Phillip Boa & the Voodooclub
Bozzio Levin Stevens
Brian Jonestown Massacre
Brimstone Solar Radiation Band
Bronnt Industries Kapital
Phosgene Nightmare (2011, 25.27) **½Melanie's Melody
The Boat Song
Choose to Choose
Entrance Song (Rain Dance Version)
Unsurprisingly, Black Angels are clearly in thrall to The Velvet Underground, although thankfully not in the usual eighth-hand indie manner; this lot have actually gone back to their source material. 2011's vinyl-only Phosgene Nightmare EP (after 2010's Phosgene Dream album) was released for 'Record Store Day 2011', an initially good idea that (surprise surprise) has been co-opted by the leeches of the music biz and eBay whores; it's supposedly a collection of b-sides, but I can't actually trace any of its contents to anywhere else. They channel Lou and friends with aplomb: opener Melanie's Melody perfectly captures those few months just before psychedelia hit, Ronettes is Be My Baby reinvented as a funeral dirge as played by the Velvets battling it out with The Byrds, while Entrance Song (Rain Dance Version) is early psych squeezed through Phil Spector's tortured worldview.
The Boat Song features cello and high-end string parts that sound a lot like a Mellotron, without sounding fully like one; is this M-Tron/Memotron/whatever? The sounds work well in context, but it doesn't seem that likely that the band actually sourced a real machine for the recording. Go on, prove me wrong. Anyway, you're not going to find a physical copy of this at all easily, so the point may be rather academic.
Blackfield (2004, 36.59/47.40) ****
|The Hole in Me
[bonus disc adds:
Where is My Love?
Cloudy Now (live)]
Blackfield is a collaboration between Israeli musician Aviv Geffen and Porcupine Tree's inimitable Steven Wilson and, rather unsurprisingly, sounds a lot like the 'Porkies', as they're often appallingly known. The songwriting is of the type that grows on you with familiarity, while the sound is towards the darker end of the Porcupine Tree spectrum, without the metal edge they've developed over their last couple of releases. It's difficult to pick standout tracks on only a listen or two, but, basically, everything sounds good, in a melancholy singer-songwriterish kind of way, with plenty of Steven Wilson touches.
With real strings on several tracks, it's difficult to spot the sampled Mellotron, although there's a high, warbly string line on Glow that's a definite, as are the flutes throughout The Hole In Me. So; a very good album indeed that's bound to be a 'grower', although pretty low on the fake 'Tron front, along with most Porcupine Tree efforts. Buy anyway.
See: Steven Wilson | Aviv Geffen | Porcupine Tree
Science Fiction (1999, 49.33) **
Gone Too Soon Too Far
The Fjords of Zimbabwe
Dental Research '72
3,000,000 Years From Here
Soon Too Far Gone Far
Friend or Foe? (2003, 43.18) **½
It Could Be Yours
On the Tightrope
Nobody's Home (in My Home I'm Alone)
Blackmail are a fairly unusual thing: a German heavy-end-of-indie band, singing in English, who could easily be taken for American. I'm not saying this is a recommendation, just that it is. 1999's Science Fiction is their second album, apparently completely remixed and reissued the following year as Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?. If it wasn't for the grungy, downtuned guitars, this could be yer typical wussy indie stuff, with those rather fey vocals that make you want to give the vocalist a slap. Why do these bands bother? Rumoured Mellotron on the album, but upon listening, it seems it isn't to be. Opener Londerla features flutes and choir, although a choir chord at the end of the song holds several seconds too long to be 'real', giving the sample game away, with more flutes on Mu.
2003's Friend or Foe? is marginally better, largely due to being more energetic; its predecessor's strong undercurrent of wussy indie has been replaced by a steelier backbone, which isn't to say it's a great album, merely better. Best track? Probably nine-minute closer Friend, if only for its epic scope. On the fakeotron front, we get strings on openers Airdrop and Evon plus choirs on All Mine for good measure, all fairly muted. In all honestly, Science Fiction bored me rigid; landfill indie? Friend or Foe? is better, but that shouldn't be taken as any kind of recommendation.
Bleach (1999, 48.31) *½
Once Again Here We Are
All That's Sweet
|All to You
Sun Stands Still
What Will Your Anthem Be
Bleach are the kind of Christian rock band whose lyrics are largely un-overt enough not to offend the public at large, although their music still sucks. 1999's Bleach is a tedious pop/rock effort, replete with the obligatory whiny vocals and insipid melodies that the style seems to demand these days, even when the band rocks it up a bit, as on the strangely lifeless Sun Stands Still.
Pete Stewart allegedly plays Mellotron, but when it finally appears on closer What Will Your Anthem Be, the strings are quite clearly samples, especially obvious on the high notes. So why have you credited this guy with 'Mellotron', eh? Usual sample bullshit... If it's samples, don't credit fucking Mellotron, OK? Bah.
