April 1, 2015
Fotheringay ‘Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay’ (Universal)
Though shining for only the briefest of moments in the early 70s, the venerated, and rightly so, cult folk rock band Fotheringay managed to record an enviable collection of earnest, toiled and perfectly pitched songs. Due to the tragic circumstances of the band’s leading lady and ethereal siren Sandy Denny and her untimely death in 1978 at the age of 31, the group’s songbook has been attached with certain poignancy and resonates deeply amongst those fans that still hold a candle to the band’s bright but all-too-soon extinguished flame. Despite leaving an indelible mark in the folk rock and acid country community and winning the Melody Maker awards in the same year for best vocalist, Denny’s ennui ambitions to break free just before each project took off – both artistically and in some cases commercially too –made it difficult for the band to continue, as she left just before their second album Fotheringay 2 was finished – performing a farewell concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the end of January 1971. Denny had form of course, leaving British folk institution Fairport Convention on the eve of their landmark album, Liege & Lief, to form Fotheringay – the name borrowed from the 1968 Fairport song; itself a reference lament to the castle Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned – with her then partner/band mate and future husband Trevor Lucas. Citing ambitions to go solo, Denny would carve out a celebrated, but cultish, career releasing a series of iconic, diaphanous and atavistically roots-y folk albums (her last, Rendezvous, selling so poorly she was dropped by the label) before once again returning to the Fairport fold in 1974 – leaving again the following year.
Such were Denny’s and Lucas’ standing, anticipation for their post Fairport project was so overwhelming that they were booked up for live performances and requests before they’d even recorded a single note. However, concomitantly continuing to plow a similar rich musical furrow, taking in ancestral traditional “fayre” and Dylan covers with liberal servings of their own compositions they didn’t waste anytime in recording the debut album (produced over seven sessions between 18th February and 18th April 1970) and setting off on a tour (March 1970). An unequivocal success, with modest sales, that debut, with its depiction of a minstrel troupe lifted straight from a Tudor tapestry artwork, would be enough to cement the band’s legacy. So much in fact, that the abandoned follow-up LP, succinctly entitled 2, was eventually finished three decades by the surviving members and released in 2008 around a hive of renowned adulation: a number of tracks penned by Denny would appear on her first solo LP, The North Star Grassman And The Ravens in 1971, whilst the odd nugget would make it onto later samplers and compilations.
Though of course there was far more to the Forthingay sound than just – as stirring and eloquently masterful as they were; delivered straight from parchment – Denny and Lucas’ impressive vocals, the rest of the band were every bit as integral: reflected in the balance of instruments, sounds and musicianship of drummer Gerry Conway, bassist Pat Donaldson and guitarist Jerry Donahue, with every member of the band both the sum of their individually adroit parts and as a whole.
For those either in admiration for such a fleeting existence and for those new to the cause, the new Nothing More complete collection attempts to piece together the most comprehensive story of the band yet; told over a triumvirate of CDs, a special DVD live performance and accompanying hardcover book – which features a new essay from Denny biographer Mick Houghton. Beginning with their stunning debut oeuvre, the first of the CD trio, features the original running order and a number of both demos and alternative takes. The opening grand piano gushing, burnished drums and expressive guitar, Tudor intrigue through contemporary eyes imbued lament Nothing More alone proves the band’s worth, without the castaways in the middle of a most sublime unsteady tide of emotions, The Sea. Or indeed the Dylan epochs of John Wesley Harding crossed with Pat Garrett and Billy The Kidd style, Lucas-penned outback-western goer The Ballad Of Ned Kelly; a moiety to the actual Dylan Too Much Of Nothing cover the band perform later on, led by a soothing Lucas on vocals and a backing that evokes the great bards most important sparring partners and backing group, The Band. Subtly stripped down versions of that album’s pinning Canterbury tale, Winter Winds, The Pond And The Stream are accompanied by a gentler, more lilting alternative version (far less lumbering and exhaustive) of the traditional soldier’s lament Banks Of The Nile.
