Matt Catling returns in his Under the Sun moniker with another slice of truly unique experimental shoegaze. We were all blown away by his 2022 album Dream which came out on Shore Dive Records, a sure fire indicator of quality for me. Ocean Breeze is a collection of three tracks where Catling gets to fire our imaginations and excite us with where he’s going next musically.
So, what was like recording this single as compared to the experience of recording Dream. Catling had this to say.
“Ocean Breeze took four months to make and was mastered by Slowdive’s Simon Scott for which I’m extremely happy. Mostly it was improved writing whilst doing the vocals for the first time. As for instruments, I used Jazzmaster/Jaguar guitars and for the track Soft Focus I used the Catalinbread soft focus pedal.”
That said let’s dive in.
Ocean Breeze opens with the title track. It’s an experimental piece with an atmospheric soundscape being formed by the wash of guitars. On top there is a repeating synth sting, almost like an alarm pulsing away whilst a distorted, stretched and warped spoken word piece echoes. This is so effective. It’s like the words are being kept hidden, just out our reach but tantalisingly close.
‘Whirlwind’ features a glorious wall of reverse guitar pushed to breaking point through a wall of fuzz. Whilst this isn’t a new track it has been given new depth and energy with the injection of dreamy vocals and trippy guitar layers. This is such a soothing piece. Almost hypnotising.
We close the single on my favourite song, ‘Soft Focus’. It has elements that would sit well on a Lovesliescrushing album. That distant vocal, the buried drums, the steady and insistent attack of the guitars. The second half gains a new clarity with bass tone picking out the songs structure and lifting it deeper into your consciousness.
If you like your shoegaze on the ambient side with heaps of character and inventiveness then Under The Sun have you covered. Ocean Breeze is a beautiful collection of tone poems, experimental gaze and is guaranteed to warm your winter evenings.
Ocean Breeze is out now via Shore Dive Records, on digital formats and a now sold-out limited-edition CD.
You can follow Under The Sun on social media here…
It only feels right that my first blog of 2023 is a release from my one of my all-time favourite labels Sonic Cathedral. Back in 2019 they introduced us to Innsbruck based Austrian duo MOLLY. Lars Andersson and Phillip Dornauer created a stunning debut in All That Ever Could Have Been. That album soundtracked a large part of 2019 for me and remains a turntable favourite to this day. Now they have returned with their sophomore release, Picturesque. This time around the band is focusing their sound across six tracks. The great news for the listener is that some of these tracks are sprawling epics to get swept away by. As a fan of post rock that fills me with excitement.
Andersson, when asked about the themes he wrote about on the album had this to say.
“Every time I go to a museum and I’m about to pass through the era of Romanticism I stop in awe,” says Lars of the enduring appeal of the 18th century artistic movement. “Whatever it is – stories, paintings, music – it triggers something deep within me, something profoundly human. It really hits a nerve, and it utterly immerses me to a point where I can’t move.”
“The album replicates this feeling; a gloriously over-the-top blend of Slowdive and Sigur Rós, mixed with the single-mindedness of Daniel Johnston and the noisiness of Nirvana, it’s as bold and beautiful and every bit as ornate as the art that inspired it.”
So, with those words ringing in our ears let’s drop the needle and get in amongst it.
The album opens strong with soaring ballad ‘Ballerina’. Immediately I’m struck by the production. It’s multi layered, dreamy swells and heavenly vocals all the way. This is the perfect introduction to the album. When the song explodes into its static laced outro with Andersson’s falsetto feathering the peripheries of the soundstage you really sit up and take notice.
Breathless we head into track two. With ‘Metamorphosis’ we start to appreciate the scale of the bands vision for this album. What we are presented with is, essentially, a 12-minute musical suite in three distinct movements. “Picturesque, how you breathe your last breath” trills Andersson over, what sounds like, an angelic choir. This opening vocal movement is measured and sure-footed guiding us carefully towards part two. An instrumental, ambient wash forms the second movement as the song ushers the listener through a metamorphosis of our own. It’s the closing movement which gets me. Every single time it leaves me, jaw opened staring at the speakers. It gathers all the musical themes explored on the track and sends them soaring heavenwards.
The first single from the album ‘The Golden Age’ comes pulsing out the ether yet. Utilising a really unusual, almost military like drum motif it immediately stands out from the previous two tracks. There’s an other-worldliness pervading the very DNA of this song. From the wash of guitars to the frenetic spoken word vocals there’s something that carries you off to distant corners of your imagination. As always Molly are masters of the crescendo building and building the waves, momentum gathering and releasing leaving the song and the listener spent. See what I mean here.
‘Sunday Kid’ takes the pace down a notch with a more bucolic, nostalgic tone. Less a ballad and more a lullaby the soothing effect of the song is palpable. For such a simple song there are still layers of sounds at play. It’s a real skill to make such complexity so sound so straightforward on the surface. The effected vocal and organ work beautifully in combination to drive that feeling of calm and peace.
Refreshed we move into ‘So To Speak’ on an exquisite vocal intro. Andersson himself drew Sigur Ros comparisons in his description of the album. There is certainly something in his voice reminiscent of Jonsi but to say it’s that and nothing else is doing him a massive disservice. There’s a deeper timbre at play lending his voice a greater range of expression and emotion to my ear. That range is showcased throughout ‘So To Speak’. From the potent intro to the, ultimately abrupt, closing this song is a wonderful microcosm of all things Molly.
The album closes out with ‘The Lot’. I mentioned in my intro that this album contained sprawling epics. There’s no better way to introduce this incredible piece to you. It opens dark and brooding, drums pulsing in the background as guitars slowly swell into a fuzzed-out reverie. We are cloaked in this darkness for at least half the song before we emerge into this glorious, soaring moment. That falls away all too soon as we finish our musical journey on a minimalist almost exhausted guitar piece. And then, it’s over.
With PicturesqueMolly have taken the soundscapes from All That Ever Could Have Been and refined, honed and evolved to a level that belies this groups tender years. The album oozes a confidence and ease of performance that lets you know that you are in safe hands. That for the next hour or so you can relax and let Molly take you on a journey into their magical world. It’s a journey I went willingly on and will go again. The production of this album hides lots of neat surprises for a vigilant listener meaning Picturesque will yield new and deeper pleasures on every listen. That, for me, is the mark of a future classic.
2022 has been a year of positive change and renewal for me. Musically, it’s been a year of incredible creativity out there. That’s meant that this has been the hardest list to compile ever. The sheer amount of excellent albums that have been released this year has been overwhelming. I’ve been really lucky to have reviewed some of these amazing albums this year. Select the album cover to read my review in full either here or over on the amazing DKFM Shoegaze Radio blog.
Let’s dive in and see who’s made the Top 10 this year.
10/ Fir Cone Children – Today There’s No Tomorrow
This year Alexander Donat delivered a stunning sonic experience with his album Today There’s No Tomorrow. Pacy, punchy and more punk driven than any of the Fir Cone Children releases to date, it was a triumph! From the joyous ‘Pull it Out’ to the frenetic ‘Way Up North’ it’s such a rewarding listen.
I’ve picked ‘No Mercy’ as my album highlight. Alex has a real knack for hooks and the chorus in this track is exceptional.
Blue Rev surpassed all our expectations when it dropped. Song writing was super tight and melodies and hooks were next level! Whilst I had really liked their previous two albums Blue Rev I loved. The song structures have become so beguiling and interesting that its impossible not to find yourself lost in the music. I’ve picked the album opener ‘Pharmacist’ as my album highlight. It takes a really confident band to put a song this strong up front. They have the songs to back up that decision thankfully.
Any thoughts we had that Flower of Devotion couldn’t be topped melted away within minutes of dropping the needle on this one! Song after song oozing with class and confidence. My album highlight was a real no brainer for me. If I was doing single of the year “Bad Love” would be vying for that top spot! The change into the chorus makes me smile every time. What a song!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this album now. It’s everything I love about Shoegaze. Heavy, melodic and dynamic! Quality control is high here. Track after track of gazey goodness washes over you. If ever there was an album due a vinyl press it’s this one! Please!
My album highlight is ‘More Than Much’. It’s like Billy Corgan and Kevin Shields got together and had a lovechild.
