Archive for May 30, 2012

Census of Hallucinations – “Dragonian Days” (Stone Premonitions 2012, SPCD 072)

Census of Hallucinations (CoH) were on a creative roll for years, cranking out outstanding albums at a steady pace. In recent years Tim Jones and the Stone Premonitions collective have released albums by a variety of projects, like Stone Premonitions 2010, Stella Polaris, and The Global Broad Band. And now, five years after their last album, Tim has resurrected CoH with himself on guitar, vocals and scribe of all lyrics, the Reverend Rabbit on bass, long time cohort Paddi on drums, and David “Ohead” Hendry on keyboards.

The album opens with Third Shopping Mall From The Sun (for Bill Hicks), a crunchy, high energy rocking rant about consumer culture. (I Googled Bill Hicks and found a “Third Mall From The Sun” YouTube video in which the comedian spews a diatribe against Debbie Gibson and terminal mall culture.) The title track features Tim cranking out ripping guitar on this hard rocking and steady grooving song. Ultra Violet is another killer rocker with great guitar, all setting the stage for Tim’s acerbic lyrics, singing of the world’s handful of pied pipers whose “lies are like radiation, infesting the minds of the nation”. The Delivery Man is a dark moody rocker played at an unsettling rhythmic pace.

The guitar licks sting like a wasp on Hologram, the burn made all the more delicious combined with the jazzy rhythm guitar. I love the end of this song. The band has been rocking hard while Tim harangues about his favorite topic – the few that prosper at the expense of the many. But he firmly grabs our attention by transitioning the music to something more peaceful and lulling for the final verse, explaining that if we want change, we have to love everything and, perhaps more importantly, be what they don’t want us to be.

Semantic Change is a funky rocker with some of Tim’s more playful and poetic lyrics. Stupid Guitarist is a spacey ambient jazz piece with humorously self-deprecating lyrics. I really dig the off-kilter rhythmic pace and ambient jazzy vibe that starts off Modus Operandi. But the music makes intriguing shifts, as if it’s trying to mimic Tim’s increasingly caustic invective against the powers that be. Certainly one of the most interesting songs on the album and the one that took the most listens for me to wrap my head around. Finally, Age Of Light is a solid rocker that closes the album with Tim’s most optimistic lyrics of the set – The tower of Babel is falling down. Cast out the dark and let in the light.

CoH has always been about the combination of well-crafted music and socio-political lyrics that often border on rage, and Dragonian Days demonstrates that Tim hasn’t mellowed one bit – His cynicism, wit, AND smoking guitar are all well intact. And with Paddi, David Hendry and the reliable Rev, we’ve got the same crack, tight-as-a-knot band that CoH has always been. Welcome back…

For more information and song samples, visit
Purchases can be made at the Stone Premonitions web shop:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Unstrung Hero: Baird Hersey’s Long, Strange Trip from Virtuoso Guitarist to Guitarless Harmonic Singer

When it comes to his work as a guitarist, composer and, most recently, as a devotee of Tibetan overtone singing, New Yorker Baird Hersey virtually epitomizes the often overused honorific “unsung hero.” But such a characterization, at least in Hersey’s case, is misleading. For while he’s never achieved widespread popular acclaim-even in the more rarefied terrain of “experimental” music-he is deeply respected among his peers, among discerning critics, and among knowledgeable aficionados of progressive music as an innovative, if idiosyncratic, artist. He’s received commissions from Harvard University and the New Mexico Council for the Arts; he’s been a featured performer at the Berlin Jazz Festival; he’s opened for Philip Glass and the Grateful Dead; he’s had the rare honor of having an entire Hearts of Space radio broadcast devoted solely to his music; and he’s even been on MTV. From blues-influenced psychedelic rock to jazz fusion to musique concrete, proto-electronica, reggae, new wave and new age, Hersey has seemingly absorbed and then jettisoned a dizzying number of musical styles and genres throughout his long, eventful career as a guitarist/synthesist/vocalist/composer. In the process, he’s assembled a formidable body of work as a musician and aural explorer.

