Monday, 21 September 2020
You may have had an email today or read Ray's Facebook post. If not, then I'm delighted to say that Kool Kat will now be distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single. It has been a continued IDHAS mission to bring down the costs of US Imports to the UK and Europe. This is just a quick post to tell you that Kool Kat Musik joins Big Stir in being distributed in these areas by us.
There will be a more official announcement later in the week which will be more all singing and dancing with links for you. In the meantime. here Ray's email is pasted below to explain ordering from Kool Kat. Big Stir is ordered from their own site and we just automatically deliver UK and European orders.
We hope to add more US labels as time progresses to keep Physical Sales from these great artists alive.
GREAT NEWS FOR ALL CUSTOMERS IN THE UK + EUROPE!!
We are all well aware of the ridiculously high postage rates to send CDs to the UK and Europe. These are uncontrollable costs set by the US Postal system – UNTIL NOW!! I am happy (and thrilled) to report that Kool Kat Musik has officially entered into an agreement with I Don’t Hear A Single to help fulfill orders to customers in the UK and Europe which will result in significant postage savings for you. ALL CDs ON THE KOOL KAT SITE ARE ELIGIBLE TO ORDER!
In order to accomplish this and to ensure accurate product fill/postage costs based on destination, a different ordering procedure will be necessary. Do not place order through the Kool Kat site. Orders are to be placed via email, preferably to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to IDHAS (email@example.com). No payment in advance is required.
At the time the order is received, product availability, total product cost and postage costs based on destination will be calculated. A PayPal Money request will then be sent representing the total amount due for your order. Please follow the same ordering procedure if you choose to have CDs sent to you without Jewel Cases. They will ship directly to you from Kool Kat Musik in the US at a reduced postage cost (vs. sending them with cases).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Though this process will result in additional delivery time to you with regard to allowing the products being sent from the US to get to IDHAS for shipment to you, it WILL ultimately result in significant postage savings. You can link to the new releases here.
You will see that titles are broken down into several categories (Top Sellers, New Releases, New CDs, Compilations, and Used CDs) with icons for each category to click to view all titles.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!
For instance you can find the Best Sellers here.
Sunday, 20 September 2020
Croydon's finest, Nick Frater returns with his wonderful brand of Pop and seeing as the UK used to be the world's finest at this sort of material, it is particularly sad to note that Frater is one of the few exponents here in Brexit Land.
His signing to Big Stir would appear to be a marriage made in heaven as his brand of Pop Rock seems ideally suited to the West Coast label. However, bar a couple of Vocal Harmony driven songs, this album feels very British.
There also seems to be less Guitar and so the songs have the vocals at the forefront in true Singer Songwriter style. It does sound very 70's, but beautifully so. Fast & Loose can rock, but its gently and here his superb voice is showcased.
IDHAS has been a big supporter of Nick, simply due to his talent and you can read our reviews of his previous albums here. He featured in the I Don't Hear A Single Top 10 Of The Year in both 2018 and 2019 and Fast & Loose is sure to ensure that he will again.
It strikes me that he would never want to make the same album twice and having mastered the likes of Power Pop and Rundgren Territory etc, it feels like the right time to nail the Pop Territory of the 70s, particularly the tail end of Glam Rock.
I definitely wouldn't suggest that there is no variety here. Let's Hear It For Love is terrific Glam Rock and Cocaine Girls is a great cross between both UK and US New Wave. California Waits brings memories of Christie and Edison Lighthouse and may be the best song on the album.
Would You Like To Go is California harmony heaven, but it is the Singer Songwriter joy that rings home most. Moonstruck is so Gilbert O'Sullivan, That Ship Has Sailed is so Art Garfunkel, Luna is so Andrew Gold.
The album opens up with a wonderful Telstar like instrumental. That title track conjures up Cinematic mid 60's Psych. That may be Nick's next direction, it'd certainly delight me, In the meantime, I'll just admire his mission to keep Playdoh in business.
What you do have here is one of the great Pop Records of recent years on one of the best of the new crop of labels. Fast & Loose is another splendid album from a musician who can release an album a year without ever covering the same ground. Highly Recommended.
You can listen to the album here or here. You can find Nick Frater's website here and Big Stir's here.
Friday, 18 September 2020
I'm back into more familiar Pop Rock territory with Marshall Holland. It's been six years since the Marshall Holland And The Etceteras album, but Holland has none of his pop chops and that Pop covers a wide area of influences.
Our Fate is all UK New Wave, When The Rain Comes is all Monkees dabbling with a bit of Baroque Pop and A Hand Holds A Bird comes across all Neil Finn. These three opening songs reveal the variety on offer across the album.
Don't Do It is all jaunty Pleasant Valley Sunday pop whilst Look Into My Eyes is top notch Gentle Pop with an adorable keyboard background riff. This really is a chocolate box album of feel good pop, a welcome retort to what's going on in the outside world.
She Buys A Dress is so Elvis Costello And The Attractions with its Oliver's Army keys. Whatcha Gonna Do could be The Rubinoos on Ready Steady Go and the closer, A Dream Away is pure Gilbert O'Sullivan without his piano.
The stand out though may very well be the title track. Paper Airplane comes across all mid 1970's Pop Rock, think Jigsaw and Liverpool Express with more than a hint of Burt Bacharach. This album is a joy, Summer Pop for the upcoming Autumn.
It'll transport you to sun drenched beaches with a smile on your face. Paper Airplane is yet another example of a Mystery Lawn Music gem. Allen Clapp's base is certainly the mark of quality for music of distinction.
You can listen to and buy the album on Vinyl, CD or as a download here. The CD is also available at the excellent Kool Kat here.
After a really up and down year music wise, for obvious reasons, the last couple of months have exploded with a plethora of great albums. Brighton's, psych collective, Moon Attendant have been one of the best of the bunch with their debut album.
One Last Summer is a heady mix of Psych Pop. Psych Pop suffers at times when people see the word Psych, they can run as they do when they see the word Punk in Punk Pop. Like in any genre, there are good and bad and labels should only be a slight hint in what bands are about. I have to say that currently, Psych Pop is offering up the most innovative, interesting Pop around. You should try some.
Moon Attendant make it easier for newcomers in that the mix is very much this is psych, this is pop. Take the two opening tracks for instance. Blue is a synth led pop fest that keeps making me sing Can't Take My Eyes Of You, Hot Power is a 7 minute Psych Powerhouse of a song, an exceptional intriguing listen.
Elsewhere, Catch A Train is almost acoustic folk. wonderfully moody whilst Hammers could be Ray Davies and the arrangement is just top notch. The Telstar like organ on Don't Step Back matches the dreamy lounge beautifully.
It is the Psych Pop that really hits home though. I Would Like To Teach You is wistful joy and Sleepy Sleep is 65 - 70s UK Psych Beat at its best. Lucky Escape is a gentle strum that launches into a Psych Explosion. There's even an instrumental, Castles Burning, that comes across as Kraut Rock or Tangerine Dream.
There is so much here to like. The Pop will draw you in, but the Psych is what grabs you. The Analogue Synths provide an unusual touch. At times, the album sounds like a mix between The Coral and Strawberry Alarm Clock. One Last Summer is fascinating and truly wonderful.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Thursday, 17 September 2020
As I prepared to review the new Gretchen's Wheel album, I realised that this is the only artist that I have reviewed every album of. There is a reason for this and that word is talent. Album Number 5 just enhances that opinion, Lindsay Murray could sing the Phone Book and make it sound interesting.
