Tease), the excellent Luck Of Eden Hall (‘mon-key’), Seventh Ring Of Saturn & Henry Padovani…
I managed to spot some references to The Beatles here and there on the EP…’La Marseillaise’ pops up at the end of the Cranium Pie track, and the bassist of Seventh Ring Of Saturn knows the ‘Day Tripper’ riff! Hey, come on! This is Beatles related! Play it backwards, stand on your head, listen closely for ‘clues’ and hidden meanings…It’s fun!
Vinyl only label Ritual Echo have released the ‘Walk Light’ EP by Scandinavian duo Us and Them. Four tracks of achingly, beautiful music. Pure seduction. First track ’A Love Will Find Its Way To Us’ sums up love and relationships all in the first minute. Really nice to hear their own songs after their excellent Fruit De Mer contributions of recent years. Wonder if there’s an album? For now though there’s just this seven inch vinyl EP available in three different colours, but not for long though…Hurry!
Back to the Fruits De Mer Christmas release fest, and we have a four tracker from Luck Of Eden Hall. One of my favourite Doors tracks ‘Crystal Ship’ is featured alongside SRC’s ‘Black Sheep’. The playing is tight throughout. This band are brilliant! I’m not familiar with much of SRC’s music, but I do like ‘Black Sheep’. Good lyrics. Rounding off the EP are two tracks from the recent ‘Alligators Eat Gumdrops’ album. How did they manage to choose? Tough decision - it could have been any of the songs on the album. ‘Bangalore’ and ‘This Is Strange’ won this time, to make their vinyl debut. A very strong release!
I wasn’t kidding about a fest of releases by FdM in December, the ‘White EP’ and Luck Of Eden Hall are just the beginning…How about another four tracker entitled ‘The League Of Psychedelic Gentlemen’? Bevis Frond, nick nicely, Paul Roland and Anton Barbeau have been chosen for this one. All unissued material too. ‘Rosemary’s Eyes’ by nick nicely is a strong opener, with a locked-in groove of a bass line I can’t shake out of my head. Bevis Frond have recorded a new song ‘I’m a Stone’ that rocks along fine. Great chords in this one! Anton Barbeau with Three Minute Tease present the ‘poppy’ ‘When I Was 46 (In The Year 13)’ probably the best track on the EP for me (for now!) Bit of an ‘Aladdin Sane’ feel to it. Finally Paul Roland’s ‘The Puppet Master’ tick-tocks along in a very sinister manner, and I for one won’t be accepting any sweets from this guy after this! Echoes of Deram era Bowie here.
Finally, the ‘Fruits de Mer 2013 Annual’ pairs ‘Pegasus’ (Hollies) by Temple Music with ‘Jennifer’ (Faust) by Vespero. Over fifteen minutes of deep psych/drone/space music to come down to. I really like the Russian band Vespero. Fans of Yo La Tengo may like this version of ‘Jennifer’ too, which arrived too late for inclusion on the ‘Head Music’ album. A heavy listen, maaaan! Best to use headphones.
Thus ends a very good year for Fruits De Mer, me thinks....Roll on 2013!
I’ll be back before then though...
Luck Of Eden Hall’s latest ‘Alligators Eat Gumdrops’ is a superb album! One of those rare releases with every track worth its inclusion. No ‘filler’…
‘Alligators…’ is intelligent and well arranged pop/psych songwriting with all the right influences. Easy to mention The Beatles (particularly ‘Revolver’ period) but I reckon the band know the best of the rest from the last 50 years as well. Catchy too, I woke up most mornings with one of the songs remaining in my head from the day before, which is pretty amazing! I love my music, I’m deaf without it, but this doesn’t usually happen.
From the reflective piano based opener ‘High Heeled Flippers’ to the driving title track that closes it, it's a wonderful listen! Check out ‘Bangalore’ with all it’s grooviness and sitar(!), the gorgeous melodies of ‘Summertime Girl’ & ‘Amorina Had Enough Yesterday’, plus the wistful ‘Green Faery’ and ‘Wasting The Days Of Youth’. Another day, another favourite!
