Monday, 6 August 2018


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“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Frances Hodgson Burnett


This is the opening track from the album KAZUASHITA, released earlier this year by Gang Gang Dance, who make odd global beats that fall somewhere between the sound of late period-Pink Floyd, The Orb, Sigur Rós and The Cocteau Twins, all of which makes for an album that seems to pursue beauty for its own sake, transcending genres with a focus on soft-core melodies and harmonic structures – it really is quite lovely, to say the least. Surprisingly, this melange of aural psychedelics is brought to you from New York and not downtown Jakarta, say, but their tribal rhythms channel sounds from across the globe without slipping into dreaded “world music” territory. I do the album no favours by simply playing this opening piece, and I may return to it one day for the show. In the meantime, I urge you to check it out.


I have it drift off into a track taken from WAYS OF SEEING, the most recent release from The Advisory Circle on which library music composer and mastering engineer Jon Brookes creates polished synth instrumentals which evoke a breezy modernism only slightly faded by age. Indeed, Brookes seems to have removed himself from the 70s, that era most beloved by your hauntologists, and planted himself in the 80s which gives him an entirely new palette to play with – New Romanticism awaits just around the corner.


Seeing Through The Invisible is a track taken from the 2016 A Year In The Country release FRACTURES, a gathering of studies and explorations that take as their starting point the year 1973; a time when there appeared to be a schism in the fabric of things, a period of political, social, economic and industrial turmoil, when 1960s utopian ideals seemed to corrupt and turn inwards. As a reaction to such, this was a possible high water mark of the experimentations of psych/acid folk, expressions of eldritch undertones in the land via what has become known in part as folk horror and an accompanying yearning to return to an imagined pastoral idyll. Looking back, culture, television broadcasts and film from this time often seem imbued with a strange, otherly grittyness; to capture a sense of dissolution in relation to what was to become post-industrial Western culture and ways of living.
Such transmissions and signals viewed now can seem to belong to a time far removed and distant from our own; the past not just as a foreign country but almost as a parallel universe that is difficult to imagine as once being our own lands and world.
FRACTURES is a reflection on reverberations from those disquieted times, taking as its initial reference points a selected number of conspicuous junctures and signifiers: Delia Derbyshire leaving The BBC/The Radiophonic Workshop and reflecting later that around then “the world went out of time with itself”. Electricity blackouts in the UK and the three day week declared; The Wickerman released; The Changes recorded but remained unreleased; The Unofficial Countryside published, and the terrifying public information film The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water released. All of which is captured by Seatman, a former member of the band Psylons, musician, DJ owner of some synths, records and all manner of old tat and always a tad lost.


Anton Barbeau plays "pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop." He's a Taurus, born in Sacramento and now living by a canal in Berlin. He's made something like 23 albums and has worked with members of XTC, The Soft Boys, the Bevis Frond, Cake, the Loud Family and Mystery Lawn label-mates, the Corner Laughers. Julian Cope got him stoned in Croydon once. His new album, NATURAL CAUSES, released earlier this year, is, by turns, quirky, melodic, whimsical and packed full of lysergic pop hits drenched in ancient Mellotrons, analog synths and 12-string guitars. If it had been made by anyone else he would no doubt be famous.


The title says it all, really. Rather than write a new tune, The Mirage simply rip off The Beatles’ Rain and stick some new words over it for this unreleased demo - which isn’t to imply that this isn’t a fantastic track because it is (in the same way that Rain is a fantastic track, I suppose). They weren’t allowed to get away with it, of course, and the track was re-arranged to sound more like The Who’s Happy Jack and placed on the b-side of their semi-bona fide pop hit The Wedding Of Ramona Blair in 1968. Doomed to be a foot-note in the London psych scene, The Mirage never got to release an album although their tracks can be found on TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS – THE POP SIKE WORLD OF THE MIRAGE: SINGLES AND LOST SESSIONS, released in 2006.


A short, trifling piece - but nonetheless pleasant for all that - taken from the soundtrack to the Czechoslovakian surrealist horror film, VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS. Although the film was made in 1970, the soundtrack wasn’t released until 2006, following a decade of Eastern European phone calls and continental crate digging by the semi-legendary Andy Votel. Scored by Czech composer Luboŝ Fiŝer, the soundtrack is something of a Baroque folk masterpiece, providing a fragile blend of pastoral orchestral folk songs and clockwork harpsichords to compliment the film’s phantasmagorical imagery. This is the sort of thing that one imagines the late Trish Keenan would have been playing at dinner parties (I know I do).


