13 Mar 2018
Here's a couple of things I've just caught up with over the last few weeks which came out during our extended hiatus but are very worthy of mention.
First is Perth quintet Mt. Mountain's album Dust. (which is almost a year old now).
If someone had described Dust to me before I heard it - the press release describes it as "capturing the atmosphere of the red/orange landscapes that consume the Australian outback" - I'd likely have thought something along the lines of "That sounds like my sort of thing", but I'd be lying if I didn't also admit that there would be an inner voice whispering "This sort of thing has been done to death, this sounds pretty unnecessary".
Repeat plays however have revealed Dust to be not only necessary, but essential listening. Sure Dylan Carlson's Earth have been doing this sort of thing for ten, fifteen years now - the cinematic, widescreen, windswept vista, but Mt. Mountain's take has an immersive, meditational quality that I've never experienced while listening to Earth.
Over four long tracks Mt. Mountain create and sustain a desolate atmosphere via simple structures that those who aren't quite on the right wavelength may find repetitive, but those who are will find intoxicatingly hypnotic.
The seventeen minute opener threatens to derail the listener's inner peace by bursting into a furious cacophany of noise midway through, appropriately demonstrating the outback's unforgiving qualities, but the remaining three tracks create an unspoiled mood that will slow the most feverish heartrate. From "Floating Eyes" with its appeallingly trippy Doors vibe (think "Riders on the Storm"), to the sustained mellotron drone of "Kokoti", this really ticks all of the right boxes for me.
Vinyl and digital available through the streaming link below.
Silo shows Bailey (who plays everything on here) to be a very diverse character indeed. There's little here to connect this to Dust in anyway. Silo is a much more song orientated affair for a start, but it's also an intriguingly fractured record with some tracks appearing to be very carefully structured while others sound like fragmentary sketches, awash with the excitement of the new.
It's a beautiful sounding record too which reminds me a lot of Richard Swift's production on Damian Jurado's recent albums, although the folky nature of those albums is not apparent in Bailey's appealing psychedelic pop confections.
Opener "Demure" is probably the stand out track here and would be a hit in a world where guitar based music still charted. It's got a pleasing Real Estate vibe to it, but this Real Estate grew up with the output of the Brain label rather than Flying Nun. "Sub Zero" on the otherhand showcases a falsetto that Jim James would be proud of over a vintage organ and flute backdrop with lashings of flower power.
More by good luck than good management this is a judicious time to draw your attention to "Silo". While the cassette edition is long sold out, a vinyl edition of only 80 copies is still available tthrough the widget below. Digital too.
6 Mar 2018
Prana Crafter, the one man psych project of Washington Woods resident William Sol, has provided some of the most visceral and exciting guitar based releases of recent times. 2015’s haunting yet ferocious ‘Rupture of Planes’ and 2017’s atmospheric and detailed ‘MindStreamBlessing’are perfect introductions to Sol’s work and ‘Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice’, just released on the splendid Beyond Beyond is Beyond label, is more than equal, an able and essential counterpart.
The album opens with ‘Bodhi Cheetah's Boogie Blues' amidst an explosive churning of molten guitar, sparks and debris scattering and dissipating, until an unholy scorched earth blues tears along the horizon that is both distorted and thrillingly exciting. Like fellow travellers Six Organs of Admittance there is an (un)easy alliance and movement between effective moments of calm, genuine beauty and melting, corrosive guitar work. Both add tension and power to the other in turn. Midway through this nine minute opus a saloon style piano emerges and picks out a lonesome and haunted melody, framed by a backdrop and symphony of feedback and waves of electrified hum. Gradually, the twisted blues refrain returns and fades, leaving a distinct impression of something primordial stalking the land, a roar from the woods themselves. This is music from the mud, the roots and the gut. 'Blooming of the Third Ear' follows, beginning at a canter with percussion framing the reoccurring harmony and swells of analogue synth, not unlike the theme from some folk horror western. Footsteps and distant voices merge into a Floydian cosmiche mass of keyboards and chimes before fading into a delicate and ghostly guitar motif that truly lifts the hair on the back of the neck. William Sol has an unnerving skill of making his music sound both intimate and universal at the same time and this track speaks of the vast emptiness of the night sky above the Washington Woods as much as it sits alongside you by the campfire.
