NEW MUSIC ROUND UP
A very special extra ‘Leap Year’ edition of the Tickling Our Fancy round up for you, with transcendent, electric-chicha and halcyon psychedelic albums from The Loved Drones, Xixa and Edward Penfold. Plus an EP of analogue synthesizer compositions from Niels Gordon and 7” singles from the wistful Junkboy, The Van Allen Belt , and the Gothic punk rockers The Gaa Gaas.
The Loved Drones ‘Good Luck Universe!’
Released by Gonzai Records, March 4th 2016
Finding a meditative peace, holed-up in a Jonathan Meades vision of the industrial Belgium city of Liege, The Loved Drones tend to Bowie’s “Neuköln” “moss garden” whilst zoning-out to electro, Kraut, post and heavy rock on their new album, Good Luck Universe. Musically attuned to higher states the Freaksville Records collective escape their surrealist chimney-belching environment with an album of drone-suffused instrumentals, underwritten with a vague Metta Bhavana message of love, peace and universal kindness. A mantra-fueled voyage of loose conceptions and fluctuating moods informed partly by the Lutheran landscape, and partly by the exotic Arabic, African and Southern European communities that surround the Freaksville label’s HQ in their second home of Brussels, merges with a permeating signature of resonating Indian-themed transcendence; adhered to throughout by a sharpened, ringing, sitar.
Drones to the left of me, drones to the right of me, drones overhead, the continuous resounding struck chord or note and the Internet era’s weapon of choice are the obvious themes of this album. From the ominous marching snare, Middle Eastern stirrings and veiled Goblin vapours of the opening ‘Nomad’ and the laser-guided Neu! fitness video cosmic warning light of ‘Escape From The Terror Drone’, the scene is set: the looming radio-controlled arbiter of death, hovering menacingly over its prey.
Elsewhere the collective tap into Bernard Szajner and John Carpenter on the moving, solar wind powered, lamenting evocation ‘Drone Alone – Crimson Skies’, mix a triumvirate of Vangelis, OMD and La Dusseldorf on the future-retro Alpine gliding ‘Electric Blue Moon’, and mix Child In Time era Deep Purple with Pink Floyd and Vanilla Fudge on the closer ‘Canyons’.
Released via Gonzai Records – home to the similar industrial and Krautrock inspired Steeple Remove, who we featured in 2015 – The Loved Drones musical narrative fits the cultish perimeters of the iconic Parisian label well. Finding solace and hope in bleak times Good Luck Universe is mostly a motorik driven ride through the past. Countless influences can be found liberally scattered throughout, from the Kosmiche to the post rock and industrial drone progenitors of the last forty odd years. However, with a certain unique Belgian bent and take on it these instrumentals offer something a little different, setting out as they do, a subtle protestation soundtrack for our worrying times.
Released by Glitterhouse Records & Barbés Records, available now
Journeying south on a peyote induced travail across the Rio Grande into a South American set spaghetti western, the debut adventure from Brian Lopez and Gabriel Sullivan’s Xixa project is a noir-ish rock’n’roll affair. Still adhering to the sauntering rich rhythms of the Peruvian chichi (a style of cumbia made popular in the Amazon and barrios of Lima during the 1960s and 70s), Lopez and Sullivan continue to merge its signature sound to a cornucopia of musical styles, including American and Psychedelia, on Bloodline. Not just indulging but deeply absorbed by it, the duo have previously studied the chichi form, learning and arranging the classics, and recording their own unique versions and adaptations with Chichi Dust and Giant Sand.
