Sunday, 24 January 2010

Paul Roland - Duel 20th Anniversary Reissue

I'm pleased to be doing some promotion on Paul Roland's latest reissue, the 20th Anniversary edition of Duel (and a bit special it is too). As usual, I've copies available for print reviewers and authors of medium - high traffic blogs and other Internet reviews sites, plus we can make tracks available for radio play. Reproduced here, the press sheet for this release.

By the time he recorded Duel, between November 1988 and January ’89, England’s psych-pop guru Paul Roland had already established an eclectic back catalogue that had appeared on some of the most revered independent labels. On Armageddon Records he’d released his 1980 debut LP Werewolf of London, on Armageddon’s successor, Aftermath, came his mini-album Burnt Orchirds, for Bam Caruso he’d recorded Danse Macabre, whilst in France New Rose issued the innovative baroque sounds of Cabinet of Curiosities. His stock-in-trade, the gaslight gothic Victoriana that infused his lyrics with their sharp sense of character, was yielding ever more confident and articulate melodramas and each of his songs could genuinely claim to contain their own internal short stories. Duel, reissued now for a tastefully retouched and well-earned 20th Anniversary Edition, went one step further, imagining its own internal world – partly influenced, as Paul notes in his liner commentary, by the Gormenghast trilogy of surrealist author Mervyn Peake.

In taking a cue from Peake, Paul Roland had created a conglomeration of both medieval and fantastical setting, but with a rich seam of black comedy helping to bring its grotesque inhabitants to life. That’s Paul doing what he does best, serving up totally macabre individuals, sometimes borrowed from existing texts or historical documents, but always deliciously monstrous. Here we have the real life Dr. Cream, who Roland describes as “none of Dr. Jekyll, but all of Mr. Hyde.” There are the familiar personages of ‘Spring Heeled Jack’ and ‘Nosferatu’ (a Goth club turntable hit on its original release) mixing with a fellow of the Royal Society whose house is an unsettling ‘Menagerie’. And in his suite of three movements with the overarching title ‘The King Must Die’, we have a gloriously evocative tale of royal decline and fall.

With an additional nine bonus tracks culled from Paul’s many European radio sessions, including a version of his classic ‘Blades of Battenburg’ and alternative cuts of Duel tracks, and the first three hundred copies arriving with a free softcover copy of his novella The Magician of Grimm, this is a sterling celebration of one of Paul Roland’s finest albums.

Other gems from Paul’s back catalogue reissued by Syborg Music include Danse Macabre / Burnt Orchids and A Cabinet of Curiosities / Happy Families; Syborg have also proudly released his acclaimed new albums Re-animator and Nevermore. Paul Roland is available for interview, whilst tracks from Duel, his reissues and new releases can be supplied for radio play.

The court, the keep and corridors are ankle deep in dust
And cobwebs hang like tapestries in the armouries of rust
(The King is Dead by Paul Roland)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Hawklords on Reverbnation

Music Player webQuantcast

Space Mirrors Interview

Great interview with Alisa Coral, of Space Mirrors, here.

And I'm not plugging it because within it Alisa describes me as a "famous author of books about rock music." Oh no.

Well, okay, partly.

But it's a great interview!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Daleks vs. Mechons

I don't normally post YouTube stuff, but this is just incredible... a 'what if' the Peter Cushing Doctor Who films had included a third outing, based on 'The Chase'. Just brilliant!
I think it's by Andrew Orton.

Three From Voiceprint

I’m in full-on catch-up mode at the moment, after the Christmas and New Year festivities and a totally manic couple of weeks in the nine to five (that doesn’t show any signs of quietening done any time soon), with some press sheets to write and mail-out, a book proposal that just needs a little bit of tidying up, another that really needs working on, and the festivals book which needs a bit of editing and a couple or three interviews completing but which will appear in the next few months. I had a bundle of stuff through from Rob and his team at Voiceprint over the last two or three months, some of which has appeared either as reviews in Record Collector or on this blog, but there’s others that I’ve not placed print magazine reviews for that need mentioning because they’re of interest for one reason or another to blog readers so I thought it would be a good thing to cover a few in a more ‘bullet point’ manner than normal...

