album list


David Mead  (US)

The Luxury of Time  (1999,  52.38)  **½
Mine & Yours  (2001,  50.16)  **
Tangerine  (2006,  40.40)  ***

For some reason, I had high hopes of David Mead's The Luxury of Time, but it turned out to be a drippy, ballad-heavy singer-songwriter effort, at its least toe-curling on Sweet Sunshine and Telephone. Carl Herrgesell plays obvious samplotron strings on While The World Is Sleeping. If anything, Mine & Yours is even worse, the only minor respite being on Girl On The Roof. Mead plays faint samplotron strings on Figure Of Eight (which sounds not a little like Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in places). Thankfully, Tangerine is a considerable improvement, Mead having tightened up his writing and put his propensity for slush somewhere it can't do any harm. Highlights? The Trouble With Henry, Chatterbox and the vaguely Queenlike Hunting Season, although, again, Mead's 'Mellotron' is merely samplotron flutes on Sugar On The Knees.

Meat Beat Manifesto  (UK)

Satyricon  (1992,  64.17)  **½
Subliminal Sandwich  (1996,  69.02)  ***

Meat Beat Manifesto are hard to describe: proto-techno? Industrial? Electronic? All of the above? I've struggled to get to grips with 1992's Satyricon and '96's Subliminal Sandwich; they seem to be good at what they do, while I can't deny there's some clever sample manipulation involved, but I'm not connecting with this stuff at all. Lazy reviews? We gottem. As far as their 'Mellotron' use is concerned, allow me to quote from a 1993 magazine article: "And we've got some great Mellotron samples, too - digital loops of the original tape loops! [sic.] It's like having one without the weight of the thing." Fair point, I suppose... I've no idea where they sourced MkII samples from in the early '90s, but it explains mainman Jack Dangers' use of the MkII left-hand manual 'moving strings' on That Shirt from Satyricon and rhythms on the minute-long Radio Mellotron on Subliminal Sandwich. I had wondered...

André Mehmari  (Brazil)

...De Árvores e Valsas  (2008,  65.02)  **½

Or, Trees & Waltzes. Many of the mostly instrumental pieces on ...De Árvores e Valsas are, indeed, waltzes, composed and performed in what seems to be pianist/multi-instrumentalist André Mehmari's trademark, classical/jazz/soundtrack-esque style. All very pleasant, in a light orchestral kind of way, albeit rather unengaging. Er, Mellotron?

Dieter Meier  (Switzerland)

Out of Chaos  (2014,  42.10)  ***

Dieter Meier? Yello's vocalist, it turns out, although I couldn't have placed the name without help. 2014's Out of Chaos seems to be his first solo album, released the year before he turned seventy, sounding not unlike an updated version of Yello, to be honest. Best tracks? The jaunty Paradise Game, the overwrought Loveblind and Annabelle, maybe, although I couldn't warm to the oddball electro of Jimmy or Fat Fly. Patrick "Nackt" Christensen is credited with Mellotron on Loveblind, The Ritual and Another Day, Patricia "Cherie" Peters also playing on the last-named. However, the Mellotronic choirs on all three not only fail to have that ring of authenticity about them, but there's no machine visible in the extensive studio shots in the CD booklet, so into samples it goes. Decent enough at what it does, then, but principally for Yello fans.

Meiko  (US)

Meiko  (2008,  40.35)  **

Meiko (Pronounced 'Meeko', real/full name unknown) is one of those American singer-songwriter types whose music ends up on several mainstream TV shows, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about her. She self-released Meiko in 2007, although it was remixed and generally messed-about with for reissue the following year, adding one track, Boys With Girlfriends. The album doesn't start off too badly, but deteriorates across its (actually very reasonable) length, until by the last few tracks, the temptation to hit the 'off' button becomes almost unbearable. Greg Collins plays background samplotron flutes on Boys With Girlfriends (which is why I'm only quoting the 2008 version), in a 'not sure why they bothered' kind of way.

Paul Melançon  (US)

Slumberland  (2000,  23.13)  ***

Paul Melançon's debut (?) recording, the Slumberland EP/mini-album/whatever, is a decent powerpop effort, without being especially outstanding, highlights being both parts of the title track, Guy Fawkes Day and 1985 By The Get-Go's; most of the EP, actually. Rob Gal plays rather obvious samplotron strings and flutes on It Was Something.