Blushing have been favourites of mine for a good number of years now. They sit way up there on my “need to see live” list! This year they treated us to their stunning album Possessions. I think it’s telling that Miki Berenyi from Lush is involved, lending her vocals to a track! That’s how highly thought of Blushing are. It’s that very song I’ve selected as my album highlight. This band are only getting stronger with each release. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
When listening to EEP there is always an abundance of heart in their music. You can always make an emotional connection as they sing about topics we can all identify with. On Winter Skin they continue that trait in fine fashion. The music has evolved too. Venturing more into psychedelia and soul baring lyrics. For my album highlight I’ve selected ‘No Inbetween’ which i think captures those two aspects of their music perfectly.
The Stargazer Lilies are a truly unique sounding band. They inhabit this otherworldly realm that I find myself getting lost in every time a stick one of their albums on. Cosmic Tidal Wave carries on that tradition whilst adding elements of bossa nova and trip hop. Picking my album highlight was nigh on impossible as I love every damn song on here. Here’s ‘Bending The Lines’ with its infinitely cool video.
Horsegirl create a noise that is completely new to your ears whilst being comfortably familiar at the same time. In Versions Of Modern Performance the band filter the influences of their collective consciousness into something quite sublime. The way they layer their vocals in particular makes the overall effect quite striking. I’ve picked ‘Billy’ as my album highlight but it easily could have been any of them.
Part space pop, part technicolour psychedelia Maryam Qudus has crafted another world in the grooves of this record! There’s undeniable influence from Stereolab and Broadcast for sure but there’s songs in here that Beck or The Flaming Lips would kill for! There’s a real timeless quality to this album which means we’ll be listening to it for years to come! I’ve gone for ‘Pipe and Pistol’ as my album highlight. Love the video for this one!
Where to start? I’ve loved this band since their debut album Wednesday came out. I couldn’t understand how they were making the sounds they were using guitars ! I caught them live in Glasgow this year. I watched them create these sounds with my my own two eyes. I’m still none the wiser! What do they sound like? This is just one of those bands I’d say….. go listen. Make your own mind up. I’m guessing you’ll be as enthralled and as much in awe as I am. A worthy winner of my album of the year!
So there it is. My Top 10 for 2022. I’d love to hear about your top 10 for the year. Drop a comment under this blog or over on Facebook or Instagram.
To all my readers, thanks so much for all your support this year. I’m so lucky to have the best folk ever following this blog. Have a wonderful new year when it comes and here’s to a brighter 2023 for us all.
Back in 2020 I happened upon an amazing compilation of shoegaze and space rock featuring bands that had never been on my radar. Always on the hunt for new music I grabbed a copy on vinyl and gave it a spin. Sure, there was a couple of bands I’d heard namely the Scott Cortez projects astrobrite and lovesliescrushing.
Digging deeper there were new names and new sounds I hadn’t come across before. Bands like Majesty Crush with their woozy pop sensibilities to Windy & Carl who produce this acoustic almost ambient gaze. Everyone on the record had certainly been influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr. However, what they all did with that influence was so broad and different to each other. I just found it a thrilling listen and I’ve damn near worn my copy out. You can find out more about how that album came together in this short video.
The man behind compiling the album, Rich Hansen, has returned to the dusty record racks of Michigan state and beyond to bring us Southeast of Saturn Vol 2. So, what’s new this time around?
“The second volume expands upon the Michigan-centric aural delights purveyed on Vol. 1, by including groups from throughout the Midwest. Highlighting groups spanning Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Vol. 2 works to cement the Midwest’s status as a breeding ground for the space-rock and shoegaze subgenres, which more famously burgeoned in the UK.”
Once again, the album is being released on the amazing Third Man Records label and they have very kindly given me a sneak peek. On my November DKFM Shoegaze Radio show I played four exclusive tracks from the album so I thought it would be cool to tell you a bit about those songs by way of an introduction to this new compilation. So, without further ado lets dive in.
Colfax Abbey – Feel
‘Feel’ is a cut from the 1996 album, Drop, from Minneapolis proto gazers Colfax Abbey. If the name is ringing bells for you, it’s because it’s from Bram Stoker’s book ‘Dracula’. Carfax Abbey was the name of Dracula’s estate in England, and the band members lived on Colfax Avenue S. in Minneapolis. This shimmering, glowing beauty of a track leads out the LP and it’s no wonder.
Fauna – To Ecstasy
‘To Ecstasy’ comes from Faunas 1992 Everafter album. It’s a sumptuous, trippy number with a flute reminiscent of early Medicine, driving the melody. The tremolo guitars are wonderfully heady in a disorienting kinda way. It’s a formula that would go on to form the blueprint for many bands in the 2000’s. These guys were there first!
Catherine – It’s No Lie
1993 saw the release of the Sleepy EP from Chicago based Catherine. Undoubtedly influenced by the amazing J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr the band evolve that sound into something more direct and on point. Coming in at just over three minutes this is one track I wanted to go on and on. The main guitar riff is incendiary!
27 Various – Turn On and On
Starting off as a sixties influenced psychedelic mod group 27 Various, also from Minneapolis, morphed into a fuzzed-out gazers delight by their fifth album. Fine, released in 1992, took that My Bloody Valentine wall of noise and added their melodic vocal harmonies. They make this relatively simple song sound a hundred feet tall.
You can listen back to my show on DKFM and hear these tracks in full.
Like I said on the show, I feel like Southeast of Saturn is our generations Nuggets or Pebbles. Both albums are rich with wee gems that it takes guys like compiler extraordinaire Rich Hansen to find and a label like Third Man Records to get out there. These four tracks are only the tip of the iceberg. The whole album is an exceptional listening experience.
Thanks so much to Rich and Dave over at Third Man Records for sharing this amazing album with me!
Southeast of Saturn Vol 2 is released on Friday December 2, and you can grab a copy from Third Man Records. If you head instore to buy in person, you’ll find some really nice colour variants.
For the second time this year I’m pinching myself as I’ve had a sneaky early listen to a new album from Par Ásito main man, Fabriccio De La Mora, Back in May, I brought you my thoughts on his debut solo album Grand Unified Theories, a stunning gallop through the galaxy. Now he’s back with Entropy Death and as you can imagine, I was dying to find out what it was all about. Here’s what he said.
“This album is an interpretation of the different stages that constitute the death of a supernova, as well as the hypothesis of the heat death of the universe. Both of these hypothesis stem from the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy tends to increase in an isolated system. If this system lasts enough, eventually energy would evenly dissipate, cooling it off.”
“Compared to the previous album, Entropy Death constitutes a more hardcore punk approach to kraut rock, along with a few other unorthodox rhythmic sections that give the album a singular yet original grit.Entropy Death was composed, arranged and recorded at home with the help of Gustavo Jimenez on drums and Sergio Florean on electric guitar.”
More hardcore you say!! That’s what I’m all about! Let’s get in amongst this and see what’s what!
Straight out the gate we are going harder than before. ‘Star Dust’ trades a more sedately paced lead guitar line against a fast and furious backing. As the track goes on it evolves and opens up into this luminescent arrangement so utterly engaging you just find yourself hypnotised by its groove. It’s tracks like this that De La Mora executes with consummate ease. As opening tracks go, they don’t get much better than this.
‘Gravity Bump’ bounces in next, all attitude and nervous tension. The pace isn’t letting up here as we barrel headlong into this number. The drums and bass keep us steady on course as the guitar creates a psychedelic power source to take us into orbit and beyond. This would make a brilliant theme tune for a sci-fi show!
Things get infinitely more complex and intricate on ‘Gas Giant’. The tone darkens with a looming, threatening bass playing off a stunning drum performance from Jimenez. Things boil and bubble before the band erupts into an intergalactic version of Motorhead. When De La Mora said he was going hardcore this time, he wasn’t lying.
‘Proto Star’ lightens the mood considerably with its playful time signature and electronica. The guitars sound even bigger than usual creating this soaring wall of sound. A wall of sound that only expands and grows into the second half of this number. Things get steadily more intense and frantic as our fledgling celestial body takes form. This is a really aptly named track.
We head to the opposite end of the universe to catch the final moments of the ‘Red Giant’. Things are more fuzzed out, static lined signals from the cosmos. The band lock in a tight groove and ride it out until the end. The music, like the star from the title, collapsing in on itself on the final note. A lovely attention to detail!
