Jouis: The Dojo interview

It has been a long wait and they are now reduced in numbers to a 3-piece, but the second Jouis album, Mind Bahnis finally here and it is great. In order to celebrate its release, we here republish and interview made in December 2015 with Louis Pavlo about the first Jouis album.

The article was written by Michael Björn and originally published in Japanese music magazine Strange Days #196, pages 80-83, March 2016. (Yes, it was a long struggle to get it published, but it got there in the end!) 

Copyright © Michael Björn 2016

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With debut album Dojo, Brighton 5-piece Jouis delivered one of the most outstanding progressive rock albums of 2014. Recorded directly to tape in the bands own dojo – an abandoned office block converted to studio – the sound is uniquely organic and relaxed despite an abundance of complex time signatures and spaced out lyrics. The music combines poppy jazz tones from Canterbury with harmonised Crosby, Stills & Nash vocals into a remarkably groovy whole. This is one of those rare prog rock albums that makes you want to dance the night away. Jouis is French for enjoyment and their music is certainly something to enjoy.

In order to find out more about Jouis, we got in touch with Louis Pavlo who is vocalist and keyboardist with the band.

Louis Pavlo (keys, vocals), Jack Dunwoody (lead guitar), Joe Woodham (bass, vocals), Joe Potter (rhythm guitar, vocals), Adam Johnson (drums)

Your new album Dojois fantastic, one of the best of 2014!

Louis: Thank you so much, thats amazing.

 

How did the album come about?

Louis: We always wanted to record an album, but we were never able to find the space for the right money. It is so expensive in England to record. But we chanced upon an abandoned office block in June of 2013. It is great, because weve got so much space and we were able to basically set up our own studio there.

 

Are you renting or squatting? A squat studio, ha ha!

Louis: It is as close as you can get to squatting I suppose. We live there on the grounds that we would stop other people from coming in that arent allowed to be there; its called a guardian scheme. And we pay a small licence fee.

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You recorded the album live to tape in the studio.

Louis: We had a room that we wanted to be the main live room. Our friend and producer Rhys Andrews helped us sound proof it all and helped us get all the good gear and stuff in, which was very handy. We basically have this MCI 70s 24 track tape machine, really nice.

We then essentially spent about a week and a half tracking, and then we spent about another week doing vocals, therearelots of harmonies on there. Then we took the tape to Miloco’s The Engine Room in London and mixed it with Phil Brown for three days, which was amazing.

 

How much was Phil Brown involved in the making of the album?

Louis: We got in touch with Phil through Rhys actually. Phil came around and really liked the vibe; he kept popping back once every three or four weeks and seeing how we were doing on setting it up, giving us little bits of advice, lots of little techniques that he has used over the years. He came round and helped us calibrate the tape machine and things like that. Made sure we were using the right stuff in the right place.

 

Theres a lot of vibe on this album.

Louis: Thank you! Yes, thats something we always try to get down into the recording, because we are all about playing live really and getting into the vibe, getting into the pocketas we sometimes say.

 

Many bands now focus on making analogue and live sounding music, bands like Magic Bus, Syd Arthur, Schnauser

Louis: Absolutely, yeah. Weve played with Syd Arthur many times over the years actually, and theyve helped us out a lot in Canterbury. Theres a great scene there and they are sort of our portal into the progressive world, I suppose.

 

There is also a Canterbury connection in your sound.

Louis: The bands we play with there have this sort of mastery of music. So, although we didnt necessarily listen to much of the old Canterbury scene, we sort of played with other bands locally in Canterbury and absorbed their vibes.

 

One difference is how you sing – harmonies a bit like Crosby, Stills & Nash. Why?

Louis: By the time we were finishing off the album we were all just completely writing it together. We are all songwriters in our own rights, really. And I think that in itself meant that we didnt really feel that we had a need for a lead singer.

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Lets talk about the songs. The album starts with All That Is And Is Oneand it sets the groove that is then maintained throughout.

Louis: It took us a long time to get it to that groovy sort of place, because of the time signaturesit throws me anyway! Ha ha!

Conceptually, side A is about the sun and side B is all about the moon.

 

The song title is a hippie sort of title and if you look through the titles they are all sort of wide-eyed.

