|Thee Oh Sees|
2015 saw a muscular follow up to the more trippy songs of their debut album, Songs Of Lies And Deceit, from the Lucid Dream who after several years of hard work were now starting to get noticed while Föllakzoid continued with their ongoing mission to seek out new life and civilization and blow their minds with III, their imaginatively titled third album. Elsewhere there was as return to form from Thee Oh Sees with a blistering album Mutilator Defeated At Last. Following last year’s slightly disappointing Drop, Thee Oh Sees released a stunning record of face melting Psychedelic Punk Blues and warped Acid Rock which is their best record for a few years and gets our vote for The Best Album Of 2015. Mixing together skewed psychedelia like the acid soaked ‘Sticky Hulks’ and ‘Holy Smokes’ with brutal sonic assaults such as ‘Withered Hand’ and ‘Lupine Ossuaary’, Mutilator Defeated At Last is a Psychedelic Rock tour de force that totally blew us away from the first listen……….in a year when there have been very few really great Psych Rock records, Thee Oh Sees album is an absolute corker and it is pretty obvious that this is one of our Five Favourite Records Of 2015.
We were first introduced to Jacco Gardner’s giddy psychedelic baroque and roll with his 2013 album Cabinet Of Curiosities which harked back to the late 60s psychedelia of Nirvana, The Zombies and 23rd Turn Off by combining the sounds of harpsichord, strings, flutes and other classical instruments with raw psychedelic effects. It was a brilliant record and was heaped with well deserved critical acclaim. Now signed to Full Time Hobby which seems a perfect fit as it is also the home of bands like The Smoke Fairies, Diagrams and Tuung, 2015 saw the release of his much anticipated second full album. We thought it would be impossible to create an album more lush sounding than Cabinet Of Curiosities but Jacco Gardener has managed that and followed it up with the quite beautiful psychedelic masterpiece Hypnophobia………it’s an album that uses the studio as an instrument and one that sonically seduces the listener, drawing you deep into a world of exquisite Psychedelic Pop, gentle Psych Folk soundscapes, and sweeping orchestrations. It’s an absolutely wonderful record and possibly the best actual psychedelic record of 2015, watch the video for ‘Find Yourself’ here.
One of the trends we noticed this year is that the 60s appear to finally be over and there are more psychedelic bands finding inspiration in 1970s “classic rock” sounds rather than the tripped out scene of the previous decade.......we are now in a post Altamont world where Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Pentagram and Iron Butterfly are the new Gods. Led by Isaiah Mitchell of Earthless, Golden Void’s “sound” falls somewhere between early 70s influenced Acid Rock and Neil Young’s sonic adventures with Crazy Horse…..a heady brew of tripped out Psychedelic Rock mixed with a muscular backbone of exhilarating post-psychedelic Hard Rock sensibility that creates the perfect balance of powerful riffs, soaring melodies and hazy atmosphere on Berkana, their sophomore album on the Thrill Jockey label which we really dug. If you are familiar with Earthless you will know that their thing is sprawling heavy psych jams stretching to infinity and beyond. Golden Void are a different proposition altogether, less of a cosmic jam band but tighter and more focused……… “While their debut album was mostly recorded live, Berkana was recorded with each member in isolation, allowing for more edits and overdubs. On songs like ‘Dervishing’ and ‘Astral Plane’, there are layers upon layers of sound to dig into with additional acoustic guitar, ARP synth and even flute being added to the band’s sonic arsenal, expanding the scope of their sound without abandoning the heady groove they carved on their acclaimed self-titled debut”. With members of Earthless and Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound together in a band you know that you are going to get an album of mind melting, sonically rich Psychedelic Rock and Roll tunes but Berkana surpassed all expectations.
If 2015 is anything to go by, we think that we may be near to “Peak Shoegaze” next year……to be fair it is a pretty nebulous genre with the Holy Trinity of MBV, Slowdive and the Jesus and Mary Chain being really the only major influences, which is not the deepest well of inspiration and unfortunately the "Shoegaze Revival" is starting to develop a generic sound. The better, more creative bands manage to show their influences without coming across like a tribute band, however there appears to be quite a few that can’t escape the gravity’s pull of the big three. The definitive sonic statement was made 25 years ago and even Kevin Shields has struggled to get anywhere near to anything as good as his masterpiece, Loveless, so what chance lesser bands.