King of Circles (2011, 42.53) ***
|Til it's Over
Afterthought to War
Red Light, Green Light
Anything But This
|Your Heart Left Town
Top of the World
King of Circles
Mike Bloom has connections with Rilo Kiley and The Strokes, amongst others, releasing his first solo album, King of Circles, in 2011. Although flawed, it's vastly better than the usual run of weepy singer-songwriter drivel, male or female, highlights including Red Light, Green Light and Dry Land, although, at least in my opinion, his talents become more dissipated when he attempts upbeat material (case in point: Anything But This).
Bloom is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on Anything But This, Dry Land (under real ones) and the title track are fairly clearly sampled, particularly noticeable during the record's closing seconds. An album of two halves, then; not all of its poppier tracks are failures, but enough are to knock stars from its rating.
Target Heart EP (2009, 18.52) ***Target Heart
Clean the Clock
Gone for Good
Hell or High Water
Blue Giant are something of a Portland, Oregon 'indie supergroup', comprising members of The Decemberists, Swords and Viva Voce, amongst others, whose first release, 2009's Target Heart EP, is a decent enough country/indie/psych/folk affair, without being anything startling. Its male/female vocal approach works better on some tracks than others, to be honest, better efforts including Clean The Clock and closer Hell Or High Water.
Evan Railton plays what's credited as Mellotron on Hell Or High Water, although given that at least one of the outfits that contributed members to the band (specifically, Viva Voce) have used samples and that the flute part on the track sounds a bit ropey, into samples it goes. Incidentally, the vinyl version adds versions of Goffin & King's Wasn't Born To Follow (as covered by The Byrds) and The Kinks' Got To Be Free, but I've no idea whether or not the 'Mellotron' turns up on either of them.
The Blue Seeds (2008, 44.31) **½
Outside the Rain Falls
That Night in Amsterdam
A Quick Killing in Art
Lost and Delirious
Cars Go By
My Fair Weather Friend
Words From a Fairytale
I Dream a Little Dream
The Blue Seeds are a female-fronted French-Canadian noirish outfit, whose eponymous 2008 debut has echoes of the pre-psych mid-'60s and Burt Bacharach amongst its influences. It's one of those albums where a couple of tracks sound really impressive, but a whole (even if 'vinyl-length') record starts to drag after a while. The lengthy Words From A Fairytale is probably the best track, at least for readers of this site, but a little goes a long way, I think.
Producer Dustin O'Halloran, from The Devics, plays 'Mellotron', with strings on Barcelona, choirs on Words From A Fairytale and flutes on I Dream A Little Dream, although since the choirs are quite clearly samples, it seems reasonable to assume that the other sounds are, too. Overall, then, a pretty downbeat release that definitely has its moments, just not quite enough of them to give it a higher rating.
Zero (Ovvero la Famosa Nevicata dell'85) (1999, 66.38) **½
Finché Saprai Spiegarti
Always Crashing in the Same Car
Niente X Scontato
Punto di Non Arrivo
On their third album, 1999's Zero (Ovvero la Famosa Nevicata dell'85), Italy's Bluvertigo attempt an indie/electronica/rock/dance thing, sounding like the bastard sons of, say, Depeche Mode that veers between appalling and actually quite acceptable. Better moments include the rock'n'roll of Finché Saprai Spiegarti, where the band mock-claim to've been working with a host of famous names, from Fellini to Eno and the Arabic strings on Autofraintendimento to the sparse Numero, although trimming maybe twenty dead minutes from the disc would've actually improved it on several levels.
A certain David Richards is credited with Mellotron on their cover of Bowie's Low centrepiece Always Crashing In The Same Car, to which I can only say:
bullshit rubbish. Those strained, heavily effected strings? I think not. Anyway, an album that could be listenable if judiciously edited, but ends up being overlong and indigestible.
Loyalty (2012, 52.18/65.55) **
Til the Day We Are Both Forgotten
Sunny When it Rains
My Name is Lemon
Under a Bombay Moon Soon
|Lobster in the Fog
You Are Beautiful and Strange
Dream on Planet Cherry
When the Wall of Voodoo Breaks
Blue Film and the Jilted Lover
In Pastel Blue]
As stated in my regular reviews, Ernst Ulrich "Phillip Boa" Figgen is a German new wave type who has released albums regularly since the mid-'80s, seemingly changing musical style with the current fashion. As a result, 2012's Loyalty has a 'so contemporary it'll be out of date next year' production, combining indie guitar pop, alt.rock and electronica into a rather unappetising stew typified by tracks like Want or Til The Day We Are Both Forgotten.
