26 December 2012

The Gateless Gate - 2012 - Xinjiang

Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Here's one that has been spinning on my mp3 drive pretty consistently for the past few months.  Apparently, this is the maiden voyage of the Gateless Gate, but they've got their grooviness set right into place and it definitely doesn't reek of a rookie release disease.  There are some clear signs of musical DNA in the music, but the groop does of fine job of establishing a clear identity.  We've got the epic the epicness of 70's Mike Oldfield informing the music, as well as the spiritual vibe of Between, who are pretty obscure, but you can read about elsewhere in the blog.  A few touches, such as the throat singing on the opening track, recal the Tibetian vibrations of Philip Glass' stellar 'Kundun' soundtrack.

This is a release that I tend to let glide along, with the tracks melding along into a total experience (like Dolemite's Total Experience, but more meditational).  When I feel like I've heard it a few too many times, I just start in the center.  This makes it hard to single out tracks, but I can point out a few reference points.  As I already mentioned, the opening 'Tian Shan' comes across like a psychedelic ceremony deep in the unreachable corners of Tibet.  'Tunhuang' throws some guitar leads out that rival Oldfield at his 'Hergest Ridge' prime.  The last few tracks take us underground like a freak folk extravaganza plowing acoustic guitar through the fungus.

I get a lot of obscure submissions through the electronic vine, but the Gateless Gate actually ranks right on in with the A-listers, This is one of the best things I've heard this year all around.  I've you've got a yearning for washes of psychedelic ceremonial sounds, you can't do much better than this release.

Experience the highland infinity here. Scroll down a bit and you can have the mp3s for free:
The Gateless Gate

12 December 2012

Damaged Tape - 2012 - Conflagration of Nibiru

The world will end after you play this on December 21st.  You may have to wait a few billion years, but it will end.

These electronic sounds began early this year during the sessions for "The Floating Existence."  "Interstellar Tropics" was actually the first tune recorded for that album, but I held on to that song and "B.A.D.D.," thinking I'd save them for a fake soundtrack.  This album isn't quite a fake soundtrack, but the music is still supposed to flow like a mid-80's action/adventure show.  I guess it would have been set by the beach with all of the oceanic white noise I added with the Moog.  There's plenty of hints of surf guitar as well.  "B.A.D.D." was supposed to stand for something, like the cartoon "M.A.S.K.," but nothing ever came of it.  Once Scott got to work on the album, things veered into a more trippy spiritual direction as tends to happen with him.  Anyway, I'm hoping that everything ends as it should, and this set is the proper hybrid of our visions.  As with the last album, I continue to dabble in the ocean of vocal synth-pop on "Spectrum of Realities" and "Nectar of the Lotus."  Those along with "Dragons of the Moonrise" are my personal favorites here.  Hmmm, we've got an awful lot of "_____ of ______" on this collection.  Were betting on numerology, though, by releasing this on all twelves.

To listen, you can head for Bandcamp:
Damaged Tape - 2012 - Conflagration of Nibiru

Or download at these links:
Damaged Tape - 2012 - Conflagration of Nibiru (mp3s)
Damaged Tape - 2012 - Conflagration of Nibiru (wav part 1)
Damaged Tape - 2012 - Conflagration of Nibiru (wav part 2)

11 December 2012

Stevie Schmidt - 2011 - EP

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter 4.25 out of 5

This set is a fine assortment of some IDM tropes laid out in a pretty groovy way.  The music is heavily sampled, wispy electronica, with warped tones swooping in and rubbery pulses bouncing the beat.  I definitely dig the construction of the tunes, although the production has a definite digital low-fi hover.  It's a somewhat thin-sound, but I think Stevie's in control of the proceedings and this is intended.

"I Don't See" drops down like the Avalanches, enters into an underwater Gas-like beats, before chopping and splicing the tone together.  Meanwhile, "Wash" bounces on the same pogo stick that the Orb recorder "On Kompact" on.  There's some very treated vocals showing up on "Sleep," with the end effect sounding like the radio signal of a 1987 synth ballad transmitted through a solar storm and bouncing of Uranus (hee! hee! hee!).

I guess listening to this makes me think that I haven't heard too much IDM since the dubsteppers and chill wavers took center stage.  I guess it's probably hiding out on underground cassettes like this.

Head for:

Matthew Akers - 2011 - The Future Barbarians

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

Matthew Akers has his head fused directly into to pulsating core of John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream's early 80's soundtracks.  The man himself suggests that this music be paired with an "Alien" rip-off, but the cover art shouts "Remo Williams."  Maybe this is what "Alien Nation" would have sounded like if it had been produced five years earlier.  Does anyone out there actually remember these movies?

On with the music.  Akers isn't doing anything particularly new here, but he's pretty much nailing his musical targets with spare, thick production.  I would recommend starting with track two.  "Looting the Armory" isn't a bad tune, but the sequencer and drum machine don't seem to quite sync-up right and it produces a rhythmic stutter that I'm not down with.  Fortunately, it smooth sailing in your lazer-guided retro-future Camaro after that.  First, you'll get a few short-form soundtrack pieces.  "They Call Him Mikos" is clearly our pastel-suit wearin' villain's theme.  The ten minutes of "Neurolink" are the meat of this EP, and it does a fine job guiding you through the discotheque of 1983 and into the primordial chill out room during it's running time.

Maybe it's because I was but a wee psychedelic doctor when this kind of music made its big splash, but these kinds of sounds are coded into my musical DNA.  Akers isn't aiming for innovation, just an accurate facsimile of the soundtracks for those "USA Up All Night" movies that used to crop up on basic cable, and this definitely succeeds at that.

Head here:

28 November 2012

Glaze of Cathexis - 2012 - Neon Buddha

"In the unexplored alcoves, glinting holy light shine resplendently bright in the doorways of our timeless, everlasting mind... every eternal moment is waiting to be renewed to the kingdom of its throne. Lights of spirit pierce like sacred lightning through the chaotic, stormy wilderness of ignorance and delusion.  Yet, allow the pure light to resonate and penetrate... the wounded spirit becomes healed and all becomes truly clear in our diminishing lifesong of deep love and joy."

Glaze of Cathexis' resident poet and conceptual artist, Scott Atkinson, made the pilgrimage to Myanmar and found the neon Buddhas, decked out in a bit of bling, but still staring into the infinite cosmos.

Our music had been dwelling in the psychedelic garages of the 1960's for the past couple sets, but we're strolling through a bit more of the cyber-future this time around.  "Neon Buddhas" takes a sonic trajectory through time, with the Glaze picking up the warbled vibrations of 80's synth pop and 90's shoegaze once again.  "Hang on to What You've Got" is my Billy Idol moment, while "Luminous Tapestry" visits a time signature that I don't think any of us can deal with it again.  You'll find "One Step Beyond" attempting to melt your face off, while "Out of Your Mind" is one of the poppiest things we've sent out into the wilderness.  Please do send us your signals.

Perhaps you'd like to visit us at Bandcamp:


Luna Moth - 2012 - Shadows Casting Trees

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Man, I think Luna Moth probably have some of the same dreams that I do.  Last night, I dreamed that I was fending of a zombie apocalypse from an upper floor of an apartment highrise.  I think I got nibbled on at some point.  Luna Moth may not be on that particular trip, but they do crank out some great gothic shoegazing sounds.  This is the kind of thing that talented hopefuls would sent of to 4AD in hopes of a record contract.  Back in 1990, this set could have very well pulled of the trick.

Wild Nothing's "Nocturne" has perched itself near the top of my favorites for 2012, and this comes across as a freakier echo of that canyon that lies between the Cure and Slowdive.  That's selling things a little short though as these guys can build their sounds off of more diverse templates as "Lupine Blooms Voluminous" shares a kindred spirit with the Red House Painters.  "Soulvine Unto Pleidies" and "When You Sleep" definitely exude distorted guitar bliss as the best of shoegaze does, while "Trees Casting Shadows" is sort of like a happy outtake from the Cure's "Pornography" (not that it's particularly happy - it's just that "Pornography" is darker than Black Dynamite).  "Heartswells" joins the present with a sort of Deerhunter bounce.  "satori Underseas" is the glossy epic to thrust your ears through the multiverse membrane, in the manner of the Smashing Pumpkins better extended moments like "Starla."