With the delicacy of her voice, she could make a mint joining the volume of female artists singing whimpering cover versions of well known, but irritating, songs on TV Adverts. Instead she chooses to provide inventive self written gems that use that voice in unexpected ways.
You can read my previous album reviews here and you'll note that I mentioned that her last album, Black Box Theory, appeared darker with less guitar. Well there's only a little of that here as Such Open Sky rounds up the things that she has been great at in the past and takes things on a notch. The Guitar is definitely back!
There is far more use of THAT voice here, whether it be alone or with some excellent backing vocal assistance. With help from the likes of Matthew Caws, Brendan Benson and Jon Auer, you can imagine the quality, but you are left in no doubt that this is a Lindsay Murray album.
Murray has always mastered the moodier songs, her voice is ideally suited to them, but here she stretches out, even more than her earlier work. Songs are beautifully arranged, vocally and instrumentally. The whole thing is a triumph.
The three opening songs are incredibly strong. You Should Know and Interloper, with Backing Vocals from Caws and Benson respectively, are just top notch. Heat Death is the type of trademark song that has made Gretchen's Wheel name.
Can't Shake The Feeling is the real favourite of mine. A wonderful unexpected riff and very modern pop, unexpectedly so. Shapeshifters has a killer chorus and there is also a wonderfully moody cover of Robert Pollard's Learning To Hunt on which Murray makes the song her own.
It is common for an artist to state that their latest album is their best yet. Please allow someone who is completely independent to tell you that it is. This the most fully formed Gretchen's Wheel album yet. It is a glorious selection of songs and oh THAT voice is still worth the admission alone.
You can listen to and buy the album on Vinyl, CD or as a Download here. There is also a current offer on a download of the complete Gretchen's Wheel discography that is too good to miss.
Wednesday, 16 September 2020
The Coral, as well as cementing their own reputation, has become a sort of Wirral Motown. As tentacles spread far and wide, the band are fast drawing up a Family Tree. Bill Ryder-Jones, Ian Skelly and now Paul Molloy have all taken slightly linked but very different solo directions.
Guitarist, Molloy may have provided the best album of the all. No stranger to the scene after spells in The Stands, The Zutons and his current venture with Skelly in The Serpent Power, the album was recorded in a two year period, during which both of his parents died.
With this in mind, you might expect a reflective, maybe morose, affair. There is none of that. This is a joyous album of glorious Psych Pop. It is very 60's in feel, but that Psych whimsy rings out in what has been a fantastic revival of the genre over the past couple of years.
The Fifth Dandelion has much in comparison with the current Medway led sound, but there is also great Pop bursting to get out and at other times, the album borders on Toytown. The only time that the album gets anywhere near The Coral is the Lounge Folk of Bring In The Night and that has a real Psych close.
Salad Days is great Glam Rock, almost Gilbert O'Sullivan, it is outstanding. Dungaree Day is Small Faces meeting The Beach Boys. The Return Of Cherry Pie could be Prime Time Pugwash and contrast all this Pop to the early Pink Floyd vibe of From Venus To Pale Blue.
The Swamp is in Bossa Nova Sci Fi Movie territory, Andromeda is almost Orgone Box and My Madonna is splendid Baroque Pop. The closer, Talacre Lighthouse, a place that I know only too well, is perfect Medway Folk.
Paul Molloy has served up one of the surprises of the year. An outstanding album that offers up a wide range of variety. It will be high up in the End Of Year List, if not the toppermost. You can listen to and buy the album everywhere.
Friday, 11 September 2020
The Audio Extravaganza returns with Volume 102. I know you'd expect me to say it, but I've listened to it a couple of times today and it sounds top notch. 22 songs in 77 minutes. Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence.
A reminder that these episodes are compiled with great care. The aim is to produce a sort of modern day mix tape. Hopefully this will be the soundtrack to your day. If you use the Mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays. The playlist itself is also as the first comment on the Mixcloud Episode page.
You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here.
Here are the contents of Volume 102 :
01 Spice - All My Best Shit
02 I'm Glad It's You - Big Sound
03 The Successful Failures - This Girl
04 Wolf Parade - Under Glass
05 The Orange Peels - Something Strange Happens (2020 Remaster)
06 The Young Wait - Never Sleep 'til Regret
07 Tugboat Captain - Day To Day
08 Time Thieves - Way
09 Kekker - Doveroverland
10 Alpine Subs - Clear Blue Waters
11 Cloud Nothings - The Sound Of Everyone
12 Zipgun Bomber - Reflections
13 Sergeant Buzfuz - Your Time Is Tomorrow
14 The Total Rejection - Caravan
15 The Loft Club - Heard Her Say
16 Love Sport - Life's A Joke
17 Scenic Route To Alaska - Closer
18 The Foragers - Forever Changed
19 Prize Pig - The Line
20 Dungeon Of Skeletons - Valencia
21 Civic Green - There Is Always A Light
22 Blight - Legends
IDHAS Audio Extravaganza Volume 102 Mixcloud Link
Or Click Below
Wednesday, 9 September 2020
I was a big fan of Colin's Godson and sad to see them call it a day. It was such fun with the comic strip 80's Video Game themes. You can read the IDHAS review of the album, The Timely Demise Of Colin's Godson here. The Bandcamp site is still active and I urge you to go and listen to their archive there.
So on discovering that main man Joe Greatorex had formed Brontosaurus, I excitedly ran to find out more and I'm so glad that I did. Greatorex has lost none of the trademark Colin's Godson wit, in fact the songs have got even more cutting and dry. The man has a way with words.
What is different is the emphasis is far more on straight ahead Pop, gloriously lo fi, but the songs stand up wonderfully. These People is very very Housemartins, the jolly singalong tunes accompanied by the everyday tales of banal everyday life.
One look at the song titles will give you more than a hint of what to expect, but these lyrical side swipes never undermine the great Pop of the album. Blogger is the stand out song, cruel but splendid, but all the rest of the album comes close to its greatness.
Powerpop By Numbers is great Power Pop and Band Of The Week is great Brit Pop Pop Rock. A Do-It-All Dad's Denim Dream like so much here is fun packed and Heaton-esque. Soundman is in The Supernaturals territory, hardly surprising since James McColl helps out on the album with Backing Vocals and an assortment of instruments including Saxophone and Flute.
At other times, I'm reminded of Brian Bordello if he were the lead singer in a Power Pop band. But all in all this is a fantastic album. I'm so glad that Joe Greatorex is back, he's been missed. Anyone who can make me laugh in these hard times is worth listening to. Highly Recommended!
You can listen to and buy the album here.
It has been 13 long years since The Good China, but thankfully Icecream Hands are back and it is like they've never been away. The 2019 Tour reunion for the 20th Anniversary of Sweeter Than The Radio has now been cemented by an album of new material.
No Weapon But Love is a Pop Rock masterpiece. There's nothing about what they do that is Rocket Science. They just no what they are doing. The band has four part harmonies which means they could do Beach Boys harmonies all day, they choose to spread these vocals sparingly.