Gong Global Family – Live in Brazil 20 November 2007

I wrote this up for Record Collector when it appeared on DVD via Voiceprint a few months ago – and gave it four stars in the same issue that I was a little bit underwhelmed by the new Gong album which I’d rated as a three star album, though from the other reviews and commentary I’ve seen in print and around the internet I’m in a bit of a minority in being a tad disappointed with that release. But the Global Family release I thought of as a “crisply modern space-jazz manner”, and enthused about the “indefatigable energy and creativity’ of Daevid Allen himself. Nice to have this as a soundtrack CD though; much as the quality of the DVD was of a high standard, I find it difficult to slot in the time to sit through a DVD more than a few times (at this point I hear my wife niggling about watching a Doctor Who for the umpteenth time, but I mean music DVDs here), whereas this rather cool psychedelia of Allen with collaborator Josh Pollock, combining with musicians of the Invisible Opera Company of Brazil, is just excellent listening on CD. I don’t know how Mr. Allen does it, but more power to his elbow for achieving a career of generally consistent quality across its longevity.

Matt Malley - The Goddess Within

This one I’ve had for several months and intended to post a full review of but as time has marched by, I’m including it here – even though it’s not our normal musical fodder (and again I sort of curse my original intention of making this blog space rock related) simply because it’s such a great record. Malley was, of course, a founder member of Counting Crows and apparently has been working on this album since leaving them in 2004. Can I sum up this thoughtful and intimate album by quoting Malley’s opening liner notes? “The lady on the cover of this record is Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi. The photograph... emits vibrations which you Kundalini will respond to. Kundalini is the feminine energy of God.”The idea seems to be to use the photograph as a part of a meditation process to achieve self-realisation through God’s feminine aspect, and the album itself is an emotionally inward looking collection of songs that to me seem to come from a specific point in time where the artist has reached a new point in his life that has embraced a more balanced sense of identity that has been achieved. I’ve often thought that one of the privileges of writing about music is that the way in which it opens you up to work that you’d not otherwise have come into contact or which would have been already on your radar to be aware of. I’ve found many great records this way (particularly by Dengue Fever, Paul Roland, and the much-missed Nikki Sudden, but there’s plenty of other examples I could quote). The Goddess Within absolutely falls into that category, a record that I’m going to love and cherish in the years to come. It has a gentle resonance, not least in Matt Malley’s easy going version of Nick Drake’s ‘Hanging On A Star’ and the tender character of his own ‘If & When’. Predominately acoustic, this is just a beautiful and sincere achievement that’s not a passing whim but a deeply moving and sensitive résumé.

Jefferson Starship – Performing Jefferson Airplane @ Woodstock

On the other hand, Jefferson Airplane is a band that I know I should like more than I have done over the years and I can never really put my finger on why that is. I don’t particularly understand the history and the internal dynamics, which makes approaching their work at any particular point in their timeline rather difficult. I never really encountered their music until The Damned did their famous cover of ‘White Rabbit’ and at that point I seem to remember buying a ‘best of’ cassette in the now long forgotten branch of Woolworths in Redruth, which beat the total collapse of Woolworth’s in 2008 by at about thirty years, and actually playing that one to death without trying to get further into what they were all about. And the less said about their Jefferson Starship AOR-period, I guess, the better, though it might be a case of having been artificially put-off by a music inkie piece on Grace Slick which described her complaining about how subsequent generations had stolen from the Airplane whilst she herself had adopted the trappings of punk rock, complete with safety-pin through nose. I’ve got a built in prejudice, it seems. So, 60s Airplane, good stuff if a little remote from my own music experiences, Starship and recent stuff, not doing anything too much for me, but I try. Anyway, this release is of Jefferson Starship, with Paul Kantner, resurrecting and celebrating the Airplane’s appearance at Woodstock with this set at Del Mar Fairgrounds on 12th June 2009. There’s ‘Somebody To Love’, ‘White Rabbit’, ‘Volunteers’ and ‘The Other Side Of Life’, all performed at Woodstock, and a guest appearance from the Grateful Dead’s Tom Constanten and an interlude to do two Grateful Dead numbers with him. Vocalist Cathy Richardson sounds a bit like Grace Slick to my ear, perhaps that’s the point, and it’s a run-through of Woodstock, a celebration. That’s what it is. Didn’t do too much for me, I’m afraid.