Yeah, these sounds are shoegazing guitar vibrations passed through the American prism.  But we Yankees can get it right occasionally as Luna Moth demonstrates.  It may not be the flavor of the month, but you'll hear the 60's dream of psychedelia time warped through at least 30 years of retro-futurism.

You've got quite a rabbit hole to plunge through.  The following link will take you to the album reviewed here, but Luna Moth seems to be quite prolific and deserving of a few extra clicks for some of their previous albums.

San Kazakgascar - 2012 - Drought Times EP

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

I think I've pretty well completely aired out my love for sitars, and Middle Eastern trance beats aren't too far removed from that sounds.  These guys are turning into drums and echoing the sounds of the tripped out desert oasis freak beat club.  Their vocalist must have given the Peter Tork vocal of the Monkees' "Can You Dig It" a spin at least 6084 times.  Yeah, he's not quite droning in key, but it pebble jumps along the air of rarefied raga rock grooviness.

We're just looking at an EP here, so there are only four tunes for your earhole.  We've got a sandwich of sorts, with the beats of "Crispy Lords" and "The Switchbacks Are Crumbling" finding the center of the drone and blasting away like a hashish-confused, but blissful Jane's Addiction as existed for a scant 25 minutes on "Ritual de lo Habitual."  That, plus a gold-medallion and beige turtleneck wearing Peter Tork.  They pick up the beat for the center two tunes, but they don't quite sent the same arrows into the karmatic center of my subconscious.  It's more like a neighborhood art festival getting a dose of the gypsy juice (whatever that is).

It's far too late a night, but I'm spending a very groovy 16 minutes with the sunblasted, Middle East-vibing San Kazakgascar and I'm digging it.  Maybe they can touch you in that special spot as well.

You will experience the psychedelic raga rock sounds of San Kazakgascar at their Bandcamp:


31 October 2012

Camped Out at Bandcamp

Since everyone else is doing it, so did I.  I'm still in the process of getting all of my Glaze of Cathexis and Damaged Tape albums up, but there's already enough there to make it worth your while.  Head for those sonic hills here:


On a related note, I seem to have lost my original artwork (front cover, insert, back cover) for Damaged Tape's 'Stone God,' and 'Ship of Lights,' and Glaze of Cathexis' 'The Holographic Universe,' and 'Tokyo Rainbow Bridge.'  If you happen to have those files, I would be engroovied to those who can send them my way.

The Critters - Touch'n Go With the Critters

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

Here's a shining star of sunshine pop.  Although the group had already seen a release, they grabbed a hold of the lightning rod of easy listening songsmith Enoch Light by hitching their Crittermobile to his Project 5 label. Thus, we've got the full grooviness of mid 60's 'experimental' stereo production powering the record.  Although there is certainly a trace of the 'good time music' of the Lovin' Spoonful informing the proceedings (including a cover of spoonmaster John Sebastian's 'Younger Generation'), the Critters were definitely doing their own thing and making some notable east coast echoes of the sunblasted L.A. scene.  This is a prime example of a headphone album.

The title track is a wonderful burst of prime twee-pop.  A few years later, this would have ended up with hamfisted Three Dog Night/Grass Roots late AM radio production, but this was fortunately recorded at the right time and at the right place.  The psychedelic warble of 'Awake in a Dream' is also worth a few listens.  When the band gets to it 'Younger Generation' Spoonful cover, we get a tune that doesn't quite replace the original, but does serve as a fine example of the production and arrangement skill at work here.  'Good Morning Sunshine' pops in the bubblegum a few years before that trend really took hold, while 'Sweet Breezes' does a fine job of nailing the floating ballad.  "Let's Love" gets in a few proper Brian Wilson-style harmonies to soothe your earhole. There's enough gauze on the more twee and blue-eyed soul tracks that permeate the rest of the album to keep you from skipping around the tracks too much.

The cheese of AM pop is present here, but in a wonderfully palatable form.  While the slab of vinyl didn't quite have the power to break into the transcendental that the Millennium or the Beach Boys could, the Critters had the dander to make everything groovy, and couldn't have come out of anywhere but 1967.  Dig it.

25 October 2012

Dinosaur on Fire - 2012 - Sleep Moon Voyage

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Tech Honors, the sound designer behind Dinosaur on Fire, states that this is best heard as the music that runs through runs through a child's head after defeating the boss in a 16-bit video game.  I'm certainly down with that assessment, but what I heard when playing this album was alien spacecraft using lasers to carve out a distant diamond planet (as opposed to a Dustin Diamond planet, which is far more horrific).  I suppose that fits in with the whole 16-bit video game aesthetic anyway.  There's a whole lot of analog and 80's digital synth tones running amok on these songs, with the tone whittled down to a crystal focus.  In fact you can approach this as a music earth crystal, pulsating in a back alley new age store run by Rastafarians.

This is one of those sets that spins nicely straight through.  The bookend tracks are the most epic ones, with "Surgical Landing" bringing you into the glassy fantasyland that you'll spot on the cover, and "Out of Orbit" catapulting you into the deepest voids of nothing - well, nothing except "Fanfare" synths.  I feel like I'm being mildly uncreative here, but this album is a well-designed package, with the cover art and song titles serving as signposts to inform the music. "Glass Labyrinth" is what the soundtrack to Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" would have sounded like if it had been produced by MDMA-addled ravers and a coked-out Vangelis.  Speaking of musical meglomaniacal triumph, have a peek at this completely unrelated video (well, the Bandcamp page does list 'nostalgia' as one of the tags for this album).  It'll press a few subconscious triggers for the 80's kids out there, and the rest of you should have plenty to gawk at:

OK, sorry... tangent.  Getting back to the topic at hand, "Crystal Palace" sounds like the place where the interdimensional shamen replace your organs with chakra stones, while "Getaway" serves as the tones to sooth you in the outpatient room of the clinic in the astral plane.  I'm not really a new age fellow - I don't really know what I'm talking about with the chakras and shamen and such, but I'll be damned if this music doesn't sonically invoke those sorts of words.  Y'know, but in a groovy Super Famicom way instead of a middle-aged, Scandinavian yoga instructor kind of way.

This is what happens to Vangelis' music when you hit the light-speed button in the Millennium Falcon.  It's extremely well recorded and arranged, so kudos to you Tech Honors! ....if that is your real name.  Mine's not Dr. Schluss.

You will visit the glass dinosaur here:

Dinosaur on Fire

10 October 2012

Various Artists - 2012 - The Lemon Tape

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time spinning my dad's old Beatles and Doors albums as you may well guess.  But I remember on slab of vinyl called "Undercurrents," which featured some slightly more off-kilter acts like the Soft Machine, the Blues Project, and the Stone Poneys.  It was one of my first introductions to the musical world behind the veil, and the "Lemon Tape" sort of gives me a recall of that vibe.  This is a snapshot of Montreal's psychedelic scene, and what a wonderland it is!  A lot of this is what I'd want to hear stumbling into a back-alley, basement club like what we see in the films "The Trip," or "Blow-Up."  Pretty much all of the music ranges from lo-fi to mid-fi, and I must admit that it sounded a little ramshackle on my first pass.  Still, the thing kept growing on me and the flowers of the sonic lotus continue to unfold each time I play it.  You may have noticed that we don't see a whole lot of compilations here at the Garage, but this one plays nicely pretty much straight through.

Man, there are a lot of fine tracks here.  "Harpe Pierreries Chatoiement" by Bataille Solaire tosses us headfirst into the tribal-pounding echoland of early Pink Floyd.  "Twisted Games" from the Reveens throws us a straight up Nugget, while "A Spike" by Brave Radar and "Hvordan" by Einar Leiknes blend in a touch of the 80's underground jangle scene.  There's an instrumental cover of the Associations' "Never My Love" that seems to materialize in the psychedelic lounge as does "Cosmique Love" by Tomato Saucers.  The only tunes here that don't do it for me is the oddly warbling "Princess" by the Capital of Plastic Daffodils and a vocal bonus cut of "Never My Love" which seems to make the engineering mistake of bouncing the tracks on a tape a few too many time, and including vocalist that can't quite cut mustard.  Oh well, it's not anything to rain on your parade.