Where to begin? That’s his given name, for a start, so kudos to his parents (a biologist and Mongolian overtone chanter, I understand) – and Eggs And Soldiers…can there be a better song title? Doesn’t it bring your childhood rushing back, inhabiting your memories in the tradition of Barrett-esque psychedelic whimsy, with perhaps just a smidgen of They Might Be Giants thrown in for good measure? Cosmo Is an English multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer with a penchant for crafting quirky, loop-driven sound collages, inspirational and often nonsensical lyrics, and recording found objects in unusual environments, operating with a kitchen sink-style musical arsenal that includes banjo, loop station, keyboards, double bass, drums, penny whistle, sousaphone, and accordion, to name just a few. His debut album, THE MUCH MUCH HOW HOW AND I owes as much to (musician, composer, theoretician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments) Moondog and, indeed, Stravinsky as it does The Beatles and The Kinks and as such exists in its own self-contained world of eccentric, off-beat compositions that simply fly in the face of anything else you’re currently listening to. Really quite marvellous.


Another short, trifling piece – and, once again, nonetheless pleasant for all that – taken from the soundtrack to another surrealist Czechoslovakian film, this time the wonderful DAISIES, made in 1966. Rather like the soundtrack to VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS, the soundtrack to DAISIES (or to give it its correct name SEDMIKRÀSKY) was previously unprepared for public consumption and taken from the original reels, released in 2007 (I believe that we once again have Andy Votel to thank). Generally regarded as a milestone of the Nová Vlna movement, the film is a glorious example of experimental cinema, psychedelic cinematography, baroque costumes and scenery, music and graphic design. Released two years before the Prague Spring, the film was subsequently labeled as "depicting the wanton" by the Czech authorities and banned. The soundtrack features an erratic score which consists of the juxtaposition of various non-melodic elements and sound effects, laden with a broad palette of samples and snippets of choral and classical vintage recordings spliced with concrete effects, traditional brass band music, Disney style exotica, Charleston dance standards and token 60s beat tracks. It’s actually rather wonderful – one of the most psychedelic films ever made and certainly one of my favourite films ever.


For their most recent release, A Year In The Country – a website dedicated to exploring/examining work that takes inspiration from the hidden and underlying tales of the land, the further reaches of folk music and culture and where such things meet and intertwine with the lost futures, spectral histories and parallel worlds of what has come to be known as hauntology – has focussed its attention on the semi-mythical, and most-likely entirely made-up SHILDHAM HALL TAPES – a series of recordings inspired by a lost cinematic project purported to have taken place at a country mansion in the late sixties. The fragments of footage and audio that still exist seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter-culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter-culture and elements of the underworld. Gavino Morretti also appears to be an entirely fictional, little known Italian film composer who produced soundtracks for many European and American low-budget films – almost exclusively in the horror and science fiction genres in the 1980s. In hauntological terms, this is almost a perfect match.


Another gorgeous track from Nathan Hall’s TUNGUSKA TYDFIL, an album awash with a gentle psychedelic numinosity. The baroque flourishes at the heart of The Phoenix Of Albany Road have something of George Harrison’s Piggies about them, but the wistful, bucolic charm of this track replaces the misanthropy at the heart of that song with a sweet sense of yearning for something not entirely lost. In many ways, this is the essence of TUNGUSKA TYDFIL – the album is imbued with a poignant sense of nostalgia; sometimes rueful, sometimes celebratory, almost hauntological in fact; the lyrics reflecting fractured memories offset by exquisite instrumentation and playful melodies. I didn’t quite get this album when I first heard it – I felt it lacked an underlying cohesiveness – but repeated listens reveal an album very much at home with itself and one of my favourite releases of the year.