Louis: We have a lot of friends that are definitely hippies, and hippies come to our gigs and absolutely love it. But also, we maintain a professional view on things. Lyrically, we are all about philosophy and questioning things – and science is a big influence in it. So although we may seem like hippies, we are not really of the old hippie sort.

 

Lp– with its quite funny pun using the infinity mark for the two os – is a bit scientific I suppose.

Louis:Lpis one of the oldest songs of the record. It feels almost frantic – but then there is the loop aspect of it. I really like playing and singing that song.

 

Hyperceptionseems to be about always being on the road, going somewhere without getting there.

Louis: It definitely started from that. It was one of those days when we were not really happy with consumerism, capitalism and stuff like that. We had one too many joints in the car, and came up with some lyrics like mass production hypes perception– so we are having a massive go at the current state of things.

 

New Mooncombines space travel and mind travel somehow.

Louis: Yeah, absolutely! It is probably my favourite song on the album. Its got a really nice vibe to it. We started visualising all the satellites and all the rubbish going around the earth, and saw this metal moon, the new moon that is made of all that rubbish.

 

Then there isMisty Maker Stomp, which also has a great video.

Louis: The song is originally about the Maker Festival in Cornwall. We played there a few years ago and band member Joe Woodham wrote the lyrics for that song just sort of in the morning on Sunday looking down from the hill. Its a really special place with great vibes.

The guys who did the video, Lucky Bozu (George Johnson and Tommy Norm), made their own interpretation. So the video is about the Misty Maker Mountain, sneezing out a really evil mist that is killing all the village people, and the two main characters go on a journey to fix the mountain.

 

On the albums final track you take on a big perspective. A really big perspective.

Louis: Yeah, ha ha! We put on our Universe Gogglesand travel through space and time and look back on the journey weve just taken. And then look forward to the next.

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Thats not pretentious at all, is it?

Louis: Absolutely, massively! Very dangerous, ha ha! I suppose we get very much into it, we do love it. That song was an amalgamation of different riffs that we had. It became 10 minutes long, and we thought: Wicked, lets write some ridiculous lyrics!!I really like the song, it was one of the last ones we wrote, and it is great fun live.

 

What happens next?

Louis: We want to start playing new songs live for the next tour really. We want to move quickly. Because weve got the studio, we feel like we cant wait around forever because of the nature of the guardian scheme; so we need to take advantage of that and get as much music done as we can. At the moment we are doing it all ourselves, unsigned, and we want to maintain that level of control. To do that, we need to keep the momentum up.

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10 best albums Q1 2019

The last year of the decade has started incredibly nicely: The first quarter of 2019 is full of brilliant releases and I have listed my top ten album picks here in alphabetical order. I am not ranking them as they are all great, but if i had to pick a desert island disc, it would be ‘Every Night Something Happens’ by the Lost Crowns.

Cobalt Chapel – Variants

The Comet Is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery

Deep Cut – Different Planet

Drift Code – Rustin Man

https://rustinman.bandcamp.com/album/drift-code

Duke 72 – Mid Shires Herald

The Hare and Hoofe – The Hare and Hoofe

Lost Crowns – Every Night Something Happens

North Sea Radio Orchestra – Gap Species

The 3rd Eye Flute Band – Music from An Eastern Western

https://paulleftywright.bandcamp.com/album/the-3rd-eye-flute-band-music-from-an-eastern-western 

You tell me – You Tell Me


Lost in the post

If you really want your record to be lost and forgotten, you might want to try to release it just before Christmas, so that the jangle gets drowned out by the noise from all the jingle bells. On top of that, postal services are overloaded causing big delays in delivery. Stop sending all those season’s greeting cards! 

‘Open Sky’ was officially released on December 14th but I didn’t get my copy until January. It is packed to the gills with XTCesque pop perfection. Whatever you do, don’t miss it! 

Mothboxer – Open Sky


Singles and EPs Q1 2019

I usually try to avoid buying singles and EPs, but there are always a few that I have to get anyway.

District Repair Depot – Argy-BARGY EP

Ralegh Long – January 28th, 2019

Twink – Brand New Morning b / w Dreams Turn Into Rainbows

Jarrod Gosling: The Regal Worm interview

In celebration of the final release related to the initial Regal Worm trilogy of albums being released today as “Pig Views. Early Sketches & Scribbles”, we here republish an interview with Jarrod made in October 2014.