The second disc runs through the, left dormant and unfinished until more recent times, follow-up 2. Much the same stylistically but with a more pastoral feel, and dash of Celtic and Gypsy folk rock; closer to Pentangle and Fleetwood Mac than Dylan, even though an obligatory cover of his is included, the intoxicated love hang-over I Don’t Believe You, and the Lucas/Pete Roach Knights Of The Road rolls on down the great juggernaut travelling highway in a fairly free and laid-back country rock manner. A bonus selection of treats await, with a number of mixes by the American producer/writer and man-on-the-scene at a litany of iconic developments and moments in folk rock – notably when Dylan went “electric” – history, Joe Boyd – nuanced and delicately subtle, Boyd adds a certain trebly warmth to the Arcadian Denny anthem Late November.
There’s an alternative version from 2004 of the Jack Rhodes/Dick Reynolds original Silver Threads And Golden Needles – first recorded by Wanda Jackson in 1956 – and two versions of the wayfarers folk tale Burton Town that never made either album – one a rehearsal take that despite the sometimes gargling wear and tear on the tapes vocals and scratches sounds breathtaking, and a 2015 version that feature the original Denny vocals but with a new lighter backing.
Not entirely exclusive but nonetheless gathered together for the first time in one place, the third disc features nine live tracks from their 1970 Rotterdam concert. Of these, there is the previously unreleased Gordon Lightfoot cover The Way I Feel from their debut LP, performed with a real intensity and energy, Too Much Of Anything and The Ballad Of Ned Kelly. Even if you have managed to acquire a copy, the concert is an intimate window on a band at their peak; emerging from the omnipresent shadow of their previous band, Fairport Convention. Denny herself sounds in fine fettle, surreptitiously moving across the stage from leading or harmonizing on vocals to tentatively playing the piano – of which she references as she makes herself comfortable before launching into Nothing More. It shouldn’t sound too surprisingly but the concert material ends on a swinging, chugging version of Chuck Berry’s Memphis, Tennessee, Denny proving she has the rock’n’roll chops. The rest of the live oeuvre is taken from various appearances on the Beeb; a previously unreleased collection of performances that includes The Lowlands Of Holland from BBC Folk On One, Bold Jack Donahue from BBC Sounds Of The 70s and a brief interview with a upbeat Denny followed by a rousing version of The Sea, from BBC Top Gear. But for the true “holy grail”, as it’s billed in the PR notes, is the previously unreleased footage from the German – equivalent to our very own Ready Steady Go! – 60/70s music show, the Beat Club. Originally held back from broadcast, versions of Nothing More and John The Gun now join Gypsy Davey and Too Much Of Nothing for the first time: a nice little complete set.
Grounding to an abrupt end, the breakup of Fotheringay was sad but it hardly hurt the careers of everyone who was apart of it. Lucas would produce some of Denny’s best solo work, before the pair once again joined the ranks of Fairport along with Jerry Donahue. For such a brief, almost passing fancy, the band leaves an incredible, enduring legacy and receives an honorable tribute with this, most comprehensive of collections.
Words: Dominic Valvona
Choice tracks from the first three months of 2015.
Django Django ‘First Light’
Panda Bear ‘Mr Noah’
Cantaloupe ‘Ambition’ <Review>
The Charlatans ‘So Oh’
Susanne Sundør ‘Fade Away’
The Unthanks ‘Flutter’ <Review>
Ghostpoet ‘Off Peak Dreams’
Nubiyan Twist ‘Work House’ <Review>
Ghostface Killah/ Badbadnotgood ‘Gunshowers (feat. Elzhi)’ <Feature>
Mello Music Group/ Apollo Brown & Masta Ace ‘Trouble’ <Feature>
Oliver Sudden ‘Cold Capital’ <Feature>
Fashawn ‘To Be Young (feat. BJ The Chicago Kid)’ <Feature>
Ginger Johnson ‘I Jool Omo’ <Review>
Samba Touré ‘Su Wililé’ <Review>
Os Brazoes ‘Pega A Voga Cabeludo’ <Review>
Aphex Twin ‘diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13′
Vision Fortune ‘Habitat’ <Review>
Sonnymoon ‘Pop Music’ <Review>
Psycho & Plastic ‘Cell’ <Review>
Ettuspadix & Sean Bw Parker ‘The Dervish Whirls On’ <Review>
Populäre Mechanik ‘An die Hoffnung’ <Review>
White Noise Sound ‘Heavy Echo’ <Review>
Kim Halliday ‘Fabric, Torn, Time, Slips’ <Review>
The Four Owls ‘Think Twice’ <Feature>
Cannibal Ox ‘Opposite of Desolate (feat. Double A.B.)’ <Feature>
Francine Thirteen ‘Queen Mary’ <Review>
Cloud ‘Melting Cassatt’ <Review>
David Lawrie ‘Dorothea’s Boat’ <Review>
March 26, 2015
Ayfer Simms casts her poetically rich gaze over the most recent retro-pop, contemporary electronica, offering from Greek “crooner” Sillyboy.