Well, I guess the goal here was to promote the Montreal psyche scene, and I'd have to sat that the "Lemon Tape" accomplishes that mission spectacularly.  You'll find a few names here to keep your ears open for, as well as have a trippy, twilight time digging the tunes that are present on this compilation.

09 October 2012

Pandit Pran Nath - 1968 - Earth Groove: The Voice of Cosmic India

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

So, you see the cover and get the impression that you're in for a warped, hippy-mystic ride into the galactic sun.  But no, that's just the exploitation aspect of this album kicking in.  Just disregard the colours on the front and be ready for some ragas of the more traditional sort.  This is straight-up Indian classical featuring only people that actually have business playing this stuff.  Pandit Pran Nath was supposed to be a master of this kind of vocal raga, and he sounds fine.  I'm not so sure that he was so used to recording, however, as he sometimes distractingly clears his throat or spews out a lugie between vocal parts.  I would imagine that thise is a field recording, anyway - the proceedings are far from the hi-fi side and you also hear people moving around from time-to-time.  I guess it gives everything an interesting, out-in-the-Indian-countryside sort of vibe.

I'm far from a scholar on Indian music, but I play a fair amount around here, and I think what we have here is a morning and and evening raga.  I have to say that I prefer the first side.  It's more of a gliding drone, while the second side is a bit more aggressive - well as aggressive as a droning raga's going to get.  With the added output on side two, there is also more of the coughing and flemmy sounds that sort of pour a touch of corrosive acid through the proceedings.

I'll admit that I ended up listening to this one pretty much by express fascination with the trippy cover.  There is plenty of old school trippy in the music, but don't listen expecting a late 60's experimental infusion.  This is pretty much the real deal, served straight-up.

20 September 2012

Saint Steven - 1969 - Saint Steven

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.99 out of 5

I think Steve Cataldo, frontman of Boston rockers Front Page Review, probably wandered into the wrong studio for this set.  It wasn't necessarily a bad studio, but the Saint sounds slightly uninspired, and the recordings don't seem to have quite the right 'bounce' for psychedelic pop-rock.  It's not a fidelity thing.  Can would just let a two-track reel-to-reel roll and they made some of the greatest albums ever.  And God knows what kind of Edison cylinder Gonn used for "Blackout of Gretely," but it sounds awesome.  The probably here is that the engineer had the equipment and proceeding to make like of bad choices.  I don't know, maybe it just had yet to grow on me.  The songs are generally groovy and there is a fun penchant for found sound and odd warping effects on this LP.  This admittedly backfires a bit when Steven commits almost two minutes of his 30-minute record to the roll call of the 1968 Republican convention.

So, back to this whole studio thing (who's obsessed today?).  "Animal Hall" is in theory a very groovy psych-folk tune with lot of screaming animal effects, but the recording practically vacuum-seals the whole affair, while acid rock scorcher, "Ay-Aye-Poe-Day," was apparently too loud for the studio.  "Sun In the Flame" is one of the better tunes here, but suffers a similar fate.  Otherwise, I'd dig it pretty well.  "Bastich I" starts off with a haunted psychedelic English countyside church vibe before rocking a little more quietly so that the track at least doesn't distort (compare this to the louder "Bastich II, when the track does distort).

Folks, choose your recording venue wisely.  I hate to come down so hard on the technical, but I"m guessing that the engineer was probably better equipped to record a gospel-singing family or something, and the "Saint" tag sort of threw him off.  This is a pretty groovy, if slightly hamfisted, mini concept album going on here.  Those of you with a more forgiving ear can hold on tight to the psych-rockin'.

Roger Rodier - 1972 - Upon Velveatur

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

Americans 'know' that Canada doesn't give us any good music- just comedians.  Neil Young had to come to the States to get the ball rolling, man.  Of course, thinking this way will cut you off from some pretty groovy music, and Roger Rodier is a case in point.  The file tag that came with this listed it as 'acid folk,' and I suppose it is to some extent, but this is the early 70's and Ro-Ro does have sort of a singer-songwriter thing going on.  Fortunately, it doesn't head out for a full-on bad-mustache/giant-wicker-chair cheese-o-rama.  Roger's got a 60's hangover that recalls the lighter moments of Sagittarius.

The first two tracks are gently-picked acid folk ditties that had me hoping that someone would slip a few amphetamines into Roger's milk (someone did slip a theremin into 'My Spirit's Calling, which is worth three cool points)  .  Not that they're bad tunes, but sequencing both of them right at the start of the album was probably a questionable call - they almost have the same guitar part.  I've noticed that this is a common sequencing trick in rock n' roll - someone notices that two song are similar so they stick them right together - sort of a "Ha! I meant to do that!"  I'm pretty sure I've done that when sequencing my own albums, so I suppose I can't really criticize.

The band did make it in for the album's best track, "Am I Supposed to Let It By Again (Above the Covers)."  No, I won't be typing that again.  Anyway, this sounds like a happy Neil Young and Crazy Horse trying to sound upset and angry.  It's not quite the same, but it dose have flanging effects on the drums.  "You Don't Know What It's Like" and "Just Fine" are probably outtakes from Gorky's Zygotic Minci's album, "How I Long to Feel That Summer In My Heart," which is interesting since that album was recorded almost thirty years after this set by Ro-Ro.  "Let's See Some Happiness" includes honky-tonk piano and a chorus and I don't like it all that much.

There are some bonus tracks that seem to be demos or something as the recording quality is somewhat hazier.  "Easy Song" comes across like an AM radio sunshine hit, "Tu Viendras" is a groovy rock n' roll induction ceremony theme, while "Overseer" is worth the listen for the strange, rolling rhythm.  Meanwhile, "Have You" must be queued up for inclusion in the next Wes Anderson flick.  (*Ook, waited until now to do my research - turns out these are 1969 single tracks.)

This is worth a listen for those of you wishing to waft through the tall grass of the late Canadian summer of 1972.  Roger pokes at the boundaries of 70's singer-songwriter territories, but rarely pokes through.  He's too groovy a cat for that, and has dreams of 1967 sunshine pop.

30 August 2012

Musical Stroll Around the Cyber-Block

I get a lot of music sent to my email box, and there's not enough time to work through it all.  If it's not addressed to me personally, it tends to go directly to the trash bin, and those that are need to be psychedelic in some way (although I do have a pretty wide definition for that).  I also scrap the mailings that don't have an mp3 download.  If the music has cleared those first few hurdles, I do what the music department did when I worked at my university radio station, and I give it a 10-second preview.  Music that keeps my attention for a few minutes gets downloaded, and the following sets are the ones that I've found myself listening to over the past three months or so.  Maybe you'll dig them too:

The Karovas Milkshake - 2012 - Freak Out (single)
Freak Out Factory cover art

Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Man, this group from the Urals needs more of my attention since we've only got two tunes here.  Maybe it's a 'Nuggets' thing where the band has put all of it's spunk into a tune or two (hopefully not), but this is completely authentic-sounding, groovy, psychedelic garage rock.  It presses just the right 'Barrett' buttons while crunching along like the Chocolate Watchband with great vocals in a slightly odd, but endearing, accent.  As an added bonus, the B-side, 'Factory,' has a completely trippy horn arrangement plowing in at the end.

The Karovas Milkshake

Sudden Death of Stars - 2011 - Getting Up, Going DownGetting Up, Going Down - Close Up Records cover art
Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

Here's a mindblowing, French brew of 80's indie neo-psych infused with an extra dose of the Velvet Underground's scag and the Byrds' melancholic sunshine pills.  There's a sitar floating around too, and as you probably know, I'm a sucker for sitars.  "Supernovae," "I'll Be There," and "Deeds Beyond the Hints" are some of the better tracks that Spacemen 3 never made, "Free and Easy" comes across like the punkish band  bringing it on at the skid row end of the Sunshine Strip in 1966, and "Chilling Out at Set Time" again presses those Barrett buttons that I mentioned in the last review.

