Archive for December 23, 2012

Vintage Cucumber – “Tom mit de Bon Style” (self-released 2012, Digital Download)

Vintage Cucumber is a solo project from German musician Johannes Schulz, who on this 9-track album plays guitar, bass, drums, synth, effects and voices.

After a brief, strange voice collage, Johannes launches into Captain Klötenpötter´s Reise, which is part space-ambience and part beat-enhanced soundscape journey. There are bits of melody, various degrees of rhythmic pattern and rock elements, and Johannes does a good job of blending intensity and brain candy. We then traverse through a few relatively short tracks. One is a noodling guitar pattern, followed by some fun freaky electronics that quickly become a very cool but all too brief tune that blends Can styled rock with motorik beats and Trance. Next we get another short sci-fi electronic piece as voices in German greet the computer world with Good Morning. Farbstoff Gurkenmehl is the next longer, better developed piece. It starts out with a Trance-atmospheric space freakout, which soon transitions to a peacefully lulling and beautifully melodic psychedelic tune, which takes on folk elements and gets increasingly spaced out. Very nice. And Come on, auf zu den asiatischen Gärten features more dreamy drifty soundscapes, Trance and meditative psychedelia. An interesting combination of elements.

But the epic stretch-out track of the set is the 20 minute The Hots fette Sonne. It starts off rocking like a blend of Pink Floyd and Can… actually it sounds like Michael Karoli sitting in with Pink Floyd. But Johannes continually shifts gears, injecting the Trance and ambient influences we’ve heard in previous tracks, and there are even some space-jazzy sections. Overall the music psychedeliciously trips along at a steady, drugged pace, which I closed my eyes and grooved along to, but there’s also lots of spaced out effects dominated sections that I enjoyed.

Stylistically the album as a whole is a little disjointed, but I’ll give a thumbs up to Johannes for bringing together these disparate styles and influences in intriguing ways. If any of this sparks your interest you can stream the album at the Vintage Cucumber Bandcamp site, and Johannes has set the download for name-your-price.

For more information you can visit the Vintage Cucumber web site at:
Visit Vintage Cucumber on Facebook at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

EYE – “Backdoor Jane” / “Wooden Nickels” (Lost Weekend Records 2012, LWR002, 7″ single)

In 2012 Columbus, Ohio based EYE released their first LP – Center Of The Sun – on Kemado Records, which to my ears was the best early 70s influenced slab of Space-Psych-Prog-Hard Rock released that year (CLICK HERE to read my review). Just in time for Christmas, they’ve got a new 7″ out with two very different songs.

Backdoor Jane is a kick ass slab of instrumental early 70s style hard rock, with powerhouse guitars and a wee little inkling of the band’s penchant for Prog. These guys are tight as a knot on this tune. Wooden Nickels goes in a different direction, being a dreamy Folk-Prog-Psych song, with acoustic guitar, flute, Mellotron, and really nice vocals. This could almost have been some lost track from The Wicker Man. I love the contrast between the two songs.

The single (available in Black and Clear vinyl editions) is out on Lost Weekend Records, which is the label of the [nearly] all vinyl record store of the same name, also here in Columbus. Owner Kyle is a dedicated supporter of local music. I see on the EYE Facebook page that they plan to release a live cassette in January, and will be wrapping up their second full length album in early 2013.

For more information visit the EYE web site at:
Visit the Lost Weekend Records web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

P.I. Tchaikovskiy / Edward Artemiev – “The Nutcracker & The Rat King” (Electroshock Records 2012, ELCD063)

Written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was famously turned into a ballet composed by P.I. Tchailovsky in 1892. In 2010, a film titled The Nutcracker in 3D was released, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky and scored by Russian musician, composer, and electronic avant-garde pioneer Edward Artemiev.