More Voiceprint to follow to follow over the next couple of weeks in the same format, plus a big overview of Quarkspace releases that I’m really embarrassed haven’t appeared earlier, and some summary reviews of new releases by bands that have previously appeared on this blog, some press on the latest Paul Roland reissue and more...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Nick Riff - Photon Shift

I started work on this review last weekend, put it to one side when even Cornwall was enveloped in a lovely covering of snow on Sunday (though it really didn’t produce as much snow as the time frame suggests, even though for the first time I can ever remember it snowed continuously from 8am through to late night), and then came back to finish the review off this morning. After I’d done some tidy up work on files that were littering my PC’s desktop. Fatal error there because as best I can see, I managed to delete the original review before loading it into blogspot. That’d be one of those ‘aargh’ moments, then.

Nick’s a positive veteran of the space rock scene. ‘Veteran’ in that he’s been playing music since the mid ‘70s, releasing his first single with hard rock band Serpent (“influenced by Hendrix, Sex Pistols, UFO and Cheap Trick”) back in 1978 and going on to play with various bands before deciding to pursue a solo career that yielded albums in the UK on the fabled Delerium and for Cleveland’s garage rock imprint Sonic Swirl. ‘Positive’ in that despite dropping out of sight for a large chunk of the noughties, he’s recently returned to the music scene, revved-up and committed to an on-going series of releases on his Riffdisc imprint, of which Photon Shift is the third. And ‘positive’ again, in that he’s also playing live and recording with Freak Element, his ever-changing, peripatetic band who have a free bonus disc, Music From Another Dimension, included with the first three hundred orders for Photon Shift.

Nick has very kindly sent me both discs, though I’ll concentrate here on talking about the highly-charged and exciting Photon Shift, which kicks off loud and proud with the fuzz-laden ‘Edge of Time’, all meshed sounds and studded with Nick’s righteous railings against the corporate state and the generation that ‘worships junk technology’. Like all the other tracks here, it’s extended, trippy, dynamic stuff and totally deserves a place amongst any self-respecting space rock enthusiast’s collection.

It’s easy just to hear Nick’s music as one sprawling head trip, loaded with cosmic gusto, spaced-out and psychedelic and completely thrilling in its verve and atmospherics. But then, there’s also a highly intelligent counterpoint to the freakzone sounds and that’s his opinionated, challenging in a thoughtful way, lyric writings. So he does make use of the standards of the psychedelic movement, “If you leave your body use your thoughts instead, no ending to forever, that’s what the mushroom said,” he writes on the eastern-flavoured ‘Symbiont”, but he’s also talking about stuff that’s highly relevant, often in a quite touching manner. The most laid-back moments of the album, on ‘Already Gone’, are an effective and affecting rumination on extinction that has both the despair of what’s been lost and a contrastingly hopeful expression that the next generation might be better custodians of what’s been left; a quite lovely song.

‘Already Gone’ is one of the quiet pauses in the album, along with the play-out number, ‘Halls of Amenti’, a broodingly low-key piece, and the title track, a brilliant and beguiling jewel of song-writing, all swaying, heartfelt, charm. The surrounding tracks are generally punchy and energetic, with a brilliant sense of groove, often danceable and put together to be played all the way up. ‘Glowing Bowl’ is a real pounding wall of sound, lyrically and musically pulling the listener “Higher and Higher.” ‘Symbiont’ is classic psychedelia that has the spirit of the genre, both musically and literary, rippled through it; ‘Mindflow’ an expansive nine-minute trance piece.

Absolutely great stuff, get this CD and quick!
Update! Don't be quick... be really quick... the bonus CD is almost sold-out!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Trail Records

I've been haunted by a song this week, a thing of great beauty that captured my attention and my imagination, 'These Old Bones' by Seattle-based trance rockers Sky Cries Mary, a track from their new compilation album Space Between The Drops on Trail Records. Now, this is a band I really should have been aware of before, because reading about them on their website they've been around since the late 1980s and have ten albums and EPs listed on their discography. They describe their music as a "soundtrack of dream-vision compositions, seamlessly interwoven tapestry of rhythm, lyric and melody."

Firstly though, a note about Trail Records; co-founder Alex Tsalikhin dropped me a note and kindly sent over the label's latest releases and it seems to me as though they are building an eclectic catalogue of albums from across the globe - aside from the two releases I'll be reviewing in this posting, they have an album from Russian band Vespero (regular blog followers might remember I’ve previously written up another of their releases), which is now fully sold-out, and another from Ukrainian world-fusion musicians Kiuila, whilst their next project, I believe, is from San Francisco improvisational space-rockers Beyond-o-Matic.

