A new single from acoustic dreamy duo Astralingua, a forerunner of their new album to be released in March (see excellent cover artwork below). They use a broad canvas of strings, woodwind and gentle effects as a platform for the distant but compelling vocals.
Composer Joseph Thompson and vocalist Anne Thompson sing all the lines as two-part harmonies and make the whole piece into many strata of gorgeously textured ethereal musings. Beginning with awe and wonder at the cosmos ‘… staring through a polished glass…all the shining stars…wonder could I truly grasp….’ the narrator soon becomes overwhelmed at the prospect of the scale of things ‘…endlessly vast…aeons roll past…’ and as happened in the most famous celestial song of all (Bowie’s Space Oddity) it ends badly ‘…the silence roars…I want no more…of life behind these doors…’
We don’t know if there is a way back from oblivion for the astronaut but this beautiful song ends wistfully as the instruments beam out into the distant galaxies. With a calm psychedelic insistency that recalls Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ this is as good an evocation of the mysteries of the cosmos as you could hope to hear.
I first encountered four-piece band Sun Scream when they contributed the sparkling lead-off track ‘She’ to renowned compilation ‘This Is The Sound Of Sugar Town, Vol 2’ celebrating the riches of music produced around the Bury St Edmunds area. Now they have released their debut EP, complete with distinctive artwork drawn by band guitarist Emily Wallace. Over this four track collection these psychedelic adventurers create their own collage of depth and subtlety.
1. Extract Sinister introduction soon gives way to some heavy fuzz guitar and a mind-bending lyric about putting a piece of a soul in a hole. This of course fits perfectly with the variant structured sections of the music, eventually loosening into an textured onslaught of lead guitar and bass lines, some synth-type bubbling and a general good-time vibe.
2. Marmalade A short instrumental meander, extreme echoing guitar creating almost a harp-like feel.
3. Samsara ‘…The Sanskrit word samsara means “flowing on” or “passing through”…with the connotation of cyclic, circuitous change’, it is a title which gives a broad canvas to this epic track. Mainly based around a stately descending guitar figure, the mobile bassline and fluid drumming weave around to great effect. This is a proper psychedelic workout, with words of rivers, skies, life and death to add to the heady mix.
4. Take It Easy The title track is a brooding delicacy, built around a repeated bassline and counterpoint guitar. The vocal is more forward in the mix for this one and the sparser sound has the required addictive atmosphere of weird menace.
With a growing live performance reputation too, this is a band to watch…
Psychic Lemon continue to challenge the senses with this new long-player; their sound has moved on substantially from their first album which now seems almost light and song-based in comparison.
It is an accurate recording of their live sound; as when I saw them perform this album at the Portland in Cambridge last year, comfortably holding their own against headliners Scandanavian psych behemoths Flowers Must Die. In December they were enthralling a freezing crowd once again at Cambridge’s Mill Road Winter Fair, and now here at last is the new album release.
‘Exit To The Death Lane’ begins with moody ritual drums then the layers of guitar and bass creep stealthily in, including some incomprehensible vocal chants. A jarring guitar solo ensures the vibe does not become complacent and at eight and a half minutes there is time for the groove to be fully explored.
The establishment of the rhythmic shape of ‘Hey Droog!’ (the slang term for friend in cult novel ‘A Clockwork Orange’) is pile-driving drum and riff, a distant choir fills in the texture and the effect-laden guitar does the rest before ending the piece in a solo riot of feedback.
‘You’re No Good’ is definitely not the early sixties hit for the Swinging Blue Jeans, but it does have a more sprightly pop touch than what has come before, also with the bonus of a manic saxophone and a bit of singing at the end; this is the nearest they get to their debut album sound. The last two tracks are nine minutes plus; the band have been opening their live sets recently with the paradoxically named ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’, the fuzz of this celestial object being the guitar effect inextricably pulling the listener towards its gravitational centre. Some impressive bass playing on this track too.
The final track is ‘Satori Disko’, a reference to a state of spiritual awakening, in this case waking to the sound of a hypnotic undulating drum pattern, rock solid bass and a guitarist ripping up the effects pedals and reassembling them randomly.
Overall, listening to this is a unique sensory experience, a combination of you feeling like you are weaving amongst the buildings in a flying car as part of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or being plugged into the endless pulse of primal signals emitted by distant galactic objects…
Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay Space Rock Power!