Artemiev’s score is derived from Tchaikovskiy, hence the credit to P.I. Tchaikovskiy / Edward Artemiev, and while there are certainly familiar melodies, the music as a whole is clearly Artemiev’s. As CD notes author Natalia Kozhevnikova describes the composition, it’s like Artemiev is “working with someone else’s material which then became his own”. The music is composed and arranged by Artemiev, performed by the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Murad Annamamedov. The lyrics by Yuri Ryashentsev are in Russian, though the CD notes list them and the titles in English. I’ve not seen the movie but Artemiev’s son and Electroshock label head Artemiy clarifies that The Nutcracker & The Rat King is not a soundtrack album from the film. There are some parts of the music that were used in the film, but Artemiev made a larger suite, re-arranged the tracks and composed additional material.

The CD opens with melodies that most will recognize, and very quickly begins a succession of thematic transitions, many quite dramatic. After the introductory bit we find ourselves in full marching band mode, enjoy playful show tune songs, Rock, Jazz, Swing, Classical, and throughout we are swept through a succession of emotion packed compositional twists and turns. It’s a great combination of classical symphony and Broadway production. Artemiev and the orchestra interpreting his score excel at communicating a passionate narrative through music, and the result is one hell of a fun hour. I should add that the recording quality is beautiful. Listening under the headphones was like being in the concert hall.

For more information you can visit the Electroshock Records web site at

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Mud Pie Sun – “Wooden Circle” (Revolving Bell 2012)

Mud Pie Sun are a two piece band consisting of Steven Pitcherella and Tom Quinn. Their music could be loosely termed as psychedelic, though a stronger sense of melancholy and warm reminiscence carries through their music giving it a somewhat more human and less psychoactive quality that makes it instantly endearing.

The album opens with the noise collage Spring of 1805 which somewhat anachronistically features vehicle and traffic noises. After a while one of these traffic noises is revealed to be a fuzz-boxed guitar sustaining notes that heralds in the intro to Worrisummer. This track features a prominent heart-on-sleeve J Mascis-worthy guitar line which overlaps with the acoustic strumming and suitably echoed vocals. However when the listener anticipates the ‘rest of the band’ joining the simple fuzz + acoustic layout of the track it instead marches on with this simple instrumentation. Track Three More Days follows, this time featuring a slightly fraught tremolo guitar line over the same acoustic backing. The vocals here sound at least slightly medicated, delivered with a syrupy drawl that occasionally wanders far off pitch and key, especially in the wordless chorus. A sparse but fortifying accordion part adds the first new texture to the album, reminding us that there is more on offer here than the simple post-party jam session feel of the first track.

The title track displays the first use of percussion on the album, with a lofi Mo Tucker beat allowing a frantic pace to be slowly reached as a slightly hypnotic lyric is repeated. Lyrically the track is all about a great summer that never dragged on and remained good, and whilst this subject matter is as basic as necessary it conveys these feelings with a childlike earnestness.

The next track, The Other Side, features a slightly Monkees-esque organ part which jars slightly with the atonal electric guitar parts. Generally the instrumentation is thinly recorded, with guitars squeezed and thinned out to the extent that they sound like they were picked up by answering machines rather than the product of studio work. Drums are equally idiosyncratically mixed and equalized giving the album a strongly DIY vibe. When I was presented with the band’s rationale I was anticipating a punchy garage-rock album in the vein of Dead Moon, so was (pleasantly) surprised when the music of Mud Pie Sun in general turned out to take a much lighter turn, featuring the same hesitant approach as Syd Barrett’s two solo albums.

In general the album maintains this lightness of touch. Multiple guitar overdubs fill out the sound made by the two musicians, with layered acoustic and clean electric guitars providing the main rhythmic drive of the songs. The vocals are often subdued as well, with The Snowshoe Blues featuring wonderfully out-of-tune backing vocals that somehow work with the music rather than against. In general the music is painfully honest and intimate, and would be far too easy to criticise purely on the grounds of technical or musical values contained within. However this overlooks the frail beauty and folk-art quality of this music, which is especially noteworthy when you consider the near twenty year time frame it took for this album to be boiled, simmered, roasted and chilled to reach its current state. Somehow, flaws intact, you can detect the level of selflessness within the album that can only be reached through such a maturation process.