Let’s talk about Sky Cries Mary, though. Space Between The Drops is a intimate collection of trance and ambient sounds with Anisa Romero's wistfully elegant vocals painting a delicate picture across hazy, blissful music that absolutely transports you out of the mundane and into their silky-smooth dreamscapes. 'These Old Bones' has both a world-weary edge and a juxtaposing optimistic lilt to it, a gentle guitar-based song with Anisa and her husband Roderick providing their trademark contrasting dual lead vocals - the light of Anisa's voice set-off against Roderick's grittier and deeper intoning. 'Missing' is a gorgeous ambient wash with Anisa emerging from the early morning mist of the soundtrack, again off-set against contrasting vocals, both with their aching ghostly implore of 'how long have I been missing?', before this ten-minute opus moves into an up-tempo Eastern European air in its guitar work that continues to accentuate the vivid sense of loss in the vocals.

'Four AM' is another extended trance movement, with Gilmour-esque guitar work rippling through the ether of the synths; 'Gliding', with Roderick coming more to the fore, a more strident rock track that still has the delicate beauty of their music shimmering underneath it. This is a terrific collection.

The other release that I've been listening to from Trail Records is a reissue from Turkish spacerock band Siddhartha entitled Trip To Innerself, recently nominated for two Progawards (Best Foreign Album and Best Artwork). Now, reading other reviews that have appeared of this release, it becomes apparent that Siddharta themselves disbanded back in 2001, while the music we hear on this album was laid down over a decade ago, so whilst it's easy to get really excited about uncovering the substantial career of Sky Cries Mary with a decent-size back catalogue to go exploring, enthusiasm for Siddhartha comes at a price - that there's no more where this came from apparently.

That's a massive shame, since this is another really strong release - what little silver discs of joy Trail Records have uncovered for their list! Trip To Innerself is a bit Pink Floyd, a bit Porcupine Tree and a smidge of Huw Lloyd-Langton era Hawkwind - it's smart, dynamic, trippy and exciting spacey stuff with some Eastern leanings and a bit of good old blanga (and for those not 'in the know', 'blanga' is any track that you can 'blanga, blanga, blanga' along to - hence Hawkwind's 'Born To Go' is its epitome).

Having invoked the Gods of spacerock then, lets also note that the range of material here is diverse. 'Baroque', with its delicate string arrangement living somewhere between an English folk tune and an Oriental aria does what the title suggests, at least in its early moments before it takes the themes it’s based on and rocks them up a bit for want of a better expression. ‘Nervous Breakdown’ starts off reminiscent of Pink Floyd circa Dark Side of the Moon before becoming more free-flowing and improvisational, again there are some Hawkwind comparisons to be made here but there’s also a feeling of brightness that oozes out of this wide-ranging track. Overall, it’s a well-named album of atmospheric and introspective music that’s absorbing and which repays repeated listening.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Hawklords February Dates Confirmed

Normal blogging service will resume in the next couple of days following the Christmas and New Year break... in the meantime here's some good news amongst the winter chills:

Alan Davey – Jerry Richards – Steve Swindells – Danny Thompson – Ron Tree – Nik Turner

Hot on the heels of their acclaimed show at London’s 229 Club in November, the Hawklords announce a further collection of dates for February 2010:
Wednesday 17th February 2010
The Robin 2
26-28 Mount Pleasant
WV14 7LI
Doors: 7pm
Advance Tickets £12.50, Door £15
Box Office: 01902 401211

Thursday 18th February 2010
O2 Academy – Liverpool
11-15 Hotham Street
L3 5UF
Doors: 8pm
Advance Tickets £13.50, Door £15
(Ages 14 – under 18 to be accompanied by an adult)
Box Office: 08444772000

Friday 19th February 2010
Leeds Irish Centre
York Road
Doors: 8pm
Advance Tickets £12, Door £14
Box Office: 01132 480887
Jumbo Tickets: 01132 455570

Saturday 20th February 2010
Cheese & Grain
Market Yard
BA11 1BE
Doors: 8pm
Advance Tickets £13, Door £15
Box Office: 01373 455420

All dates feature former Hawkwind and Hawklords musicians Alan Davey, Jerry Richards, Steve Swindells, Danny Thompson, Ron Tree and Nik Turner. Harvey Bainbridge will join the band for the Leeds date; who knows who else from the Hawkwind family might show up?

Further information: