Sunday, January 24, 2021

Heads Music 2- Classic Krautrock Revisited (Fruits de Mer Records strange fish 21)

Fruits de Mer makes some of the world’s greatest compilations and tributes and there are so many killer tracks on this double CD/3LP set.   Most of the bands on here you will be familiar with if you know this label: Vespero, Cary Grace, Jay Tausing, Maat Lander, Schizo Fun Addict, Legendary Flower Punk…  but then there are some more obscure artists that I am not that familiar with like Spurious Transients (who cover two Kraftwerk songs), Das Blaue Palais (covering Faust, Amon Düül and Mythos), The Arthur Park (CAN), Rob Gould (Brainticket), Black Tempest (Edgar Froese), Revbjelde (Embryo), Tony Swettenham (Agitation Free).  CD starts off with Vespero, who perform quite cool and spacey versions of Amon Düül II (Between the Eyes) and Eloy- Castle in the Air (from the amazing album, Floating).  Their take of this track is a minute shorter than the original. Das Blaue Palais take on Faust’s Krautrock from their 1973 album Faust IV! This features some really nice guitar playing and layers of sounds. They also play a track from Mythos from their 1975 album Dreamland.  Both cool versions. Cary Grace does really well taking on Surrounded by Stars by Amon Düül II. Tony Sweetenham takes on Agitation Free’s Rucksturz from the 1st album, Malesch. The original is only 2mins but here it the main theme is played but he extends and expands upon this nicely with mainly organ and some acoustic guitar. Revbjelde take on Dreaming Girls from Embyro’s Steig Aus album from 1973. This version is more chilled somehow but maintains that nice ethinc vibe. Jay Tausing performs Father cannot Yell by Can from the debut album, Monster Movie.  This is quite a challenging track and very well delivered.  

The 2nd CD (Lp sides 4-6) are not as rocking and more electronic and spacey with three Kraftwerk covers, Edgar Froese, Cosmic Jokers, Michael Rother (Neu).  Das Blaue Palais cover the early Amon Düül with a super spacey version of Snow your Thrist and Sun your open Mouth. Schizo Fun Addict have one of the most spacey and psychedelic tracks on the whole comp with Galactic Joke Part D (inspired by the Cosmic Jokers).  I had heard the version of Sonnenrad by Michael Rother before on one of the live shows by the Legendary Flower Punk.  Quite laid back. Rob Gould takes on One Morning by the Swiss act, Brainticket from their 2nd album Psychonaut!  Also, quite relaxed and some very nice piano playing.  Three out of the next 5 songs are by Kraftwerk- Neon Lights by Maat Lander, Autobahnmelodie and Autobahn Verkehrsgeräusche by Spurious Transients. I did not dig these very much.  I was totally caught off guard by The Arthur Park’s the sort of poppy cover of Moonshake by CAN.  A damn impressive compilation. 


Soothsayer Orchestra is Pieter Hendriks from the Dutch bands Reaching Forward, Born From Pain en Black Bottle Riot.  I have never heard these bands but I like a lot of the music on Lay Bare Recordings. This album features 9 tracks, where Pieter plays all the instruments (drums, acoustic guitar, organ, vocals, etc..).  The opening track you get to hear all these instruments.  Black Velvet Deathbed is dark but also quite some interesting melodies that go into indie rock after the dark piano intro.  Euryale has a nice organ, acoustic guitar, handclaps and some of the vocals are spoken word (with or without effects). Dead Lovers Eden starts with some drums and then the electric guitar and a happier vocal (not dark and gruff, like most of the other songs).  Heaven Seeker continues similar to the last with electric guitar, minimal piano lines, brooding vocals and music. Quite haunting at times but more uptempo, almost rocking at the end. The Gallow Awaits is mainly just piano and vocals and of course a dark subject. The Rooster Calls, the beginning vocal reminds me of a track by Black Space Riders and this is one of the more rocking tracks. Bedelhym is a short less than 2min track with that slow dark Tom Waits like vocal. A bit of synth is heard amongst the acoustic guitar.  Amidst the Coiled Snakes ends this dark emotional album. This track features a guest female vocal and is one of my fave tracks on the album. 

This is an extremely diverse and personal record.  Tom Waits is for sure a huge inspiration. This is very different from what I listen to normally and also from what is released on the label.  Good work… 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Chemistry Set- Paint me a Dream 7” (Hypnotic Bridge Records)

The UK psych band, The Chemistry Set is back with their new single and not released on Fruits de Mer but a Los Angeles based label, Hypnotic Bridge Records. The A side is an original track and I love the more heavy guitar and the way it cuts through the mix at times on this over all 60s inspired rock track but with TCS, trademark sound.    

The B-side is a cover of the song, the Witch by Mark Fry.  I probably never heard the original.  This is something very different from the A side which is a rocker, this is more of an experimental folky strange track to start and then it rocks and psyches out! The bio mentions Red Krayola and I think that is pretty accurate. Another excellent release.  The single is released Feb 12th.. Great work again.. 