For more info, visit:

Reviewed by Alan Bragg

The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment – “Operation Sun Probe” (Starry Night Records 2012)

New York City based Brian Wilson Shock Treatment (BWST) have been cranking out raucous psychedelic garage rock for nearly a decade now. Operation Sun Probe is their latest and for this outing the band consists of Brian X. Rose on bass, guitar and vocals, Mr. StarryNight (aka Scott Prato) on lead guitar, analog synth and vocals, Mark McClemens on drums, and Bonnie Kane on sax, flute and electronics. Aural Innovations review followers will recall the Big Plastic Finger review I posted yesterday. Well note that Scott, Bonnie and Mark are in both bands. A talented and creative bunch indeed.

As the band name suggests, these guys are heavily influenced by the psychedelic 60s. The album opens with the space rocking Colossal Atomic Man, singing of the guy who due to having the misfortune of being in a town that suffers a nuclear plant meltdown grows to 60 feet tall. It’s a Frankenstein meets Iron Man tale, and my favorite lyrics are, “His sister came out to save his soul, but he freaked out and the tanks they rolled.” Other highlights include Legeia, which is a spaced out garage psych rocker, singing of the mermaid who lies in wait to seduce passing sailors. It rocks hard but as if to communicate that seductive feel, there’s a laid back segment, with flute and acidic, melodic guitar lines. Cell Phone Radiation Blues features psychedelic rock n’ rolling Blues, and I really dig the last couple minutes as the band take off on a spaced out rocking jam. The Flood sounds like a 60s pop song with an injection of edgy psych rock. And I Walk In Shadows has a prog-psychedelic anthem feel.

The Circle Is A Square takes things in a different direction, being a space-prog instrumental with synths that sound like a John Carpenter movie soundtrack, along with ominous guitar and a beautiful flute melody. A cool, schizophrenic mixture of foreboding and uplifting sensations. The title track is similar and goes into deep space. This would make the perfect soundtrack to a sci-fi TV show and brings back memories of the old Thunderbirds series or something like that. Actually it reminds me of Alan Davey’s Chaos Delight album.

The album also includes two cover songs. If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium was a song written by Donovan as the theme to the 1969 movie of the same name, and sung by someone named J.P. Rags. I had to Google a bit to get the scoop as I’d never heard this song, and also found a YouTube video of Donovan appearing in the film singing a different song. Anyway, BWST maintain the peaceful folky feel of the original, while sneaking in some lightly grungy guitars, tasty warbling guitar solos, and a lovely flute melody. Swinging 360 degrees in the other direction, the band cover Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown, demonstrating what a short stretch it is from Black Flag’s brand of punk to BWST’s speedy, ripping psychedelic take on the tune.

Operation Sun Probe is available in vinyl LP and digital download formats (buy the LP from the BWST Bandcamp site and you get the download too). Note that the download includes two additional songs not on the LP. In summary, Operation Sun Probe is a fun set of smoldering punky psychedelic garage rock, songs with a 60s vibe that would be at home on a Nuggets compilation, and much more.

For more information you can visit The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment web site at:
Purchase the vinyl LP and digital downloads at The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment Bandcamp site:
Bonnie and Scott also run Starry Night Records, which stocks both new and used vinyl, much of the used stuff being collectable:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Big Plastic Finger – “Launching The Tone Arm” (Starry Night Records 2012)

Big Plastic Finger is the New York City based quartet of Bonnie Kane on saxophone, flute and electronics, Scott Prato on guitar and electronics, Brian McCorkle on bass, vocals and electronics, and Mark McClemens on drums. I had previously known of Mark from his time in the late great space rock band Born to Go. And Bonnie and Scott have been in a laundry list of bands that occupy virtually every point on the psychedelic-space rock-garage-jazz spectrum, including The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment, who also have a new album out (review posted shortly after this one). I have fond memories (over a decade ago now) of seeing Born to Go at the old Strange Daze Space Rock festivals, as well as Bonnie performing there with W.O.O. Revelator, and Bonnie and Scott with World Of Tomorrow.