The article was written by Michael Björn and originally published in Japanese music magazine Strange Days #184, pages 84-88, March 2015.

Copyright © Michael Björn 2015

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Jarrod Gosling has been active with electronica pop band I Monster back since 1998 when their first album was released. But recently Jarrod has gone back to the progressive music he grew up with. With his heavily keyboards based progressive outfit called Regal Worm, he has already made a slew of intriguing releases that manage to breath new life into the genre while still very much appealing to lovers of 70s progressive rock.

 

SD 184 Regal Worm p 84You call your music prog, but it doesnt try to repeat the structures of classic prog rock.

Jarrod: No. If we go back to the times when the original prog rock bands started, they were basically just playing progressive music following the Beatles Sgt Pepper…’ album. These days, it seems that proghas to have all these definite things like long tracks, solos, Mellotron and such. But really, thats not what progressive music is.

When Marillion came out in the early 80s, they werent doing anything particularly new – they were just being the opposite to progressive in a way! I think some of the new wave and post punk bands from that same era were actually more progressive. So I try to keep that idea when I make my music – even though I am still fitting in to the genre obviously: There are Mellotrons and long tracks and lots of the ideas that are typically labeledprog.

 

SD 184 Regal Worm p 85Some prog seems to be very serious as well, which doesnt apply to you?

Jarrod: I like to be playful. So in spirit, I think it is more in keeping with Frank Zappa, Caravan, Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Hatfield & the North, and Egg – and maybe Syd Barrett, Kevin Ayers and Gentle Giant. There was a sense of humour there and I like to retain that. I am not a virtuoso musician by any means – and I dont think prog should be too serious, thats why a lot of people dont like it!

 

In 2013 you released the download-only EPs Sausagesand Dissecting The Worm (A Taste), and a proper album called Use and Ornament; and now you have just released the album Neither Use Nor Ornament.

Jarrod: It is quite confusing actually.

 

I agree!

Jarrod: Ha ha! I am confused myself with it. The work on Use and Ornamentwas actually started in 2011, and by the time it got released in December 2013 mostly all of it had already been done over a year before that. As I was trying to get a record deal with it, doing the artwork and getting it mastered, I was working on more stuff. So that was going to be for a second album, called Klara Till Slutet. It was going to be a concept album, but it just got a bit too complicated trying to write a story – although I had already written the music. Some of those tracks instead ended up on Dissecting The Wormand some are on Sausages.

However, I wanted to bring something out this year, and thats what became the Neither Use Nor Ornamentalbum. It is a bit of a stopgap release really – and it was going to be a mini album, but then it just got longer, ha ha!

 

The title of Neither Use Nor Ornamentis just negating the previous album?

Jarrod: There is a phrase that people use if a child is not very good at doing something; the parent would say: You are neither use nor ornament.

 

You dont know how to do it but you are not much use as a decoration either.

Jarrod: Exactly. So the first album Use and Ornamentwas a play on that and then I thought Id just play on that a little bit more. And because it is a different album, I ended up with the phrase itself! No one living outside northern England will probably ever get that, but it doesnt really matter.

 

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I would say there are a few more things on your albums that no one will ever getthe album is subtitled A Small Collection Of Big Suites.

Jarrod: Ha ha ha! Yes it is – and obviously theres a suite/sweet pun in the album title, and the carts with the candy, so that brackets the album title. And it describes the album as well, two big suites and three shorter tracks.

 

The album starts with an 18 minute suite with a title that is just as long: Odilon Escapes From The Charcoal Oblivion, But Endeavours To Return And Rescue The Cactus Men

Jarrod: It is a deliberately long title just to be awkward. I just bought a book after Christmas about the turn of the century French artist Odilon Redon. Some of his surreal pictures I really like, there is one of them that is like a moon face flower, and it gave me the idea for the title. Some of the lyrics are actually a quote from one of his pictures in the book.

 

The second track, Animal Attic, sounds like Egg – but it is Egg playing James Last!

Jarrod: Ha ha ha! Well, I love James Last!

 

SD 184 Regal Worm p 87Then theres a short church organ interlude called Tombland Guerrilla.

Jarrod: My wife and I went to Norwich on holiday. The old part of the city is called Tombland, and theres a big cathedral there. I opened one of the side doors of the cathedral, and there is someone playing the organ, so I started recording on my portable PCM recorder. Then I edited it, put effects on and added Mellotron afterwards – so that was a guerrilla recording from Tombland.