All of the band can play, but the solos only add to the song not the ego. The arrangements are wonderful but tight, no kitchen sink, when a song is done it's done and those trademark killer riffs are all present and correct.
This is all pretty close to Power Pop without any of the I Love You Yes I do. At times, there is a real Tom Petty feel. The beauty of the album is that comparisons can be made to UK and US Pop Rock, but the band are essentially proudly Australian.
The twangs and jangles ring out, particularly on the splendid Roll It Back (which also includes a killer guitar solo) and the slower, Somehow We Never Got Together. Thank You, a homage to music, could be The Traveling Wilburys.
The stand out song is the title track, a fine opener, but So Happy runs it close with its 70s Pop Rock joy bordering on those old Glam Rock ballads. Shyness And Alcohol is another one that runs it close with it's West Coast feel. This is very much a Guitar album, but the piano led closer, Waiting ends proceedings beautifully. No Weapon But Love is simply superb. But would you expect anything less from Icecream Hands?
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Sunday, 6 September 2020
Ian Rushbury reviews The Cleaners From Venus's latest offering and it is on Bandcamp at "Name Your Price".
Martin Newell has a wide variety of hats, which he wears very well. For the “July” EP, he’s popped on the “Cleaners from Venus” hat, which I imagine looks a bit like that sawn-off top hat thing that David Crosby used to wear. It suits him.
There are just four tunes on “July”, but they’re all ace. Enough is as good as a feast, as my old dad used to say and I’m sure Newell would agree with him. The opening track, “Statues” (sadly not his version of the Husker Du tune – imagine what that would have sounded like) is one of those “how come no one has written this before?” songs.
It starts a bit like an outtake from “Mr Tambourine Man” but it has the unmistakeable scent of Wivenhoe about it. The lyrics are typically excellent. Any tune that starts with the couplet: “Now you dare to ask your rulers what they meant / It’s a paperchase of flaming discontent” is A.O.K. with me.
“Golden Lion of the Sun” is the kind of thing The Beatles would have recorded in 1966, if they had to make records in someone’s back-bedroom in Colchester. A nice, laid back latinesque groove, topped off by a lovely understated guitar solo. Where’s Ringo and his claves when you need him?
Track 3, “King Inglorious” showcases Newell’s command of language and easy way with a melody, which lift it from being merely “good” and nudge it into the “borderline great” category. The last track, the beautifully titled “Tricky Customer, Johnny Tomorrow” is – whisper it – an instrumental.
It sounds like the theme music to some long forgotten psychological crime drama, probably starring Edward Woodward. We really need to have a whip-round and get the London Symphony Orchestra to record this, because although it sounds great with Newell’s toybox synth, playing the string parts, the real thing would be astonishing. If they ever remake “The Prisoner”, they could do a lot worse than use this.
And just as you’re beginning to really enjoy it, it fades away. Newell has probably done a dozen projects since “July”, but let’s hope he revisits this type of thing soon. His “Cleaners from Venus” is my favourite Martin Newell hat. If only they did them in my size…
You can get this EP at Name Your Price here.
As IDHAS uses September as catch up month for reviews, the realisation kicks in of how far behind you actually are. This splendid Red Skylark album was released on Ray Gianchetti's excellent Kool Kat label in April and Mr Tardy finally gets around to telling you all about it.
Red Skylark is the solo project of Columbus Ohio's Ed Shuttleworth and this collection gathers together both the 2015 album, Red Skylark 1 and this year's RunOn EP. This results in a cohesive 14 song affair that offers up plenty of great Pop Rock.
Collection 1 is incredibly melodic and beautifully produced. The Run On EP occupies the five opening songs and these are gentler riff led affairs. Run On is driving Pop Rock, very Per Gessle, whilst Two Shades Of Fine is all jangly and Soulfire Gone may be the best thing on the album with its hints of The Cult and killer riff.
The rest is just as good, but has far more of a Brit Pop and 60's Pop Rock feel, Love Airwave particularly so. Soft Soul has a real Psych Pop tint and Mother Faces could be The Who before it all got a bit too bombastic. Comedown even ventures into Mid 60's Beat territory.
Hey Precious Stone is another jangling joy and Bad Dream could be UK New Wave. There's so much to admire here. I hear Kula Shaker at times, even The Kinks and some of the Guitar Riffs are reminiscent of Alex Lifeson's first half of the Eighties, if not the material.
The album is also another triumph for the Kool Kat label. Ray seems to be single handedly keeping Physical releases alive and he has a fine ear. Red Skylark provide melodic Pop Rock of the highest order without ever needing to shatter your eardrums. Excellent!
You can order the CD from Kool Kat here. You can listen to both Red Skylark 1 and Run here. Both are also available for download at the Bandcamp site.
Richmond, Virginia's Plastic Nancy's second full length album moves them on a pace. This is a storming albums of 60's based rock that splits two ways. It is a wonderful Psych album that switches between laid back riff led fuzz and a more experimental acid direction that is mind blowing.
The more casual listener will favour the predominately lighter Psych, but here in IDHAS land, it's the stretch out stuff that resonates most. The muddy free for all that is Sweet Release is exceptional, almost mind blowing.
See is a mixture of the two styles, a crunching opening that leads into an almost jangle fest. The Landing is 70s Pink Floyd-ish in its feel and Memory is in dream like territory. The variety and versatility with the closer, Electric Flowers which is all laid back, almost West Coast like.
The stand out here though is Taking Off which is the most commercial the band get. This is almost Garage Pop Rock and an absolute gem that you can hear on an upcoming Audio Extravaganza. Great Psych albums are hard to find lately. This is probably the best that you'll hear all year.
You can listen to and buy the album here. The album is available at Name Your Price, so what have you got to lose?
Tuesday, 1 September 2020
Sydney's Peter Marley is a busy man, but whatever he comes up with is always top notch. Most notable for his adventures in the wonderful The Nature Strip, you can read the IDHAS reviews of the band's Presents and Beetle Bones albums here and here.
He's also part of the excellent Alt Country / Folk band, Fallon Cush. Now we have Marveline, Marley's debut solo album and you can easily note The Nature Strip influence, but the album has less in common with that band's XTC similarities, concentrating far more on Pop.
That Pop encompasses a whole range of styles including Pop Rock, Psych Pop, Synth Pop and more straight ahead stuff. You'd expect some of this when an artist is set free from band democracy, but not necessarily for the artist to get it so right.
There's not a hint of self indulgence here, variance yes. Gonna Get Myself is a surprisingly loose opener, a bit baggy, a bit more Manchester Brit Pop and that contrasts wonderful with the magnificent, Turpentine, an absolute wonder of a song. I've played it on the Audio Extravaganza and I've no doubt that it will appear again on the Best Of Year show.
Made Of Stars is fine laid back 70's Pop Rock with a killer riff and Another Perfect Day is all Glasgow Post 1986. Monkey Mind is mid 80's Synth Rock, deliberately so. It also is lyrically great, Difford And Tilbrook like.
How Green The Grass and In The Garden both contain big hints of Psych Pop and Marley's vocal is very close in style to Orgone Box's Rick Corcoran. The former is more poppy, but In The Garden hits home most with a Ray Davies feel.