But it was his discovery of Tibetan overtone singing and later Ashtanga yoga that profoundly altered both his music and his life. Like John McLaughlin before him, Hersey’s spiritual path has taken him from the prestigious ranks of the guitar virtuoso to the esoteric circles of Buddhist philosophy and yogic practice. But Hersey’s musical quest for the Great Om at the center of the universe really began in the late 60’s with Swampgas, whose Grateful Dead-derived psychedelic blues rock was symptomatic of the times. As with many similar groups Swampgas was a victim of that turbulent age, surviving just long enough to record and release one album in the wake of the acid fallout of psychedelia. In 1975, Hersey founded the engagingly eccentric jazz-funk group Year of the Ear. The group released three albums of tightly-knit, high energy ensemble fusion that merged Miles, Mingus, and Mahavishnu into a fascinating bitches brew of big band funk and avant-jazz. In the late 70’s, Hersey’s interests veered more and more toward minimalism and sonic experimentation. Coessential, his 1977 collaboration with the brilliant anarchic percussionist David Moss, is a little-known though highly treasured gem of avant-garde soundscaping. Equally impressive is his even more obscure solo album from 1980 ÔDO OP8 FX, a minimalist tour-de-force of early electronica featuring Hersey’s soaring guitar atop bubbling analog synthesizers and driving sequencers. Throughout the 80’s Hersey dabbled in new wave and synth-pop with the groups FX and Artificial Intelligence, though most of his time was devoted to producing music for television and other media in the Big Apple. Always an admirer of Tibetan music and at one time a member of David Hykes’ Harmonic Choir, Hersey reinvented himself in the 90’s as a disciple of overtone singing, and in the process formed his own harmonic collective called Prana. In many ways, Prana represents Hersey’s boldest musical venture yet-a kind of spiritual-musical quest for the most fundamental vibrations that hold together the harmony of the spheres. Though Hersey has now seemingly unstrapped his guitar forever, its ghostly echoes still resonate in the massed voices of Prana’s cosmic chorus, a fitting reminder that there is after all only one song with its endlessly rich and varied melodies. It really has been a long, strange trip for Baird Hersey.

AI: You’re probably best known as a guitarist and composer. Are you self-taught or do you have formal training?

BH: For the most part as a guitarist, I’m self-taught. I played along with records. I was very fortunate in high school to have a wonderful music teacher who saw something in me and encouraged me to compose. In college, I studied composing, orchestration, arranging, and improvisation.

AI: Over the years, you’ve produced an eclectic catalog of highly exploratory music. What were some of your most important early musical experiences and influences?

BH: When I was about 5, my mom took me to a Memorial Day parade. The sounds of the brass bands sent chills up my spine. I grew up in a house where music was always playing, everything from Miles Davis to Rachmaninoff, Ella Fitzgerald and Bach. My mother was also a theatrical producer, so there were also a lot of Broadway musicals playing, as well. I was at the first performance The Beatles did in the U.S. It was a rehearsal the afternoon of their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. That, needless to say, had a big impact on me. As I got into my early teens, the birth of FM radio took music on the airwaves in a more adventurous direction. WNEW was on in my room night and day. I became a big fan of Eric Clapton through his work with John Mayall and later with Cream. I grew up in New York City, so between the Cafe A-Go-Go and the Fillmore East, I heard Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Traffic, Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Grateful Dead, The Staple Singers, Jethro Tull, Ritchie Havens, Chicago, Procol Harum, and countless others. In 1967, I had the good fortune to be part of the film crew that shot The Monterey Pop Festival. The festival drew on the burgeoning music scene in California with acts like Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, The Who, and most importantly Jimi Hendrix who at that moment changed guitar playing forever-especially mine!

AI: You released one album in the early 70’s on the Buddah label with the group
Swampgas. Can you provide some background about the group’s origins and your association with the band?

BH: We had all been playing in clubs on Long Island and the group really came together when we went to Nova Scotia where we rehearsed in a shack on the ocean using a generator to power our equipment. One of the producers of Woodstock, Artie Kornfeld, signed us to Buddah after his wife saw us open for the Grateful Dead in Connecticut in the spring of 1970. We recorded the album the following summer. Because of business problems the finished album sat on the shelf for a year and a half. As a result, the band fell apart. When the album finally came out, I only heard about it because there was a review in Billboard.

AI: After Swampgas you led the jazz fusion group Year of the Ear. How did this group come about?

BH: After Swampgas broke up, I went back to school to study music. I studied with the trumpet player/composer Bill Dixon. When I got out of school, fusion was just starting to happen. It wasn’t what we think of today. It was vital and alive with bands like Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever. And of course in the driver’s seat, there was Miles Davis, who I saw many times, most notably three nights in a row at the Cafe A-Go-Go with the Live Evil band. That totally blew my mind. Year of the Ear was together 5 years and did three albums.