In a supernatural world of both real and symbolic bloodletting, Xixa’s concatenate cast of characters and metaphorical fables resonate with the Gothic voodoo desert landscape they occupy. To the beat of a snakeskin booted stomp and twanged exotic dusty rhythm, they introduce us to a “dusk to dawn” giddy bloodsucker on ‘Vampiro’ – as much a metaphor about addiction and fever as about vampires -, a tragic femme fatale murderer, on the Animal Collative in South American redemption song ‘Killer’, and ancestral restless spirits, lost beyond the ether, on the trippy ‘Dead Man’. Apart from dedicating the ‘Living On the Line’ to the hot topic of Mexican migration and closed boarders, Xixa play with their many exoteric and exotic influences in a mischievous, sometimes toungue-in-cheek way, whilst shuffling and dancing the whole time. If you ever wondered what Aldo Struyf’s Creature With The Atom Brain with Mark Lanegan on vocals playing in a cantina on the Mexican day of the dead, covering a host of chichi and Ennio Morricone songs would sound like, then Bloodline is probably it.
Edward Penfold ‘Caulkhead’
Released by Stolen Body Records, 18th March 2016
Isle of Wight émigré in Bristol Edward Penfold wistfully hones his native homeland’s outsider spirit of maverick, if languid, poetics and hazy, blurry psychedelia on his debut solo effort Caulkhead. Resident in the southwestern cultural hub of Bristol, a member of the local-based psych/garage trio Taos Humm, Penfold travelled back to the Island to record the album.
Reflecting the Island’s historical position and prestige as a retreat for many of Victorian England’s artistic pioneers, most notably Margaret Cameron and Alfred Lord Tennyson, and its moment in the sun as the centre of the counterculture movement when it hosted the largest pop festival of its kind in 1970, Penfold’s references are mostly atmospheric and dreamy. Only the Ray Davis despondently warbling in the salty seas title track mentions the Island specifically, using the nickname given to anyone who was born there – something me and Penfold both share.
But if anyone has paid a keen interest in the Island’s music scene over the last twenty years, they’ll hear the same resonating lax signatures and off-kilter richness of originality that was found in one of the most successful exports, The Bees.
Gargling with the electric kool aid, swimming in a soft gauze of vaguely familiar Syd Barrett, Kevin Ayers, Pete Dello and Idle Race-isms, Penfold joins the best of England’s bygone eccentric songwriters. Like some profound demos recorded for posterity, dusted off for future generations, his heavily compressed single-track tape machine obscurities sound simultaneously nostalgic and modern; evocating both the louche shimmer of The Beatles LSD experiments in swaddled hallucinogenic sounds and the lo fi enervated personifications of Greg Boring and Ty Segall. Taking an idiosyncratic tone throughout, Penfold finds something interesting, relevant, and even noble in the mundane. Saying nothing but saying a lot, succinct lyrics indolently capture the quintessential English mania for the weather, whilst actually really alluding to a profound sadness, on the despondent mellotron pop nugget ‘Sunny Day’, and touches on the topic of sleep deprivation with the Lennon-esque trope of restlessness ‘Tired’.
The rest of Caulkhead effortlessly either captures the soporific despair of Syd Barrett’s early pop meanders (‘Lawrence Of Arabica’ and ‘Up Down’) or the shimmery, standing on a shore, blues odyssey instrumentation of Fleetwood Mac and a Abbey Road era Ringo and McCartney partnership (‘Hogwash’ and ‘Song For Joan’).
Despite degrading the quality and purposefully placing limitations on the recordings, Penfold hardly lacks ambition and scope. A cornucopia of instruments, sounds and layers drift through the dampened washes to expose some clever ingenuity, Penfold taking far more care than he lets on to produce his soft bulletins from the psychedelic garden Isle. Lost but found, a cult classic in the making, his disarming inaugural solo album of what on the surface seems fleeting and empirical songs, will in fact linger in the conscious and stay with you long after you’ve heard them. This is a most fantastic start to the maverick songwriters solo pathway.
Niels Gordon ‘Ohrnacht EP’
Released by Numbers Music, available now
Recorded over the last two years in the backwoods of Gothenburg on a selection of vintage synthesizers, Niels Gordon’s debut EP is a subtle affair. Poised and harmonious throughout with a suffused air of the Kosmiche, each one of the four sweeping ambient compositions on Ohrnacht is fluid. Created in their embryonic state without the use of a computer, they sound organic, reflecting the peaceful but evocative environment they were produced in.