Sudden Death of Stars

Lost Harbours - 2011 - Hymns and Ghosts
Hymns & Ghosts cover art 
Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Some ghostly psychedelic folk from what I imagine must be a particularly foggy and bone-chilling spot in England.  The vibes run towards the quieter moments of Flying Saucer Attack, but with some (that's only some) of the gauze lifted away.  The two title tracks sound like the evocation of some ancient, pagan rites from the creepier corners of the British isles.  Maybe like the chill out room for the guys and gals from "The Wicker Man" (the good one with Christopher Lee, not the one with Nick Cage as a bear).  "Morning Song" has a ethereal lift through its mostly instrumental eight minutes, and "Spring Fire" shows you that these folks do a fine job of tripping out the more conventional folk song form.

Lost Harbours

The Ocular Audio Experiment - 2012 - The Witch's Whispering Tomes
The Witch's Whispering Tomes (Part 1) cover art 
Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

So these guys told me that this is but the first half of the set - this one is droning psych while the second will feature the same songs played as a doomed, satanic, Looney Tunes ride into hell (their words).  There's not a whole lot of diversity here, but the band grabs onto the thread that runs from the Velvet Underground to Spacemen 3 to the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Black Angels and hangs on tightly.  Plus, there's a lot of surf guitar on top.  I've you've played any of my recent Glaze of Cathexis recordings, then you know that the doctor digs surf guitar.  Especially psychedelic surf guitar.

The Ocular Audio Experiment

Divine Intervention Now - 2012
Demo cover art 
Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

I don't know a whole lot about Leonard Cohen, but I have the impression that this comes across like a deranged, mildly perverted version of that particular bard.  The music is mostly layers of crisp, layered picked acoustic guitar (with weird interludes from horns and such), and he sings about our dicks on "The Truth Tickles" (sorry ladies, maybe he'll get you covered on the next one)  I'm down with the gutteral roar vocals, but the Brit-inspired freak-folk of "Cucumbers" when the vocals lift up is probably the highlight.  Honestly, I think some of this set makes me uncomfortable, but that's likely the point - like this is the music that goes along with the brown acid.  Anyway, it's got my attention.

Divine Intervention Now

Audio Dope - 2012 - Chameleon
Chameleon cover art 
Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Heading down some more electronic roads here, we've got the sounds of Audio Dope.  This is some well produced, acid-jazz reflecting groovin'.  It flows a little bit like J Dilla's better recordings, so isolating tracks is not really worth your time - just play the thing straight through.  The artist said that he was influenced by some sounds on the blog, so I'm guessing he must have downloaded some Larry Heard.  This has a nice thick sound that should meld nicely with neon ice cube martinis and a touch of blue smoke... Audio Dope.

Audio Dope

23 August 2012

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy - 1967 - Is Spreading

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.5 out of 5

Playing for the Californian farm league in the 60's, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy focused on sunshine pop that fused the drive of the Jefferson Airplane with the happiest sounds of the Mamas and the Papas.  I suppose it worked for the most part, but these guys and gals couldn't quite rock with the insane acid-deranged drive of the Airplane, although they give it a shot here and there.  Still, Grace Slick probably could've melted their heads 'Raiders of the Ark' style with her laser glare, y'know, if she really wanted too.  Pushing this a notch above the rest is the production touch of Brian Wilson's buddy Gary Usher, who also produced the Byrds best albums (that weren't Mr. Tambourine Man) and was one of the masterminds behind Sagittarius of "My World Fell Down" notoriety.  So even if this isn't the absolute best sunshine pop, it's definitely a notable slice of the real McCoy.

"It's A Happening Place" gets us started off with a hippy anthem with some powerful vocals and some entertaining fuzz guitar painting a technicolor snake in the background.   I then refer you to the middle of the album, as the groop gets a little too focused on staring at the sun and vaudeville for a few tracks.  When they getting around to rocking properly again we're served up with "You Can't Be Found," which seems to be trying to make the "Paint It Black" melody into sunshine pop.  Fortunately, it doesn't quite get that blissed out - the guitars are gritty and the lead vocalist insists on sneering a little bit.  "Dark On You Now" is the prime female lead vocal on the album, and "You Should Know" and "The Most Up Till Now" would've gotten all the folks bouncing at the Summer of Love happening (and I suppose they likely did).  Apparently, taking too much means that the verses should be super-twee as we discover on "You Took Too Much."

There's a lot of good tunes here and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy were worthwhile contestants in the sunshine pop sweepstakes, bringing in a touch more acid rock than their immediate peers.  Matched with some great production from Gary Usher and fine group singing, this disc can make for a very groovy summertime diversion.

Saturday's Children - 1966 - 2 E.P. Set

Quality: 3.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3 out of 5

Here at the psychedelic garage, we tend to focus on LP's, but as you students of Nuggets are aware, there are plenty of homies that never quite got a whole album in the can.  Beatles obsessives, Saturday's Children, managed at least half of an album's worth of material for your musical archaeology.  This Chicago band indeed set their aim directly for the heart of Beatles '65 just like their fellow Americans in the Knickerbockers and Barry and the Remains.  They did hit the bull's eye quite as intensely as those bands, but they definitely propelled their aural arrow into the blue area of the target.  Or maybe the ripped-from-ragged-vinyl sound quality of these recordings brings them down a notch.  Don't mind me too much, these eight songs are perfectly listenable.

As would make sense, "You Don't Know Better" and "A Man With Money," which lead off their respective E.P.s, are the pop torpedoes.  It pretty much sounds like the Beatles, but if Murray Wilson was their father telling them to smile more, or if Bob Dylan had gotten the mop tops into cotton candy instead of marijuana.  Honestly, "A Man With Money" loses a few points with me since the lyrics refer to the singer as a 'poor boy.'  I really dig "Tomorrow is Her Name," which seems like it's going to rip the Beatles' "Rain," but ends up sounding like a Beau Brummels tune instead.  The real flaw is that the B-sides dip into the realm of novelty filler, which isn't really a good idea on a four-song E.P.  "Christmas Sounds" is kind of groovy, but it's still a mildly schlocky X-Mas tune and is followed "Deck Five," another holiday tune that qualifies this E.P. to have Santa Claus, Jesus, or the both of them having an air hockey match on the cover.  The first E.P. enters the novelty sweepstakes with the mildly music hall "Leave That Baby Home."

I don't know, when I started listening this stuff sounded pretty groovy, but the more I listen to it, the more I want to put something else on.  Still, there are a few prime pop blasts for the ears of the retro-hipster.  I guess the guys would've shined best with those one or two A-sides lurking around on a disc of Nuggets.  I don't think they're on Nuggets - I've got the box set two feet away from me but it's under a large stack of Todd Rundgren and Philip Glass CD's and I'm too lazy to move them and check.

02 August 2012

The Holy Mackerel - 1968 - The Holy Mackerel

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

Urrg... resisting urge to use title... as exclamation... ahhh.... dammit!!!  Holy Mackerel!  This is a groovy album!  The man-engine powering this is Paul Williams, who was apparently a major singer/songwriter in the 70's whom this writer is admittedly unfamiliar with.  No matter - this stuff apparently doesn't sound like his 70's output anyway.  Instead, we get a pristine set of soft psych and sunshine pop, with a few early country-rock tracks invading the second half of the album.  The production and performances are A-list quality, and the songwriting more often than not matches that standard as well.  There's really no innovation or real experimentation here, but the band did a great job of grabbing onto the late 60's zeitgeist and letting it take them where they needed to go.

