Sunday, 22 October 2017

PURE PHASE ENSEMBLE 6 featuring ANTON NEWCOMBE - LIVE AT SPACEFEST (Nasiono Records CD, D/L).

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the Pure Phase Ensemble, it really is quite simple……………………as part of Gdansk’s celebrated SpaceFest held every December at the city's Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art in the post-industrial Nowy Port district, the festival organisers invite a renowned international artist to be the musical director, along with Anna Szynwelska and Karol Schwarz of Nasiono Records, for an eclectic rotating group of musicians drawn from various Polish alternative bands............previous leaders of the Pure Phase Ensemble have included Mark Gardener (Ride), Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), Ray Dickaty (Spiritualized), Steve Hewitt (Placebo), Jaime Harding (Marion), Chris Olley (Six By Seven), and Hugo Race (The Bad Seeds, The True Spirit). A collection of songs are composed, rehearsed and performed live just the once, this one off event is recorded and released on CD by Nasiono records several months later. The line up for Pure Phase Ensemble 6 put together for the 2016 Spacefest was led by the illustrious Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre along with with Emil Nikolaisen of Scandinavian rock band Serena Maneesh plus Polish musicians Karol Schwarz (7fazKSAS), Olga Myslowska (Polpo Motel), Maciej Karminski (Jesien), Marcin Lewandowski (Judy’s Funeral, Castlings, Soon), Jakub Zwirello (Oslo Kill City, Szezlong), and Kacper Graczyk (Aiodine, coding) and sounded not unlike the Velvet Underground trying to score on Mars.

No doubt one of the attractions of being invited to play with the Pure Phase Ensemble is that it is an opportunity to defy expectations and a chance to be more experimental than normal. The version of the Pure Phase Ensemble led by Newcombe sounds a little like BJM in parts and then again it sounds like the music has been beamed from space............with the songs developed in a workshop environment with the band improvising to produce a set of unique compositions for the SpaceFest set it's not Anton Newcombe plays BJM with a bunch of Polish guys but something more improvised beyond all the player's comfort zones. Pure Phase Ensemble 6 features four guitarists creating either a wall of noise or much more subtle atmospheric Space Rock textures as they twist and turn through 45 minutes of sonic exploration that sounds like a head on collision between Spaceman 3/Spiritualized and the Velvet Underground way beyond the stars. It's all wonderfully democratic with lead vocals split between Newcombe and the other singers in the band (Schwarz and Mysłowska)…………Newcombe sings lead on ‘Sorry Not Sorry’,  ‘God Drugs’ and ‘Getting Bored’ which all sound like BJM songs that have been torn apart and reassembled without taking note where all the bits go as they are fantastically loose and sprawling. Elsewhere tunes like the atmospheric ‘Popol Vuh’, the scorching ‘Bałwan’ and the darkly electronic ‘Tętno pulsu’ all lean heavily towards the sound of innovative modern Psych Rock where Krautrock and Space Rock melt together………………as usual, the pure thrill of experimental Psychedelia that the Pure Phase Ensemble create does not disappoint. SpaceFest has figuratively transformed Gdansk into the intergalactic capital of Poland, presenting psychedelic music at its best with Shoegaze, Krautrock and Space Rock plus cosmic energy, intergalactic cats, forest goblins, psyched visuals, pagan disco and more, with the consistent quality of the Pure Phase Ensemble more than adding to this. The Pure Phase Ensemble will return this year with it’s seventh incarnation led by local legend Maciej Cieślak.

Pure Phase Ensemble 6 featuring Aton Newcombe is out NOW and is available on CD and as a digital download direct from Nasiono Records or from the really tuned in record shops and on line retailers. You can stream/buy the D/L from the Nasiono Bandcamp page here……………………………

Saturday, 21 October 2017

A DEVIL’S DIN - ONE HALLUCINATION UNDER GOD (Island Dive Records D/L).