Opening with the oscillating, exotically Eastern tinged, ‘Pio’ – the melody and warm bass courtesy of Gordon’s old faithful Yamaha CS5 – we’re gradually introduced to a Neo-Krautrock homage sound palette of Cluster, Harmonia, Ashra, Edgar Frosse and Kraftwerk influences, and with the starry night bound bleeping vaporous ‘Zufluch’ we hear some early signs of techno.
Whether it’s the moody Drive like sadness of the twilight hour title track or the lunar reverberating Neu-Europa and OMD misty-eyed landscapes of ‘Phyllie’, Gordon’s soundtracks, no matter how refined and minimal, set timeless scenes.
The Gaas Gaas ‘Close Your Eyes’
Released by Movement-2-Records , 29th February 2016
After what seems like the longest of breaks, returning after their last spiky sharp-toed Gothic number ‘Voltaire’, the London/Brighton band The Gaa Gaas return with another slice of jilting garage rock punk to unsettle the consciences. Produced by Ali Gavan of the late Brighton psych institution The Electric Soft Parade, and mastered, once again, by Robert Harder (both Babyshambles and The White Rose Movement to his name), the Close Your Eyes/Indian Giver 7” is a caustic, cutting commentary on the Syrian crisis. The A-side is a DIY smeary, whining rave-up of The Rezillos, Bauhaus and The Fall, whilst the flip spirals down a Cure meets The Stone Roses vacuum of incessant shoegaze guitars, rattling rim percussion and feedback.
Versace ads director Boldizsar CR has shot a visual performance of the band, cut with various pieces of war footage, to go with the single, which is released through their own Movement-2-Records label. It shows an ambitious return for the band, and is just the beginning of what looks to be a busy year, with the debut LP recording sessions earmarked for July, and the UK/Europe tour in May.
Junkboy ‘Fulfil b/w Streets Of Dobuita’
Released on vinyl as part of 3.45RPM’s “454545 lathe cut” series, digital versions also available
From the warm nostalgic glow of the Laurel Canyon and Aquarius Age California to the pastoral psychedelic folk of the soft bulletin, Brighton’s Hanscomb brothers weave the most gentle and relaxed reinterpretations of a halcyon past under the Junkboy moniker. Their last LP, Sovereign Sky, made unassuming and breezy references to The Beach Boys, The Left Banke, Harper Bazaar and Thorinshield, whilst dreamily updating the sound to draw favorable comparisons to the High Llamas.
Now in the wake of that critically successful album, the siblings have reinterpreted the work of an obscure post-rock psych group Azimuth Co-Ordinator for 3.45RPM’s “454545 lathe cut” series of specially recorded singles and albums. Using samples from the originals, the Junkboys have fashioned two new songs for the most diaphanous of seven-inch singles. The A-side’s ‘Fulfil’, is a soothingly misty-eyed beauty that traverses a pleasant bed of yearning guitars, claves and murmuring cooed vocals, whilst the flip side’s ‘Streets Of Dobuita’ is another pastoral instrumental of delicate meditative beauty. The brothers say, “If you’re into Point era Cornelius, Papa M circa Live From A Shark Cage or the more melodious aspects of contemporary American Primitive you will truly dig this very rare, limited and lovely artifact!” We say: grab a limited copy while you can!
The Van Allen Belt ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’
Released 29th February 2016
Constantly releasing the most off-kilter and original convoluting material over the last decade, The Van Allen Belt‘s inimitable amorphous delivery of trip hop, electronic music, psychedelia and dreamy film scores pays homage to the late David Bowie on this special leap year release.
A washed-out Bowie, strung-out and experimenting with the counterculture spirit of the late 1960s, in limbo awaiting his next leap of faith and disguise as the Man Who Sold The World, draws hope in the death throes of the hippie revolution with a ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’. The closing epitaph of Bowie’s Space Oddity LP, The Van Allen Belt turn in a touching, profund performance of this mellotron paean. Recorded in Paris and originally earmarked for the group’s upcoming album of cover versions, they’ve since, and I think it was the right choice, decided to release it separately.
Words: Dominic Valvona