The album closes out on the sprawling epic that is ‘Black Dwarf’. A theoretical end of stellar evolution where a dead star no longer emits any light or heat. Our universe isn’t old enough to have created any so De La Mora is conjuring one in musical form. Things begin quietly enough, like we’re hearing the music come in on a space transmission from millions of light years away. Soon enough the bass joins the signal followed shortly after by the drums. They tear through into our reality and things get real. The closing three minutes are nothing short of epic and some of the finest space rock I’ve heard.
Once again, De La Mora has taken us out into the cosmos to discover the musical language of the universe. His passion for all things cosmic comes through in bucketloads and shines like a star through each and every track. My imagination is a much better place because of this album. Yours will be too. Just climb into the rocket and hold on tight.
I recently found myself in Glasgow on a cold Monday evening downstairs in The 13th Note. I’m a big believer in getting along to see all the bands on a bill. This night I was lucky, because first on the bill was Peplo. This Glasgow based four-piece’s sound won me over from the top of the stairs as I walked down into that basement. At the time I couldn’t have explained to you what it was in particular I liked. It was, all of it!
The band feature Cit Lennox (vocals), Iain O’Donnell (Guitar), Mark Hinds (Drums) and Danny Young (Bass). I asked Iain how Peplo formed.
“Mark Hinds, our drummer, and I met in high school and bonded over a shared love of 60s/70s music (Mark turned me on to bands like Zeppelin and The Who, while I was a real Beatles fanatic). We spent the remainder of secondary school performing in different bands and music ensembles (blues, jazz, samba). Throughout university and beyond, we played in a power trio (releasing material initially as ‘Room 039’, then latterly under the moniker ‘Fair Weather Soldiers’). When the Soldiers disbanded, I answered a Gumtree ad that was posted by a vocalist looking for musicians to form a band – Cit Lennox!”
“Cit was studying theatre at Glasgow Uni. She had performed widely in the Scottish traditional music scene, and was now wanting to set sights on something more alternative and pop. After a year Mark, Cit, and I decided to strike out on our own; we rolled the Gumtree dice one more time and won Daniel Young, our bassist! He fitted in immediately. Daniel shared similar indie sensibilities and we could finish each other’s Simpsons quotes! Daniel also finally gave Mark someone to talk to in the band about football (Cit and I prefer daft YouTube channels and scouting out brunch spots). Mark describes Peplo as “Gumtree’s biggest success”!”
To date there has been four singles released and their fifth ‘Stranger Than Her Bedfellows’ has just been let loose to the world. Before we get to that, lets explore those previous singles.
First up is ‘Tall’. A sweeping ballad which really makes full use of the incredible voice of Lennox. Couched in the reverb-soaked harmonies and chiming guitars glistening like icicles in the sun. The dynamic arrangement lifted by the always nimble and complimentary bass. It’s a very accomplished piece of song writing and one which really soars when performed live.
‘Katarina’s Got My Tongue’ had me reaching for my notes to grab the title to check out later. This one really hooked in me in with its guitars which hark back to Postcard Records, Orange Juice and Josef K. O’Donnell playing stridently and with real purpose, never afraid to sit back and let the band have their space when required. As ever, Lennox turning in an engaging and uplifting vocal. I swear you can hear her smile.
‘Just to Get to You’ came out next. The band sound increasingly more confident in their instruments and production values here. The arrangement alone with its soaring highs in the chorus to the slow burn build of the verses is really noteworthy. There’s humour in the lyrics and a gallus swagger to Lennox’s delivery. The bits where the bass and drums lift into double time are really effective too. It’s a cracker of a song which completely grips your attention from start to finish.
The QMU Session came out next with three tracks the band performed in August 2020 to support Glasgow University’s Virtual Freshers, at the Queen Margaret Union. Here you’ll find the sublime and heartfelt ‘Love is Fun’, the jaunty and bitter ‘Empty’ and nestled in between there’s an absolute gem of a song.
‘Fly With Crows’ has it all. The guitar is crazy good, picking out arpeggios up the neck one minute sweeping chords the next. Hinds creates a cracking rhythmic structure to hang the whole song on along with Youngs dancing bassline. For me this is Lennox at her finest. The sheer power of her delivery in the chorus is all conquering. It was hearing this song live that made me want to write the blog you’re reading now.
‘Goodnight Maria’ came out at the start of this year. It’s a song performed with the confidence of a band who know who they are and know how to be themselves. Just listen to how the drums call the shots on this one, pounding out the ever-changing time. This sounds like a stadium sized song, and they haven’t even released an album yet.
That brings us bang up to date with their latest release ‘Stranger Than Her Bedfellows’. This is an exotic sounding romp of a number. Heavily effected vocals on the chorus bring something new to the sonic palate as does the wailing guitar solo. Peplo are in full experimental mode and it pays off in spades. Lyrically it’s a wordy song meaning Lennox has to deliver her performance at pace. Needless to say, she rises to the occasion and knocks it out the park. Again, our rhythm section is the lynchpin to making this complex arrangement work. Drums and bass working in perfect harmony. This really bodes well for what’s next.
The band are currently recording their forthcoming LP at the world famous Chem19 Studios. No word on a release date or title as yet. Rest assured I’ll bring you a track-by-track breakdown once it’s announced.
Once in a while you hear a band that you can’t pin an influence on. A band that are doing their own thing and being themselves. Peplo are that band. You really need to catch them live. The infectious, joyous energy they create lifts you up and slaps a smile on your face. Here I am, nearly a week later and that smile hasn’t shifted. This is why I love music and finding new bands to listen to. This is why I love Peplo.
‘Stranger Than Her Bedfellows’ and all the other songs I’ve mentioned here are available now over on the Peplo Bandcamp page along with some cool tote bags and badges.
This week my good pal Nico reached out with a link to the latest release on his brilliant Shoredive Records imprint.
Waterville describe themselves as a preapocalyptic rock band from North East Poland. That’s certainly a new one on me so I just had to investigate. The Isle of Blue EP is not this bands first release; indeed, they’ve been about the scene since 2019. The band consist of Hiacynta Szulc (vocals / violin), Marcin Adamczuk (guitar), Bartosz Niedzwiecki – (drums/ bass/ guitar/ synths) and Pawel Ambrozewicz (synths/ bass). Together they create the most wonderful dreampop and, at times, heavy gaze.
The EP opens on ‘Hazy’. A serpentine bass groove driving the dreamy vibe of the song. Szulc’s vocals punch through the mix even when the heavier guitars come in. The harmony lines are a glorious touch creating some lovely ear candy.
This leads us into the wonderfully dynamic ‘Wait & See’. The measured opening verses belying the sonic wave about to land. The guitars crash in like a sonic tsunami in the chorus. They absolutely take over and lift this song to new heights. What’s impressive though is they still aren’t so loud as to diminish the vocal. Instead, they augment it with a counter melody that serves to lift the impact of the vocal. This is a band that plays to each other’s strengths.
‘Breathing’ is a ballad in which Niedzwiecki plays one of the most beguiling drum lines I’ve heard in a while. Really tune in to what he’s playing here if you can. It’s a fascinating off beat kinda thing. As if in response Adamczuk delivers a stunning foil, picking out the spaces and filling them with his chiming, picked out guitar line. Atmospheric backing from a fuzzed-out guitar and synth lifts the lead vocal beautifully. This track is sublime and my EP highlight.
Next up is the slow building ‘War’. This is a really spacious number, with a run time of over seven minutes the band can afford to take their time to bring in all aspects of the melody. There are some really interesting effects here, a guitar that sounds like an air raid siren appears at one point. Post Rock has definitely had an influence on the creation of this one and it’s a most welcome influence at that. The band wear it well and utilise it equally so.
The EP closes with the darkly alluring ‘Under The Water’. Szulc absolutely owns the vocal on this one, really showing us what she’s capable of. In a sparse arrangement such as this there’s nowhere to hide which makes it all the more laudable that the band pulled of stellar performances, each and every one. It’s the perfect close to this emotive EP.
This collection of songs paints a picture of a band in control of their sound. They crafted these songs to live together and to be experienced in this order. You cannot help but get lost in the sonic landscape they’ve created.
Ireland is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in its music scene. Particularly in the alt rock scene. The latest band to come to my attention are WOHN, a Coleraine based outfit featuring John Wisener (Singer. Guitar), Matthew McVicker (Lead Guitar), Dylan Norton (Drums) and Reece Gordon (Bass).
