I want what’s behind the moon…

DSC_0409My Psychfest adventure now a flickering tea-light in the distance, I thought I’d pretty much had my fill of bands linked with the omnipresent “psychedelia” tag in whatever questionable fashion. Truth be told I’ve bought a few “homework” records on this basis that I’m not really enjoying. Seemed to spend a fair bit of time at Psychfest listening to po-faced bands, bass cranked up to eleven, plodding through turgid sets, surrounded by earnest punters, heads bobbing grimly, and I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t be doing with that. All a bit dull, if you ask me. Can’t even say I’m much of a fan of the ubiquitous Ty Segall – I can do small doses, but then I feel like a bit of a lie down, to be honest.

This feller is venturing out West in the New Year, though…

White Fence

White Fence, as you’ll probably all know, are the vehicle of Tim Presley, who’s been around for a good while now, releasing a whole bunch of records, including last year’s Cyclops Reap which I’ve been listening to a lot this week, believing it to be his most recent, until I discovered this year’s Drag City release For The Recently Found Innocent. This is not just me being slow (although clearly…) Presley is genuinely hard to keep up with – I gather he released three records in 2012 alone (including Hair with Ty Segall). What can you do?

(While I think of it, I can’t believe that rock musicians are genuinely born with a name like “Presley”, so I’m guessing he’s changed his name at some point – I really hope it was the Troggs he had in mind…)

White Fence records are trebly, twangy affairs, dominated by meandering guitar lines and generic psyche tics – managing to sound like the Pretty Things and Love at one and the same time. Anyone who’s ever spent more than fifteen minutes in my company will know that I’m a simple fellow and that this will pretty much do it for me.

One of the things I really like about a White Fence record, I think, is that Presley isn’t afraid to turn the bass down. I know I sound like my Dad at this point, but I’m a bit fed up of not being able to hear anything but bass and drums at gigs. Truth be told, it’s becoming a bit of a thing… Cyclops Reap, by contrast is full of shrill delights, punctuated throughout by loose-stringed, winding guitar breaks, venturing only occasionally into the realms of fuzz and wah-wah. It’s a record that apparently signals Presley’s emergence from lo-fi productions into more professional productions but really these things are all relative. You’d not really say it’s a polished record…

There’s not too much proper video of White Fence, not even any “official” stuff, but I like this footage of a set at something called Phuzz Phest, the first track, Anger! Who Keeps You Under? featuring the man himself bowing his guitar Eddie Phillips-style. Perfect!

A German Soft Machine

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Ah um.

While we’re at it, following on from the previous posts, I have some Swiss-German krautrock tracks to share too.

Klaus Johann Grobe

Having done a quick post on these two chaps before Psychfest, I bought the new album – Im Sinne Der Zeit – and did some proper homework on them. It’s a pretty good record, full of clumpy beats and melodramatic organ swirls – a German Soft Machine if you will…

Last set on the oddly shaped Blade corner-stage, with Besnard Lakes on the one main stage and the dazzling, wonderful Suuns on another, I’d imagined there’d not be so many around for this one, but I was of course wrong. The small area filled up quickly and soon get very warm indeed. In truth, what seemed like a very long wait while the three members fiddled around with leads and sounds, made more than a few punters a little irritable (by the end of the weekend, I was heartily fed up of the sight of earnest young musos pointing to the ceiling and mouthing “more, more, turn it up!” to the sound desk).

Anyway, eventually they got it sorted and kicked off into a marvellously gloopy, occasionally menacing, occasionally funky set, dominated by the syrupy electric organ of Sevi Landolt. The extra third member of the group was a bassist and he managed to drive the proceedings along with pace and purpose.

The two strongest tracks from the record – “Kothek” and “Between the Buttons” – made early appearances which launched a sweaty bunch of punters off straight away but did mean the set tailed off a little.

Again, quite a lot of “atmosphere” in the recordings but well worth a little listen:

Raus

Between the Buttons

Aufstand

Out on the water’s where you’re gonna find me

Allah-Las_Press_Photo-640x424Well, back from Psychfest. A good time was had by all – loads of good bands, a few average ones, a chance to meet up with a few old friends. Yeah it was a good time, although in truth, not as all-encompassingly brilliant as some of the summer festivals I’ve been to. There’s no substitute for a massive field to bask around in when it’s all getting a bit too much for you. Psychfest was, of course, a much smaller affair and there was nowhere really to get away to – it was a bit like being in a giant 14-hour psychedelic ironworks at times.

