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Interview: Jess and the Ancient Ones

Jess and the Ancient Ones, from Finland, play an intoxicating and wonderfully quirky mix, of psychedelic, garage rock and metal music that, on their latest album Vertigo, reaches a new creative peak. Louder Than War caught up with Thomas, the band’s guitarist and songwriter, to ask about their influences, the new album, and when we might see them play live again in the UK.

LTW: At Louder Than War, we really loved the new Jess and the Ancient Ones album, Vertigo. Thank you for taking the time to talk about the band and its music.

Thomas: Hi there! Oh, that’s nice to hear, thank you for the support.

LTW: How has everyone in the band been during the pandemic? We hope you are all well.

Thomas: We are all good thank you for asking. We’ve been living our lives back here. All of us are working or studying, and the current situation has not affected those areas in any major way. At least not yet. We have a lot of new material in  pre-production at the moment, so we have been busy on that front while the world is locked.

LTW: The band was formed in 2010, can you say a little about how the band got together?

Thomas: A lust rose back then to write and play rock music. My past had been within the extreme metal scene, and I wanted to have a band that operates in a different field of music. Soon after that vision we had a line-up for Jess and the Ancient Ones. All the musicians were found nearby, and some were old friends. We recorded our first demo songs straight in the beginning of the band, and by that recording we got signed to Svart Records. It’s been a fantastic journey so far to say the least. The best is still yet to come!

LTW: In the music of Jess and the Ancient Ones, there seems to be a myriad of fascinating musical influences, including, for example, garage rock, metal, and even something of the west coast sound of The Doors and the Jefferson Airplane. What, for you, are the key musical influences on the band?

Thomas: We’re not afraid of change. I think many try to maintain their sound and style to please the masses, but we play selfishly to ourselves in a certain sense. The need and the want to explore is always there, and we follow that call without hesitation. All of us in Jess and the Ancient Ones are huge music lovers with a broad appetite for different bands, so I guess it also shows in our music.

I personally love the old nuggets movement and the primitive era of garage rock. Lately I have been listening to 90’s metal and alternative rock with the likes of Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, REM and Monster Magnet. Jazz, popcorn soul, funk and lo-fi trip-hop have also been on great consumption. Best newcomers that come to mind are Khruangbin and Boy Harsher. The subconscious reveals us through music.

LTW: On the new album Vertigo, the spoken samples and voiceovers, add a strangeness, that seems to echo the 1950s sci-fi/horror movie genre. Is that what you were aiming for?

Thomas: For me they add that small little extra kick to put the mood on. My advice to approach them is that one should think of them in their new surroundings. They become a part of different storylines and thus they transform to a new being. I love to take something old and give it a new meaning and a new surrounding. In a way it’s also almost like this sacred mission. To highlight these particular moments in history, and to evoke the feelings of yesterdays.

LTW: Summer Tripping Man, which was the first single off the album, is accompanied by a superb, animated video, created by Giuliano Di Girolamo. How did you team up, and what was the concept behind the video?

Thomas: I found him through Instagram, hah! The modern world shows its good sides sometimes I guess. There was an idea to have an old school styled animation video and so I started to look for videos behind certain hashtags. As soon as I saw Giuliano’s art, I knew that this is it. When he said he was interested in doing this, we had a minor discussion about the images that we wished to have on the video, and he proceeded from there on using also the lyrics of the song as a guideline. He is a great talent, and he did a huge job by doing it in the old school style. Much respect and love to him, a true artist.

LTW: Strange Earth Illusion, clocking in at over 11 minutes, feels to be Vertigo’s magnificent centrepiece, with all the key elements of the Jess and the Ancient Ones musical sound in place. Could you describe how the track was put together and recorded?

Thomas: Actually, we finished this track in the studio. We had the backbone ready before entering but we did some structural tweaks at the last moment. We recorded the base of the song live with all the main instruments and then added some layering guitars and keyboards here and there. The song had this cinematic feeling and we tried to follow its feel structurally. Not to return to repeat any parts except some verses.

LTW: I was lucky enough to see the band, when you played Glasgow in 2018, at the North of the Wall metal festival, I think perhaps your first ever UK gig. It was a great set that really won over the audience. What are your memories of the visit to Glasgow and the gig itself?

Thomas: I remember that evening very well. We enjoyed the beautiful city of Glasgow from the first glimpse to the last. The venue was really good, and the staff of the house were fantastic. They made us feel really welcome. We attacked with all guns blazing as we tried to match the intensity of the other acts, and the people seemed to enjoy it. We love being the odd bird in heavier festivals. After many hours of blasting, people are in need of something different, yet similar in spirit. I think we can offer you that. Also, the afterparty was great after the show, and we stayed there almost until the morning. The DJ was blasting out all of these great classics, and the beer was great! Met a lot of nice people there, and hope to travel back someday.

LTW: What touring plans do Jess and the Ancient Ones have, once touring is possible again? Might you return to the UK to play?

Thomas: The world seems to open up bit by bit, but we haven’t made any plans yet. We have a lot of new material in the pre-production phase, and we continue to work with them. Of course, if the opportunity comes to do shows, we’ll take it. We must come back to the UK to play. It’s been a wish of mine to do a row of shows in the UK, and someday it will happen. Take us to the nearest Helter Skelter please!