They deal in loud brand of psychedelic, shoegaze-tinged rock that is going down a storm across Ireland. With a loyal following amongst their local scene, WOHN have played across their home country, from the North Coast to Dublin. A fast-growing fan base on their socials, and dedicated gig goers, only reflects their reputation as promising up and comers.
This year the band have released two cracking singles. Back in February they dropped ‘A-OK’. A slow burner of a track that explodes in the chorus into incendiary vocals and ferocious guitars. The neat trick though is that they never lose the melody, rather it’s protected at all costs. The verses echoing a young Idlewild in approach in their intricate guitar parts. All in all, it’s a wonderful track and a great calling card for the band.
Their latest release is called ‘No Shelter’. This track heads in a more post punk direction with its angular guitar attack against almost spoken word vocals in the verses. The chorus simply takes off heavenwards. Soaring guitars lift Wiseners powerful vocal delivery. His emotive screams in the closing section really make you sit up and take notice.
WOHN have created a really cohesive sound that helping cement their reputation as a killer live band. I’m hoping that they head into the studio soon to give us a that very sound on their debut album. I’ll be here to take you through it track by track once it arrives. Let’s hope its soon.
It’s been just over a year since I wrote about the debut album from alt electronic duo Thought Bubble. A lot has happened in those ensuing twelve months for the band. Which is why it gives me enormous pleasure to hear that they’re back with their latest record, Nowhere.
Thought Bubble, as you’ll remember, are keyboardist Chris Cordwell and percussionist Nick Raybould. They make the most glorious electro psych music and since releasing their debut, Around, Raybould underwent some lifesaving surgery. I asked him how that experience coloured the creation of this album.
“During the original lockdown I was diagnosed with having massively blocked arteries around my heart and in need of an urgent operation. I was on a waiting list for about ten months before undergoing a quadruple bypass. All the time, me and my Thought Bubble buddy Chris recorded loads and loads of music. It was the only way of distracting me from dwelling on what could be… the end.”
“Nowhere is from a lyric, but in my mind it’s where we were going in lockdown – and furthermore, where I could be by the time the album appeared. Thankfully the procedure was a huge success. Despite my precarious state, I did all the drums and hand percussion on this album and, as you’ll hear, Chris and I brought in a few favours from other remote musicians.”
They say music is the great healer and it seems this album helped to do just that. Let’s dive in and see what the boys have in store for us.
The album opens on the aptly titled ‘Now Boarding’. A driving, metronomic drumbeat providing the launch pad for Cordwell’s cascading and hazy synth lines. Metallic rhythmic percussion really delivering that feeling of motion. Towards what though? We’re unsure but know we are getting there.
Next up is the claustrophobia of ‘Superficial’. Pablo Raybould, actor brother to Nick, returns to add his dulcet tones to this one. Last heard on ‘Mobius Trip’ on Around he delivers a cracking performance again here. Is this a love letter, a railing against the night, whatever, it’s sheer poetry and makes me smile every time.
‘Distraction Engine’ grows from a syncopated synth part into a dark and brooding meander. I particularly like how sympathetic the drums are to that syncopated rhythm. Never aping, only augmenting and embellishing. The very measure of restraint it allows room for the ghostly whispers and eerie wailing to affect their presence.
The pace quickens and things get a bit acid squelchy on ‘Neon Garden’. That almost motoric drumbeat stretches off into the distance as we float along on waves of sound. Bass and drums root this track as the synths wander off among the stars. This is really compelling music as well as Thought Bubbles trademark.
As we enter the second half of the album the boys bring in another collaborator, Shaun Bailey from ambient electronica outfit MonkeyTrial. Bailey adds some out-there guitar sounds to ‘Response’. His parts are spacious and work beautifully as a foil to Cordwell’s tightly woven synths. You can almost sense the release at the moment his part begins.
‘Control Your Own Story’ has a glorious swagger to it. Raybould providing the nailed down groove behind the kit and vocals to boot. In stark contrast Cordwell is going absolutely nuts over the top. It’s a stellar performance and absolutely makes this track. These two know how to play to each other’s strengths, that’s obvious, but here they take that up a level. Musical magic.
The collaborations continue with Rob Williams from BABAL bringing his guitar magic to ‘Propulsion’. There’s an African tribal feel to Williams modal guitar work. The Thought Bubble boys rise to the occasion with a cacophony of percussion work and spacious synth work leaving room for the guitar to do its thing. This is my album stand out track and the one I return to time and time again.
The album comes to close with the serene and beautiful ‘Cloudbursting’. It features the sumptuous vocals of Laura Pickering of Neotopia fame. The song hangs around this walking bassline and ever shifting drumbeat. Everything else seems to happen so effortlessly. From the synth jam to Pickering’s nuanced delivery, it’s an absolute joy and the perfect end to this listening experience.
As always, Thought Bubble have produced an album that both excites and challenges us as listeners. Very much like Around, you feel like they have created a world for you to visit. Somewhere to get lost for the time you have this wonderful music in your head and heart. Lost and happy to be lost.
I’m fond of a really good psych album. One that has direction, drive and hooks I can really get my teeth into. You can imagine my delight when the latest album from LA psych rockers Hooveriii dropped into my inbox. Pronounced Hoover Three, the band was created by founder Bert Hoover. Hooveriii has grown to include Gabe Flores (lead guitar and vocals), Kaz Mirblouk (bass and synths), James Novick (synths), and Owen Barrett (drums). Hoover describes A Round of Applause as the bands pop record. I’ll let him explain further.
“I am not really a playlist guy or a singles guy, I’m really into the album experience.
So yeah, we made a pop record. But also, to me, this record is very progressive as well, and I think that that provides a nice balance.”
Psych Pop sounds right up my street so let’s dive in and see what the album has to offer.
We open on the sunny and exuberant ‘See’. A track that comes with bonus spring in its step. This optimism comes bounding out the speakers that you can’t help but be swept up in. There’s some nimble bass work on show working hand in hand with the groove the drums are laying down. A song of two halves ‘See’ evolves into this edgy and frenetic freakout which each time I listen it makes me want to jump about the room like a man possessed. This is how you open a record. Check out the fun video that accompanies this track.
We segue into the cacophonous intro to ‘Out Of My Time’. I love the build of tension over the verses that builds and builds keeping our attention firmly focused. The key guitar riff played throughout is deceptively simple but oh so important as it’s the foundation the band build this amazing soundscape on. Check out how the song unfolds in its second half. All members completely in simpatico giving everything to the music. It’s a joy to behold.
‘Water Lily’ is this double time wig out that revolves around a central guitar lick that slowly blossoms into this prog like vocal melody. This song just won’t sit still for a moment, seeming to scream KEEP UP to the listener. If you aren’t breathless by the end then I envy your constitution.
‘Twisted & Vile’ has the coolest intro on the album for sure. Bursting out the gates with that joyous abandon we’re slowly enjoying getting used to. The rhythm section is on fire throughout, bass filling gaps with these flourishes that have you punching the air. The lead guitar tracks the vocal melody adding a serpentine quality making it all appear effortless. Hoovers vocal is as always smooth and slickly delivered making him instantly likeable.
The band switch up their tack for ‘Time’. Channelling The Small Faces and amping up their attack to the max. Painting time as “the famous outlaw” Hoover tells us a tale set to the paisley patterned backdrop of soaring guitars and a pulsing backbeat. Do yourself a favour and really tune in to the drums on this one. The shuffle on the verses is just divine.
This leads us into my album highlight. The stomping sound of ‘My Directive’. Drums lead us in as the band slowly file in to take their place on the soundstage. That really appeals to my musical sensibilities. It’s over a minute before Hoover bursts in with the title refrain. By that time, we are taken by surprise and, in turn, conquered by the hook. Meantime the guitars have gone walking about creating this tight ass groove that opens up on the vocal lines to great effect. I literally could talk about this song alone for the whole review.
We head into the English folk/ heavy rock sound of ‘Stone Men’ next. The howling guitars bring to mind the winds across the moors at midnight. Before the sounds of battle in the morning drowns everything else out. There are a few Sabbath-like moments pleasing my ear no end but it’s those guitars that’ll stay with you. Utterly haunting.
