Black Tempel Pyrämid -

Ancient Hymns & Incantations


Ethereal Mother

Released: 2nd July 2021


Following on from May's double cassette release of Mountain Meditations and Hermetic Visions on the Weird Beard label, Patrick R. Pärk is quickly back into the fray with two new collections, both available in strictly limited runs from the Black Tempel Pyrämid Bandcamp page.

Ancient Hymns & Incantations contains seven songs over forty minutes and it is heavily loaded. The music is not insidious and spiteful as were some of BTP's lockdown sounds, but it is dark and weighty and unapologetic. We are pretty fortunate that the ancient gods appear to have had no time for S Club 7 and what they revel in are repetitive refrains full of twisted notes played over a backdrop of the world splitting in two. 'Kesh Temple Hymn' has a pulse of iron that pushes it through savagely shredding guitars and rumbling synths, while 'Excerpts From An Exorcism' sees stabbling guitars attack woozy keyboards and whispered incantations. 'Liturgy To Nintud', the Mesopotamian mother goddess, sees her take light steps over a shuddering drone, while her kin 'Anu', the divine personification of the sky and ancestor of all the deities, bewitches rather than crushes as he breaks through the hastily constructed melodies that are thrown up around him. 'Lament For Ur' is wistfully disjointed, and closing track 'Ekur', the house of the gods, rattles with authority. It taps and grates and frowns and bridles with righteous power. Classed as a "fever dream" by Pärk this collection is hauntingly atmospheric and it would be some fever that managed to bring on these visions. Ethereal Mother have produced just fifty clear cassettes with a gold slipsheet and they won't be around for long.

Teotihuacán is a completely different beast. Named after the ancient Mesoamerican city which lies in the Valley of Mexico, just north of that country's capital city, Park takes us on a journey via the Pyramid of the Sun, along the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Moon. It's a journey of discovery, a spiritual exhumation which reveals the mysteries that lie at the heart of this once-vast population centre. The Avenue is the key to understanding this place and the opening track, 'Pyramid of the Sun - Pyramid of the Moon - Feathered Serpent' maps out its route from the two opposing towering edifices through the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. From this call to the spirits of the past it is clear they do not dance to earthly rhythms and for over sixteen minutes we experience a broken serenade that helps to encourage the ancient mysteries into the light. 'Existential Tempel Crisis', the shortest track here, breaks down the barriers which allows connection as we walk down the 'Avenue Of The Dead'. This is a thirteen-minute journey where dispossessed synths guide us along the path, seeing but barely stirring the ancient ghosts. 'Unknown Origins' begins to hint at other-worldy influences with its angular rhythms, stuttering guitars and alien synths. Only then can the 'City Of The Sun' be revealed openly. It rumbles with discontent as it considers what it has lost and its growl builds in strength to become all-encompassing. All the time strings tinged with sadness reflect its emptiness and ultimate impotence. What was is not what is. Bridges are broken. The closer 'Sun Pyramid' ducks behind a primitive beat, but cannot hide. The sun is just the nearest star and many have been passed by and the synths shine with memories of their glow. There are visions of galaxies, nearly forgotten, as alien visions escape from dreams. There's an overriding sadness to this collection, though it is far from bleak. It drips spirituality and mystery and a detachment that is quite overwhelming. Teotihuacán is available in a run of just fifty hand numbered CDRs housed in an ecosleeve and including an insert and a download code. Get in there quickly.