However, there are also plenty of great bands using the sonic textures of the genre and blending them with, for example, Psychedelia, Noise Pop and Electronica to create a richer flavoured palette of sound………..we really liked records from Lips Against Glass, My Invisible Friend, The Sandcherries and Landshapes. Released on Bella Union in spring this year, Hayoon, Landshapes second album mixes together Shoegaze, ethereal Folk Rock, gentle Psychedelia, danceable grooves a la Warpaint with an Indie/Rock sensibility to create a remarkable sonic stew and one of the most interesting records of 2015……….this record shows that Shoegaze influenced music need not sound like part of the Creation Records back catalogue. Watch the video for ‘Stay’ here.
The German Psych/Blues duo Pretty Lightning album A Magic Lane Of Light And Rain was also pretty damn good, we described it as “an heady mix of primal Blues stomp and warped psychedelia as Pretty Lightning’s take on the Blues is to tear it apart and put it back together upside down”. Minami Deutsch appear to be a Julian Cope wet dream…..a Japanese band playing Neu!/Can influenced Krautrock. We thought that their debut album was a “mix of beauty and brutality that harks back to an era when some of the most innovative music from the last 50 years was coming out of small studios in Cologne and Dusseldorf and this is also an album that holds its own against the current wave of bands who have also been influenced by this period” and a record we strongly recommend. The mighty Fuzz Club Records have had a great year which featured cool split singles from Black Angels/Sonic Jesus, A Place To Bury Strangers/The Telescopes, The Myrrors/Cult Of Dom Keller amongst others and some great albums from the likes of 10,000 Russos, Sonic Jesus, Radar Men From The Moon (“a great modern psychedelic record in sense that its influences sound to be more Post Punk/Noise Rock and where the band are exploring inner space rather than outer space”), Singapore Sling along with third installment in the Reverb Conspiracy series of releases which featured Mugstar, Goat, Future and The Oscillation (watch the video for the track 'No Place To Go' here) along with other fantastic up and coming bands. To top this they held the first Fuzz Club Festival in London, November with a totally awesome line up of bands and by all accounts a epic weekend of mind bending music. Always a label of quality and distinction and always one to keep an eye on for their fantastic limited edition vinyl releases.
As the winter months set in there is something in the air. Are we in for a Psych Folk revival in 2016? Although it’s been nearly ten years since bands such as Espers, Circulus, Starless And Bible Black and Tuung were receiving loads of attention and Island’s back catalogue was being seriously scrutinised it feels like there is something stirring again………Joanna Newsom is back with a new record and there has been a massive buzz about the brilliant Dust On The Nettles compilation put together by Cherry Red’s psychedelic wing Grapefruit. Another of our Five Favourite Records Of 2015, Dust on the Nettles – A Journey Through the British Underground Folk Scene 1967–72 is an absolute treasure trove of Psych Folk and most of the usual suspects present (Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Vashti Bunyan, Incredible String Band and Steeleye Span etc) with the less well known (Comus, Trader Horne, Trees, Fresh Maggots, Synanthesia) and is no doubt in our minds the Best Compilation Album Of 2015.
With versions of Pentangle and Fotheringay touring next year and Fairport Convention still going strong (one of the very few things along with cockroaches and tins of custard that are guaranteed to survive a nuclear blast) we can see a renewed interest in the genre. One of the stalwarts of the mid OOs Psych Folk revival are also back and recording again…….The Owl Service are back with a new record and have also made the 10 year retrospective She Wants To Be Flowers But You Make Her Owls available as a free download on Bandcamp.
The Serpent Power record is “a carnival of fuzzed out, backwards guitars in a strange and bizarre world of warped madness. Think The Dukes Of Stratosphear/Oranges And Lemons period XTC blended with classic Beatles inspired 60s British Pop/Psych with a dash of Nilssen/The Monkees pop genius added for good measure and that will give you some idea of where Serpent Power are coming from”. It got quite a few spins down in our psychedelic basement and its paisley and lava lamp vibe was a big part of our summer soundtrack. The track ’Lucifer’s Dreambox’ is “an absolute tripped out psychedelic masterpiece twisted into weird shapes by studio trickery”, check it out here.