‘Iguana’ really threw me for a loop. It amps up the sound of early Orange Juice not just in the stabbing and simplistic guitar lines but also in the affected vocal attack. This track should be called chameleon as this band can absorb pretty much any influence and present their unique take on it. This is no cheap pastiche or parlour shop trickery though. Let’s be clear here. Hooveriii are incredibly adept at creating their own sound from advancing the sonics of their musical predecessors. When the screeching saxophones come in on the closing notes it just seals it all up nicely. What a breath of fresh air.
‘The Runner’ is another pacey number complementing the song title perfectly. The harmonising lead guitars opening and setting the scene for the vocals to come in chanting the title refrain. The guitars and vocals do this nice call and response thing which really catches the ear. In the closing section it’s the bass that seems to countdown to the end of the song like a harbinger. Damn cool!
Next up is jam based around a couple of key riffs. In ‘Cruisin’ the band keep our attention laser focused by slowly moving the melody forward with an extra lick here an organ motif there. It’s quite subdued compared to what’s come before perhaps to prepare us for the end of the album. Whilst it may be more contemplative it’s no less engaging and enjoyable for it.
We close out the album on the ‘The Pearl’. The lyrics suggest this is a musical retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale. It’s a balladlike, lighters in the air kinda track all played with a knowing wink. This is a band having fun and including us, the listener, in that fun. What a great way to sign off.
With A Round of Applause Hooveriii have created a psych pop odyssey that grabs you from song one and doesn’t let go until its very final note. They’ve carefully balanced the out-there aspects of psych rock with the more familiar pop tropes in a really clever way. The way the album has been track listed with the utmost care really comes across too. This was my introduction to the band, and it’s made me really curious to explore their back catalogue and keep an eye out for future releases. Album of the year? I’d say we have a contender on our hands.
A new Fir Cone Children album is a cause to celebrate at the Static Sounds Clubhouse. Alexander Donat’s shoegaze punk project has always produced the most uplifting, optimistic music. Given that this is one of many musical projects he’s involved with I’m constantly in awe of his work ethic. Not only that, but his ability also to maintain such a high level of quality. Today There’s No Tomorrow is Fir Cone Children’s eighth album to date. Donat made it his goal to dedicate each of his Fir Cone Children albums to the lives of his two daughters (now aged 7 and 9), releasing one album every year. I asked Donat what the title of this album refers to.
“The record’s title is a two-bladed sword. It does refer to having a good time and getting lost in the moment, but it also says that we live in troubling times, and it seems like we have to take action now and today, in order to still have a planet to live on tomorrow. It’s a now-or-never situation.”
Looks like we are in for an evolution in the sound of Fir Cone Children. Let’s dive in.
We open on the joyous abandon of ‘Pull It Out’. An ode to a wobbly tooth that just won’t fall out. First impressions are that Donat is going harder at these tunes than ever before. He uses the scuzziest, scratchiest guitar tones whilst the drums are going hell for leather. The dreamy notes are left to the vocals. Put together, it’s that signature uplifting FCC feel but delivered in a totally new medium.
‘Way Up North’ delivers us no respite in pace. In fact, we up the bpm’s considerably. This is exhilarating listening. Donat has really changed up his modus operandi and it’s gloriously successful. He’s really going for it on this one, frantic but precision drumming, dreamy glide guitar thrashed out and vocals that mirror the fun we, as the listener, are having.
‘Head In The Clouds’ is wonderfully dynamic. Each verse does its own thing which keeps you on your toes. Vocally he’s at his most outlandish which for me is when he’s at his best. It really baffles me how he can use all these out there techniques yet at the core is a fantastic and catchy song. That always shines through.
Donat’s kids are obviously fans of school from listening to ‘Quite Okay With Mondays’. I love the stop start sections in this one. Couple with that “ba ba ba” hook he has going on and I’m smiling ear to ear.
The pace drops for a moment on the sprawling post punk, almost goth track ‘An Inch At A Time”. Donat illustrating how much of a musical chameleon he is capable of being. This is a dark number undoubtedly but, wow! You still feel that energy and drive and that ever present buoyant vibe that pervades all of his music.
Next up we dive headlong into up-tempo ‘No Mercy’. Once again proving he has choruses for days Donat produces another lesson in how to write hooks that grab you and don’t let go. Wait until you hear the last 15 seconds. Vocal harmonies like you’ve never heard before! Breathtaking stuff.
‘But Does It Break’ kicks off like a Blur song from their self-titled album era. It lurches along magnificently all angular and spiky. Then halfway through it blossoms into this ever shifting and evolving psychedelic maelstrom. It’s amazing how much this guy can cram into three minutes.
I can hear another nineties band in the following track, ‘Travelling Dune’. If you listen at a certain angle there’s something of latter-day Supergrass in there. A more sedate pace is the order of the day as a rolling guitar riff and syncopated drums lay out the path before us. There’s a real understated cool to this song, both is style and substance. It feels like this has been an idea that Donat has brought to full fruition through a few incarnations. It just feels fully realised.
The eco anthem ‘If You Don’t Get Words’ follows. Dealing with the confusion that his kids feel when faced with ongoing environmental damage, caused by adults who know the damage they are causing, but do it anyway. The frustration is evident in the fevered pace and spat lyrics.
The album closes on ‘Certified in Purple’, from I can tell, about his kids sporting achievements. He sounds proud as punch in the lyrics and has wrapped this song in a gossamer haze and packed it with interesting nuances at every turn. A stunning end to this crazy sonic journey.
I’ve listened to Today There’s No Tomorrow loads over the past week. Each time I reach the end I always feel exhausted, energised and elated. That for me is a Fir Cone Children album in a nutshell. There has been a radical revolution in his sound since his previous album, It Chooses You. The speed and intensity of his playing, the layers to his vocals are really amped up this time around. What hasn’t changed is the unbridled joy in each and every track. Long may that continue.
I’ve been craving some new shoegaze sounds which my good friends over at the label Up In Her Room were only too happy to help me out with.
They are releasing the debut album from London based three-piece, Holy Springs. Consisting of Neil Atkinson Jr, Maria Bellucci and Suzanne Sims the band have released a teaser single already this year which I heard courtesy of my DKFM sistah Amber Crain on her When The Sun Hits show back in February. ‘E.A.T’ is the title track from the album and it stopped me dead in my tracks. It also kicks off the album, so let’s dive in.
‘E.A.T’ has a really propulsive backbeat driving those glorious guitars. I love how massive and deep these relatively simple chords sound. It shows massive restraint and a confidence that what they are playing is enough. Something that a lot of bands fall down at. It’s a great start and bodes well for the rest of the album.
There’s a really ominous bass intro to ‘What I’m Supposed to Do’ next. This soon blossoms into the riff led refrain that peppers this track. The half sung half spoken delivery of the vocals adds to the dark and looming atmosphere of the song. For three people they create such a big sound you’d think they were a five piece.
‘Surprise’ comes in slow and steady with interlacing and complimentary guitar riffs which provide the perfect foil to the hushed vocal delivery. What is becoming apparent is this band have hooks for days. You can’t help but nod along or tap your foot to a track like this.
We venture into the sonic landscape of ‘Optimistic’ next. A sound experiment which captures that sound of a stuck needle on a record and turns it into a luscious listen.
‘Believe It’ has a garage rock swagger about it. You can close your eyes and smell the cigarette smoke and black leather jackets. It oozes cool and wouldn’t be out of place in a dingy New York club in the sixties.
Things lighten up considerably for ‘I Can’t Wait’. The reverse guitar is sparkly, like sunlight on a rippling stream. I love how it starts to feedback in a loop with itself creating this gloriously psychedelic effect. My only complaint is it only lasts two minutes. I wanted much more of this track.
‘Fold’ is the bands second tone poem of the album. This time a more monotone affair making me think of the intro to the Boo Radleys Giant Steps album. I can’t think of a higher compliment than that.
Next up is my album highlight; ‘Listen’. Once again, the band keep it simple and really make the most of the chords they’re using. The drums make this song for me, lifting those instrumental passages and settling back to hold the song together before dropping out completely. Man, when they come back in! Goosebumps!
‘I Want You’ utilises a drone effect which rather than bringing to mind a latter-day psych outfit takes me back to the early 2000’s. This track has the same kinda vibe in places as Joy Zipper and would easily fit in on their American Whip album. Tune into the bass guitar and you are in for a treat. Lovely, melodic walking bass adding a lightness to the dark moodiness of the song.