Best wishes to the UK! The home of the best bands in the world!

LTW: Thanks again for your time.

Listen to the brilliant Love Zombi from the Vertigo album here:

You can find Jess and the Ancient Ones on Bandcamp and Facebook.

~

All questions by Gareth Allen. You can find Gareth’s author profile here

 

The post Interview: Jess and the Ancient Ones appeared first on Louder Than War.

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The Bablers: Psychadilly Circus – album review

The Bablers – Psychadilly Circus

Big Stir

CD/DL

Released 29 May 2021

15 track album on Big Stir by reformed Finnish new wave/power pop band The Bablers, including singles Love Is Everything and Queen Of Yesterday. This outfit originally made their debut back in 1980 with What’s It All About and this third LP comes after 1998’s Like The First Time..Ian Canty find himself babbling on and on like normal…

The new album by The Bablers Psychadilly Circus pits the listener right back to the heyday of late 1960s pop – there’s no mistaking it for Psychobilly Circus from the get-go! This Finnish act show up here on Big Stir in 2021 with a lengthy history behind them. Hailing from Helsinki, they originally came together back in 1980. They put together new wave and power pop influences on their debut LP What’s It All About, which was released in the same year. It made a big impression in their home country, but after the Suddenly/Day By Day single in 1982, the band parted ways. Like The First Time, a comeback collection, emerged in 1998 when the band regrouped, but after that there was another long gap in Bablers’ activities before the album we have here.

The Bablers’ current line up is Janne Haavisto, Pekka Gröhn, Hannu Pikkarainen and Arto Tamminen, each playing a variety of instruments and singing, with Arto being the band’s lead vocalist. In my view Big Stir is the perfect home for The Bablers’ brand of painstakingly constructed, pretty 1960s influenced pop/rock & roll and Psychadilly Circus positions itself gloriously in a multi-coloured, late 1960s milieu. Though on first glance this may seem like evidence of a purely retro mindset, the tunes, energy and sheer joy that The Bablers bring to the LP mark it above such considerations.

Having said that, the first track Love Is Everything skates pretty close to a John Lennon/Beatles piano ballad sort of thing, but sets forth with a steady purpose and is beautifully put together, so I will grant them a pass. Then comes the jangle and fuzz of the title track, a neat slice of modern psychedelia with cowbell that ends by phasing out coolly. Queen Of Yesterday puts the brakes on a little, a sad but enthralling character study that uses pared-down verse sections to emphasises the band’s power and poise when they come in. The organ work here is lovely too.

I Hope It Wouldn’t Rain Tomorrow gleams with sparkling guitars, pitching itself at the point where power pop and new wave meets and in doing so produces an addictive pop rocker. The alluring music box sound of All Because Of You comes next and then a lowkey acoustic meditation in Unidentified comes with again some nice and very tasteful keyboard touches included. The brief folk picking guitar of Where Were You My Friend sets the scene for Some Tears, which sets forth in a similar manner to Love Is Everything, with a dreamlike atmosphere being evoked. The rolling piano number Angry Young Man follows with almost a “show tune” feel, there’s a good playful side to the melody of this number and whistling that would have Roger Whittaker envious too!

Then the listener is treated to an attractive laidback Love To Live, but it isn’t without a sting. Some nicely judged, careering guitar also breaks through into the sound and it all builds to something magnificent. Walking On Sunny Beach takes the pace up a notch, mixing psych pop/rock with a bright, jangly refrain and Child Of War, which comes next, goes right down to harmony vocals and acoustic guitar, before strings drone into earshot. A nicely sparse arrangement that is performed in a delightfully light fashion.

Then When You Were Growing soon snaps one out of a reverie, setting out with some urgent guitar jangles and a real kick. The Bablers don’t forget to include a cracker of a tune too, which makes for a beguiling pop sound that is both breezy and addictive. Singing With The Bluebird then reverts back to gentle acoustic folk and finally the LP concludes with Speedy’s Sixties Mix of Love Is Everything, in effect bringing the record full circle.

The arrangements of these songs are rich and full of attention to fine detail, which help make the individual tracks special and feel part of the whole. It is clear how hard The Bablers have worked to make Psychadilly Circus such a fully realised construction. This album is full of charm, good melodies and an easy-going swagger, just built for anyone into light pop sike and/or shiny power pop that has been given a fresh reworking. A classy pop confection with plenty of hidden depths and and cool atmospheres for the listener to plunge themselves into, Psychadilly Circus’ brand of kaleidoscopic fun sports plenty of tunes that are built to last.

The Bablers are on Facebook here

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

The post The Bablers: Psychadilly Circus – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Happy Mondays tour diary entries: LTW share Gaz Whelan’s tour notes as he releases new single with The Magic Village

 

Happy Mondays

LTW presents extracts from Gary Whelan’s Happy Mondays‘ tour diaries. Honest, insightful and of course a bloody good laugh! We share a few snippets from his on-the-road memoirs as he right now releases the new tune with The Magic Village – Say Who You Are.

Teaming up with old mates Magic Village is Johnny Evans (vocals) Wayne Edwards (bass, guitar, keys) and Whelan on guitar/vocals… a tight and like-minded trio who played together in Gaz’s former band/project Hippy Mafia. MV’s first release is an acoustic cover of The Stone Roses’ Ten Storey Love Song, out just a couple of months ago.

