Album Reviews: Autumn ’19 Catch Up (3)

Here is the third instalment of my Autumn 2019 review catch-up. It’s been another good year for releases again this year. Here’s another four, all of which feature bands who I have enthusiastically featured before.

You can find the other two parts of this catch up here and here.

Kozmik Koon by Zone Six (Sulatron)

Zone Six are a band that I have long held in high regard. It’s ‘Love Monster’ album made my ‘Essential‘ list in 2015, and I said the following about the band’s live album ‘Forever Hugo’ in 2017:

There is passion here, and a real desire to explore the music and emotions around it; and in releasing the album in this manner there is also a clear affinity with the venue and the crowd who go there to experience music at such a visceral level. 

Forever Hugo Review

It is this idea of passion that I want to take up again here. That is because it seems to me that this latest Zone Six offering is borne of passion. It is named after the founder of the great annual Kosfest event, ‘Kosmic Ken’; and is dedicated to a recently deceased friend of the band Richard ‘Richie’ van Ess.

These things matter mainly because of the relationships that such dedications bring out, but I am sure also as a focus for the band to really play… and really play they do on yet another set of improvised neo-Krautrock tracks which take you out there as you listen to the band take flight on a series of long explorations of sound, including ‘Kosmik Koon’ and ‘Song for Richie’, the latter having a particular melancholy to it at times too.

But there are also two shorter numbers ‘Raum’ and ‘Still’ which show a different aspect to the bands playing, having the greater nuance and mood necessary that may be necessary on less stretched out sounds. Always worth a listen!

‘Kozmik Koon’ is released on Sulatron Records in December 2019.

Freak Mammal by Psychic Lemon (Drone Rock)

Psychic Lemon are another band who will not need any introduction for regular readers. The band’s first eponymously titled album made my mid-year list in 2016, while their second release ‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay‘ made my recent list of ‘50 Essential ‘Psych’ Albums‘. As a result this third outing has a lot to live up to.

I am pleased to report that it does just that. In a surprising turn of events ‘Freak Mammal’ appears to be even heavier than what has gone before and, like the Zone Six album above, this is dedicated to a friend of the band who recently passed away:

After the untimely passing of their friend, landlord and biggest fan, Jonny Marvel (to whom the album is dedicated), Psychic Lemon found themselves with no studio, and for one member, no home. After a long search, the band were able to temporarily relocate to an unused basement, where they spent six months writing and recording.

Psychic Lemon Press Release

Indeed, the five tracks on offer here really do pound on the listener’s psyche as they demand entry into your brain… not waiting for permission to take you off on flights of psychedelic fancies. Indeed while ‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay’ was all about Psychic Lemon exploring different facets of contemporary psych music from track to track… here you get these elements in one big slab which, if you cut it at any point will reveal a dizzying cross-section of sounds which threaten to overload the senses, and which give this album a really heavy and intense feel.

‘Freak Mammal’ is released on Drone Rock Records, from where it will be available to pre-order along with a re-pressing of the band’s debut album which is long out of print.

Kombynat Robotron / Snakes Don’t Belong In Alaska (split cassette) (Cruel Nature)

Kombynat Robotron are the only band in this post that I have not featured before. Named after the largest electronic manufacturer in East Germany before unification, the band have adopted an aesthetic that looks back to that era.

If the track on this split LP is anything to go by Kombynat Robotron also go for a heavy industrial sound that is constructed through layered improvisations of space, stoner, noise and Krautrock which they build up rather marvellously into a real crescendo of dynamically competing sounds. Definitely one to watch!

The other side of this cassette release is occupied by Snakes Don’t Below To Alaska’, a band who I have been fortunate enough to see live twice and have found to be face-meltingly devastating. I have featured them on a playlist but have not yet got round to writing about the band. This despite the fact that I really dig their self-titled double LP, and their ace collaboration with Suzuki Junzo.

The track here sees them in somewhat more eerie mode, but also featuring Junzo, as they play out a transmission received from extraterrestrial contacts. This gives the recording a really etherial atmosphere which sets the listener’s imagination off on a wild journey which really could take you anywhere.

Cassette and download available from Cruel Nature Records.

Collective Elephant by Swimming in Bengal (Lather)

I first became aware of Swimming in Bengal earlier this year, when I reviewed the band’s ‘Garden of Idle Hands‘ album. I am delighted to say that the collective are back with another album of eclectic improvisations, recorded without any overdubs.

As I said back in that earlier review I find bands like this very difficult to write about because there is just so much going on in their music. By contrast I find it very easy to listen to. That is because, like the earlier offering, ‘Collective Elephant’ is crammed full of ideas and surprises, yet played in a way that sounds just effortless. So while the music is nigh on impossible to pigeonhole ( if you need to know there are elements of jazz, Indian ragas and African rhythms all blended and repeated into a earthy/ organic whole), it is far from impossible to appreciate because of its unique and accessible experimentalism. Just brilliant!

‘Collective Elephant’ is available on CD and download from Lather Records.



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