avant . leftfield . post-rock . drone . experimental


Genre pick of the week Cover of California Owls EP by Death And Vanilla.

Death And Vanilla

California Owls EP

    4 track EP cut at 45rpm on green vinyl. 1000 copies worldwide.

    “Sweet psychedelic pop from your new favourite Swedes.. nocturnal track, California Owls is hypnotic, this is dream pop at its absolute best.” i-D

    “Our dreamiest pick this week… "California Owls," pairs reverb-soaked vocals with a harpsichord-like synth that sounds like sunlight filtered through water.” NPR

    “California Owls” could almost be Beach House. At least until it descends into a two-minute cascade of bird noises. Enchanting stuff.” Loud & Quiet

    “Nilsson’s vocals bob in an ocean of reverb on ‘California Owls’ evoke everything from Czech cinema soundtracks to The Velvet Underground channelled through their uniquely distorted lens” Clash

    “California Owls,” a tidy three and a half minutes of airy-pop gorgeousness followed by two more combining chirping birds and tones reminiscent of a distant calliope amidst the reliable retro-futurism.” The Vinyl District

    Following the success of their critically acclaimed ‘To Where The Wild Things Are’ released in May, Death And Vanilla return with EP ‘California Owls’ EP, featuring two non-album tracks. Forming in Malmö, Sweden by Marleen Nilsson and Anders Hansson, Death and Vanilla utilise vintage musical equipment such as vibraphone, organ, mellotron, tremolo guitar and moog, to emulate the sounds of 60s/70s soundtracks, library music, German Krautrock, French Ye-ye pop and 60s psych. They revel in the warmth of older analogue instruments to create a more organic sound, each loose wire and off-kilter noise adding to the rich atmosphere. Creating deliciously enticing soundscapes, full of moody moogs and breathless vocals, their influences are as diverse as their music.

    Passionate about the culture of the 60s/70s, Death And Vanilla have the retro-futuristic edge of Broadcast with Stereolab leanings and the electronic library sounds of the BBC Electronic Workshop. Opulent and timeless, ‘California Owls’ is a reverb soaked spectral-pop song drenched in 60s-psych while the dark and swirling melodies of ‘Follow The Light’ has a ‘Walk Away Renee pace’ (Guardian). Their new EP brings together old songs with the new, much like the samples and the instruments they use, whilst capturing the haunting and wild dreamy experimental edge of ‘To Where The Wild Things Are’.

    With deconstructed bow and the extraordinary sound of double recorder, Beneath Swooping Talons has grown out of unearthed fragments that became improvised pieces, then immediately recorded in single takes. Tapping the potent rural landscape and long-dormant musical modes, this album encompasses both wild animal calls and long forgotten liturgical chords, which drawn through Laura’s music seem to originate from the same, a historical place.

    With a background in traditional, early and experimental music, she creates a solitary minimalist chamber music, where one player makes all the harmonies. Based in rural East Anglia, Laura Cannell’s work draws on the emotional influences of the landscape and the sometimes dissonant chords of early and medieval music. Since founding and touring with duo Horses Brawl a decade ago, Laura has established her practice as a solo musician with recorder and fiddle her primary instruments. 

    "Bound Adam" is the first in a series of reissues by American artist Elysia Crampton (f.k.a. E&E) for Total Stasis record label. Originally self-released in 2011 as digital files, this is its first vinyl pressing. Its three tracks are an ode to the artist's Ford Ranger. 2011 is also the year Ford discontinued the Ranger line. As Crampton says, 'it is a speculative / ontological poem about a relationship with a car.' Sonically, if you imagine the futureproof hydraulics of Jam City or Bok Bok, coupled with that icy frost of Total Fantasy but then given a warming, hippie-friendly edge which recalls a distant Iasos or Brian Eno. Glacial pop ambience for generation i-pod.
    7" vinyl record
    Mastered by Brandon Hocura
    Cover + insert by Felix Lee