AI: In the late 70’s you seemed to opt for a more minimalist approach to music, a decision that resulted in a memorable collaboration with percussionist David Moss as well as an innovative solo album of early electronica beguilingly titled ÔDO OP8 FX. What motivated this change in musical orientation?

BH: I was feeling the weight of leading a 14-piece band for 5 years. After we played the Berlin Jazz Festival ( I decided to give it a rest. Synthesizers were just beginning to be available, and I found I could do a lot on my own.

AI: Coessential, your collaboration with Moss, has some strikingly original guitar work – almost as if you were creating sound sculpture with an instrument that, particularly in 1977, wasn’t ordinarily associated with avant-garde sound construction. Was this your intent at the time?

BH: David and I worked together in collaboration. Most of what we played on the album came out of the improvisational vocabulary of sounds that we evolved together. I composed four of the pieces and David did a solo piece. The rest were structured improvisations.

AI: Your 1980 solo album ÔDO OP8 FX is regarded by many serious “underground” music aficionados as a pioneering work that anticipated much of the electronica of the 90’s. How did this project come about?

BH: That album was recorded direct to 2-track, no overdubs. In fact, on one tune “The
Minotaur” I play feedback guitar melodies with my left hand and synth with my right hand. It was definitely influenced by the minimalist composers. A funny thing happened while I was recording one track. It had a repeating minimalist synth figure. The engineer disappeared for a few minutes during playback of a take and the studio doorbell rang. I didn’t know how to buzz the person in, so I ran up the stairs and opened the front door. Who’s standing there? Phil Glass! In the background droning along was do-be-do-be-dobe. I thought to myself “BUSTED!” Hahaha! That record was before there was such a thing as new age or trance music.

AI: Probably like most people who bought the original vinyl edition of ÔDO OP8 FX, I was intrigued by the mysterious title. Can you shed some light on what the title refers to?

BH: The title is a phonic device. If you notice, the first “O” has a little hat over it, which makes it an “aww” sound. So the letters phonetically say “Audio Opiate Effects,” meaning the sound put you in an altered state. With “opiate” in the title my dad was a little worried that I was on drugs, which I wasn’t. I assured him it was only the sound that altered your brain chemistry.

AI: After ÔDO OP8 FX, your work took yet another dramatic turn, even flirting with new wave, reggae and electro-pop with the groups FX and Artificial Intelligence. FX, in particular, had a fair amount of success. Can you provide a synopsis of your work with these groups?

BH: I had always played with what are now called “jam” bands on the side. I felt a pull to go back to rock. So I put FX together. We recorded an album and won the “Best Unsigned Band” contest on WNEW. We even had a video on MTV ( We played around, but somehow it never really got off the ground. Then I got married, had three kids, and started writing music for television. When the pull came to play out, I had all this gear I’d been using for the T.V. work and a studio in my house. So I did the Data Drone album ( Artificial Intelligence was kind of a hobby band.


AI: You seemed to have undergone a life-changing experience when you started practicing yoga in the late 80’s. What precipitated this change in lifestyle?

BH: In 1988, I started doing yoga. In 1997, I was introduced to Ashtanga yoga, which is still my daily practice. It’s a very intense, physically demanding practice. Something opened in my body and my mind and absolutely turned my life upside down but also led me to the music I now do.

AI: Did this spiritual awakening lead directly to your interest in Tibetan ritual music and eventually to the formation of your current musical project Prana?

BH: I don’t know how awake I actually am, but I am pretty happy, which is not how I was when I was younger. Actually, I’ve been interested in Tibetan music since the early 70’s. On the first album Year of the Ear did for Arista, there’s a piece called “Tibet,” which is what an avant-garde big band sounds like when it’s trying to play Tibetan temple music.

AI: Can you briefly explain the goals-both musical and spiritual-you’re trying to achieve in Prana?

BH: Musically, we’re just trying to create something beautiful. My composing style is slow, minimalist. But everything I have done musically in my life shows up in there somewhere. I really feel like all my other work has led me to this point. From a spiritual point of view, we’re just trying to provide people with a moment of peaceful contemplation.

AI: You’ve spent a fair amount of time in India. How have your experiences there influenced your attitudes both toward your approach to music and to your life in general?

BH: I went to India to study with a yoga master, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who was the main teacher of Ashtanga yoga. He died in 2009. Prana’s music is a mixture of Western vocal music and the musics of Tibet, Mongolia, and India.


