Old Fire ‘Voids’
(Western Vinyl Records) 4th November 2022

Voids is the second album by Old Fire, AKA composer and producer John Mark Lapham (formerly of The Earlies). Whilst the first album received comparisons to This Mortal Coil, the new one comes across like the soundtrack to a bleak art film, particularly the instrumental tracks. Which isn’t to say it’s not great! Indeed, the music is often uplifting in its sadness and beauty.

Over the five years in which it was recorded, the Pandemic happened, Lapham lost both parents and split from his long-term partner. Feelings of loss, isolation and desolation form the themes of the album and are ever present in the music and songs throughout. Partly a collaborative affair there are fantastic performances from Bill Callahan, Julia Holter, Loma’s Emily Cross and Adam Torres!

The album begins with the instrumental ‘All Gone’, which fades in on mournful brass and echoing piano with squiggles of babbling synth noise, space FX and virtual ghost choir! Soon giving way to ‘Blue Star’ a dream-pop/country/jazz song that part recalls Marissa Nadler circa ‘Drone-flower’. This gem of a song features the wonderful Emily Cross of Lomawith a voice as devastating as Lana Del Rey!

‘When I was in My Prime’ features the magnificent Bill Callahan (Smog) intoning a tale of summer love, loss, sadness and longing. Beginning with a droning orchestra it soon conjures a picture of flying insects feeding on wild flowers, the anticipation and the thrill of love, the freeing of the soul. A double bass and brushed drums add to the air of ease. But all too soon, as birds swoop down, still feeding at the death, a lonely guitar sings of the emptiness left behind as love leaves and a relationship ends!

‘Corpus’ follows – wind noise and droning keyboards mix with sad brass, tremolo guitar, brushed drums and discordant noise while Mr Smog intones a mantra that rests somewhere in-between Nick Cave and Ian McCulloch but, ultimately, could only be Bill Callahan. ‘Love is Only Dreaming’ is next, an instrumental that is more about atmosphere than melody sounding not unlike the throb of an alien space craft in a 1950’s Sci-fi B-Movie!

Adam Torres sings the fantastic ‘Dreamless’ sounding somewhere in-between Billy Mackenzie and Russell Mael with his soaring falsetto. The song and electronic music give the feel of floating in space – drifting endlessly in the black void – dreamless!

An outstanding piano version of John Martyn’s ‘Don’t You Go’ sung by Bill Callahan is a definite highlight! The sad themes of loss and mourning fitting in perfectly with the rest of the album.

The strange sci-fi world of ‘Window’ features Julia Holter singing through a voice processor or vocoder making her sound cold and alien, machine like almost! This contrasts with the warm music of woodwind, harp, brass, brushed drums and tremolo guitar. The overall feel is like something from the Cocteau Twins circa ‘Echoes in a Shallow Bay’– Wonderful!

The album ends with four superb instrumental pieces. In ‘Uninvited’, swashes of guitar fade in as the cold dawn peers through the curtains. The sound of early morning comedown, half dream, half surreal train ride down the rabbit hole of perception! ‘Memory’ creates feelings of unease, of distorted reality, a mushroom trip too far, a silent scream! Beauty born of sorrow and realisation. Like taking ownership for the weight of the world! This sense of sorrow overwhelms, bursting its banks in ‘Father as a Child’. While ‘Circles’ finds calm reflection after the storm, the floodwaters finally beginning to subside as the Sun breaks through the clouds and birds return to the skies!

FaltyDL ‘A Nurse to my Patience’
(Blueberry Records)  11th November 2022

The new album by FaltyDL (Electronic Musician and New York based Producer Drew Lustman) is a departure from his more dance-orientated records. The album draws on the sounds more often associated with less commercial independent or experimental artists. There are still tracks that can be danced to, but perhaps not in the usual dance clubs. ‘Zoo Jarre’ is reminiscent of New Order while ‘God Light’ filters in The Cure. ‘Come See Us’ features Interpol’s Paul Banks on vocals over a pounding drum machine and synth driven electronic alternative 80s style song! Much better are ‘Four Horses’ and ‘A Brother Bears the Silence’ – two acoustic psychedelic songs featuring the incredible Julianna Barwick on background vocals (check out her own incredible Healing is a Miracle album). ‘Doves Fears’ ends the album on an instrumental high note of anthemic surf guitar and pop synth summer melody.