Inventiveness too - backwards tape effects, sound samples, mellotron and synths. Kudos for the drumming! Solid throughout with a wicked snare! A well produced piece of work, housed in a hand embossed and numbered card sleeve featuring Curvey’s artwork. 200 copies only!
I’ve also recently been sent the debut two track CDsingle by White Sails. This is a transatlantic collaboration between Ville Vilpponen and Leigh Gregory. Ville’s brother Jaako drums, so it’s pretty much an extension of Leigh’s post-Mellow Drunk outfit Memory’s Mystic Band.
Now based again in Finland, Ville has started his own label Ruska, and this is the first release and taster for the album due shortly.
White Sails feature Ville’s home recordings with Leigh providing the vocals and lyrics. Both ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘Just One Wish’ are excellent mellow, melodic pieces. Leigh sounds reflective. 'Wish' reminds me of one of Dylan’s 70s ‘travelogue’ pieces, harmonica and all!
Can’t wait for the album – I want to hear more of White Sails. This isn’t enough!
Be back soon….
Heyday Towers has been a–jumpin’ recently to Chemistry Set’s ‘Chemistry Is Just Numbers’ remixes CD. This Spanish only collection contains 8 remixes of recent recordings and includes a Gato Team remix of the vinyl only Fruits De Mer single ‘Impossible Love’. It’s an interesting selection, where sometimes the remixing adds something, other times not. It’s all down to mood and taste. The one that definitely works for me each listen is ‘The World Is Hollow And I Touched The Sky’. Always a favourite song of mine by the band, this remix takes it a little further (and faster!)
Once Jack Ellister folded the Yordan Orchestra, he formed Mytron with his wife Anne. Together they released a limited 4 track CDEP entitled ‘Palast’ in 2011. Different in feel to the earlier ‘Psych Introduxeon’, ‘Palast’ is a little more song orientated and less experimental, with a subtle use of electronics to enhance the sound. Two versions are featured of the title track, a sombre chant and aimed at radio play.
Standout though is ‘The Temple’s Hall’ with bells! A cool Eastern vibe runs through this one which is always a winner here! Only 444 copies pressed. Grab a copy while you can…
Jack’s unissued new album is still by far the most played set of songs here at Heyday over the past few weeks. I’m really impressed with this, definitely his best work so far. Full of imaginative arrangements and instrumentation. Hopefully these songs will see a release eventually.
Again, Fruits De Mer’s finely tuned ears were first on the scene and released the album’s opener ‘The Man With The Biochopper’ as a single a couple of months back. If you liked this track then the album will not disappoint. ‘Hey Cowboy’ shares the swagger of the similarly titled ‘Singing Cowboy’ by Love, but also reminds me of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ period Bowie vocally, and in the strong acoustic strumming. Always good at utilising keyboards, Jack’s piano piece that acts as a coda for this track is about the hardest thing to shake out of your head after the first few listens!
The marvellously titled ‘The Sun Sends Me Hails, Victory, Power, Peace And Shelter’ is an early morning wake up call like no other. Another favourite, the joy in this one is contagious…‘Great Esmeralda’ and ‘Purple Enigmatic’ are other favourites too.
Future ‘underground classic’? I think so.
I'll be back again soon...
Spanish band Stay have just released a new vinyl only album entitled ‘The Fourth Dimension’. I was wondering what had happend to them since I last heard them on a Fruits De Mer single covering '2000 Light Years From Home' (Stones), 'Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow' (Strawberry Alrm Clock) and 'Chicago' (Graham Nash) in 2008!
This ten track album has been rolling around my head for a couple of weeks now, and will definitely appeal to listeners of other acts featured on FdM such as Chemistry Set and Sidewalk Society.
There’s plenty of 60s style grooviness here with the use of wah wah, organ and dancefloor rhythms, which reminds me also of the Manchester scene of recent years. Lovely harmonies too, opener ‘The Change Is Coming’ for example, towards the end of the track. Wonderful! Good arrangement there guys, I like harmonies!