With an excellent collection of sharp, relatively short songs stripped of any excess and with more hooks than a fishing tackle shop, One Hallucination Under God is the sound of a band totally at the top of their game in the studio with this elegantly crafted LP. Returning with their third full length album, Canadian Psych/Prog band A Devil's Din have melded their myriad of influences, ranging from the pulsating sounds of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd & the Psychedelic-era Beatles to the sonic adventures of Yes, Gentle Giant and King Crimson, and wrapped them round a solid spine made up of very modern Indie/Alt Rock to create their most electrifying record to date. The trio, led by multi-instrumentalist David Lines with bassist Thomas Chollet and virtuoso drummer Dom Salameh, have taken familier sounds, adored by lovers of Classic Rock, and transposed them into the now, giving the record the warm glow of late 60s/early 70s recordings but with a very contemporary sheen.

Referencing the past but not going totally retro on our asses, One Hallucination Under God is a quintessential modern Psych/Prog record………listen hard and the influences seep out of the record, from the vocal harmonies straight offa Fragile,  thru Macca-esqe bass lines to Psychedelic Sabbath riffing as all of A Devil’s Din’s inspirations taken from nearly half a century coalesce into a sound that is so much greater than the sum of it’s parts. It’s a totally accessible, uplifting record, far removed from their darker, earlier material and which you could easily compare to Agent’s Of Fortune era Blue Öyster Cult where their Prog/Psych sound was injected with a healthy dose of pop sensibility. There is some great stuff on this album……….with it’s chugging riff and rolling bass ‘Brave New World’ is a fantastic modern Prog Rock tune while ‘Home’ is a cool Psych Rock tune where the future meets the past in a fuzzed out haze. Elsewhere ‘Who You Are’ is seriously anthemic, destined to be played to a sea of lighters at a festival sometime soon and the title track can be imagined in a parallel universe where Black Sabbath based their career on ‘Planet Caravan’ and descended into a world of Psychedelic weirdness instead of inventing Heavy Metal in this reality. This really is a record that fans of Classic Rock are going to dig on the proviso that they haven't closed their mind to newer sounds.

Self released by the band on their own Island Dive Records imprint, apart from the CDs available at their shows it appears that One Hallucination Under God is currently only available as a digital download but keep ‘em peeled People as this record really does deserve a proper physical release and this should catch the ear of an adventurous Indie that will want to take a punt on this fantastic record. You can check out/stream/buy the album from their Bandcamp page here https://adevilsdin.bandcamp.com/

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

ACID BABY JESUS - LILAC DAYS (Fuzz Club LP, CD, D/L).

New from Fuzz Club records is the latest release from Greek Garage/Psych band Acid Baby Jesus………………..Lilac Days is a tripped out distillation of stoned immaculate, hazy, incense-scented mix 60s Nuggety Psychedelic Pop, the worldly Mediterranean sounds of their native country and more scuzzy Rock’n’Roll sounds straight outta the garage. If you are looking for comparisons then Acid Baby Jesus have one foot in the past with the other firmly in the now and you will find that a more than holy blend of the the Beau Brummels, the Chocolate Watch Band, the early quite poppy singles from Aphrodite’s Child, Buffalo Springfield, the Allah-Las and Thee Oh Sees dialed down quite a bit would not be a million miles away from where they are at.

Acid Baby Jesus’ third full length LP, and their first for Fuzz Club, sees the band return with a more expansive sound with the addition of lots of garagey keyboard fills and in some places trumpet and trombone augmenting a head rush of tumbling, fuzzed out guitars. There is a refreshing subtlety to Lilac Days that harks back to the more laid back sound of the 1960’s S.F./West Coast bands with much of the album bathed in Byrdsian jangle and sweet vocal harmonies………….however there is still plenty of energetic guitar wig outs on the record with ‘Me & Panormita’ and ‘Guide Us In’, in particular, melting faces and blowing the roof offa tha’ joint with pure, unadulterated Garage Rock hedonism. Three years in the making, Lilac Days is the most accomplished Acid Baby Jesus record to date and well worth your time.