Set my recorder to “everything” for the weekend, but unfortunately (I’ve a feeling you know what’s coming here)… well, let’s just draw a discrete veil over it and say there was an “operator failure” and that I didn’t get as many sets as I’d hoped. Sadly, one of the casualties was a stonking Saturday evening set by Woods, the last that I saw of the weekend. They were really very good, re-frying the more pastoral set I’d seen at End of the Road to one that was a little more suited to the occasion.

I did, however, captured this lot:

The Allah-Las

Actually, this was the best set of the weekend, and sad though I was to lose the Woods one, if I’d had to choose…

Strolling out of the desert like a Da Capo Love, all fringed jackets and beatle boots, the Allah-Las looked every inch the study in sixties cool that they clearly are. I’d had to choose between seeing them or the highly promising Early Years where a number of my more-knowing friends were, but I didn’t regret it for a moment. They were brilliant.

From the opening bars of “No Werewolf” right to the closing twangs of a glittery 45-minute set, they were very tight and strutted through a series of tracks from their two records with a needle-sharp guitar sound and a groove that set a drunken crowd jigging and, well, frugging (no other word for it…)

Cracking versions of “Catamaran”, with all its Stones / Standells echoes and more of that acerbic, twangy guitar, “I Had It All”, “Busman’s Holiday” and really pretty much the whole set – all of it skin-tight, none of it straying over the four-minute mark.

Quite a lot of noise over the recordings, I’m afraid, but that was a feature of the whole weekend. Although that annoyed me at times over the two days, here, with groovy youngsters jumping about enthusiastically, chatting, singing along, it just felt like I was in my own bootleg “live” album in a Seeds on Sunset Strip style…

Here’s a little selection:

501-415

Busman’s Holiday

Catamaran

Sandy

The usual stuff: love, personal struggles, society’s stupidness, nonsense…

klausjohanngrobe_1Standing in The Shed, glimmering floodlights ushering in the start of the Gloucester-Exeter game is probably not the first place that would occur to you to receive a bit of a “hot tip” about Kosmische sounds to catch at Psychfest. Actually, I’ve certainly had stranger conversations waiting for the rugby to start (“Krautrock” turns up more often than you might think…) and the bearer of said hot tip, my mate Steve, has been known to come up with some diamonds…

Klaus Johann Grobe

It’s not clear quite whether Steve is operating from a position of exhaustive research, having studied the Klaus Johann Grobe catalogue, read all the relevant Quietus articles and rifled through the Internet for obscure German blogs, or whether in best Partly Porpoise fashion he has been drawn moth-like to the pretty blue flame that a name like Klaus Johann Grobe clearly conjures up. (I’m saying nothing… although I clearly owe him a drink…)

 

My own exhaustive research has revealed that KJG are actually a duo (neither of whom are called Klaus or indeed Johann); are not German but Swiss, based in Zurich and signed to good ole Trouble in Mind and are a little more Daft Punk and a little less Neu than the name suggests. (You want more? C’mon? You never heard of Pitchfork?)

This clip suggests it’s going to be a great weekend…

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion

Grumbling-Fur-The-Ballad-of-Roy-BattyWith everyone else frolicking around at Green Man, End of the Road or other such sunny paradises, I’m currently left at home, working the days and feeling a little sorry for myself of an evening. No worries, I tell myself, I do still have September’s Psychfest to look forward to and am increasingly turning to the organisers to choose my next favourite bands…

Grumbling Fur

These are an interesting pair, featuring on the Saturday in Liverpool and generally getting a good deal of coverage in all the interesting places of the net. Only looked them up because of Psychfest but when I did I realised I’d sort of been there all along, buying one half of the Fur (?), Alexander Tucker’s records for a few years now. I had no idea that his unconventional brilliance was one of those behind Grumbling Fur (probably better…), but to be honest I really don’t think there’s any way I’d have spotted a link even if I’d been paying attention – there’s not a lot of Portal or Old Fog in either of these new releases with Daniel O’Sullivan.