Michael Meldrum  (US)

Open Ended Question  (2006,  49.59)  ***

It seems Michael Meldrum (1951-2011) was something of a legend in his hometown of Buffalo, NY, acting as mentor to Ani DiFranco, amongst others. His sole release, Open Ended Question, is an album of adventurous Americana, standard material such as Tavern Road Tune and Today The Sun spiced up with guitar-and-sitar near-instrumental Then God Will Dance and strange, brief (DiFranco?) vocal piece Imagine Our Bodies. DiFranco's credited with Mellotron, consisting of a single, sampled flute chord at the beginning of opener Forget It.

Mélia  (Québec)

Certitudes  (2005,  49.21)  ***

Essentially a duo of vocalist Claudia Côté and guitarist Stéphane Desbiens (Sense, Ère G), Mélia's debut, Certitudes, has garnered surprisingly few 'Net reviews for a three year-old album, probably because it isn't easily pigeonholed. Folk? Prog? 'Melodic rock'? All of the above? It starts off in a bright'n'breezy folk style, until the rockier Perseides, three tracks in, after which the rest of the record chops and changes between styles. You can see this as 'varied' or 'directionless', largely depending on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty, I suppose. My chief criticism is that it all starts sounding a little samey after a few tracks. Côté's voice is slightly bland, although perfectly 'nice' in an Annie Haslam kind of way, but without her distinctiveness, while Desbiens' electric guitar work is rather faceless, too. 'Mellotron', presumably from Desbiens, on opener Je M'Incline, with decent helpings of strings and choir throughout the rest of the album. I'm afraid M. Desbiens is known as a sample user round these parts and it's all too easy to spot here; there's no dirt under its fingernails, some of the notes hold for too long and it's all just a bit too smooth for its own good. I know there are several working Mellotrons in Québec, but it's a big place and there's no good reason Desbiens should know any owners, but if you're going to fake it, try to keep it a bit lower in the mix; it's just all a bit too obvious here, but then there's a good argument to be made that 'it's just another colour in the instrumental palette, who cares if it's real?' Well, me actually, but who cares that I care?

Mellow  (France)

Another Mellow Summer  (2000,  42.12)  ***½
Perfect Colors  (2004,  50.56)  ***

After some research, I believe I've finally straightened out the confusion over French electronic duo (who said Air?) Mellow's three albums, '99's Another Mellow Winter, 2000's Another Mellow Summer and 2001's Another Mellow Spring. It seems that Winter was the original French release, Summer was the slightly amended UK one and Spring was the barely-altered US version, a further Japanese version appearing with more tracks (why wasn't this called Autumn?). Confused? You should be. Unsurprisingly, Another Mellow Summer is the version I've tracked down, making me rather unwilling to shell out for another two or three very similar albums. The general consensus is that they're a low-budget Air, one member (the rather un-French sounding Patrick Woodcock) actually being ex- of that band. I'm of the opinion that they're more like Air crossed with King Crimson in places; Shinda Shima actually sounds like a rewrite of Epitaph, to be honest. Woodcock supposedly slaps Mellotron all over the record, but the flutes (the first sound you hear on the album) sound like hissy samples from a real machine to my ears. Either that or a Mellotron with severe head-cleaning issues. Anyway, they turn up on a good half dozen tracks, while the female choirs on Paris Sous La Neige (Single Version) and Another Mellow Winter are presumably Mellotron samples, too. Anyway, a decent enough album, loaded with Fender Rhodes (should that be your thing), possibly preferable to Air in some ways. Plenty of samplotron flutes, though I'm not so sure about those choirs.

Their second album, Perfect Colors, is, essentially, a more insipid version of their debut, with most of its interesting bits removed. Any of the proggy excess shown on this album's predecessor have been ruthlessly excised, leaving a bunch of the modern equivalent of middling soft rock songs with little real individuality. It's not that the material is actually bad; it just isn't that good, either and doesn't make this reviewer want to press the 'play' button again. There seem to be a couple of major pointers towards the album's 'Mellotron' use being samples; nobody's credited with playing it and the choirs on the semi-unlisted track, A Place For Meditation, are far too clean to be the real deal. Anyway, what we're left with are a couple of string chords on Where Flowers Don't Grow and the previously-mentioned choirs, though this time round, the flutes are all real.