    Where To Now? records present Beatrice Dillon’s follow up release to "Blues Dances". This three track 12” sees Beatrice step things up a gear in terms of intricacy, experimenting wildly to add to her already astute palette of timbre and rhythm. "Face A" opens the record with the unmistakable skronk of saxophone cutting and jamming over the skeletal pulse of Beatrice’s signature dubbed out techno landscape. Initially the inclusion of saxophone acts as an aural abstraction or diversion to extract a little freedom from the pumping cavern of dark dub techno punctuated with the mechanical juddering saw-bass. As the piece develops and we become locked into the groove, the inclusion of wild sax trips us up and becomes the focus itself as new levels of complex melodic and rhythmic detail become apparent within this otherwise structurally obedient space. Taking its cues from Rabih Beaini, Miles Davis ‘Big Fun’ era, Dresvn and Keith Hudson, undoubtably "Face A" is a compelling, complex trip; heads down but arms flailing. "Face B" continues the theme but takes the listener deeper into the cavern. Here the concern is more the effects of space within song, a moment where Beatrice allows herself to move away from the floor to find a little more room for playful experimentation. The saxophone is further treated with a plethora of effects to compliment the array of dub signals that scatter and skip around the basin. The record closes with "Sonnier (Walk in the Light)" which strangely manages to feel even jazzier in its components, even in comparison to a pair of tracks riffing on a manipulated free-jazz sax part. It sounds strangely unsure of its world, adding to this whole loosely slung, loping feel which somehow fits amongst the stern, brooding, and efficient synth play. Beatrice masterfully manages to create a piece here that grows in intensity without ever increasing in pace or texture, every drop is intended to stir the listener a little more than the last. There is optimism, harmony and above all - wild groove nestled within Beatrice’s world of mutant shuffle, as I for one love it. Totally alien and of another species perhaps, but Beatrice is on hand to translate and iron out any communication difficulties. Pioneering stuff indeed. 

    Gakakirise And EYE


      ‘Gagakiriseye’ is a collaboration between the Japanese noise rock duo Gagakirise and EYE, the legendary founder of Boredoms.

      Gagakirise are the Tokyo based duo of Sachio Yoshizawa on guitar and Ryo Inoue on drums. They are a major force in the Japanese underground since 2006, having released two albums and a split with Juiceboxxx, as well as touring the US several times as well as Japan with the likes of Black Pus and others.

      Gagakirise’s music is a reconstruction of rock music, using the basic elements and merging them with other Japanese styles and playing as energetically and as loudly as they can. EYE adds a distinctive percussive and maniacal presence to the proceedings. This is wild, unrestrained music that is boundless in its creativity, color, and hunter for the new. Gagakirise are currently recording their third LP and are playing live throughout Japan as much as possible.

      ‘Gagakiriseye’ is released as a 7” pressed on virgin vinyl and packaged in a full colour jacket with postcard insert. Exclusively available to independent retailers.

      This is the first new recording to feature EYE in over five years.

      As has often been noted, psychedelic music can involve causal links between getting out of it and getting into it. Conversely, expansion of consciousness can be found by heading deep into the roots that a band explores, and journeying to the centre of their inspiration. Thus, a curious paradox is attained, whereby the traditional elements of an outfit’s sound are superseded by them blasting their core vibrations into unchartered territory. Such is the case with the new opus from third-eye visionaries Hills, a dizzying journey that traverses through the band’s origins and beyond to new dimensions.

      The Gothenburg-based Hills are entering their ninth year of existence, in which they’ve released two full-length albums, the second of which, ‘Master Sleeps’ saw a vinyl outing on Rocket last year. Part of a rich scene in their homestead also including friends and Rocket Recordings label mates Goat, they form the new chapter in a tradition of Swedish psychedelia that found its origins in late-’60s and early ‘70s freakouts and mind-melts by the likes of Baby Grandmothers and Älgarnas Trädgård - not to mention the unholy trinity of Pärson Sound, International Harvester and Träd Gräs och Stenar - before being developed by the likes of The Spacious Mind and Dungen in the last two decades. These inspirations make their mark on ‘Frid’ by journeying inward, via mantric repetition and hip-shaking pulsations as on the ten-minute monolith, ‘ Och Solen Sänkte Sig Röd’, yet they can also lurch into the unknown via the fuzz/wah odysseys of the aptly monikered ‘National Drone’ and the ceremonial exhortations of the closing ‘Death Will Find A Way.’