On the hottest day of the year so far and as the summer solstice approaches a double header of psychedelia featuring Swedish collective Flowers Must Die and Cambridge band Psychic Lemon.
I have followed the career of Psychic Lemon and reviewed them several times, hearing them satisfyingly evolve into the mighty trio on show here tonight. If ‘psychedelic’ conjours up images of trippy acoustic interludes and 60s keyboard solos the band are well removed from that, instead we are hearing space-rock power; relentless drums and slicing bass lines with unpredictable raw guitar and the effects pedals becoming instruments too. There are occasional vocals (and some keyboard too), a contrast with the songs on their debut album. The four extended tracks played tonight presumably form the substance of the highly-anticipated second long-player due later this year.
This band are totally immersed; it is like they are a conduit for pre-existing natural and technological sounds somewhere in the ether. They have tapped into the source and the audience are completely pulled in too. Enthralling, primal and hypnotic!
Flowers Must Die show a similar no-compromise approach to their music, from the stage setting with a single backlight and revolving colour dome keeping the six members as outlines and shadows for the whole set (not quite sure how they could see to play, but it all sounded fine!) to the build-up of musical ideas within the tracks. The two guitars, bass and drums line-up is enhanced by added electric violin, keyboard and the extensive use of that always fascinating electronic marvel the theremin!
‘Don’t You Leave Me Now’ was a standout song, with impressive vocals over a mutated disco-funk backing. ‘Hit’ was a complex groove, another track from their 2017 album titled ‘Kompost’ with its enigmatic mixture of Swedish and English titled songs.
Flowers Must Die have finely honed their live sound but they have still retained an effervescence and sheer enjoyment in their performance.
A free psychedelic rock spectacular to celebrate the release of the new album from Cambridge trio Moonstrips. Supporting band BansheeVa were noisy and relentlessly hypnotic, pulsing bass lines and power drumming with biting guitar and occasional vocals. Very appropriate to see the backdrop bubble projections and always good to hear a lengthy cover of ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, the definitive Pink Floyd consciousness-expanding opus. Heavy and spaced out.
Moonstrips had a sharp and addictive EP out earlier this year and they opened with two of the tracks; ‘How Do You Do?’ an insistent rocky riff with distant vocals dissolving into a noisy workout of echo and effects, a short-form song that crams a lot in. ‘543’ is a slice of pop reminiscent of 60s Who-ness with good hook phrases and a neat descending line driving through the whole piece. Heavier guitar eventually arrives on top for the finale.
I really enjoyed the newer tracks from the album ‘Glimpses’; the band are not afraid to allow time for the songs to develop, establishing mood and style with a variety of guitar effects at the fore. The twelve minute ‘Silver Screens’ closed the show; a psychedelic manifesto of epic proportion.
Mind-expanding stuff, live and loud in an intimate, packed venue, a perfect Saturday evening for Cambridge music fans?
At last, the debut long-player from premier Cambridge consciousness-expanding rockers Psychic Lemon arrives on the scene.
‘Ticktoc’, a song they have been honing live for a while is a strong opener, a solid bass riff and punching drumming then some vocals airily drift in, countered by walls of sound from their double guitars. I last saw them in December at the Mill Road Winter Fair, with a flute player really adding an extra layer….and here he is on this track too! An unexpected bonus as the flute fizzes through an energetic coda.
From a pastoral acoustic guitar and choral introduction, ‘Death Cult Blues’ bursts into life, with more starry flute. The sound on this track and most of the album is intricate and multi-layered, it must have been compelling to stand outside in the garden listening at the home-built Psychic Studio “5 minutes down the road from Syd Barrett’s old place”….. and I think his spirit lives on in the instrumental ‘Analogue Summer’, from the birdsong bookends to tremendous slide guitar this is a beautiful season indeed.
‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ is another live favourite from their current set as is ‘Dilator’, a rocker with an epic feel and strange paranoid punkish lyric. The final track ‘Horizon’ is more than ten minutes of many of the elements from the rest of the album, woven into a widescreen psychedelic spectacular.
This album has captured the experimental dynamic of the band very successfully; it draws on their influences from a much loved style of music and then adds some powerful edges with the as-live feel of the recording.