'Holy Temple Of Flow’s melancholic keyboards and trebly guitar notes remind this listener of the atmospheric and spooked apocalypses of Godspeed You Black Emperor, the track morphing mid song into a furious, electrified solo that seems to summon the end times in all its wrath and anger. Here again is the dichotomy in Prana Crafter's carefully wrought songs; the quiet and the storm. 'Crystal Sky Wooden Cloud' is a case in point, its urgent acoustic rhythms and intense string bending propels the track into terrain inhabited by the likes of Jack Rose or Sun City Girls, before the clouds part and a quiet, reflective harmony breaks through. Next, 'Pandimensional Drifter' echoes into being, unhurried and deceptively languid until a truly epic guitar and organ melody arise from the darkness of the forest. Sounding not unlike an unhinged and inspired Ennio Morricone, in an album full of highlights this perhaps stands as a pinnacle moment. There is genuine dread, tension and release distilled here as the guitar howls against the encroaching night and the darkening of the woods.
'Old Growth Fortress' pits urgent piano against dynamic, multi layered guitar runs that you can feel in the pit of your stomach; indeed, there is real emotional force to these songs, something not always associated with instrumental or guitar based music. This distorted crescendo builds to almost Sabbath-ian proportions until a mournful drumbeat brings the piano back for a bare, funereal conclusion. Both affecting and exciting, you need to hear and experience this; the powerful ebb and flow of Prana Crafter. Finally, closer 'Vajra Mountain' is a brooding acoustic mantra, cascading waterfall like into calmer pools before descending and swirling, bubbling once more. As a conclusion it is as breathtaking as any of its predecessors and serves to remind the listener of just how special this album is.
Prana Crafter have once again sent a missive from their forests that both resonates with and transports the listener to their world and their surrounds. Whilst close and intimate at times, there is something larger, grander and more cosmic suggested in the nuances and scale of their output and vision that marks Prana out from other travellers on the same roads. William Sol creates a spell that seems both ancient and eternal, something human and something endless. Join him; you will not be disappointed.
Available now as a limited cassette and download now:
22 Feb 2018
I started my research for this review by listening to Lake Ruth guitarist Hewson Chen's other band, The New Lines. As I swooned to the intricacies of the fantastic song “Weatherman’s Apology”, I hear the commonalities with Lake Ruth. You see, the body of work presented herein and every other song I have heard by the marvelous Lake Ruth is glowing and gorgeous, painted with an ethereal, otherworldly light that I find it hard to describe adequately. The music transports you to a dream state infused with warmth and light that is both rare and precious. It is like stumbling upon a one of a kind gem and holding it fast lest it get away from you. While I want to share my affection for this band with the world, I also am tempted to keep it close.
Lake Ruth formed with two members of The New Lines (Hewson and Matt Schulz the drummer) and vocalist Allison Brice (The Eighteenth Day of May). They now have two full lengths and a smattering of EPs and singles. All are available from their Bandcamp page and should be imbibed as the musical crack that it is. But wait, what does the music sound like beyond the superlatives I am tossing down? I think it’s an amalgamation of all the best psych pop, folk, and dream pop you have heard down through the years, along with an almost tropical and sunny feel in spots. This band’s music listening cuts a wide swath through many styles, as I happen to know they adore Beautify Junkyards, Stereolab, Fairport Convention (they’ve covered "Tam Lin") and lots of soundtracks. They seem highly intelligent and two members love cats (Allison is allergic).
My response to "Birds of America" will be based on what I feel when I listen, rather than a technical dissection of each note, how it was recorded, and what influenced it. That is not how I operate, and I have only a layman’s knowledge of Krautrock or Hauntology. So I won’t be citing any sources, and won’t be dredging the lyrics for hidden meaning. Because you see, for me, this record is a sensory engagement, one best experienced by you the listener. Of course, the dichotomy between some of the dark lyrical elements and the sprightly melodies can be a bit startling, as is Allison’s unusually lovely, chipper vocals. So take that however it works for you, and strap in for a delicately rendered, exquisite ride through ten great tunes.
