Posts Tagged ‘Italian Psych’

Julie’s Haircut

Italian psych collective Julie’s Haircut have been operating under that name since the late ‘90s, but their sound is still evolving, rooted in the boundless cosmic expanse of psychedelia and the darkened recesses of the polyrhythmic groove. The band has collaborated with Sonic Boom and backed up Damo Suzuki, so they were bringing a fairly heavy resume to the table already when they jumped onto UK psych enclave Rocket Recordings’ roster last year. Their second LP for the label pushes their sound further into the recesses of rhythm-wracked psychedelic divination. In The Silence Electric pulsates with a seething intensity boiling beneath the skin. The band just barely contains the tension on tracks like “Emerald Kiss” or “Sorcerer“. When they do let the pulse lie, the album only feels like its pulled into the eerie call before a storm. “Lord Help Me Find The Way” emulsifies their groove into the kind of nebulous humid float that wraps the best Spiritualized tracks.

There’s something elemental about the record. It has a heartbeat hum, that the listener is either chasing down or being pursued by at any moment. Their vocals waft in on vapors that permeate ever inch of the brain, weaving between layers of gray matter while the rhythms work the body. There’s an air of incantation, a ceremonial throb to the record, especially on tracks like “Sorcerer” which embodies their mystic turbulence and spiritual calm. They lace the record with sax, but not in stabbing, bent harmonic hues (at least not until an explosion of violence in “Pharoah’s Dream”), rather it enters as another layer of creeping ambience slicing through the swirling sage. For a veteran band with almost 25 years under their belt, they’ve never sounded more bracing, or more alive. This is a crowning achievement in their catalog.



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Brean / Raskovich / Kema – The Pawnshop

This year is rife with soundtrack reissues and Library discoveries, but there’s still plenty of room for a nugget like The Pawnshop. The name was chosen as an alias by a group of names among names if you’re a fan of Italian Library funk and psych. The band, comprised of Giuliano Sorgini (Raskovich), Alessandro Alessandroni (Braen) and Giulia De Mutiis (Kema), laid these tracks down to fill out two 7″s in sessions during 1970 and ’71. The tracks were recorded in the den of some of the most biting Library cuts from the era, Sound Work Shop, which fed into the RAI television system.

What’s made the sides so valuable is that not only were the scant original 7″s small in quantity, but over the years the very moniker of The Pawnshop was erased from the kept discographies of those artists involved. Sorgini and Alessandroni would collaborate further as the pair Raskovich and Braen, knocking out the bizarre Inchiesta Giudiziaria for Octopus Records, the outre Drammatico for Panda and the menacing Quarta Pagina (Poliziesco) for International HiFi. Still, the Pawnshop recordings remained something of a lost ark to many and to sweeten the pot, Four Flies has dug up and dusted off the masters and added a previously unheard track, “Please, Don’t Say No!” to the release. As far as top tier prog, psych sides go, these are about as good as it gets. Included with instrumental sides and presented on color variant sleeves. If you’re just diving into Library Music, this is a good place to start.


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Lay Llamas

Heading into Nicola Giunta’s second outing for Rocket there’s a sense that the Italian artist has reached further and deeper than he has previously under the Lay Llamas moniker. Where his previous outing saw fit to ruminate in the Krautrock kiddie pool, Thuban embraces an immersive psychedelic experience, roping in African polyrhythms, snaking Thai funk, German Progressive sweat and late ‘90s UK psych-pop. The tapestry he weaves out of those pieces makes it clear that Giunta’s record shelf runs deep, and while emulating (and to some extent, yes, appropriating) these sounds can often place an artist on a precarious perch, Giunta layers his influences like samples, finding the common threads in his preferred sounds and tightening the seams until they fit snug.

Given his curatorial bent and label affiliation it should come as little surprise that there is a crossover kinship between Giunta and Goat. The bands met while playing shows together and hit it off well enough for Giunta to snag a vocal contribution from band members on “Altair,” a tack that can’t help but sound like Goat as a result. Though the album is largely Giunta’s own, having parted ways with Lay Llamas previous steady vocalist Gioele Valenti, there’s a collaborative air to the record that accentuates its patchwork quality. Aside from the aforementioned Goat drop in, Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and members of Clinic also find their way to the grooves of Thuban and Giunta makes the most of the input of his influences.

