20 Oct 2016

Gravy Train - Second Birth

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Sandwiched between their two most acclaimed albums, 1971's "(A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man" and 1974's Staircase to the Day", Gravy Train's third album "Second Birth" seems to have acquired a reputation as the band's low water mark. Roger Dean's attypically uninspired sleeve art certainly can't have helped (he'd redeem himself on the followup though), and a cursory listen to the contents within may have suggested that the bland cover art was some sort of statement on the music itself. After spending a number of years with each of the band's albums though, I'd like to initiate a critical reappraisal of "Second Birth".

It's by no means an immediate album. Nor does it possess the collector's appeal of its two Vertigo swirl predecessors, or the spacey prog charm of the following year's "Staircase to the Day". Instead it's an album that quietly worms it's way into the listeners consciousness, without relying on flashy sleeves, collectibility or gimmicks in any way.

I'd suggest that the album's lowly reputation lies largely upon the fact that it's generally a shade less progressive than the band's other releases. Fans of the band's heavier rock tendencies and of J.D Hughes' flutework (which often saw the band lazily compared to Jethro Tull) will however find plenty to wet their whistle here.

In "Morning Coming" it has quite possibly the band's best opening statement, a hooky hard rock epic with stinging guitar work and a great proggy mid section that has that peculiarly English prog vibe circa 1970 that bands like Tonton Macoute, Ginhouse, Spring and Titus Groan captured so well.

"September Morning News" and "Tolpuddle Episode" stray into folkier territory where the band distinguish themselves a little less freely, but for every acoustic gaffe there are at least two storming hard rockers.

The title track and "Fields and Factories" extend their playing time with simplistic but effective prog sections, while "Motorway", does make me reluctantly admit that there's more than a touch of "Aqualung" and "Benefit" to be found here - though the band's constant Tull comparisons do them a disservice as there is much more to their sound than this one facet.

And then there's "Peter", which has an almost glam-rock chorus that sounds like a lost hit. Why wasn't this on the radio?

Certainly not the lame duck it's made out to be, I'd argue that "Second Birth" is, if not an entirely great album, a very good one, in possession of at least four stellar tracks, and Esoteric's new reissue has it sounding better than ever.

Available here.

17 Oct 2016

E Gone - Advice to Hill Walkers

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

E Gone (Daniel Westerlund of Swedish band, The Goner) released "Advice to Hill Walkers" on cassette in 2015 via Zeon Lights. Mixing electronic and traditional instrumentation, E Gone proved on this sophomore release that he well deserved a wider audience. So now, Sunrise Ocean Bender and Deep Water Acres have teamed up to make that happen; "Advice to Hill Walkers" was remixed, remastered, repackaged and expanded – and beautifully so in every way.

"Advice to Hill Walkers" sounds like an artifact, uncovered in some far-off and forgotten land, like a nomadic people lost in the skies. Instrumental, eclectic, and lush, E Gone’s music nods Eastward, upward, inward and just beyond the canny. Opening tracks find inspiration in Eastern musicians – and at least to my ear, Tuareg guitars – particularly in the wonderful “Follow Moonmilk Rivers.” Westerlund even adapts a Syrian traditional song, “Ya Bent Ehkimini,” in “You Don’t Know It yet but We are Losing You.” But “Build Your Camp Out of Alpine Moss” twists that same approach until its wrung to a few sci-fi whirs that give way to a brooding, horror film’s synth lead.

Closing tracks, “Continue Ascent while Blindfolded” and “Reach the Summit, Egg,” serve as final posts in the journey and recall the many paths to reach the pass. “Continue the Ascent while Blindfolded” blends glitchy electronics with a woozy, reverb-heavy progression, while “Reach the Summit, Egg” revisits drones, deep hand-percussion, and mesmerizing, looping string themes. At just under ten minutes, the song ends in a current of sounds that becomes a trickle, then finally silence. One can’t help feeling relief, in a way, the same relief one feels at the end of a long hike upward, where one hears the same wash of sound – and then silence. It’s a reward, and though recognizably difficult, you’ll do it again and again.

"Advice to Hill Walkers" is available on CD from Sunrise Ocean Bender’s website and Bandcamp.

If you’re not convinced, check out the video for “Record the Humming of Melodious Caves” linked below.

Highly recommended.

16 Oct 2016

幾何学模様/Kikagaku Moyo - House in the Tall Grass / 落差草原 WWWW / Prairie WWWW - 霧海 Wu​-​Hai"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I enjoyed the last batch of GuruGuru Brain releases that I reviewed so much that I thought I'd take a crack at some of the surrounding releases too.