Melon Diesel  (Gibraltar)

Real  (2002,  64.24)  *½

Melon Diesel (named for a cocktail, I believe) have to be almost unique in coming from the minuscule Gibraltar, surely one of the weirdest places on God's good Earth. Unsurprisingly, they're often quoted as being Spanish, although their third (and last) album, 2003's Real, is clearly sung by a native English-speaker, although I'm sure, like everyone else on that tiny strip of land, they're fully bilingual. Sad to say, it's absolute crap; that kind of mainstream guitar pop that clogs up our airwaves and finds its way onto bad TV programmes. There are no best tracks, the handful of Spanish-language remakes added to the end, resulting in the album's ridiculously extended length, only add to the misery. Danilo Ballo plays samplotron, with background strings on All That You Want and its Spanish version, Naúfrago En El Peñón. This is the kind of fluff that's tailor-made for vapid teenagers to play out their lives to, rather than for anyone who actually likes music.

Sara Melson  (US)

Dirty Mind  (2008,  40.57)  **½

Sara Melson is another modern singer-songwriter with a country edge, tailor-made for Starbucks; her debut album, 2008's Dirty Mind, is a pleasant enough effort, if rather unengaging, better tracks including Hard Pressed and Rise Up, although we're hardly talking 'classic' here. A bit harsh? Maybe, but there's so much of this stuff around that reviewer objectivity goes out of the window. Samplotron from Joe Cassidy and Scott Seiver, with a strong string part on Turquoise Sky, a lesser one on Nuclear Sun and what appears to be a reiteration of the earlier part on closer Turquoise Sky (Acoustic).

The Memorials  (US)

The Memorials  (2010,  67.58)  *½

Ex-Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen subsequently formed the female-fronted Memorials, whose eponymous 2010 debut manfully attempts to combine 'alt.metal', whatever you take that to mean, with indie, psychedelia and various other genres not always seen speaking to each other. To be perfectly honest, the nutsoid synth work on Day Dreamer is its only feature of any note, in this humble writer's opinion; the vast bulk of its horrendously overlong contents irritated the fuck out of me. Nehemiah E. Johnson is credited with Mellotron. Really? I think not... All I can hear are a single string note on GTFOMF and a background flute part on Enough, neither sounding at all authentic, frankly. The Memorials, already an awful album, is made even worse by its in-yer-face production, making its horrible caterwaulings impossible to ignore; quite possibly the intended effect, but it makes the painful task of listening to it quite unbearable.

Maria Mena  (Norway)

Mellow  (2004,  39.59)  **
Viktoria  (2011,  35.10)  ***

What kind of person names their children after characters from West Side Story, especially when they're Norwegian? Maria (and Tony) Mena's parents, that's who. In fairness, their Nicaraguan musician dad paid for Maria's first demos in her early teens, although, to counteract that, they were probably awful. Going by her third album, 2004's Mellow, they would've been slushy, mainstream pop/rock of the kind used in crummy TV shows. Hey, guess what? She's had two songs used on something called So You Think You Can Dance. What a surprise. Arvid Solvang plays samplotron, with an uncredited flute part on Just A Little Bit and credited flutes on Come In Over Me, although whatever's used on So Sweet is effectively inaudible. 2011's Viktoria sees a more grown-up Maria, being a mature singer-songwriter album, only occasionally slipping into mainstream pop tropes (Homeless, This Too Shall Pass), her genuinely meaningful English-language lyrics at the centre of her sound. Bjarne Chr. B.B. Gustavsen is credited with Mellotron, but the background strings on My Heart Still Beats fail to convince, while whatever's on Money is inaudible anyway.

Mendelson  (France)

Personne Ne le Fera pour Nous  (2007,  89.57)  **½

How the hell do I describe Mendelson's Personne Ne le Fera pour Nous? Talking blues electronica? Idiot savant post-metal? I believe the ninety-minute, two disc set is their fourth album, a sprawling, eclectic collection that shifts genre track-by-track, the whole held together by Pascal Bouaziz' essentially spoken vocals, despite the stylistic incongruities. Despite the range of styles the duo attack, it's difficult to pick out any one track for praise, although the longer material (three tracks hover around the ten-minute mark) tends to stand out slightly. Nicolas Becker and Charlie O play samplotron, with distant choirs on the final track on disc one, the lengthy 1983 (Barbara), echoed flutes on Micro-Coupures and a major string part towards the end of equally lengthy closer Le Monde Disparaît.