 

Other people steal music on internet and you steal it in church!

Jarrod: Yeah, hope Im not going to get done for copyright!!

 

Then we get to Sovereign of the Skies, which is quite poppy. But about three minutes in, there is a James Last sounding part again!

Jarrod: Yeah, well, I wanted to take the track further than just the first part. That song is actually from the unfinished concept album that was going to be about a flying pig creature. Thats why youve got the sovereign of the skies and the swine thing and flying pigs.

 

The King of Sleepis the grand finale. This is a track that is a bit more like traditional prog in the sense that it starts with a theme that then comes back in the end.

Jarrod: With that one, I actually wanted to go back to the original thing. I hadnt done that on any track. It is about dreams really, weird dreams. Not drug induced, but maybe if you had some blue cheese before you go to bed – that kind of effect, just vivid dreams really!

 

You write, perform, produce and design it all yourself.

Jarrod: I do as much myself as I can, because Ive got the other band I Monster which is two of us: this is my own thing and Im the boss, and I dont have to answer to anyone and ask if it is alright. It is up to me if I like it or not – although I cant make other people like it!

 

You use quite a range of vintage equipment.

Jarrod: Yeah, Ive got quite a lot! Thats a very prog thing to do, isnt it! All prog fans like to read the list of instruments, and they like to know theres a real Mellotron there.

 

Your Pig View studio is in your attic – are you watching the pigs from up there?

Jarrod: We live in Hillsborough: If you open the attic window, you can actually hear and almost see the football ground where the team Sheffield Wednesday play at the bottom of the hill; it is about a half a mile away. Then theres Sheffield United on the other side of the city.  Rival fans in Sheffield call the other fans pig fans as a form of abuse. So, because I prefer United even though I live in Hillsborough, I call the studio Pig View.

 

SD 184 Regal Worm p 88

What happens next?

Jarrod: The next album, which will be called Pig Viewsis actually sort of finished now. I am just going through it now and tweaking things and adding little bits here and there. But it is more or less finished so I will be putting it out early next year.

We will also release our new I Monster album in the beginning of next year, which is about all the pioneering synth and keyboard inventors. It is a concept album, but there is no story all the way through, it is just individual tracks that are all based on a particular keyboard, so weve got a song about Robert Moog, who invented the Moog obviously; and theres a song about the Mellotron, how that came about; and the Chamberlin, the American predecessor. And so on. Lots of really, really expensive old gear on it!

Vastly expanded ‘Third Ear Band’ fries your mind

THIRD-EAR-BAND

In all honesty, I would probably never be listening to the Third Ear Band if they had not been part of the underground rock scene in the UK during the late 60s and early 70s. But there they were on the Harvest imprint. And they were indeed very much psychedelic voyagers, yet had nothing musically in common with anyone else. The fact that they did concerts with Pink Floyd, Blind Faith, Kevin Ayers and even the Rolling Stones, and that their albums got good reviews in the rock music press, says more about the open-mindedness of that era than anything else.

The Third Ear Band’s music consists of themed, improvised drones influenced by eastern ragas, deconstructed chamber music, free jazz and a generous helping of dark, archaic folk. Calling them an English Tangerine Dream probably confuses more than it elucidates, but in some sense they were exploring similar unknowable spaces, although primarily with acoustic – rather than electronic – instruments. 

Hence, instead of the almighty Mellotron there is the oboe, the cello, the viola and the violin. Particularly the oboe is a standout ingredient and it sounds quite the part. Add hand drums to that and you have an unusual recipe for mesmerising and fascinating music.

A word that is inevitably comes up in relation to the Third Ear Band is “pagan”, yet their music is not hauntological, at least not in the sense that it tries to rediscover a parallel, pagan England. True, things like alchemy and elements harken back to pre-Christian thinking, but the Third Ear Band seem more aligned with ancient Greece or Egypt; or maybe even with those distant constellations many say the great pyramids are pointing at.

The ‘Elements 1970-71’ collection couples their second and self-titled ‘Third Ear Band’ album about the four elements – air, earth, water and fire – with some previously released and many unreleased recordings that bookend the timeline of the album.