Sillyboy ‘Stalker’ (Klik Records)
Silly boy is a crooner, with a half husky, half sizzling soft vocal cords pushed to a raw state of “peach(ness)”, in a field of well-designed mantra, melodies that rest on the listener’s shoulder, bouncing back and forth, up and down handsomely. The world of Sillyboy is a subtly light Zen dance music with occasional guitar riffs and synth, evocative of the 80s. The man takes with him an imaginary gang, a toned down version of Michael Jackson’s doomed creatures, absolutely trimmed, leading them through his steps, creating a choreography-like buzz, on the spot, in the mind of the listener at least. Some tracks like “cry like a girl” are pounding and carry on an edge of the dirty bad boy, but rather Silly boy is perfectly squeezable even in his nostalgic moody attitude. The tune Stalker, “Whenever I feel sad, I stalk her”, is an appealing sympathetic pop, grabbing, and friendly one despite the potentially chilling connotation of the title.
Throughout the album, the music is solitary and celebratory at the same time. Leads you to a seemingly obscure path, at night, but then throws clean looking dancers at you, the asphalt becomes the stage of the malleability of their limbs. And then you are one of them, shaking, sultry and confident out in the street, letting go, feeling good, forgetful, and tranquil. If there is a single word to describe the album, it would be unassumingly-cool-and-cadenced-electronic-vintage-pop.
Words: Ayfer Simms
March 20, 2015
Cloud ‘Zen Summer’ (Paper Trail Records) April 7th 2015
If Tyler Taormina’s last album Comfort Songs was a nod in the direction of The Beach Boys during their sobering pinning Surf’s Up period, than his diaphanous follow up Zen Summer is a meditative, transient stab at the Ashram years.
Reviewing his debut anxiety strewn Comfort Songs suite for God Is In The TV, back in the summer of 2013, I called it a “surf noir” collection of “communal psychedelic” laments – pitched somewhere between Noah Lennox’s Panda Bear and The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt. A self-confessed shoulder to lean on for those tormented by heartbreak and sadness, that debut was nevertheless seeking out hope: a break in the “clouds”. Suffering from his own personal anxiety and tribulations in light of that album’s release, Tyler has since moved out west to L.A. and broken the “dark spell” he was under. Though he has kept those old connections, once again recording with his Long Island Practice Room collaborative group in New York, Tyler has since signed to a relative new start-up, the Irish label Paper Trail Records.
With a Zen like optimism his summer requiem improves on the richly textured efflux of buzzing static, reverb soaked slackened (but anguished and mature) vocals and majestic Pacific Ocean breezy atmospherics with even more shimmering dappled reflections on the coral seabed candescence and beautiful shimmering tunes. These highly sophisticated and “organically” rich improvements are filtered once again through Californi-a’s most celebrated sons The Beach Boys as well as Panda Bear and Galaxie 500.
