Hello everyone and Happy New Year! It's been a strange and lousy year in many aspects and I didn't have that much time to listen to other music since I started my solo project Astral Magic to keep about sane in lockdown. Sorry for all the reviews I failed to wrote, but this had to be done. Anyway, here's my Top 10 lists, both from Finland and abroad as usual. In no particular order, just random just the way I like it...
Sonic Trip Project is a psychedelic instrumental space rock band from the UK playing live on the psych fest scene of today. Their great guitarist Vince Cory has also played with Øresund Space Collective and contributed to some of my Astral Magic tracks as well, among other things. The other artists here are Darren Butler - drums, Lee Carr, bass/synth/FX, Richard Lanchester - Djembe, Dave Onley + Aaron Electronic Effects & K8 - bubble guns + space suit.
This album was recorded live at The New Avalon Ballroom Memorial for Kozmik Ken in October 2020. In addition to being a big part of the UK Festival scene Ken also happened to be my dear Dj friend for many years on the row at Roadburn Festival in Holland and also at our Psychotropic Caravan Festival in Helsinki. What a loss... I loved the guy, too bad that I never made it to dj at his festival as he would have liked. But okay, let's stay focused on the music here! So what we've got here are six long instrumental psychedelic space rock jams that are filled with wild solo guitar work, spacey effects, groovy rhythms and cool synthesizer stuff. There are also some more relaxed moments like the beautiful beginning of "Elevator Seven" and the dreamy "One Blue Dot", but the main emphasis is on the more rocking stuff. Sonic Trip Project sort of have a style of their own. Even though there's that clear influence of the free festival scene of the 70s and early 80s you can't really say "that track sounds like Hawkwind, that like Ozrics, that like Gong" on anything like that. It's just great, spacey psych/prog/jam music that I really enjoy listening. The gig was mixed by Vince and sounds really good. I hope to see it being released on CD or even vinyl soon but I don't have any details. But at least it is available as digital download from the band's Bandcamp site so go and get it!
Head Music 2LP released in April 2012 (What? Was it that really THAT long ago already?) must be one of the most loved release on Fruits de Mer Records. 18 modern psych artists doing their versions of some of the greatest original Krautrock treasures really worked and there was more stuff available to use on the Shrunken Head Music 2 x 7" in late 2013. Since there really is so much great stuff to choose from for reinterpretion, the massive 2LP/2CD various artists compilation Head in Clouds concentrating on the more electronic side of Krautrock was released a couple of months ago. Since this is Fruits de Mer we're taking about this of course wasn't enough so please let me introduce to you: Head Music 2! This time it's a triple LP with 18 tracks by familiar and so far unknown artists of today doing some famous and some more underground Krautrock numbers with a bit heavier emphasis. There is one exception: Schizo Fun Addict's contibution is only INSPIRED by Cosmic Jokers.
The bands and artists covered are Amon Düül, Amon Düül II (x2), Faust, Agitation Free, Embryo, Michael Rother, Mythos, Eloy, Can (x2), Kraftwerk (x3), Edgar Froese and Brainticket who were Swiss but ofter still regarded as Krautrock. And really mind-blowing as well! Vespero and Spurious Transients get to perform even two tracks, the rest are presenting just one. There are some spacey, even jazzy instrumental jams as well as more cohesive songs to give the album a nice balance and flow. At first listening, Cary Grace's storming version of Amon Düül II's excellent "Clouded by the Stars" is the one that totally spellbound me, she's voice is just perfect for this track. There are some songs that I had not even heard as originals, I must admit (Mythos and Embryo tracks, the bands I was still familair with). There is always something new to check out in Krautrock! Jay Tausig's Can cover "Father Cannot Yell" is one of the most rocking tracks and Maat Lander doing Kraftwerk's "Neon Lights" is probably one of the highlights as well. Having said that, I'm sure that some other tracks will be my favourites after a while since they're all amazing without anything I would have changed. I'm sure fans of the original Krautrock era will love these versions as well and this album will disappear pretty soon like the previous Head releases so be sure to get your copy as soon as possible! This is so cool stuff...
Superfluity is a solo album by multi-instrumentalist and all-around music working man Jonathan Segel. Some of you know him form his old band Hieronymus Firebrain or as a long-time member of Camper Van Beethoven among other things. Lately he has been part of the Øresund Space Collective and has also played guitar and violin on the two latest Astral Magic albums. He's also one of the musicians on the brand-new Spirits Burning album. Superfluity was actually released on 2CD in the UK already in 2017 but Jonathan just regained the rights to release it digitally on Bandcamp so that's why this review was now relevant.