I'd initially decided not to cover Kikagaku Moyo's latest on the Active Listener. You've read about their previous releases here already and they're getting major coverage in places with a much higher profile so it seemed a little unnecessary. "House in the Tall Grass" has really gotten under my skin though and I'm becoming increasingly convinced that it's the best psychedelic release of the year, so it really wouldn't do for it to be ignored in these pages.

So, those of you already on board this ride can nod in agreement and move forward a few paragraphs, but for those yet to be exposed to this wonderful Japanese band, hold onto your hats because "House in the Tall Grass" is quite a special album. Previous Kikagaku Moyo releases have been thrilling,  adventurous things too, but none have taken on a life of their own quite like "House in the Tall Grass".

It's a hugely varied album which operates at a much less hectic pace than their previous releases. Opener "Green Sugar" wrong foots the listener with a cacophonous intro, before the curtains part to reveal a lovely, dreamy piece of Krautrock with shimmering guitars gently undulating over a fab Neu! rhythm section. And when the sitar comes in, it all seems so right that it feels like a piece of music that has always been. They could have simply peddled this vibe for the rest of the album and come up with a pretty enjoyable record, but full credit to them - they had other ideas. And lots of them. There's a pastoral vibe that hangs over the whole record, but within that setting they manage to cover an awful lot of ground. "Trad" bridges the gap between "Liege and Lief" and "Careful With That Axe Eugene" perfectly. "Dune" would have been sampled by every DJ on the planet by now if it had been recorded forty years ago. "Silver Owl" manages to evoke both early spacey Verve and Black Sabbath within its not-long-enough ten minutes. And "Kogarashi" may just be the most lovely, magical thing that I've ever heard.

What an indescribably lovely album. I haven't done it justice by a long shot, but hopefully you get the picture.

Also new from GuruGuru Brain is   "霧海 Wu​-​Hai" by Taiwanese experimental folk band 落差草原 WWWW / Prairie WWWW. If the phrase experimental folk makes you think of the Incredible String Band (as it does with me), it might be wise to recalibrate before tackling "霧海 Wu​-​Hai". Chances are, this is unlike anything you've heard before.

The title of opening track "Shapeless Beast" stuck with me while listening and seems to be a pretty concise phrase to describe the sound that the band create, combining poetry, ambient electronics, Taiwanese folk forms, and some absolutely transcendent tribal drumming.

"Moon" on side one gives a good indication of the promising nature of this combination, but it's the two track suite that makes up the second side of "霧海 Wu​-​Hai" where Prairie WWWW really fire. "Callous" writhes nebulously, building to an almost unbearable level of tension, before the charged atmosphere is breathlessly dispelled by the title track's percussion heavy brilliance.

Oh, and if you're wondering how to pronouce the band's name, the label press release clears that up:
"The four Ws in Prairie’s band name are not to be pronounced, serving as a pictogram for a waveform, as well as the imagery of the grass that blowing in the wind."

GuruGuru Brain are truly doing the lord's work. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

You can stream and download both albums through the links below. The vinyl releases are beautiful artifacts, complete with OBI strips.

6 Oct 2016

Trappist Afterland - God's Good Earth

Reviewed by Shaun C Rogan

Trappist Afterland are a pagan folk ritual in sound and with their latest offering, "God's Good Earth" they once again plunge the active listener deep into the forest of past memories, generations of DNA passed through the foggy blanket of time to somehow resurface once more in 2016 in a series of beguiling, unsettling and sparse incantations.

The opening track, "God Botherings (parts 1 &2)" sets out the pathway for what follows with its gently rippling minor chord riffing and almost monastic vocals that barely raise above the acoustic guitar, cello and hand percussion that support them, endlessly asking "What good is God if you have questions that are never heard?" This dissipates into an unearthly howling of scratched strings and ghostly voices. This isn't easy listening, this is intense participatory bordering on hallucinatory songwriting, not a million miles from the seminal and highly stoned 'Moyshe McStiff' by COB, upon which much of the resurgent acid-folk scene would regard as a touchstone.