Shawn Mendes  (Canada)

Handwritten  (2015,  48.52)  *½

Shawn Mendes was all of sixteen when he released his debut, 2015's Handwritten; allow me to say: it shows. I suppose the songs are relatively 'mature', in that they're professional-sounding, but his delivery is obviously heavily-manipulated by his producer, with excessive use of Autotune, although whether for effect or out of necessity isn't known. Better tracks? The acoustic Bring It Back might be reasonable if rearranged and sung by someone else, but that's it. I hate to be so negative (no, really), but this is absolute crap. Sample lyric from Air. "Air, air, air, air, air, air, air, air, air, air airair airair (etc.)". Genius. Martin Terefe is credited with Mellotron on two tracks, but the brass (?) on I Don't Even Know Your Name (the strings appear to be real) is pretty ropey, while whatever's supposed to be on This Is What It Takes is inaudible. However, it sounds quite like Mellotronic flutes and strings on Air, so who knows. I think the chances of any of it being genuine are minimal, though. I suppose I should give Mendes the benefit of the doubt due to his youth, but I can't. Quite horrible.

De Mens  (Belgium)

Wil Je Beroemd Zijn?  (1996,  41.20)  **½

Wil Je Beroemd Zijn? (Do You Want to Be Famous?) is a Flemish-language pop/rock album, '90s style, making it entirely inessential for anyone who wasn't into the region's music during that period. Despite rumoured Mellotron use, Jean Blaute's keyboard strings on hit single Sheryl Crow I Need You So are, at best, samples, quite possibly not even that.

Jeff Merchant  (US)

City Makes No Sound  (2009,  61.17)  **

Jeff Merchant's 2006 release, Window Rolled Down, was fairly weak, but looked like a work of genius against the utter insipidity of City Makes No Sound. Seriously, this is the wettest indie/singer-songwriter nonsense I've heard since the last one. There are no better tracks. Although I've given Danny McGough the benefit of the doubt before, this time he can... go elsewhere, as the background 'Mellotron' strings on Setting Sun and Universal Touch and flutes on Paralyzed, amongst other indescribably limp use, quite clearly aren't.

Mercury Rev  (US)

Deserter's Songs  (1998,  44.46)  ****
All is Dream  (2001,  49.47)  ****

Mercury Rev had been around for years, starting life as a vastly more abrasive proposition than the one into which they mutated. Deserter's Songs has been reviewed extensively by people who understand the music a great deal better then I, so, suffice to say, it's a sort of Appalachian folk/intelligent pop/singer-songwriter crossover thing, with great songs and a beautiful, relaxed sound. I know it's a cliché, but this is perfect late-night (nite?) music, with more than a touch of the Neil Youngs in the vocals and almost Beatley arrangements in places. Another obvious reference is The Band, Levon Helm guesting on one track. There's no credit on the album for anything orchestral, although the strings on some tracks absolutely have to be. What is credited is both Mellotron and Chamberlin (strings only, apparently), played by three different band members; Jonathan Donahue (Chamberlin), Adam Snyder and Dave Fridmann, although a little bird tells me that when Snyder was confronted with a real Mellotron, his comment was along the lines of, "Oh, so that's what they look like", ergo, he'd never seen one before, ergo, everything on the album is samples. Various brass, flutes (some real) and woodwind instruments on many tracks, which are sometimes definite Mellotron samples (Holes) and sometimes not (Endlessly), although they all sound a bit suspect. Now we know why.

Three years on, All is Dream carries on from where Deserter's Songs left off, with even more Neil Youngisms on the vocal front and a more dramatic sound overall and fewer, but longer tracks. Credited string players confuse the issue on the 'Mellotron' front, although veteran producer and Mellotron user of old, Tony Visconti, is credited with Mellotron flutes on Spiders And Flies, which I find highly suspect; he's known for hating Mellotrons these days, so given the disinformation on their previous album, I think it's fairly safe to say these are samples. It appears that Dave Fridmann plays all other Mellotron' parts (almost certainly samples, then), not that there's many apparent; flutes on Little Rhymes, strings on Spiders And Flies alongside Visconti's upfront flutes and strings on Hercules.