There are also two instrumentals among the dozen songs. (Theme From An Imaginary) Cop Show made me go all misty eyed for Starsky And Hutch and Something Sweet is a Bossa Nova Spaghetti Western affair. All in All, Savoury Toothed Tiger is an absolute cracker of an album. I can't recommend it highly enough.
You can listen to and buy the album here. You really should!
Cardiff's KEYS have presented a fine Pop Rock album. The reaction to lockdown was to record a Bedroom album on 4 Track and it works beautifully. There's a lot of snobbery about lo-fi and 4 Track recording from the Garage Band devotees who strive for a higher technical sound on their dull outpourings.
How many tracks do you need to write great Pop and my experience is that having all the audio tools just makes you mess about with songs more. When you can write songs as good as this it doesn't matter if they are recorded on Cassette or your new Mac.
Matthew Evans is not only a songwriter to be admired, but he also has a wonderful gentle lazy vocal style that works beautifully. Home Schooling is reminiscent of 70's Pop Rock albums in the Badfinger and Jigsaw mould.
However, KEYS aren't afraid to branch out in other directions. Songs Cold Hands and Trick Of The Light have a Psych Pop vibe and This Side Of Luv nails the Glam Pop of Bay City Rollers perfectly, including the false ending. Your Name Across My Heart sounds distinctly Lennon-ish and Pressure Cooker is a wonderful Electronic Psych Instrumental.
The band are best at that aforementioned 70's Pop Rock though. The Strain is the best example of this, but Phases comes close, it really does sound 1975. I'd heard trailers of the album and thought they were really promising, but wondered if the band could hold a full album together without it seeming samey. Well they have, superbly so.
You can listen to the album here or more importantly, buy it here.
Huntington Beach's The Aquabats are well into their third decade now, not bad for a supposed band of cartoonish Superheroes. That's because if you concentrate on the music rather than the costumes, it is actually kind of good and really good fun.
True, the themes are very "let's fight crime" in a 1960's Batman way and the songs seemed aimed at a younger audience, but there is some great pop on display. It is all reminiscent of 80's MTV Band Pop with its emphasis on wackiness and geek, but there is more here than that.
The style is like a cross between Devo and B52's, although at times, I'm reminded a lot of the UK band, Space, particularly on Dangerous Leon. Pajamazon is all Euro Pop, think Aqua and songs like Sneak Attack and No One Wants To Party are incredibly catchy.
The songs are really twee and a little kiddy like, but they are meant to be. This isn't meant to be deep meaningful Indie Pop, it's dance and sing orientated and it may be best to stop taking things and yourself so seriously. Enjoy the joy and everyone loves a Superhero. Right?
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Monday, 31 August 2020
August has been quiet on I Don't Hear A Single, but it hasn't been quiet for I Don't Hear A Single. The month is usually a quiet time for releases and Festival heavy. So the plan was originally to do the second stage of the plans then. However Covid changed all that.
The first stage was put on hold because the world had stopped, rightly so and I still sense that it's starting again a bit too quickly. But it did make sense to start to get underway with things that could now be started. Gigs and Travel are gone, but distribution is getting nearer to normality and so that's were the efforts have been made.
You'll see the announcements as the month progresses, they are exciting but still limited. However, I feel that now is the time to get this place kicking again as the Reviews are backing up. So, from tomorrow, September will mean catching up. There'll be tons of reviews in the month, some may be a bit shorter or grouped, we'll see, but for now IDHAS will continue as normal, just with more stuff.
There'll be a new Audio Extravaganza this week and two great interviews are in progress. I'll also be returning properly to Social Media. I'm sure you've missed the rattling cages, although I'm still avoiding Forum Groups as I just got tired of the in fighting and nonsense. I'll keep you in suspense about the new developments, but promise to tell you all as soon as we are ready.
Until then, get your lugholes ready for some great albums from the new and under appreciated.
Wednesday, 26 August 2020
“I'm the guy who sells four albums every twelve years, right?” Anton Barbeau talks about “success”, the mainstream, krautrock and the gaps in his Todd Rundgren album collection to Ian Rushbury.
Double albums, eh? Tricky little blighters. You’ve been waiting around since “Quadrophenia” for one to arrive and then two come at once. Just when you thought that everyone was veering away from the epic grandeur of the two-album set, both Spygenius and everybody’s favourite pop-psychedelic troubadour, Anton Barbeau, have released one.
Sadly, neither have sleeves designed by Roger Dean, which is a bit of a shame. IDHAS caught up with the King of Air Miles, Anton Barbeau, to find out why the world needs a krautrock infused, pop-rock-psychedelia concept album about travelling (and music), loaded with avian references.
“Manbird” is a good, old fashioned, lavish and sprawling, concept album. But what’s the concept?
"It’s about leaving the nest and trying to find myself in the big scary world and trying to find out what it all is. In the past years, I’ve done loads of travelling and I've been in a permanent state of jet lag for months at a time - always living with a suitcase at hand.
My life has been divided between living in Europe and coming back to California, so it’s looking back at a life of travelling or being afraid to move at all. I think there’s also a theme of music as well,and how music has been essential to me, from the very beginning. I was born a Beatles baby, so that’s always been there, and that plays out in a couple of songs."
And the bird references?
"The bird theme was really convenient as everywhere I go, there are birds – I’m on a farm right now, and I can hear flickers and scrub jays and vultures, bluebirds and hawks and quail. In Berlin there were wood pigeons and crows and magpies."
Recording this album in multiple locations, as far flung as California, Berlin and Oxford, how the hell do you keep track of what you’re working on?
Everything goes onto one hard drive (laughs). At the moment, I have two laptops and everything then gets consolidated onto another computer. I've been making records this way for a while. I've sometimes done the jet lag thing, where the first thing you want to do after you land, is get all the stuff that you've recorded in California on the Berlin drive and I've gone the wrong way. I don't know how I manage to keep it all together, but somehow, I do."
It's 2020 and no one can concentrate for more than thirty seconds at a time any more. Why on earth have you released a double album?
"I knew that this album was going to have a theme to it and that it was going to be a concept thing, because it was inspired by the film “Lady Bird” (a coming-of-age-in-Catholic-school story set in Sacramento, Barbeau’s home town), so I already knew what the timbre of it was going to be.
When I started working on it, I knew that it couldn't be contained in a small space - it felt like it wanted to tell a story. The way I work is that most of the time, I don't know what it is I'm doing until I’m some way down the line, then I can start to see what the themes are.
But in this case, those themes were obvious from the outset and it just made sense that it was going to spread out. There was a moment where I thought, “oh no, it's going to be a triple album!”
The people who pre-ordered the record and helped us fund it in the first place, are going to get a third disc of stuff, but that isn’t as developed as the other two, so the triple album idea was nipped in the bud."
Like some of your recent albums, this record was crowdfunded. This must mean that reaching out directly to your fanbase has been successful?
"Yeah - it’s funny, as the word successful is shocking in relation to anything I do. I'm the guy who sells four albums every twelve years, right? When I was doing a campaign with Pledge Music, I met up with one of the guys who was helping me with my campaign at the time.
He said, “you're one of our most successful artists” and I replied, “what do you mean? How dare you!” He meant that I had run two or three successful campaigns, so by Pledge Music standards, I was successful. I was really taken aback at hearing the word ‘successful’ applied to me and my career."