A Place To Bury Strangers - Hologram


Released: 16th July 2021
This is a new start for A Place to Bury Strangers as the Hologram EP marks their first record in three years, the first recordings with the band's new line-up, and the first release for main man Oliver Ackermann's new label, Dedstrange. The new faces in the band are Sandra Fedowitz (drums) and John Fedowitz (bass), previously the duo known as Ceremony East Coast, though JF is an old colleague, having previously played with Ackermann in pre-APTBS outfit Skywave. The new start has led to quite a pronounced change in style, with the five songs on this twenty-three minute EP shedding much of the weight of the band's previous efforts while adding a more pronounced psychedelic edge. The big drums have made way for flicking rhythms that are kept very much in the background, while the arrangements are sparser with the vocals kept up front while the guitars work around them. Of course guitars still play a big part in proceedings, but they no longer look to crush you, but disorientate with their dramatic distortion. There's a woozy MBV feel to 'End Of The Night' and Mary Chain echoes on the charging 'I Might Have' with all of its buzzing and whistling. The short 'Playing The Part' is almost clean pop though the guitars are bent into peculiar shapes that add a pleasant sense of weirdness. The reverb-heavy 'In My Hive' sees lovely broken guitars playing a warped serenade above a racing pulse while Ackermann's vocals pick their way though the strangeness apparently unperturbed. It's probably the highlight here and a great sign of what this new line-up of the band has to offer. The EP closes with 'I Need You', which again borders on conventional, gently bouncing with a hushed vocal, and totally reliant on the fizzing guitars to give it an alternative edge. This is an intriguing start to a new chapter in APTBS's history and it's great to see fresh ideas pushing the band in new directions. We can't wait to hear these songs live and to see how the band progresses in the coming years.

Taras Bulba - Sometimes The Night


Released: 23rd July 2021
Fred Laird's solo project, Taras Bulba, emerged from the ashes of Earthling Society in the winter of 2018 since when he has been highly prolific in producing deliberately lo-fi music that has never even glanced at a professional recording studio. The territory that Laird inhabits is the down-at-heel, dirty edges of town and the primitive sounds captured by his DIY productions give his music the right feel for that environment. This is the world inhabited by bands such as The Birthday Party and Crime & The City Solution and Sometimes The Night seeks to channel their sound while drenching it in the unsettling organ refrains found in the 1962 horror film, Carnival of Souls. There are ten songs here, reaching just under the hour, and the swirling keyboards are prominent in many of them, working to most success in 'Night Train To Drugtown' where the keyboards dance over disonant guitars that hack away in a vain attempt to escape their poison grip. Respite is found by the inclusion of two songs that take a different approach, both featuring vocals from Daisy Atkinson. There is no disguising the delicacy of 'Orphee' where Atkinson sounds like the drowned ghost of Liz Fraser on a This Mortal Coil cover that stumbles its way through distorted waves of sound. It's probably the highlight here, impossibly pretty, though 'Sometimes The Night' runs it close, with forlorn piano ushering us towards an eternal prison where Atkinson sings of lost hopes and dreams before being enveloped in warped guitars and the saddest of wavering outros. The ethereal edge of those two numbers contrasts with the very robust sound of other songs here. 'The Big Duvall' carries with it the boozy twilight signature of Gallon Drunk, reeking of dingy bars in sink estates where happiness is found in a bottle, the saxophone of Mike Blatchford, recorded on a mobile phone 300 miles away, certainly helping to build the mood of desperation. 'House In The Snow' is another highlight, broken into pieces, the grim piano intro falling into the road and only just managing to stay concious enough to drag itself slowly along the gutter. Blatchford looks on, and plays a mournful serenade. If you are in need of some late night music to unsettle you before you fall asleep then look no further. Sometimes The Night can be found on the Taras Bulba Bandcamp here. Sweet dreams.

Korb / Kombynat Robotron - Split

Weird Beard

Released: 23rd July 2021


Weird Beard have been one of the leading players in promoting the Psych Lovers' FB page's fundraising initiative on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support and their latest offering for the cause is this lathe-cut, clear vinyl, ten-inch EP which has been split between Korb and Kombynat Robotron. Both of these bands have been extremely popular in the psych world over the past couple of years, making this a hugely exciting project, not the least because the record has been housed in a cover decorated with quite fabulous artwork which has been hand-stamped and hand-numbered.