Switching back to the guitar leading the melody on ‘All The Time’ is a neat trick to keep us on our toes. The organ providing the more moody and atmospheric tones which only enhances the vocal delivery. It’s a really even paced and calm track and I can imagine chilling out to this track after a night out.
For our final instrumental of the album ‘Drift’ is a stuttering yet graceful piece. The angelic swoosh of the organ contrasting with the punishing and relentless guitar pulsing arrhythmically. It certainly catches your ear.
The album closes on ‘If I Had A Reason’. I wasn’t ready for this at all. Gospel tones that Jason Pierce would kill for coupled with an assured and, frankly, cool as fuck vocal delivery make this the perfect way to round out this perfect album.
Debut albums can sometimes feel a bit disparate as bands fling all the songs they’ve been working on together with no real thought as to how they all hang together as an album. Not so with E.A.T. The effort and thought that has gone into writing a cohesive and well-structured album is evident on every note played. I particularly enjoyed the instrumental interludes which play a pivotal role in neatly segueing between tracks. If this is the band just starting out imagine what their next album will sound like, and the one after that. I hope Holy Springs are ready, because this album is about to blow up.
E.A.T. will be available from this Friday, 7th October, from the Up In Her Room Bandcamp page. I predict this one will sell out in record time so set your alarm for 9am GMT so you don’t miss out.
You can follow Holy Springs on social media here …
I am a relative late comer to the cosmic sounds of Korb. I received their self-titled debut album as a gift and was blown away by the vivid journey that the music took me on. I then discovered their seminal second album, Korb II. Again, the space rock sounds took me away and had me hooked. Now they return with their third album called, wait for it, Korb III. I’m once again booking my ticket on the good ship Korb, ready to blast off into space to discover new worlds and galaxies.
Who are the captains of this space ship you may ask? The duo of Alec Wood and Jonathan Parkes are Korb and will be our pilots for the next forty minutes or so.
Before we launch off into the stars, I asked the lads how they work together to create the sounds we hear on the albums.
“The music comes first, then we see what kind of imagery it conjures up for us, which leads to the track titles. We’ve been making music together for over 20 years so the interaction between us is fluid and each track grows organically. There isn’t really much difference between how we approach each Korb album, we just go where it takes us.”
They sound like my kinda tour guides. So, with seatbelts fastened and tray tables in the upright position it’s time for take-off.
The album opens on the exploratory piece, ‘Remote Viewer’. There’s a peaceful serenity to this track whilst at the same time being ominous and foreboding. A short but great start to the journey.
As is traditional, we next meet this albums android. ‘Korb’s Third Android’ is a restrained affair. The modulated synth flutters while the guitar jams and the rhythm section hold it down like clockwork. Like the internal workings of the android itself.
We soar on through the galaxy and encounter ‘Hunter’. We’re picking up pace now with real retro Arkanoid vibe. The drums hold down a driving groove for the pulsing synth and bass to play over. The mega fuzzed out guitar adds splashes of colour and texture lifting the track, sending us soaring.
Following this is my album highlight. ‘Lords of Nazca’ is one of the coolest instrumentals I’ve ever heard. It has this confident swagger about it, coming from that groove. That awesome groove. This part of the journey feels like flying through hyperspace, multicoloured streams of light peeling past as we travel on towards galaxies new.
We emerge bleary eyed above the ‘Temples of Mars’. Droning synths trade blows with rolling electronic waveforms. It’s almost like we are moving slowly over the surface of the red planet scanning for life.
Now in the temple its time to offer our ‘Ritual for the Gods’. Our intergalactic overlords demand their offering and luckily the Korb boys have us covered. The slow and pulsing sounds mirror our slow advance to the altar. Building in complexity, one layer at a time until reaching the feet of the Gods themselves. Check out the cool video for this one below.
We are on the move again with the duelling guitars of ‘Infrared’. In my head this is the sound of the giant Gods chasing us from the temple across the plains of Mars. Proper solid riffs on show here aping the huge footsteps of our pursuers.
All is not lost, to our aid come the ‘Robots of the Ancient World’. There’s an air of triumph to the synths and particularly the drums on this piece. The distance between us and the danger becomes too great to comprehend. We are flying.
When all of a sudden comes ‘A Rare Bird’, swooping on the solar winds. This track is so poised and deliberate it takes you away, chasing that bird through the heavens. When I close my eyes, I see the fiery phoenix from Battle of the Planets flying into the never-ending night.
Until the ‘Cosmic Dawn’. Where peace embraces us at the end of our journey across the cosmos. Our brave pilots say their goodbyes and take the good ship Korb off on another adventure to star systems new.
There’s something magical about a Korb album. It fires my imagination and sends me places beyond my comprehension. For me that’s down to how these guys play the music. One minute your hearing sounds that remind you of a 50’s sci-fi B-movie, then synths harking back to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop creations from the late 70’s. All the while though you feel like you are listening to some far-off future where Ulysses is still searching for Earth or Esteban is still searching for those seven cities of gold.
If you seek a truly immersive listening experience then all you need do is pop Korb III on the turntable, close your eyes and let Messrs Woods and Parke take you off on journey you’ll never forget.
Korb III is available now from Bandcamp digitally and on a very limited vinyl run.
The psyche scene couldn’t be more buoyant with more and more excellent bands emerging all the time. This makes it all the more important that there are amazing record labels out there to make sure we get to hear them. Over the last few months, I’ve fallen head over heels for Dublin-based Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records. Run by two top blokes called Ian McGlynn and Andy Marke the label has been releasing some of the finest psych music around.
I asked Ian how they came to choose the name for the label.
“Andy already had Fuzzed Up. He used the name for his club nights and radio show.
He felt I needed an identity in the name, so I thought hard, was listening to a lot of Electric Moon and hey presto…..Astromoon was born.
Glad nobody else picked it anywhere!”
As Ian mentioned, Andy runs a successful indie night in Dublin by the name Fuzzed Up. He also DJ’s a radio show with the same name on Dublin’s Near FM and Barrelhouse Radio. With Ian’s passion for vinyl and live music, they were always destined to team up and start a label. The ethos behind the label is about amplifying the psychedelic soul of the bands on their roster. Whilst Andy and Ian have their own unique tastes in music, psyche is what unites them and is the starting point for all their releases.
With that in mind let’s explore some of the bands that the label has brought to us so far.
Hailing from Waterford, Crome Yellow brew a heady blend of psychedelia with a pinch of funk, a sprinkle of 60’s mod vibes and a knowing drizzle of 90’s baggy. It’s a potent recipe for sure. The band released their No Friends or Mirrors album back in 2021 on Fuzzed Up & Astromoon and you can read my full breakdown of the album over here.
Tibetan Miracle Seeds
Tibetan Miracle Seeds is the recording project of Scottish musician, Jack McAfee (from Dundee). The music is inspired primarily by 1960’s Psych but also draws influence from a variety of traditional and indigenous music from around the world. The label put out his Inca Missiles album this year. It was one of the scenes’ most anticipated releases which thankfully exceeded expectations by a country mile.
Dublin garage legends Krypton Bulb deliver high octane, gutsy rock ‘n’ roll. They have developed a reputation for incendiary live performances which led to Fuzzed Up & Astromoon releasing a double A-side lathe cut 7” single. That single, ‘Let Me Tell Ya / Come On Over’ remains a firm favourite of mine to this day.
An enigma wrapped in a riddle, Dublin-based Thee UFO ply their trade in out-there motorik killer jams.
So far, they have featured on two Fuzzed Up & Astromoon releases which should give you an idea about how highly thought of they are.
Astral Magic is a new solo project by ex-Dark Sun bass player Santtu also known as Dj Astro. During the covid-19 lockdown he had the idea to do something creative to kill the extra time and get seriously into home-recording. Santtu plays everything by himself, but some guests have been called in to help on drums, guitar etc. Musical styles vary from electronic/ambient/experimental to heavy space rock, kraut, psych rock, prog and even pop.
Soundwire are a psychedelic/ alternative / alt. noise band formed in 2011 by singer Simon Court and guitarist Peter Moore. Based in South Wales, they have previously collaborated with Tim Holmes (Death in Vegas), who produced and contributed to their first EP, as well as Thighpaulsandra (Spiritualized / Coil) who mixed and produced their self-titled debut album and is currently working on their follow-up LP.