So, you’re a fan of this method of funding for albums?
"As far as crowdfunding goes, it's been something that I've been able to make work, but it’s also something that I hate doing. Artists who do it, all try to put on a happy face and make it look like it’s an enjoyable thing to go through.
In the case of “Manbird”, we put the campaign together ourselves. We didn't use an outside company like Kickstarter or Pledge, we just set up a website ourselves and that was really enjoyable. A nice organic way to do it. It was from the heart and without any of the icky, behind the scenes stuff. We were setting out our own terms and it was really quite fun this time. Very gratifying. Very satisfying."
It's a great looking package.
"Much credit has to go to (graphic artist) Julia VBH - she’s really pulled it together. We collaborate, but she does much of the work. She did a beautiful job with this. I spent forty minutes the other day just looking at the lyric sheet and poster. It's my own record and I'm still fascinated with it. I wanted it to be something that people will spend time with - especially as it’s a double album, but I was surprised at how wonderful it turned out to be."
The front cover has more than a whiff of an early seventies, prog rock album on the Vertigo label…
That's what we thought, too - it feels very early seventies. There are a lot of things coming together in this record - a lot of things crisscrossed. None of it was planned - you grab this element and that element and you put them together and something new happens. The photo of the canal on the cover was taken two minutes from where I live in Berlin. I'm on that bridge every day, taking pictures of the same canal."
Am I wrong in thinking that the first CD is almost “mainstream”, with much of the weird stuff occurring on disc two?
"I think there's some conscious effort in that direction. Is it mainstream? I don't mind that word. I'll never be mainstream. I always think I'm the next Beatles, but apparently, I'm not! There's still enough weird variety from me on the first disc - it’s still enough of a bumpy ride. I's such a big record that even I can’t say, “here’s my intention at this point, here's what happens in the middle.”
I don't have that vision, but definitely side two is meant to be a ‘B’ side. If you picture the whole thing as a single - two songs on a piece of vinyl - the ‘A’ side is the pop hit and the other track is the weird ‘B’ side. It's not a linear story, I couldn’t write it down on a piece of paper or do bullet points. It's all over the place, time wise."
And stylistically – talk me through the country-romanesque curio, “Cowboy John Meets Greensleeves”, please…
The “Cowboy John” part is the entirety of the first song I ever wrote as an eight-year-old - my first attempt at creating original music and lyrics. I would sit and play it on the piano for hours. And “Greensleeves”, is… “Greensleeves.” I don't think I wrote that... That's an early childhood memory that got grafted on."
Apart from that pre-teenage magnum opus, you haven’t re-recorded any of your previous material for this record, like you did for “Natural Causes”?
"Everything on “Manbird” was written for this record. There have been a few recent records – “Natural Causes” and “Kenny Versus Thrust” in particular, plus the “Antronica” stuff, which are meant to be, either an introduction to my work for newcomers, or a reintroduction to my work to people who may have dropped off to sleep after album twenty-three, or whatever.
There, I’m taking certain songs and giving them a new life, or what I hope is a more definitive presentation. “Natural Causes” is a record that I’m really pleased with. I'm happy with the remakes on that album and it's a very complete album in its own right, even if the songs aren't all original. It’s one of my favourite albums that I’ve done. I think it has a lovely sound to it – Popol Vuh meets pop music!"
Talking about Popol Vuh, there seems to be a little bit of krautrock in “Manbird.” “Beak” and “Beak II” both have a motorik feel. Ever thought of doing a krautrock themed record?
"I have thought about it – I’ve got a few krautrock tracks which are coming out on a pair of Fruits de Mer compilations. They’re not particularly long tracks and I think if you’re going to do it properly, like a forty-minute piece, you really have to commit to it. I can do it on my own, but when you get a bunch of people together to play something like that, it’s a whole different thing altogether. You want that almost spiritual experience.
I did a track called “In a Boat on the Sea”, for an album called “Drug Free” a few years ago. It was at the end of the recording of the album and I wanted to get a bunch of people into the studio, just for the experience of recording live. We ended up doing this really beautiful, krauty track."
Aside from the Germanic influences, do I detect a bit of Todd Rundgren creeping into your work every now and then?
"I'm a fan, but I couldn't say he's a real influence. because I don't know his stuff that well. It's funny because Michael Urbano and Larry Tagg play on this record and they’ve both played with Todd, so there is a connection.
In recent years, I've been digging out stuff by him and starting to get more and more into it and paying more attention. I saw him live once and it was an amazing gig - one of those, "oh right, you're that guy" gigs. But for some reason, I can't claim myself as a bona fide Todd Rundgren fan, but I probably will by next week!"
You do realise that admitting to a lack of knowledge of Todd Rundgren and recording a radically reworked version of Big Star’s “September Gurls” in 2017 for your “Heaven is in Your Mind” EP, will result in death threats from hard-core powerpop fans?
"I can’t even remember how my version of “September Gurls” goes! I'll have to dig it out again. I don't think it was a conscious decision along the lines of, “I'm going to move this song over in another direction - I'll show them!", but I certainly have no patience for rigid thinking in any genre.
I understand that, because the song is so good, that you don't want to dishonour a song that you really care about. When I was younger, I probably would, but we're all running out of time now - life is short and life is precious.
That track came out on Fruits De Mer which is a pretty psychedelic label, so the audience is already pretty freaked out and expecting something unusual. I know Ken Stringfellow and Jody Stephens liked my version of "I'm in Love with a Girl", but I'm not sure if they’ve heard "September Gurls".
And so, we leave Mr Barbeau to brush up on the Todd Rundgren back catalogue and check his front garden for aggrieved, knife wielding powerpop afficionados. “Manbird” is another in a long line of paisley-hued pop rock records that bounces around the musical spectrum like a kangaroo with ADHD. But this time, there’s double the amount of it.
It might not be as linear as that concept album about the deaf, dumb and blind chap, or the one about the lamb lying down in Broadstairs, but it’s well worth the time and effort. Get your headphones and make yourself, comfy, you’re in for a fascinating ride… just watch out for the birds.
You can pre-order Manbird and listen to and buy other Anton delights here.
Edinburgh Trio follow up 2016's splendid debut album MGC 1 with MGC 2 offering an easily remembered labelling for those of a certain age like myself. This album does feel a little different to the debut. It's not a massive shift, the great parts are still present and correct.
There was always a versatility to a trio were all three sing and the marvellous Big Beat on the debut revealed how versatile the band could be, The shift here is in the direction, the UK 70s Pop Rock and Glam Influence are still easily spotted, but MGC 2 in general steps more into America.
If it was not for lockdown, I suspect that these set of 10 fine offerings would have been honed into a blazing live set. We have to wait and see for that, but the shift is noticeable. Album Two ventures into more Classic Rock territory, Southern Rock at times, Blues Rock at others. Previously you thought the band might morph into early Queen, now it sounds more like Free.
I've Been Waiting could be the slow one on a Bad Company Swansong album, but this calmer song isn't representative of what you'll here. There's some real Flared Trousers Power Trio Plank Spanking on Professional Noise.
The two trailing singles, Mary Mary and BB2 are present and the latter still sounds like the cracking slice of Glam Rock Boogie that it is. Sea Of Cortez is fine Laurel Canyon laid back Rock and is complemented by the closer, Morning Sun which again sounds very Californian.