Circle- Hymiö (Ruton Music RUT-041)

This is the first new Circle music in a couple of years and the longs break in releases since the band began 20 years ago.  The thing with Circle is that their musical catalog is so diverse, this tape could be anything from extreme metal, metronomic kraut, ambient, noise… Who knows?? So what it is. .. This appears to be the first ever release by the quartet of Dawson-Lehtisalo-Rättö-Westerlund. It was produced by Tomi Leppänen. Anyway.. this stuff is mellow and does not feature any drums. Floating music with some nice keyboards and cool vibe.  There is about 30mins of music with one long track on each side. The tape is only release was in an edition of 150. I think there are still copies available. I would say this is only for the die hard collectors.

Cassette Culture- Homemade Music and the Creative Spirit in the Pre-Internet Age by Jerry Kranitz. (VOD Records 2020)

This is quite a monster book. Heavy duty cover, large print, thick pages, lots of colour pictures and 2 full cds of strange and wonderful experimental music.  I have to say I was quite ignorant on this subject coming in as back in the day when cassettes were a daily part of my life, it was for listening and trading live recordings and demo tapes and not for making music.  The world described in this book is about the whole scene of people who made music at home most often with very simple recording set ups.  It is also about the labels and magazines that drove the scene and made some of these artist famous or at least to a much larger audience.  It also describes just creative these people were, not just with the music but also packaging and art and how important the product was.  The only person I have personally known that was part of this scene was Doug Walker (RIP) of Alien Planetscapes. He would release many tapes on all of these different labels and was fully part of this scene, even collaborating musically with a lot of the folks who ran the most important labels.  Pity he died long before this book was written as his insight would have been unique.  Anyway, Jerry did have access to Richard Franecki, Hal McGee, Al Margolis, and many others.  This is a very special book and not an easy read,  I have to say.  It was highly motivational though and really made me want to make more hand done releases with special artwork etc.. I have already done so with three releases where all the album covers were hand spray painted and all unique, as well as special CD-rs for bands I was in like Gas Giant and ØSC.  

Anyway, a hell of a book that will inspire you to be more creative and hopefully, to make a closer connection to you music scene.   Amazing effort. I know it took Jerry 10 years to finish this book.  Incredible.. 

Kansas- Every Album, Every Song by Kevin Cummings (Sonicbond Publishing)

When it comes to Prog, Kansas is one of my favourite bands.  I think every album they made in the 70s was great. They pretty much lost it like so many bands in the 80s but the last few years the band has come full circle with some strong material once again.  Anyway, this is a huge series by Sonic Bond Publishing and includes many bands (Queen, ELP, Iron Maiden, UFO, Jethro Tull, Genesis, BOC, Gentle Giant, Dream Theatre, etc). The only other one I have is the one on Hawkwind.  This book is written by a real expert on Kansas, as Kevin has worked closely with Kerry Livgren, running his web site, transcribing his music and preparing Kerry’s music for the world.  After a bit of a introduction to the band, he goes straight into the albums and you get the statistics of highest chart place (sadly only the US. Would have been nice to see how it did in other countries like the UK), release date, length, etc…  For each album there is a bit of an intro about what was going on with the band, if members changed (they did a lot in the 80s and 90s), a bit about the tours, and finally the artwork. One very special addition is for several songs on most of the records he breaks it down into many sections describing key changes, tempo info, solo breakdowns, hints and themes that might connect to previous songs or classical music, etc.. 

Kansas was a super hard working band in the 70s as were many and knocked out 3 amazing records in their first 18 months on Kirshner Records!!  The highest chart position was still only 57 and eventually all three albums would go gold (sales of greater than 500,000).  It was not until Leftoverture in 1976 that the band would have a major hit and the record would reach #5, with only Point of no Return beating it at #4. It was all down hill as far as the charts from this point. Although they did have 3 more top 20 records!! 

The album Somewhere to Elsewhere (2000) was a unique album in the catalog as this was the first time since Audio Visions (1980) that the 6 original members appeared on an album together again, albeit for only 1 songs (Billy Greer played most of the bass on the record, and original bassist Dave Hope, only on 2 songs.  I did not know much about the band in 90s and afterwards although I did see them in 1992, when they were a 5 piece with only one guitar player and then twice at Sweden Rock Festival in the 2000’s.  

The band released a new record in 2020 and that is also described here. At this point in time the band is down to only two original members (Phil Ehart- Drums and Rich Williams- Guitar), both of who have played on every album but contributed very little to the songwriting. IT is not all new folks though as Billy Greer (Bass) has been with the band since the 80s and David Ragsdale (violin), also played with the band in the 90s. 

Overall, if you are a fan of Kansas you will learn quite a lot about the band and the albums and certainly the details of every song.  Cool book. It also includes some rare colour pictures of the band in a small section in the middle of the book. Great job Kevin.