There is a restlessness and almost palpable fear and discomfort that permeates this whole record as the brief 'Sungirl' and the very psychedelic 'Parasites' would attest to. The latter in particular with its revolving searchlight of backwards-forwards hurdy gurdy and naggingly insistent rhythm opens a psychic door that leads to an exploration of uncomfortable mental spaces. What Jim Morrison memorably referred to as 'the feeling of not quite being at home'. Times several thousand. "No More Summer Caravans" is a paean to the past with a lovely drone driving the familial reminiscences (real or imagined) that provide another unsettling narrative.

"Chosen" is my personal highlight with its swirling undertow and palpable sense of foreboding attached to its tale of ritual awakening. Quite extraordinary. Some much needed sunlight is provided by the rather sweet lament of "Treehouse by the Shore" which shows a deftness and subtlety that allows us to draw a breath and contemplate what has gone before. This is followed by a similarly untethered "God Botherings part 3" which reprises the dilemma of the opening track but juxtaposes the lyrical musing in a major key, gently lilting in the breeze like a field of wild flowers. The title track brings matters to a suitable conclusion with its slow burn of child spoken poetry, cascading mellotron (I assume)and wordless tumbling harmonies. In the world of the Trappist Afterlander, if you are prepared to take their trip and examine your inner workings, you are ultimately cleansed and returned to your rightful place in the firmament. A better person for the experience of their unique sound and vision. Amen.

Digital and CD available below, LP sold out :-(

5 Oct 2016

Susan Matthews - From Veliko

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Welsh musician Susan Matthews has been recording and releasing essential and experimental works of wonder and dark beauty for over a decade now. Deeply atmospheric and evocative mood pieces, Matthews’ work is almost unclassifiable and often otherworldly yet equally seems to hinge on and tap into something deeply human, something familiar and recognisable. ‘Before I Was Invisible’, her recent collaboration with Rainier Lericolais on the Wild Silence label was a quiet gemstone of an album. 'From Veliko' is a similar subdued but powerful treasure, inspired by recent visit to Veliko Tarnovo (the medieval capital of Bulgaria); Matthews recounts “most days I wandered to The Monument Of The Assens. I sat and contemplated the old town across the Yantra river, where the ‘hanging houses’ cling precariously to the steep hillside, some are literally crumbling and sliding towards the river below. This seeming fragility is reflected in both the music & lyrics I composed for this project ‘The Road From Veliko’ is also a metaphor for a psychological journey - from the darkness of depression back towards the light.”

Beginning with the piano hymnal of 'The Road from Veliko (Part One)', we are immediately drawn into a world of shadows, of reverberated, descending notes and backwards voices and tapes. Both paradoxically calming and unsettling, the sheer impact of the piece is evidenced by the hold it has on the listener; the outside world ceases and the music becomes all there is. This is no ambient, background work; these tracks are entirely immersive and demand your full attention and involvement. Matthews' fragile voice recounts 'these things they are inside me, inside my dreams and in my mind…' as the piano gradually stops, leaving her alone observing 'the darkness descends...descends'. It is a heart stopping moment. 'A Room Of Lights' follows, a processional organ piece framing Matthews' text as she recounts her travels and the transformational effects that they have upon her. There is almost something sacred about this work, it feels like a surrender to something bigger, some supernatural experience that can only be conjured in hushed, solemn terms. The piece is also a work of great beauty and stillness, one can easily imagine that those who love the music of such contemporaries as Richard Skelton, Michael Begg and James Leyland Kirby will find much to admire here. The EP/mini album finishes with the vast, cavernous dronescape of ‘St Paul In The Yantra', an echoing chamber piece of spoken word vocals and wintry waves of strings, combining to hugely evocative and moving effect.

You almost have to draw breath after the album finished, this listener suddenly realised that he had been holding his, hanging on every note. There is genuine power held in these songs, quiet and drifting as they are; they have an intensity that is bewitching and all encompassing. This is music for the liminal hours, for dawn or dusk, for candlelight. Highly recommended, this album deserves your close attention.

Available below to download on a name your price basis or as a physical CD from Siren Wire.

2 Oct 2016

Hawkwind - The Charisma Years 1976-1979

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This latest box set from Hawkwind specialists Atomhenge collects the four albums Hawkwind released for the famous Charisma label between 1976 and 1979.

Lemmy had just been ousted from the band and the emergent punk scene viewed Hawkwind with distaste, distrust and perhaps worst of all, disinterest. Prog was the enemy and Hawkwind was lumped in with the other dinosaurs, never mind the fact that Lemmy was busy reinventing heavy metal by imbuing it with the most punk of attitudes in his new band Motörhead.

