A rush of blood to the head like Johnny Ace…

Whoa!

An absolutely splendid evening last night at the Frog & Fiddle inCheltenhamin the magical company of Trembling Bells with Bonnie Prince Billy. A terrific event – one of the best…

I can’t imagine how Richard at Kiss My Face managed to get Will Oldham to come to the intimate surroundings of the Frog & Fiddle in Cheltenham, but a glance around YouTube shows that this must be one of the smallest gigs he’s played for a long time – the previous time I saw him was in the relatively palatial setting of Colston Hall. I remember coming away from that gig thinking that it’d been a fairly detached almost cold performance, and how much better it’d be to see him at a small venue.

Ah. Prescience…

There’s a real spirit of eccentricity about Oldham and Trembling Bells’ joint release, The Marble Downs, and you could really see it in the interplay betweenOldhamand singer Lavinia Blackwall as soon as they set up.

Having made a fairly coy appearance for one song of the acapello warm up of Muldoon’s Picnic, Oldham trooped on for the main set, clad in purple scarf shrouding his face like a boxer, with the ubiquitous baseball cap, a blue blazer, jeans and open toe sandals. I was tickled to see that he’d also painted his finger (and toe) nails black for the occasion. It was also good to see that Oldham has developed a whole new set of physical tics, at times thrusting one stiff-palmed arm aloft, at others gripping his trousers intently. At different points, he also played guitar, kazoo and some sort of melodica.

Launching into the poignant harmonies of Lord Bless All right from the start, they played one of the best sets I’ve seen for absolutely ages, an absolute belter. Blackwall’s voice soared over and underOldham’s harsher tones, sometimes to soulful effect sometimes in raucous good time country and western sing-along’s. It was as if they know they have a great collection of songs and were keen to belt the shit out of them.

Most of the tracks from Marble Downs were represented, and a few songs from the Palace Brothers song book were added. We were also treated to a Merle Haggard cover (The Bottle Let Me Down) from Blackwall and a great version of Scott Walker’s Duchess. Highpoints were the acid exchanges of I Can Tell Your Leaving, and the bittersweet observations of Love is a Velvet Noose.

I’ve recorded the set, but there are a few glitches and a few interventions from over-enthusiastic punters (guilty as charged…). Here are some of the best bits:

I Can Tell You’re Leaving

Duchess

My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him / Riding

New Year’s Eve’s the Loneliest Night of the year

Love is a Velvet Noose

What a treat…

Throw me in the landfill, don’t think about the consequences…

Phew! Easter, eh?

Chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, all manner of rich fare on which to gorge yourself, (and then feel vaguely self-conscious about the extent to which you’ve over-indulged). A season of intemperance…

I was going to attempt some ill-advised metaphor along the lines of immoderate consumption of sugary substances being similar to overdosing on the rich Psych Fest sounds of Austin, Texas, etc, etc. …but frankly I can’t be arsed…

Let’s just agree that we all need a sharp little palate cleaner every now and again.

Daughter

(Probably not my finest introduction for a band, made them sound like a green salad…)

Daughter are one of the myriad of waiting-to-be-discovered folksy gems that populate Green Man every year and make it such a damn fine weekend. If you click on the Daughter link, you’ll see words like “ethereal”, “pure”, “unadulterated” and (regrettably) “soundscapes” drifting languidly before your eyes, which kinda give you a starting point but don’t really do justice to the four tracks that make up their recent “His Young Heart” EP. Singer Elena Tonra certainly has a pure, alabaster voice that floats and flutters above her spidery, intricate guitar work, but the words are filled with bitter, (almost spiteful) regret and make a genuinely interesting contrast to the lush surroundings.

There’s quite a nice little piece about Daughter here.

The record is available from Emusic, but can also be streamed and bought from the Daughter Bandcamp page, and really you should.