Elsewhere, ‘Everything’ shows a reflective side to the band with its gentle country tinges, while ‘All I Know’ is a beautiful 'tribute' to The Gene Clark era Byrds with its jangly 12 strings.
Firm favourites however are the ‘Child Of The Moon’ style Stones cut ‘Time Machine’ and the album’s closing track ‘I Don’t See Myself’ with it’s incessant riffing and tranced out Eastern-sitar middle section recalling the Doors. I should imagine this would be a good track for the band to ‘jam’ on, particularly at those happening Spanish festivals I hear about!
I'll check in again soon.
Yordan Orchestra’s 2009 CDEP ‘Psych Introduxeon – Bringing Ingredients Together’ is a thirty minute rollercoaster ride around the mind of one Jack Ellister (he of recent FdM fame) and has been played a lot at Heyday recently.
I was prepared hear something unusual after ‘The Man With The Biochopper’ single, and just one glance at the song titles on the EP (Käpt’n el HansIG, Faced You In A Neon Light, RMDK, Washington Z (Zodiac Fullhorn Set Monarch), Marjolyne and T-Borne Egg), told me that this would be an interesting listen!
It’s difficult to call these tracks ‘songs’ in the traditional sense, they’re more like psych/progressive ‘musical movements’ with a rare originality too.
Jack’s voice isn’t pretty, but it is effective as another instrument in much the same way as Bowie’s has always been. He has a passion for what he’s singing, moving from whispers to the occasional scream to put a mood across. Instrumentally too, there’s a lot going on. Besides the usual guitars, bass, drums there’s piano, cello, vibraphone, horns and a backing choir (not all at once though!)
It all makes for one of the most intriguing releases I’ve heard in quite a while, and I’m three years too late with it! I have to thank FdM for bringing Jack to my attention.
I really like the whole EP, it’s such a trip, but I must mention in particular ‘Käpt’n el HansIG’ which has a groovy ‘rolling’ riff, gentle vocals and a middle section to take me by surprise each time, plus ‘RMDK’, a bit of an anthem and moving performance. There’s a hidden track too. Definitely suited towards the more adventurous music lover.
Back to 2012, and Jack has an album ready. He’s looking for an interested label to release it.
Contact Jack here - firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m sure he’ll be glad to let you hear it.
First impressions are that it’s more song orientated than the CDEP, but check these titles…. The Sun Sends Me Hails, Victory, Power, Peace and Shelter’ (I love this one), ‘Purple Enigmatic’, ‘Flesh Container II’… More on this soon.
Promos of October’s Fruits De Mer singles have landed, and as ever, are a worthwhile listen. Probably one of their strongest set of releases yet. Can they get any better?
New to ‘Famille De Mer is maverick Anton Barbeau, who I first became aware of via his Pink Hedgehog label albums a few years back. His debut offering for FdM features a blinding unissued version of his ‘Psychedelic Mynde Of Moses’ (featuring Bevis Frond on guitar) plus cover versions of Robyn Hitchcock’s ‘Sometimes I Wish I Was A Pretty Girl’ and Julian Cope’s ‘Out Of My Mind On Dope And Speed’. A real ‘Sons Of Syd’ treat!
The mind-deranged Hitchcock and Copey tracks are so full of urgency they almost overlap each other! It feels like Anton is afraid he’ll be late home for tea! Wonder if he made it? Phew!
The Chemistry Set return to the fold with another three track EP ‘Kiss Me Vibrate And Smile’, ‘Time To Breathe’ and a cover of Tomorrow’s ‘Hallucinations’.