      As they also showed recently at a rare and spellbinding appearance at Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia, Hills have landed on a rich and intoxicating sound that sidesteps the cliches and humdrum stylistic foibles that often plague modern-day psych, in the process breathing new life into an approach that can sometimes seem in danger of appearing redundant through lack of imagination. ‘Frid’, their most out-of-mind and out-of-sight effort to date, crystallises everything that makes these Scandinavian satyrs stand out from the global herd; adventurous experimentation and fearless hallucinatory intensity, rendered with brass-knuckle fortitude. The end result is 38 minutes that translate into a feast for seasoned crate-diggers and fresh-faced converts alike. There is, indeed, gold in these here Hills.

      Amid the haste and confusion of the modern world, you need to take comfort wherever you can find it. I'd suggest there's no better place than in the soft, ambient textures of the debut album from July Skies. The solo project of Birmingham musician and Avrocar mainstay Antony Harding, July Skies offers a hazy glimpse of soft focus nostalgia and reassuring melancholy. Composed from a minimal set up of guitar, reverb/delay, occasional keyboard washes and calmly murmured vocals, the twelve pieces on this debut fully envelop you in their fragile beauty, sheltering you from the outside world and allowing you to luxuriate in raw emotion. On its CD only release back in 2002, "Dreaming Of Spires" met with rapturous critical acclaim, garnering comparisons to Duruttti Column's finest work. I'd offer Gigi Masin, Johnny Nash and Suzanne Kraft as ideal companions from recent years. The album consists of twelve delicate dreamlike compositions, each full of heartfelt detail that conjure up images of half-forgotten childhood days, innocence, nature and the English landscape and skies. From the dusky autumnal loss of "Coastal Stations", the swooping delayed melody of "Swallows and Swifts", the late night astronomical delights of "The Night Sky" and "Garden Constellations", this is certainly an album for the quiet moments in life and will delight anyone who is led by the heart. No review would be complete without a mention of "The Softest Kisses", a sublime piece of music much loved by Balearic militant Moonboots. After a truly dire week, I'm gratefully accepting the opportunity to retreat into the shelter of this modern classic.


      Ltd LP Info: 180 gram vinyl. Limited to just 300 copies worldwide.

      This 12" Remaster of 4-Track LP only previously available on tape from 2008, sees Lightning Glove churning out a brutal but highly absorbing assault. Filtered vocals, distorted beats and suuuuper slow sirens further adding to the claustrophobic feel. Never dark enough to completely scare you off, but constantly teetering on the edge of something catatonic.

      Opener on Side B, "Plasic Zone" is a masterpiece of brooding ambience (Synth pads, actual slow-motion screaming, more sirens?) juxtaposed to a frantic click beat, with reverbed gothic vocal refrains. It's like a distillation of Blackest Ever Black's finest moments, filtered through a oija board and jumped out on from the cupboard ; scared, desolate and ready to fight. 

      This journey closes with "Endless tides Of Weathered Soda" No doubt referring to the swashes of tired looking Lilt cans in the spar, is a deep and enthralling final cut, consisting primarily of a degraded voice, over tectonic grinds of synth and distortion and building a befitting but strangely optimistic climax. 

      If Ono Tesla / Red For Colour Blind keep bringing us records like this, they could well have a place on every end of year list out there. Highly Recommended. 

      Natural Information Society & Bitchin Bajas


        Natural Information Society, like their partners in time Bitchin Bajas, live their days in flow motion. Rhythms come and go, instruments sound as a means to a greater end. Music is the way of their life. Their debut convergence, ‘Automaginary’, feels as natural as it does inevitable.

        Both groups were first heard in 2010, both emerging from solo endeavours that accessed a vastness, more room than a single player might ultimately fill. Joshua Abrams, a questing bassist and improviser by trade, with an extensive discography of solo recordings and collaborations with a wide variety of artists, formed Natural Information Society as a conduit for the live presentation of his guimbri music. Abrams had delved into the sound of the three-stringed Gnawan lute on his own, intrigued by the instrument’s ability to provide melodic and rhythmic direction with a minimal, hypnotic palette. Over several years, many shows and three albums, Natural Information Society has featured some of Chicago’s most remarkable musicians while developing a sound situating Abrams’ compositions and playing in diverse sonic settings, amid ultimately consonant sounds from electric guitar, percussion, harmonium, reed instruments, bells, vibes and synthesizer. Over this time a core line up has emerged, featuring Frank Rosaly, Emmett Kelly, Ben Boye, Mikel Avery and Lisa Alvarado.