Lilac Days by Acid Baby Jesus is out NOW. Available on vinyl and CD from all good record stores/on line retailers with copies also available directly from the Fuzz Club store and a digital download from the Fuzz Club Bandcamp page here…………
https://fuzzclub.bandcamp.com/album/lilac-days where you can also stream the album.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

STEVE MILLER BAND - ULTIMATE HITS (Virgin/UMG 2 x LP, CD, D/L, Deluxe 2 x CD, Deluxe 4 x LP).

Steve Miller is a survivor…………….a journeyman song writer/guitarist at best that due to some great business smarts prospered while many of his contemporaries crashed and burned. Always happy to hitch his thang to any bandwagon going, he first appeared playing the Blues in Chicago before relocating to the West Coast playing regular gigs at the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore while recording what many consider to be the finest Steve Miller Band album ever, 1968’s Sailor released by Capitol records to great critical acclaim. Fast forward five years and the big hits started appearing as the Steve Miller Band evolved into a bland, radio friendly, slick and successful arena band with the true nadir being the atrocious mega hit from the 80s, ‘Abracadabra’. Still recording and touring Steve Miller, along with bands such as the Eagles, has become the epitome of what everybody hates about the 70s bands that sold their soul for heaps of cash and coke.………….erm…….take the money and run. Happily wringing out the last drops of cash from an artist that ceased to be relevant nearly 45 years ago, Virgin/UMG have released a lavishly packaged Steve Miller Band compilation titled Ultimate Hits that charts Steve Miller’s decent to the seventh circle of AOR hell but manages to neatly sidestep most of the good stuff he was recording in the late 60s.

Released as a single CD/double LP with two previously unreleased live recordings of ‘Living In The USA’ and ‘Space Cowboy’ as well as a never before released Steve Miller solo recording of ‘Seasons’, for those who mainly want the hits and a more expansive 2 x CD/4 x vinyl set packed with more rarities and live recordings, Ultimate Hits is aimed squarely at existing fans. With the first big Steve Miller Band hit, ‘The Joker’, being the jump on point for the “hits” package, it quickly becomes a series of diminishing returns………………………the slick if unthreatening Country/Blues (a hangover from the late 60s Psychedelic phase) of the early big singles soon evolves into formulaic, radio friendly Pop/Rock with the genuinely strange and funky ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ being an exception. We can imagine that this CD would on the car stereo when Jeremy Clarkson is tailgating some poor sod on the Basingstoke bypass. The more expansive deluxe edition is more interesting as it least acknowledges that Steve Miller was making records before 1974 with a smattering of tracks from some of the earlier, more Psychedelic/Blues based, albums including ‘My Dark Hour’ from 1969 recorded in London with Paul McCartney playing practically all the instruments under the alias Paul Ramon and sounding not unlike a Beatles out-take. There are also live recordings of the previously mentioned ‘Living In The USA’ and ‘Space Cowboy’ and ‘Kow Kow Calculator’ from the 70s/80s that really are not a patch on the album versions. Unless you are a fan of the Steve Miller Band, this is a pretty disappointing compilation. The annoying thing is that there is a warehouse full of interesting Steve Miller archive material going back 50 years that includes tracks recorded with McCartney but never released plus some pieces with Brian Wilson and Cannonball Adderly that have yet to see the light of day which must be more worthy than this album…………..also a vinyl box set, also with bonus tracks, is being prepared for 2018 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first two Steve Miller Band albums, Children Of The Future and Sailor………….in the meantime Ultimate Hits exists in order to squeeze a bit more cash out of the hardcore fans. We suggest you save your money and wait until the cool 60s stuff gets released.