This children’s rhyme, spoken by Devonshire schoolgirl Dianne Endicott, is taken from the album FIELD TRIP – ENGLAND, compiled by Jean Ritchie, iconic folk singer and dulcimer player from Kentucky, who, in 1952, received a Fulbright scholarship enabling her to travel to the British Isles to trace the origin of her Kentucky versions of songs and compare them with British versions. During the course of her travels, she and husband George Pickow, with the assistance of prominent British folk song authorities, made many field recordings, some of which appear on this album. The collection includes old British ballads, drinking songs, children’s songs and games, handbell ringing, dance tunes, lyrical love songs, and an excerpt from a Mummers’ Play. Released in 1960, it is now a fascinating document of a time long gone.


Earworm loveliness from twins Paul and Barry Ryan, who enjoyed some small success in the 60s as the clean-cut sons of their rather more famous mother Marion Ryan. This track is the b-side to their 1968 release Pictures Of Today which was, I believe the last single they released together. The split amicably shortly thereafter with Paul embarking on a songwriting career while Barry recorded as a solo act. If you’ve heard of them at all it’s probably because of their one hit record Eloise, penned for Barry by Paul, which was something of a worldwide hit (and covered by The Damned, of course).


Jay Tausig is a multi-instrumentalist with a penchant for playing your space-prog-rock with jazz overtones, although recently he’s focus has moved from a love-affair with Gong and Hawkwind, say, into a more Krautrock / Psychedelic / Folk realms direction which, as you might imagine, sits very nicely with me. Elevated Observations is taken from a compilation album released by the wonderful Fruits de Mer record label, RE-EVOLUTION: FdM SINGS THE HOLLIES, released in 2012, on which they invited artists on their roster to imagine what The Hollies would have sounded like if they'd spent more time East of Darlington, Graham Nash hadn't packed his kaftan and left for the West Coast and EMI had given them all unlimited time in Abbey Road, unlimited quantities of drugs and unlimited access to Norman Smith. The Hollies, of course, were always slightly embarrassed about their flirtation with psychedelia (Graham Nash notwithstanding), preferring a pint of beer with the lads, but Elevated Observations, taken from their 1967 release BUTTERFLY, all backward cymbals, tape loops and primeval Moog noodling, is the perfect fit for Tausig’s sitar-laden odyssey.


Swiss multi-instrumentalist Balduin’s most recent album, BOHEMIAN GARDEN, released last year, is an absolute gem of kaleidoscopically arranged psych-pop loveliness, featuring baroque arrangements with SMILE-era Brian Wilson production wizardry. The result is an album tripped out wonder and dreamy introspection that puts one in mind of pretty ballerinas dancing atop rococo jewellery boxes hidden away in dusty attics lit by kaleidoscopic rays of light filtered through cobwebbed stain-glass windows.


The enchantingly playful Daddy Longlegs is taken from album SEEDS, FLOWERS AND THE MAGICAL POWERS OF THE DANDELION, the second LP by whimsical Australian pagan folksters The Dandelion in 2015. It’s a collection of musical spells projecting images of galactic space travel, pagan witchcraft, love, ethereal energies and a blend of east meets west rhythms and melodies. It’s an enchanting mix, featuring lush textures of fuzzed out guitar, menacing circus organs, sitar flourishes and airy flute lines that are both familiar and incredibly foreign. It’s good – I like it.


This is the dainty pretty one on an album that’s otherwise snarling proto-punk, proto-glam and proto-heavy rock. Alice Cooper’s second album was pretty much proto-everything. They could have gone in any direction (they’re still playing around with some psychedelic tropes) but, of course, they went heavy. Released in 1970 EASY ACTION was a critical and commercial failure but this was the album that laid the foundation for the rise of one of the most controversial and spectacular rock n’ roll bands of the 70’s, as well as one of the most recognised and acknowledged rock legends of all time. SCHOOL’S OUT was two years away.


In the early 70's Kennelmus was Arizona's only psych/surf band. Their only album, FOLKSTONE PRISM, released in 1971, is an aural trip coloured with dreamy acoustic strumming, mutated surf guitar, a percussion line lifted from Tomorrow Never Knows, trippy segues, backward instrumentals, found sounds, vocal gibberish, low-tech electronics and a fake radio newsreel. Side one is mostly instrumental, side 2 has the songs, although the album appears to be conceived as one long piece. Originally released as a vanity run of a thousand copies, the band had trouble even giving these away and their unique take on blistering psychedelia was lost to the baked desert sands – although you did get the impression that a nascent Butthole Surfers must have owned a copy.