Detlef "Tött" Götte is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on Til The Day We Are Both Forgotten, Under A Bombay Moon Soon, Lobster In The Fog, You Are Beautiful And Strange and When The Wall Of Voodoo Breaks really don't convince, despite Boa's previous (presumed) genuine Mellotron use. As if that makes any difference. Sorry, but I can't recommend this on any level; some of Boa's earlier work is OK, but this is just tiresome.
See: Phillip Boa & the Voodooclub
Listening Suicidal (2000, 54.36) ***
|Listening 40 (Burn Up the Club '99)
Goodbye My Strange Number 28
Giniro Utsu Jikan
Daida Destroy & Search
Kumo Bannin B to Tsuribito A
Listening 40 (Close Your Eyes '00)
So who are BOaT, anyway? Little-known in the West, it seems, they combine metal guitars with pop and funk rhythms, sampled and distorted vocals mixing with poppy harmonies in an unusual juxtaposition. I won't pretend I got an awful lot out of what appears to be their third album, 2000's Listening Suicidal, but at least it doesn't just meekly copy whoever's top of the bloody pops whenever it's recorded, like [insert one of a million names here].
A.S.E. apparently plays Mellotron, with flutes in a few places, notably on Kumo Bannin B To Tsuribito A, with an interesting pitchbend just before the song steps up a gear, but also a way, way over eight-second note towards the end, making me think... Samples. So; sort-of interesting. sort-of not, but at least you can say it doesn't sound like anybody else.
An Ordinary Night in My Ordinary Life (1996, 66.12) ***½
|Entering the Spacebike
Into the Dreamscape
The Ballerina From Far Beyond
Daddy in the Clouds
An Ordinary Nightmare in Poor Mr. Hope's Ordinary Life
In the Land of The Pumpkins
The Magic Rollercoaster
Samuel - The Knight
Adam - The Prophet
Miranda - The Queen
Pinup Guru (2002, 70.54) ***½
What's Going on?
Me & Liz
The Day I Saw My Beautiful Neighbour
New in the 'Hood
|The Ballerina is Not Getting Closer
The Last Eagle
The Final Swig
Sonic Boulevard (2003, 64.21) **½
The Hero From Cloud City
Back to the African Garden
The Horses From Zaad
A Beautiful Mind
|The Happy Frog
Morning Will Come
The Night Will Fall
I AM (2005, 63.23) ***
Day By Day
They'll Fight for Me!
War is Over
The Angel of Dreams
Take Me Home
The Tree of Knowledge
The Path of Decision I
The Path of Decision II
Close the Deal
The Path of Decision III
The Tube of Reverse
In the Land of Retrospect
"Why/7 Days at Kingdom's Inn"
The Halls of Future
The Path of Light I
The Path of Light II
Cinematograaf (2008, 51.55) ***An Ocean in Between
A Spanish Ballerina in Love
Six Six Six
Tomas Bodin is, of course, keyboard player with The Flower Kings and one of only two consistent members other than leader Roine Stolt. He's clearly an important part of the band's sound and the only other writer besides Stolt, but he not only finds time for a solo career amongst the chaos, but guests on many other artists' projects, not least Jonas Reingold's Karmakanic and Stéphane Desbiens' D Project.
Much of his first solo album, 1996's An Ordinary Night in My Ordinary Life, sounds as if it could easily slot into a contemporaneous TFK release, although Bodin flexes his stylistic muscles on the experimental An Ordinary Nightmare In Poor Mr. Hope's Ordinary Life (cut-up with funk bass) and the mad electronica of The Magic Rollercoaster. Best tracks? Probably church organ piece Daddy In The Clouds and the lengthy, symphonic prog of Three Stories, although the album could easily lose ten minutes or more without affecting its integrity. 'Mellotron' strings and/or choir on most tracks, with flutes (and cellos?) thrown in here and there, all obviously sampled, even if Mr. Bodin hadn't confirmed that for me in person some years ago.
I presume TFK business and other projects kept Tomas from his solo career for the next six years, but 2002's Pinup Guru was worth the wait for those who consider him possibly the most talented member of the parent band (ouch). It's not all good and (of course) is far too long, but there's enough quality material here to make a very good 45-minute record indeed; unfortunately, that would involve considerable editing of individual tracks, but there you go. Plenty of samplotron, with choirs all over What's Going On? and strings, choir, flutes and 'Tron cellos present across most of the album's length.
The following year's Sonic Boulevard, however, displayed either a Bodin content to spread his musical wings, or one suffering from overwork, probably depending on viewpoint. It starts well enough, The Hero From Cloud City (symphonic prog) and Back To The African Garden (fusion jamming) doing pretty much what you'd expect, but by the end of the overlong disc, eighteen tortuous minutes of the last two tracks, Morning Will Come and The Night Will Fall, are enough to make you want to ditch the whole thing. Plenty of samplotron dotted throughout, some so obviously sampled that you can only imagine Bodin has no real interest in the sounds as anything other than prog tropes, rather than for their own sake.