I bought Glynnaestra a month or so ago from Fopp in Bristol, and listened to it pretty exclusively for the next few weeks until, lo and behold, Preternaturals came out… Consequently, the two records are pretty much intertwined in my head, with no space between them at all. I quite like that really – they almost seem like one big (quirky) double album.

As I said, there’s been a lot written about them recently, most of it trying very hard to cultivate some sort of neo-psychedelia element to their sound and to be fair, Tucker and O’Sullivan’s Albarn-esque confessions of Misadventures with Mescaline have pretty much fed into this.

But I can’t see it to be honest, far too much like a lo-fi dance record to go that way for me, an idea that usually turns me off to a record pretty darn quickly. Occasionally, though, a record is strong enough that even if the cut of its trousers is all wrong, the crown jewels still come through (that’s an analogy I’m going to regret when I read this back…). I’m generally pretty quick to dismiss anything that has a few too many electronics in it (and conversely, far too ready to shell out on any group of long hairs that brandish guitars), but this all works.

Both records (as I said, currently inseparable in my head), are choc-full of studio fumblings, “found sounds” and dubby playfulness. But what stands out most for me are the soft, measured vocals of both men that emerge from time to time from the spacey confusion around them. The obvious but still stand-out track is The Ballad of Roy Batty, with its Tears in the Rain monologue which even though I have no affinity at all with Blade Runner, I still find intensely and inexplicably moving:

 

 

Really looking forward to seeing this in September…

Master Sleeps

5340Apart from the ongoing Cumbia and Latin psych obsession (yeah, that’s still going on, I just sensed I was boring you….), one of my chief sources of new music continues to be the Liverpool Psychfest Twitter feed. There’s going to be a lot of this, come September…

Hills

Not to be confused with fellow label mates White Hills (pah! As if…), Hills are a fuzzed up psych-rock outfit from Gothenburg with an ear and a right foot for a bit of a groove, in a Can sort of way. The record I’ve just downloaded from Emusic, Master Sleeps, was originally released in 2011 (although I certainly missed it) and has now just been re-released on Rocket Recordings. It’s a dense, magnetic affair with more than a hint of Ripley Johnson in it, as gothic fuzzy guitars weave in and out of each other and combine with organs and bass to create a something of a dark psychedelic tapestry (if you will).

Hills are apparently good buddies with the only other Swedish wah-wah band you’ve heard of – those wild, be-masked Goat fellers who’ve been taking these shores by storm (peaking with a mention on these very pages). I think they’ve shared the bill a good few times too – now there’s a rider I’d like to see…

Here’s Bring Me Sand from Master Sleeps, which pretty much tells you what you need to know about Hills – harmonium drones, ragas, echoing krautrock. It’s all good…

Psyched…!

TSDOSmirror-200x300Probably no Green Man or End of the Road for me this year, but I have “splashed out” on a ticket for Liverpool Psychfest this September, mainly because last year’s line-up looked so brilliant, and so many of my buddies went last year, immediately buying up return tickets for this year. There’s also the added bonus that I’m unlikely to be staring miserably at the rain from the entrance of a poorly-erected tent…

The Psychfest twitter feed is also proving to be an invaluable source of new bands to chase up…

The Sudden Death of Stars

Sudden Death of Stars are a French group who’ve just released their first rekkid on Ample Play Records. It’s called Getting Up Going Down and I’m really enjoying it. Sounds a bit like the Byrds or the Elevators at times, and at others a bit shoe-gazey. Whereas the Elevators’ signature sound was the quirky sound of the electric jug, someone within SDoS clearly plays the sitar, and is reluctant to set it down. To be fair, it’s not so much Eastern mysticism as plinking-plonking mail-train rhythm sitar. You’ll either love it…

You can read more about them at the Ample Play site, and there’s an interview with them here but I’m particularly hoping their inclusion in the Psychfest 2014 Congregation tweets means that I’ll be seeing them in September.

A bit of talk about a French band and Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, gives me an excuse to mention the Limiñanas, whose new record Costa Brava I’ve also been listening to this week. It’s another squeaker, with all the same VU / Melodie Nelson references as the first, in fact they’ve managed to sound even more Limiñana than last time…

Here they are at last year’s Psychfest.