Posts Tagged ‘Psychedelic’

Belbury Poly

On his last album, New Ways Out, Jim Jupp took Belbury in a less fantastical direction. ‘80s vapors crept into the cabin and the album began to imagine cinematic reaches and glossy magazine cover shoots. There was a surreal undercurrent (it is Belbury, how could there not be), but for the most part it was an album that embraced something more upbeat. It was modern life looking to imitate nostalgia and doing the feeling well. But those who’ve traveled through the Polyverse in the past know that Jupp’s world isn’t just synthscapes looking to give a backdrop to adverts that are looking for the rosy glow of the ‘70s in the rearview. Enter the next chapter, The Gone Away. The record returns to some sort of imagined captive kingdom that’s lodged somewhere between fever dream and coma nightmare.

The synths lay out a queasy backdrop of bewildered travelers grappling with being dropped into danger and unpredictable surroundings. While so many rely on a barrage of effects to initiate the psychedelic storm, Belbury has always succeeded in simply creating an unfiltered sound that simply feels like the floor being pulled from underneath you, like the sight of an extra moon on the horizon, or like encountering fauna in colors that defy human comprehension. While so many countless contemporaries armed with synths keep trying (and largely failing) to recreate the exploratory fear of ‘70s horror cinema, Jupp’s gone ahead and begun world building in sound, and the results are beguiling, disorienting, admittedly terrifying in their own way. The Gone Away is pocked with wonder, sadness, fear, and confusion, but as only Jupp can conjure the pieces fit together into a half remembered narrative that’s crawling through the subconscious and leaving iridescent footprints in is wake.

Naturally, as a Ghost Box release, this also benefits from the incredible art direction and design of Julian House, who remains as incredible as ever. Somehow Ghost Box seems to elude the larger review outlets, and that’s always been a shame, each release remains and essential piece of a puzzle that’s been doled out over decades. Perhaps one day the puzzle box will open. Until then. I’m going to keep listening.



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Color Green

This loose-knit EP hits just right for the country-psych leanings I’ve been feeling these past few years. Admittedly the hold’s only getting stronger this year. Maybe there’s a comfort effect in the genre somewhere, but the melancholy melt has taken root this summer for sure. There’s been a solid pocket for works that fall just this side of psych-folk, and just that side of cosmic country pulling out of the tailspin of the ‘10s and Color Green fit the form well. The EP is the work of Noah Kohll and Corey Madden who have an admitted debt to the drift of the Dead that’s been wafting through the rafters of late, but they also give this a wash through New Riders waters with some stops off at the kind of private press gold that birthed Relatively Clean Rivers. The twang sits high in the band’s repertoire, but the vocals are whispered on the wind and buried in a second-hand bootleg ripple of tape hiss that gives this a timeless feel, rather than the usual lo-fi associations dredged up with the noise floor of Teac turbulence.

Faded sun is in the band’s veins, dipping just below the mountains while the band peruses a wrinkled junk shop copy of the Whole Earth Catalog. It’s just languid enough to eschew proper jam territory, but sprawled out so much that you know they’re itching to take it that direction on stage. The release is out via small Toronto imprint Maximum Exposure who’ve brought out some great small releases from RSTB faves Young Guv and James Matthew VII in the past few years. The site mentions this being an early release, so no word on whether that means a digital drop before a physical but no matter what format this one lands on your speakers, it’s worth it. There’s a perfect end of summer feeling to the songs — amiable, easy, and drifting on a wind that’s got change on its mind. Keep the band in your watchlist for good things to come. If the early James Matthew tracks give an indication where these EPs can lead, you’re gonna want to see what the band does when they get some proper sine on ‘em.




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Major Stars – “Out In The Light”

Oh man, the fount of Wayne Rogers is overflowing this year. After a finely formed solo LP on Twisted Village earlier in the year, Rogers is back with Major Stars for their tenth full length. The first sounds seeping out of Roots of Confusion Seeds of Joy are as potent as ever. Towering riffs, a rumble of fuzz, and an elegiac croon from new vocalist Noell Dorsey (Avoidance, Ricochet) give the new material some serious heft. “Out in the Light” embodies as much of the classic burn of the Stars as one could hope for with a newfound melodicism from Dorsey that elevates her from the usual haze the band employs. Check the cover art from RSTB fave Robert Beatty as well, giving the record a complete package. LP lands August 16th.