Those Glam Rock riffs are still around, Rogue is great Pop Rock, almost Status Quo 1974. Sweet Spot should be on Rak, so Chinn and Chapman it is. There's so much here to like and I don't hear many more around doing this type of Rock and certainly not as well.
You can buy and listen to the album here.
Whilst we await the re-release of the wonderful (Suburban Crimes Of) Every Happiness next month, I've been remiss in not covering the current album The Odd Shower and The Bitter Springs deserve as much attention as anyone will give them.
Wrongly lobbed in with the Punks, there isn't a hint of a Safety Pin in what they do. In Simon Rivers, we have one of the greatest lyricists around as well as the Vic Goddard connection. Rivers has more in common with Jarvis Cocker or Edwyn Collins.
Although varied, their music is far closer to the mainstream than you think, although when they go off script, they get off script they get even better. Angry All The Time is close to seven minutes in length and if you imagine The Fall going Psych, you'd not be a million miles away from the vibe.
Rivers is at his best when he's writing about the banal, every day life observations that are delivered with a biting wit. Best example here is the splendid Men Behaving Badly, but there are more and contrast that with the lounge lizard of The Odd Shadow. Cold Semen Rain is also beautifully mellow.
Not as commercial, but my favourite song here is the magnificent Addison Brothers that includes some fine Goddard keyboards. Girls In F.I.T.S. is prime time Cocker and Life Goes On Forever goes all Brit Pop to fine effect.
There is so much here amongst these 15 Songs, it's more a Now That's What I Call Songwriting Volume 1. Rivers can't do mediocre, every song brings something different and compelling. This is Indie Rock without the repetition. The Odd Shower is an absolute gem of an album.
You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about the band here.
Monday, 24 August 2020
Simon Bristoll's Captain Wilberforce must have been banging his head against the nearest brick wall withThat She Knows, because it may be the all those Neil Finn comparisons. If only 10% of those Finn fans bought his back cat, he would be retiring to Whitby,
Where you can see the previous Finn comparisons, I've made them myself, there was always far more to Captain Wilberforce and here they prove it. The songwriting is still as spot on, but When The Dust Just Won't Settle feels far more like a band album and that has fleshed out those songs.
The album also feels more in your face. The hooks are still plentiful, but the vocals and riffs shout out far more. This is most pronounced on the two opening songs which fairly rock, but it is also further evident in the production.
Sad Machine is all rock riff and programmed drums, but The Last Dance Is Over is most reflective of the bigger sound. These two fine introductions lead to more expected vibes. It is certainly ok to reference Neil Finn on I Think That She Knows because it may be the best Crowded House song that they didn't perform on.
Silence Echoes is splendidly moody and melancholic and When It Rains has a wonderful 60's Flute feel, sounding very Graham Gouldman. Take Me Home is a wonderful Beach Boys cum Beatles harmonic closer.
There's more than enough here to satisfy long term fans. The album stretches into new, less familiar, territory and it is that that works best. There may not be a Rock album in CAPTAIN Wilberforce but the diversions in that direction add to the joy.
You can listen to and buy the album here. You can read Ian Rushbury's IDHAS Interview with Simon here. You can also buy the CD from Kool Kat in the States here.
Notes From A Recent Past is the type of album that I haven't played in over two decades and that's no disrespect intended towards The Young Wait because this is a corker of an album, a cracking listen. It's simply the genre and its relations wot did it guv.
There came to pass a time when everyone wanted to be the Allman Brothers and that mixed with the likes of Southern Rock's return and the The Black Crowes, Wilco and Americana Rock. This led to a sort of loose American Rock that showed people could play and even sing, but what they came up with was just so dull. Jams are for Scones.
Don't get me wrong, it was the masses who joined the parade that were the problem, they grew their hair and doubled the length of their songs and they were away. The best could still captivate, certainly Tom Petty and Wilco until it all got a bit wanky, but most were just tedious.
So this brand of American Rock has been saved, not by an American, but by a quartet from San Sebastian. 12 songs in 45 minutes, on the ace Lucinda Records, that capture how this sound should always have been. I notice that all the reviews online seem to be Spanish, so hopefully this will kick off the English writing world.
The album is so good that it is so good that it's hard to pick out one particular song. The p[laying and arrangements are so tight and beautifully played and all the songs have a certain feel, but none are the same. Simple Things Rocks like a good 'un and Cabo Shamo fairly rattles along in a Blues Rock vein.
Only Fate Knew What's Done is instrumentally in Crazy Horse territory, beautifully so. The album is at its best though when it concentrates on the good ole boy Rawk, The Young Wait are so good at it. Never Sleep 'til Regret and Absolute Boy, which is top notch Petty, are the best examples, but the whole album is so damn good.
Here's hoping that the rest of the world pick up on this superb album. There's no justice in the world if they don't. You can listen to and buy the album here.
And Justice For All is the Helsinki quartet's second full length album and whilst essentially being Indie Rock, there's plenty of variety here to revel in. Teemu Tanner's vocal sound is very Gaz Coombes, but Love Sport are no Supergrass. This is a really intelligent offering.
With a killer rhythm section and Guitar Riffs that crunch and border on Prog at times, there is a hell of a lot to like here. The vibe may veer towards the likes of Pavement, but that aforementioned guitar crunch makes this far more than that.
When the band let loose, there is some wonderful Rock licks, particularly on Wash. Yet this is an album very much built on riffs, any solos provide icing on the cake. Keying Cars meanders splendidly with a Peter Hook type Bass Run and Wrong Kind Of Evil is great Brit Pop.
The Biggest Liar jingles and jangles at pace in a Glasgow manner. The closer, Giant Hoof is corking indie, but the stand out is the joyous, Life's A Joke which has so much in its 3 minutes, driving rhythm, singalong chorus and a closing heightened guitar close.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Tuesday, 11 August 2020
The Alain Pire Experience are a tremendous three piece combo from Belgium making captivating and engaging psychedelic music of dazzling clarity and purpose that both charms and amazes with equal measure. Not only is Pire a talented melodic songwriter with a perfectly suited voice, he’s also a fine guitarist of some note.
It is obvious from the very first play of any of the three studio albums released so far that that his knowledge of psychedelia is both intimate and extensive. So much so you could almost believe he holds a PhD in British Psychedelic Music…oh hold on, he actually does, as you will see later.
Despite all this vital stuff, his music is authentic to himself more that anything else and that is what makes it so special. Each album is a multilayered adventure in everything you love about psychedelic music and more. Overflowing with clever invention and surprises, it is music from and for the heart and the mind, that is both uncannily familiar and yet totally fresh and new.
Lets see what Alain has to tell us shall we?
“I was born in 1953 and one of my earliest memories about music happened when I was five. In 1958, the Universal Exhibition took place in Brussels, with the Atomium and many futuristic buildings. I was lucky enough to go there three times with my Grandfather.
I remember clearly that on one occasion, we stopped by the Swiss Pavilion, which was probably not the most psychedelic of all, but there I saw a band playing, probably Oberbayern crap music. I managed to go behind the stage and looked at the drummer in awe. I said to myself, “This is what I want to do“
Some years later, my parents bought me a little fanfare snare drum and I began to play along to music that I heard on the radio. A bit later on, I used to go down the cellar with a small electrophone, my snare and some empty glass bottles that I used as cymbals. It seems that I was possessed by rhythms and music.