To this their latest, Say Who You Are, is a number which struts out true to form with that well known Manchester confidence and ‘one love’ mindset, but yet with a real presence of mind and a kinda half yearning for some transcendence. It’s a summer tune we could all do with a bit of right now.

Running along with its strong calming chorus and captivating hook SWYA also diverts from the norm with an awesome set of bars and slick rhyming in the middle eight performed by John Orpheus (the rap artist who also worked on Whelan’s Hippy Mafia project). Look out for the single on Bandcamp and all the usual platforms.. and keep up to date with MV on Twitter.

The post Happy Mondays tour diary entries: LTW share Gaz Whelan’s tour notes as he releases new single with The Magic Village appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Ruth’s Refrigerator: A Lizard Is A Submarine… – album review

Ruth’s Refrigerator – A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass

Cordelia Records

2CD/DL

Out now

2CD reissue of the 1991 album by Ruth’s Refrigerator, presented here in both the original vinyl and CD running orders. The first CD includes covers of Wire’s Outdoor Miner and Daydream Believer, made famous by The Monkees. RR were another in the series of post-Deep Freeze Mice bands that feature that outfit’s leader Alan Jenkins. Ian Canty decides to stay firmly rooted on dry land…

I think it is fair to say that Ruth’s Refrigerator were probably one of the more accessible of Alan Jenkins’ myriad of musical ensembles. That is not to say that there is no room for the experimentation, out-and-out strangeness and offbeat wit that have become his trademarks, it is just that on this album A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass they are on a bit of a tighter rein. This band feel much more rooted in a pop context, turning up some cracking tunes as they alternate female and male vocals depending on the song in question. The line up of singer and guitarist Ruth Miller, a rhythm section of Terri Lowe and Robyn Gibson, Blodwyn P. Teabag on keyboards and of course Jenkins himself was established in 1990 and debuted with the Suddenly A Disfigured Head Parachuted LP in the same year. A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass was their second and final collection.

This set has both the vinyl and CD editions of the album on separate discs. The two versions are actually totally different recordings (apart from A Science Bar, which was remixed for CD), with divergent running orders and contents. The first disc of this 2CD set presents the LP version and also adds seven bonus tracks. What becomes quickly apparent is how well the multi-pronged vocal attack of Ruth’s Refrigerator actually works. Various members of the band, mainly but not only either Ruth or Alan, sing lead on the different numbers. The voice chosen always suits the material well and this approach has the added bonus of offering a greater variety, while not compromising the band’s cohesion and winning way with a good melody.

Opening salvo Moulted Fur From A Labrador might have a typically strange Alan Jenkins title, but the sound evoked is not actually that far away from the kind of irrepressible, minty-fresh vigour that was such a feature of Blondie’s debut album. Alan is in good, edgy form on the pleasing and speedy psych fuzz of E and What We Waited For And Where It Was At proves that he can pen as touching song of lost love as practically anyone when the mood takes him.

Between the snippets of Ducklings #1 and #2 we get the prime garage organ sound of Rain and the neat 1960s pop of Examine The Insects And Hit Them comes complete with authentic 60s rave up sections. A cover of Wire’s near-hit Outdoor Miner and the galloping beat of Barry Baked Bean Is Back provide the preface to the lengthy experimental piece A Science Bar.

Guitars, backward warps and drones dominate for a while, until the band begins to gather momentum a minute in, with a touch of Alan Jenkins’ ESM (Experimental Surf Music) detectable about the guitars. Then it slows down awhile, but then speeds up to a r&b sound with female vocals. This happens at around the four minute mark, with the lyrics being a story of a scruffy but highly intelligent mongrel winning a dog competition. Throughout there are crazy, but cool changes of tempo as the players stretch out and warm to the task at hand. A brief drum solo (don’t run away) then gives way to a sunny folk pop sound and there are some lovely dual vocals at this point that help drive this track towards its conclusion.

The bonuses on this disc include a version of The Monkees’ Daydream Believer and different takes of the album tracks Barry Baked Bean Is Back and What We Waited For. There is also the manic wah wah mayhem of Conversation Gap #1, another Ducklings piece with a drum solo tagged on the front and Charlie ‘n Charlie, a soaring and lovely pop effort which again prefigures Alan’s work in ESM. This first portion of A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass closes with a fairly faithful take of The Velvet Underground’s Femme Fatale.

The second disc gives us the CD version of the album and features a cover of The Monochrome Set’s Goodbye Joe. There’s a longer, remixed version of A Science Bar and Barry Baked Bean Is Back has Ruth’s vocals (I think) instead of the male voice on the two attempts of the song on the first disc. There’s also some changes of emphasis here and there, but the spirit of the songs, albeit in a vastly different running order, remains.

There’s three versions of the Sasha Distel-bashing Accordion Music and Gosh What A Lot Of Umbrellas here could be St Etienne, if they were more a weirdo psychedelic indie pop thang. A lovely effort. It needs to be said that the punchy rhythm section powers things along splendidly, so lively and they deserve a lot of credit for keeping things focussed. Not to be outdone, the guitars psych-out marvellously and the keyboards provide both grace and hammer when required.