AI: As an adherent of harmonic singing, were you-like many people in the U.S.-first introduced to it through David Hykes and his recordings with the Harmonic Choir?

BH: Yes and no. I was introduced to overtone singing by listening to Tibetan monks and
Tuvan throat singers. I taught myself. I later met David and worked with his group for about a year. I learned a lot from him in terms of refinement of my technique. He is a master and pioneer in the field.

AI: Prana, of course, doesn’t include your guitar in its repertoire. Do you still play and compose for the instrument?

BH: There are only two times in the last 15 years that I’ve picked it up. The first time was with David Hykes’ group and the other was to do some gigs with Krishna Das. I never say never. I may get back to it someday.

AI: Do you ever see yourself returning to your roots in jazz and rock at some point in the future?

BH: Probably not. It would be more on the World music side of things: lots of percussion.

AI: What are your immediate musical plans and objectives for the near future?

BH: Prana is just finishing a record and will be playing some festivals this summer. I recorded a requiem for September 11th last summer with a 24-voice choir. It needs to be edited, mixed and mastered. I wrote a book on sound meditation that I’m hopeful will come out early next year. I also have a video cook book on youtube called “The Invisible Vegan” to which I add about a dish a month. I’ve been a vegan since 1973.


w/ Swampgas:
Swampgas (1972, Buddah Records LP)

w/ Year of the Ear:
Year of the Ear (1975, Bent Records LP)
Lookin’ for That Groove (1977, Arista Records LP)
Have You Heard (1978, Arista Records LP)

w/ David Moss:
Coessential (1977, Bent Records LP)

w/ FX:
FX (1981, Bent Records LP)

w/ Artificial Intelligence:
Data Drone (1990, Bent Records CD)

w/ Prana:
Waking the Cobra (1999, Hersey Music CD)
The Eternal Embrace (2004, Hersey Music CD)
Gathering in the Light (2007, Satsung CD)

ÔDO OP8 FX (1980, Bent Records LP)

All of the above albums are available from iTunes
Visit for information about Baird Hersey and Prana.

By Charles Van de Kree

Ginger – “Seahorse” (Taliesyn Productions 2011, TAL002)

Ginger is a four piece band from Zurich, Switzerland. What initially got me interested in Ginger was viewing their fan videos of their live performances on YouTube. Ginger fuses rather funky rhythms with (what many would consider) wailing guitar riffs. Tracks that are well worth mentioning include the almost Jimi Hendrix-like guitar driven The Wheel, the slower-paced eight-minute Painful Hours with guest cellist Stephanie Kobza, the country-rock 200 Horses with nice arrangements plus some well-played Hammond organ, the stylish Wild Bill and the truly poetic – another eight-minute song – Inside I’m Free which in reality I thought was nearly worth the price of admission alone. After I listened to this disc a third time, I also found to my liking Yeager, which possesses some fine wah-wah guitar effects with its lyrics paying tribute to famed Air Force general Chuck Yeager – who broke the sound barrier in 1947 while piloting an experimental Bell-X 1; and the bluesy Father that employs some enjoyable trumpet playing. It’s a little tough to accurately describe Ginger’s music because these four talented musicians play several genres – blues rock, some psychedelia and a certain amount of folk. It’s apparent that some of what Ginger has to offer their listeners consists of strong (both dual and lead) vocals, well thought-out writing (and playing) as well as in-depth, woven walls of sound within.

Line-up: Marc Walser – guitar, Hammond organ, percussion & vocals, Michael Butikofer – guitar, trumpet & vocals, Ariane Bertogg – bass and Dominik Jucker – drums. For you record collectors, Seahorse is also available as a limited edition 180 gram transparent vinyl album. CD comes housed in a nice digi-pack, accompanied with an eight-page booklet complete with song lyrics. Definitely, a keeper.

For more info, visit:

Reviewed by Mike Reed

Ginger – “From the Road” (Taliesyn Productions 2011, TAL001)

