Electronic Sound: Reviews (Issue 82)

Reviews originally published in Issue 82 of Electronic Sound magazine, October 2021:

Between Two Worlds
(Hive Mind)

Like a post-punk Captain Mainwaring, Amsterdam-based Ajay Saggar assembles a raggle-taggle assortment of troops into something really rather glorious. Diffident deputy Oli “Ivan The Tolerable” Heffernan brings considerable multi-instrumental muscle, and elsewhere there are affecting vocal contributions from poet Marieke McKenna and The Mekons’ Sally Timms and Jon Langford. Teenage Fanclub founder Gerard Love, meanwhile, sings sort-of title track ‘I’m In Between Two Worlds’, a wistful paean to lockdown liminality, drenched in mournful melodica.

The whiff of vintage Peel sessions sometimes bleeds through, with ‘I Am A Horse’ a brassy descendent of ‘Hit The North’-era Fall. But the overall mood of this sprawling double album is darkly psychedelic, and the standout vocal comes from Mia Doi Todd, who brings a child-like, crystalline purity to the shimmering ‘Remembering Easby Abbey’. “Little white daisies were growing / We picked them and made ourselves crowns”. As US alt-folk tributes to North Yorkshire English Heritage properties go, it’s up there with the finest.

Album available here:

The Ash Tree
(Library Of The Occult)

Grizzled fans of the BBC’s 1970s Ghost Stories For Christmas will delight in this stately accompaniment to MR James’ chilling tale of witchcraft in windswept Suffolk. Resting analogue synths atop a dusty church organ, Massachusetts-based Renato Montenegro – of prog collective Dust Witch – whistles up a lavishly baroque experience. ‘Thou Shalt See Me In The Morning’ assembles the “Missionary Work Tabernacle Choir”, and the likes of ‘Lady Augusta’s Minuet’ sound like Wendy Carlos infused by the spirit of Henry Purcell, with ‘The Book Of Common Prayer’ resting on her lap. Yep, that good.

Album available here:

Mirror Stage
(Castles In Space)

Santur’s little helper, anyone? Sorry. But Vancouver-based Luke Requena employs this ancient Mesopotamian stringed instrument to great effect, lending an exotically organic feel to his debut solo album. It’s a cosmopolitan affair: ‘Venus Maternal’ is awash with sun-baked Middle-Eastern textures, and the twanging strings of ‘Comet Mist’ –  rising through ominous slabs of analogue synth –  evoke Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas. Elsewhere, there are nods to Meddle-era Pink Floyd, and Vangelis-esque closer ‘Sleepwalking Seagull’ provides an epic conclusion to an impressively ambitious collection.

Album available here:

Vodka Parade
(Wormhole World)

Prolific Luxembourg-dweller Martin Jensen shows no signs of letting up, although the relaxed grooves of this new collection suggest he’s at least unwinding a little. ‘Inside The Brave’ has stoned wah-wahs and a mellifluous bassline, ‘Paradise Together’ is a suitably blissed-out analogue idyll. But there’s grit, too – ‘Suffer Your Sovereignty’ is a deceptively chilled Balearic swipe at Brexit fall-out. “What I see is the past so clear / The things to come were always here” croons regular collaborator Peter Wix. Eclectic and complex, ‘Vodka Parade’ is – ouch – a welcome tonic.

Album available here:

November ‘79
(Woodford Halse)

“For 60-year-old Bob Taylor, 9th November 1979 started out like any other day…” But, given the sinister radiophonics accompanying this arch opening narration, it’s no surprise that events swiftly took a curious turn. Scotsman Bob was the victim of a real-life UFO encounter that left him with alarming trouser damage, and this artful tribute from Klaus Morlock and Matt Peach throws every spooky 1970s trick into two sprawling suites. Funky wah-wahs, lilting mellotrons and disco hi-hats weave between plummy voiceovers to create a splendidly enjoyable West Lothian ‘War Of The Worlds’.

Album available here:

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