In either form, A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass is a bracing, tune-filled psychedelic pop compendium blessed with an enchanting touch of the mysterious. Ruth’s Refrigerator, on this showing, were clearly a vital force to be reckoned with. Sadly not long after this record came out they split up, with Alan, Robyn and Blodwyn going on to form The Creams (Their collection The All Night Bookman/Net Yangers is reviewed here) and Ruth and Terri Lowe launching their band Po!. This release has been restored from the original analogue tapes and sounds glorious.

Though the rest of the world didn’t take much notice, rest assured that Ruth’s Refrigerator were fittingly cool and this album set is really worth your attention. It offer a great point of entry into the world of Alan Jenkins, but putting that to one side A Lizard Is A Submarine On Grass is an excellent and highly listenable record, stuffed with memorable tunes and great performances, plus putting forward some endlessly intriguing and enigmatic ideas.

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

The post Ruth’s Refrigerator: A Lizard Is A Submarine… – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Simple Symmetry: Sorry! We Did Something Wrong – album review

Simple Symmetry: Sorry! We Did Something Wrong

(New Ears Records)

DL

Released 21st May

Simple Symmetry is the moniker of Sasha and Sergey Lipsky, DJs and producers from Moscow. Suggesting simplicity, the band’s name is misleading. The duo creates sophisticated pop and electronic music with a medley of ambient sounds which leads one through the maze of artistic thought.

Although the new album highlights the turn from a habitual electronic/dance music format, some tracks hint at the Lipsky brothers’ DJing background. Immersive dance vibes of Out Of Body Experience materialise from club spaces and hip venues of both Russian capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg. With its pulse-y frame, however, the album adventurously crosses boundaries between a variety of genres. Fluttering around baroque pop, quirky ambient, sophisti-pop and experimental dance music, the record metaphorically exposes the contents of the duo’s DJ bags, exhibiting the diversity of music tastes.

The opening track is emblematic of such openness. While undulating harpsichord evokes the tuneful texture of Left Banke and Saint Etienne, the soft and heartbeat-y tread of drums suggests even deeper retrospection – from The Ronettes to Broadcast. Despite a mish-mash of music styles, Sorry! We Did Something Wrong seems to pursue a certain concept. The sequence of tracks shapes a never-ending circuit. Starting with the bittersweet apocalypse-inspired End of Our Days the album wraps up with Rounded With a Sleep which unveils the ambience that seems to be perfect for practising a corpse pose.

Most likely, the allusion to spiritual practices is congruent. The brothers’ admiration for late 60’s psychedelia runs through the musical texture as well as lyrical content. Thereby, the title of the track Out of Body Experience refers to spirit walking and astral projection. There are overtones of fantasy too. Hinted by the Monty Pythonesque cover, mysterious sea creatures co-exist with real and celebrated animals. Featuring vocals by the frontman of Soviet retro-inspired Veterok band, Octopus is a charming dream-pop number, telling a tale about a lover creeping away, making use of her tentacles. The bouncy Koko is named after a famous gorilla who, despite her origin, became a legendary guinea pig for various linguistic experiments.

Having emerged as a few sketches initially, some tracks were taking shape in collaboration with fellow artists. Iridescently sounding Oh Lord features Gil Abramov (Balagan), contributing vocals, and Igor Cavalera from Sepultura on drums. Keeping up the symmetrical architecture of dance music sound, Simple Symmetry infuse calibrated beats with elements opening portals to various directions. With celestial singing bowl, flutes and patterns alluding to Middle-East-oriented ethnomusicology, the duo creates a magical world of their own. It is all the more obvious that putting them into club music/DJ box or any strictly genre-related category is a futile task.

Sorry! We Did Something Wrong can be pre-ordered here.

You can follow Simple Symmetry on SoundCloud, Facebook and Instagram.

~

All words by Irina Shtreis. More writing by Irina can be found in her author’s archive.

The post Simple Symmetry: Sorry! We Did Something Wrong – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Matt Berry: The Blue Elephant interview with a slice of Toast!

Matt Berry is not a name to be sniffed at. From his humble beginnings on Snuff Box, his journey into the weird as fuck Mighty Boosh, his mad capers on The IT Crowd and the excellent BAFTA winning Toast Of London. For Nosferatu’s sake he’s even portrayed a comedy vampire in What We Do In The Shadows. Yet underneath all this he’s been writing some excellent music that covers folk, prog, psychedelia and the rest. His new album The Blue Elephant hits the streets this week and it’s a journey though time and space that could be a soundtrack to a Vietnam War film. Wayne AF Carey has the pleasure of interviewing the polymath behind the MUSIC…

LTW: “Congratulations on your new album”

MB: “Well thank you very much. Glad you like it!”

LTW: “Excellent stuff. I’m not going to talk about your comedy except for maybe one question at the end. Can you give us a bit of background on the creation of The Blue Elephant?”