Ultimate Hits is out now and available everywhere, but to be honest you would be better off picking up a copy of Steve Miller Band : The Best Of 1968 - 1973 which is way more psychedelic and you can usually find it on Amazon for a few quid.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

JUJU - OUR MOTHER WAS A PLANT (Fuzz Club LP, CD, D/L).

It’s been cool watching how Sicilian multi-instrumentalist Gioele Valenti’s JuJu project has evolved and developed over the last few years…………….originally nurtured on the exquisite American boutique label Sunrise Ocean Bender, the debut JuJu album emerged early 2016 and it’s mix of squalling Psych Rock, Krautrock and more Mediterranean/African influences saw the record widely hailed as one of the best, most innovative Psych albums of the year with it’s reputation spreading like wildfire among the hardcore PsychHead community. The next step was to assemble a band to play the album out live…………….the JuJu live experience is simply stunning and the mind blowing set at the recent Liverpool Psych Fest was one of the highlights of the weekend. With their finger always on the pulse, the influential Fuzz Club have never been slow in spotting talent and Valenti has signed to the label for the release of the sophomore JuJu LP Our Mother Was A Plant………..carrying on in its predecessor’s footsteps, the new LP is a continuation of JuJu’s ritualistic sonic exploration into the cultural implications of the ongoing refugee crisis and humanities increasingly strained relationship with Mother Earth. As for the influences behind the album, Gioele explains: "Our Mother Was A Plant is inspired by the great psychedelic researchers and plant explorers active - including Timothy Leary, William Burroughs, Jim Morrison, Terence McKenna, Jeremy Narby and many others. People who managed to reveal the secret mechanism of the unconscious tied to the natural world that surrounds us, and from which we are definitely separated. Every separation, every neurosis, sexism, racism, speciesism, violence, terrorism comes from this division that the human being has operated between himself and the biosphere”.

Sonically there is very little change in the JuJu signature sounds forged on the first album. The pulverizing bass lines, heavily-reverbed guitars, textured walls of sound, gospel drones and crooning vocals are all present and correct and with its rhythmic, otherworldly psychedelia alternating between the Teutonic sheen of Neu! and the funky Afro-Beat rhythms from Western Africa, Our Mother Was A Plant summons all kinds of spirits from down town Lagos to the neon lit streets of Dusseldorf. It’s the exploration of African/Mediterranean influences that makes JuJu stand apart from the endless Psych bands still channelling the, albeit classic, sound of Hawkwind, CAN and the Stooges, featuring a guest appearance from Capra Informis (the masked djembe player in Swedish Psych titans Goat), JuJu's second album takes you well off the beaten track into uncharted Psychedelic spheres. With it’s nagging Krautrock groove and swirling guitars, ‘Death By Beautiful Things’ is the starting point for JuJu’s latest adventure………..it’s a slowburner of a record as tracks slowly unfold into strange and beautiful shapes on Gioele Valenti’s sonic canvas with the standout tracks being the funky Gospel tinged ‘And Play A Game’, the Afro-Beat inspired ‘I Got Your Soul’ and the massive Goat style grooves of the tracks featuring Capra Informis (‘In A Ghetto’ and ‘Sunny After Moon’. Again Gioele Valenti has produced another peerless record (following the debut JuJu album couldn't have been easy) that may even be better than the first and is no doubt one of this year’s essential LPs. For existing fans of the supremely talented Gioele Valenti Our Mother Is A Plant is not going to disappoint……….for those of you that have yet to wrap your ears around the JuJu experience, you really need to check this out.

Our Mother Is A Plant is out NOW on Fuzz Club and available as a limited edition LP release, CD and as a download from all the best record shops, groovy online retailers and directly from the Fuzz Club website.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

STROBE - THE BUNKER SESSIONS (Sulatron Records LP, CD).