Well, the album starts great, and ends great, but there is a bit of poo in the middle.  The opening five-song run is pretty phenomenal pop.  I've got to tell that I did "Wildflowers" best with is wacky phased vocals and wanna-be sitar leads (is this perhaps the awesomely infamous Coral Electric Sitar?).  "The Lady In Waiting" gleefully tramples on Simon and Garfunkel's sonic ground, while the first two tracks could have had a death-match punch-out for who would be the king of the AM radio hit parade.  I guess they double KO'ed since you're now hearing about both of the at the Garage of Psychedelic Obscurities.  Then, the band takes a large crap in the middle of the album with the pointless spoken word "Prinderella," and "Bitter Honey," which aims for the Davy Jones vibe.  Unless you were Davy Jones, this is probably a bad idea.  "The Golden Ghost of Love" is a freaky bit of folksy sunshine pop, and the band uses a string arrangement on "!984," but it's not as groovy as the one on David Bowie's same-titled track several years later.  "The Somewhere in Arizona at 4:30am Restaurant Song (And Now I Am Alone)" (blimey 'ell, did I really have to type all that out?), "Nothin' Short of Misery," and "The Wild Side of Life" go directly for early L.A. cowboy country rock.  I guess they were a touch ahead of the curve on that, but none of it really managed to blow me away like the sunshine pop tracks did.

While not a perfect collection, The Holy Mackerel is an unjustly forgotten group of sacred fish.  With the exception of the two tracks of detritus lurking in the middle, the album is a pleasant listening experience through and through, and several of these tunes could've, should've been hits on your AM radio dial.

Note: There is a recent reissue that boasts another ten tracks or so.  I don't have it, but I imagine it's probably worth seeking out.  Oh, here it is: The Holy Mackerel

25 July 2012

Damaged Tape on Soundcloud

I finally got around to Soundclouding the most recent Damaged Tape releases.  You can listen to them here:

17 July 2012

Sunforest - 1969 - Sound of Sunforest

Quality: 3.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

Ever see "The Wicker Man?"  Not the newer one with the bees, and the bear suit, and crazy Nick Cage, but the 70's one with Christopher Lee.  Some of this music makes me think of that movie's creepy-groove folk.  I'd like to think that there's a naked woman banging on walls and singing some of the tunes here - but not all of them (like the ones with a dude singing).  Be forewarned, however, that this is a wildly inconsistent album. Although some of the tunes dabble in pristine sunshine pop, psych folk, and a few other points in between, there are an equal number of tracks that dabble in awful.  Let's see if we can parse those out.

Now let's get positive here.  There is an album lurking among these tracks that would give the Free Design more than a run for its money.  Go ahead and program these ones if you want to follow the doctor's prescription:  "Overture to the Sun," "Where Are You," "Be Like Me," "And I Was Blue," "Magician In the Mountain," "Give Me All Your Loving," and "All In Good Time."  Congratulations, you can now add an extra point, and maybe a touch more, to the quality rating.  These demonstrate what Sunforest does really well - ghostly sunshine folk at dusk that Stereolab must've spun a few times in their heyday.  "And I Was Blue" is the absolute "Nugget" here where everything comes together in the grooviest of witches' brew concoctions.  If you want to pad the time, feel free to throw in "Bonny River," "Lovely Day," and "Garden Rug."  They've got a slight touch of cheese but are still very enjoyable in the end.  Great Moondog!  Now we've got a prime 27.5 minute album, which would have been perfectly acceptable for 1969.

Then we've got "Mr. Bumble," "Lighthouse Keeper," "Old Cluck," and "Peppermint Store."  These songs sound much like you'd expect songs with these titles to sound.  It's not a pretty situation.  I've never made it through a few of these, unless I was playing Tetris Battle while listening - that shizzle's timed so you can't just break away.

Man, I tell you there is a classic here.  Just take advantage of the mp3 age and make yourself a groovy playlist.  Sunforest may have been missing a proper editor, but that can now be you.  No, you don't screw around with the track listings of "Sgt. Pepper's" or "Who's Next," but I think it's perfectly legitimate to screw around with the running order of "Sound of Sunflower."

High Wolf - 2011 - A Guide to Healing

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Here's a bit of a trifle - just twelve minutes of electronic tetrahedrons sparking neurons in your mind.  I can't even remember where this came from as I just stumbled upon it on my hard drive.  I imagine that I found it on the Weed Temple blog, which deserves your undivided attention if you're not already a fan.

Anyway, back to this particular guide.  Honestly, I'd probably head to some Indian classical, Alan Watts, or maybe something with throat singing and bells for the healing sound.  High Wolf take the route with a lysergic ice pick to the brain.  "Free You Energy Field" is just short of awesomeness.  Not to come in with too strong of a 'should-a would-a,' but I'll be damned if this wouldn't be a celestial drone on the order of Spacemen 3's "Ecstasy Symphony" if not for that damn bouncing, sequenced pulse.  Maybe a remix is in order?  It eventually fades out in the name of bongos, though, so that's cool.  "Swallow Pills With Ganges River Water" has a tighter hold on my attention.  It's percolations of liquid sound would've fit nicely a 80's Cannon Films spectacular with David Carradine or Steven Segal (if you're unlucky) heading into the deep forest on a spirit quest/ass-kicking tutorial.

High Wolf probably have a bandcamp site or something, but I'm too lazy to look for it.  You've got twelve minutes of time for this, though.  Yes, it's the cover art that drew me in - the music fits 63% of the way towards matching the cover.

10 July 2012

Sferi - 2012 - Sound of the Spheres

Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 5 out of 5

Howdy, everyone!  This is Dr. Schluss.  And when I want to trippily trip on down to Tripsville, nothing trips me out like this tripped out collection of trippy tunes!  The ambient onslaught of Sferi does a pretty fine job of bundling together several of my stranger obsessions.  Looking straight up at the title we've got the music of the sphere (er, 'sound'), so that's a check.  Not only does much of this sound like what they'd play for you in the planetarium to destroy your fragile, eggshell mind on the elementary school field trip, but a fair amount of it also sounds like what you'd hear in that dark, creepy room in the back with the dinosaur stuff.  And yeah, all of the psychedelic, world of sound crap that I usually ramble on about is perfectly present as well on this set of synthesized and found sounds.  At least that's what I think I'm hearing - I always dig music where I'm not quite sure what's going on.  I suppose my musical goal in the end is for extreme disorientation.  To me, that's the music of the spheres and that's what we've got on this set.

The tracks themselves take us on an ever evolving, orbiting journey on a trajectory out of the cosmos.  After some light industrial pummeling on "Merkur," Sferi goes the full Vangelis on "Venera."  Not that this is a problem.  If you're traveling into interstellar synth space, you'd be lost without your Vangelis and Sferi does that riff just as well as the bearded man himself did in his prime.  "Jupiter" is one of those tracks that tosses your brain onto a tray in the liquid nitrogen oven.  Getting back to the creepy dinosaur museum room, "Uran" puts your straight into that faux-primordial ooze before the cosmos finally opens up near the end of the track.  I dig everything here, but I'm not sure the delicate (if discordant) harpsichord tones on "Mars" quite live up to the god of war nomenclature.  But it's still perfectly groovy if you discount the title.

I'm down with Holst, but sometimes I want to glide through the solar system with a little less bombast.  This album is the place to be if space is the place for you and you're not in a Sun Ra mood.  The cover art is a touch geechy, but for the past ten years I've had random planetary stickers showing up in my guitar case, the back of my synthesizers, my suitcase, my backpack and so on.  I'm not sure where they cam from in the first place and I really don't know why they keep appearing.  I think I've thrown away Jupiter at least three times now.  Anyway, it makes me think of the album cover and I now think these events simply occurred to herald this album's appearance.  At least I think that's the simplest explanation.

