Crystal Jacqueline - Rainflower (Mega Dodo)
Few albums in recent years can be said to have eclipsed Crystal Jacqueline’s Sun Arise, although one comes very close. And the fact that it’s her own follow-up set detracts from neither her debut’s brilliance or its successor’s genius.
Opening with a “Siren” that restates her uncanny ability to channel Grace Slick without really sounding remotely like her, but powering on through ten songs that merge her musical taste for classic psych with a literary bent that bows through darker pastures, “Rainflower” hits its first peak early, with a “Winter Deep / Dress Of White Lace” that kickstarts memories of the scary bits from Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, without offering you a single reason to think in those terms.
The mood lightens across “Daisy Chains,” which is the kind of thing Pink Floyd might have thought of as a potential hit single around 1968, while the post-Barrett spacemen re-emerge across a gorgeous cover of “Grantchester Meadows,” restyled as eastern mantra and reminding us that that band’s most overlooked era (apres Syd, pre-Meddle) is also the source of their most fertile fruit.
If anything here states Crystal Jacqueline’s magic, though; even more than the sensual soul that is the heartbeat of her own compositions… even more than “Mary Waiting,” whose voice and bee-hum intro alone with steal your eyes…, it’s her take on Status Quo’s “In My Chair.” Once a slice of luciously lazy rhythm’n’boogie, here it is recast in some dark place midway between “Season of the Witch” and “Lucifer Sam,” supremely foreboding, sexy and sinuous… and underpinned by a guitar riff that sounds like a pagan God clearing his throat.
Do you even need to ask any more?
(Yes, you need to know where to get it from. Here....)
Cranium Pie - Mechanisms Part 2 (Fruits de Mer)
The successor, of course to part one, Mechanisms is that rare beast in the modern age - a slice of utterly demented prog that sets out from wherever the music’s last great leap wound up (probably somewhere around Van Der Graaf Generator, circa 1977), and then goes nowhere that anyone else could have dreamed.
Four side of vinyl - four tracks, titled according to their place in the running order, and pushing twenty minutes apiece. Time enough indeed to wipe from your mind all the over-earnest sad sacks who think that prog is simply a matter of putting your head up your hind quarters and then seeing how many Chapman Sticks you can pull in with you.
“” rides in on menacing percussives, building slowly on foreboding rhythms but inexorably drawing you into the web, where other sounds await, each one almost boleric as it leads you in to a place where… it’s not Arthur Brown, but the voice that screams is just as manic, just as terrifying.
Without even a hint of “weird for weirdness’s sake” (another lesson that others could learn), elements harken back to pastures familiar - Cranium Pie have been aligned with sundry highlights of the Canterbury Scene, as it veered towards the jazz rock sensibilities that ultimately sent it elsewhere entirely.
But a more accurate vision would place them on the Vertigo label circa 1970, with Dr Z, Nucleus and Cressida as their closest relatives, and Van Der Graaf (labelmates in certain foreign climes) offering them a loan of a demonic sax player. They don’t accept, but there’s equal dislocation at work both here (the midpoint of “1” is a drum solo from hell) and elsewhere. And the result is an album that you may not instantaneously love, but which will certainly pursue you. Relentlessly. So find it here, before it finds you.
The Bordellos - Art Whore EP
Fresh from their so pristine split single with the immortal Schizo Fun Addict, Britain’s Bordellos bounce back with a four track EP that echoes all the brilliance of those earlier sides, and then lures you into the remainder of their catalog with that same sleazy, lascivious back street swagger that the best rock’n’roll bands should all be adept at. But which so few of the blighters are.
Technically all four tracks are out-takes from the Ronco Revival Sound LP. But don't let that confound you in the slightest. “In Two,” staggering over acoustic guitars and a harmonica which sounds like it’s passing by a window, could have fallen from a lost Johnny Thunders show; “Move Sideways” from the Velvets, if they’d found their Mother’s Little Helpers, instead of whatever it was that Andy Warhol fed them; and the title track is low fi luxury, sounding like it was recorded with an unstrung guitar and a microphone planted in next door’s ficus plant.
Solidly excellent one and all, but it’s “Emote Remote Emotion” that captures the Bordellos’ true savagery, all echo and murmur and Mark E Smith yowling, capturing something of the mood that made late 70s midwest art punk such fun, while daring you to guess why the Residents aren’t the biggest band in the world.
Because the Bordellos got there first, perhaps?
Find it here.
Sendelica / Da Captain Trips
Psychedelic Battles Volume One (Vincebus Eruptum - vinyl; FRG - CD)
Less a split album, more an hour of open brain surgery, Psychedelic Battles is aptly titled only if you don’t expect the two bands to be dueling with one another. Rather, this is the kind of disc where they both join forces, and the only victim will be that part of your brain that makes responsible decisions at different times of day. Like “oh, it’s time to go to work now, I’d better turn the music off.” Or, “it’s very late at night, I ought to turn it down.” Or, “should I even bother getting dressed this week? Or shall I just lie here and listen to this?”