New from Germany’s premier Space Rock/Psychedelic record label, Sulatron Records, comes a previously unreleased gem from the cult British Space Rock band Strobe. Strobe formed in 1990 with their first album See Beyond the Sun, released in 1991 by Mystic Stones receiving very positive reviews, the Melody Maker picked up on the vibe of the record and wrote "Strobe retread a no-man’s land between Loop/Hawkwind experimentation and Cure-style catharsis....Strobe don’t seem tied down by anything, the three guitars soar, the sound is full, dynamic and masterful...." Another four albums on different labels followed before Strobe split in 2001, hitting their peak around the mid 1990s with the albums 'Maya' (1992) and 'The Circle Never Ends' (1994) ……….however they were a band out of time, existing in an era when tastes had changed in the UK and many of the Psychedelic bands had ditched guitars in favour of samplers and dance beats, destined to remain a cult underground band regardless of the quality of the music. Sulatron have rescued the tapes from a session the band recorded for what would have been their fourth album and are releasing them into a world that is now ready for a band that in certain circles were considered to one the best British Space Rock outfits ever.  

Recorded totally live with no overdubs at the Bunker Studios in Bedford sometime in 1994, this album is more representative of the band’s sound than any of their studio albums ever where. It’s raw but with a line up that includes three guitarists Strobe create expansive soundscapes with a warm lush sound based on hypnotic flowing rhythms where the keyboards/synths take more of a backseat. The album opens with the slowburn instrumental ‘Sun Birth’ before kicking into the Loop meets Hawkwind at the edge of space groove of ‘Into Your Skin’……….guitars swirl, dive and soar around a rock solid rhythm section driving the the band to the further out. Maybe this is indicative of many Psychedelic bands being wary of messing with the Psych Rock template, but the Bunker Sessions, even though over 20 years old, sounds surprisingly contemporary when held up against the sound of more modern Space Rock bands………………….either that, or Strobe were so far ahead of their time it’s frightening. There is some really great tracks here…………’Chameleon Earth’ is a stompy Space Rock tune with a killer riff while the fantastic ‘Opium Dream’ with blissed out female vocals is a transmission from the narcotic netherworld. The album closes with ‘Sun Death’ which collapses into itself with a face melting squall out. An absolutely brilliant record that sounds totally modern and well worth your attention. Kudos to Sula Bassana and the rest of the people at Sulatron for rescuing this record and giving it the release it deserves.

Housed in a Comet Lulu designed sleeve and available as a limited run of 500 copies on blue vinyl and also on CD, the Bunker Sessions by Strobe is due for release 13/10/2017 and will be available from all really cool record stores and the usual suspects online. Pre-orders are being taken now at the Sulatron web site.

THE BLACK ANGELS - THE INSTITUTE, BIRMINGHAM 26/09/2017.

Arguably the most important Psych band this decade, The Black Angels, Austin’s finest band since the 13th Floor Elevators, hit the UK on a whistle stop tour promoting their recently released Death Song album. They tore a hole in the sky headlining the Saturday night at the Liverpool Psych Fest then, with the gloriously deranged A Place To Bury Strangers in tow, hit a few of the provinces with their own special brand of high octane Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll. We caught up with them again at their show in Birmingham the following Tuesday at the Institute.

Following the barely controlled mayhem of A Place To Bury Strangers is never an easy task, however The Black Angels comfortably ease into a stunning 90 minute set with the snarling, politically charged state of the Nation address ‘Currency’. With the addition of some well chosen older tunes, the set list comprised mainly of songs from the new record with the pulsing ‘I Dreamt’ and the sizzling ‘I’d Kill For You’ being particular highlights. With a barrage of eye popping visuals, The Black Angels are the consummate Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll band playing an easy blend of trippy tunes and more guitar heavy Rock songs with a solid spine of Nuggets influences, retooling them for a modern audience. Death Song is no doubt their most commercial and accessible record to date with the band slowly crossing over from their cult status to a more mainstream audience, but on their own terms. Next time this band rock up in the UK expect them to be playing much bigger halls.