Suffused with an undercurrent of busy, rotating and tidal sounds each song features a lilting and beautifully palatial melody. A melting feeling of psychedelic yumminess, transcribed through a tunnel of love boat trip on the South Seas, the standout track from the album is without a doubt is the angelical caressed harp and Mike Love transcendental lamenting sung Melting Cassatt. This halcyon daydream reflects both lyrically and musically the state of its author who is looking for reassurance and a calming presence in a metaphorical sea of anxious flux; this is alluded to by the track that follows it, Elemental Smile. Changing the flow and plunging into no less opulently administered lush backing, only deeper and more lolloping, Tyler surfaces from a churning headiness to breath.
Notable highlights can be found everywhere throughout this near faultless collection of concatenate songs – and one vaporising photographic memories instrumental title track vignette. But the opening, Fly Into The Mystery, shows us what The Beach Boys working with Neu! might have sounded like; the motorik driving drums and Rother style nuanced guitar tweaks laying down a cosmic kaleidoscopic sunbeam for the surf pop vocal trepidations, Tyler reliving his concerns and arrival in L.A. And the parting shot, Rainbow Road is an upbeat LCD Soundsytem meets Merriweather Post Pavilion era Animal Collective, complete with a warm female harmonious chorus, triumph. It ends a most stunning, hazy and opulently languid album on a high; easily a contender in the end of year “choice” albums list, with Melting Cassatt one of 2015’s best singles. This year’s “dreamboat”.
Words: Dominic Valvona
March 18, 2015
David M. Allen was the producer behind some of the most important records of the 1980s and beyond, from The Cure to Depeche Mode, The Human League to Neneh Cherry. With his new band The Magic Sponge about to release the new track ‘That’s Just What Girls Do’ on Seraglio Point Productions forthcoming Chi-Signs II compilation, Allen spoke to Sean Bw Parker about London, his distrust of ‘vision’ and stumbling drunk around YouTube.
SBwP: The Magic Sponge are about to release their second album. For listeners new to the band, how would you describe your sound, influences and how you arrived at where you are now?
DMA: I’m not the leader of the Sponge or the main writer but one of the main influences is “Brian Pern” with a hefty dose of punky jangle.
There are very few producers in the UK who can claim to have had more influence over the sound of the alternative music scene since 1980 as you. If you do, how do you differentiate your producer and musician hats?
I don’t own a musician’s hat. I don’t really know what I do. I say that I am like a blind man walking up a mountain, as long as I keep going up, I’ll get there. I distrust ‘Vision’.
How do you see the Internet revolution’s affect on the music industry? Democratic saviour, valueless sea of dross or something else?
Too early to tell. It does look increasingly like impoverished leisure and digital slavery for the many, wealth and splendour for a few. Plus ça change (that’s to wrap the French connection).
You were the producer of The Cure’s ‘purple patch’ of albums throughout the mid-eighties. Do you think they should have packed it in after Wish in 1992, when many claimed they lost their edge?
No. I admire them for the tenacity and stamina to keep creating and playing shows that give their fans great pleasure. What’s wrong with that?
What did you think of the recent Guardian article that accused their sets of being too long, and Robert Smith’s furious response?
Journo [Caroline Sullivan – Ed] didn’t pay for her ticket. I haven’t read Roberts’ response.
Looking back over the last three or so decades, what would be your fondest musical memories, and least? And who were your favourites and least favourites to work with?
I’m a pain in the arse, it’s been great to find some fellow travellers.
Still being a resident of London, how do you see the apparent massive expense of living in the city, and the exodus of creative types to the south coast?
I love this whole country, even Rotherham. Realisation of equity is a big part of moving from the city to the coast. I don’t have any and I am lucky enough to have a great landlord. Dunno, London does chew you up.
Any plans to play live in support of the new album?
We’ve had a lot of chats about doing something but no one can actually fit their schedules together to have a meeting about it, weird.
I’ll let you know…
Any new musical recommendations for us?
Not really, I’m like everyone else, I just get drunk and stumble around Youtube…I was big into witch house last week.
Finally, what are you drinking?
Hobgoblin and whisky.