Most fascinating here is the inclusion of the full ‘Abelard & Heloise’ German film soundtrack. Although it has been previously issued using oboe player Paul Minns’ tape copy, it is now remastered from the newly discovered master tapes. It sounds totally amazing, and majestic. On parts 4 and 5 in particular, the deep cello tones really vibrate quite elementally in the room if you turn up the volume a bit. 

Also, given that the hand drums are much less prominent than on the elements album, the music becomes less hypnotic (read: sleep-inducing) and instead floats in the air in front of you.

Among the unreleased recordings, it is especially fascinating to hear the aborted pre-Macbeth recordings of the announced and even advertised but never released “The Dragon Wakes”. The recordings were made by a quite different line-up, but at least on the November 1970 Abbey Road sessions, the transition seems very smooth, and successfully introduces some electric instrumentation in the mix as well. However, the album sessions in February 1971 showcase song-based structures and an almost funky sound with a traditional drum set that I find less interesting.

Taken together with the ‘Earth’ and ‘The Sea (Fire)’ outtakes from the elements album sessions that give a fascinating alternative view and the wealth of BBC sessions, this is quite a massive release, and a highly recommended one.

However, don’t try to listen to all of it in one go, as it could honestly fry your mind. And I mean that literally. As Paul Minns states in the sleeve notes about the aborted “The Dragon Wakes” album: “Paul Buckmaster […] flipped during the recording sessions. On acid, he ran out in the street screaming about the Gurjeffian Eye and I believe stripping off his clothes. He was never the same person afterward and the recordings went no further.”

If you listen too much all at once and overstrain your third ear, it could happen to you as well.

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/third-ear-band-third-ear-band-elements-1970-71-3cd-remastered-expanded-digipak-edition/

The Plastic Penny arcade of 1968

PLASTICPENNY

The Monkees are not the only manufactured 1960s pop group; there were probably quite a few. Labels scouted songs, recorded them with session musicians, and if they had a hit they quickly put together a band and toured it. Plastic Penny were such a band, as you might even gather from the band name…

‘Everything I Am’ – the B-side of the Box Tops’ 1967 debut single –  was recorded by Brian Keith together with session musicians at the suggestion of Page One label boss Larry Page and released in December of that year. By the beginning of 1968 it had reached no. 6 in the UK singles chart and a Plastic Penny band was hastily assembled.

A number of singles and two albums followed before the plastic finally melted down in the summer heat of 1969. However, sole “original” member Brian Keith himself had left already in May 1968, after their follow-up single and fist album ‘Two Sides Of A Penny’ had not managed to make any further impact.

Grapefruit Records have now kindly collected their entire output on a 3CD set appropriately titled ‘Everything I Am – The Complete Plastic Penny’. Apart from the first single from December 1967, a mid-69 outtake and their last single from July 1969, all of it is from 1968. And that is significant in its own right, since it shows a band too busy being caught up in the here and now of touring and recording to probably even notice that they are running the entire gamut from soppy ballads via rock’n’roll covers to instrumental workouts and the occasional yet quite tedious drum solo. 

They might have thought that they were chasing a hit, but it seems to meet that they were rather running too quickly for an increasingly confused audience to follow.

Instrumentally, Plastic Penny never evolved beyond a pop combo, and they attacked the varied styles with the same basic sound – an impression amplified by the fact that they used few studio embellishments beyond the odd string section. But what they lack in sophistication, they make up by seemingly breathing the energy of 1968.

Still, given the rather varied quality of their output, it makes a lot of sense to have everything collected in a box, so that you can cherry pick the good stuff. And there are some really excellent things here, although that first hit single isn’t one of them.

On the first album, the standout track is instead a golden psychedelic nugget titled ‘Mrs. Grundy’ complete with long instrumental outro and end screams. But there are some other great tracks, such as ‘Wake Me Up’, ‘Genevieve’, ‘So Much Older Now’ and ‘It’s A Good Thing’ although Brian Keith’s croon gets a bit taxing after a while, and he unfortunately sings on the majority of the tracks.

‘It’s A Good Thing’ is also the highlight among the first batch of BBC sessions where Brian Keith is still with the band. But then organist Paul Raymond takes over as singer and that makes the remaining BBC sessions more enjoyable, including the take of ‘So Much Older Now’ from the debut album. There are also great BBC session versions of ‘Your Way To Tell Me Go’ and the wonderfully intense ‘Give Me Money’ from the follow up album ‘Currency’ – and album that otherwise just like the first album is a hit and miss affair that is best served up for cherry picking in a box like this.