MB: “I suppose it was a reaction against the album that I’d done before which was Phantom Birds, which was very stripped down as they were all acoustic written songs and I kind of wanted to present them in that way. They weren’t sort of cluttered with that many instruments and the way that the Dylan / Nash albums were with a rhythm section to the left. I’d spent a year doing that and afterwards you do all the press for it, so because I’d been doing it for over a year actually by the time I’d done all the press I was ready to do something else. That’s why Blue Elephant is basically in the opposite direction to that album. It’s an excuse for me to use lots of instruments and not to stick to sort of traditional songs. Blue Elephant does away with all that Phantom Bird stuff and the songs are structured in a far more experimental way. There might not be a chorus in one the songs or there might be a really long verse. I was a lot more interested in doing that. Just breaking away from what I’d just done”

LTW: “I’ve notice you’re a multi instrumentalist. You play nineteen different instruments on this. What’s the background on that?”

MB: “I suppose I kind of grew up not knowing many people that were my age who sort of played anything or were particularly interested, so as a result of that, if I wanted a bass guitar part on a song I was doing on my cheap little four track I had to do it because I didn’t have anyone else to do it. I also discovered from that I loved doing it and I got as much pleasure out of doing the bass part as I did doing the guitar part or the vocal part. I loved doing everything and that kind of led to me teaching myself bass guitar, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, the piano. Just because I loved it all. The effect that you got on your song on a four track was much richer as a result”

LTW: “I’ve noticed on the inner sleeve of the album your music room. I can picture you running around the place tinkering on different stuff. Is that the sort of image I’m getting?”

MB: “That’s pretty much it yeah. There isn’t an engineer there. I’m the engineer as well. There isn’t anyone that’s kind of sat at the desk. I sit at the desk, I press record and I have to run over and do whatever. But I’ve always worked like that”

LTW: “I just love the way it looks ramshackle. Like you’ve just sort of said “I’ll run to that bit, then run to that bit”

MB: “Yeah, that’s it. Exactly”

LTW: “I notice that most of your previous albums you’re on the front cover. This time you’ve done like an Elephant Man theme. Why the artwork on this one?”

MB: “Because I got fed up with being on the front. I’d done that enough. This is a lot more open to interpretation. I didn’t wanna curb that by sticking my face on it, so if it’s an image then people can make of this album what they like. If they find it kind of frightening that’s fine. If they don’t like it at all that’s fine. All of these things, it’s up to the listener now”

LTW: “How did you get involved with Acid Jazz? You’ve been with them ten years now over seven albums”

MB: “That came about due to when MySpace was still going. I had an album on there and my mate said to me “You should probably take that down because I know a guy that might be interested in one of the songs as a possible single.” Then I found out he was talking about Eddie Piller. I knew Acid Jazz because as a student I used to get their compilations because they had stuff that there was no way I could have found. I always loved the label, so when I went to see Eddie I played him the album and all I expected was for him to say “Well that ones alright, we’ll just do that single and see how it goes” Anyway, we got to the end and he said “Right. We’re gonna do the whole thing” I was like “Shit! OK” and that was that. I haven’t sort of left his side metaphorically since then. It’s been such a great label for me because if I want to do something bizarre they never at any point try to steer me away from it. Any bizarre idea I have they’re always encouraging me. They also understand the dangers of fashion and it’s always best to let someone do what they love doing as opposed to second guessing what’s cool right now. That’s always been the thing with Acid Jazz. They don’t care whether something isn’t cool you know. Not at all”

LTW: “You’ve got a prog rock drummer on this. Craig Blundell from the band Frost on drum duties again. He compliments your sound totally. Is this an ongoing thing?”

MB: “Well there’s not many as good as him and he’s into what I’m into, so when I play him the demos and stuff he knows what I mean. He knows the kind of effect I’m going for. He’s into the same sort of bands. I don’t have to explain anything. The best thing about it is he’ll do something I didn’t expect and it’s always a bonus”

LTW: “How do you find juggle acting with music and comedy. How does your mind cope? Is it difficult?”

MB: “Not really. It isn’t something I’ve always done. I just kind of drifted into comedy and I love doing both. I get a release. If I know that I’ve got some time off in between doing another show that’s when I’ll do music because I don’t know what sort of time I’m gonna have after it, so hopefully I can finish it in that time. If not I’ll come back to it. The best thing is which is a cruel thing to say, but because of the pandemic a lot of the stuff I was meant to do last year was pushed to this year, which meant I had a lot longer to spend on The Blue Elephant. I could kind of finesse it and I wouldn’t have normally be able to do that.

LTW: “You’ve used loads of old psych equipment on this album including the Mellotron. I’ve always seen this driftng through your music as you’ve evolved. Have you always been into that sound?”

MB: “Yeah, I’ve always been into early electronic synths in terms of music, stuff that kind of stands on it’s own and cuts through. I just like the vibe that those things give off. The Mellotron has always had this kind of creepy vibe and the strings always sound scary even when they’re not meant to be. They just have this vibe I really like, it’s the same with the synths. If you use them the right way you can get the effect that you’re after.”

LTW: “I’m surprised you didn’t use a theremin in there”

MB: “Something like that is quite a strong kind of flavour. If you’re doing it with a theremin it becomes a theremin song”

LTW: “You’ve evolved massively since the debut for Acid Jazz; Witchazel. You roots are still prog psych folk with an ironic twist in the lyrics. Was this psychedelic sixties sound intended?”

