Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 – Live At SpaceFest!

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 artwork

I’ll tell you the moment that I really get into, really start to ‘get’ this record. It’s on track 3, ‘Notaki’. Spacerockers, it’s ‘Dream Of Isis’. I mean, it’s not actually ‘Dream Of Isis’, a Hawkwind song so obscure that even the Hawks themselves haven’t dug it out, dusted it off, and reintroduced it to the set. (For those who can’t bring this one to mind, it’s the B-side to ‘Back On The Streets’, their standalone 7” recorded circa Astounding Sounds… that slightly jazzy, partly funky, partly experimental and touching on oriental with indecipherable chanting, oddity). It’s not clockwork and regimented, or minimalist but energetic, like ‘Dream Of Isis’, instead its organic and spacey, but there’s an echo of it in its bass-lines and its plaintive background chanting and the frenetically busy feel of the whole thing. Coincidence… or an influence? I don’t know! It’s bloody great and I’d love to think that within this new space rock there’s a nod or glance back at something also great, but now overlooked, which ‘Dream Of Isis’ is. I might just be way off though… or properly way out, man, like the thoroughly exciting and engaging ‘Notaki’ is.

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 include Ride’s Mark Gardener and Ray Dickaty, once of Spiritualized and from that, and the musing above, you can tell that this comes from that crossroads out in the ether where shoegaze and spacerock somehow meet and condense the 70s and the 90s into one soundscape that owes progressive and indie and twists it into something contemporary. The band was put together specifically for the annual Gdansk SpaceFest event – I’ll quote here from the PR for this release: “The city of Gdansk plays host to this blossoming music festival each year in the first week of December, at which time numerous select musicians from Poland and abroad gather to take part in a special workshop series. They collectively compose a concert's worth of music, which they then present live to the festival-goers. Each year, this unique performance is recorded live and subsequently released as an LP.” The idea is that each festival is co-curated alongside Dickaty and Nasiono Records’ Karol Schwarz, and this one fell to Gardener.

"For me, this is interesting - it's perfect because it reminds me in some ways of how some of the early Ride songs came together... I didn't come in with a script, nor does Ray. There is no pre-work on this. It was just completely spontaneous," explains Mark Gardener. "Sometimes music like that is good before things get thought about too much and worked on too much. That can kill the energy sometimes. Of course some things have got to be worked and developed, but in this scenario, with such little time and to get an interesting set together, I think it's been good to keep it fresh and not over-worked."

It’s a hugely atmospheric set infused with melodic playing and, at points, some perfectly crystalline vocals, setting itself out into the vastness of space and drifting off in an interstellar, kaleidoscopic daydream haze. Bright colours, bright lights but still ethereal, intangible. It travels as though everything is about the journey, dancing out across stars and rejoicing in the way it effortlessly disperses out into multiple pathways.

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 - Mark closeup [Photo Pawel Jozwiak]

Photo © Pawel Jozwiak

What Gardener and collaborators have created, what they’ve composed and sent forth, is music with heart. It envelops its listeners, pulls them into that journey, and floats out, all kindred spirits together in our collective mind’s eye. A mind journey. ‘It’s not over/until it’s over’ sings Gardener on ‘Morning Rise’, a warming and comforting mesh of sounds with an uplifting, life-affirming lilt. You can hear it, let it fill your headphones or your headspace, and want it never to be over. 

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 Purchase Link

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Cary Grace –Tygerland



Drifting across boundaries, geographic, musical, comes Cary Grace, Somerset-based American, who I see getting a lot of review attention in my regular newsfeeds for psych sounds, and with justice because while the first 30 seconds of the opening title track had me wondering what was coming next – a discordant noisefest experiment – what does come next is an eclectic mix of psychedelic, progressive, jazz-fusion which moves from rich and rounded to minimalistic and bare by turn. I love it.

There’s a Pink Floyd aura to some of its early statements, part of a session from August 2014 recorded with Here & Now and Sentient’s Steffe Sharpstrings, and former Scissor Sisters keyboardist John Garden which is scattered through this record. It’s the laconic drawl of the intro to ‘Cyanide’, the second track on the album, and taken from that August work, that bursts into perfect melodic rock with Cary’s purposeful but not overpowering vocals which starts to say what a delight this one is going to be. It’s slick but edgy, rippled with sentiments of bitter frustration and building into a powerfully reflective moment. And then it twists away into ‘Orange Sky’, a much more sparse affair… I was listening to OMD’s Architecture & Morality for the first time in many years very recently; ‘Orange Sky’ has something of the hauntingly understated tones that something like ‘Sealand’ has, a feeling that even while it wraps into itself, it’s still describing a vista that is wide and open, desolate and strikingly beautiful. Its moods, Cary’s Minimoog generated,  are introverted, but the space that it visualises is vast.

‘War Child’ shifts into blues rock, studied, sleazy and alive. Here, if this were a Waterboys song, I could hear Mike Scott and his drawling diction, pulling shapes with the words, expanding and stretching them, and Cary does a similar thing, getting every word loaded with meaning and articulated with purpose. But then, it’s not about it being a record that’s like this, or like that… it’s one of the most singular, distinctive albums that I’ve been sent in quite a while, and any comparison is just to say that it has qualities that stand it along side musicians and records that have meant things across the years, it has that sort of lasting quality to it.

That hard-bitten blues gives away to light and air, ‘Limelight’, where Cary stretches out into a summertime evening warmth that’s jazzy and pop, lazily feeling good and drifting with the flow, another one taken from last August’s session I believe, and if so then built on Steffi’s expressive guitar work, and certainly also predicated on Cary’s voice leaving that blues sound behind and finding lilt and breeze. Easy going, easy listening, easy to become immersed in and float away with.

From there, the strumming and gentle bass and drums rhythms that opens ‘Razorwire’ keeps the record bathed in that sense of brightness and enveloping warmth… you could give yourself to the song and never want to come back. ‘Into The Indigo’ echoes back to earlier work, noted as recorded during sessions for Cary’s ‘Perpetual Motion’ album which some lovely winding, roving, violin from sometime Gong musician Graham Clark that gives its new home an additional texture. And then its into a 20 minute experimental, improvised, artistic, poetic, and  oft reflective piece of sound and word, ‘Windsong’ that takes this exceptional record to its conclusions.

Cary Grace Official Website