Activities then wound down due to lack of public interest. But the band petered out with a real bang: their final single is absolutely great. Although the A-side has previously been compiled with reasonably good sound quality on ‘Fairytales Can Come True vol. 4’, I only have the fantastic B-side reworking of ‘Genevieve’ as a crackly needle drop on the ‘A Walk In Alice’s Garden’ bootleg. So getting it in full technicolor sound distortion here is a real treat. Wow!

Speaking of sound quality, it is generally something of a revelation here, although Grapefruit are scant on source details apart from acknowledging that the BBC sessions are from transcription discs. The best previous editions I have are the Airmail paper sleeve releases of both Plastic Penny albums, but with this box the band literally step into my living room. It is that big a difference. 

Furthermore, ‘Two Sides Of A Penny’ is presented in both mono and stereo versions which I am sure will delight collectors, although I have to say that I am untrendy enough to prefer the stereo version!

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/plastic-penny-everything-i-am-the-complete-plastic-penny-3cd-clamshell-boxset/

Vivid debut by Duke 72

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Contemporary Scottish band Big Hogg are classified as “Canterbury scene” on progarchives.com. Although they definitely are influenced by the 1970s, the genre-description raised my expectations too high and initially made it harder for me to get into this great band.

And now Big Hogg offshoot Duke 72 also comes wrapped in genretalia that I find a bit hard to grasp. The band, that apart from Big Hogg members includes drummer Johnny Mitchell on visit from Australia and ex-Trembling Bells Lavinia Blackwall, “evokes the spirit of 1970’s space rock with a Canterbury twist” according to the promo material. That description literally made me stick my fingers in my ears. In order to try to clear my ear canals from wax, that is. It didn’t help.

But don’t get me wrong. I love this album. It is smashing. And it evokes the early 70s for sure, although coming off as more jam rock and proto-prog sounding to my (probably confused and half-deaf) ears, with a funky horn rock vibe at times.

In other words, it isn’t very far away from the mothership. But I think I like the Duke 72 album even better! The vocals here are just superb, and I like the way they muddy up the mix and make the whole thing very organic and analogue sounding.

Supposedly, much of the album was both written and recorded by Big Hogg main man Justin Lumsden and Johnny Mitchell during a 9 hour hyper-productive tracking session, without prior rehearsals. 

The more jam based tracks could indeed have been done like that, but there are also several intricate sections that I am sure took some time to come up with. Also, the vocal interplay is often unusual and rather well thought-through. Just writing the interweaving lyrics would take a lot more time than 9 hours. But whatever the inception mythology, there is definitely carpe diem spontaneity here strong enough to pull you out of your shoes and make your head hit the ceiling. Vivid stuff, indeed!

The album starts out with the short and snappy ‘Weekend by the Sea’ that succinctly introduces all the album’s strengths, including a good melodic hook-line, 70s style voices with strong individuality, and a couple of time shifts to keep things interesting.

Next track ‘Trapped’ starts with some quite heavy guitars and an echo laden vocal pronouncing ominous words like “destroyer”. But just when you think this might be some sort of heavy glam, there is a shift and a poppier vocal section takes over. The section shift repeats and leads into a guitar-led instrumental interlude. The two vocal styles then come together in a quite nice way.

‘Rust and Stars’ again has some incredibly nice and theatrical vocal interplay, this time between male and female voices, over a somewhat funky melody. Great stuff.

The songs around the middle of the album are more in the jam rock vein and might in fact be the ones that originate from the 9 hour session; at least they strike me as less complex. ‘Backbone of a Jellyfish’ has a rolling riff that is repeated over and over by guitar and horns below another irresistible vocal melody. Then comes ‘Isadora’ that also builds from a rather simple musical idea. It is still quite nice although maybe a tad on the long side. Then there is the beautiful ‘Oxblood and Rings’ with relaxed guitar strumming and soothing horns followed by some hushed flute. On ‘Evil Genius’ we are back to the funky rhythms and the slightly ominous vocal tone. Again, not an extremely complex track.