In the late Fifties, I had uncles who listened to music like Paul Anka or Buddy Holly so I immersed myself into that. And then in the early 60s, I had neighbours who listened to what we call “Yé Yé” music in French, which consisted mainly of American or British covers sung in French. They also listened to the Shadows and Hank Marvin impressed me a lot with his guitar sound.
But the real start came with the British Invasion of 63-64. I became, like many others, a huge fan of The Beatles, The Stones and The Animals. The distorted guitar of Satisfaction just blew my mind. Then the Yardbirds with stuff like Heart Full of Soul or For Your Love. After that Cream came along, I was so fascinated by Clapton’s playing, in interaction with Bruce and Baker, it was just wow!
At the time, I was like a sponge. Every week, we went to the record store to discover the new releases and it was just amazing to see the amount of good music that was released in a short period of time. My parents weren’t rich so I used to work in a gas station at weekends to make some money in order to buy …records of course. And the most influential record that I bought at the time was Sgt Pepper. I became completely fascinated and obsessed by the creativity that was sweating from that album."
"I managed to make enough money at the Gas Station to buy an old drum kit. Then I really started to learn how to play. I had a friend, André Lohest, who was an accomplished drummer at the time and I often went to his attic to see him play or rehearse with his band. I also took a few drumming lessons at the music school to improve my snare drum technique.
I was dreaming of a Ludwig drum kit, like Ringo and I managed to buy a second hand one – a dream come true. I began to play in ballrooms shortly after. It was a decent way to make some money while still being a student. It helped me buy my first car, an old Citroën 2 CV.
But, playing five or six hours in a row turned into a real drag after a while, not to mention unloading and loading drums into the car. I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed to learn a new instrument. As girls seemed to be more interested in guitar players than drummers, my choice was obvious. I began to learn guitar around the age of eighteen and very soon, it became my instrument of choice.
My first electric kit was an old Fender Stratocaster and an AC30 Vox amp. I never had any guitar lessons, only learnt by ear, except for the basic chords that I found in a small book. Improvising was an obvious choice, so I began to dabble on the guitar neck to find what were the right notes in a certain key and then transposed it to the other keys. I don’t pretend that I invented anything on guitar, but I’ve always been keen to try to play like myself and not be a copycat.”
Were you in any bands in those early days worth mentioning here?
“Absolutely not ! I’m a slowly maturing person and it took me years, if not decades, to really find what I wanted to do musically speaking, according to my musical knowledge and taste.”
What were the first songs you wrote?
“I don’t remember the first ones, I have a recollection of song that I did with a friend in the early Eighties, but it was more Synth based. Then I played in a four piece band named Such a Noise, which was more rock influenced. I wrote some songs, one in particular named On The Riverside, which was inspired by The Allman Brothers’ Whipping Post. I recorded three albums with them and we toured rather extensively, doing opening for acts like Deep Purple and Ten Years After.”
When did you first start getting into psychedelic music?
“When I was sixteen, I used to listen to Revolver, Sgt Pepper, SF Sorrow, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Are You Experienced, Axis Bold as Love, Space Ritual etc. I’ve always been a huge fan of Dark Star by the Grateful Dead and I had the chance to see them at Wembley in 72. I also dug krautrock a lot, Amon Duul, Guru Guru, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can and Klaus Schulze.
The idea of making psych music myself slowly emerged in the early Nineties, when people began to look in the rear-view mirror. A wave of Neo-Psych came along, with bands like The Stone Roses, Asteroid N°4, The Dukes of Stratosphear, Spacemen 3, Primal Scream, and Spiritualized.
I formed a band named Michel Drucker Experience. We sang in French, but we had some decent psychedelic songs here and there.
In the late 90s, when I found a renewed interest into psychedelia, I was struck, as a musician, by the amount of creativity that took place between the end of 1965 to early 1968. I really wanted to understand how and why that musical style came to the fore.
I already had a Master Degree in Communication and I remembered one of my teachers, Pol Gossiaux, who was an anthropologist. I had really appreciated his lessons so one evening, I phoned to him, asking if he would agree to be my supervisor for a PhD about psychedelia. I really expected him to hang up the phone but surprisingly, he said, “Come next week to my office with a list of books that you plan to read”. It was very exciting to say the least.
I started that long process in 1999 and finally got my PhD in 2009. I read tons of books about the Hippie movement, the Counterculture, the music scene both in California and in England and the drug culture, the effect of hallucinogenic drugs on creativity.
I interviewed quite a lot of people such as Steve Howe, because he played in Tomorrow before joining Yes, Arthur Brown, Phil May, Dick Taylor, Brian Godding from the Blossom Toes. Joe Boyd, the producer of the early Floyd and Jenny Spires who was one of Syd Barrett’s former girlfriends.
I met John Hoppy Hopkins, who was a counterculture activist back in the 60s and we became really close and he helped me lot. Barry Miles was another 60s activist and biographer of Paul McCartney, he kindly wrote the foreword of my subsequent book."
"After some years, I realised that if I wanted to cover both US and UK psych it would take me too much time, so I focused on the UK psychedelia, which I found interesting enough to fill more than 900 pages. It was divided in three main sections: The history of British Counterculture. The history of Psychedelic drugs and their effects and an analysis of 109 songs.
It’s very hard to define what exactly is Psychedelic Music. To simplify, it has to contain some elements of “strangeness”, either in sounds or in the song structure. It also has the potential to modify the listener’s level of consciousness, at least for the best ones.
I like two kinds of psych songs, the pop ones and the more improvisational ones …such as Cambridge for the pop side and Turn on, Tune in, Drop out for the more free form type of psych.
I could not do my thesis and be serious about music making at the same time, because I also had a full-time teaching job. So, after my PhD was over, I released a book with an edited version of the Thesis for French Editor Camion Blanc named “Anthropologie du Rock Psychédélique Britannique”.
Shortly after, they asked me to translate into French, one of the Syd Barrett’s biography named Dark Globe. It was released in 2011, but it had drained my energy, so I promised myself not to write a book again and to concentrate on writing music only. So then finally comes the Alain Pire Experience, which will most probably be my last band and the most fulfilling one for sure.
I met the two other members of APEx a bit by chance. I have a guitar player friend named Jean Pierre Froidebise and in 2013 he had a gig in Verviers, at the Spirit of 66, a renowned Belgian club. But two weeks before the show he broke an ankle and therefore couldn’t hold his guitar for more than two or three songs, so I played a few numbers while he was singing.
The rhythm section was Marcus Weymaere on drums and René Stock on bass. I was really impressed by the way they interacted together so after the show I told them, “Well guys, I really like the way you’re playing together, I have an idea about a band, give me your phone number, I’ll call you next week”
That’s how it started. They were not into psychedelia at all, so I had to make them listen to some songs that I liked, in order to set the right direction for the band”
So then in 2014 we have the first album, Cambridge.
“Every time I had two or three songs ready, I would call Marcus and René – and still do it the same way now – then they learned the structure on the spot. I always did and still do. three or four takes of each song and then keep the best one for additional vocals, guitars, effects etc. I have an old Roland VS2480 which allows me to record 16 tracks simultaneously, so it’s pretty straightforward to record a whole drum kit, a bass and a guitar.