It starts off with the cool, fey strains of “VV”, meshing intricate instrumentation with what sounds like an oboe. And when Allison chimes in, the transition from the mortal realm to the hollow hills is complete. “Julia’s Call” is more immediate, and one of the first singles from this record. It reminds one of the aforementioned Beautify Junkyards, albeit with a faster pace and a care given to meticulous production and playing. “One of Your Own” veers into the same retro territory inhabited by Death and Vanilla and other purveyors of this genre. Fast moving synth lines wrap around spacey guitar and Allison swoops in between this fine tapestry of sound. “The Cross of Lorraine” is another favorite of mine, and it’s quite possibly the best song on this record. It sucks you straight in with Allison’s siren song and an appealing mesh of guitar and synths. “Radiant City” expertly combines bright, jazzy keys and guitar, and you’ll find yourself bobbing along with a smile on your face. The title track is an impressive example of psych filtered through noirish dream pop. Its expansiveness lend a cinematic air that I find greatly appealing. I can envision the Mother ship touching down as this marvel of a tune unfolds. And that unusual shading you hear on “Under the Waning Moon” is a mellotron, which melds perfectly with the somewhat unsettling but enthralling music. “Walter and the Taxi” is another favorite tune of mine, both for the Byrdsian guitar and the way it nestles around your ears like a favorite comforter. And I really dig the bubbles of synth that flit through the mix. “White Wall” is a glistening psych folk gem, and the ornate but trippy backdrop suits it perfectly. The hook at its heart will grab hold and never let go. “Westway” ends it all, and its shining jangle pop should be a hit. A fine conclusion to a magical and mystical journey through the hearts and minds of this wonderful band.
Vinyl and digital available here:
16 Jan 2018
In 2016, Cherry Red issued a 3-CD clamshell box set with the curiously unwieldy, if ultimately accurate, title of Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds – The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967. In that collection, familiar touchstones from psychedelia’s year in the sun sat comfortably alongside a connoisseur’s selection of demos, alternate versions and bona fide rarities. This year’s sequel moves on to 1968 and follows a similar pattern, both in its cumbersome title and noble agenda.
Clocking in at nearly four hours, Looking At The Pictures In The Sky – The British Psychedelic Sounds Of 1968 is a lovingly picked collection that yields many rewards both for longtime fans and newcomers. While it’s true that a handful of the tracks are either overly familiar or frustratingly over-comped (e.g. Procol Harum’s ‘In the Wee Small Hours of Sixpence’, The Factory’s ‘Path Through the Forest’, Fire’s ‘Father’s Name Was Dad’) there is also surfeit of truly inspired choices, oddball one-offs, and legitimate lost gems. Circle Plantagenet’s ‘I Will Not Be Moved’ is an example of a song with all three of these attributes. Featuring duduk-like keyboard, spidery guitar lines and a powerful chorus, it’s a welcome addition to any psych fan’s collection. I’m truly grateful for finding it here. Thankfully, there is a clutch of mini revelations like it scattered across the set.
One of the delights in a box that collects tracks from the same year comes in detecting the impact of contemporaneous sounds upon a wide assortment of bands. It’s the musical equivalent of watching seeds planted in spring bear fruit in the summer and fall. Of course, the Beatles always figure heavily in discussions like this, as one imagines groups scrambling to emulate everything from George Martin’s elaborate production touches to Ringo’s deceptively hard, always hypnotic drum fills. In a way, it’s almost comical to think how many bands seem to have heard McCartney’s ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and thought, “Right, let’s pen a thoughtful, quaint character study of a doomed English eccentric.” And so in Ms. Rigby’s wake, we are introduced to a cast of titular characters that includes Messrs. Pinnodmy, Lion, Dillbury and Partridge; Felicity Jane; Sycamore Sid (a song by Focal Point that shamelessly appropriates the piano riff from ‘Drive My Car’!); and a chap named Maxwell Ferguson. The Attack’s ‘Mr. Pinnodmy’s Dilemma,’ easily the best of these portraits, is perhaps too well-known for those who have been collecting psych for years, but it’s always a pleasure to hear John DuCann’s truly energizing, innovative guitar work. DuCann – who unfortunately passed away in 2011 without receiving due recognition for his contributions, having played pivotal roles in bands like the Attack, Andromeda, Atomic Rooster and Hard Stuff – holds the distinction of being at once the most ubiquitous and underappreciated guitar player in all British rock music (look for him on another standout track from the set, ‘Sunday Morning’ by Five Day Week Straw People and ‘Magic in the Air’ by the Attack, from the Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds collection).