If I were to look for Canterbury influences, I would probably go for the “pa pa pa” female vocalising at the beginning of ‘Antique Antiques’. Lumsden then takes over vocal duties in a very convincing way on the more mellow continuation of the track. The guitar playing here is heavy and riffy in proto-prog kind of way.

Finally, the album literally goes out with a bang; or at least the last track ‘Out Of Reach’ starts with one. It is the longest track on the album and doesn’t have much melodic progression. It could at long last be accused for a bit of space rocking, and does have a rather spaced out ending.

In comparison, the prog rock element is easier to find. Not in the music maybe, but on the cover, which depicts a bunch of young tolkienesque elves climbing around in a big tree, like a snapshot from a physical eduction class in Rivendell High School. And the title of the album: The Mid Shires Herald.

Don’t ask me where they came up that – but don’t let it put you off. What’s inside is pure gold.

A little Twink and a lot of Robert Halcrow

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When I recently ordered the new Twink vinyl single that has been released on Gare du Nord Records, in order to save on postage, I also got the self-titled debut CD by District Repair Depot that I had previously overlooked.

Little did I know how well they would fit together.

But let us start from the beginning. Twink, in case you don’t know, was a central figure in the British psychedelic pop movement. He was the drummer in the In-Crowd, together with other luminaries such as Steve Howe and Keith West. They soon changed their name to Tomorrow, and made a near-perfect psychedelic pop album before breaking up. Twink then played with The Pretty Things on the classic ’S.F. Sorrow’ before making a solo LP and then moving on to the Pink Fairies. 

The rest, as they say, is post-history, and I haven’t really been following the various subsequent Twink releases. For this reason, I was not sure what to expect from the ‘Brand New Morning /Dreams Turn Into Rainbows’. Suffice to say, I was blown away. Totally.

The A side is a psychedelic pop nugget that would fit nicely in 1968 and has a clear Barrett-era Pink Floyd influence. Very catchy, with slightly deadpan vocals, and an incredibly nice Mellotron. The B-side ‘Dreams Turn Into Rainbows’ is more hippyish and in line with what I would expect from Twink; spaced-out and with lyrics that are quite fuzzy at the edges. Nevertheless, it is a great track and again the production is spot on for this type of music, including the plaintive Mellotron.

It is so good, that I immediately want to play it again. It isn’t until I turn the single over to play ‘Brand New Morning’ from the start, that I notice it is a co-write between Robert Halcrow and Twink. So that explains the poppy feel of it!

Robert Halcrow has had a band called Picturebox for several years, where he plays pop music influenced by the post-punk era of the 80s and bands like XTC. I always buy their albums, and the latest one, ‘Escapes’, that came out in 2018, is their best yet. It has many really great tracks, such as the sarcastic opener ‘Stumble’, the more introspective ‘Siren’ or the driving pop of ‘I Got the Pox’ with its chaotic and strung-out outro. But my favourite may just be the strange circular tale of ‘The Vicar’s Dog’.

I then went on to play the other record that I had ordered together with the Twink single. It immediately made me sit up straight and listen. Hooky pop songs that don’t make a lot of noise but are totally charmed. Quite indebted to the 1960’s but with a relaxed, almost rural feel to them that both soothe and fill you with wonder. Wow! 

What the hell is this? It turns out that District Repair Depot is again Robert Halcrow, this time together with Stephen Evans. I browse around the internet for a while, but find very little mention of this rather magical little album; it seems I am not the only person who overlooked it upon release. Time to make amends!

Although the songwriting here is top-notch throughout, ‘Flat Stanley’ has all the components of a classic psych-pop song, including a barmy melody with unforgettable story-telling lyrics.

That song alone makes this a must-have album. But before I even have time to wrap my head around the rest of it, my inbox bings with a message from Bandcamp saying that District Repair Depot are about to release a new EP. 

It turns out to be a 4-track EP, called Argy-BARGY, and two of the tracks are already available with the pre-order.

The title track, ‘Argy-Bargy’ is back to the 80s Picturebox style and has an itchy new wave XTC melody, whereas ‘(The Word of) Autumn Feelings’ has that contagious 60s feel again while at the same time taking everything nice and easy. Both of these tracks are incredibly nice, although I might prefer the latter one. Can’t wait to hear the other tracks on the EP upon their release on the 8th of March!