Korb open the proceedings with three tracks that stretch to just over twelve minutes. As soon as the opening bars of 'Hunter' are exposed, a huge wave of calm descends as you know that with Alec Wood and Jonathan Parkes in charge everything will be in its correct place and you will enjoy a safe journey, however thrilling the ride. Overflowing with space noise which tips over every edge, there is almost a jaunty feel to the music; whatever is being hunted will be hunted and that is the end of it. There is a confidence in everything this duo produce that is quite remarkable. Synths bend and woosh, drums pound and it simply sounds fantastic. Discovering some 'Ancient Technology', it is set running with a myriad of whirrs and sparkling harmonies, and this appears to cause a 'Jungle Awakening' where tribal drums pound while big synths play out the future. It's a fascinating fusion from which a space jungle emerges, and it is only a shame there is not more time for the theme to be developed. Side two sees Kombynat Robotron fill their twelve minutes with one track and 'Lapetus' sees the prolific German quartet on a space journey of their own. Their trip is shade darker than Korb's with jagged synths grinding ominously before the rhythm section ushers in take-off and smoother keyboards lift us skywards and introduce a calmer mood. Gentle guitars lap at the big looped bassline while space noise flutters in the background. Five minutes from landing the mood changes once again as the smoothness fades and we are left alone in the pulsing universe with the grinding threats returning with worrying force. They shriek and wail and tear at the ship which appears to succumb with the fade out introducing a fall into oblivion. If you don't want to be left on edge, play this side first and then let Korb iron away your terror.

There's little chance of being able to grab a ten-inch copy of this now, but the download is available on Bandcamp and it's well worth an investment. Not just for the music, which is stunning, but also to help Macmillan. Everybody invoved in the project gave their time, energy and creativity free of charge which is to be applauded.

The Great Leap Forward - Revolt Against An Age Of Plenty

A Turntable Friend

Released: 30th July 2021
It's been nine years now since we last heard from The Great Leap Forward, ostensibly the solo project of Alan Brown, original drummer of Inca Babies and A Witness and founder of the mighty Big Flame. When the latter band burnt out in 1987, Brown took up the mantle of TGLF, releasing three albums between 1988 and 2012, generally playing every instrument himself in the studio whilst recruiting like-minded musicians for his live adventures. Brown's music is of a type seldom seen these days, basically spiky new wave with cutting edge lyrics, melodies that will knock you sideways and sampled snippets of speech that tie in nicely with the recurrent themes. Revolt Against An Age Of Plenty is exactly what is says, a protest against the selfish nature of society, the corruption of politics and a call to help your fellow man. One sample declares, "Colours don't interest me, or politics. I worry about people," and that is where this album begins and ends. Of course, there are no end of wry comments aimed at this astonishing government, but this is not one way traffic. 'Faith In The Wall' attacks the failings of Labour and the toppling of the "Red Wall" at the last election, "Here in the heartlands, spurned and foresaken, taken for granted ... You know that this is what you get when trust is broken." The special thing about these songs is that Brown is able to retain a degree of positivity. For him "giving back is good for you" and offers salvation where trust in politics offers nothing but disappointment. He may be resigned to betrayal and disappointment from those in charge, but there is a much deeper philosophy to embrace where people look out for each other, help those in need and lead the best lives they can. This positivity is reinforced by Brown's music which is both melodic and uplifting. Whether the tracks are dominated by bubbling synths as in the brilliant 'It's A Wonderful Lie', the jagged guitars of 'Words On Fire' or both as in 'My World Is Not My Own', these songs are catchy as hell whilst still retaining quite a punch. Perhaps a clue to the positivity lies in 'Can You Kanreki?' a terrific song that celebrates the Japanese concept of re-birth for those hitting the age of sixty, a milestone Brown recently reached. It's bouncy, with great guitars, and it certainly adds to the upbeat tone of the record. "In our new stage of life, upwards and onwards as starting again is nice." It is good to see Brown starting again and hopefully he won't leave it so long before he returns with more of his wry observations. Revolt Against An Age Of Plenty is available in a double vinyl and CD from Bandcamp. It's an important document of this bewildering age, and as such is well worthy of an investment.