This is an absolute cracking b-side to the otherwise largely forgettable single Pumping The Water, released in 1969. He was one of those artists who couldn’t get arrested in England but who found success in the likes of Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands (where he appears to have been better known as Dan the Banjo Man).


Swedish psych-folk project ME AND MY KITES was born in the spring of 2012, and from what I understand some 20 musicians from a number of different bands contributed to what would be Me and My Kites debut album, LIKE A DREAM BACK THEN, which was released in 2013. NATT O DAG, released earlier this year, is their third album and one very much at home to their influences – Caravan, Fuchsia, Kevin Ayres and The Soft Machine, to name just a few, are all present and this is no bad thing, of course. As is often the case with your Nordic acid-folk, the songs have an autumnal warmth to them - keyboard instruments like the Mellotron, piano and electric harpsichord are allowed space to breathe, the arrangements are elegant, the production lush, and at some points on the album you have up to 10 people harmonizing and the effect is dazzling. Lovely album.


Jon Hopkins can do squelching techno, but on his most recent release, SINGULARITY, released earlier this year, he takes us, instead, on an altogether different journey – a spellbinding psychedelic trip that takes in highly intricate, glitchy beats and combines them with an organic, and even classical sensibility. It’s a gorgeous trip, and a deeply introspective one – at points along the way you will lose yourself in moments of transcendent beauty, like on the mesmerizing Feel First Life which comes close to a religious experience by working with the London Voices choir.


Tuluum Shimmering (Jake Webster to his mum) is something of a one-man transcendental-ambient-drone band whose loop-driven music enjoys a timeless ethnic quality, but not one you’d be able to assign to any region of tradition. His most recent release, THE ONE THAT TOUCHED THE SKY is essentially one long piece divided into two parts, although one of those parts comes in at slightly over an hour or so. Recorded onto a 4-track cassette recorder for an added hauntological feel, The One That Touched The Sky Pt. 2 is the shorter of the two pieces (it comes in at a lean 30 minutes) and features homemade tamboura, various flutes, Roland digital piano, hand drums, vocals, Tibetan singing bowl, snake charmer, rattle and saxophone run, via a mixer, through a multi-FX pedal into a 30-second looper, and out to an amp. It’s an extraordinary sound – almost entirely meditative, so enjoy losing yourself in this one.


The House is taken from album WELCOME STRANGERS, released earlier this year, the second album by Scottish band Modern Studies, and a curiously compelling affair it is too, presenting modern pop music as something that 60s chamber-pop may have evolved into had it made its way to Perthshire. Classicism meets experimentalism - the band used a Creative Scotland grant to hire a chamber orchestra and a remote village hall to record them in, and contributors include sisters, wives, toddlers, freeform saxophonists and The Pumpkinseeds, an ensemble featuring violins, violas, cellos, trombones and vocals, brought together to play the band’s collaborative string, brass and vocal arrangements. The songs are unconventional, sometimes anthemic, sometimes exotic; trippy Mellotron and eastern percussion give way to flashes of gypsy violin, deeply resonant cello and booming sousaphone, jangling guitar to quietly stirring orchestral arrangements – it’s an album equally at home to Kate Bush as it is Broadcast, awash with moments of askew pastoral pop grandeur.


Back in the day, of course, no one knew they were recording ‘acid folk’, it’s an appellation that was attached retrospectively to describe folk that had passed through the blender of the 60s and come out the other side with some psychedelic adornments attached – but it may have been invented to describe the music of Keith Christmas. Christmas recorded five albums in the 70s – Forest and Shore is taken from his 1971 release, PIGMY – but he was doomed to remain in the shadows. Orchestrated by the great Robert Kirby it has a deep, wooded sound that places it somewhere between a Ligeti choral piece arranged by Vaughan Williams (or perhaps the other way round) and is as sublime a piece of pastoral-psych that you are ever likely to hear. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018