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Peter Howell & John Ferdinando – Ithaca, Agincourt, & Other Psych-Folk Fairy Tales

Every Record Store Day there are a flood of releases that no one in their right mind needs to own. There are a dozen or so scattered titles that are necessary portions of back catalog that just get a bit overshadowed and would have ideally made great reissues given some space to be discussed on their own. Then there are the real gems. More often than not these real gems get pushed aside as well. They’re often reissues or records that appeal to a select group of collectors and aren’t flashy enough to get pre-release press. Sometimes, though, the best part of this is you can pick them up in regular distro dives once the dust settles. A few of these found some critical reception – Brett Smiley’s Sunset Tower reissue on What’s Your Rupture, the essential Alice Clark eponymous LP on We Want Sounds. This year, however one of the gems that slipped by softly came from Munster Records. The label issued an almost complete overview of the collaborative works of Peter Howell & John Fernando to little or no fanfare.

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Sacred Lamp

Familiarity with Canada’s psychedelic noise conduit Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn may have come to you in quite a few ways over the last year or so. Despite having been the eye of the storm when it comes to Canada’s more experimental core, Dunn also proved that he’s got a tender tear in him as well with his solo album, Lightbourn, last year. The album saw Dunn slinking towards more traditional songforms, finding solace in Northern Lights country and flaying open his heart. While he did occasionally break out the burn on a few of this songs, the album a fairly different animal from the CD-r stock pile of an artist who’s spent time in the trenches with MV & EE, Woods and the more outre end of the psych-folk spectrum. Even more unlikely, Dunn was integral to coalescing the band that would back up Meg Remy on U.S. Girls’ In A Poem Unlimited last year, straying even further from his comfortable soil with a blend of ‘70s pop twists and jazz-scratched disco that led to one of her most invigorating albums.

He’s proved a versatile artists who can’t be underestimated, or pinned down. So naturally, his collaboration with longtime cohort Ayal Senior as Sacred Lamp is akin to none of these things. If these are your entry points to Dunn, then the duo’s eponymous LP is something more ephemeral. Built on an interplay of guitars that run between the blues ballasted acoustic and twilight divining electric runs that feel haunted by the memories of something just beyond the folds of the horizon. The record is forever chasing the feeling of peace. The LP luxuriates in the guitar, touching on moments that recall Bishop and Chasney, Basho and the collaborative combos of Steve Gunn.

Its a rose-hued gem of a record that should appeal to any fans of those respective camps or the long tendrils that tie them to several schools of fingerpicked and potent psych-folk. This one feels like it has the capacity to slip through the the most slender of cracks. I’d advise grabbing hold before it does.



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Garcia Peoples – “High Noon Violence”

If you’re just now finding your way to Garcia Peoples, well, then I feel sorry for you. Their last album was a true gem of Cosmic Americana and you’ve been missing out. However, I also feel excited for you, go dive through the debut and get ready for the follow-up, which is shaping up to be another heady journey through high-minded, body-buzz jam workouts. The band lets loose today with the torrent “High Noon Violence,” a knotted gem besieged with overcast harmonies and flooded with their usual unspoken imprint of The Dead – though flashes of New Riders and Mountain Bus wash over the rinds of their guitar salad as well as this track kicks into high gear. Its a definite highlight from the upcoming Natural Facts which lands at the end of March on their old stomping grounds, Beyond Beyond is Beyond.



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Masaki Batoh

On his first solo album since 2012’s largely experimental Brain Pulse, Japanese legend Masaki Batoh returns to the roots of psych-folk that wrought Ghost all those years ago. Winding through the same serene mists that haunted Lama Rabi Rabi and the band’s eponymous debut, Nowhere is a picture of Batoh leaning into his strengths while embracing both Japanese and, for the first time, English lyrics. While this is his first solo record proper in a while, its hardly the first we’ve heard from Batoh’s camp in the last couple of years. Following three albums working the psychedelic edge with his outfit The Silence, Nowhere is also a return to the meditative pacing reverent calm for the songwriter, relying on circular fingerpicks and the humid creep of echo to replace anything as outwardly explosive as he’s been fond of recently.

Having been drawn to the work of Masaki Batoh through Ghost and later working back through Sweet and Honey and Cosmic Invention, this mode feels like a welcome homecoming for me. The songwriter’s long arched over into the mystic touches, feeling every bit as otherworldly as the Tolkien-referencing plucks of Bo Hansson or the ritualistic runs of Ash Ra Temple. On Nowhere, Batoh dips back into those modes, while also proving that he’s picked up new habits along the way. He picks at American blues on “Devil Got Me,” and skews towards a a tougher, almost ‘90s blooze approach on “Sundown,” but he manages to keep the album from feeling like a hodgepode. Its more like a journal of psychedelic damnation – a sketchbook of psych-folk-blues embattlement as divined by someone at his own crossroads. Maybe Batoh’s isn’t as famous as Robert Johnson, but it still feels elemental.