2005's I AM is something of a return to form, although, as ever, you could probably trim a good twenty minutes from its considerable length and end up with a better album. Three lengthy multi-part tracks constitutes 'none more prog', ditto the concept that is quite inevitably involved, though irrelevant to all but the most hardened of prog lyric-watchers, usually a slightly sad breed. Plenty of fine moments, though not enough to hold this listener's interest for a whole bloody hour; reasonable levels of samplotron, including a few 'solo' moments, but it all sounds so... sampled. Probably unsurprisingly, 2008's all-instrumental Cinematograaf has a distinctly soundtracky feel about it, although the overall mood of the album remains one of long passages of musical exposition interrupted by somewhat shorter ones of real musical content. Nonetheless, it's a decent listen, if rather unengaging for much of its length, while once again, samplotron use is sparing but effective.
Only a fool would attempt to deny Tomas Bodin's obvious talent; however, like many excellent musicians, I'm not sure he isn't better employed as a sideman than as a solo artist. Saying that, if you already have a soft spot for The Flower Kings' repertoire, I can probably recommend all the above save Sonic Boulevard.
See: The Flower Kings | Roine Stolt | D Project | J J Marsh | Karmakanic
Attention Please (2011, 41.16) ***
See You Next Week
Tokyo Wonder Land
Les Paul Custom '86
Hand in Hand
Boris (not to be confused with any other Boris) are a noted prolific Japanese psych/drone/electronica/etc. outfit, whose seventeenth album (and third release of the year), 2011's Attention Please, features a bewildering array of psych-related styles, from the breathy motorik feedback of the opening title track through the psych-metal of Hope and Party Boy to the trippy dronefests of You and closer Hand In Hand. But is it any good? I hear you ask. Er, s'pose so, yeah, although at forty-odd minutes it's a good ten minutes too long for the ideas contained therein. That's what happens when you spit out three albums a year, I suppose.
Wata plays fakeotron strings on Hope, which makes me wonder just how authentic his Mellotron use is on his collaboration with Ai Aso. Anyway, one for psychonauts everywhere, although how you choose which of Boris' multifarious releases to start with is beyond me. This one?
See: Ai Aso
The Amsterdam Tapes (2006, 52.34) **
|Fast Blue World
Sea of Noise
Adrian Borland was mainman of post-punk outfit The Sound, going on to work with other musicians, not least Tim Smith of Cardiacs, to my surprise. He released several solo albums through the '90s, tragically committing suicide in 1999, after battling depression for over a decade. 2006's The Amsterdam Tapes is his third (and to date, last) posthumous album, apparently partially re-recorded from Dutch sessions in 1992; some of its contents were re-recorded for later albums. I have to say, for someone with such a level of critical acclaim, I fail to see what all the fuss is about; to my ears, this is a soft rock album, far too easy on the ear for its own good. Is this why Borland rejected it for release at the time? It has some lyrical depth, but the music sounds too much like the wetter end of, say, Simple Minds for me to take this at all seriously.
Bart van Poppel is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, opener Fast Blue World and Liberation Day, but the only sound that even comes close is a vague flutey thing on the latter, which I distrust heavily. Was anyone in the Netherlands using a real 'Tron in '92? Anyway, I'm not even convinced these are samples (too early, possibly), let alone a real Mellotron, but this goes here until/if I get any more information. Sadly, I'm afraid I can't recommend this for the music, either; maybe Borland made some better albums? I hope so.
Berlin Hi-Fi (2006, 51.11) **½
|Eleganza & Wines
(And Then) Palermo
A Freestyle Kiss to Hedy Lamarr
Someone Else Again
Not a Bear
This Perfect Spot
Botanica are led by Paul Wallfisch of Firewater, although going by their fourth release, 2006's Berlin Hi-Fi, they mostly lack that band's bonkers eclecticism. To be honest, the bulk of the album is tedious 'alt.rock', until we get to the manic, klezmer-influenced How and mournful, violin-led closer This Perfect Spot that sound like they could be by a different band.
Wallfisch is credited with Mellotron, amongst other things, but I'd love to know what he's supposed to be playing. The exceedingly background 'is it/isn't it' choirs on one track? If so, it's got to be sampled; there really isn't anything here resembling a genuine Mellotron. So; a couple of tracks near the end aside, a pretty dullsville release. Let's hope their other albums are better.