Given this attitude and the fact that this era is regarded by some as the beginning of the band's decline, you'd be forgiven for not expecting much from these albums. Truth is though, it was a second golden period for a band that continued to innovate and shift with the times. "In Search of Space" this is not - but in its own way it's every bit as vital.

First up is "Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music", a transitional effort that sees the band beginning to venture beyond its space-rock roots with fascinating results. It's not always 100% successful but it is always interesting and there's a visceral thrill involved in hearing the band stepping out of their comfort zone. Robert Calvert returns, but is not yet the dominant force he would become on the following three albums, here sharing the limelight with Nik Turner and Dave Brock on roughly equal terms. There's even an attempt at a hit single on the David Gilmour produced "Kerb Crawler", which gives a hint of things to come.

"Quark, Strangeness and Charm" followed in 1977, and is rightfully regarded as one of the band's very best albums. It's certainly one of their most focused as well. Nik Turner had stepped aside by this point allowing phenomenal violinist Simon House a chance to shine. House's playing on atmospheric middle-eastern prog gem "Hassan I Sahba" may well be my favourite single Hawkwind studio moment. It's no wonder David Bowie stole him away in the night for his band. Elsewhere "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" continues the band's move towards more concise, tightly structured songs. The title track, "Spirit of the Age" and "Days of the Underground" are among the band's most memorable songs and in a slightly quirkier world could have been hits on the pop charts.

"25 Years On" and "PXR5" continue in this vein, embracing a surprisingly forward thinking proto-new wave sound, without ever allowing you to forget who you're actually listening to. The songs aren't quite up to the material on "Quark, Strangeness and Charm", but they're not too far off.

"25 Years On" is sure to appeal to those who enjoyed "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" and is one of the band's most varied and mellow releases. I hadn't heard this for many years, but it's aged marvelously and I was quite taken aback by just how good it now sounds - partially down to the excellent mastering job present on all of these discs, but also a testament to the quality of the material and the original production job. Opener "Psi Power" is the album's catchy single, but the album tracks following provide the album's real substance. "Free Fall" is a lovely, mellow number with burbling vintage synths with a definite BBC Radiophonic Orchestra vibe - quite an unexpected treat. "Flying Doctor" on the other hand is well established as a love it or loathe it piece for Hawkwind fans. It certainly pushes all of the right buttons for me, one of the catchiest tunes the band ever produced, in spite of / because of its repetitive nature. "(Only) The Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid" is the other big highlight here, a great Calvert tune with some more excellent Harvey Bainbridge synthwork.

Lastly, "PXR5" was recorded prior to "25 Years On", but held up for over a year due to legal issues - issues that were serious enough to briefly necessitate a name change to the Hawklords for the release of "25 Years On". A seamless mix of studio and live recordings, "PXR5" is front loaded with two of the band's catchiest new wave pop songs with "Death Trap" and "Jack of Shadows", before plunging into deeper waters with fan favourite "Robot" and one of Calvert's finest moments, "Uncle Sam's on Mars".

If you want the bonus tracks from Atomhenge's deluxe reissues you'll need to buy these individually, but undiluted by add-ons, the 'vanilla' reissues containe within this box are, as far as I'm concerned, the definitive argument for this brief time period under Calvert's guidance being among the band's very best. And there's plenty more worth investigating just beyond the horizon, particularly 1980's excellent "Leviation" (a return to the band's earlier space-rock sound, featuring Ginger Baker on drums), as well as a pair of fascinating synth driven albums recorded for the RCA Active label which we'll hopefully have the opportunity to cover very shortly when this set is released. Stay tuned!

"The Charisma Years 1976-1979" is available here (UK/ EU) or here (US).

29 Sep 2016

Omni – Deluxe

Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub (Hop On Pop)

Let’s get this out of the way, right off: this is not a psychedelic record. If you’re looking for pure psych, look elsewhere. What this is, however, is a pretty great little post-punk album. Think Parquet Courts, The Strokes, and similar bands. Drawing on influences from the same era and same scenes, Omni (consisting of former members of Deerhunter and Carnivores) incorporates the mechanical rhythms of Devo and Wire, with the instrumental interplay of Television, the urgency of The Fall, and the occasional danceability of Talking Heads. All recorded in glorious lo-fidelity. So, if that is your bag o’ weed these days, please read on… because this will give you the high you’re craving.