Answers on a postcard please, but twenty-three minutes of “Day of the Locust,” which is Sendelica’s contribution to the on-going madness, is essentially all those old Man albums you still love so much, fed through the every sonic advance that the world has made since then - if “Dark Star” was darker than ever before, and actually sounded as good as so many people reckon, Sendelica would still be out-freak it here, and the only real question is - who’s going to last the longest? Your ears or your stylus? These locusts are seriouslyy hungry.
Flip to side two and Da Captain Trips pick up the momentum without restating the moods - “Space Tides” is almost relaxed - space rock in orbit, as opposed to warp speed, a calm before the storm of the meteor shower. And all wrapped up, for the collectors among us, in a limited edition of such startlingly minuscule quantities (300 LPs, 150 aluminum coasters) that, if you don’t grab it now, from here, you might never have another chance.
The Striped Bananas - Lady Sunshine
Can you imagine… those classic Echo and the Bunnymen albums, where Ian McCullough leaned so far towards some mystic psychedelic influence that you just wished he’d drop all the raincoats and wellie boots, and admit his heart belonged to SF Sorrow? Where the Beatles had released “Carnival of Light,” but only after realigning it to the album they should have made after Revolver, before they decided to invent the non-concept album? Where your five favorite bands that no-one else remembers bucked all the trends and became mega-godlings?
The Striped Bananas can. And do. Following on from a self-titled debut back in 2012 (and a live EP which seethes like no-one’s business), Lady Sunshine is one of those albums that you can’t help feeling that you heard years ago, and have been searching for ever since. Not because it sounds like something/anything else (although it does, in the best possible way), but because it’s hard to believe that nobody had already written these songs. Made these sounds. Dreamed these visions.
The controls are indisputably set for the heart of 67,and the sonic battery slides straight out of a teetering pile of psych compilations. So yeah, the themes and arrangements tug at the memory, but it takes more than a musical xerox machine to recreate the mood so exquisitely, at the same time as demanding you never look away.
“Mistress of Existence” ruminates on what might have happened if psych had held on to the Glam Rock era; “Oasis of Time” opens with a moonshot but quickly finds a dark cave to lurk in; and (absent from the album, but you have to hunt it down regardless), “Christmas 1914” is a magnificent memory of a Great War legend, set to frenetic beat and soaring guitars.
A glorious album made even more magnificent by the fact that it’s available for free from here. So go grab it now.
Will Z - New Start (Mega Dodo)
A name, if you know it, drawn from the annals of the Cosmic Trip Machine; and then, alone, via The Book of AM, Will Z returns with an album that may or may not be aptly titled, but which was surely cut in the shadow of the Third Ear Band - and it’s about time someone acknowledged how wonderful they were.
Leaning heavily into the spaced out pastures that too few modern psychedelic warlords delve into for any length of time, New Start is ignited by a thirteen minute meditation, the first three-parts of “Jain Devotion” - all swirling, sensual passages of melody, building and rebuilding around a soft mantric rhythm into which Will’s barely-louder-than-breathing vocals weave with haunted determination.
Later in the set, three concluding parts wrap up the journey with equal guile and weightlessness… Tim Blake’s New Jerusalem album comes vaguely to mind as you contemplate the overall mood of things - especially now, as we mourn the passing of David Allen, the man who binds Blake and Z together, via their work together on The Book of Intxixu.
In between times, meanwhile, “Namo” and its “Evil Namo” corollary, the mystifying “Greek Loop” and the pulsating blur of “Nefle” all push New Start towards a whole new beginning, rising tides of resonance and remembrance that echo so much, but sail their own seas entirely.
It lives here.
Earthling Society/Superfjord - Coltrane (Fruits de Mer)
That’s Coltrane as in John, and Coltrane as in Alice - a nomenclaturally logical pairing, if not the most musically balanced. Or so you might think. But Superfjord’s version of “A Love Supreme” flutters so gracefully into Earthling Society’s “Journey In Satchidananda” (the Cosmic Joy Mix, apparently), that this 45 effortlessly slips into that select heap of fishy folks’ finest sonic brainwaves. At the same time (for those of us who maybe don’t fully appreciate the original artists) as making us wish that all their stuff sounded like this.
And so “A Love Supreme” becomes a whooshing, whizzing, riffing beast of beauty, cut through with soundscapes and a chant to plant in the mud of Glastonbury, circa 1971; while “Journey In Satchidananda” yearns heavenly, and bristles with tiny tangles of interstellar jam. Maybe it is time to broaden some horizons, after all.
Get it here.