A O Gerber ‘Meet Me at the Gloaming’
(Hand in Hive / Father Daughter Records)

The second album by LA resident A O Gerber explores childhood trauma, her fraught upbringing in a religious community, childhood fear of the unknown. However, the introspective songs are filled with melody and sound almost pop-country in their stripped back guitar, vocals, bass, drums format. Vocally she reminds me of Susanna Hoffs from the Bangles. However, the songs exist in the unreality of twilight, the gloaming, where dreams meet material existence, a reality half hidden by the falling shadows of night.

Modern Stars ‘Space Trips for the Masses’
(Little Cloud Records)  11th November 2022

The third album by psychedelic riders of the storm, Modern Stars, falls somewhere between The Mission and The Fields of the Nephilim. New single ‘Monkey Blues’ also has hints of the Doors and may have been an underground hit had it come out in 1987! That’s not necessarily a criticism as the 3-piece band hail from Italy and perhaps, are not too familiar with 1980’s UK Goth! ‘Mmmm’ is a Goth anthem if ever there was one, complete with flanged metallic drums. While, ‘My Messiah’ musically sounds like a discarded Joy Division jam from 1978 but in a good way! ‘Drowning’ adds tabla hand drums and sitar to the mix. The album ends with ‘Ninna Nanna’ a song that sounds a bit different with female vocals. Unfortunately, the vocal melody sounds like ‘Come by yar my lord’, perhaps making it the first Goth-spel song? Overall, a fine, if not totally original, album.

Ben Pagano ‘Exploring Dreams’

This is the third release from New York singer songwriter and keyboard maestro Ben Pagano. The album is a collection of seven songs that sit vocally somewhere between Supertramp and Randy Newman! My favourite song is ‘Everybody’s Ghost’. The arrangements are pleasant with piano, synths, guitar, bass and drums and the overall sound has a 1970’s soft rock or AOR feel that will find favour with many. If he can stamp more of his own personality and quirkiness on the songs, he may get the success he seeks. One to watch!

I Work in Communications ‘Kiss My Emoji Ring’

‘The taste of Square Sausage versus the taste of sausages of other shape’ has perhaps never been considered for a ‘Panorama’ Special Investigation! However, under the watchful eye of Dr Arthur Mind MBS there has now been an investigative study to show that the shape of food can and does have a positive effect on its taste!

Consider the Triangle, for example, and its effect on the cheesiness of food! Former Cosmonaut Alexi Kraft discovered the wonders of this shape when he invented Kraft Cheese Slices in order to supply the first man in space Yuri Gagarin with a calcium filled snack that would strengthen his bones whilst orbiting the Earth in Vostok 1 on April 12 1961. After several attempts to sustain enough calcium for the space flight using oblong shaped cheese, the triangle was discovered by accident to be the perfect shape for maximum cheesiness, when one of the oblong shaped cheeses broke diagonally in half while Yuri was riding his bicycle down a hill in preparation for the G Force of the rocket launch!

Of course, in modern times it is quite apparent that a Babybel round cheese is nowhere near as tasty as a Kraft Cheese Triangle! However, the shape of food was soon to play a devastating part in Gagarin’s life. Tragedy struck Gagarin when in 1966 he inadvertently ate a Quality Street green triangle whilst filming an advert for Kraft! His ‘hero status’ in tatters, Gagarin was forced to flee to the West. He never recovered from his fall from grace, ending his days hidden in a bear costume-playing Bungle on Rainbow.

Like the dream reality of Yuri Gagarin, Kiss My Emoji Ring is heroic, strange, troubled, shaped with taste like a square sausage, weird! Doomed to global obscurity but reaching for the stars!


Tigercub ‘The Perfume of Decay’
(Loosegroove Records)

Gillian Stone ‘Ravens Song’

Taken from the forthcoming EP Spirit Photographs, the new single from this Toronto-based experimental singer and musician is a sparse yet cinematic soundscape-folk song. It reminds of Nick Cave or P J Harvey in its moonlit darkness – can’t wait for the EP!

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