Afterwards, I export all the tracks and import them into Reason, a multitrack software that I’ve been using for years. At that stage, I add everything that’s required for the song to be complete, like other guitars, all the vocal parts, some keyboards if needed. I like vintage sounds, so I’m keen to use Mellotron, Hammond or Farfisa sounds.
I really wanted to pay tribute to that magical period and the first song that I wrote was Cambridge. It was inspired by Strawberry Fields Forever for the music and by a trip that I made to Cambridge for the lyrics. I’m lucky enough to have my own recording facility at home, so I record most of the stuff myself.
But for Cambridge, I also needed string arrangements, so I contacted my pal, Didier Dessers, who is very strong in reproducing vintage sounds and for creating song arrangements. For most of my songs, I record them at home, but do the mix at Didier’s studio.
Lyrics always come after all the audio is ready. My main sources of inspiration come from psychedelic drugs experiences. But sometimes, I start with a sentence that sounds good and I build up on it though I’m hardly Bruce Springsteen nor Bob Dylan.
At first I wanted to set up a three piece band in the Cream fashion, because I had always been fascinated by songs like Crossroads captured live. I think that the interaction between musicians was incredible. Therefore, I recorded some songs that I put on the first version of the Cambridge album that were more rock than psychedelic.
Maybe I also made a compromise because René and Marcus were coming from a more bluesy background, so I was cautious not to hurt their taste. I soon realised that there was a dichotomy in this album so, after the first batch of 300 sold, I wrote two new songs, Your Elephants Are Everywhere and Things Behind the Sun and I replaced the four rock songs with the new ones.
Retrospectively, I made the right choice, because at the time, the project was still fresh and I didn’t have a clear view on the best musical direction to take to fulfil my needs and dreams. But finally, the official Cambridge album was released with eight tracks, and I’m still really proud of it.”
2017 saw the release of your second album Songs From The 13th Floor
“We had some decent airplay with the Cambridge album, so we began to perform gigs as a band. But I wanted to increase our repertoire, so then I started writing songs for the 2nd album, which has a name inspired by Roky Erickson’s band.
On the writing side, I think that it was a step further. By now my two mates knew what I wanted to do, so I didn’t have to convince them anymore about the musical direction. They play with other bands anyway, so here, it’s Psych only and they know it.
The album, like always, is a blend of Pop tunes and more experimental ones, and it’s maybe more personal, with the exception of Lazin’ In The Afternoon which was inspired by ELO’s 10538 Overture. We still perform most of the 13th Floor songs on stage.”
And two years later we come to your most recent studio album Apex.
“You know, I will turn 67 next October, so I feel a certain sense of urgency, I tend to write faster nowadays, because otherwise, I’m quite a lazy fellow. I’m rather proud of the first track I Saw The Light Today, we open every show with this one. I really like the last two songs as well, Into The Deep and Lost On A Cloud.
The lyrics of Into the Deep are more mythological, I really saw pictures of men getting down into the Abyss … strange influence. I called an old keyboard player friend, Jean-Luc Manderlier, he used to play with Magma back in the day and I knew that he would perfectly understand what I wanted for the keyboard parts.
It’s the first album to include a cover song, one that I really like from George Harrison, Only A Northern Song. I also really dig Have Some Fun, which is a nice Pop tune for me, but unfortunately, the video clip that I started to do about that song was never finished by the guy who were supposed to edit it.”
Would you say you had different influences for each album? Faves at the time that you wanted to echo?
“I think, but I may be wrong, that the influences tended to fade with the time passing, I try to write new songs in the Alain Pire Experience’s flavour nowadays. For example, on the Apex album, only the last two numbers can be clearly identified as Pink Floyd influenced, but again with my own blueprint. On Cambridge, I had several influences, like Cream, or The Beatles, but not only them, because Pink Floyd was never far away.”
I think its fair to say this is retro psych rather than neo psych, though due to the excellent songs, it is fresh and vital. You never really do pastiches of old songs as such, it's original sounding. As if you picked up from where they left off in 69 and ran with it from there.
“Oh thanks. I’m a deep lover of melodies. I think that a song should always contain a melody that touches the listener. I’m always the first one to be touched when I write new material, well at least when it’s good, because I trash a lot of bits that are not interesting enough.
It’s true that I tend to put myself in the late Sixties’ fashion, because this is the period with which I feel a very strong chemistry. I’m not into pastiche, because I want to be totally sincere with what I do and for the first time in my life, I feel really congruent with what I’m doing right now.
I once came across an interview of Jordi Savall, the Spanish Viola de Gamba master. He devoted his life to celebrate Renaissance Music and nobody has anything to say against that. So modestly, I want to pay homage to the period that had the deepest influence on me.
It’s also true that listening to songs that I really like have an influence on the way I’m writing music. For example, I’m a big fan The Temples’ first two albums, I listened to them a lot and even if I don’t have the voice of James Bagshaw, I like the way that they structure their songs, clever song writing, so it inevitably has an influence on me.
I also listened a lot to All Them Witches’ album Dying Surfer Meets his Master and I think that their song El Centro inspired me to write When the Moon Is The Rise, a song that I really love.”
Which is your favourite of the three albums so far? Personally, I think I like all three equally.
“Well, like you, I think that I like the three of them. There are songs that I prefer on each of them, but like I said earlier, I’m so happy to do this music right now that it’s simply a blessing to be able to do it. I’m really happy to have sold lots of albums in the UK and on Bandcamp, I also have many American purchasers, so for an obscure French speaking Belgian guitar player, that’s not too bad.”
So your latest release is a live album.
“I LOVE playing live, it’s a total different approach from studio work even though it’s not always easy to reproduce the sound of the studio on stage, because there are only the three of us. So on some songs we use backing loops that Marcus triggers.
For songs such as Cambridge, Lazin’ In The Afternoon or Your Elephants Are Everywhere, it’s mandatory. On the other side, we have numbers like Drifting South or On The Moon in which we can really improvise and perform a very different version from the original one.
The Psych scene in Belgium is almost nonexistent, so we tend to play in small venues over here with some people considering us as aliens. But when we played at the Fruits de Mer festival in Cardigan for example, we immediately felt the connection with the audience and that was very rewarding to me.”
So how did the Fruits de Mer connection come about?
“I sent Keith Jones an email early 2010 because I really liked a cover of 2000 Light Years from Home by the Spanish band Stay that had been released on Fruits de Mer. When I started the band I wrote again to Keith and he asked me to include Your Elephants on a sampler CD for the 13th Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival goodie bag. Then two or three years later, Keith and Pete Kald asked me if we would be ok to play at the festival… we said YES of course
Even though it’s very far for us, almost a whole day drive to reach Cardigan by car with the equipment, it was worth it. Firstly for the warm audience and then because both years were recorded and I finally released a double live vinyl album, which was totally unexpected!”
Whats coming next ?
“Well, I’ve started writing new material for the next album, but it’s still at a very early stage. I want it to be as good as possible, because it’s possible that this will be my last one… On stage, we are often playing as if it was our last day on Earth. So I don’t know how much time this will last … we’ll see.”
You can listen to and buy Alain's albums here.