As a big live album fan that I’ve always been, I believe that I may like Ginger’s Seahorse CD a bit more than this From the Road disc. Don’t get me wrong, this nine song CD is still a fine effort and all but it simply didn’t grow on me as much as Seahorse had managed to. From The Road is a live document of what Ginger had performed while out on tour during the fall of 2010 with gigs happening in their hometown of Zurich, Switzerland and Binningen as well as a couple of German shows – those being in Berlin and Gottingen. Here, you get Ginger playing two classic rock covers plus tunes from the previously mentioned Seahorse CD and their first record LP Arlanda which I haven’t heard yet. Starts out with a ten-minute cover of Pink Floyd’s Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, the well-penned eleven-minute Crosstown Bar Blues, Jam, Winds Of Dust, Part II, Sugar Mama and the finale, an eight-minute tribute to Them’s Van Morrison with Gloria. CD’s sound quality is quite good – for it possesses that [like you are there] vibe and sound with a definite Jimi Hendrix influence obviously present. Front insert is an eight-page CD booklet with full color photos of Ginger’s live shows taken on this mini-trek. The bio sheet for this CD release notes: ‘From The Road’ reads like a menu – a seven course candle light dinner. For starter, the band chose a psychedelic interpretation of a piece by Pink Floyd, followed by steady rock, impulsive shuffle, a rhythmic delicate drum solo, some heavy blues, entangled double guitar parts and to top that off – a break out of some free improvisation. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

For more info, visit:

Reviewed by Mike Reed

Secret Saucer – “Four On the Floor” (Self-Released 2011, CD)

This is my first Secret Saucer album. I’d heard smatterings that I liked…apparently this album is more song-based than their previous output, but even the vocal tracks have improv dimensions, so there’s plenty of pure exploratory space/prog-rock to be had. I like the idea of the stick-shift theme as referring to music that is more improvisational (manual) than automatic, though I dunno if that’s what was intended…judging by the lyric, probably not.

Time Spent Out of Mind is a good tune, with a driving Hawkwind “Do That” type-riff but simulating Brock’s later guitar-sound, alternating with cool keyboard sequences and space-effects. It’s a pretty clean production they have, and generally I prefer when the sound is a little less polished…but a good tune is a good tune anyway…fellow Ohioan Nick Riff plays guest lead guitar on this one. Lunar Pull is a slower melodic piece with some really pretty keyboard playing, the lead guitar later takes over the roll that the keys played…really nice melodic playing…Architectural Metaphor’s Greg Kozlowski on magic axe. His playing is so agile, I wish it was a little higher in the mix here. Daedal might be my fave track, starts out with a really nice kinda Camel vibe, melodic guitar harmonics and a very ’70s-sounding space-prog keyboard sound, but morphs into the heaviest stuff of the album, a really intense, more thrashing space-rock jam, bass rumbling, with all ‘tronics and guitar-fx set on attack-mode. Awaken is a minor-key acoustic ballad that I didn’t care for as much, the vocals especially aren’t really to my taste, more like your typical ’70s melodic Prog style…but to presage the Floyd cover to come, you can faintly hear a little Barrett influence in some of the distant electric guitar sounds. The spacey keyboard playing is rather pleasant as well.

I’ve read that members of Quarkspace have been a part of SS in the past. None of their names are on the list of players here, but Celestial Spigot might indicate that they left their mark, the main beat and electric piano having a similar vibe to a lot of quarkjams. Guest Greg Klucher plays sax. I prefer the alternate bridge parts where the synths go wild. The title track runs to nearly ten minutes, and begins as a somber brooding instrumental jam, with more Floydisms, flutey keyboards, low groaning keyboard lines. I really like the drummer’s work here, nice fluid fills. I’m not nuts about the vocal, but it is brief. Aegean Bridge is mid-paced upbeat space-rock with nice round keyboard tones and bitchin’ bubbling synth arpeggios…then some more excellent keyboard sounds. This is a pretty righteous little ditty. Notch is a dark brooding electronics piece which serves as an intro for the equally dark and brooding Saucer Full of Secrets. When I first saw this title, I thought “Oh Jeez, not another Floyd cover”…but I figured SS had a right to it by name. It’s also a memorial to the somewhat recent passing of PF keyboardist Rick Wright. I dig how they mimic the freaky soundscapes of the Floyd’s live versions (as opposed to the studio one, which is “boingy-er”)…of course when the rolling drums come in, things get really good. The rest of the track of course pays proper homage to the dramatic organ-based coda, but sounds too ordinary in the context of a cover…honestly, I was never really into the Floyd’s outro, so nothing against SS. All in all, this is a solid release, and has variety.