‘Kiss Me…’ is full of lysergic good vibrations and has that danceable ‘Madchester’ vibe to it. The Tomorrow track is also full of sunshine, another hit for the hips, but it’s ‘Time to Breathe’ that feeds your head. It’s the best track I’ve heard by ChemSet so far. A real slow burning psych/pop tune that is everything I love about psychedelia in one song. Gentle vocals, excellent guitar work and a dose of strange effects. It’s all too much for me to take…
Finally Finland’s finest, Permanent Clear Light release their own ‘Higher Than The Sun’ backed with VDG’s ‘Afterwards’. ‘Higher’ I mentioned here last time. It’s is a beautiful orchestrated Beatle-esque effort, with a reverie all of its own. Oh, and the guitar solo is crystal clear, it could shatter glass!
Needless to say I love this one.
‘Afterwards’ continues the psychedelic gentleness with a little phasing here and there and I’m prepared for landing...
As I said, a strong set of releases. FdM didn’t blow everything they had of an acidic nature with their ‘A Phase We’re Going Through’ LP…
More some time soon…
‘Oh Lord, go forth, into the ancient world, here we go, here we go, here we go…
Steve Kilbey’s back with a new album ‘Garage Sutra’ (actually recorded in 2009 apparently) and it could easily be ‘Remindlessness Part II’.
Recorded on his laptop, this is Kilbey seemingly recording for the fun of it. There are plenty of Bilblical / ancient themes running through the tracks along with a few groovy dance rhythms / vocal effects last explored to this effect on ‘Narcosis. Only 28 minutes long, but what a 28 minutes! It’s made this old Kilbey-ite very happy!
‘In The Garden Of Gilgamesh’ finds the temptation of Adam re-located with prowling panthers as well as the serpent, while ‘Gethsemene’ proves that he can still write moving music. This latter track’s title would always be destined to be a Kilbey song eventually, and is easily the best song on the album. ‘I gotta be somewhere by Saturday’ croons SK, I don’t know why, but this line sticks in my mind. Perhaps it’s the poignancy of the betrayal along with the mood of the music getting me carried away. The Saturday of Easter isn’t talked about much, but something must have happened between the Friday and Sunday…
Elsewhere ‘Nineveh’ (at last a song title too – this was also the title of a prose piece SK published a few years back) exhibits the lyrical influence of Marc Bolan with his ‘Biblical baby’ and ‘Jericho jitters’. There’s a lot of humour running through the tracks. This is a keeper and classic SK. A worthy inclusion to his mighty back catalogue.
Primarily a download, there are a limited number of ‘physical’ copies pressed. Heyday will hopefully be carrying some of these soon.
I’ve also been impressed by Permanent Clear Light’s forthcoming Fruits De Mer single ‘Higher Than The Sun’. Beatle style orchestration, eerie effects and studio trickery are plentiful. This one will be housed in a 3D sleeve too…Pre-orders will be taken soon.
‘Raw Blues!’ a 1969 live recording by Magic Sam was released recently and although the sound quality isn’t perfect, it’s a real blast! Vocals are lost a little in the mix, but man that guitar! It burns! Check out his version of Freddie King’s ‘San-Ho-Zay’ – hot , hot , hot!
Finally, I’ve been checking out the latest Bill Fay album ‘Life Is People’. It’s been picking up rave reviews everywhere. I didn’t get it at first. It’s very subtle. About four or five listens later and I was overwhelmed by its beauty. I love this guy’s music and it’s wonderful to hear a new album! These songs actually move the listener.
‘The Never Ending Happening’ really gets to me - ‘the never ending happening, of what’s to be and what has been, just to be a part of it, is astonishing to me’. Bill Fay’s humility comes across in every song. Yes, the reviews are justified.
I’ll check in again soon.
An un-mastered version of the second solo album by Hi-Fiction Science’s James McKeown arrived here recently, together with sunshine for the UK! It’s made a laid back soundtrack for the blue skies and warmth after plenty of rainy days! It’s appropriately entitled ‘English Dream’.
Always hard for me to describe his music (I mentioned Elliott Smith and Steve Kilbey last time), but there’s an Englishness/pastoral/folk vibe to this recent effort I didn’t hear as much of previously. Easy to drop Nick Drake’s name this time though. The two instrumentals on the album remind me a lot of his work.