Star Of Asteroth - The Portal

Weird Beard

Released: 5th August 2021
After six years as the mainstay of industrial noiseniks Primitive Knot, Jim Knot has embarked on a few different projects over the past couple of years, including joining forces with Christopher Gladwin of The Wyrding Module to form the impressive space rock duo, Aquarius Lux, whose debut album The Infinite Korridor was released on Weird Beard back in November 2020. Here, Knot heads off in another direction with The Portal becoming the latest release in the second series of Weird Beard's limited cassette productions. The seven tracks run in at just under half an hour and are described by the composer as "lost soundtracks." As all of them come across as intensely serious, we are assuming the band name is not a reference to the lost talisman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but a pointer to the Great Duke of Hell who is a part of the evil trinity alongside his unpleasant mates, Lucifer and Beelzebub. The portal, then, is not a gateway you would particularly want to be knocking at and the music underlines this, as it emanates dark power and a cold certainty. You certainly don't get the seat of your pants thrill of flying precariously through unknown space that Aquarius Lux offered up; here the music is cold and stark and deathly. Opening with the title track, synths prod icily while bitter waves wash over the top with an air of disdain. There really is no empathy here as 'Clean Air Turbulance' is as cold as it comes, unemotional hymns draping themselves over an uncompromising beat with the odd burst of guitar only adding to their ever-pressing weight. 'You Have No Idea What You Have Done' is suitably ominous, while 'Now And Forever' is fleeting and lacking in hope. 'Hall Of The Prophets' is the most fulfilling piece here, developing in stages and building in strength and momentum, while 'Lovers At The End Of Time' has power, but little hope; there's no room for humanity in these sounds as the pulsing synth is dominated by the clattering drums and deep drones before being snuffed out completely. The two-minute 'Star Of Asteroth' closes the album as the synths spit out a series of notes that are only vaguely coherent and scream of dislocation. The Portal really does sound untouched by human hands; this is classic machine music which won't warm your heart, won't be your mate and won't care what you think. Which is some achievement.

The Third Sound - First Light

Fuzz Club

Released: 27th August 2021
The Third Sound is the Berlin-based band of Icelandic musician Hákon Aðalsteinsson, well known in European psych circles not only as a current guitarist in The Brian Jonestown Massacre but as a member of Singapore Sling and as an artist in his own right. First Light is the fifth album released under The Third Sound banner over the past eleven years and it's an incredibly well crafted and powerful collection of nine songs that stretch just over forty minutes. The music is solid and layered, often built into edifices from small beginnings and dissected by needle-sharp guitars. Aðalsteinsson's vocals are measured and deep and fit well the gloomy mood that prevails. 'Tidal Wave' opens with a brisk tapping beat, reminiscent of Bauhaus, and it is draped in sad organ refrains and resigned vocals. It sets the mood for the rest of the collection which is far more gothic than psych, though heavy on the bones rather than wasted and desperate. 'Your Love Is Evol' sees tumbling organs pitched against crunchy guitars and it leads into the album's pinnacle, 'This Is The Only Way I Know' which is flooded with nicely overlapping razor guitars with detached, almost cracking, vocals that are reminiscent of Eldritch. The longest track, 'Ghosts of Memphis' sits in the middle of the collection, an instrumental that begins by spitting out random picked notes before building in form and intensity. 'Dissociation' shudders and stretches out while Aðalsteinsson sounds more like Brendan Perry adding his words to a wash of sad melodies. 'Hex' weaves magic around the steadiest of backdrops, while 'Stay For Another' sees the vocal pick its way over a jagged background, as sharp guitars cut out a path. 'Not Even Jesus' lays desperation over an acoustic backing and the album concludes with 'I Don't Need Anything Anymore', which again throws up visions of the Sisters in one of their slower moods, but perhaps waits on the same corner a little too long. Aðalsteinsson claims that First Light is "less gloomy" than his other albums, though the first light here barely breaks through the shade. That's no bad thing as it is well dressed in black and certainly robust enough to stand its ground. Strong and dark.

The Metamorph - Return To Splendour EP

Werra Foxma

Released: 3rd September 2021
Werra Foxma are relatively new on the ground, but the label has quickly built up an enviable reputation for producing beautifully-presented recordings in the field of electronica with their small batch releases fiercely sought after. Having mainly issued CDs up to this point, when it came to their fortieth release they opted to press to vinyl for the first time and the resultant ten-inch EP from The Metamorph really is a thing of beauty, with fine artwork and the addition of a limited, signed art print for the first run. The Metamorph is more commonly known as Gavin Brick, a long time enthusiast for the ambient qualities of analogue synths, and his music reflects the tranquility evoked by the impossibly blue sea he has photographed for the record's cover. 'Slumber Submerged' is well named, with the multiple layers of sound barely causing a ripple on the surface. Gently rushing synths are decorated by brief piano runs that tiptoe by as you repose, careful not to disturb, but equally unashamed of their presence in this setting. 'Reverie' is exactly that, evoking summer evenings where you ponder the sun as it cascades towards the horizon with nothing more urgent to trouble your mind. These pieces work so well as they do not embrace the robotic coldness of some synth music, but they are guided by a human hand; Brick avoids quantizing and records directly from synth to multi-track and that is so important to the overall sound. It is clear from the first piece, 'Opening Titles', that he has an almost intuitive understanding of his craft, opening the doors to a world that offers peace, yet also renewal. There's grace and positivity that surrounds this music like an embrace. Grab a copy while they are still around from Bandcamp.