Sun Mahshene are Ireland’s premiere indie-psych rock band. Weaving a perfect storm of shoegaze guitars, memorable melodies, and insightful lyrics, this Dublin quintet is a must-see live experience. Releases to date include self-published EP, Drones That Don’t Kill. Followed by four critically acclaimed singles on Reckless Records IE. Fuzzed Up & Astromoon are set to release a vinyl collection of these tracks called Space Echoes: The Ep on transparent red vinyl. Release date is Friday September 30 so set those calendar reminders; these will fly!
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the acts on Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records, but I hope it’s given you a taste of what they have on offer. Make sure you follow Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records on Bandcamp to check out all these amazing acts and much more.
I’d just like to say a massive thank you to Ian and Andy for all the hard work they pour into the label. Here’s to many more years of sonic exploration!
You can follow Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records on social media here…
My favourite psychedelic gazers are back with a second teaser for their new album Cosmic Tidal Wave. The Stargazer Lilies return to spread the ‘Vibes of Love’. My mind was spinning after hearing the previous single, ‘Bending the Lines’, so I literally had to be scraped off the ceiling to write this.
‘Vibes of Love’ is classic Stargazer Lilies. It harks back to that otherworldly sound they created back on Occabot. It opens with that off-kilter synth sound against Kim Fields’ ethereal vocals. Then we take off to that corner of the galaxy where only they exist.
As always, it’s John Ceps’ guitars that create the mystic mist in which the song exists. It’s hard to comprehend that it’s four people making this mountainous wall of sound. I use that word deliberately. Every time I listen to The Stargazer Lilies their music takes me away to some alien mountain top, in a psychedelic, multi-coloured blizzard. It’s so rare that I’m transported so vividly in my head that I cherish my time listening to this band and I know you will too.
You can check out their self-shot and produced video below. It’s almost like they read my mind.
Head on over to Bandcamp to buy the single ‘Vibes of Love’ now or catch it on your favourite streaming platform.
Back in July, I posted my first impressions of the new track from Mark Peters, ‘Switch On The Sky’. It was a beautiful mantra to the sun sung by One Doves Dot Allison. I’ve now been living with the album it comes from for a couple of months now and I think it’s about time I tell you all about it.
The album opens on ‘Switch on the Sky’, a perfect introduction to the chilled Americana about to unfold. Please do go check out my earlier blog to find out my thoughts in more depth.
We then neatly segue into ‘Golden Cloud’. A gloriously airy instrumental in which it feels like you’re being basked in the golden rays of the morning sun. A gently picked banjo plays off against some stunning pedal steel.
On that subject, the album features the pedal steel playing of BJ Cole. On the subject of Cole agreeing to play on the album, Peters had this to say.
“Ibecame obsessed with finding tracks where pedal steel guitar was the main, if not the only instrument,” he explains. “People like Chuck Johnson, Buddy Emmons and Luke Schneider. I really enjoyed incorporating these instruments into my own tracks and just exploring the tones of them rather than trying to attempt authentic country playing. Having BJ play on the record crystallized the whole concept,” Mark explains. “I love his playing on things like ‘Silver Moon Over Sleeping Steeples’ by David Sylvian. He’s possibly the UK’s greatest living country musician.”
We emerge into ‘Silver River’ next. The track slowly reveals itself. The pedal steel flutters, like the sunlight dappling the water. It’s a peaceful meditation in musical form and, for me, demonstrates the imagination Peters possesses. Leveraging the sweeping tones of Coles playing by wrapping it layers of reverb is a genius move!
Things pick up pace next with ‘Dusty Road Ramble’. There’s a real swagger in the duelling guitars which will get your foot tapping. The title is a nod to the group originally put together by Hank Walters, the late father of country music in Liverpool. This, however, stretches that country motif to its limit pulling the song into another genre entirely. However, could I nail down what genre that is? Not sure I could. Again, a sign we are listening to a genius at work.
‘The Musical Box’ continues that genre-defying work by deftly weaving some electronica through the luscious guitars. It’s not long before the banjo reappears reminding us, that we are in American skies. Soaring over the desert roads below. I love how this album triggers images in your head, feelings and emotions that tie you to the US.
There’s something about the next track, ‘Tamaroa’ that sends my mind straight to Brian Wilson’s work on the lost Beach Boys album, Smile. Like Peters, he too was writing a love letter to the USA. It’s the almost pastoral feel of the music or is it the modular approach to the song’s construction perhaps. Whatever it is, it’s Wonderful and it’s definitely giving me Good Vibrations.
The title track is up next and from the off delivers a hallucinatory experience. It almost feels like you’re listening to two songs at the same time yet they are completely in simpatico, lifting and augmenting the other. It’s simply stunning.
The album closes out with the exultant tones of ‘Sundowning’. Emerging slowly from a dream state the song blooms from almost nothing into this celebratory chant. The feeling of joy in this song is quite overwhelming. It feels like coming home. Like remembering who you really are and what you need to do. It’s such a powerfully beautiful way to end this experience.
I say experience because in Red Sunset Dream Peters has created a place for the listener to disappear for a while. An album so deftly woven together that it feels like one continuous piece rather than songs put together in order. Many have attempted what Peters makes look so easy. But it’s rare that it is pulled off in such a way that grabs you by the heart and leads you, gently on a journey. A journey into the sky and over landscapes you never thought you’d ever see. This album has won my heart and, if you give it a chance, it will win yours too.
Red Sunset Dreams is available now on a variety of coloured vinyl options and CD from Mark Peters Bandcamp, Sonic Cathedral and Rough Trade.
Back in August last year Irelands Virgins burst into our consciousness with their epic debut single ‘Vows’. It was an instant hit with me, the perfect blend of dreamy rock and head on gaze. The band’s formed around main man Michael Smyth with David Sloan on guitar, James Foy on drums and Brendy McCann of Hand Models on bass. Since the release of ‘Vows’ the band have touring all over Ireland spreading the word.
Now they’re back with their new single ‘Signalling’. I asked Smyth how he would describe this release?
“The track is a mix of long ambient reverbs, fuzzy riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on any 90’s Sub Pop record and a haunting ethereal vocal that cries of an unsatiated wanton desire.”
I couldn’t wait to dive in. The track comes in slow and steady with atmospheric vocals and guitar. It soon explodes over the speakers really grabbing your attention. The songwriting is on point here. The vocal melody is never compromised only augmented and lifted by the killer riffs. There’s a glorious section of glide guitar about half way in that I look forward to each time I play the song. If, like me, you like your gaze to have structure, hooks and a great chorus then this track is for you. ‘Signalling’ is the perfect successor to ‘Vows’ and is going to win this band a legion of new fans. Check out the video for the single below.
There’s even more great news as the band have announced they’re releasing both these tracks as part of their upcoming Transmit A Little Heaven EP via Blowtorch Records. It’ll be released on October 14th and you can pre-order it now over on the Virgins Bandcamp page. It’s going to be available on a very limited pink vinyl release as well so don’t sleep on this one.
If you were tuned into my DKFM Shoegaze Radio show this week you would’ve heard a first play of the third single from Dublin based gazers Floorshow. I have been a massive fan of this band since they reached out to me back in April with their first tracks ‘Walls’ and my favourite, ‘Come Home’.
Floorshow are Jessi Howell (vocals), Sean Day (guitar), Andrew Kelly (bass) and Sean McGinley (drums). I asked the band how they would describe their sound.
We draw musical inspiration from artists such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Drop Nineteens and American Shoegazers Ringo Deathstarr, as well as any new artists that we are currently listening to. Floorshow aim to pay homage to seminal artists of the shoegaze, dreampop and noise rock genres, while also adding and elaborating as best we can to create something new.
‘How Long’ is the sound of the band venturing into harsher more noisy territory, a sound they pull off with consummate ease. The track opens with Day’s harsh metallic guitar tones contrasting with Howells angelic tones. One thing that really jumped at me about this track is how in sync the bass and drums are. Oh, and the drums are massive sounding. Like Bonham loud! Kelly’s bass leaping around like in a fever dream in the closing section is a genius touch to close out the track.
I’m absolutely besotted with this band’s sound and I’m cannot wait until they get around to recording their debut album! Rest assured I’ll be here with a track-by-track breakdown when that happens. Until then, get on over to Bandcamp and check out ‘How Long’ now!
1995 was quite a year in music. Oasis were building their ‘Wonderwall’, the Manic’s Richey Edwards went missing, The Beatles returned with ‘Free As A Bird, The Smashing Pumpkins released their sprawling masterpiece Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and a band from my home town released their debut album on the same label as The Stone Roses.