MB: I didn’t go out of my way. It wasn’t really a sort of plan as much of these things are. I’ve always loved that kind of production. Witchazel was more of a folk horror kind of album. I’ve always been interested in that too, but I’d done it with that album. I wanted to move into a more British psychedelic thing, rock I suppose. Early hard rock. If you are a musician who loves to record then you do end up sounding like the things you love, even if you don’t kind of mean to. Does that make sense? Sort of consciously”.

LTW: “If you found a time machine and went back to the sixties, this album would just fit in bang on like a classic, yet sounds so modern”

MB: “Oh good, well yeah, it’s a crazy thing innit”

LTW: “There’s a big psych revival at the moment. Have you heard of bands like King Gizzard”

MB: “Yeah I have. I don’t know much about them. A revival. When you say that do you mean in terms of record collectors?”

LTW: “I mean about music coming in cycles. All these people who were into your average indie bands are now getting into the psych sound. Bands like The Coral with there fairground organ themes are just hitting everyone”

MB: “I like The Coral. Take Tame Impala ten years ago with Innerspeaker. Setting the standard.Bloody ‘ell!”

LTW: “What bands would you recommend to the kids and adults these days?”

MB: “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know what people are into. Do you mean like new bands?”

LTW: “New and old bands. I was introduced to Steve Wilson the other day and was quite surprised I’d not heard of him”

MB: “I supported him at The Royal Albert Hall. He’s a good lad. If it was a young person I’d suggest Roxy Music or The Doors. Something that’s gonna be a bit different”

LTW: “There’s a big Doors element to your album I notice”

MB: “Well the thing about The Doors I admired was the fact that the organ was the lead instrument and there weren’t many bands that did that and they got away with it even though there was a guitarist. The organ musically was the instrument people paid most attention to. Obviously they paid the most attention to Jim Morrison at the time, yet musically it’s the organ isn’t it which was kind of rare for a band. The thing about Ray Manzarek was when he wasn’t giving Jim Morrison a kind of soundbite he never really rated himself as a particularly good organ player which I found staggering, because for me I thought he was great”

LTW: “A bit like Dave Greenfield from The Stranglers bringing that sound to a punk audience. It was alien”

MB: “I think he’d have been just as happy in Genesis”

LTW: “Any plans on touring the album?”

MB: “That would completely depend on time. I would love too. Because of the pandemic everything I was meant to do in 2020 was moved so I’d have to do those things first. There are lots of positives at the moment whereas it was fucking terrible this time last year. People thought they were never gonna tour again. That’s not the way now. Things are starting to open. In Australia and New Zealand they’re completely back to normal. The bands are doing gigs. It’s as if nothing ever happened. With any luck we’ll be at that point pretty soon I hope. Let’s not mention a third wave!”

LTW: “A last question for your comedy fans who are gonna want to know about Toast In Tinseltown. Give us a hint.”

MB: “He basically finds himself in Los Angeles and it doesn’t go as well as he hopes, put it that way. He’s a character who shouldn’t have anything good happen. If you’re expecting him to finally hit the jackpot you’ll be disappointed. He doesn’t hit any jackpot. He’ll still be doing his voice overs every week.”

LTW: “Is Clem Fandango going be there?”

MB: “Oh yeah, he’ll be there alright.”

LTW: “Your arch nemesis!”

MB: “My arch nemesis. He’ll be there.”

And it ends. A nice interview with a guy that can be serious about music one moment then have us laughing with his bizarre characters on the screen. He even plans to come up North at one point he informs me. The Toast of Psychedelia indeed…

Album review here.

Acid Jazz

Available here 14th May

Words by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here

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The Brainiac 5: Another Time, Another Dimension – album review

The Brainiac 5: Another Time, Another Dimension

(Reckless Records)

CD | DL

Released 7 May 2021

Compilation album of unreleased material from Cornish prog/punk/psych band The Brainiac 5. This set is made up of ten songs from their initial incarnation from 1976 to 1980, Pain In A Bowl from 1995, Sludge by the current live lineup and three brand new tracks, one of which features the returning original band member Bert Biscoe. Ian Canty travels through time and space in a CD-playing Tardis…

Another Time, Another Dimension came about after long-running Cornish outfit The Brainiac 5 decided to sift through their archive. This was prompted by one of their old numbers cropping up at random whilst the band members were listening to music. Happening on a large amount of good quality, unissued offerings from over the years, they were also sparked into recording some new songs after band associate Martin Griffin sadly passed away recently. In patching together the new material and unissued items from their back catalogue, this collection manages to provide the listener with a decent overview of three separate eras of the Brainiacs.

It quickly becomes clear that the 1976 to 1980 Brainiac 5 aggregation was some distance away from being a standard punk/new wave act, though they did more than dabble in that area. They seem to veer off wildly in several directions, at times during the course of the same piece. Accordingly, opening track Spring Fever finds the band mixing funky bass, near-prog guitar and a dash of new wave into something unique, poppy and enjoyable, perhaps like if Television came from Cornwall instead of New York. Jet Fighter finds the Brainiacs in a touch more jagged frame of mind, but this tune still comes complete with a catchy chorus.