Harry Stafford & Marco Butcher - Bone Architecture

Black Lagoon

Released: 3rd September 2021
Following on from two blues-inspired solo albums from Inca Babies frontman, Harry Stafford, Bone Architecture marks his first collaboration with Marco Butcher, a producer and musician from Sao Paulo who now lives in North Carolina. Butcher, a long term admirer of Inca Babies, is a prolific recording artist who forages in the American underground amongst blues, jazz and rockabilly artists, making him the perfect musical foil for Stafford's tortured, dark stories. Produced over months of "lockdown hell", our two protagonists have never met in the flesh, though their shared musical influences quickly led to their post-Atlantic conversations developing into a desire to create a record together. The result is twelve tracks of jazz-tinged warped blues over which Stafford narrates his tales of misery. There are few people who can create such a grubby atmosphere as Stafford; his piano playing is lazily disrespectful which ties in nicely with the bloated horns of Kevin Davy, the ominous sounds of which appear to herald nothing more than the approach of cirrhosis and despair. With Butcher's rhythm section and guitars dragging these songs through the dirt, Stafford unfolds his stories like the narrator of a particularly rotten episode of Jackanory. This is a record completely devoid of light, and rightly so as there is something glorious about music that is unremittingly desperate and dark. It is also more layered than Stafford's more rigid blues outings; indeed it is admirable to see just how many components can be thrown into the mix and the duo's ability to harvest every kind of instrument throws up memories of the early Birthday Party when they were changing everything that people thought music should be. There are numerous highlights, from the dense title track, to the twitching 'There's Somone Tryin' To Get In', the beautifully layered 'Savannah Of Havana' and the impossibly tense 'Hide The Knives'. Another fascinating addition to the 'Lockdown' genre, and not the last from Stafford, with a new Inca Babies album due in November. In the meantime, make sure you enjoy some time with this collection of tears and shards.

Trampolene - Love No Less Than A Queen

Strap Originals

Released: 3rd September 2021
After a series of pressing plant postponements, Trampolene's second album proper, Love No Less Than A Queen, finally emerged in September on Pete Doherty's Strap Originals label. Another record completed during the hell of the plague year, the most remarkable feature of this collection is in noting just how much the band developed through the dark months. Lockdown albums have generally tended towards anger and bitterness, though Trampolene appear to have moved in the opposite direction, LNLTAQ being less confrontational and more emotionally open than its predecessors, even at times bordering on the vulnerable. Chopping guitar anthems have made way for fatter, more melodic songs that possess an endearing fragility without any lessening of the keen intelligence that lies at the heart of everything they do. Strikingly, this is a collection of songs that is infused with a love that is almost overwhelming: a love for individuals, a love for life; a love that swamps hardship and injustice and embraces everyone who can share the vision. It is so positive and envigorating, yet so rooted. "So come join me in a life where you were born on top, with burning ambitions and dreams that never stop" urges singer, guitarist and lyricist Jack Jones. "My honourable friends just do what's in your heart. The light in our stories will shine through the dark ..." Trampolene are romantics and a true romantic is one who recognises the darkness but doesn't shy from it, one who embraces all existence with a fervour that is contagious. Trampolene are romantics in the same way Small Faces were. Both bands celebrate the surrealism of life in a very British way, acknowledging the pain of its harder side, but facing it with a sardonic shrug of the shoulders, and laughing at its foibles. And though they are not afraid to show their frailties, Trampolene aren't scared to battle the world to reach their goals, "You’ve got a fight like a dog and die like a soldier." Like Small Faces, the band can also produce music of outstanding character and beauty. 'Remember', 'Shoot The Lights' and 'Perfect View' are all gentle songs fTrampolene, ull of melodic charm and decorated with rushes, whizzes and lovely guitar refrains. This is the band seen in a different light and it's both surprising and edifying to hear. The latter song is probably the highlight, with gentle keyboards adding a delicate backdrop to Jones's emotional vocal. There are a couple of harder numbers in 'Born Again' and 'Oh Lover' that have a sharper edge, but on the whole there is little to cut you here other than intelligence and wit. This, of course, is emphasised strongly in Jones's poems that never fail to hit their mark. There are twelve tracks, running to around thirty-nine minutes, with nothing breaking the four minute mark, a lesson in discipline and conciseness. There's restraint shown not only by Jones, but also Wayne Thomas on bass who can play like a nuclear assault when unleashed, and Jay Bone on drums who is exemplary. This is not the time for war; it is the time for hope and perseverance and, fuck it, love. Absolutely brilliant.