Some of our David M Allen choice highlight as a producer/co-producer:
March 16, 2015
Cantaloupe ‘Zoetrope’ (Hello Thor Records) 16th March 2015
Attuned to the same frequencies as previous Kosmiche music appreciation club members Stereolab and Broadcast, the Nottingham-based Cantaloupe follow a linage of UK groups who’ve paid homage and assimilated the transmissions that emanated from the visionary German scene of the 70s. That original source is transmogrified however, the quartet filtering the Cluster/Kraftwerk/Sky Records sound through the 80s synthesizer suffused Sheffield landscape of The Human League and the proto-progressive workouts of Holy Fuck and Adam’s Castle. The result is something both spritely and at times voguishly crystalline; turning either towards the Italo House meets Moroder neon candescent dancefloor or orchestrating a Theremin like quivered orbit.
Though in no doubt a contemporary record, Cantaloupe rely on appropriating and playing with a litany of influences from the past. The Zoetrope of their debut title is even a reference to the centuries old cylinder device that was used to display a sequence of drawings or photographs – the title track itself mirroring the cylindrical flickering motion of this pre-animation jalopy. Arguably each song takes a cue from one era or another, the fun early 90s post-rave nod to “chatback numbers” ads 0891 505050 being just one example. Apart from the obvious Broadcast/Stereolab leanings, especially when the group’s synth/vocalist Eleanor Lee woos and swoons on the sophisticated neon-tube lit Ambition, they lyrically hint towards Heaven 17, and when at their most buoyant, even make reference to the legendary Ghanaian highlife doyen K. Frimpong.
A most enjoyable pop-lit excursion through the kosmiche, taking in the industrial North’s steely resonation from the electric 80s, whilst popping off to take-in the post-rock locations that spawned such interesting, off-kilter explorers as Tortoise, Holy Fuck and Battles, and flirting with Afrobeat vibes, Zoetrope wear their inspirations well.
Featured on the Monolith Cocktail last year, in an outburst of Apollonian and Dionysian lyrical praise by Ayfer Simms, the Greek rockers Cyanna Mercury garnered a favourable review for their western tinged, sacrosanct organ Ode To An Absent Father. But it is the, similarly hewn from classic psych rock, flip side to that single Dirty Things that now merges from the underworld to feel the singeing pains of the post-crash overground, with both an original and acoustic version packaged alongside a live homage to (arguably) Greece’s favourite sons Aphrodite’s Child, on the group’s new EP. The group, with a nod in tribune to the recent death of the prog/psych/pop seers inimitable and ethereal singer Demis Roussous, make a decent and robust effort of their most loved and critically acclaimed epic, The Four Horsemen. The original centrepiece of Aphrodite’s Child’s 1972 book of Revelations concept album 666, The Four Horsemen could in the face of more recent austerity driven events be seen as an apocalyptic metaphor for the uncertainty still to come.
Released as a limited edition cassette, the Dirty Things EP is due out on the 20th March 2015, ahead of their debut LP Archetypes in the fall. If you happen to be in the Greek capital on that same date, you can catch the band performing their first headline show at the Trianon Cinema.
Aphrodite’s Child 666 feature….
Words: Dominic Valvona
March 11, 2015
Jon Kennedy ‘Corporeal Remixed Part 2’ Released 6th April 2015
Continuing to extend the thumping, often moody and prowling hip hop and techno explorations of such electronic sonic “turntablists” pioneers as Shadow and Howie B; and following in the wake of a closer to home Chemical Brothers; and yet just as influenced by the string sectioned pop requiems of ELO and conceptual rock-operatic’s of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, international DJ extraordinaire and musician Jon Kennedy injects a wry humored and clinical, sophisticated skill to dance music. Bending genres, including the most commercial (usually the preserve of faux-phantom (k)nob twiddlers and beat-matched laptop celebs and superstar DJs), to his will Kennedy has more or less mixed, remixed and incorporated every style, from D’n’B to hard house, into his work.