For more info, visit:

Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg

Chatham Rise – “No One EP” (Self-Released 2012, CD)

Chatham Rise is the Minneapolis, MN combo of Tim, Collin, Sam, Ben and Brian. This four song EP is a perfectly fine little release – none of the tunes really stand out and all are quite good. We’ve all heard the terms shoe-gaze, goth-rock, dream-pop – all could apply here…and space-rock works too. Though, if I understand the term correctly, perhaps less shoegazey as the guitar sound isn’t quite as hazy. Still, I’m sure they have a couple pedals down there. It’s a nice spacious sound, adding some keyboards and quiet far-away vocals. They sound a lot like Spiritualized on Fall In, it begins typically with a lone guitar, before the rest of the band enter and they all lock into a nice hypnotic mellow groove, as do all of these songs…things just float and flow along. Autopilot is driven by rumbling bass, and there is a spacious texture made up of various aspects of guitar sounds and probably keys, too. The closer Hollows – if I had to choose a favorite, I’d go with this. Again, things start out with a lone slow guitar melody, and then bass and tom-toms join in and keep things slow-but-steady. I wait throughout this track to hear that really sweet bass pluck which only happens 2-3 times, during which one must be patient and appreciate the journey…good vocal, too (and even less decipherable than on the other tracks), really moody, melancholic stuff. There’s nothing new here in terms of style, but it’s still highly enjoyable.

For more info, visit:

Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg

Seid – “Among the Monster Flowers” (Sulatron Records 2012, st1202, LP)

This is an LP-ONLY reissue of a CD released in 2002 – but I received a promo-CDR only, so I cannot comment on the packaging. Scott Heller’s review of the original CD release can be found in AI issue #19.

Seid are a super spacerocking combo from Norway. The album starts off with the great title-track theme fading in, a marching riff with lotsa great space-synth, but quickly kicks off into the totally awesome Fire Song – this is riff-heavy space-rock, and a great vocal here – I prefer it to some of the album’s attempts at singing, this is more of a raw growl, and a very impassioned one. Then again, the singing style vocal in the bridge is excellent as well, and accompanies a beautiful melody with intoxicating keyboards…and then some sitar…before they launch back into the main riff. Jellyfish – these vocals are so silly, even somewhat annoying (“Psyche-jellow-ish”??). Only a band whose second language is English could come up with this – such a dynamic often leads to cool sounds, but not so much here. The music is wacky, too, but in a good way – lots of different instruments play the main theme, including clarinet, bassoon, banjo – and there are loads of swishing and swooshing synth…finishes off with a nice Theremin whirl. Nice cosmic Floydish guitar stylings in the mellow intro to King Leon, eventually turns into a heavy organ/guitar-driven tune – I thought he was shouting “King Lear!”, until I looked at the track listing. Next is 5/4 – another beaut of super cosmic rock, nice mellow groove, better singing, more terrific keyboards, Mellotron, nice weeping-guitar stylings. The last couple minutes of this track is a decent electronic piece, which I might have preferred to have been tracked separately.

Lois Loona is not a fave, but even this tune provides an excellent onslaught of aggressive guitar and ‘tronics about half way in. The moody The Tale of the King on the Hill was not one of my initial favorites, but it keeps growing on me – the guitars have a twangy jangly ’60s effect…I don’t know what they call it, I’m sure there’s a term for this technique. The second half of the track gets into a great power-riffing groove – I haven’t quite come to terms yet with the term “stoner-rock”, but it seems to be pretty entrenched in the scene. Anyway, the sludginess here reminds me of that kind of heaviness, while not sounding like a Sabbath or Hawkwind clone. The Red Planet is another phenomenal mellotron-fueled high-flyer, but they only play that part once – why is this only a two-and-a-half minute song??? – It’s fucking criminal!!! Loop it. Sleep starts off slowly for me, in a minor key, but then warms up with a nice wistful riff in that jangly guitar style mentioned earlier – actually reminds me of Jimmy Page, if anyone. There’s a fair amount of Hammond organ throughout the entire album, which also lends to it having a somewhat ’60s vibe at times, but in many other ways the music diverges from that, and Seid overall have a fairly modern Euro-Space-Rock sound. Phenomenal outro, a more expansive reprise of the intro title-track – a mind-blowing mélange of organ, wild synth action, sitar, flutes, and a fully developed baritone horn section. The tuba player even plays a well-known classical riff that will probably sound familiar, though I couldn’t quite place it.

All in all, while there are a couple generic riffs and some of the vocals leave something to be desired, this is top-notch versatile space/psych-rock, played by extremely capable musicians with excellent group chemistry. You should own this in one form or another. Looking forward to hearing what came later.