It should be pointed out that this is not a collection aimed at chin-stroking audiophiles. Most of these tracks were not sonic marvels in the first place and were, in some cases, sourced from pop-and-crackle-addled acetates and treasured 45s. Quibbles about sound quality are rendered irrelevant, however, when discovering a track as darkly ethereal as ‘Yesterday Was Such a Lovely Day (Elsie)’ by Sadie’s Expression. Pops and sibilance abound, but it’s stop-you-in-your-tracks discoveries like this that make deep-dives into box sets worth your time and money. ‘She’ by Tuesday’s Children, ‘Nightmare’ by Gass Company and ‘Ice Man’ by Ice are all newfound favourites in this vein.
With sets celebrating 1967 and 1968, Cherry Red has created a formidable and affordable six-disc series. On top of delightful discoveries, the package is well annotated/illustrated, and provides a thorough overview of British psych that’s a must-buy, both for comp-hardened veterans and lysergically-curious neophytes.
Get it here.
7 Jan 2018
We're extremely lucky (blessed even) to be able to share the new album by Melbourne's hardest working psychedelicists The Citradels with you all today.
The Citradels have been on an impressive upwards trajectory over the last few years, with each new release besting its immediate predecessor. It's no surprise then to find that "God Bless" is their best yet by a considerable margin.
Their's has been an impressive and rapid evolution, from the densely packed shoegaze of their earliest recordings through to the sunny psych-pop symphonies of "God Bless".
But don't take my word for it; psychedelic bible Shindig Magazine had the following to say:
“....Brian Wilson-inspired psych/pop genius mastery....”
"...a tumbling delight of reverb drenched magnificence..."
They know what they're talking about.
"God Bless" is available today on Gatefold vinyl or as a 'name your price' download through the streaming link below which I strongly urge you to click right now.
21 Dec 2017
Not content to churn out the same album over and over again like some Italo worshippers, Germany's Sospetto have made another abrupt course change on their latest, Il Sonno Eterno.
2015's Quattro Specchi Opachi saw them expand their Goblinesque giallo palette to include sci-fi, eroticism and cop thrillers, albeit with a healthy dose of Giallo still. Il Sonno Eterno is a different kettle of fish entirely, soundtracking an existential drama in which Sospetto investigate the different levels of consciousness triggered by the insomnia of a young woman, portrayed by Christien Marks, whose haunting wordless vocals can't help but recall the work of Edda Dell'Orso.
Musically, this is a lush, often sensuous soundscape, betraying the influence of key works by Ennio Morricone and Piero Umiliani, without appearing overawed by the illustrious company it sets out to keep. Check out opener "Il Sonno Sano", a lovely, sighing exhalation of a thing with a flawlessly vintage sound that you'd swear was recorded at least 45 years ago, a running illusion that isn't shattered at any point throughout this album's playtime.
There are still moments of the unease and suspense that Sospetto have demonstrated their mastery of on previous releases. The mounting tension of "Disturbo Del Sonno" shows that they've lost none of their ability to keep us on the edge of our seats, but that's not their priority here. Generally this is a cosy, romantic, cinematic experience which sounds like big money and utter class. Witness the gorgeously swelling strings which usher in finale (and title track) "Il Sonno Eterno", recalling as it does the very best of Wally Stott's orchestrations on Scott Walker classics like "Montague Terrace in Blue".
Absolutely gorgeous and a must-hear record.
Vinyl with free CD available here , also available on CD here.
19 Dec 2017
Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan
‘Mass’ is the name of the new LP on Thread Recordings by multi-instrumentalist Dan Bridgwater-Hill and it’s a beautiful travelogue of small ensemble soundscapes and (acoustic) guitar workouts unfiltered by needless sound manipulation. This is pure alchemy, this is why Albert Ayler was so very right when said that music was the healing force of the Universe shortly before climbing the cosmic staircase to the infinite. In its wordless totality ‘Mass’ represents a celebration of the human spirit, of this Eden we call Earth, a divination of the human condition. It contains much beauty within its grooves as, for example, the quiet meditative drone and picking of the beguiling and explanatory track ‘Light Pools’ suggests. At its best moments ‘Mass’ it is an intensely soulful and cleansing experience.