You can download this collection at Sferi's bandcamp, which is here:
Sferi - 2012 - Sound of the Spheres

21 June 2012

Glaze of Cathexis - 2012 - Canyons in the Sonic Whirlpools

Movin' on to some more original music from the psychedelic garage.  The goal is to take you on a psychedelic journey through folk-rock, surf music, and straight up rock n' roll.  This set originated from the same sessions that produced I Often Dream of the Apocalypse, and again feature Gonzoriffic filmmaker Andrew Shearer drumming away.  I thought about making it double album length, but I'm more of a fan of shortish, 35-40 minute rock albums, so I split the tracks.  These tracks include all the work I did with my regular collaborator Scott Atkinson.  These are all his lyrics (as well as album artwork), so I'll present you with his strange, 13th Floor Elevators-inspired rant on the music:

Beyond the event horizon... beyond the border of the Unknown and Known... lies the Canyons of the Sonic Whirlpool.  The bustling, dark confines of a Saigon cafe - the mind's images turn into floating waterways of fluid Engroovied Mandalas.  Ceramic pots in a forlorn windowbay alcove above speak of high plains of Midnite Blue. Seizing the present moment in the shimmering light soars the Dream's Vision.  Patterns of creation and decay echo across the ancient tiled floor, motes of dust sparkling... Chromium Lightning blazes like an inspired demigod's trident.  Thoughts wheel in Hurricanes of Disorder, white horses flare on the seas in my mind... Waves of Moonlight shine... All becomes Sunflowers and Rainshowers in the primal gardens... call of the deepest Mekong beckons.  Bright voices of light read from the Akashic records beyond all delusion, the Inner Shaman's Guide to Perception proclaims Don't Stand Down... in Saigon in mossy alleyways and thick, soupy canals amid the flurry of racing Xe Oms, like points of light, we find ourselves bathed in light on the Turbid, Shingle Beach.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your comments, and if you dig the tunes, do share them!

19 June 2012

Lighthouse - 1971 - One Fine Morning

Quality: 3.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.25 out of 5

Well, I've got to admit that the buttons that Lighthouse press are not really the ones that send my spirit soaring.  First off, I'm not really a fan of "horny" rock - y'know, like Chicago or Blood, Sweat, and Tears.  Lighthouse has a very prominent horn section tootling away through much of the album.  They are also notable dabblers in the bar-band-blasting-with-a-blues-growling-white-dude sort of vibe.  There's nothing particularly wrong with what these Canadians were up to if the previous things are a few of your favorites.  Fortunately, there's also a touch of light psych to keep my attention.

So, for that little pinch of psych, check out "Little Kind Words" and "1849."  Still, they float around on poofy clouds of woodwinds and lounge swings that's a little bombastic for my tastes.  The seem to telepathically tune to their fellow Canadians in the Band on "Hats Off (to the Stranger" and Show Me the Way, but with lots of Rock of Ages horns, of course.  The opening tune and "Old Man" come forward with the full-scale jazz rock big band thing, while the closing "Sweet Lullaby" gets a little too big for its britches.

The very trippy album cover pulled me in, and now here I am writing about an album that I don't particularly like.  Still, Lighthouse does a pretty fine job of accomplishing what it set out to do.  If evoking Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears does get your heart all a flutter, then I think that you may be the sonic receiving candidate that this vinyl is waiting for.

30 May 2012

Sapphire Thinkers - 1968 - From Within

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for the candy-coated harmonies of sunshine pop, but the happiness, and often cheesiness, is typically too overwhelming for regular listening.  Sapphire Thinkers definitely has the sunshine harmonies right up front, but this is 1968 and starting to get a little late in the game for AM radio rainbows.  Perhaps prepping themselves for an afterlife on AOR, (which unfortunately never happened), the groop has a wonderfully beefed up command of their instruments, giving the music some power with shades of acid rock and harder psychedelia.  Yeah, this is still a confectionary, but there's a bit that you can sink your teeth into.

These fine fellows (and lady) seem to be at their grooviness while riding sunshine harmonies and fuzz guitar utop an organ groove.  Fortunately, we get plenty of that right up front with "Melancholy Baby," and a few more heaping servings of the vibe on "I Feel A Bit Strange," "Not Another Night," and "Blind With A Borrowed Light."  There's a fine interlude of trippy lite-psyche with the title track and "I Got to You," along with a wonderfulyl half-assed hippy jam out on "Doin' Alright."  The only time when the cup of cheese doth overrun may be on "Get Along Boy."

We're coming out of the synthesized aether for you city folk and this is a fine slab of neglected psychedelic sunshine pop.  The harmonies shine, the lead guitar is fuzzed out, and man, they've got a big organ!!!... wait, that doesn't sound quite right.

16 May 2012

Iasos - 1978 - Angelic Music

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

We'll send our spirits a little deeper into the aether of transcendental existence with this undeniably early new age effort from Iasos.  Now, I know 'new age' tends to be a bit of a dirty word, especially for us music heads, but this release has the fortune of coming out at magic moment when there genre was pretty much fully formed, but analog synthesizers and tape hiss dirtied up the sound's pristine face a little bit.  This really helps to humanize the music in a way that would end up mostly lost once John Tesh fired up his arsenal of keyboars, spewing them out onto sterile digital gloss.  Not so here: the tones will relax you, and perhaps mystically lobotomize you if you're into that sort of thing, but they also sound like they're oozing out of the misty primordial forest, and not sproinging off of the D.A.T. (anyone remember those?) of a middle-aged L.A. power hipster with sunglasses and a pony tail.  Still, you'd best ignore the cover art, which seems to have come from a Shopping Channel special on crystal angel sculptures.

The tracks are split right into two thirty minute long album sides.  You can care that the track titles are "The Angels of Comfort" and "Angel Play," but knowing that probably doesn't matter for a whole lot as the music's spinning.  The sounds will greet your ears with giant pads of synthetic string sounds and the occasional babbling brook.  My hook for the whole affair was reading the notion that some of those who have had near-death experiences have apparently equated this album with the sounds of moving on.  That's got to make the thing worth a listen in my book.

Once upon a time, I rippity rapped a bit about an older Iasos album on this blog.  Really, I've still got to give that one the distinction of being better, but I'd admit that this one is a little more profound.  Perhaps a touch more mind expanding.  It's straight out of the short, halycon era when 'new age' might have ended up with a place in the lexicon of groovy instead of the dustbin of the Nature Company.

Transmuteo - 2011 - Cymaglyphs

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.75 out of 5

Here's another spun sliver of ambient cosmic gold from the world of hissy cassette tape experiments.  Transmuteo trades in some extremely chill sounds, for the most part, this album sends the synthesized sequences to the background and pushes forwards with environmental and found sounds.  While there is a fair amount of interesting sonic sculpturing going on here, the main effect is best experienced as a sonic jaccuzi.  I bet the Dude could've thrown this one in his bathroom cassette deck once the songs of the whales had ended.

Although a few intentional tape glitches humanize the mix a bit, most of this just glides through like mental butter.  "Zone Temple" introduces us to a slow, synthetic sequence that serves as musical DNA and that the album will regularly revisit.  So, we'll just cut to the chase and target "Lightworker's Meditation," which also features a variation of the main motif.  The star attraction of this one, however, is the exceptionally trippy voice sample, giving meditation instructions to, uh, lightworkers, and insisting that we fill our upper tetrahedrons with stuff like indigo light.  What is a lightworker, anyway?  Are they just replacing street lamps or dancing the dimensional dervish twirl on another plane of there?  Can I be a lightworker?  The "Boards-of-Canada-on-downers" vibe drifts along into "Starseed," the next track as well.  But the whole album drifts along nicely, really.  Sometimes we get a touch of gamelan like in "Zion Hologram."

This is one of those discs geared at those of us looking for that out-of-body experience.  There's very little here that you can really gnash your teeth into, but if you're going to be into this sort of thing, that's probably the way you want it.  Transmuteo brews a light blend that simply wafts through the starshone tropical breezes.

They've got a website for this one over nyah:

01 May 2012


I'm doing groovy, but many of the links are not.  I'll star repairing links next week (out of town now), but if you're a reader of this blog and have been charmed by a certain album, I'd much appreciate it if you could supply a link in the comments for that review.  I've gotten back up a few of my recent Glaze of Cathexis ('I Often Dream of the Apocalypse' and 'Underground Sound') and Damaged Tape ('The Floating Existence' and 'Ambiguous Reality') albums, as well as some stuff like Mohave Triangles, Dementia and Hope Trails, Akiko Nakamura, and Stone Fox since those albums just happened to be on the flash drive in my backpack.  I've been music blogging long enough to know that this stuff happens, so keep it zen and we'll continue choogling along.  For the time being, dig on the reviews.

