In any given year the number of great releases that I want to write about seems to far exceed the time I have. However, this year somehow seems to be crazier that usual in that respect. Maybe it is the fact that we are gradually coming out of the pandemic that means that lockdown projects are beginning to come out, as well as those that have been delayed.
So in an effort to ‘catch-up’ a bit, here are a bunch of shorter reviews of recent releases, as well as a few that I missed when they originally came out.
Böjda Toner by Svenska Psykvänner (Drone Rock Records)
(you can listen to a track through the Drone Rock Records link above)
This is the second release from Svenska Psykvänner (Swedish Psych Friends) which both is and is not what you might expect from a band comprising Anders Broström (Domboshawa) and three members of Kungens Män. A number of the tracks here fairly glide out of the speakers with the assurance of musicians who are at ease with themselves and each other… and, as you would expect from individuals who have such a broad music hinterland, there’s a real spread of sounds here through the electronic motorik at the beginning of ‘Ur Led’ to the cool and chilled out ‘På Balkongen Igen’.
However, it is the longest track here, at over sixteen minutes, which is the centrepiece of the fine LP… a dubby tribute to Lee ‘Stratch’ Perry, ‘Rokkpgausen’, which is a wonderfully spacey (in both senses of the word) track that moves forward in a nicely shambolic manner… an amazing track to just slow down to and be still for a while. All in all yet another great set from these seemingly endlessly creative musicians
Blissful Repetitions by FREE/ SLOPE (Polytechnic Youth)
Another release from Sweden. FREE/ SLOPE is the solo bedroom project of Gothenburg’s Daniel Fridlund… and comprises a series of of trippy Kraut jams which take in decades of psychedelic influences from Alice Coltrane to Spacemen 3 and beyond… and indeed for a more recent touchstone I would say that there are some similarities in sound and approach with such as Craven Faults.
What I particularly like about it is that is seems to be both lo-fi and quite complex and layered at the same time… but most of all I like the easy rhythms which mean that you get exactly what the album title suggests… ‘Blissful Repetitions’. Overall it’s just a brilliant album to zone out to and be in the moment with.
Råå Spelar Pierce & Von Euler (Malmö Inre)
…and while we are on the subject of Sweden and Spacemen 3, Råå have produced and ‘album of two sides’ the first of which features two ace Spiritualized cover versions (‘I Think I’m In Love’ and ‘Take Your Time’)… the former of which has a spritely trippiness to it, while the latter – as you would expect – has a slower more considered feel… both are great versions though.
The second side is a dub version of Henrik von Eulers piano-EP ‘Hemskogen’ which was released on the Flora & Fauna label in 2019. This sent me back to the source music as I was not familiar with it… and I have to say that as well as doing an amazing and really effective job of re-interpreting von Eulers work so it working in its own right… it has also help me appreciate the original (which I doubt I would not have come across otherwise).
Challenger/ Edwards/ De Rose by Agile Experiments (DDR Records)
It’s been a while since I caught up with Dave De Rose’s Agile Experiments project (see here for more information)… which it understandable given that it is based around unrehearsed improvised performance. While I know Zoom has facilitated this to some extent, I imagine that it is difficult to replicate that intuitive interaction that has marked this project in the past.
And sure enough this is a recording of a performance which took place in July 2021… pretty much the first opportunity post-first lockdown… and is everything that I really like about this collective. Playing as a trio with De Rose (Drums), Tom Challenger (Tenor Saxophone) and John Edwards (Double Bass) this is a fantastic improvised session comprising two jams which drift in and out of focus without every falling apart altogether… it’s something of a hallmark style but in a way that no two recordings have yet fallen into any particular formula… great to get back into performances again, and especially with this brilliant cut.
Future Bomb by Future Bomb (The Weird Beard)
For those who remember one of last year’s top releases, ‘Dataland‘ by Adam Stone, Black Tempest and the Dead Sea Apes, you will no doubt be excited to learn that the former two of this trio, together with Dead Sea Apes’ drummer Chris Hardman, have released this album under the moniker ‘Future Bomb’. It retains all the biting social commentary of Dataland in a stripped out more lo-fi setting which shifts the feeling from an antiseptic technological nightmare to a more scuzzy version of the near future which is reminiscent of early US punk and early Northern electronica such as the dystopian milieu of Sheffield bands such as pre-hits Human League and Cabaret Voltaire.
But actually, and this is common with all the albums featured here so far, it’s important not to get too focussed on genre because there are lots of different influences which are cut into this heady mix… which are then spat out like meat/ substitute shooting out of an overly aerated mincer… in all its dirty and mushy glory. And, as with its predecessor, there is far more here than meets the eye as you delve into it.
Something’s Gotta Give by John Denver Airport Conspiracy (Cardinal Fuzz, Fuzzed Up and Astromoon, Direct from the Band)
And now for something completely different… the John Denver Airport Conspiracy are a band who really feel like a lot of fun, and I imagine they are great live. Their heady mix of trippy sounds, 60s jangle and sun drenched melodies just put me in the right frame of mind in the same way as that first morning coffee on a sunny morning does… just stick the record on the turntable (or ask Alexa if you must) and imagine that you are staring out over the ocean and dream your best dreams.
There’s not a lot more to say about it really because anyway I describe it doesn’t really do justice to the sheer joy of it… because it has that certain factor that mere copyists and tribute acts cannot generally muster… this is the real deal… do yourself a favour pour yourself your favourite tipple and let it take you away… however you like your trips.