Both I Call Your Name and Dancing In The Sun dip into reggae rhythms, but the latter brings rock influences to bear as the song goes on. Flying Tonight is a more typically new wave effort, an energetic live cut that shows The Brainiac 5 thriving in an onstage context. Do Ya comes over as smart punk r&b, with a definite touch of early Wire about it, but in contrast Khazi Persona harks right back to the sound of the mid-1960s rhythm and blues. This is followed by a fairly faithful (to the Nashville Teens version anyway), r&b rave-up style cover of garage favourite Tobacco Road. A very punky I Feel Good (a band original and nothing to do with the James Brown song I Got You) and the cool psychedelic art-rock of The Warning brings the first incarnation of the band’s contributions to an end.

(In lieu of any album tracks online, here’s the band playing Matelot Mick in 2012).

The band’s “wilderness years” (their words) through the 1980s right up until the band reformed in 2012 are only represented by the one offering here, Pain In A Bowl. This track gives the listener a rough idea of the music Syd Barrett might have made had he re-emerged amongst the late 1990’s chill-out dance scene. Next comes the current gigging version of the band, caught live at The Gunners Pub in 2019. Sludge shows what a solid outfit they are in a live setting, with plenty of pure hard rock power propelling this one along nicely.

The final trio is made up of new tunes. Never Say Never finds three of the members from the early years of The Brainiac 5 reunited. Bert Biscoe, Charlie Taylor and John “Woody” Wood combine well on a pleasing country blues number, even if it bears little relation to their sound in the 70s. Then comes the title track, prime bass-propelled art rock which highlights the neat interplay between the male and female vocals. They finish off with the lightly skanking and fresh sound of Our Devils, which showcases some serious Jew’s Harp action and is completed by a short acoustic blues coda/hidden track.

This is certainly a collection more for The Brainiac 5 obsessive, which isn’t to say that there isn’t a good deal of fine music on offer, just that it perhaps isn’t the ideal place to start for a newcomer. In fact as an odds and ends record, Another Time, Another Dimension stands up rather well. It does an admirable job of charting the band’s continued development through live and studio recordings. Though they are very much a one of a kind, The Brainiac 5 are a distinctive taste worth getting to grips with and that is much in evidence here.

The Brainiac 5’s website is here and they are on Facebook here.

~

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here.

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Various – The Ninth Wave – album review

Various – The Ninth Wave

Big Stir

CD/DL

Out now

Brand new entry in the run of compilations drawn from Big Stir’s Digital Singles Series, with contributions from mainstays Dolph Chaney, Irene Peña and The Brothers Steve among others. Ian Canty sees if he ends up on cloud nine…

The Ninth Wave collects the Big Stir Digital Singles Series releases from August to October last year and features some familiar names to followers of these compilation sets, along with introducing, to me at least, newer acts. A keen taste is deployed as ever with Big Stir and the main thing all these artists have in common is producing wonderful pop for the 21st century. They eschew all the kind of gimmicks that might be implied by the term “pop music” and just get on with producing sounds that deserve to be bursting out of radios all over the land. This collection breaks down to bands/singers providing both a and b sides, as is the norm with all of these Wave LPs. That is, apart from Athanor, who finish the set with with a gleaming Approximately Eternity, where they take a pinch of The Kinks’ Til the End Of The Day and then create something new and marvellously mysterious with it.

The excellent Dolph Chaney sets things into motion on The Ninth Wave with the winning and wry 60s-influenced pop of Be My Old Fart. If I Write It Down, his other offering, is an example of his tasteful way with an up-tempo rocker. Cornwall’s very own The Viewers balance heavy guitar riffage and a stomping beat with mouth-wateringly delicate sections on Beautiful. It works like a dream and their flipside It’s My Time is a great slab of 60s folk pop with fine harmonies. That’s two reasons to check out this five piece in more detail.

Blake Jones follows with the charming The First Song Of Summer, taken from the his EP The Homebound Tapes (reviewed here). On his second track Take A Look At The Stars he is backed by The Trike Shop. This is great modern psych pop, revitalising the form in a snappy and enjoyable manner. Hailing from Minnesota The Persian Leaps offer up Pan, a chiming and fuzzy gem with a mod pop structure. Both this and their b side Chamberlain add up to some powerful and addictive fun.

Mike Daly & The Planets turn the traditional love song on its head in a neat fashion on their Falling Out Of Love Song. Mike and his band made me think of Nick Lowe circa the Stiff era on Star and that’s a comparison not to be bandied about lightly, but an apt one here. Nick Frater covers Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Alone Again (Naturally) with skill that draws it back from the mainstream and allows the song’s essential melancholic beauty to shine out. He also gives the listener Let’s Hear It For Love from his recent Fast & Loose Collection (reviewed here)

The Summer Place and It Must Be Summer by Irene Peña are an ice-cool pair of top-rate pop music melodies embellished with her effortlessly cool vocal delivery. They’re perfectly judged and performed with a real allure that drew me in. Two versions of The Brothers Steve’s Beat Generation Poet Turned Assassin feature on The Ninth Wave, abridged and unabridged. The tune was included on their recent album #1 (reviewed here) and in whatever form it is still a bobby-dazzler of the first order.