Mermonte  (France)

Audiorama  (2014,  34.58)  ***

On their second album, 2014's Audiorama, Mermonte occupy an area somewhere between progressive rock, indie and post-rock, leader Ghislain Fracapane's ten collaborators hailing from a wide variety of musical backgrounds. Describing individual tracks is... challenging. Opener Jérôme Bessout fooled me into thinking the album was going to be wall-to-wall chamber prog, there's a Glass/Reich-influenced passage on Fanny Giroud, Gaëtan Heuzé is textbook indie, Angélique Beaulieu sounds like a classical romance-era woodwind piece hijacked by Yes playing in the style of The Arcade Fire... Let's leave it at 'eclectic'. Julien Lemonnier and Antoine Tharreau are variously credited with Mellotron, with vague background strings on Karel Fracapane, quiet chordal flutes (that mercilessly smash the eight-second limit) on Gaëtan Heuzé and more upfront strings on Cécile Arendarsky, pretty obviously sampled. I'd be lying if I said I loved every minute of this, but it has enough vim and cross-genre experimentation to earn itself three stars, although, of course, none for the Mellotron.

Tift Merritt  (US)

Traveling Alone  (2012,  44.16)  ***

Tift Merritt's Traveling Alone is acceptable enough, if a little bland, at its best (to my ears) on the more upbeat numbers, particularly In The Way and closer Marks. Rob Burger is credited with Mellotron on Spring, although, given that I've consigned several of his recent credits to the Sample Dungeon, it's unsurprising that the vague background flutes on the track sound, at best, sampled.

The Merry Way  (US)

Debut  (2010,  20.27)  **½

The Merry Way's 'does what it says on the tin' Debut is possibly best described as chamber pop, for want of anything better. At least two of its six tracks, if given a contemporary pop production, would be indistinguishable from the kind of schlock that's played on commercial radio, so let's be thankful they weren't. Brian Eichelberger plays fakeotron flutes on Yellow.

Nito Mestre y los Desconocidos de Siempre  (Argentina)

Saltaba Sobre las Nubes  (1979,  30.09)  **½

Carlos "Nito" Mestre's second and last album with Los Desconocidos de Siempre, 1979's Saltaba Sobre las Nubes, is a bland, Latin American pop/rock effort with no especially redeeming qualities. Two credited Mellotron tracks, which turn out to be Juan "Mono" Fontana's string synth on Sonrisas Sordas and, presumably, Ciro Fogliatta's flutes on Iba Acabándose El Vino, although, given that Mestre's also credited with a real one on the latter, makes it more likely that he was simply overdubbed.

Metal Church  (US)

Masterpeace  (1999,  53.59)  ***
This Present Wasteland  (2008,  57.11)  ***

Metal Church are usually labelled as a thrash band, despite pre-dating the genre by a couple of years; aficionados would probably stick them in the 'power/speed metal' category, meaning they sound a bit like '80s Judas Priest crossed with Metallica, assuming you can tell the difference (and yes, I can. Just). 1999's Masterpeace is their sixth album; while it has its moments (They Signed In Blood's relative complexity, the short, inventive acoustic duet of the title track, a passable cover of Aerosmith's Toys In The Attic), much of the album cuts the thud'n'blunder mob far too close for comfort. Guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof (Vanderhoof, Presto Ballet) plays samplotron, with a cranky-sounding string part on Falldown and a more straightforward one on Into Dust, until it goes off-piste at the end of the song. Kiss For The Dead is the standard acoustic-into-heavy number, with a melodic string part, while They Signed In Blood gets the choirs out, along with the strings. Nearly a decade later, This Present Wasteland isn't markedly different to its predecessor, better tracks including the slower Deeds Of A Dead Soul and A War Never Won, but it's mostly pretty generic, Priest-like stuff, frankly. Vanderhoof on samplotron again, choirs opening and throughout Deeds Of A Dead Soul and strings in closer Congregation's quiet middle section.

Metaphor  (US)

Starfooted  (2000,  73.58)  ***½

Metaphor have been around since the early '90s, initially as a Genesis tribute band, before switching to writing their own material. It took them until 2000 to release their debut, Starfooted, but the wait seems to have been largely worthwhile, the band's various prog influences melding into a (relatively) unified whole. I'm not so sure about the lyrics, mind you, which seem to be based around the Christian creation myth, although this isn't what I'd call a 'Christian' album, unlike, say, the dreadful Akacia. Despite an occasional slip into dreary neo-prog territory, most of the album is pretty inventive, with a good dose of melody thrown in (remember that?), although it is a little over-long; you don't actually have to fill that disc up, chaps...