Unlike his Swedish counterparts who might take it a step too far in the cosplay department, trying on their inspirations in full regalia, Lay Llamas have created an album that’s obsessed with the cornucopia of sounds blooming from the subcontinent but crafting that interest into a collage rather than an homage. The record winds up dark and danceable, brooding, apocalyptic and shambolic. With Thuban the band has succeeded in marrying the deep crates of Andy Votel’s Finder’s Keepers label with the sound-sculpture progressive pop of The Beta Band. More than just a sum of its parts though, the record works these into a flow that’s cinematic in its approach, never sticking too hard on one particular facet of the sounds he’s clipping and arcing from pop sunrise to a danger-imbued sunset by the album’s close. Thuban elevates Lay Llamas beyond the ones to watch pile and into endless repeat bin for all time.



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JuJu

Scicilian artist Gioele Valenti goes hard on the psychedelic touchstones for his sophomore album and Fuzz Club debut. Our Mother Was A Plant works conceptually on the idea that plant-based psychedelics open up a vital connection to the Earth, and that those not working to bridge that connection are cascading down a dangerous path towards social schisms and general degradation of the planet. He holds up the psilocybin surfers, ayahuasca enthusiasts and DMT time-shifters as those truly looking to commune and heal the rifts cut open by the majority of the world.

Whether or not you believe your trip is putting you one step closer to touching the root of the world tree remains to be seen, but JuJu has created heady, sweaty and psychedelic experience that’s a fun ride. Valenti pulls in a guest percussion from Capra Informis of Goat, and his hand adds a deft touch to the syncopated grind of Our Mother Was A Plant. Rhythm is the through line tying synth warbles, chugging bass, swooping guitar and spectral vocals to the rudder that guides JuJu through its acid soaked journey. Valenti is quite openly trying his hand at the faux African elements and German Progressive punchlines that permeate his kindred spirits in Goat, though he’s not mixing his appropriations as well as they seem to.

When he hits the right groove and drives it into darker territory, however, he’s peaking my interest more and more. This may not prove to be the psychic link to the dirt you’re looking for or he’s proposing it to be, but as far as psych is concerned its worth a listen for sure.



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Stefano Marcucci – Tempo Di Demoni, Papi, Angioli, Incensi E Cilici

Now I’m not sure how your brain works, but for me, there are definitely some trigger words that pop up in descriptions that beg a further look. Staple a phrase like, “bizarre hidden synth-ridden psychedelic concept pop” to “short-run demonic religious performance” and file it under the genre Italian Library Music and I’m all but sold. Now, is this just the beady-eyed crew at Finders Keepers baiting me? Not so! Their reissue of Stefano Marcucci’s lost piece of esoteric psychdedelia warrants a pretty hefty exploration. The record was commissioned for a short-run theatrical project, but after hearing the score composed by beat group member Marcucci, the staff at Flower records saw potential beyond its religious audience.

This being the time period of quasi-religious rock opera of all shades, I honestly don’t blame them. The late ’60s and early ’70s had a predilection for bending the bible to their own Earth-child whims and, why not take a performance of that ilk and funnel it into one more piece of Godspell-gumball machine fodder? Well, the Italian is probably a stopping point for most, but Marcucci has a way around gospel-swung psych-folk. It’s those synths that take it to the next level though. The composer gives the straight pipe organ its place, but peppers in an early version of the Minimoog to the proceedings, giving it a swell of ’70s grandeur that befits his hybrid vision. The band backing up the record is tight and the choral pieces waver between stately and hippie ho-down, making this a perfect combination of time period and talent. It’s got something for the heads, something for the saints (if your Italian is on point) and something for the Library aficionados to ponder over.


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Premiere: In Zaire

Italian space-rock quartet In Zaire step up for their second record on Sound of Cobra and expand their horizons further into the upper reaches of the ionosphere. The record is floating on a Hawkwind high stitched to an intense tribal rhythm section that snatches the ever expanding tones back down to the dirt ridden Earth. The band’s fortitude stems from dipping buzzing drones in a bath of Kosmiche roil then lighting it up with a Molotov cocktail explosion of guitar spreading psychedelic wildfire scattering to the winds.

The band paints in heavy strokes of cosmic fury, running the guitars through enough hardware to find a sound that befits the universe collapsing in on itself. Largely left to the instrumental realm, Visions of Age To Come taps the fear and wonder that have bled into the works of Ash Ra Temple and Acid Mothers endless iterations before them. Check out the album in full below and experience the vortex of sonic slurry that’s taken shape thanks to the good folks over at Sounds of Cobra. The album is out May 2nd.


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