Slowing things down a touch is Rosie Abbott, who furnish us with a couple of strange pop instant classics in Hold On and I Don’t Mean To Block Your Sunlight. There are some nice light touches of psychedelia on the latter, with the former being a sparser but just as satisfying affair. She’s clearly a real talent to keep an eye on. Jim Basnight’s pair of tracks Prince Jones Davies Suite and Best Lover In The World (from the Not Changing LP, reviewed here) show that as well as being a dab hand at no-holds barred rockers, he is also at home when something more subtle is called for. Taking the music right down also allows him to display the passion in his voice too.

Finally, David Brookings appears with a jolly folk rock tune that belies the sombre title of Livin’ Through The Plague. He also sings All I Love Is Rock ‘N’N Roll, which delivers the sheer glee and excitement of the best of that music with true élan. The Ninth Wave doesn’t really have one dud track to speak of, a great selection that instantly gripped this listener, feeling very much like the sound of good times to come.

If you thought by the time we got nine volumes into this series of compilations we would be getting down to slimmer pickings, well think again. The Ninth Wave is wall to wall great pop music, the type of sound that makes one heart jump, swiftly to be followed by the rest of the body. An album, built up of singles that came out in the summer that never was of 2020, that could make 2021 summertime go with a bang, should one allow it. If The Ninth Wave is anything to go by the forecast is for a hot one too, musically speaking at least.

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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Matt Berry: The Blue Elephant – album review

Matt BerryMatt Berry

The Blue Elephant

Acid Jazz

Available here 14th May

Vinyl/CD/DL

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 4.5

Matt Berry returns with his best album yet, a psychedelic masterpiece that takes you on a trip back to the sixties, clocking in his playing of 19 different instruments, accompanied by Craig Blundell’s amazing drumming. Wayne AF Carey chills out and lets the tunes engulf his tiny brain…

Seven albums in and ten years with Acid Jazz, Matt Berry has come up with a piece of work that stands out from the normal. A whirlwind of nostalgic history from the award winning comedian who brought tears to my eyes with his performances in The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd, Toast Of London and more recently What We Do In The Shadows. A funny as fuck bastard that can even make bland adverts sound cool with that unique voice. Standing aside from this he’s an excellent musician. Check out his last album Phantom Birds and his (almost) debut Witchazel. He’s serious about his art and still manages to take the piss in his lyrics.

Like Michael Kiwanuka’s last album, this needs to be listened to as a whole. It’s a psych concept album full of ideas. Aboard drags you in smoothly with a deep bassline that oozes into the clever drum patterns from Blundell. It then melds into the sun drenched psychedelia of the excellent Summer Sun that takes you right back to The Byrds at their height. A wonderful piece of music that hits you instantly. I can’t get the fucker out of my head said the sweary Kylie Minogue on acid… The drumming is amazing and it melts throughout with pure pysch, especially when the Ray Manzarek style organs slide in. A pop song on drugs if you’ve ever heard one. Safe Passage plinks in with pianos and some soothing guitar licks that refresh throughout.

Now Disappear is excellent. “It’s a drag to be set on fire” “Just been sacked from the choir” The comedy side slipping out a little here. He even name checks his home of Bedfordshire. This is pure sixties stuff, melodic, amazing drums and a scatter of instruments all melding into a class bit of songwriting. Alone is a slight nod to Riders On The Storm, a mellow affair that sounds like it’s smoked a spliff or two. Chilled out stuff that calms the mood. Invisible is downright spooky when it starts, with the vocal effects haunting you until it goes all funky drummer on your arse with shitloads of mental effects that seep through your skull. Blues Inside Me is a surprising glam number that features guest vocals by Rosie McDermott which accompany Matt’s dulcet tones. It just all clicks together as a whole and there’s some mental free styling towards the end of side one with I Cannot Speak. The vision is startling.

The Blue Elephant floats around the ears and has hints of Teardrop Explodes if they were on acid in the sixties. An array of musical armour yet again with a drumming lesson that resonates then melds into Life Unknown like it’s easy as fuck. A proper mellow tune with some excellent drum skills and echoing effects that sounds like what you see looking into a kaleidoscope. If you know what I’m saying… Safer Passage is like an interlude of Safe Passage from side one, where Berry gets his freak on before the intro to Like Stone, a killer of a sixties number with great structure throughout. It just sounds classic with some great guitars and Dylan-esque vocals with excellent production.

Story Told floats in after some weird grieving elephant sound effects and dripping taps unfold into some smooth as fuck drumming, keyboards and warped vocals backed with dramatic film soundtrack vibes. Forget Me has that funky drummer feel again and Berry’s vocals and lyrics are distorted and spin backwards and I swear I hear the lyrics “I have the balls that drop below” in there. I’ll have to spin the vinyl backwards later and hope I don’t get possessed by a fictional character from the Arctic Tundra. Fade out track Now Disappear (Again) reprises the track from side one with that catchy guitar riff toned down and chilled out with a hazed, smoke filled ending.

Possibly his best album to date, a big departure from the well received Phantom Birds and a great journey into the psychedelic sixties recreated by a genuine polymath. Another album of the year for me…

Words by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here

 

 

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Album review: THE COSMIC TRIP ADVISORS – Wrong Again Albert (2 CDs)

cosmictripadvisorsBad Reputation France [release date 09.04.21] Here’s an interesting tale to tell. Rock band, The Cosmic Trip Advisors fly from native Scotland to a “fancy ass” studio in Sweden to record an album, to be done in double quick time. … Continue reading

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