27 April 2012

Between - 1974 - Dharana

Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

     Between continues their decent down the rabbit hole here, cranking up their world fusion voltage on this LP.  I certainly wouldn't accuse these Germans of copying Mike Oldfield, but the dense walls of arpaggiated sound does echo some lessons learned from that artists "Tubular Bells."  Of course, here they relieve the tension by juxtaposing that sort of thing with tricks like throat singing.  The rugged krautrock vibes of their last album are played down here for a journey to the center of your soul.  You need to be up for a meditative ayahuasca space ride when you throw this one on the turntable (or more likely hit 'play' on your mp3 player).

     Again, the star of the show is probably the title track, running more than 20 minute and giving you the closest experience that you'll get to mind dancing with the Peruvian Amazonian shaman short of hiring a boat in that direction yourself.  "Joy... Sadness... Love" recalls a touch of Terry Riley-like oscillating organ set amongst a chant and flute led drone.  "Listen to the Light" presents us with a dew-dripped mind voyage into the primordial garden of delights, while the closing "The Voice of Light" is a stew of ambient sound and chanting that encases your being into warm carbonite.

     This music existed a few steps outside of typical existence when it was released, and it still sounds like it's being broadcast from a hyperspace cosmic bubble.  It's a very groovy thing to massage your mind and presents us with a intriguing alternate history of the boundless musical scene pulsing out of Deutschland in the early 70's. But what do I know?  I'm just sitting here slamming chu-hi and rambling about tones that you've just got to hear for yourself.

Between - 1973 - And the Waters Opened

Quality: 4.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

     This is an early effort in the fields of what we now call world fusion and new age.  The group originated from Germany and definitely had a hint of the krautrock vibe that emanated from acts like Popol Vuh, Can, and Tangerine Dream, but I wouldn't quite put this under the banner of krautrock.  Basically, the rock is missing.  Fortunately, this doesn't turn out to be a problem.  Between gives us some very groovy early ambient vibes and this music exists in that rarefied air when new age still had a worthwhile hangover from the hippy supernova of the late 60's and before it curdled into a layer of cheese.  Strange sound effects and tribal drumming run rampant here.

     The opening title track makes a strong case as the main event.  It comes across a little like the first couple of Popol Vuh albums, rife with percussive craziness but replacing the Moog tones with flutes, a touch of acoustic guitar at the end, and God knows what floating layers of sound to mark it as a minor masterpiece. With "Uroboros," the group takes us through an astral dream flyby of a caravan on the Silk road, while "Syn" brings in the bass synths to send warbling ripples through your mind.  I suppose "devotion" ranks as their echoing, should've been, would've been, chanting drum circle hit single in an alternate dimension.  The epic length "Happy Stage" and "Samum" make up a mini-suite that drops your wandering spirit into a ancient faux-Indian court where the blue smoke of sacred opium wafts through the air.

     This music exists at a happy crossroads that puts firm pressure on more than a few of my aural pleasure centers.  Hopefully it does the same for you.  The spinning reel-to-reel recording and the consultations from krautrock pioneers set it several squares apart from the saccharine bliss merchants that would come to define the new age sound by the mid 80's.  You can fill your ear with the real deal here.

04 April 2012

Damaged Tape - 2012 - The Floating Existence

There's no particular concept to this album, it's really just a set of psychedelic musings. Pretty much all of the music here spilled out rather effortlessly over the past few months. Making music for me never feels too much like work, but this one was even more fun and games. I think it helps that everything here is analog hardware (with the sole exception of the robotic voice on the first track), so I didn't have to endure any programming cyber-headaches. There's also more guitar present than on other Damaged Tape records - I honestly can't really play keyboard that well, but I can rock it funky on guitar. I've also included a few tracks with lead vocals, which is a first for Damaged Tape. If my music evolves, I'm happy, and I think this one has a somewhat different vibe from other sets I've done for the Damaged Tape project. Here's some track-by-track notes for your perusal:

1. Shadows of the Future - Probably the closest we get to this dance floor on this set. The opening sample is from Alan Watt's brain-blowing "Om" from "The Sound of Hinduism," which you'll find elsewhere on the blog. My image for the second half of the track is of a bunch of robots blasting you with lasers while pontificating on their robot philosophy.

2. Craters of the Sun - I sit around playing Tetris and listening to classical Indian music a lot. Of course, many of you know that I have a sitar obsession. Unfortunately, I don't have a sitar, so my electric guitar will have to do for this faux-raga.

3. Melted Into Angel Form - Here's another second solar track in a sort of mini-suite of hymns toward the sun. I was trying to get my Eno on a little more than usual for this one. If you can figure out what movie I based the lyrics on, then you may have ESP.

4. The Solar Petroglyphs - I guess this really makes more sense as a Glaze of Cathexis tune, but the track did start with the percolating synths and I like it here. The lyrics are a mixture of good and bad advice. It's up to you to parse out which is which.

5. Sharkfasting of the Wyld - It's a shojam! This one has kind of a weird swing that I don't think shows up in electronic music too much. You'll have to ask Scott what he's talking about on the track.

6. Bohemian Astronaut - Not quite a hippy in space - a little sharper than that. We'll dedicate this one to Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist who made it to the Moon during the Apollo program. Maybe that made him seem a touch bohemian amongst all the navy and air force dudes.

7. Tara Poets and Edo Priests - Or maybe it's the other way around as the file name says. Honestly, I sort of forgot. Hell, both ways are fine with me. Until Scott made his contribution, I had an unfortunate urge to name this track "The Hippy Revolution," but it has to be an exploitation revolution like you can see in the double feature DVD "Wild in the Streets/Gas-s-s-s"

8. Conversations With the Psychedelic Wyzard - All of these tracks started off with the file name "cheecream," but this one really earns its title. We've got a question posed by the lead synthesizer, and answer from the lead guitar, and another response from the synth over the course of the track. You can decide which one of these voices is the psychedelic, uh, wyzard.

9. Magnetic Vulcanology - The initial tune made me think of a synthesized communist anthem or something, and then I decided to do the Cookie Monster for the vocals. I don't think I can touch Tom Waits Cookie Monster impression, but I am a big fan of both of those iconic figures.

10. A Dedication of the Deserts - I may need to get Scott to post a bit about the intentions of his words. Although it is ostensibly about the deserts, I keep feeling that it's more of a peace, love, and tantric sex thing. I don't know, the artist is typically the worst person that you can ask, "So, what does it mean?"

11. Tribal Physics - I think I figured out how to make my Roland Juno 60 sound reasonably like a Fender-Rhodes electric piano - at least that's what I was going for. Something deep inside of me thought about naming this album "The Happy Bongo" as well. This track is further support for that idea.

As always, I'd love to hear your comments, and if you dig the sounds, you're welcome to repost. Let me know if you do.

Listen to me:

30 March 2012

Robert Fripp - 1980 - God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners

Quality: 5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 5 out of 5

I have a pretty weird perception of Robert Fripp. He most certainly ranks among my favorite guitarists, but I'm not into that much of his main project King Crimson, and even his solo albums tend to sound a bit spotty to me ("Exposure, " anyone?). The gold to my ears is when he's working with Eno, or Bowie, or the Talking Heads (whose leader David Byrne also appears here for one shining track). So, I find this amazing album to be Fripp's shining solo journey into transcendental sound. Much of the album revolves around Fripp's meditative, ambient Frippertronic guitar sound, but there are a couple of serious art rock ringers rearing their heads at the end.

Side one of the LP is completely devoted to deep space guitar explorations. You'll never remember what "Red Two Scorer," "God Save the Queen," or "1983" sound like, but you may very well dig the sonic journey anyhoo. It's of note that each track comes across a bit more menacing than the one before it.