The great thing for me about dbh the guitar player, multi-instrumentalist and composer is his approach to impressionistic song writing. ‘Mass’ is never flashy or overwrought as dbh is sure of his technique and ability to deploy musical colour with light and space concisely and to great effect. As Miles Davis once famously said, ‘its not the notes you play but the ones you don’t play’. dbh intrinsically understands this and so the purity of his musical vision is never diluted by extraneous diversion, whichever instrument is at hand.
Since his last record, 2015’s equally impressive “Mood” our man has been on his travels playing clubs and venues across Europe and further afield. This has undoubtedly infected his approach and widened his musical palate as evidenced by the joyous Latin undertow of ‘Med Sun’ with its dancing horses of guitar and violin. ‘Guitar Limb’ is a lovely rural saunter through country lanes and endless fields of green. ‘Ghost of Eyeless’ is a left hand turning - strange and opaque. It’s simple opening figure evolving into a frieze of bucolic strings, half heard piano lines and shady mental pathways of dried sticks and leaves that lead the listener past sleepy hollows and weeping willows. It’s ambition is impressive and its delivery hits the spot - never outstaying its welcome even though clocking in at just shy of 7 minutes.
Elsewhere, ‘Faith’ is dissonant and dense whilst ‘Blues II’ is dreamlike and distorted. The latter brilliantly evokes that feeling of synaesthesia and otherness – somewhat akin to listening to a musical box playing in an adjacent room whilst simultaneously finding yourself falling into unconsciousness in front of a fluttering fire. Its one of my favourite moments on a record littered with high points – a thing of rare beauty.
‘Hike’ sobers the active listener back up with its simply stated and resonant modal piano motif, a distant relative of Bill Evans perhaps. Its gently dissipating clusters of contemplative chords, are allowed to breathe out across the room to speak directly and clearly to your heart. Gorgeous. The closing ‘Mass Appeal’ heads for the turnstiles that enclose a foggy moorland, its brief interlude taking us past the deserted hillside village to the ruins of an abbey where the ghosts of the past congregation still gather in silent homage. It’s been a beautiful trip and I immediately think about playing it all over again.
So there you have it, 10 tracks of compelling and sonically literate music from dbh. He comes and stands at every door. You should find it within yourself to let him in. A joy.
18 Dec 2017
Reviewed by Grey Malkin
In anticipation of a brand new album from Sproatly Smith, Herefordshire’s finest acid folk exponents, comes a timely round up of some previously released material from compilations as well as some old classics and a couple of newbies. Many moons have passed since Sproatly’s last agricultural opus , 2014’s ‘Thomas Traherne’ although they have filled the intervening years with their essential Weirdshire compilation albums of local artists and their popular live festivals, featuring acts such In Gowan Ring and Trappist Afterland.
'The Highland Widow's Lament' (which may be familiar to you as the opening song in The Wicker Man) begins the album, a gentle drone and picked guitar framing a truly lovely vocal performance, xylophone chimes drifting overhead. Sproatly make this song their own and demonstrate their ability to inhabit traditional folk whilst also making it distinctly 'Sproatly'; indeed there is a pleasant, otherworldly edge that pervades. 'Lost Villages Of Holderness' (from the A Year In the Country compilation ‘The Quietened Village’) begins with sweeps of urgent harp and strings, birdsong and waves crashing underneath to conjure up a Powell and Pressburger style lament that could easily grace the soundtrack of their magical 'I Know Where I'm Going'. Cello, ripples of analogue keyboards and guitar frame Sarah Rarah and Kate Gathercole’s delicate harmonies as the song builds and layers to a heartbreakingly beautiful crescendo. 'Beetle' follows, a small slice of atmospheric wyrd folk that serves as a warm yet uncanny interlude before 'The Land of Green Ginger' enters with film samples and a circus organ, a twisted merry go round that both intoxicates and unnerves. Oscillating synths gather like flocks of birds as the song culminates, a mummers play in musical form.