        Cooper Crain of CAVE started Bitchin Bajas to explore his fascination with vintage electronics and recording techniques. With Dan Quinlivan on keyboards as well, Bitchin Bajas’ discography has explored a range of dynamic approaches, producing various proportions of atmosphere and soundtrack that move from becalmed stasis to synthetic beat-building with a prescient liquidity. Of late Rob Frye has joined, blowing reed and woodwind texture and naturally adding only the necessary ripple to their slow-unfurling ecstatic process.

        Both Natural Information Society and Bitchin Bajas are in pursuit of the unconscious in their musical expression and through their independent methods both have ridden the wind to unseen places, using the playing as the carpet that will take them there. A multitude of influences swarm amoebically in their sounds, from the mud of ancient Afro-groove to 20thcentury classical austerity, from the clatter of freedom jazz to the 4/4 of Kraut and disco and fusion beyond.

        Wrapped up in a screen-printed jacket by visual artist Lisa Alvarado, whose aesthetic sense is a touchstone for the vision of Natural Information Society.

        After a brief hiatus for hsi Leleka imprint, this time round Vakula explores the universe of the man who was searching for a world where there were women and children obeying the moon but faced the reality with its wisdom, and fever, and sickness. And faced it too soon. 'The music and voices are all around us. Choose, the croon, the Ancient Ones. The time has come again'. The album is Vakula's thoughts in time and out of season dedicated to Morrison, the poet, the musician, the soft mad child, the great man. 'Enter again the sweet forest, enter the hot dream, come with us. Everything is broken up and dances'.

        Basically, this is an extension of "Voyage To Arcturus" - Vakula getting all 'proper full length' album, and heavily influenced by psychedlia in general, and the Doors in particular. Our crazy Ukrainian has enlisted a full band to play all the music from start to finish - all OG psych material played with authenticity and panache! That's not to say it's not heavily inspired by Morrison's pioneering group - all fried guitars, raga-fuelled repetition and a truly lysergic feeling from start to finish. The A-side drifts along at a completely unhurried pace - occasional forays of poetry by William Blake bursting through a desert-scorched jam of buzzing slide guitar, gentle congas and tentative organ licks. It sounds like a Doors album! But it's not... The B-side keeps up the illusion with some heavy blues jams, some with vocals some instrumental but all riffing unrelentling throughout and again sounding oh so authentic. We knew Vakula could turn his hand at anything but by God! This could come straight out of 1971 and has that old school recording sound nailed to a tee. Vakula we salute you! Not only a strange and pretty brave concept but he's executed it perfectly - I reckon you could slip this into a Doors listening session and no-one could tell the difference. It's like a long lost album from our Jim, except it's brand new and by a totally turned on Ukrainian. Massive.

        Berlin Atonal is proud to pick up on a tradition begun in 1984 with the publication of two volumes of live recordings from the 1983 edition of the festival. Those records bore witness to the most inventive, adventurous sounds of the festival, and therefore of their time, containing live bits from Psychic TV, La Loora and Z’EV.

        Vol. 3 carries this custom forward three decades with selections from four of the standout performances at Berlin Atonal 2014. Of course Cabaret Voltaire’s lauded and historical first show in over 20 years is featured ('Microscopic Flesh Fragment ' and 'Universal Energy (Live Version) '), Richard H Kirk’s no-nostalgia and machinery driven set firmly putting the Cabaret Voltaire project in a future-facing direction. Demdike Stare member Miles Whittaker’s surprising and muscular live performance also contributes a cut ('Vagabond Nº7 '), as does festival favourite Fis with his characteristically lumpy, textural soundscapes ('Dist CL (Atonal Version) '). Finally, two selections from Abdulla Rashim’s memorable session point toward a possible future for synthesised music. 

        'Berlin Atonal Vol.3' is housed in a special cardboard sleeve and limited at 700 units.

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