My Hotel Year (2004, 39.56) ***½
|Last Year's Tattoo
I Once Loved You
The Me I Know
|Making a Mess in a Clean Place
Tim Bowness is a core member of No-Man, along with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, also playing in Samuel Smiles, Henry Fool and others. Oh, and singing at a mutual friend's wedding last year, in the best and most unusual reception music entertainment I've ever encountered. After all this group activity, 2004's My Hotel Year is actually his first (and to date, only) solo album, not sounding so different to No-Man, maybe unsurprisingly, a downbeat feel pervading the record, possibly working best on opener Last Year's Tattoo, Made See-Through and Ian McShane. If I had to categorise this, I'd more than likely put it into 'singer-songwriter', rather than any other genre, Bowness' lyrics being at least as important as the music.
Henry Fool's Stephen Bennett is credited with Mellotron, but although 'some' of the 'Tron on the Henry Fool album is real, I strongly suspect that none of it is here. Anyway, we get flutes on Last Year's Tattoo, choirs on Ian McShane and distant strings on Making A Mess In A Clean Place and Sleepwalker, all working well within the confines of the pieces. Not everyone's going to like this, but anyone's who's heard and liked a No-Man album should give this a chance. Should I ever discover that the Mellotron's real, I shall, of course, move this review.
See: Henry Fool | No-Man
Situation Dangerous (2000, 48.24) ***½Dangerous
Do any of Bozzio Levin Stevens really need any introduction? Well, just in case... Drummer Terry Bozzio (Zappa, Missing Persons), Bassist/Stick man Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, a million sessions) and Steve "Stevens" Schneider (er, Billy Idol) elected to work together as a trio in the late '90s. Once upon a time, an album by such a renowned grouping would've been snapped up by a major and would probably have sold in reasonable quantities; as it is, they released their albums on the estimable-but-rather-small Magna Carta and only sold to the faithful few.
2000's Situation Dangerous is their second (and, to date, last) album, full of exactly the kind of seventh dan ninja playing you'd expect. However, it's also highly melodic, which, given that it's at least partially improvised, is a minor miracle, top tracks including ripping opener Dangerous, the (relatively) gentle Spiral and the flamenco-influenced Tziganne, Marcus Nand guesting on guitar. No-one's actually credited with keyboards, so there's a good chance the Mellotron samples (string parts all over Dangerous and the middle section of Endless) are triggered from one of the credited instruments. I haven't heard the trio's debut, 1997's Black Light Syndrome, but I can recommend this to anyone who delights in fiery, yet tasteful playing. Very listenable.
Official Terry Bozzio site
Official Tony Levin site
Steve Stevens MySpace
See: King Crimson
Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request (1996, 73.53) **½
|All Around You (Intro)
Cold to the Touch
In India You
No Come Down
(Around You) Everywhere
Miss June '75
Bad Baby Intro
Cause, I Lover
(Baby) Love of My Life
Slowdown (Fuck Tomorrow)/Here it Comes
All Around You (Outro)
Bravery, Repetition & Noise (2002, 43.29) **
|Just for Today
Open Heart Surgery
You Have Been Disconnected
Leave Nothing for Sancho
|Let Me Stand Next to Your Flower
If I Love You?
(I Love You) Always
If I Love You? (New European Gold Standard
Secret Babylonian Brotherhood Cinema Mix)
The Brian Jonestown Massacre may have one of the greatest names ever, but the smacked-out, stoner psych of their second album, the wittily-titled Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request is something of a disappointment, I have to say. Maybe if you're looking for a cross between early '90s shoegaze and late '60s psych, you might be happy, but its hazy drones left this particular listener cold. It goes almost without saying that, at over seventy minutes, the album's horrifically overlong, too; slash 30 minutes from this and it might actually be palatable. Band leader Anton Newcombe apparently plays most of the album's instrumentation, although several other members are credited. The liner notes refer to a Mellotron, but given that 2001's Bravery, Repetition & Noise uses confirmed samples and the 'Mellotron' sounds here are muted shadows of the real thing, it seems highly likely that it's samples we're looking at. Cue outraged e-mail from the band protesting it's a real, badly-maintained machine... Various string and flute sounds crop up on several tracks, notably the brief 'flute' solo piece Baby (Prepraise), which highlights just how poor the Mellotron sounds are here.
2002's Bravery, Repetition & Noise is no improvement, frankly; eleven songs (and a pointless remix) of smacked-out lethargy, full of weakly strummed acoustic guitars and Newcombe's lazy (and not in a good way) vocals. I'd be lying if I said that this slack, druggy kind of stuff appeals to me at all, so I shan't. Despite subsequent genuine Mellotron use, Robert Campanella (The Quarter After, Lovetones) tells me that his Mellotron flute credit on opener Just For Today is (and I quote), "A pretty lame sample"; in fact, it's a pretty lame Mellotron string sample, but let's not be picky, eh? It seems to crop up again on Leave Nothing For Sancho, but it could be merely a generic string patch; I'm not sure there's a lot of difference, to be honest.