“Afterlife” kicks things off with a pretty tidy summation of what you can expect from the rest of the album, including herky-jerky rhythms and lots of great full-band interplay. The musicians find the spaces left open by their bandmates, and fill those spaces with their own responses: the guitar answers the bass, which answers the drums, which answers the guitar. And vocal rantings are laid down over the top of it all. It’s classic post-punk arrangement, performed with precision and, yes, even a bit of grace, recalling Television, at times, although without the epic guitar solos.

The funkier side of the band is well-represented by “Wire”, which is a little bit danceable… like an amphetamine-crazed white boy trying to do James Brown, but he can’t quite hack it. Okay, so it’s not really funky, I guess. But there is something undeniably danceable about it, in that it makes you want to jerk your body around the room. And that, right there, is the Talking Heads influence, I think.

Phillip Frobos’ (formerly of Carnivores) lead vocals are intonated, more than sung: proclaimed, even. Every line sounds like either a pronouncement or a question. And, even though the vocals are never shouted, per se, it always sounds like the recording is just on the verge of breaking up; almost distorting, but not quite. Ex-Deerhunter guitarist Frankie Broyles plays like he has ADHD, never staying on a single note for very long. In fact, it seems like he never plays the same note twice in a row. Angular, staccato. The only time he plays anything more than once in a row, is when he jabs you with some spiky chords. And the whole thing is urged along by the steady, propulsive drumming of former Carnivore Billy Mitchell.

It’s a pretty stunning debut from a group of guys who are familiar with making stunning music. It’s just a new framework and an exciting new start for this particular combination of talent.

You can pick it up direct from Trouble in Mind Records here or digitally below.

27 Sep 2016

The Love Explosion - Movies In Your Mind

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Australian one-man band The Love Explosion (his friends call him Tom) really impressed me with the rollercoaster ride on offer on his previous album "Mood Processor" so I was bursting with anticipation when his new album turned up on my proverbial desk.

It seems that Tom has discovered the sitar since the release of "Mood Processor" and it's generously applied to almost everything on new album "Movies in Your Mind", which is as stylistically diverse as its predecessor, but given a sense of greater cohesiveness by the sitar's near constant presence.

Tom's own description of the album paints a far more accurate description of the album than anything I could conjure up:

"...it's got psychedelic soul, Spacemen 3, moog based mind expansion, the Rolling Stones on an instrumental country sitar trip, adolescent embarrassment, middle age reflection, and a Primal Scream hypnotic dub episode that goes for approximately three hours!"

Dodgy timekeeping aside, that about covers it.

There's plenty to admire here for the psychedelic trainwatcher. "Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful" would perfectly soundtrack a hippie era Peter Sellers comedy."The Private Art" has some lovely mellotron style Eastern string work. "Parramassala" taps into a dreamy "Albatross" vibe with the added bonus of sitar drones. "Garden" is a lovely modal acoustic guitar workout which would have fit perfectly on a contemporary album somewhere between "Led Zeppelin III" and "Let it Bleed".

And the best is left for last: "Sakurajima: A Dub Symphony in Three Parts" starts with Major Tom still trying to contact Ground Control before turning into a hypnotic raga with a full scale Festival sized climax.

Lovely stuff which you can stream or order on limited lathe cut vinyl or CD-R below, or download for free here. Get amongst it.

26 Sep 2016

Richard Moult - Sjóraust

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

'Sjóraust' is the latest release from the prolific Richard Moult; composer, artist, poet, frequent collaborator with the likes of Alison O'Donnell, David Colohan and member of wyrd folk collective United Bible Studies. Recorded and inspired by his wild and weather beaten home base of the Scottish Outer Hebrides, the ghosts of both previous Gaelic and Norse inhabitants permeate this recording, giving the album its title; an amalgamation of two Norse words meaning 'Sea Voice'.

Moult explains 'When Glen (from the Second Language label) asked me to record an album for Second Language documenting the landscapes of the Outer Hebrides, I initially spent a brief time walking the beaches where I live, thinking how best to approach this project. Eventually, as I looked out into the abyssal Atlantic, time dropped away, and all that then seemed to possess my consciousness was the voice of the sea... From that moment on, I needed only that voice to dictate the music. And so this six movement work was quickly born from the tides, the songs of birds, and the chants of the saints who lie beneath the machair'. And indeed this is an album that feels borne of the rolling and endless horizon, the sound of the distant waves and the ever present wind, as well as moments of stillness and beautiful isolation.

