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Eight Point Star

Eight Point Star

    Remarkable debut album by new Cosmic-Appalachian string band, birthed from the same Virginia firmament that has brought forth Pelt, Jack Rose, Black Twig Pickers, and Spiral Joy Band. Led by Mike Gangloff’s droning fiddle and Matt Peyton’s fingerpicked guitar, Eight Point Star mines the modal traditions of both old-time Appalachia and far-out drone music to produce beautiful tunes that are equal parts memorable and psychedelic.

    Side A starts with the gentle guitar and fiddle duet of “Winchester’s Dream” before segueing into the loping “Waiting on the Band,” where the subliminal pulse of Tim Thornton’s upright bass animates the music until the lengthy lockgroove repetition of “The Interloper.” Closing the side, “Flowerthrower” and “Mount-Calvary Peacock” have a vibe reminiscent of Popol Vuh’s mid-’70s masterpieces, combining sawing fiddle and melodic guitar with simple and haunting chord structures.

    Side B is bookended by two country-blues influenced numbers, with Peyton’s boisterous vocal and guitar and Isak Howell’s harp leading the upbeat “Brand New Shirt” and the elegiac “Weeping Cherry Cry.” In between the two vocal features are a segued mini-epic of moods, including an expanded group lineup collapsing midway through “A Water Panther Speaks” into an eerie soundscape of singing bowls and distant gong sounds as dark as the night in remotest Virginia

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Winchester's Dream
    2. Waiting On The Band/The Interloper
    3. Flowerthrower
    4. Mount-Calvary Peacock
    5. Brand New Shirt
    6. Jubal
    7. Mist Came Down The Pedlar Hills
    /A Water Panther Speaks
    8. Sunshine Dog
    9. Weeping Cherry Cry

    Black Twig Pickers

    Friends Peace

      Following a series of records with Thrill Jockey (including the sensational Seasonal Hire with Steve Gunn), the Black Twig Pickers return to the VHF mothership to continue their charming and original take on old time and Appalachianinspired string band sounds. Together since 2001, and a continuous presence in the music’s true home of Southwest Virginia, the Twigs represent the actively working evolution of the traditions—learning songs from other locals, playing dances at the Floyd Country Store, etc—without retroartifice or nostalgia.

      The ragged-but-right performances and recording (and Sally Ann Morgan’s perfect cover design) sit at the ideal intersection of DIY / “underground” and local string-sound values. On Friend’s Peace, the band travels a range of styles, from the lovely harmony on the trad-classic “Moonshiner” to the racing fiddle / guitar / banjo on the “Money Musk” medley. Mixed in with the traditional songs are several perfectly-placed original tunes, including Mike Gangloff’s keening “Cara’s Waltz” and Isak Howell’s solo guitar spotlight on “Barnswallow.”

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Grand strings, plucked banjo and soaring vocal harmonies coalesce over traditional country ballads and southern folk songs, presenting a dynamic but comfortably familiar sound.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Moonshiner
      2. Money Musk/Icy Mountain/Tommy Hawk
      3. Cara's Waltz
      4. Sheets Of Rain, Streams Of Sun
      5. Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?
      6. Roan Mountain Sally Ann
      7. Knight On The Road
      8. Barnswallow
      9. St. Valentine's
      10. March Elliston Joy
      11. Dan Friend's Piece

      Astral Social Club & Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra

      Plasma Splice Trifle

        Debut collaboration between these like-minded English underground titans, perfectly mixing the long-form pop eccentricities of Grumbling Fur with the free electric sound of Astral Social Club to produce four epic and memorable tracks. The music is dense and layered, with hidden hooks, haunting vocals, unidentifiable electronic shuddering, delicate ambience, etc. Challenging but completely accessible and beautiful stuff.

        After a brief vocal declaration of purpose, “Back To The Egg” rides a motorik pulse ala Harmonia or Kraftwerk for ten hypnotic minutes. “Three Years Apart” pulses gently in a burbling cloud, reminding that along with crafting song gems, Grumbling Fur has collaborated with noted avantcomposer / performer Charlemagne Palestine.

        “Ozone Antifreeze Intelligence” layers electronics over a haunting piano and vocal melody, framed by subliminal fuzz guitar. “Toejam Boxdrum” closes the album with an uproarious polyrhythm hidden by more layers of soft-focus electrofizz, gradually giving way to thick bass riffs and tremelo’d interjections.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Back To The Egg
        2. Three Years Apart
        3. Ozone Antifreeze Intelligence
        4. Toejam Boxdrum

        Flying Saucer Attack

        In Search Of Spaces

          First ever reissue and first time on vinyl for this unique Flying Saucer Attack live album, expanded with additional material and a new side four mix from Jim O’Rourke. Produced in collaboration with Dave Pearce / FSA and Bruce Russell (compiler of the original CD release for his Corpus Hermeticum label), featuring new artwork by Bruce Russell as well.