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CAVE – “Beaux”

CAVE’s latest has been a constant on the turntable here and its definitely headed towards the year-end list. With that in mind, there’s always room for another peek at the album. The band are embarking on a tour to support the album and have a new video out for standout track “Beaux.” Full of the slinky psych-funk that makes Allways so vital, the track is given a fittingly psychedelic video from director Krzys Piotrowski with VFX from Nick Ciontea. If you’ve missed out on the album up until now, then use this as a reminder to tap into CAVE’s breezy freak wonderland.

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Simon Finn – Pass The Distance

Superior Viaduct has already been handling a ton of great reissues and overlooked essentials, but with the addition of Antarctica Starts here they’re expanding their labyrinth of sublabels to rope in a bit more fun. ASH specifically mines the ‘60s and ‘70s, though they’re not restricting themselves to any particular genre within that time period, which leaves this endeavor pretty open ended. While it seems like opening up the Viaduct brand to older releases could have been easily accomplished without a new logo and name, I’m all in on the SV folks getting into the vast pool of labels scraping from the ‘60s and ‘70s. As it turns out they’ve chosen a crown jewel of psych-folk for one of their inaugural releases, so we’re off to a good start here.

Alongside the wooded weirdness of Fresh Maggots, Relatively Clean Rivers, Pearls Before Swine and The Incredible String Band, Simon Finn’s 1970 LP Pass The Distance stands as a necessary vision of stream of consciousness, cracked-mirror folk. Finn’s sole album was recorded with producer Vic Keary at his Chalk Farm Studios. Keary had helped Finn record an earlier single, “Butterfly” that was met with solemn indifference from UK labels at the time, but the pair sketched out time for a fuller session to follow, hoping for more success with a fuller vision in tow. Finn had just met guitarist David Toop and percussionist Paul Burwell at a local restaurant a few weeks prior and invited them into the sessions. The serendipitous meeting would help to add to the record’s mystique, with Toop’s sleepy guitar curlicues giving Pass The Distance almost as much shape as Finn’s own lyrical loops.

The record was originally issued on Keary’s own Mushroom Records imprint rather than finding a home among the major contenders of the time, but the label suffered quite a few legal setbacks right around the time of release and Pass The Distance was withdrawn almost as soon as it was issued. Finn then faded from music, teaching karate in Canada and focusing on farming with his wife. The ASH edition is not, however, the first reissue of this gem. David Tibet of Current 93 contacted Finn personally to inform him of the record’s cult status among collectors of ephemeral folk and issued it on CD in 2004, even prompting Finn out of retirement for some shows at the time. Little Big Chief followed in 2014 with a short run LP, but this presents the best chance of getting your hands on a vinyl copy these days. Fans of the aforementioned folk outsiders, or keystone touchpoints of the movement like Skip Spence and Syd Barrett would do well to look into Finn’s fevered folk. Its not the most high marquee name in the genre, but it’s a worthwhile listen to be certain.




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CAVE

Though they’ve often ebbed and flowed over the years, parceling out their revered releases to a fanbase happy to put some rhythmic ripple in their daily dose of psychedelia, Allways feels like a true high point for CAVE. Cooper Crain has been infinitely busy, splitting time between production credits and the cosmic float of Bitchin’ Bajas, but CAVE’s hold proves too strong and he’s obviously loath to let the band lose their yoke on the pounding pulse that beats beneath the psych heart eternal. With this album they perfect the bio-mechanical motion that’s worked the wheels of CAVE’s core for years, keeping just enough of the motorik menace that’s marked their everlasting Krautrock itch and synthesizing it into a much looser slink. The album fishhooks a South American psych groove alongside ‘70s jazz-funk flutes, toasting them ever so gently in the mountain sun before dropping the hot rock down onto double tape deck speakers for a lap around the park.

Crain and his cohorts prove they know how to splice quasar-crusted ambience with the cosmic slop of funk, barreling out of the bunker like a 300 lb hippie who’s surprisingly light on his feet. This is what the whole hep world would be listening to if Santana and Azimuth replaced every pimpled teen’s Zeppelin obsession. There’s something to be said for an album that could easily fuel the soundtrack of ‘70s Scorsese and at the same time tune up the geodesic domes of the best hippy commune. CAVE has found their formula with this record. Whatever deep dives into the bins Crain and co. have been doing over the last couple of years is paying off nicely. The band had exhausted their search for a new take on the German Progressive niche they’d been exploring since their formation and with the gamble to dose the psych with a heaping helping of wah and wobble they’ve created their best album to date.

Something tells me that CAVE purists might split opinions on the new direction. While the band still has a hand on the cosmic tiller – tunneling through space echo wormholes on “Dusty” and stomping the “flame on” guitar gusto for “Beaux,” the record almost feels like its made by a different band. To me, that’s admirable. That’s the essence of evolution. To some, that might be heresy, but screw the psych luddites, this album was made to burn and if there’s anything you need to have stuck in your car stereo for the next few months, its Allways.

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