Here’s the first track from “His Young Heart”, Landfill

Beguiling stuff,  for sure…

Won’t Fear the Sun…

I’m beginning to get my teeth stuck into this pile of recordings left over from last summer, and finding some real gems…

Wooden Shjips

Somehow I missed this recording, again made by my good friend Marcus, again at End of the Road.  As before, can’t say a whole lot about the set, other than that the performance seems pretty faithful to the records (remarkably so, to be honest) and that the sound is a bit muddy (but that’s OK it kinda favours Ripley Jonson’s playing….)

I’ve only fairly recently grown to love Wooden Shjips, especially the haunting vocals and the equally spooky keyboards of Nash Whalen, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them at the Fleece in the summer. I like the sludgy, bass-driven sound they’ve fashioned (and keep returning to) and approve of the way they doggedly refuse to move on from it. Something very Sky Saxon and Daryl Hooper about it all…

Wooden Shjips @ End of the Road, 2011

Black Smoke Rise

Lazy Bones

Motorbike

Fallin’

For So Long

And while we’re at it…

Can’t stand to stand, can’t stand to sit…

I know everyone else has been hip to this for a while now, but this really is quite dazzling…

 

“You’re frightened,” she said “No one can hear us at all”

I had some time on my hands yesterday and was feeling a little idle, so I started rummaging through the pile of untouched recordings I have from last summer, including a few that my friend Marcus made for me at last year’s End of the Road. Turned out there were a few unidentified ones (I say “unidentified”, but let’s be fair, I’d not really looked at them at all) and amongst them was a set from one of the Austin Psych Fest bands, Austin’s marvellous Black Angels.

The Black Angels

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I’ve not picked up on the Black Angels before, them being the massive Elevators devotees that they clearly are. Apart from that (and the obvious Austin, Texas connection), Wikipedia also tells me they spent part of 2008 as Roky Erickson’s backing band. [Scratches head]

I wasn’t at End of the Road last year (that’s sorted for this year…), so I can’t tell you much about the set itself, except that it sounds pretty darn good and I wish I’d been there. It features some full of beans guitar work, punky, spikey drumming and what sounds heart-warmingly like an electric jug in a couple of songs (I’m sure it isn’t, but kudos for getting an effects pedal that sounds like an electric jug…).

I give you, the Black Angels at End of the Road ’11:

Sniper at the Gates of Heaven

Sniper

Haunting at 1300 McKinley

Sunday Afternoon

Yellow Elevator #2 / Black Grease

Entrance Song

And while we’re at it, here’s a video (not one of mine, thanks to Acstalker) of the Angels doing “Telephone” (unfortunately not on the tape):

Time Don’t Carry Measurement…

Inspired by a couple of friends going out to the 2012 Austin Psych Fest and by this “official” mixtape created around it, I’ve been dabbling with a few “Stoner” releases that I’ve come across in the last week or so.

Obviously, with my deep-seated sixties leanings never too far from the surface of my iPod, zoning out with a bit of meandering fuzz guitar is not exactly a giant leap for mankind, but often I find yer Dead Meadows and yer Bardo Ponds pretty clumsy and a little, well, dull… To be fair, some of the mixtape does sound a little like that, but there are, still, some great tracks that have a lighter touch and keep me interested.

Really liked this fairly blatant Brian Jonestown Massacre steal by Psychic Ills, for example:

Also this haunting echo-y thing  from Amen Dunes:

Both Pychic Ills and Amen Dunes have records out on Sacred Bones and are available through Emusic.

Also featured on the Psych Fest tape are the mighty Sun Araw, one of only a few artists on it that I’d heard of before, whose Heavy Deeds record is one I’ve been listening to for a month or so (and very fine it is too).

But what’s really intriguing is the collaboration they’ve been working on with Black Ark heroes, the Congos. Heart of the Congos is one of my all time favourite records, and I’m utterly captivated by the prospect of this release.

But don’t take my word for it (why would you?):

The record, Icon Give Thank, is due for release …er…very soon (early this month, I think) and will be accompanied by a video, Icon Eye. The official “teasers” for the film don’t give much away I’m afraid, but this offering from Nowness.com does give you a genuine taste…