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The new release from A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY, called THE SHILDAM HALL TAPES, is an aural delight to lose yourself in. Inspired by a lost, semi-mythical film from the late 1960s, set in a country mansion in the English countryside, the notes that accompany the release add the following intriguing account:
                 Amidst rumours of aristocratic decadence, psychedelic use and even            possibly dabbling in the occult, the film production collapsed, although it is said that a rough cut of it and the accompanying soundtrack were completed but they are thought to have been filed away and lost amongst storage vaults.
The fragments of footage and audio that have appeared seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter-culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter-culture and elements of the underworld.
The Shildam Hall Tapes takes those fragments as its starting point and imagines what the completed soundtrack may have sounded like; creating a soundtrack for a film that never was.
Of course, this may be something of a hauntological prank, as the internet remains strangely quiet about an aristocratic seat under the name of Shildham Hall, or any otherly goings-on therein, but this makes it the perfect vehicle for the equally mysterious Vic Mars, about whom little is known other than that he seems to be responsible for a number of audiological musings inspired by nostalgic memories of a childhood in rural Herefordshire. I’ve squeezed the track between the intro to a short documentary I recently came across that discusses the trans-dimensional concept of E-8 - a weird, 8-dimensional mathematical object that for some strange reason appears to encode all of the particles and forces of our 3-dimensional universe - as a less theoretical alternative to string theory, which somehow fits his spectral electronica like a pair of much loved driving gloves. You can check out his other works here and more about the very fine A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY project here. You’ll just have to take my word for it regarding E-8.


Point Me At The Sky, released in 1968, remains one of Pink Floyd’s lesser-known singles, released in that difficult transition period between Syd’s departure and the band finding a new direction that focussed more on spaced-out, exploratory album releases and experimental soundtracks. An early collaboration between Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters, it was rather superseded by its b-side, Careful With That Axe, Eugene, which was later included on two different Pink Floyd albums and played regularly at concerts throughout the early 70s. These days they seem rather embarrassed by it, apparently having produced it under duress from the record label to continue producing the sort of catchy psychedelic whimsy that Syd was famous for. It has a gentle, Barrett-esque, sense of childlike-wonder to it before blasting off into a heavy section that would have been quite at home in 1968, but it failed to chart and I understand it was the last non-album single the band ever released.


Following on from Pink Floyd, there’s a connection here to Chimera, whose legendary lost masterpiece of late '60s acid folk/baroque psychedelia, the unreleased 1969 album HOLY GRAIL, was partly produced by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason who, like Rick Wright, makes a cameo appearance. Consisting of cousins Francesca Garnett and Lisa Bankoff, the two girls were discovered in Rome in 1968 while playing a festival by Wright who agreed to manage them. Song In E is the perfect introduction to the band – acid folk loveliness combined with baroque embellishments and studio experimentation to produce an album of dreamy, pastoral weirdness. Due to record company going’s on, the album was never released at the time and remained shelved until 2017. Future Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Weston also stars.


A trifling little piece of filler, but none the less pleasant for all that, taken from the album MUSIC FOR CHILDREN (‘SCHULWERK’), out of print since 1958, but recently re-released by the very fine Trunk Records which excels at this sort of thing. Originally conceived in the early 1930s at Günterschule in Munich - a progressive institute where physical training and eurhythmics were practised with a view to co-ordinating the development of children’s minds and bodies - MUSIC FOR CHILDREN is a series of practical examples of songs, rhythmic exercises, instrumental pieces and speech training designed to enable the children to express themselves fully and freely. Trees and Flowers is a speech exercise whereby the names of trees and flowers are used to demonstrate the rhythm, sound and meaning of the words - the gentle daffodil contrasts with the prickly blackthorn, for example. You get the impression that Broadcast, and the late Trish Keenan in particular, grew up listening to this sort of thing.


Pastoral loveliness from Jim Ghedi, taken from his most recent release, A HYMN FOR ANCIENT LAND, an album imbued with the subtleties of nature, place and space. Ghedi is a 6 & 12 string guitarist and folk singer whose work explores connections to the natural environments and heritage of rural communities and landscapes across the British Isles, including the village in which he grew up along the Yorkshire/Derbyshire borders. Inspired by long rambles through the woodlands around his home in Moss Valley (near to where Derbyshire turns to South Yorkshire), the combination of gorgeous fingerpicking and verdant orchestration has an arcadian air that’s equal parts Bert Jansch and Robert Kirby. The bucolic ambiance of Fortingall Yew is dedicated to the oldest known living tree in the UK, a 2,000 - 3,000 year old senior tree located in the churchyard of the village of Fortingall in Perthshire.