Marc Spooner uses a variety of keyboard sounds, though whether any of the older ones are 'authentic' is difficult to say; the Mellotron definitely isn't, as was confirmed for me by a new band member. The giveaway (as with so many similar) is the amount of fake Mellotron used on the album (mostly strings, with bits of flute and choir). It seems to me that most bands using a real one will restrict its use, as too much can be overwhelming and swamp the mix. On the other hand, samples will usually sit nicely in a modern, stereo-reverbed mix and, as such, are frequently wildly overused, often tipping well over the eight-second limit; a serious giveaway. Nonetheless, it's nice to hear it here and their new guy assured me they'd be using real Mellotron on their next album. That came out two years ago, so I'll be doing a bit of research into the matter. [n.b. They didn't].

Thomas Metcalf  (US)

One  (1989,  43.08)  ***½

I can tell you very little about Thomas Metcalf, other than that he is (or was) an American electronic musician and released what may have been his lone solo album, One, in 1989. I have to say, it's refreshing to hear someone using synths and samplers without trying to ape Tangerine Dream, just for once; Metcalf takes a far more contemporary (for the late '80s) stance, far nearer the avant-garde than any Berlin School artist you might care to name. Unsurprisingly, The Art of Noise are quoted as an influence, to which I'd add pretty much all of Trevor Horn's iconic production work for ZTT earlier in the decade. How to describe this... Metallic percussion samples vie with atonal drones, while the synths veer between gloomy bass notes, slippery portamento and tinkly chimes, synthetic choirs providing a backdrop for the occasional more 'standard' synth melody line. Metcalf is as inventive with his sampler as most modern practitioners are lazy; spot the tiny snippet of Psycho strings in C. Incidentally, for those of you (like me) who might think that his track naming refers to key signatures (titles: D, C, A, B, E, G, F), every track seems, quite deliberately, to be in any key but. Although Metcalf's credited with Mellotron, his use sounds more like early Mellotron sample manipulation than an actual instrument. Anyway, we get an outrageously choppy choir part on D and choir swells and pitchbends on A, although all other choir parts sound like the era's synth+sampler factory patches.

MetroGnom  (Norway)

Twangyluck  (2006,  64.20)  ****

MetroGnom (ho ho) are a Norwegian outfit whose take on progressive rock involves long instrumental workouts, jazzy sax and choppy, offbeat riffs that land so far from the prog-metal mainstream that there's (thankfully) almost no point of contact. 2006's Twangyluck is their debut, combining ridiculous 'song' titles with fearsome arranging skills and playing, somehow managing to keep things interesting over four tracks and sixty-four minutes, all without vocals. That isn't to say the album's faultless; it is a bit overlong, although as faults go, there's a lot worse and there's a slight lack of overall focus, but they're pretty minor quibbles, really. Guitarist Ole Ivar Jörgensen plays samplotron, with strings on Ten Peppermint Butterflies In A Ray Of Moonlight, cellos on Opening Ceremony To The Trolls' Seventeenth Olympic Games and strings again on Tellus Will Tell Us Its Will, none of it to any major effect.

Emi Meyer  (US)

Galaxy's Skirt  (2013,  34.10)  **½

Japanese/American Emi Meyer makes mainstream pop/rock that manages to be relatively inoffensive, which is worth commenting on in itself. David Ryan Harris is credited with Mellotron, but the fairly random flute part at the end of the opening title track, strings on Tokyoto and occasional background choirs elsewhere all fail to convince.

Michael's Statement  (Germany)

Beauty of Sadness  (2012,  55.45)  ***

Michael's Statement are The Night Patrol's Michael Vuckovac's solo project, Beauty of Sadness probably being his first release. It doesn't start well - opener Black Sea Incident is eight minutes of overwrought prog-metal that says nothing new - although Baba Fuma's Tale does rather more interesting things with Vuckovac's influences, the other four tracks being of variable quality. Most ambitious? Seventeen-minute closer Enter Sadness, no contest. Vuckovac's credited with Mellotron, but the strings and choirs on Black Sea Incident, Enter Sadness and elsewhere are pretty obviously sampled (spot the MkII 'moving strings' on Enter Sadness for proof).

Lori Michaels  (US)

Living My Life Out Loud  (2008,  42.23)  *

Lori Michaels plays (or, rather, sings) a particularly atrocious form of R&B/pop on Living My Life Out Loud, like all the worst music you've ever heard drifting out of car windows or clothes shops frequented by teenagers. Any better tracks? Pretty When She Cries is mainstream pop/rock enough to be relatively inoffensive. Worst? Her attempt at a gay anthem, Meet Me At The Partay, complete with the inevitable Autotune. Scott Treibitz is credited with Mellotron, by which I can only imagine they mean the background strings on Be Mine. As they say, the fuck?