From The Mountains to the Oceans by Korb and El Hombre El Agua (Dreamland Recordings, Up In Her Room)
Like a number of other albums on here, his is another collaborative project; this time between UK between UK ‘space kraut’ duo Korb, Canadian multi-instrumentalist El Hombre Al Agua (aka Dave Read of Moths and Locusts and Anunnaki) and Dom Keen (The Hologram People and Studio Kosmische). Together they have created two long and really tight space jams which fly by at light speed belying their nearly twenty minute each respective lengths…
This is because you find yourself getting inside and fully engrossed in the seeming effortless vibe which in would never guess that these guys have never sat in the same room, let alone studio, than each other. You can’t properly do such long track justice on such a short review… so just check it out and drift away.
Hanazono by Santominagae(Guruguru Brain and RVNG Intl.)
This is an album that I totally missed out on when it was released in the Spring of 2021, but came across it while recently reviewing the new Kikagaku Moyo and Dhidalah LPs. Santominagae comes out of the Tokyo acid folk scene and, as far as I can see, this is her fourth full-length set, with a subsequent EP out on RVNG Intl..
This is a a beautiful album of intimacy and fragility in which Santominagae’s voice dominates, but is subtly complimented by guitar and drones which provide the backdrop for a voice of fine porcelain… not adored by any gaudy decoration but pure and elegant. This is an album that really grabs your soul and doesn’t let go from start to finish… to repeat myself, it is simply beautiful.
Mushin by Empty House (Self-Release)
For me this album follows on well from the previous one… not because of the obvious Japanese connection, but because this one builds on the feelings of ‘Hanazono’ and takes you deeper in. It is the work of Fred Laird (Earthling Society and Taras Bulba) and is designed to replicate the little thoughts and images that drift in an out of your head while in contemplation or meditation. What you get are eddys of sound that invite you to hold onto before depositing you somewhere different…
Like meditation itself, it is an album that requires practice and, to paraphrase the Buddha, you will never go into it the same way twice, such is its diffuseness and structural looseness. As such it sits somewhere between what many Buddhists would see as mental constructs that fashion our everyday perceptions and ‘Mushin’, the emptiness that we need to realise before attaining the no-thing-ness of Satori (the Zen ‘equivalent’ of Nirvana). Whether or not you wish to practice, however, this is a wonderful record just to be with and drift off to.
Hypomaniac by Colonel Petrov’s Good Judgement (Moral Machine)
This is the third album from the marvellously named Colonel Petrov’s Good Judgement, following their debut ‘Moral Machine‘ and sophomore ‘Among Servants‘. Once again the band have come back with a banging set of tracks which are a heady mix of space and heavy rock, jazz (including free jazz) and mind-bending changes of direction which leave you wondering where they are going to go next.
In the light of the previous album, ‘Mushin’, lies the quote on the album’s release page “The special quality of this music does not lie in any ‘will to innovate’. This music wants nothing – it has no intentions. And yet there is nothing indecisive about it. It doesn’t deconstruct. It constructs.” Which strikes me as interesting as it is, in many ways, the opposite philosophy… while in some ways sharing some of the same ideas of detachment… anyway that aside this is indeed an album that I listen to very differently… with those hooks taking me to very different places underlying how different music can be special for us in differing ways.
Circadian Rhythms In Public Space by PNEM (Fuzzed Up and Astromoon Records)
The two side of this cassette release are respectively two linked releases by the Dutch band PNEM which act as “homage to the systems that keep our day-night cycles in check. [eight] tracks inspired by these very ordinary but often overlooked essential spaces of modern life.” The band further describe themselves as a motorik-driven fuzz-infused machine but I think they are more than this suggests, with a set that offers a great deal of variety that took me to all sorts of different places while I was listening to it (perhaps in common which their stated aims for this music).
Most of all, and in common with the John Denver Airport Experience, this is just a great set to listen to as it takes you on its own particular journey through the autobahns of life, occasionally stopping at the rest areas of melancholy and contemplation… but over all this is an experience that will make you feel good… even after the driver-assist functions kick in.
Suspended Islands OST by Tren Go! Sound System (Dirty Filthy and Echodelick)
Tren Go! Sound System is solo project of Pedro Pestana (10 000 Russos and Talea Jacta)… here he has creating a blissed out soundtrack to sailing on the estuary around Ria de Aveiro (often described as the ‘Venice of Portugal’). The music here is redolent of the famed calmness of the water there, and… like the waves… is sometimes hardly there at all…
As with much of the music here, and like much of the music I really like, it is something that helps create an inner calmness and you cannot help but be drawn into the atmosphere that this creates and… like a good bottle of Scottish Island malt whisky… is an experience where you can almost taste the freshness of the sea… in fact pairing the two together sounds like a great idea. This, then, is music that is your accompaniment rather than your guide… leaving you to arrive with your journey enhanced.
Impish Delight/ Structure Collapse by Thee UFO (Fuzzed Up and Astromoon)
It’s not often that I do singles, but this one came up just at the right time so here’s one to finish this post off with… a platter of two contrasting tunes, one of which is a loved-up fuzzy mash of psych guitars and etherial voices, with a more out-there flip-side that shows a more experimental side to the band.
‘Impish Delight’ is apparently from the Dublin band’s debut album which is coming out in the Autumn, and I will add some sound to the post as soon as I get it… but one to look forward to for sure.
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