Whiteout had been a fixture on the Greenock music scene for years prior to this. Featuring a number of different line ups over the years they finally settled on Andrew Caldwell (Jones) on vocals, Eric Lindsay on guitar, Paul Carroll on bass and Stuart Smith on drums. This period of the band produced five amazing singles and, of course, their debut album, Bite It.
If you were around at the time your first introduction to the band may have been on Channel 4’s late night music and mayhem show, The Word. The band turned in a statement of intent performance of lead single ‘No Time’. This was down to all the hard work put in playing live up and down the country honing their skills ready for the spotlight. Including a co-headlining tour with a certain up and coming five-piece from Manchester.
‘Starrclub’ with its T-Rex swagger and jubilant chorus hooked us in to the bands sound even more. By the time ‘Detroit’ and ‘Jackie’s Racing’ came out we were ready for an album. Now, over 25 years later Bite It and Young Tribe Rule, previously a Japanese exclusive CD, are getting the vinyl reissue treatment they deserve.
This led me to dig out my old battered copy of Bite It to revisit those songs of my youth. I thought it would be fun to write about them as if they were just releasing the album today.
It also got me thinking about what the writing process for the album was like and what the bands main musical influences at the time were. Who better to tell us than Whiteout’s guitarist, Eric Lindsay.
“The album was recorded over a couple of years over three or four sessions in three different studios with three different engineers! The songs tended to be written by Andrew and Paul who would then bring them to rehearsal where we would arrange them together. Inspiration came in many forms but Jackie’s Racing , for example, was inspired by a newspaper headline about BBC legend Jackie Bird!!”
“Paul was really the musical director of the band and had a vast knowledge (and record collection) of all shades. He tended to be in charge of the tour bus playlist!! We listened to a lot of what you would expect in the way of 60s and 70s psychedelic pop and rock, but also lots of jazz, soul, R&B and rap.”
So with that knowledge let’s stick the record on and give it a spin.
The album opens on the stuttering, stop start riff of ‘Thirty Eight’. A real party song if ever there was one. It’s a perfect way to start. Between Caldwell’s ebullient vocal delivery and Lindsay’s call and response guitar lines it kicks thing off at pace, setting the scene nicely.
The single ‘No Time’ is next with its uber optimistic lyric and energetic delivery this should’ve been a much bigger hit. Really pay attention to the melodic bass on this one. Carroll picking out a counter to Lindsay’s lead. It’s pop perfection. You can enjoy that classic performance from The Word here.
We get a slight change in pace for the acoustic led ‘We Should Stick Together’. The country style licks on show here giving a nod to the Faces whilst the melody, clearly Chilton inspired, providing a neat foil.
Side B starts with the latter-day ‘Maggie May’, ‘Jackie’s Racing’. It’s rare you hear an acoustic lead guitar line these days, never mind one this good. The lad’s harmony vocals are on point here and no wonder it was their highest performing single.
We head off into cosmic rock territory with ‘Shine on You’ next. The descending chords of the chorus are absolutely devastating. Especially after the drone-like bassline in the verses. Again, check out the fingerboard gymnastics Carroll is demonstrating. This track wouldn’t be out of place on Dr Byrds & Mr Hyde, from me that’s as high a compliment as it gets.
The side closes out with ‘No More Tears’, an epic ballad. Hewn from the same rock as Richards and Jagger it builds slowly to its anthemic refrain of “you’ve got to get someone in your life”. Smith’s sympathetic stick work is superb as is Lindsay’s guitar, in perpetual motion. Fret work rivalling anything his label mate John Squire produced.
The second disc moves on with the light and shade of the rockier ‘Altogether’. This song makes a great use of trading the lighter sound of the acoustic with the more bass heavy tones of the chugging electric guitar. Result being it’s incredibly catchy and a real earworm. Man, this band had hooks for weeks.
The sleazy drawl intro of ‘You Drag Me’ sounds like the guitar trying to have a drunken conversation in a dark and dingy night club. Again, it’s Smith’s steady rhythm that keeps this one on track with the band swaggering around their instruments in a quite heady way.
After all that we’re ready to chill out a bit. Thankfully the band agrees and they treat us to the ballad ‘Baby, Don’t Give Up On Me Yet’. How are we this far into the album and the songwriting quality just keeps going up? Lindsay is on fire throughout with his deft lead being the counter to Caldwell’s vocal.
The closing side opens with the beautiful ‘You Left Me Seeing Stars’. The Chiltonesque guitars soar over Caldwell’s longing vocal. The bass providing a potent counter melody that cuts through in the instrumental breaks. This allows Lindsay the room to create a wall of guitars in the closing section that slowly fades from view.
‘Everyday’ does that amazing trick Whiteout do so well. The verses move along all languid and serpentine before the choruses explode. With the addition of a brass section courtesy of the NFL Horns this is a serious explosion of hooks and licks.
That leaves the final cut on the album to be ‘Untitled’. A string laden ballad that comes straight from the heart. Fans of Big Star will find a lot to love here. The complex verse structure and chord changes into the aaaahs that lead us into the next verse are sublime. This is the perfect way to round out this incredible collection of songs.
Unlike like a lot of their 90’s alumni, Whiteout’s debut album remains as vital and refreshing to listen to as it did back in 1995. There’s a timeless quality to the songwriting and performances in these grooves that will endear their sound to all the generations to come.
Bite It and Young Tribe Rule are available now on vinyl from Demon Music Group and from your favourite record shops.
The pandemic has been an absolute disaster for the world, putting it lightly. Every now and then however a wee ray of light glints through and brings us a moment of joy. Such is the music of LA based musicians, Lauren Andino and Glenn Fryatt.
During 2020 Andino began posting snippets of guitar and Moog compositions from her rehearsal space online as a pandemic sound journal. Fryatt was rehearsing in the same building, heard her music and wondered if she wanted to add drums. The rest, they say, is history.
In August 2021 TREMOURS released ‘Downtown Demos’, a three-song EP of demo recordings which blew my mind. This trio of tracks really got the buzz going about the band. ‘Burn to Today’ especially piquing my interest.
Fast forward to today and the band have just released the Affectations EP on Little Cloud Records. I asked Lauren to tell me a bit about how writing and recording this EP differed from the Downtown Demos?
“The songs on this Affectations EP were written around the same time as the downtown demos, but the recording was different. We went into a real studio (Golden Beat) to track drums and vocals. I recorded the guitar and Moog parts at our rehearsal space though, same as before. And for these new tracks, James Aparicio mixed them at his studio in London.”
The EP opens on the title track. Andino’s breathy vocals are solid as a rock throughout, leading us, like a mantra, into her dream. Her guitar lines are like shards of glass ringing in the sunlight playing off the pulsing Moog backing. Fryatt’s drums are incredibly thoughtful, picking out the gaps nicely, building in complexity to a quite wonderful conclusion.
The band turn in their reimagining of my fellow Scot’s The Jesus and Mary Chain with ‘On The Wall’. It gets off to a pacy start with Fryatt’s drums calling the shots. Andino’s signature guitars come in picking out the melody. Every so often a wail of looming fuzzed out feedback comes into earshot threatening to envelope the whole song before disappearing again. It’s Andino’s hypnotic vocals that focus our attention and guide us through to the realisation at the end of the song, “I’m like the clock, On the wall”.
The EP closes on the pulsing Moog polyrhythms of ‘Port Children’. Quite different in texture to the previous tracks it’s a fitting close to the EP with its more muted tones. Leaning into the psychedelic scene with its raga drones and cyclical vocal pattern. The explosive coda elevates this song to my EP highlight and there couldn’t be a stronger finish to the EP than this. Leave em begging for more!
This duo has bloomed into something really quite special. Andino brings mind and soul to the music whilst Fryatt is the heart and pulse. One cannot exist without the other. The ambient soundscapes, the swells and waves of the guitar and Moog are brought into focus with the strict punctuation of the drums. Translating them into the tightly formed songs you hear on this EP. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.
The Affectations EP is available now from Tremours Bandcamp page. The band have a couple of Los Angeles live dates coming up, catch them if you can.
AUG 21 SUN Harvard & Stone @ 8:00pm Los Angeles, CA, United States
OCT 13 THU Zebulon @ 8:00pm Los Angeles, CA, United States