Lady June, née June Campbell Cramer, was a Bohemian artist and poet who was something of an honorary member of the Canterbury set. Numerous musicians lived and hung out in her flat in the Maida Vale area of London, which is most famous as the place where a drunken Robert Wyatt fell out of a window, paralyzing him from the waist down in 1973. Her debut album, LADY JUNE’S LINGUISTIC LEPROSY, released in 1974, is an eccentric collection of odd, whimsical, and rather surrealistic spoken poems, delivered in a quirkily aristocratic manner. Produced and arranged by long-time friend Kevin Ayers, it also features contributions from Brian Eno and pioneering electronic musician David Vorhaus (of White Noise fame – although I use the term ‘fame’ lightly). It’s an extraordinary melange of semi-spoken pastiche and nonsensical nursery rhyming that’s very much of the countercultural scene time, but oddly moving in its own way. One suspects we’ll not see its like again.


New York’s Lake Ruth features English folk quartet’s The Eighteenth Day Of May’s Allison Brice on vocals, which makes me ridiculously happy for a start. Long disbanded now, they favoured Fairport Convention’s debut album as their starting point, with Brice their Judy Dyble. Lake Ruth cast their net a bit wider, taking in 1960's sonic experimentation, baroque psychedelia, library obscurities, vintage pop noir, Giallo soundtracks, krautrock and jazz and are as fine as that list suggests. They are not without a certain folk inclination, however, and are heard here offering up a frankly gorgeous interpretation of the traditional Shetland ballad The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry for last year’s NEW AND IMPROVED ACTIVE LISTENER SAMPLER, on which Allison Brice’s voice haunts like a cooling memory across a fevered dream.


Lisa Knapp’s album TILL APRIL ID DEAD: A GARLAND OF MAY is, quite simply, an astonishingly beautiful soundworld of waywardness and invention. I’ve not heard anything quite so enchanted for a long time. Essentially a celebration of May - its songs, dances, fertility rites and wyrdlore – the album combines traditional folk songs with found sound, acoustica and electronica to create something that is steeped in the timelessness of tradition and yet somehow outside of time. Till April Is Dead is wonderfully strange, existing somewhere between Kahimi Karie’s more outré experiments and Broadcast’s analog pastoralism: various aphorisms and proverbs concerning the season are layered and looped over and around each other. Sayings from French, German, Spanish, Gaelic and English folklore become entwined simple plucked strings before Knapp sings a lighter than air rendition of Hal-An-Tow, a song made famous by the Watersons and the Albion Band. Bewitchingly delightful.


Or A Tongueless Man, according to the helpful, bilingual lyric sheet that accompanies this shimmering peach of an album, the Cornish language LE KOV, released earlier this year by the fairly wonderful Gwenno Saunders. (“Look, papa, a peach…shimmering”). The joy of the album is that you don’t need to speak Cornish to understand that you're listening to something special – in fact, if you did, you’d be one of about a thousand people left who do speak Cornish. Instead, LE KOV, which translates as ‘place of memory’, is a luminous album, glimmering with a psychedelic iridescence that takes in Serge Gainsbourg, White Noise (again), Cornish folk singer Brenda Wootton and Broadcast (again), that transcends language and speaks instead to that mythical Lyonesse of the heart.


More winsome weirdness from the lovely Lisa Knapp


Hailing from the French proggy, psychedelic and experimental pop scene that birthed Melody’s Echo Chamber and Moodoïd, Halo Maud's ethereal songs flit between English and French language, which combine playful loops and percussion with lush French dream pop. Pulling from the yé-yé acts of the 1960s and injecting that chanson spirit into the world of synth-driven pop and psych-infused electronica, multi-instrumentalist Maud Nadal sound is not, in fact, a million miles away Gwenno’s spacey strange melodies, so you can see the attraction, although Halo Maud injects a darker, torch song ambiance to her songs – DEBUT-era Bjork and Francois Hardy also work as familiar touchstones. Je Suis Une Île (‘I’m an Island’) is the title track from her debut album, released earlier this year, and deliciously deconstructs an earlier single (Du Pouvoir/Power) by playing it backward to gloriously disorientating effect.