Ingrid Michaelson  (US)

Everybody  (2009,  43.15)  **½
Parachute (download)  (2010)  **

Ingrid Michaelson (married to fellow singer-songwriter Greg Laswell, fact fans) is a New York-based singer-songwriter of the type who gets her songs used on mainstream TV shows, which should give you some idea of her sound. Her fourth album, 2009's Everybody, is pleasant enough, although most of its contents are unremittingly bland, if largely inoffensive. I'm reminded strongly of Alanis Morissette on opener Soldier, although the rest of the record is rather more generic; exactly what TV producers look for, in fact. Dan Romer is credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, both obviously sampled: I would guess that those are Chamby strings on Soldier, Mellotron flutes on Incredible Love, (Chamby?) cellos on Mountain And The Sea, (Mellotron?) strings on Once Was Love and an occasional Mellotron flute melody line on Locked Up, although the small string ensemble on several tracks sounds real. Michaelson co-wrote Parachute in 2010, subsequently recorded by Brit non-talent/ex-footballer's wife/TV 'talent show' judge Cheryl Cole. Now, here's where things become slightly confusing: Ingrid's released her own version as a single, although it doesn't seem to appear in any discographies I can find (although it's apparently on her Everybody/Girls & Boys twofer). Download only? Nevertheless, here it is, a pretty crummy effort, clearly written for a mainstream popster, Romer's sampled tape-replay strings clearly audible throughout.

Michal  (US)

Sky With Stars  (2000,  39.17)  **½

Israeli-born Michal Towber moved to New York with her family as a baby, Sky With Stars being the first of the two albums she's released to date. Essentially a singer-songwriter release, with some more upbeat material, I can't say this is especially exciting, but it does what it does efficiently, probably at its best on Free Dirt, Juliet's Refrain and closer Bliss. Pete Donnelly's credited with Mellotron, but I'd love to know where. The cellos on The Light? Fail.

Microdot Gnome  (US)

4D Sugarcubes  (2010,  44.21)  ****

You might just possibly be able to guess what area Microdot Gnome and their 4D Sugarcubes opus inhabit. Trance reggaeton, perhaps? Electro-doom? (That might actually be worth hearing). Oh, OK, it's full-on lysergia, almost to the point of pastiche, although I have difficulty in criticising something this good, made with so much evident love. Top tracks? The jaunty Stained Rainbow, Moonflower and lengthyish closer To Andromeda, which (intentionally?) reminds me of The Stones' 2000 Light Years From Home, but nothing, repeat, nothing here disappoints. Gary Lee Conner's 'Mellotron' clearly isn't; a pity, as it'a all over the thing, with swirly strings and cellos on opener Gardens Of Time, strings on Stained Rainbow and To Andromeda, amongst others and flutes on several other tracks. Rather splendid, actually.

Malcolm Middleton  (UK)

Waxing Gibbous  (2009,  61.17)  **½

Malcolm Middleton used to be half of Arab Strap, going solo after they split in 2006, although he'd already released two solo albums by that point. 2009's Waxing Gibbous is his fifth such, sounding not wildly dissimilar to his previous outfit, its contents a mélange of wispy indie, pre-psych '60s pop and folk, 'best track' award going to the vulgarly-titled Ballad Of Fuck All, which is, indeed, a rather sweet ballad, title notwithstanding. A major fault here is length, both of the album overall and most of its tracks, which average around five minutes, a good ninety seconds too long for their content. Edit, sir, edit. Middleton plays samplotron cellos and strings on Carry Me and strings on Shadows and closer Love On The Run.

Midnight Movies  (US)

Lion the Girl  (2007,  44.03)  ***

Midnight Movies seem to be part of the new wave of American goth, assuming there is such a thing, although any chance of material as memorable as anything by Siouxsie & the Banshees or The Cure are vanishingly small, I'm afraid. Please don't tell me either of those outfits aren't actually goth; you know what I mean. Gena Olivier's vocals do that female gothy thing passably well, although her voice has little character and sounds like it would be more comfortable singing something a bit more mainstream, or possibly nothing at all. Samplotron on two tracks, with strings on Coral Den and 24 Hour Dream, probably from producer and known sample user Steve Fisk.