So; drugged-out psych. As it should be, surely? Only it isn't. This lot have a reasonable following, I'm led to believe, but I'd put money on most of them being young enough to see the band's immediate forebears as iconic, not tediously inept. Plenty of muffled Mellotron sounds across these two releases, but that's hardly a recommendation.
The People's Key (2011, 46.58) **½
A Machine Spiritual (in the People's Key)
One for You, One for Me
I've already stated, in their regular reviews, that I have little idea where Bright Eyes are coming from musically, although 2011's The People's Key, their first album in four years, is slightly more adventurous than the dreary-indie-by-numbers of their earlier work, an occasional Cardiacs influence even making itself felt. Opener Firewall consists of little more than, for want of a better phrase, a 'total nutjob' (sorry, technical term) expounding upon the history of mankind, from an, er, 'somewhat skewed' perspective, over drifting guitar and keys, reappearing throughout, but the handful of better tracks are dragged down by the likes of closer One For You, One For Me, which made me lose the will to live.
Nathaniel Walcott is credited with Mellotron throughout, but I'd be amazed if the exceedingly background strings on a few tracks, notably A Machine Spiritual (In The People's Key), emanated from a genuine machine. In which case, have they ever used one? Who knows? Anyway, despite being marginally better than earlier efforts, I can't honestly recommend this album.
Official Conor Oberst site
See: Bright Eyes
Solstice (2005, 45.22) ****Back in the Days
If Man is Still Alive
The Spirit of the Airborne Hogweed
Under the Gaze of Gods
Brimstone for Sale
Back in the Days II
Where is Your Love
The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band are a wonderful throwback to that early '70s psych/prog/hard rock crossover era, evolving from Bergen's metal scene in the '90s. 2005's Solstice is their second full-lengther, apparently a distinct step up from their fraught debut, top tracks including opener Back In The Days (1970 revisited), psych/prog epic The Spirit Of The Airborne Hogweed (ho ho) and Where Is Your Love, while Øystein Fosshagen's violin work on Norwaii Five-O (ho ho again) adds a welcome folky ingredient to the mix.
The Mellotron strings fakery on Back In The Days, If Man Is Still Alive and Neon Darkness is perfectly understandable, as the chances of the band tracking down a real machine at that point were infinitesimal. Overall, then, a fine album for modern psychsters, with some decent samplotron work thrown in for good measure.
Tender Buttons (2005, 40.32) **½
|I Found the F
Tears in the Typing Pool
Arc of a Journey
|Michael A Grammar
Subject to the Ladder
Evil is Coming
You and Me in Time
I Found the End
Broadcast are a British female-fronted indie outfit with influences from the pre-psych '60s and modern electronica. Did I hear anyone say 'Stereolab'? Or 'Saint Etienne', for that matter? 2005's Tender Buttons is their third album, mixing electronic glitches to rather insipid indie songwriting to no great effect, to be honest.
The rumoured Mellotron on Tears In The Typing Pool (from James Cargill) turns out to be distorted 'Tron flute samples, on the nearest the album gets to a good song. Generally speaking, you're probably not going to like this any more than me, and one track of messed-about 'Tron samples isn't going to change your mind.
Looks at the Bird (2002, 39.24) ***From the Black Current
Name's Winston, Friends Call Me James
Everywhere Down Here
In the Reeds
The Suspension Bridge at Iguazú Falls
The Wind-Up Bird
Brokeback's third album, Looks at the Bird, is a mostly instrumental Stereolab-type indie record, embracing strands of electronica and jazz, not a million miles away from Tortoise's quieter work (they even cover that band's The Suspension Bridge At Iguazú Falls). The 'dance-lite' beats that pervade several tracks are a bit of a distraction for this reviewer, though; why are these things necessary? They add nothing to the music and can actually subtract from it in some cases.
Not only is there no Mellotron credited, there's no mention of keyboards at all, apart from regular and reed organs, but the strings on The Suspension Bridge At Iguazú Falls are definitely sampled Mellotron, as against the real strings on the rest of the album. Overall, then, an album of quietitude, far more palatable than many similar I've heard, though probably not something to make the average Planet Mellotron reader's heart sing with joy.
Häxan (2007, 75.22) ****
|World of Witchcraft
Centre of the Universe
Rites & Rights
The Power of Lead
Maria the Weaver
The Arrest of Maria the Weaver
Preparations for Trial
Anna, the Printer's Wife
|The Youngest Servant
Thunder With Water
Bronnt Industries Kapital is the musical nom de plume of Bristolian Guy Bartell, whose second album, 2007's Häxan ('hexan', or 'the witch') is not merely inspired by the classic 1922 Danish silent film (a combined documentary/dramatisation of the mediæval phenomenon), but is actually intended as a new soundtrack for it. While soundtracks have been written for the film before, not least Geoff Smith's contemporaneous one for hammer dulcimer, I doubt whether any of them quite conjure up the menace of the period to the same extent as Bartell's; this really is a triumph of modern soundtrack writing, eschewing the ludicrous melodrama of Hammer's '60s and '70s output for the quiet horror of synthesized drones, electric pianos, organs and surprisingly menacing glockenspiels. Picking out individual tracks is almost pointless; this really needs to be listened to as a whole, and despite its length, it doesn't drag, possibly due to the amount of timbral variety on offer.
