It’s a tricky one, this. Seven days ago, staring at these three new releases, it would have been easy to rank them among the year’s finest, and heap praise upon the genius souls who decreed the dog days of the dying December were a suitable season for a musical climax. Like all of 2014 was building up to this!!!!
Instead, it’s the first week of January, which means most of us will still be misdating checks for another month. What manner of madcap would uncap hot pop rock while the Christmas decorations are still hanging on the tree?
Well, it’s probably no different to walking into the local drug store and finding the Easter chocolate is already on sale. Which it is.
Tis the season to be coupled. Schizo Fun Addict pair with the Bordellos for a split cassette that we will get to in a moment.
Or to be tripled. Crystal Jacqueline and the Honey Pot is a union we’ve encountered before, but add the Storyteller to the brew, and we’ll get to that in a moment, too.
First, though, we single out Sendelica, Fruits de favorites of recurrent mentions here, west Welsh whacked out instrumentalist psychosaurs, unearthing a fresh slab of soaring, roaring magnificence in the shape of Anima Mundi - eight songs long, but they’re long songs all, and the opening “The Craeft Worker” ... if you know your Jeff Beck Truth LP, it will probably put you in mind of his take on “Morning Dew.” A little. But it might also remind you of Gong, which in turn will remind you that Sendelica are so much the end result of forty years of psilocybic prog that the only thing they really sound like is Sendelica.
Like the Ozrics of past tentacular glory, Sendelica are easy to lazily categorize as the soundtrack to a weekend in a muddy field, ingesting sundry lumps of the local vegetation, and probably painting whirly shapes on one another’s tummy. Easy, but not necessarily accurately. Yes, you can do all that, and more. But hypnotic jam is only what’s spread across the surface; music this involved, and this deeply atmospheric, impresses also via its virtuosity.
Without any malice aforethought, the closing “The Hedge Witch” vaguely echoes the Plunderphonics interpretation of “Dark Star” that so bedeviled the Deadheads way back when, at the same time as the modestly-titled “Master Benjamin Warned Young Albert Not To Step on the Uninsulated Air” looks back at Hawkwind, circa PXR5, if they’d set about translating their sonics into morse code.
Elsewhere, the wind sweeps “The Pillar of Delhi,” as atmospheres incite snaking guitar from Gregory Curvey, guesting from the Luck of Eden Hall, and then there’s “The Breyr...” which swaggers in on an axe attack intro that makes pretty much all the classic metal you have ever known and love sound like the Captain and Tennille. Ghosts of Primus (“Mr Krinkle”) possibly haunt the main riff, but that could just be one’s ears trying to make sense of its relentlessness. It could as easily be a battalion of Tiger tanks disemboweling your gran.
As always with Sendelica, it’s a staggering package. Choose, if you will, between regular black vinyl, a limited edition (200 copies) CD picture disc, a similar stash on transparent blue vinyl, 200 more on clear wax, a DVD with video footage, and a box set weighted down with goodies that was sold out barely as soon as it was announced. Oh, and a digital-only package for those who are so inclined.
All in all, then, a magical behemoth of an album; one more to add to your growing Sendelica collection, and you can pick up your personal choice of version here.
Schizo Fun Addict vs the Bordellos may or may not be the title of the cassette tape that the two bands are conspiring over, in the name of furthering New Jersey’s cultural ties with the Isle of Man. It is, however, certainly the title gifted to the four song preview which leaked into the cybersphere on Christmas Eve, two tracks apiece by the guilty parties and opening with SFA’s “AM Story” - a gloriously hollow echo that seems to channel Broadcast, if they’d been possessed by the Seeds. Yes, that much fun.
Their “Endorphin Portal” is even wilder, ushered almost unwillingly in on the kind of sonic frequencies that you would normally only hear if your guinea pig became possessed by Eno. A Kraftwerkian beat, a White Noise electrosoup, Kraut Rock iciness, metronomic insistence - it should be the incidental music to an especially unpleasant movie about giant ants and scientists, but it isn’t. Not yet, anyway. Anything is possible in the world of the Schizo Fun Addicts, though, as you’ll discover when you realize that “Endorphin Portal” is sandwiched between two slices of primal, pristine, downbeat garage rock, courtesy of the Bordellos.
“Hit It” has pronounced Velveteen lope, the sound of a band that spent so long in a room with White Light White Heat that they think the guitar solo on “I Hear Her Call My Name” is a suitable sound for everyday use, and “Sister Ray’s rhythmic lope is what all the best-heeled dancers should shimmy to. All of which, of course, is accurate - and none of which will prepare you for “A Little Sadness,” which is little and sad, and sounds like a butter commercial that was written on toy instruments. And then sentenced to seven years in exile for crimes against the state. Beautiful, eerie, and the final, finished item cannot come soon enough. Pick up the sampler here.
Finally, Electronic Memory is a gloriously packaged CD release for what has already become one of last year’s most in-demand vinyl packages, the double EP from Crystal Jacqueline and the Honey Pot which so highlighted Fruits de Mer’s 2014 output. This time, it arrives as (deep breath) a limited edition of 100 boxed sets, each stuffed with includes a CD, a 12 page booklet, two postcards, a badge and (it says here), “to compensate audiophiles who prefer their music on vinyl, a packet of Mega Dodo patented vinyl simulator (that’s ‘space dust’ to you and me).”
Mega Dodo are behind this particular creation, and to save you from having to spool back to past columns, here’s a vaguely revised repeat of what we said about it back when it was vinyl.
A mix tape of all your fave forgotten 45s (plus “White Rabbit”), recasting them in a fashion that actually sounds even more like the era than the originals: Mighty Baby’s “Egyptian Tomb,” the Electric Prunes’ “Too Much to Dream,” Fleur de Lys’s “Tick Tock,” Curved Air’s “Puppets” (chronologically skewed but hush. It works), Icarus Peel’s “It’s Raining” and Pink Floyd’s “Remember A Day,” which opens the CD as it did the vinyl by effectively taking all of your favorite moments from A Saucerful of Secrets – Nick Mason’s symphonic drumming included – and compressing them into less than four minutes of Richard Wright’s finest hour.
It’s a deceptive opener, too, bright and breezy and so utterly devoid of menace that no way do you expect the Airplane’s albino hoppity to sweep in like an understated storm cloud, the tempo upped, the guitar howling, and Jacqueline almost threatening the lyric that Grace Slick left echoing through an emotionless void.
“Tick Tock” is delivered with a fine, funky swagger; an achingly vulnerable “Too Much to Dream” with a truly dreamlike air; and “Puppets” makes you realize just how close to Sonja Kristina Jacqueline’s vocals sometimes sound. Which is such a good thing that we should all go run around the room and wave our arms round for the duration of the song, or at least until we listen carefully to lyrics of “the Swan Necked Spider,” one of the new recordings included here, and if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if the Who’s “Boris the Spider” ever got it on with the Cure’s “Lullaby”... wonder no longer. Cool, cruel and utterly captivating.
Later, Traffic’s “Hole In My Shoe” comes in for an almost punk-infused mangling... if the implied yowls and riffery were supplanted by skeletons and roundabouts. Brilliantly supplanted. Traffic have never moved so sexily.
And if that was the end of the package’s merits, we’d already be celebrating wildly. But wait, there’s more - a half dozen visits from the Storyteller. Who, appropriately, tells stories in between the songs, to lend the proceedings such an air of lucid Carrollian menace that you only wish there’d been even more.
Find it here. It’s wonderful.