For more info, visit:

Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg

Electric Moon – “The Doomsday Machine” (Nasoni Records 2011, 118-2)

For those not already in the know, Electric Moon is yet another band featuring the prolific Sula Bassana (guitars and effects), with Komet Lulu (fuzzbass, effects, vocals) and mono-monickered Alex (drums, percussion). Bassana (aka Dave Schmidt) currently oversees Sulatron Records, while simultaneously contributing to a number of other bands on the label. Formed by Schmidt in 2009, Electric Moon has released several albums in quick succession, including a number of limited-edition live sets. The Doomsday Machine is their second studio release, although even this was recorded mostly live, with few overdubs.

When the press release for The Doomsday Machine states that “the whole thing is enveloped by a gloomy atmosphere”, it certainly does not overstate the matter. The twenty minute title track which opens the album leaks doom from every pore. This is pure psychedelic drone, relentless in its intensity, and heavy enough to make their earlier studio album – Lunatics – seem like a shot at mainstream rock! About halfway through this epic track, the machine disintegrates into an echoed and distorted soundscape with eerie cymbal crashes and electronic guitar feedback. The stomping beat and chants return in the final few minutes to finish off any work left undone. Echoing, sparse and definitely more compact at just over five minutes, Kliener Knaller sounds more like conventional rock, albeit with a definite psychedelic vibe to it. Spaceman rocks on solidly and gradually increases velocity, until it reaches cruising speed about halfway through its thirteen minute duration. Intensity, if not solemnity, is reined back for Stardust Service, which waxes and wanes across 20 minutes. The album closes with yet another lengthy (21:44) drone-and-sludge fest – Feigenonolog – which would be great had it not been preceded by an hour of cosmic intensity. As it is, the album feels a little overwrought, with some great playing and fine ideas stretched a little beyond optimum. Perhaps if a few of those longer tracks had been trimmed back a little, the album would have attained spacerock classic status. As it is, it serves as a good primer to the sprawling worlds of Sula Bassana and Electric Moon.

For more information on the band, go to
For further Nasoni releases, go to or e-mail

Reviewed by Pat Albertson

Various Artists – “Tripwave: A Retrospective Collection of Russian Psychedelic Progressive Music” (Trail Records 2011, 010)

Trail Records was founded in 2007 by two artists who had the realisation that there are many musicians around the globe whose work remains largely unheard through lack of financial support and promotion. Their goal was, and remains, to release music taken from different cultural backgrounds and traditions in limited edition form, with neither mass production nor commercial gain being priorities. To this end, they have chosen to compile a retrospective of Russian psychedelic and progressive music from across the last 20-odd years, from 1989 to 2010. Few of the bands present have achieved international recognition, and most of the tracks are either previously unreleased or else remixed for the album. Not too surprisingly, all vocals are in Russian, but Tripwave have helpfully provided English translations in the CD booklet.

Trail Records have arranged their Tripwave compilation chronilogically, and the album opens with the ten minute Celt by Eastern Syndrome who recorded three albums between 1987 and 1990 (guitarist/vocalist and founding member Constantine Bitukov passed away in 2004). Built primarily around a single bass and guitar riff throughout its first section, the vocals are a little too prominent in the mix, although the track does featuring some tasty guitar and sax interplay, including a central breakdown session. Next up is Moon Dream by The Moon Periot, who existed between 1985 and 1992. The bass is very prominent in this song, which has an almost funky post-punk feel to it. Again, the drawback here is the crooning vocals, which distract from the music. Information on Do Major, whose 1992 track To Rake Your Fingers Through the Grass appears here, is rather sparse. More funky slap bass is on offer with a Bjork-style vocalist wailing over the top of some tasty double-tracked guitars. Decadance, who contribute the five minute Dream #5: Love from 1999, are similarly obscure, and their contribution is sadly not particularly memorable, other than for a rather fine prog-metal guitar solo in the mid-section. By contrast, 2004’s Solaris by Disen Gage, a dual guitar four-piece formed in 1999 and seemingly still active, is one of the best tracks on the album, calling to mind Porcupine Tree’s firm basslines and razor-sharp guitar. Next up is Rada & Ternovnik (Blackthorn), whose sparse and chilling sound on 2004’s Interlude defies easy comparison – perhaps mid-period King Crimson might be closest. Much of the track consists of a really ripping guitar solo, which is eventually joined by the high pitched wail from Rada herself. Following on is KRTL, whose 2006 track Soda calls to mind Ozric Tentacles at their best – a really scorching track. Moscow-based Deti Picasso contribute Happy End Is Inevitable from 2007, with vocalist Gaya Arutyunyan’s singing being something of an acquired taste, particularly when the tracks breaks down into an anarchic noise section halfway through. Vespero, perhaps the most internationally well-known of the groups here, contribute the eight minute Inna Burst into Tears from 2007, sounding a little early post-Syd Pink Floyd, with more of those wailing and wordless female vocals (seemingly a common trait in Russian progressive rock) tastefully mixed in with the melodic guitar lines. Next is, whose lengthy guitar/synth improvisation Entrance To Invisibility features chanted female vocals over the top. Closing the album on a high note is Thee, recorded by St Petersburg’s Liompa, a haunting and atmospheric piece from 2010 that fires up the volume and distortion near the end.