THE SILVER FUNZ    BIRCH (betula sp.)
ARIANNE CHURCHMAN     FOXGLOVE (digitalis purperea)
PAPER DOLLHOUSE     GORSE (ulex europaeus)
MARY STARK     LAVENDER (lavandula angustifolia)

I’ve conflated these four tracks into one continuous piece, as each last only some 90 seconds and work best when listened to as a whole. They’re taken from the album THE FOLKLORE OF PLANTS VOLUME 1, released last year by Folklore Tapes, an open-ended research project exploring the vernacular arcana of Great Britain and beyond. The driving principle of the project is to bring the nation’s folk record to life, to rekindle interest in the treasure trove of traditional culture by finding new forms for its expression. For this release, they explore the myths, plant lore and symbolic language of the UK’s native flora over 31 songs in styles that include ambiance, drone, folk, spoken word and abrasion. In addition to the LP, the contents include two pamphlets, a postcard, a packet of seeds, and a link to a short 16mm film.  The package is filled with historical value, medical advice, sonic beauty and who knows - perhaps flowers, perhaps a tree - only time will tell.


Revbjelde (pronounced REV-BA-JELD) are a multi-instrumental band from Berkshire who inhabit a sonic landscape of woozy rustic psychedelia that’s part 70s British folk horror and part kosmiche folk, filtered through a glorious floral pageantry of village recitals, pagan prayer and mayday follies. Their debut album, THE WEEPING TREE, released earlier this year, is both mysterious and beautiful, effortlessly shifting between the ethereal to freak-folk experimental improvisation, industrial electronics, field recordings, ethnic percussion, tape loops, jazz excursions, and cosmic spaced-out breakdowns – all without ever losing a pastoral cohesiveness. It really is that good – possibly my album of the year.


It’s always a cause for celebration in these here parts when Jon Brooks delivers a new release from The Advisory Circle. WAYS OF SEEING is an affectionate and absorbing hauntological study based around the theme of photography, inspired by late 70s and early 80s library music. It’s a truly beautiful thing to behold, with Ghost Box’s Julian House producing one of his most gorgeous sleeves yet - the elegantly simple artwork and typography, reminiscent of 80s photographic manuals and magazines, is rendered on metallic gold foil packaging. I mention this because with Ghostbox, like 4AD or Factory records before it, the packaging is every bit as important as the music contained within. It’s a meticulously produced and melodically rich affair that owes more to the 80s than previous works (Duran Duran have been cited) with a familiar sense of English reserve and pastoralism. I, as ever, am drawn to those curious tracks that remain ever-inspired by government information films, Open University documentaries and “what’s through the arch window?” mysticism.


Swedish folk duo Us And Them create a dreamy cover of Kevin Ayres’ Lady Rachel on their new album ON SHIPLESS OCEAN, a record laced with beautifully mellow psychedelic folk quite at home to comparisons with Sandy Denny, Donovan, Bert Jansch, Vashti Bunyan, and, indeed, Grantchester Meadows/Cirrus Minor-era Pink Floyd, say. Now filled out with bucolic string and woodwind arrangements plus added Mellotron, Lady Rachel throws everything into the mix - Mellotron, Moog, mixed percussion, acoustic and electric guitars produce a sound that seems to bend colour.


 If ever a band deserved the soubriquet ‘60s beat combo’, it was The Deejays, a band who only begun to transcend their origins as London mod/freakbeat rockers towards the end of their career, but did so with the rather excellent Striped Dreams Checked Fear from their second album, HAZE, released in 1967. Unable to get arrested in England, they relocated to Sweden in 1963 where they spent the next five years finding fame and fortune releasing covers of the material their more successful peers were producing back home in England. They never really gained any recognition outside of Sweden but I understand that they’re remembered quite fondly there.


Band-leader Matt Piuci seems to have some pedigree in LA’s Paisley Underground but of this I know little – I was never a fan of that scene, despite completely getting their reference points, and I pretty much ignored it and continue to do so now (weird, I know, but, hey…). To some extent his current project is not a million miles away from that sound (or least one version of that sound) - melody-rich, texturally-complex, psychedelic pop that owes as much to Big Star as it does Gram Parsons-era Byrds but Chesterene, the opening track from the album I LOVE YOU ALL THE ANIMALS, really stands out, reminding me Gorky's Zygotic Mynci covering ABBEY ROAD. Make of that what you will.