Mellotron use has been rumoured, but you have to wait until track 25, Endless Pressure, until a haunted flute part rears its head, at which point suspicions are aroused that it all sounds a little to 'regular' for its own good. While not being able to prove it's sampled, it seems the most likely option, so it stays here until/if etc. etc. Don't bother for the sampled 'Tron, then, but I urge you to at least get to listen to this, or buy a copy of the film with this and Smith's soundtracks. Quietly excellent.
Wonderfully Nothing (2003, 58.23) *½
Walking on Moonlight
Sample From Heaven
Tomorrow is Gone
This is the Last Time
This is How it Ends
Brookville is essentially Andy Chase's solo project, a kind of post-rock/pop crossover thing, at least on 2003's Wonderfully Nothing, replete with a pre-psych '60s influence on several tracks. Unsurprisingly, I hate it, material like opener Fleet and Fais Dodo really getting my hackles up with their cheesy dreariness, overlaid with Chase's wispy voice. At whom is this actually aimed? Anyone? I'm all for artists following their muse (if not actually following Muse), but this vaguely Stereolab-lite stuff seems utterly pointless, which clearly shows how little I understand it. Good. To add insult to injury, this nonsense is almost an hour long.
Mellotron? Not actually credited, in fairness; Sample From Heaven's title may well be the giveaway here, as the 'Mellotron' flutes running right through the track clearly aren't. We get them again, with strings, on Shine, plus string swells on Justine, This Is How It Ends and, distantly, on a couple of other tracks. I cannot overstate how much I urge you not to bother hearing Brookville. Awful.
Songs of Love & War (1995, 55.11) ***½
Suddenly Last Summer
Love Leads You
I Fall Again
The Wild Places
Duncan Browne's career has already been partially detailed on this site, so I shan't go over it again. 1995's Songs of Love & War consists of demos recorded across several years, pieced together by producer and ex-Steve Hackett keys man, Nick Magnus, after Browne's tragic and untimely death in '93. Unsurprisingly, the end result lacks cohesion in places, but by and large, Magnus has done an incredible job of salvaging an album's-worth of material, albeit with help from various musicians, not least ex-Zombies vocalist Colin Blunstone, who stands in for Browne on a handful of tracks. Highlights include Suddenly Last Summer, solo classical guitar piece Bercuse and Journey '93, a re-recording of Browne's lone hit from two decades earlier. If I have a criticism, it's that, in the way of many singer-songwriter releases, the album suffers slightly from its time of recording, many of the keyboard sounds and production tricks now sounding distinctly dated, but let's face it, that's hardly restricted to '80s/early '90s recordings.
Nick adds Mellotron samples to a couple of tracks, with distant choirs on Suddenly Last Summer and strings on Rainer. This is also the only entry (to my knowledge) in the samples section to features a real Mellotron on one track. Huh? The Wild Places is taken directly from Browne's 1978 album of the same name, with minor studio tweaking, so although Tony Hymas' Mellotron choir is clearly audible, the track's already available on another album. This is apparently now quite difficult to get hold of, although the limited demand presumably isn't enough to warrant a reissue. Duncan Browne's talent is still little-recognised outside his core fanbase; despite being slightly 'of its era', Songs of Love & War is a valuable addition to his small catalogue. Hear it if you can.
See: Duncan Browne | Nick Magnus
Structure & Cosmetics (2007, 38.48) **Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth
Stereo (Mono Mono)
Her Hairagami Set
Credit Card Mail Order
Obligatory Road Song
Small Town Crew
If You Were Alien
Wall Poster Star
Structure and Cosmetics
The Brunettes are the rather twee indie duo of New Zealanders Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield, whose third album, 2007's Structure & Cosmetics, is a rather undistinguished set of songs of the kind that keep indie fans happy, but few others, although its predecessor, 2004's Mars Loves Venus, is a slightly better proposition. I'm sure it's perfectly good at what it does, but it all sounds a bit dreary to these jaded ears, with a lack of particularly memorable melodies.
Bree is credited with Mellotron, but the flutes and/or strings on most tracks have that ring of 'not quite rightness' about them, not to mention the overuse which marks out probable sample use. So; twee indie, fake Mellotron, why bother?