Now I heard a Talking Heads song on the radio about ten years ago that completely blew my young, eggshell mind. I went on a hunt to find the damn thing, and even bought the Talking Heads horrific "Naked" album, hoping it would be there. Turns out that it's not actually a Talking Heads track, and in fact appears on this album as "Under Heavy Manners." David Byrne guest in a long, strange rant about '-isms' and jizm. His band was originally called the Artistics, which many people tweaked to the Autistics, due to Byrne's freaky stage manner. Anyway, this track has me thinking that maybe that name wasn't a joke. Closing out the set is "The Zero of the Signified," which hits us up with seven minutes of afro-beat groovin', followed by another wall of ambient Frippertronics.

I think this album has been greatly obscured by the dust storms of time, but it really does present Robert Fripp at his best, with a fine chaser of David Byrne at his most freaky-spastic. Give it a listen.

Hawkwind -1975 - Warrior at the Edge of Time

Quality: 5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.75 out of 5

I'd put this album up as the moment when Hawkwind were directly bathed by the cosmic rays of the celestial one-mind. Y'know, we need a good sci-fi way to call this their best album. Everything we need for prime Hawkwind is present and accounted for. Long-winded, psychedelic heavy metal anthems? Check. Weird, rambling Michael Moorcock spoken interludes? Check. Insane 70's analog synthesizers screamin? Check. Lemmy? Check. Yeah, in many ways Hawkwind was (or is, really) the real life Spinal Tap, but that equates to nothing but awesome on this platter.

Some of Hawkwind's most impressive, epic astral clouds of rawk show up on this record. "Assult and Battery" and "The Golden Void" sort of blur together into one heavy metal epic. "Mangu" and "Spiral Galaxy 28948" also pack in the Hawkwind punch in its pure, iconic form. The thing that really gets my groovy prog blood racing, though, are the sci-fi interludes from the amazingly named Michael Moorcock (aw ladies, you've gotta meet Moorcock backstage). I'd be perfectly happy to play you the trio of "The Wizard Blew His Horn," "Standing at the Edge," and "Warriors" until you COMPLETELY understand reality, or your brain falls out. Whichever happens first. At the end of the disc, we get a fun seven minute preview of Motorhead as "Kings of Speed" rock pretty wildly, and then we're treated to an outtake of Lemny black leather-howling called "Motorhead." Of course, he would soon leave the group via the drug ejector seat and form the real Motorhead. The only tune that doesn't really do it for me here is the acoustic-tinged psych ballad "The Demented Man." Hawkwind really shouldn't touch acoustic guitars.

This album is pretty much a psychedelic beacon standing tall amongst the wasteland of the mid-70's. Yeah, Hawkwind sound sort of ranks with the contemporary dinosaur band, but they rock it out in such a deranged manner that their hawk spirit is more one with the punk rockers. Anyway, this is an absolute psychedelic heavy metal masterpiece.

29 February 2012

Hawkwind - 1974 - Hall of the Mountain Grill

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Hawkwind's interstellar jets are in hyperspace on this LP, the band fresh off of its filling rattling success of the live "Space Ritual" (although I've never quite been able to get into that one since the bass seems out of tune through much of it - otherwise, it is quite groovy). David Brock continues to democratize the band with the other members contributing some fine, spaced-out ditties. The band leader riding shotgun didn't work out that well for Belle and Sebastian, and it definitely didn't work for Oasis, but Hawkwind ends up all the better for it. The sound is a little brighter and more psychedelic than the last album, which is also a big plus. Additionally, the electronics fit in much better now, instead of sometimes blaring at odds with the music.

The band comes out very consistent here, and all of the tracks have their high points. Of course, the classic Hawkwind sound is in full bloom in Brock's "The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear In Smoke)" and the hard-hitting, live "You Better Believe It." Here you get all of the pounding rhythms, acid guitar, floating mellotron, and stoned vocals you need in a potent brew. Nik Turner's "D-Rider" gives us a slightly different flavor of the Hawkwind spirit, while the title track and "Goat Willow" are fun sound paintings in minature. Of course, I've got a soft spot for Lemmy (even if it was HIS bass out of tune on "Space Ritual"), so "Poor Johnny" is notable for giving us some psychedelia in the groove while Lemmy warbles as if almost passed out on the floor, whiskey bottle in hand. The bonus tracks are live cuts from the same show as "You'd Better Believe It," and for my money this leaves us with a (give or take) 23 minutes live set that's superior to "Space Ritual." There's also a single version of "The Psychedelic Warlords," although it's not particularly essential.

This is a great snapshot of the band in its mid 70's, freaky, hairy prime. I'd tell you that it's their best, but the next studio album is even better. We'll get to that one soon.

24 February 2012

Hawkwind - 1972 - Doremi Fasol Latido

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Another year, another Hawkwind album. But it's really not quite that simple. Here the band is clearly settling into it groove, with the necessary piston power provided by the arrival of Simon King on drums, and rock god Lemmy on bass - ripping out the notes on his bass guitar whist being pulled in his black chariot across the brimstone of hell by a host of demons. The band begins to probe the further depths of psychedelic space

So here's the deal - your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to program the monster, acid metal barrages of "Brainstorm," Lord of Light," and "Time We Left the World Today" in a repeating loop and play it until your head explodes like that dude in "Scanners." "Space Is Deep" is also a very groovy mid-tempo psychedelic number with a catchier hook that you can dance to as you pick up the clumps of grey matter from the floor. Lemmy surprises us all with his quiet, down-tempo tune "The Watcher." I guess he hadn't yet consumed his first steak and whiskey for the day. There are again some great bonus tracks following the proper album. The single version of "Lord of Light" is relatively inessential, but "Urban Guerilla," "Brainbox Pollution," and "Ejection" all find the band rockin' away at their wild, club-smashing best. Science-fiction grand wizard Robert Calvert also shows up with some songwriting credits here, so I suppose it's the start of fusing Hawkwind with the cosmic soul with Michael Moorcock (ding dang, now that's a family name to have).

Almost all the pieces have fallen into place for Hawkwind on this disc. The band brings it all together on their next couple releases, but "Doremi Fasol Latido" is still solid enough to earn a spot as one of Hawkwind's first classic album. If you want to travel interstellar space as loudly as possible, then these are your old school homies.

Hawkwind - 1971 - In Search of Space

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

*This is a repost from a year ago - I've done a bit of editing to my review as we're now considering the bonus tracks on the CD as well.

Hawkwind has a giant, intimidating discography, and I have to admit that I haven't delved too deeply into it (well, maybe now I have) . I do know that I dig this album quite well. The live "Space Ritual" typically gets the love, but I find the sound on that one a little muddy, and Lemmy's bass seems to be out of tune for most of the album (not that this detracts from the awesomeness of Lemmy). I dig the slightly more focused, and better recorded intergalactic musings found here. The band has no problem entering a full on psychedelic heavy metal groove, and there are plenty of wild early synth sounds to keep my attention.

The album opens with the punk rock stomp of "You Shouldn't Do That." It's an absolutely essential track with plenty of wah-wah acid guitar, wild saxophone madness, and some electronic tones to penetrate into the deepest recesses of your brain. This is all capped with some great breathless vocal 'harmonies' making the song's title a mantra. Yeah, it's 16 minutes long, but that may very well be too short. The other classic on this disc is "Master of the Universe," which I suppose is the band trying to usurp Black Sabbath's claim of the title "Master of Reality." I don't know if they quite take down Ozzy, but the psychedelic sludge is a pretty even match and Tomy Iommi probably would have killed all of Hawkwind to steal the guitar riff if he had had the chance (dammit, I need to write about heavy metal more often). "We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago" is a meditation on if the band had focused on progressiv bluegrass I suppose, while "Adjust Me" is a wandering experiment that doesn't quite pay off. The CD adds some pretty worthy bonus tracks with the addition of the "Seven By Seven/Silver Machine" single. "Silver Machine" in particular finds the band with their atomic thrusters at full blast, heading directly into the sun of Ceti Alpha 5. It's a perfect mindstorm of psychedelic heavy metal. There's also a live take of "Born to Go," which captures the band at their pre-Lemmy punkiest.

At this point Hawkwind was sitting a point right in the middle of progressive rock, heavy metal, and psychedelia, and it was a pretty groovy place to be. I don't know if this is really Hawkwind's best effort, but it is one that I find myself listening to over and over again.