How blessed we are to have a second album by Nathan Hall and his Sinister Locals so soon after last year’s MUTE EFFIGIES. TUNGUSKA TYDFIL is, at first listen, a less realized album, as if he were emitting lysergic melodies and had to get them down on tape as quickly a possible, but repeated listens reveals an… eclectic 16 track record that has influences as disparate as the incidental music to ‘Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)’, ‘Red River Rock’ by Johnny and the Hurricanes, Ghost folk, Early post Syd Pink Floyd, the manic harpsichord flourishes of DA CAPO-era Love, deranged Circus music, Ghost town pianos, Spoken Word sound collages and Procul Harum – which is pretty much as fab as it sounds -  but for me, Carnival Of The Damned is the stand-out track, channelling as it does (to these ears) the spirit of Ennio Morricone with Hall’s very own Soft Hearted Scientists’ Isabella (Keep Riding The Road To The Sea). Splendid, and ever so slightly creepy.


SUPERNATURAL AFTERNOON, released last year, is essentially a compilation of recent recordings and digital singles released over the past 20 years or so, but it sounds like a cohesive work in its own right and stands as a proper album as opposed to a random selection of 45s tracks. The Green Pajamas have been releasing records for some 30 years or so now, but can they ever have released a single as elevated as the sublime January Girl? (Hint: yes, but I particularly like this track).

ENTOURAGE     DAYS (early version)

Entourage, also known as The Entourage Music and Theatre Ensemble, were a deeply experimental band and something of a performance arts collective, often accompanying dance and theatrical productions or joined onstage by dancers. This early version of Days, which originally appeared on their 1976 release THE NEPTUNE COLLECTION (famous, if that’s the right word, for being sampled by Four Tet on his track She Moves She) sounds like a lost krautrock classic by way of John Cale or La Monte Young. It can be found on the album CEREMONY OF DREAMS, released earlier this year, a collection of outtakes, alternate takes, or partial demos of tunes later completed by the full band. Their compositions crisscross jazz, minimalism, classical music, global folk traditions, and improvisations in a hybrid fusion of their own creation that are able to weave the melodies of Iraq with the moodiness of Country & Western should they wish – which they often do. Entourage really does sound that cool.


Ex-Debs are two ex-punks from Oregon who grew tired of all the screaming and yelling about shit and were looking for a way to make something melodic without turning into a good-time party band. Their 2016 release VIEWER.PICTURE, a cassette-only release but now available on Bandcamp, combines organ, drums and singing with live dub effects thrown into the mix and sounds not dissimilar to Tuxedo Moon had they been gigging around Bristol in 1979, say. Lo-fi tunes made with a D.I.Y. post-punk sensibility, in fact.


Recorded during their imperious psychedelic phase as the b-side to Dear Prudence, circa 1984’s HYAENA, when The Cure’s Robert Smith was brought in to replace John McGeogh, (There’s A) Planet In My Kitchen, sounds like a record entirely indebted to LSD. Playfully experimental, I could never really be doing with it at the time, but having played The Beatles’ Dear Prudence on last week’s show, I was reminded of its existence so gave it a spin for the first time in, ooh 34 years, and was pleasantly blown away by its vibe. There’s not much to be said about it, but one can imagine the band sitting in Siouxie’s kitchen, tripping balls on some California Sunshine and just jamming the song into shape - a jazzy, lysergic affair, ever so slightly beholden to THE FAUST TAPES but none the worse for that.


By the time the arch-drude came to record his neo-pagan masterpiece JEHOVAKILL in 1992 he was immersed in a Neolithic headset, using newly found insights to expose the clash between Christianity and Paganism, social and gender conflicts, the ills of modern society, ecology, and extraterrestrial contact. Starry Eyes was originally recorded for the Fear loves This Place EP, the only single released from the album, although it later appears on the JEHOVAKILL deluxe edition that was released in 2012. I actually play the first part of it backward, on which Copey bemoans the plight of the city dweller (albeit, the city dweller in New York) before giving us a quick précis regarding the mythology surrounding Neolithic temples across the UK. This eventually resulted in two magnificent tomes in which he explores megalithic Europe, but that would be later. For now, I leave you here.