Too Blind to Hear (2002, 47.21) *½
|Is This the Best it Gets
Look You in the Eye
Wake Up Call
Life Gets in the Way
Evade the Pain
Save the Day
Oh God, Leamington Spa's Budapest's Too Blind to Hear is a load of dreary old cock... Well, that's a way to start a review, innit? Wikipedia describes them as 'melancholic post-grunge'; I'd describe them as 'wishy-washy non-rock drivel', but then, years of listening to crap bands has reduced my tolerance threshold to somewhere near zero. Essentially, it's an album of heartfelt, mid-paced semi-orchestral dullness; 'orchestral indie', if that helps.
I thought I was going to get away with it, but Chris Pemberton (presumably) plays sampled Mellotron strings on closer Nothing New, which has precisely one good thing about it: it's the last song on the album. It seems original guitarist Mark Walworth committed suicide after recording his parts; tragic though this event was, I have to wonder whether the record's determinedly downbeat approach had anything to do with his state of mind at the time? Anyway, I doubt if you want to hear this any more than I do.
Radical Sonora (1997, 50.44) *½
Alicia (Expulsada al País de las Maravillas)
Servidor de Nadie
Enrique Ortiz de Landázuri "Bunbury" Izardui (his nom de plume taken from Oscar Wilde) made his name in Héroes del Silencio, before going solo in 1997 with Radical Sonora. The album mixes rock and dance/electronica in relatively equal measures, while Latin pop influences are readily detectable, making this the kind of album with which Planet Mellotron readers are unlikely to engage. No, it has no best tracks.
Although Bunbury's credited with Mellotron, the cellos on a couple of tracks and (especially) the flute and pitchbent string lines on Negativo sound well into the sampled sector to my ears. Believe me, you're not going to want to hear this to find out for yourself, anyway.
Habit (2004, 70.19) **
Habit (Part I)
Habit (Part II)
Hustle on the Vessel
Sun Vs Moon
How to describe Norway's Butti 49? Soul? Funk? Electronica? 'Dance'? All of the above? 2004's Habit certainly contains elements of all those genres, mostly in a particularly irritating and long-winded way. Why is this album seventy bloody minutes long? It would've been stretching it to compress it to forty, frankly. About the only thing on it that caught my attention was the (credited, presumably real) sitar on Loving U, though that's not much of a recommendation, really.
Øyvind Jakobsen's Mellotron strings and flutes open the album on Flying, but unless I'm very much mistaken, they've been nowhere near a set of 35 tapes and matched tape-heads. In other words, it's sample territory again. Or not? I reckon so and it's staying here unless I should find out otherwise. Anyway, I can't imagine you were about to, but please don't buy this album; it's far too long and exceedingly irritating.
Rocky Komt Altijd Terug (2008, 63.54) ***
Mooi Weer en Fruitsla
God, ik en Marjon
Heel Fijn Feest
|Regen in Barcelona
Na de Hoogmis
Pruimelaar (piano version)
Af en Toe
Geert Verdickt's Buurman make soundtrack to films that haven't been made (if you'll excuse the cliché), their debut, Rocky Komt Altijd Terug, sounding more like a throwback to the era of Brel and his ilk then anything contemporary. Inexplicably, the hour-ish long album is spread over two discs (two movements?), Verdickt's weary, careworn, frequently spoken vocals tying what I presume is a concept together, along with an upright piano, jazz drumming and tasteful brass arrangements. Is it possible to nail any 'best tracks'? Not really, no, although the Spanish guitar on the two parts of Terrastake on disc two caught my ear.
Koen Tote supposedly plays Mellotron, but the vague strings on God, Ik En Marjon and the flutes on one or two other tracks on disc one don't sound that authentic to my ears. To be honest, you're unlikely to get very much out of this without speaking Dutch/Flemish, as the album's main priority seems to be to tell a story, about which I can ascertain precisely nothing. But then, I'm not Belgian, so this isn't aimed at me. Clearly good at what it does, although aimed at a somewhat niche market.
Of Death (2011, 37.39) ***May The Dead Rise
Eye For An Eye
Full Force Rage
Shadow Of Fear
All Gods Are Gone
I hear that Byfrost (named for Bifröst, the bridge into Asgard) combine black and thrash metal on their second outing, 2011's Of Death, but to my untrained ear, it's naught but good ol' 'eavy metal with a thrashy edge. Actually, I say 'naught but', but Byfrost have really got a handle on this stuff, managing to make an inherently silly genre ('extreme' metal) into something perfectly listenable to the old-school rock fan, better tracks including the mid-paced Eye For An Eye and Buried Alive and epic closer All Gods Are Gone. Yes, it's a bit silly, but they do it well.
Someone plays a major 'Mellotron' string part on Sorgh, the album's quietest track (and one of its highpoints), although I'll be stunned if it's real. So; modern metal that succeeds in not entirely alienating anyone born before, ooh, 1994, with a bit of fakeotron to boot.