The arrangements are sparse - acoustic guitar, picked electric guitar, keyboards and voice. The mood is reflective and intimate. My initial criticism of the album was that it ‘dragged’ a little, the songs all being slow, but closer listening with headphones was worth it. Follow the electric guitar / keyboard effects behind the acoustic and you can lose yourself inside this album. There’s obviously a lot of thought behind the work, it just needs a little time to fully appreciate it.
The title track is a keeper, and probably his best solo song so far. Elsewhere, ‘See The Skies’ and Summerrainsummersky’ continue the ‘green and pleasant land’ feel. The one track where percussion is used - ‘Isolation Dub’ - is quite hypnotic, particularly as the chant-like vocals join in. Really like this one! Probably the most ‘psych-y’ track on the album…
…but there are ten tracks on the album - ready and waiting to listen closely to, think about, and maybe even tug those ol’ heart strings!
Take it outside with you, lie in a field, watch the clouds!
James is currently looking for a label, or anyone else who could perhaps help promote the album. He can be contacted at email@example.com
An interesting album, here’s hoping people get to hear it!
The second album from West Coast band The Soft Bombs entitled ‘Embrace the Light’ is fast becoming one of my favourite albums of this year. Compared to the more jangly/pop orientated self titled debut released a couple of years ago, this has a more ‘denser’ psychedelic feel, bringing to mind leader Michael Padilla’s previous band, the under appreciated dora flood, particularly on their later albums.
A few plays were needed at first, but I was eventually swept away by the waves of guitar and keyboard sounds hearing new things in the mix with each spin. Headphones recommended…Michael Padilla is becoming a bit of a wizard around the studio, and his productions can be deceptively simple first time round, but listen again (and again)…
The songs are always interesting too. Part way through a particular track a change of chord will turn the melody right round on itself, and the song suddenly veers someplace else completely, before yet another change will swing everything back on course again. ‘Progressive’ in a good way - according to these untrained ears anyway.
‘Somewhere’, like Eric Clapton’s ‘Let It Grow’, has one of those progressions that could continue to build but for another teasing set of chord changes. The epic ‘A Love Divine’, is the centrepiece of the album. This one I can imagine being stretched out further if played live. Again, nice changes…I doubt I'll ever be able to see the band live, but I wonder if they can 'jam'? A few of the tracks on this album certainly are contenders for such treatment.
‘Perfectly’ chimes in to capture a Dave Mason era Traffic vibe with that ‘tea-shop psych’ whimsy feel, while ‘I Like’ features some tasteful string effects to break away from the usually dominant guitar and keyboards.
‘Leave Me Out’ closes out the album and is a reflective piece with again, interesting chords…This one I can’t shake from my mind once the album ends. Like ‘A Love Devine’ this is another of Michael’s ‘anthemic’ pieces which I wish would last longer…
A more focused effort than their debut offering, The Soft Bombs are on their way…
Peter Lacey shortly releases his new album (a limited CDR, just 100 copies only) on the Pink Hedgehog label entitled, wait for it….‘Worlds End Amateur Melodramatic Society Ball’ …Phew!
Peter’s early releases had a Beach Boys feel, but ‘Worlds End’ owes more to Paul McCartney than Brian Wilson. It’s quintessentially an ‘English’ sounding album too, very Kinks-like in its title and concept.
The mood is melancholic, but not miserable. These songs tug at the heart strings. I’ve played the album several times now over the last week or so and I can’t help but be moved by some of these tracks. It’s a difficult thing to do, write a song to make the listener emotional, but Peter’s managed it here - ‘Miss Daisy Hawkins’, ‘Half Way House’ and ‘The Last Pierrot’ in particular.
There are some musical interludes too. ‘Lark!’ being the favourite. What a groovy bass line! It’s even reprised as a hidden track later with a few changes (a Byrdsian 12 string effect is added).
I really like this album, there is so much feeling in these 30 something minutes that a lot of others can’t manage in 70 or more…I'm happy albums are still being made like this. It's a collection of songs, they go together well, there's a lot of thought behind it...
I’ll be back…
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