Returning to The Wicker Man as source material, a spooked and haunted version of the alluring 'Willow's Song' adds a whistling theremin and the sound of creaking machinery to an already spectral interpretation. Sproatly do this with ease; on the surface things feel pleasant enough and yet...underneath there is a hint of rural menace and of something unsettling in the village. 'Tomo's Tale' finds echoed glockenspiel and vintage synths chiming and twisting around a truly gorgeous vocal line, a song that could perfectly have soundtracked the folk horror sci-fi of The Quatermass Conclusion. Next, electronic drums propel the stirring 'The Bonny Bunch of Roses', a vintage recording given the full Sproatly treatment, almost dub style. Theremin wisp’s around the aged and sampled vocal whilst bass and guitar add a hint of mischief and texture. 'Ribbons' follows and is a wyrd masterpiece, a slow build hum of electronics and acoustic guitar with voices reverberating within to create something almost sacred; a folk hymnal. 'Lonely Scapa Flow' is a rustic calypso, fiddle curling around the siren vocals to create an effective and unusual folk blend. 'Willoughby's Combination' is a pulsating synth piece of bucolic electronic that utilises vocal samples and an earworm melody to great effect whilst 'Wassail' is hearty and dark tinged plea for a bountiful harvest, cascading guitar and harmonies drifting over an organ drone; one can imagine this being performed on Summerisle in years past. Penultimate track 'The Mistletoe Bough' is a spoken word ritual, a ghost story set to a heartbeat drum and a shruti box before 'Lullaby' closes the album, the very melody that sees Edward Woodward anointed as he nears his doom in Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, our third visit to this film. Sproatly once again make this track their own, indeed their blend of acid folk, electronica and experimentation feels like a direct continuation of soundtrack composer Paul Giovanni's questing spirit.
An interim album this may be but 11:59 is one which ably stands on its own as a masterful release in its own right. Full of nooks, crannies and genuine curios this is a haunted treasure trove of an album, a dusty and dark curiosities shop filled with hidden delights. It is close to midnight, why not lift the veil and see what lies beyond?
Available now as a download and CD from Sproatly Smith’s Bandcamp page.
6 Dec 2017
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Those who enjoyed "Chante" the other week will want to pay attention for the next few minutes.
Lake Ruth has a long relationship with the Active Listener. We like them an awful lot. They seem to like us too. Everyone wins. Especially you because we're not going to let them release anything without you knowing about it. Which brings us to their brand new release "Intervention, Displacement & Return" - not an album proper I guess, but every bit as good as one.
Available as a limited edition cassette from French label WeWant2Wecord, "Intervention, Displacement & Return" features eight tracks, a combination of new recordings and a few covers that have appeared elsewhere. Best of all are three tracks recorded in collaboration with Listening Center, a music blogger's dream combo, but not a dream that one would ever expect to come true. Lucky us then.
Debut "Actual Entity" should really be quite a hard act to follow, being one of last year's better albums. Lake Ruth has cheated just a little bit in that regard by bringing us this sort of stop-gap release now then, but truth be told, it's every bit as good as "Actual Entity". Or better. While it doesn't harbour the same ambition or the same unity of purpose as a full album, it shows a band growing more comfortable and confident with who they are and the musical lineage that they follow in.
Even the two covers here, Stereolab's "Monstre Sacre" and Le Superhomard's "Dry Salt In Our Hair", are tackled with such confidence that they instantly become Lake Ruth tracks - I challenge anyone who doesn't know the original versions of either of these tracks to pick them out in a line up as the imposters that they are.
Vocalist Allison Brice continues to be a commanding presence, unusual given the delicacy of her voice, but whether it be the moody ambience of "A Captive Reaches The Sea" or more driving fare like "Dry Salt In Our Hair" she's able to command attention with barely a whisper. Full marks to Hewson Chen and Matt Schulz too for providing the wonderfully diverse backdrop here, equally well versed in psychedelia, space-pop, library music - you name it. Whatever the musical equivalent of well read is, these boys are it.
At only eight tracks I was left wanting a whole lot more, but isn't that a sign of the best records? And the good news is, we don't have very long to wait for more with Feral Child lining up a vinyl release for Lake Ruth's second album shortly, but more to come on that soon.
"Intervention, Displacement & Return" can be purchased on cassette and streamed in full at the first link below, or bought digitally for the bargain price of just $6 via the second link.