While reviewing Jonathan's latest album Outside Inside I was sort of wanting to have more songs with vocals and my wishes are granted on Superfluity. This is probably a bit more listener-friendly of the two. Overall the music is still as varied so you can find elements from experimental avant-garde to psychedelia and indie rock, folk, jazz and pop music. And yes, I even get some classical music vibes from time to time. There are 17 tracks in total so it would be too much to go through them all here. Most of the tracks are rather short but there are also three longer ones, the jam "Like Mercury, It Slips Through Your Fingers" (12:58), the very trippy and experimental Bandcamp bonus track "Phenomenon an On" and the beautiful "The Dying Stars" (16:25) that gets pretty far-out and jazzy/proggy later on... The very nice and melodic progressive title track "Superfluity" is also rather long at just over the eight-minute marker. Splendid! Jonathan is helped on vocals by Kelly Atkins, Sanna Olsson,
on drums by Mattias Olsson, Chris Pedersen and Andreas Axelsson, bass on tracks 9 & 16 by Mats Burman
and on trombone on tracks 11 & 14 by Stian Grimsta. There's a healthy balance in between written and improvised material to keep things interesting. Although this is rather massive release it can keep me listening intensely for the whole duration. The playing and production is excellent and the album sounds really good. Check it out yourself!
Oop, it seems I have forgotten to mention here that I have released two more ambient/electronic/experimental/cosmic Astral Magic albums since the debut! Inside the Space Cabin and In Orbit are at the moment only available on digital format but please contact me if you would like to make them available in physical form (vinyl, CD, tape)!
I was really sad for missing the ultra rare (50 copies) 5" lathe-cut festival release of this early Pink Floyd cover single so thanks a lot for Fruits de Mer for this second opportunity! Of course the actual festival was cancelled like almost everything else cool this year, but the singles were of course sold anyway. Tony Durant is still active with his legendary Fuchsia and this time he was helped by Susan Kim (violin), Tony Cooper (drums), Alex Bailieu-Joli(recorder) and Emma Greenhill (violin).
"See Emily Play" happens to be one of my absolute favourite Floyd/Barrett songs so I just never get too much of it. Durant's version is in just perfect balance with honoring the original and giving it a new, personal touch. Very nice! Another short but sweet Barrett treat "Bike" is on the other side and it is also excellent. I wish they would have added a couple of more Barrett songs since this just feels too short even with the extended experimental end of "Bike". Anyway, this is a must-have for all Fuchsia and Barrett fans and I am really happy to include it to my collection.
If you like early 70s styled prog rock then this Italian band is just down your alley. I had never heard of them before but as always, Fruits de Mer/Regal Crapomophone are great to introduce me my next favourite bands. It's hard to find info on the band from the web (well, try searching yourself for a band with such a name... Only the band Big Naturals have ever given me more to look at!). Anyway, let's dive into the music.
This is a three-track 7" EP spinning in 33 1/3 rpm. On the A side we have two studio cuts: the five-minute-plus "Metamorphosis" and "Finale" just under three minutes in length. Not you usual 15 min + prog rock jams, but still they do their tricks very well. Both are mostly instrumental, but "Metamorphosis" also has some spoken word giving it a very English vibe. I'm reminded of bands like Caravan etc. Great guitar and organ work and very groovy drums! Later on some cools synths sounds as well. Also "Finale" brings to mind Caravan more than enything else, but definitely also Camel in their golden era. Great! There is also a certain amount of psychedelia in the mix to keep things interesting for us "heads"... But that's not all folks! On the B side we still have a "live" version of "Metamorphosis" that lasts closer to six minutes! Excellent vibe on this one and the live version grows a bit more towards the end. All in all, an excellent little EP that leaves me wanting to hear more of the best of by The Superstars! The EP is on sale now so get yourself a copy.
This is the second ambient solo album by Helsinki-based musician Vesa Partti under his own name. Astral Zone readers might know him from his more space ROCK oriented band Tuliterä or even older projects like Sadkarma. This, however, is the part II of his Ambientwerk trilogy following the first part Aallokko that I reviewed in May.
The new album includes three long instrumental pieces mostly played with synths, sequencers, drum machine and effects. Two of the tracks also include electric guitar. The very dreamy, hypnotic music is mostly based on repetition as layer upon layer gets added to the basic background. There is a certain classic "Berlin-School" vibe on the music but there are also more modern elements. The beats on the opener "Vertikal" are very distorted and crushed, for example. The track could almost be from some unreleased Klaus Schulze album until the modern beat joins in. I truly enjoy the music but have some problems digesting the rather extreme sounding drum machine. It does make the track sound more interesting though, even if this sounds a bit confusing. Gentle melodies caress the dreamy soundscapes, wonderful. You can just made out some treated human voice in the mix towards the end. The second journey "Tropfen" is very ambient and abstract but a slow beat is added later on. "Herbstblad" has beautiful guitar stuff making it the most easily accessible piece on the album but this is not exactly easy-listening either although very pleasant and relaxing. Just close your eyes and float away. This got to be my favourite track this time. The third part of the trilogy will possibly mostly played with a banjo so there are some changes coming... You can buy Vesa's albums from his Bandcamp site for what ever price you want. If you enjoy deep, cosmic and ambient electronic music you really should check them out.