Ghost Patterns - Infinite


Released: 3rd September 2021
Another record to be assembled over the lockdown in straitened circumstances, Ghost Pattern's debut album runs in at nine songs over thirty-seven minutes. Two of the tracks featured on June 2020's Oracle EP are included, though they have been remixed, with seven new songs joining them. Given that studio time became impossible to book during the lockdown, the final results of this record were not at all what the London-based four-piece had originally envisaged, most of the songs being sewn together from a series of home demos which were mixed and mastered by the band themselves. True to lockdown form, the music created in these circumstances is not bathed in sunshine, with Ghost Patterns producing a record of real density that feels at times if it is trying to blot out all emotion and light. The weight of the sound presses in on your brain and leaves your head pounding. Though influenced by shoegaze and post-punk, it is psychedelia that dominates this melting pot of sound. There are heavy drones, fuzz and distortion as synths play against guitars and any melodies have to battle simply to survive. Even the gentler numbers here, such as 'Sway', are thrown under warped layers that create an unsettling atmosphere. This is when the band are at their best, Terry Hale and Somrata Sarkar's vocals crashing into each other as they fight for breath. Closer 'Goodbye, False Dream' sees the vocals trapped between oppressive waves of synths as guitars snake around malevolently. It's another highlight, as is 'Feel It Out' which shudders on the borders of MBV wooziness, and the opening instrumental 'Intro (Death Wish)' with its unnerving drone. 'Safe' is oppressively thick, seemingly only allowing its chorus to come in when the whole weight of the world is being borne, and the two remixes, 'Oracle' and 'Infinite' have been made moodier, the powerful rattling drums given less prominence in the mix and they sound all the better for it. We imagine these songs will sound immense in a live environment; while we wait for the world to turn once again you can find them on digital and CD on Bandcamp.

Stereocilia - 15.01.19

Weird Beard

Released: 8th September 2021
With few solutions being offered up to solve the vinyl shortage, it is lucky for us that Weird Beard are still able to continue with their fine series of limited edition cassette releases, the latest being this live recording from Stereocilia, otherwise known as Bristol-based guitarist and composer, John Scott. In 2019, Scott embarked on his longest European tour to date with fourteen shows in seventeen days across seven countries. This recording is taken from the second gig of the tour in Portugal on 15th October 2019 at Auditório CCOP, Porto. There is only one piece of music on the tape, largely an amalgamation of songs from Scott's fourth album, The Silence That Follows, which was released in 2019 on Drone Rock Records. Additionally, there is a new piece which will be included on his next studio album. Scott uses his guitar and live looping techniques to create dense layers of sound and his music is rich in other-worldy complexity. At times alien choirs gently chant as plangent guitars ring out and though the music occasionally touches on familiarity, much of it fails to register, creating an edgy and surreal mood. Guitars wander in unpredictable patterns while background drones churn, throb and woosh. There is technology at work though its purpose remains indefinable; there's an urgency to some passages, bemusement and consideration in others. Everything is in the balance, though the underlying intelligence at work hints at salvation. Or compromise. In a lot of music dissonance can be a heart-warming and human touch; here it lacks that familar glow, though it doesn't repel. It's not cold and forbidding, but alive and simply not understanding what it is we are looking for. It's quite an achievement to create a piece of work that so defiantly states what it isn't without offering many clues as to what it is. Get in quickly, these will fly.