To these Westernised ears, the music contained on this compilation leans much more towards progressive rock, rather than psychedelia, and the vocals can sound a little distracting at times. However, it can serve as an introduction to other Russian progressive and melodic bands for those who have already discovered Vespero.

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Reviewed by Pat Albertson

Sally Tomato’s Pidgin – “Planets” (Severe Recordings 2012)

When looking for spacerock inspiration, what better place to start than right here in our own solar system? In the early 1900’s Gustav Holst brought us a musical meditation on “The Planets”, and almost a hundred years later the subject is revisited with Planets by Sally Tomato’s Pidgin (a less spacerocking name would be hard to imagine!). Conceptualist and vocalist Sally Pidgin (who has starred in autobiographical rock opera/movie Toy Room in 2010) is backed up by Eric Flint on drums and percussion, and Carlos Severe Marcelin on “everything else” (Sally’s enignmatic contribution on the CD sleeve is to play “herself”). Although taking inspiration from that same subject matter as Holst, Planets is not a rock adaption of that classical work, but rather an original (or nearly so) song cycle that takes the listener on a trip outwards from the sun and into the void. Not only that, Sally and co have provided an even bigger bang for your buck; Holst worked his way through only seven planets, while she has included all nine of them, plus other heavenly bodies including the astroid belt, sun, dwarf planets and assorted moons across 20 mostly instrumental tracks in just under 60 minutes.

The journey starts with Sol, with Sally’s ethereal whisper floating above gentle keyboards and finger-picked acoustic guitar, swiftly joined by harmonised electrics and stately electronic backing. In spite of its weighty subject matter, the music does not come across like some overblown prog-metal epic, but rather bright and clear moments of pop music, focusing more on melody than heaviness or musical virtuosity. This feeling is continued across Mercury, before some slightly harder-edged guitars kick in. Venus continues in a similar vein, followed by a brief 30 second percussive stopover on Earth’s Moon (here entitled Luna). Arriving on Earth, we are greeted with a rather intentionally-cheesy ’50’s movie voiceover selling us a budget travel tour of the planet, featuring “men and women in unusual positions”, and sound bites from satisfied customers (“They have all the best recipes figured out”). The acoustic guitars recall visions of Steve Howe, and its four minutes make it one of the longer tracks on the album. Mars eschews any of “Bringer of War” heaviness, but does feature some cutting harmonised electric guitars. Main Belt manages to get closer to heavy metal across its two minute duration with shredding guitars and double kick drums, which cut out a little too early, although I guess there is still a lot of space left to travel. Trips to smaller moon and asteroids – Pallas, Ceres, the beatless and purely electronic Io and Titan – are generally compact soundbites, whistle stops between the main destinations. Jupiter has more of a pop/rock fusion feel, and is inspired by Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony No. 41, which predated Holst’s work by over a century; five minutes in length, it feels like one of the more fully realised tracks on the album. The tuneful Saturn sounds like mid-’70’s style Genesis with multi-layered keyboard parts and acoustic strummed guitars, again with a duration befitting one of the largest planets in the system. Neptune” has a precise ’80’s prog feel to it, while Oberon features a rather cosmic voiceover by Sally. The tricky time signatures and jarring voices of Uranus contain elements of King Crimson mathrock as played by a Victorian amusement park roundabout! Pluto features a press statement from the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet ( The journey ends with dwarf planets Haumea (brief Eno-esque piano notes and wordless keening vocals) and Eris, which features samples from such sci-fi gems as Lost in Space, before the infinite void is reached.

Planets lacks the heavy instrumental jams that have come to be typically associated with the genre known as spacerock; however, its carefully composed and tastefully executed themes make it worthy of exploration by fans of the more dreamier and pop-oriented side of classic progressive rock.

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Reviewed by Pat Albertson