The album is split into six movements or set pieces, each a separate work in its own right and with its own emotional impact and affect, yet they also seamlessly bleed and weave into each other to create a majestic and truly satisfying whole. 'Sjóraust I' opens with plucked strings from David Colohan's autoharp as the sound of waves rolling in and off a shoreline comes ever closer. Bowed strings and cello accompany as a melancholic yet defiant tension is created; a fitting backdrop to the ancient Gaelic text being recited. The atmosphere of nature and of the wild is almost tangible, it raises the hairs on the back of your neck. This piece then intertwines with the album's second movement as more strings join to create a chamber work filled with both a sense of wonder and sadness. Retreating into a more minimalist mood, 'Sjóraust III' utilises Moult's emotive and evocative piano playing alongside Amanda Feery's clarinet to conjure a sound that is delicately haunting and utterly moving. Time seems to stop for this music and consequently for the listener also; these pieces paint such a picture of the isles that the land's still solitude and ancient nature is ably brought to life. A spectral choir emerges through the musical twilight, Colohan's autoharp joining then departing the sombre and angelic score. Reminding this listener of the more sacred sounding of Popol Vuh's works and also of Gorecki's 'Sorrowful Songs', this is truly spellbinding piece of music.

Next, 'Sjóraust IV' is an ever layering work, strings, autoharp and cello building and swelling upon Moult's piano like a tempest building far out at sea. Moult (and collaborator David Colohan) are masters at creating a musical tapestry that positions the listener immediately within the feel and sounds of nature, the elements are almost present on every play. 'Sjóraust V' is introduced by Oscar Strik's powerful reading of the mathematical tract 'Rim II' and is a symphonic and transcendent slice of sheer beauty. There is a sense of dignity and peace here amongst the solitude and howling winds. Alison O'Donnell (Mellow Candle, United Bible Studies) adds her distinctive and, frankly, incredible vocals to the album's finale ''Sjóraust VI' to excellent effect, the piece ebbing and flowing with Ellen Hoperay's baroque flute and the clamour of chimes and bells as a mass of strings punctuate the darkness. And then, as if a storm has passed by overhead leaving a sudden and noticeable silence, the album is over.

This is a breathtaking work and one that should appeal not only to lovers of psych and acid folk but also to aficionados of the avant garde side of modern classical, to fans of Human Greed, Fovea Hex and the afore mentioned Popol Vuh and perhaps also Tangerine Dream. There are multiple heartstopping moments contained herein, this is a beautiful and unique recording, a wild cry of nature.

Available here on the superb Second Language label as a CD in a lovely four panel gatefold sleeve.

Richard Moult - Sjóraust III (excerpt) from Ljóðhús on Vimeo.

24 Sep 2016

Sula Bassana - Shipwrecked

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

The latest from Germany’s Sula Bassana (Dave Schmidt who is featured in the likes of Electric Moon, Zone Six, Krautzone and Interkosmos as well) departs from the bombastic guitars and thundering rhythms of 2012’s "Dark Days" or 2009’s "The Night" for subtler shades of the same fervor. For loyalists, this one shares more in common with the 2014 split with 3AM, where sci-fi synth leads reign.

"Shipwrecked" (released on Schmidt’s own Sulatron Records) feels, from the very start, like a soundtrack, a concept album perhaps exploring the world of the wonderful cover art (by Frank Lewecke), linked by the nearly all electronic instrumentation and propulsive, Krautrock-inspired programmed rhythm. So, if you’re looking for those searing guitar solos, "Shipwrecked" lacks those; instead, it meditates upon often unnerving drones and several beautiful, cinematic passages (see the eponymous track for evidence).

“Moonbase Alpha Alpha” begins with what sounds like a breeze across an alien landscape, or perhaps it’s rocketry in the air. Then there’s a voice, heavily delayed, over the phasing atmospheric tones. It’s a promising start to the record, which continues to illustrate a futuristic, alien world. “No Time : No Eternity” sounds down-right other worldly as it plods through a menacing, cavernous beat and pulsates all the way toward the melancholic string accompaniment – a sentiment closing track, “No Way,” picks up, leaving listeners with a beautifully ambiguous close to the concept.

Sula Bassana has garnered enough respect in the psych listening community that Schmidt can really do what he pleases. This is a carefully constructed and interesting turn in his solo career, one that, for this listener, invigorates fandom and keeps the Sula catalogue as interesting as it first was upon first listen.

Digital versions of Shipwrecked are available on the band’s Bandcamp page linked below, where you’ll find links, too, for CDs and the few remaining vinyl.