Astral Magic - Shadows Over Jupiter

Weird Beard

Released: 8th September 2021
Released by Weird Beard at the same time as Stereocilia is the debut collection from Astral Magic, a new solo project by ex-Dark Sun bass player Santtu, also known as DJ Astro. During the covid-19 lockdown Santtu decided to do something creative to fill the lonely hours and found himself getting seriously drawn to home recording. Using the Astral Magic banner to encompass all of this work, there is no definitive style or form to the music, just the general rule that everything should be spacy and psychedelic. Shadows Over Jupiter runs in at just under an hour and features nine tracks ranging from three minutes to just under ten, though this barely touches the surface with Santtu having recorded over two hundred tracks since March 2020. There's something for everybody here, from ambient and space rock to experimental electronica and pop. Most of these tunes feature contributions from friends and relations from across the psych world, all adding their individual talents and touches, so the collection often sounds like a compilation rather than an album with a unified theme. Highlights include 'Fuzzy Fields' which has a bit of Bowie about its vocal approach, the free-form jazz of 'Interdimensional Connections', and the prog-jazz of 'Astral Dreams' with guitars as smooth as they come. There are plenty of dreamy moments here in which to lose yourself, and enough experimentation to keep you interested. As usual, there are just fifty of these tapes, obi-stripped and waiting for you at the Weird Beard Big Cartel page. You know what to do.

Massage - Still Life

Bobo Integral Records

Released: 10th September 2021
Released digitally in June of this year, the well broadcast delays in vinyl production have meant that Massage's second album has only just become available in physical format, ironically as the summer fades into autumn. For Still Life is a summery record, one that will send you flying back to the days of Subway, Sarah and early Creation, where half the records being released were by shy musicians with floppy fringes baring their souls in jangly pop tunes. Still Life is well titled; it is a moment in time captured forever in one place and offered up for inspection. And that moment in time is obviously 1988. This isn't to put the record down. We may be ready now to embrace the gentler side of alternative music again after a decade of literally fighting for our lives. In those dark days we needed the big hitters to make a definitive statement, to reclaim the ground we had lost, but it would appear that the battle has been won. There are countless bands with fire in their souls, anger in their bellies and the urge to dislocate and innovate; now perhaps it is time again to agonise about boys and girls and sunshine and haircuts and the complications of just being alive.

It's not that they ever stopped making records like this, it's just that the state of play made them irrelevant, almost an insult. And though they never stopped making records like this, they very rarely made them this good. And Still Life is good. Yes, the influences are plain to see and Massage make no attempt to pretend otherwise, but the past is there to be borrowed, re-moulded and recycled into something new. It's almost a civic duty.

The best moment on the album is the opening song, 'Half A Feeling' which opens with slight feedback squeal before Mary Chain bass and drums drive it along. It perhaps has a cleaner and more wholesome sound than the Reid brothers would have produced, but it's remarkably affecting and as it ends with a warped guitar buzz you can't help but feel that if the band had extended this into a two-minute frothing guitar outro you could well have been talking game-changer. As it stands, it's a neat thing and second track 'Made Of Moods' maintains the quality as it chimes and sighs as if The La's had been reborn. Another highlight is 'Sticks And Stones' which is pure Razorcuts with a neat lovelorn lyric and it is memories of the London band that crop up more than any other through 'Until', 'I'm A Crusader' and 'Anna'. If you know the music of that era, you are not going to be able to stop your mind from connecting to Bands of Jangle Past, but Massage make a lovely job of drawing in their sounds and creating songs that stand in their own right. There's really not a duff moment here and not a song that you couldn't sing along to enjoyably. Alone in your bedroom of course...