A special mention for our favourite Brum band, the Hammond driven Psychedelic Blues monster Velvet Texas Cannonball who put out a fantastic EP back in March, which perfectly captured the filthy raunch of their live shows. “Coming from a place somewhere between Birmingham, West Midlands and Birmingham, Alabama, the Last Orders EP taps not only into the tradition of Brum having been the birthplace of some great Psychedelic/Blues Rock bands but also into the southern fried, lysergic blues of the U.S.A……..kinda like Primal Scream when they subconsciously slip back into their Stones preset when they forget they really want to be a cross between CAN, Sun Ra and the MC5”. Check out video clip that our lighting guys, The Liquid Sunshine Light Lab, put together for the track ‘I Got Time’. Last we heard they were a guitar player light and were off the road while they look for a replacement but have promised they will be back. They played one of our Psych-Out nights earlier in the year and reduced the place to a smoking ruin………a really great live band and we hope they return in 2016.
|My Invisible Friend|
|Good Morning Finch|
Winning our vote for Best Mix/Remix Album Of 2015, the mighty Amorphous Androgynous returned with another expertly crafted mix album in the A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding In Your Mind) series, this time a collection of lager guided melodies from the Down Underground that were unfortunately overshadowed by AAs annoyance of their shoddy, boorish treatment from professional gob shite Noel Gallagher over their two years’ work on an album that never was. From reading between the lines, it appears that originally AA were given the task to reinvent Noel Gallagher as a Psychedelic Priest (he was looking for the “new sound”) when in reality he was only looking for a bit of bolt on psychedelic credibility…………it appears that Noel was so massively out of his depth working with genuine psychedelic visionaries that as soon as he realised that people would still buy his own crappy, pedestrian music in massive quantities the project got dropped like a hot brick. Stating that he did not release the album because he “couldn’t be arsed” shows him up as a massive, graceless twat………………hopefully the tapes will be leaked on line one day and there is probably a book in this somewhere.
We have always considered psychedelia to be a broad church (with a groovy stained glass window depicting the scene from the Doors movie where Ray Manzarek figures out the opening bit to ‘Light My Fire’) and there have been several records that come from the “Twilight Zone” of our psychedelic universe that would not normally fit 100% with our “Garage Rock, Classic Psychedelia and New Psych Sounds” tag line but are strange enough to have caught our ear and if we could get our heads around them we tried to do them justice on Strange Things. Chicago’s Crown Larks are one such band whose Blood Dancer album met “somewhere at the junction that psychedelic Post-Rock/Prog Rock crashes into free jazz and the launch pad for avant-garde explorations, Crown Larks are pretty far out”. Check out this cool video for their track ‘Chapels’. We loved the “loose limbed, wonky Space Jazz/Psychedelic jam” Planet Cantaloupe EP from Welsh Kosmische Musik/Psychedelia influenced band Spurious Transients and there were also records we dug from Italian Cosmic Free Jazz/Prog combo Squadra Omega, the Krautrock tinged Post Rock band Tygaton and an album of twisted Psych tunes from The Dictaphone but were unable to review.
The strangest album must be the crazy/brilliant Superfreak that came out on Black Vagina Records (honest) by Italian one man band Belly Hole Freak who we described as “Imagine if Seasick Steve was not as bland as fuck but born under the bad sign of a dirty blues crazy wind and you would still be nowhere near the weirdness of Belly Hole Freak, a one man band who is influenced by delta blues, early swing, Dixieland and inspired by giants such as Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart, Robert Johnson, Tom Waits". It's a fantastic warped Blues record and there are some great tunes on this record…….. "Amongst nine wonderfully deranged songs the three that are possibly the standout tracks are ’Wow’ a boogie number straight outta the Mississippi Delta, ‘Catfish’ is psychedelic Dixieland jazz and ‘Woodoo Soup Monkey’ is……er….souped up Howlin’ Wolf".
|Pure Phase Ensemble IV feat. Mark Gardener|
So that was 2015. A very big thank you to everyone who takes the time to read our scribblings and we have appreciated the cool feedback we have had during the last year. We would like to wish you all a psychedelic Christmas and groovy New Year and Strange Things will be back early next Jan with another batch of record reviews.