Making his mark in the eclectic Noughties, the Stockport drummer turn electronic artist first came to the attention of Mr.Scruff via his Brighton radio show on Juice FM, before signing with the city’s Tru Thoughts label. Relocating in more recent years from Bristol – though his constant global hotfooting tours and DJ appearances mean he’s more likely to be living out of his suitcase – to the cultural/historical Czech capitol of Prague, Kennedy has been busy with both his own imprint, the Jon Kennedy Federation (which has signed a number of acts), and producing new material. The home of Kafka; a capitol occupied by a host of barbarous ideologies and repressive regimes over the years, liberated to some degree and part of the EU; Prague’s strategic position in central Europe may offer Kennedy a hub, closer to the east and growing “EDM” obsessed fans of former Iron curtain satellites, previously deprived of western dance music. Whatever the reasons, he’s been very productive. Though on this occasion with the work done and reception positive on his last original album of tracks, Corporeal, Kennedy takes a backseat, as the “remixer of choice” is himself remixed once again by an esteemed roll call of producers and artists. Corporeal Part 2 hands the reins over, so to speak, taking the originals in, mostly, different directions for the second time around; sometimes floating and at other times amplified with more gristle and growl, starting with the eased off on the treble, steely reworked version of the opening Shadow-stalking prowler Boom Clack by 2011 DMC Word DJ champion Chris Karns. Congruously following on from each other Flow and Tonto Rides The Gain sound even more harmoniously entwined, the former’s satellite probing spy soundtrack caressed and given an Indian-esque mystique by the London trio Sparkle Darkly, whilst the latter’s vocal riff is given an Ibiza style air-y flavour and Daft Punk bass pump by Kapibara.
Other notable transformations include the original Jurassic 5 swinging Pronounce Your Shit, featuring the New York rap partnership of Q-Ball & Cazal, which is given a far moodier, heavy hitting bass and drums mix by the Belfast funk, soul and hip hop producer Covershocks; the Blend Mishkin pirate radio rub-a-dub styled take of Live My Life; and the skipping drum’n’bass remodeling of the carefree Brasilia saunter, Bossa No Va by renowned original ‘rude boy’ Spikey Tee.
A few remixes prove to be subtler affairs; the former Beck meets Alabama 3 feel Rock The Boat, featuring Ashley Slater of Freak Power on vocals, spruced and brightened with an Arrested Development style down-home swing by Innereyeful, and the G.I. at the hop vocals of Amie J on the original You Are The Fire now sound far more soulful on the lush Dopedemand version. That final haunted swan song The Parade is heightened by the darker touch of dbridge, who takes it on a 90s imbued sophisticated minimal techno journey into the ether.
In many cases these remixes prove a complimentary extension, others an inventive alternative. Though Kennedy is fluent in most of the styles offered up and used to bend the source material into new shapes, it’s interesting to hear the numerous interpretations. Whether you’re familiar with the original material or not, you can’t go wrong with this second selection of remixes.
Pre-orders of the album are bolstered with a further eight remixes from Markey Funk, Nate Connelly and DJ Detweller which can currently be sampled on the Bandcamp page.
Words: Dominic Valvona
As intimate as it gets, we premiere a stripped-down set, in what looks to all intents and purposes like someones living room/office, from Monolith Cocktail favourite Lukas Creswell-Rost. Performing his live songbook before the release of his rapturously received Go Dreams LP in 2014 – which made our ‘choice’ albums of the year revue – in sedate surroundings, his only buffer between the audience and himself an over-zealous smoke machine,it has taken a while for the troubadour’s most adroit set to finally surface. Filmed by Bruno Derksen in 2013, the infra-red mixed with hazy filtered videoed performance is a cosy stripped-back tentative version of the original’s Rolling Stone, Creem and The Village Voice tuned-in 70s and 80s melodically rich and subtle balladry. Enjoy.
‘A loosely themed road map of misanthropic tragedy, Creswell-Rost cruises Rocks back pages to produce one of the most melodically sonorous albums of 2014. A Pacific Ocean Blues that continued into the 80s, this ambitious songbook soundtracks the misadventures of such egotistical miscreant rock stars as Yngwie Malmsteen, and charts the sad demise of 70s fallen balladeers Bad Finger, to a Steely Dan, Young Americans, Wings imbued backing. One of the sorely under-rated, if undiscovered, majestical albums of the year.’
Words: Dominic Valvona