10,000 Russos - Superinertia

Fuzz Club

Released: 20th September 2021
The first surprise when confronted with 10,000 Russos' fourth album for Fuzz Club is the cover. It is free-form, contains colour and is about as far away from the band's established image as it is possible to be. The second surprise is that the music it contains is equally colourful and even open to change. The Portuguese trio have made a name for themselves over the past few years by releasing music that is monolithic and unyielding; diversity did not appear to be a word in their vocabularly: everything was to bend to their will and resistance would be crushed by the sheer magnitude of their sound – brutal, industrial and decorated in shades where colours dare not show their face. Now there is light in the darkness as the band enter arenas you never thought they would find. They haven't turned into Bucks Fizz, but they appear to have discovered a lightness of touch, even a joy in joining the dots of light that are strewn across these new songs. There are only five of them here, spread over forty-one minutes, and though they are still driven by firm, motorik rhythms, they are expansive rather than hemmed in, opening up like a flower catching the first rays of the sun. Perhaps this change is down to the shift in the band's line-up. Synth player Nils Meisel recently replaced bassist André Couto and his playing is in turn inquisitive and illuminating. Drummer and vocalist João Pimenta commented that the synths opened up the sound of the band, introducing fresh ideas, though "the most important thing ... was to not repeat ourselves." 10,000 Russos certainly haven't done that. Indeed, so loose do they become at times that the music conjures up images of The Stooges in all their wild garage abandon. The transformation begins with opener 'Station Europa' where a querying bassline matches the synth run, dominating the stopwatch drumming as guitars dip in and out. It's as warm a song as the band have ever produced, while 'Saw The Damp' prolongs the positivity, appearing to delight in discovering hidden beauty. The guitars wash pretty patterns and evoke summery dreams with hypnotic grace. It's a cracking song and is followed by the album's title track which stretches over eight minutes where the guitars are meaner, as is the message, it being aimed at "the state of inertia that humans live in the West nowadays." There's no escaping the irony that such a song is probably the most danceable thing the band have produced, but it's another gem, weighty yet grippingly attractive. 'A House Full Of Garbage' spills over with space noise while its guitars gently chime. It's smooth and dreamy and the shortest track here, paving the way for the epic album closer 'Mexicali/Calexico' which occupies nearly fifteen minutes of the record. Again Pedro Pestana's guitar is used to lull and soothe rather than to attack. The vocals positively bounce with vitality as the song launches into a burst of gripping space rock as Pimenta laughs wildly, as if as surprised as us by the direction the music is taking. We love to see bands progressing and 10,000 Russos could easily have stood on the same spot forever delighting their legions of fans. However, they have stepped into the light and we are intrigued as to where this new path will lead. All power to them.

Black Tempest - Psyborg

Weird Beard

Released: 24th September 2021
"In the grand tradition of space rock, Psyborg is a tale of the juxtaposition and opposition of human consciousness and the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence. Broadly speaking, the digital sections of music represent the AI, and the analogue elements represent human consciousness. As is the way with music, each of these elements can also be found within each other - so in the end you can view the AI/Human relationship as a Yin/Yang combination. As the story progresses, both parties realise that they need each other to survive, and a third possibility arises. At the end of the day, this is an old fashioned love story." So relates Stephen Bradbury, whose latest collection as Black Tempest sees a welcome return to vinyl for Weird Beard, breaking the drought that has affected every small label. It's their second offering from Black Tempest, following on from 2018's Psyberspace, and the new collection looks just as good, pressed in blue on blue splatter vinyl and housed in a sleeve with artwork designed by David Drew Longey. Recorded over the past difficult year, this is truly a solo album, with Bradbury playing every instrument which is some feat given the involved nature of some of the songs. There are eight tracks here, over some fifty minutes, and there really is a sharp contrast between the coldness of the isolated synths and the warmth of the tracks which feature crashing guitars and vocals. Opener '23rd Century Space Station' is an almost bruising post-punk blast, it's hot-bloodedness a total contrast to the soulless alien synths that fill 'Sacred Machinery' with their binary chatter. Bradbury works it cleverly with the guitar tracks gradually becoming less visceral as the album progresses, allowing more space noises to interject, while the synth tracks become softer and more sympathetic. 'Star Fall' appears to be the melting pot where everything comes together in harmony; smooth guitars combining well with rushing synths, with each side being serenaded with celebratory horns. Psyborg is limited to 250 copies with the first fifty coming with a bonus download of the companion EP, Psyborg Augmented, so get in quickly on the Weird Beard website. If you dont manage to grab one of the first fifty, the EP tracks are being made available on the Psych Against Cancer Bandcamp page, with all proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer Support.
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