          While rightly known for the folk-influenced songs and spacey instrumentals of their proper albums, the briefly active live version of FSA unexpectedly delivered a blistering wave of electric sound. Recorded at various shows in 1994, In Search Of Spaces heaves with long passages of feedback guitar racket, broken up by sections of surging rock music. The live band focused almost exclusively on visceral, trebly guitar noise—which, while always a key element in their sound, was greeted by audiences with total mystification (and often disapproval). Following a few brief attempts to settle a lineup and play songs from their records, Dave Pearce / FSA abandoned live performance altogether, leaving behind this album (and the barely available P. A. Blues CDR) as the sole document of his in-person delivery.

          Originally compiled and released in 1996, this reissue adds several minutes of music back to the original program that had been edited out by FSA for being “too rock.” For side four, Jim O’Rourke revisited the original 1994 live tapes and has made a spooky and brooding new mix of music exclusive to this release.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. Part 1
          2. Part 2
          3. Part 3
          4. Part 4

          Astral Social Club

          Fountain Transmitter Medications

            A boggling and super-fun 100+ minutes from Neil Campbell’s Astral Social Club, Fountain Transmitter Medications delivers the head-on collision of classic UK electronic styles, electric grit and the future.

            The LP starts with a set of tight chuggers, the high-end racket of “Infinity Thug” ripping through the speakers before closing the side with the loping “Grisly Terroir.” Side two is comprised of the 20-minute epic “Diamonds in the Dreich,” a mid-tempo journey of Throbbing Gristle-ish lurch-pulse and disembodied voices, giving way after ten minutes to an organ-interlude which accelerates into a full-on rock jam loaded with scathing guitar slashing. It’s unlike anything else in the Astral Social Club catalog.

            The CD (“side three”) offers three lengthy explorations of key facets of the overall Astral Social concept, where Campbell really stretches out and lets the tape run—the rushing sound effects and buried rock of “Sun Still God,” the bristling electric juddering of “Erotic Meditation,” and the blownout space-rock (!) of “Squeegee Anthem #3.”

            Jesse Sparhawk / Eric Carbonara

            Tributes & Diatribes

            Tributes & Diatribes is the lovely second set of tracks from the entirely unusual duo of Jesse Sparhawk (38-string lever harp) and Eric Carbonara (22-string upright Chaturangui guitar, banjo, nylon string guitar). The four tracks here are restrained and unhurried, letting the elegant string flow breathe and build over each cut. Like on their debut Sixty Strings (also on VHF), there’s plenty of virtuosity, but it’s not showy and crass. These guys are more mood-builders (deep, cosmic, meditative) than doodlers. Even though Tributes & Diatribes is immediately graspable by those of us who like “our kind” of music, it really doesn’t sound like anyone else - a rare achievement. Along with the main dialogue between the two players, the arrangements are filled out with percussion by Peterson Goodwyn, giving some of the tracks an overt groove that cuts against the spiraling string notes. Beautiful.

            TRACK LISTING

            1. Alemu
            2. Yellow Bird
            3. Twilight Lamento
            4. Hitch And Herrman

            Spiral Joy Band

            Wake Of The Dying Sun King

              "Wake Of The Dying Sun King" is the second full-length of epic meditative drone from this South Western Virginia collective. Like Pelt (with whom it shares several members), Spiral Joy Band uses mostly acoustic instruments to create slow, building pieces rich with human detail. The steady rolling of multiple Tibetan bowls, bowed and struck gongs, hypnotic fiddle, sruti box, and other instruments are recorded live in continuous performances that frequently stretch beyond an hour per piece. The performance aspect is key to Spiral Joy Band's aura - the variations in approach, force, etc. with which each tone is played, and the clear, open recording (mostly in Blacksburg's Glade baptist church) highlight the subtleties of the music.

              Spiral Joy Band

              Lullabies For Jeff Dean

                This long running but until-now-undocumented Virginia group was founded in 2001 by Pelt members Mikel Dimmick and Mike Gangloff with Karl Precoda (Last Days Of May, The Dream Syndicate). Their debut CD concentrates on live performances featuring marathon, unorthodox drone treaties for acoustic instruments, including tibetan singing bowl, gong, sruti, and esraj. The bowed, rolled, and (usually) gently struck metal percussion anchors the sound with rich, resonating tones. The music is a cousin to Pelt's explorations. "Lullaby 1" is built almost entirely on the gongs and bowls, a slowly building narcoleptic trip. The forty-one-minute epic "Lullaby 2" begins with Gangloff on esraj, building up a trance before the shenais and sharply struck gongs take over at the climax of the piece. "Lullaby 3" throws some surprisingly melodic and active piano into the mix, evoking a long-form version of Popol Vuh's "Die Nacht Der Seele".


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