Midwest  (Italy)

Town & Country  (2002,  41.52)  ***½

Midwest were Italy's answer to the likes of Grandaddy and their ilk, Town & Country being full of the kind of haunted Americana that many actually American bands could only dream of. Highlights? In Your Life and Big Green Needle, maybe, but there's little to complain about here. Francesco Ferretti plays a major samplotron flute part on Eating Dust, but it's still samples.

Mighty Mocambos  (Germany)

Showdown  (2015,  36.23)  ***

The Mighty Mocambos are a German funk outfit, indistinguishable (at least to my ears) from an American one, whose third (?) album, Showdown, complete with a host of special guests, not least the genre legend that is Afrika Bambaataa, is as good as anything you'll hear by a current outfit, I'd reckon. While I'd be the first to admit that this isn't really my bag, they do it well and it's nice to hear dance music that's actually being played by musicians, not merely programmed. Top tracks? Maybe Political Power, the groove of Locked And Loaded and the instrumental title track. Hank Dettweiler's credited with Mellotron, but... no. The vibes on Drifting Stars are not only an unusual sound to find on a real Mellotron, but are nowhere near cranky enough and, while those might be background flutes on Locked And Loaded, they're of no particular consequence.

Paulo Miklos  (Brazil)

Vou Ser Feliz e Já Volto  (2001,  42.28)  **½

Paulo Miklos is apparently best known as multi-instrumentalist with Titãs, although he's released a couple of solo efforts some years apart, 2001's Vou Ser Feliz e Já Volto being the most recent. Much of the album is decidedly ordinary poppy, Portuguese-language singer/songwriter stuff, its better (i.e. rockier) tracks clustered in a block around the middle of the record, specifically Por Querer, Lâmina De Vidro, complete with its outrageous bass work and Orgia, not to mention closer O Milagre Do Ladrão's authentic acoustic blues. Dudu Marote is credited with Mellotron, with flutes on Todo O Tempo and occasional, distant strings on O Que Você Me Diz?, albeit sampled.

Asa Milbankx  (US)

Simple Shapes + Patterns  (2008,  39.40)  ***
Angry Sun download  (2012)  ***

Asa Milbankx (a.k.a. James Ward of Analog Birds) released Simple Shapes + Patterns in 2008, by posting a download, gratis, at his website. Far less electronic than his group work and heaving with mandolins and ukuleles, his obvious love for The Beach Boys rears its head in several places, notably Tilt and Wayward Panther I, various other '60s (and later) influences cropping up on most tracks (spot the Leslie (or realistic simulator) vocal on If There Is A Reason). Ward/Milbankx utilises Mellotron samples on at least half the album, with flutes on Tilt, Ricochet and If There Is A Reason, mandolins and oboe on Embassy Blues, vibes on Naomi and cello and strings on Wayward Panther II, amongst probable other use. Four years on, 2012's Angry Sun download-only single displays similar influences to Simple Shapes... and is (James informs me), based around a 'four chord Chamberlin harp sequence'. A lovely sound, but I'd never have spotted it without help. Well, given that these are free downloads, what are you waiting for?

Lynn Miles  (Canada)

Unravel  (2001,  48.06)  **½

Lynn Miles' Unravel is an unashamedly country album, possibly at its best on Over You and the title track. A few more tracks like those would have put an extra half star on its rating, but the album dips into country slush a little too often for comfort. I have no idea why Lynn's credited with Mellotron.

Robert Miles  (Italy)

Organik Remixes  (2003,  75.36)  **½

Roberto "Robert Miles" Concina is an Italian DJ/producer type, who elected to commission remixes of his 2001 album, Organik, fittingly titled Organik Remixes, released two years later. It's difficult to know how to describe this other than by saying, 'it's a remix version of a dance album'. Aficionados will be able to appreciate the subtleties (no, for once I'm not being sarcastic) of the various sub-genres and the sound manipulation involved. The rest of us will probably think, 'it's a remix version of a dance album'. Mike Rowe (of Future Sound of London/Amorphous Androgynous) is credited with Mellotron, but given that (as far as I can ascertain) both those outfits use samples, I can't imagine it's any different here. While I don't know which tracks he plays on for certain, it seems likely that he contributes the not-especially-Mellotronic strings on FSoL's Cosmic Jukebox Mix of Paths that opens the two-disc set, although the album features string sounds on several other tracks. I think you already know whether or not you're interested in hearing this, so I can't imagine that anything I say is likely to make you change your mind one way or the other.