4 Dec 2017
Reviewed by Grey Malkin
Originally published September 2015, reshared to draw attention to Sugarbush Records new vinyl pressing, following up Sunstone's long sold out first pressing.
Melbourne based psych folk artists Trappist Afterland have been quietly but consistently releasing some of the most outstanding and distinctive albums in underground circles over the last four years or so. Consisting effectively of the trio of Adam Cole, Phil Coyle and Nick Albanis along with various friends and musical accomplices their use of unusual instrumentation and unique sound (as well as their easy but persistent way with a melody that will get its hooks in and not let go) marks them out as one of the most important and visionary bands currently working in the psych scene. Their new opus 'Afterlander' not only builds on the successes and strengths of past albums but takes the Trappists into a whole new realm of their own, with a set of assured, powerful and majestic songs tinged with mystery, ritual and beauty.
Album opener 'Lucifer Mosquito' begins with the simple sound of chimes before complex layers of dulciters, ouds, a hand drum and Adam Cole's distinctive and emotive vocals enter in a psyche haze of immense grace and beauty which then continues to layer, grow and build into a stunning and transcendent climax. It left this listener absolutely transfixed, let me be clear at the outset; this is mindblowingly good. At once otherworldly and yet also immediate and persuasively melodic, Trappist Afterland ably suggest a dark mysticism and esoteric sound whilst also maintaining a tight, rhythmic and controlled mastery of their song craft, similar perhaps to contemporaries such as Stone Breath, Six Organs Of Admittance or James Blackshaw. 'Saint Peter And The Rainbow's eastern drone leads into tense and intricate, inventive string work (instruments present on this album include bell citern, hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery and lute), eerie backing vocals and strident tabla, propelling the song ever forwards. Fans of the afore mentioned bands, acid folk acts such as the Incredible String Band and COB and also of Michael Gira's work with Angels Of Light will find much to adore here.
'Where The Willows Weep' enters with a pleasingly disorientating backwards loop before a processionary beat begins, an air of unease and incense pervading amongst the dulcimer and oud's raga melodies. 'Jessie's Root (Isaiah 11:1-10)' rides on a moving carpet of bells, sitar drones and chanted backing vocals, sounding both haunted and haunting in its vast and lysergic soundscapes; this is music for when the sun goes down and candles can be lit. Next, 'A Jar On Mystics' is a more reflective, hushed piece of wyrd folk with Naomi Henderson's spooked flute weaving Will O' The Wisp style throughout, a truly unique slice of bucolic beauty. Trappist Afterland are clearly masters of both dynamics and atmosphere and have crafted a perfectly paced and formed album which ebbs and flows with gentle force throughout, sometimes surging with a thrilling intensity and sometimes floating delicately but addictively with measured restraint. 'Black Dog Coast' is a case in point; starting with gentle washes of acoustic sound and fragile vocals this then breaks into an increasingly insistent sounding drum-led symphony, delivering shivers down the spine and huge emotional power. The following 'Feathers' tabla rhythms, eastern air and melancholic edge is absolutely hypnotic whilst the brilliantly named 'The Psalms Remain The Same (Psalm 31)' is a plaintive, gorgeous spectre of a song, resplendent with ghostly backing vocals and a sense of hazy doom. Album closer 'Hillsong Leeches' layers tanpura drone upon drone, string upon string, and vocal upon vocal to create a blissed out wyrd and wonderful reverie that is genuinely moving and close to anthemic. A suitable and fitting finale to what is a hugely impressive and highly evocative piece of work and an album which I guess will not just be one of the best I'll hear this year but one that I will hear for many a year to come. Really.
Trappist Afterland have many extremely fine releases already under their relatively young belts and a back catalogue that amply rewards investigation, however with 'Afterlander' they must (if there is justice) become much more of a name to be reckoned with in psych circles and underground music in general. A seriously superb album that needs to find a home in your record collection without delay.
Available now as a digital download from the Trappist Afterland Bandcamp page (below). A limited number of copies of the Sugarbush vinyl reissue are available directly from Adam via the Bandcamp link below (if you're nearer to Australia), or the vinyl can be bought directly from Sugarbush Records here with free postage worldwide.