Launching The Tone Arm is an intense set of improvised Psychedelic Jazz Funk Space-Noise-Core jams. Characteristic of what’s to come is the opening track, Winnebago Man, a tripped out cacophony of saxophone, guitar, bass, drums and manic alien electronic effects. The bass sounds like Bill Laswell did on those wild 1980s experimental rock-jazz-funk albums, and the guitar has a Beefheartian sound. But the whole is a free-wheeling but intense spaced out free-jazz-psychedelic garage rocking jam. The roller coaster ride continues on Things We Don’t Want To Admit Are True. I love improvised music where each musician is seemingly off in their own realm, yet it all gels together seamlessly. Bonnie free-jazz jams on sax, Mark pounds away on his kit, Brian’s bass rolls along and you can feel each note deep in your chest, Scott is cranking out a variety of interesting and contrasting rock and psych patterns on guitar, and it’s all happening in a gorgeous noise-festie glom. Finding A Good Use For The Growing Pile is another cool free-jazz and space-noise-punk-core jam. I like how Scott plays a slow bubbling guitar solo against the ultra-intense noise party that’s blazing away, and Brian’s vocals add to the psychedelic freakout aspect of the music. Ditto for Assembly Of Presence. I like the contrasting combination of Bonnie’s wailing sax and Scott’s guitar which is creating psychedelic effects and soundscapes, but also rocking out. The effects are like a massive alien invasion, and the rhythm section is ROCKIN’. Low Together (Worm Forward) is another standout which opens with a rocking combination of jamming flute and funky psych guitar. After a few minutes Bonnie switches back to sax, we hear some manic vocals, and the electronics go supernova again.

The two sides of this vinyl LP (digital download also) clock in at nearly 45 minutes and listening to the entire album left me drained. This is really intense spaced out rockin’ stuff. Highly recommended to people who think it would be fun if John Coltrane, Captain Beefheart, Guru Guru, Material, Massacre and F/i could all play together as one band.

For more information you can visit the Big Plastic Finger web site at:
Purchase the vinyl LP and digital downloads at the Big Plastic Finger Bandcamp site:
Bonnie and Scott also run Starry Night Records, which stocks both new and used vinyl, much of the used stuff being collectable:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Nick Riff – “Escape Velocity” (Riffdisc 2012, Riffdisc005)

Escape Velocity is the fifth release in the Riffdisc series that Nick began in 2006. As he explained to Jeff Fitzgerald in Aural Innovations #42, the goal of the series, “is that each release has a slightly different focus in regards to lyrical approach and musical style. This came about due to the fact that some people only like the heavy fuzz psych, some like the etheric acoustic style, and some like the cosmic space rock and the experimental pieces. The previous releases contained all these elements at once depending on the song. My concept for the Riffdisc series was to separate and expand each element a little more by focusing each release on one of these characteristics and still maintain my musical identity.”

Here’s a quick recap: First was Magick Museum, which compiled Nick’s psych rockers from the 1990s. Next was The World’s Alive, credited to Nick Riff’s Freak Element, an album recorded in 1999 but not released until 2008. Then Nick embarked on a string of albums featuring new recordings. Photon Shift included what were some of Nick’s most overtly space rock songs to date. It was accompanied by an EP of duo performances with Nick on acoustic guitar and vocals and Peter Platten on synths and vocals. It consisted largely of dreamy folk-psych songs with spacey electronic treatments. And last year’s The Universe Is Mental was the most off-the-beaten-Riff-path of Nick’s albums yet, being a mostly instrumental set of exploratory space rock/psychedelic excursions.

Which brings us to Escape Velocity, the final installment in the Riffdisc series. The album showcases Nick as singer-songwriter front and center, but with heavy doses of the inter-galactic psychedelic proghead that dwells within.

The album opens with Missing Time, which starts off as a steady grooving rock song. Then at the 2 minute mark Nick goes into a spacey-dreamy transitional bit, surrounded by bubbling alien electronics, and swings back and forth between these contrasting themes. Crazy Horse is one of several analogies referenced in the promo sheet and there’s a solo later in the song that has a Neil Young vibe to it. It’s a solid opening track that’s part cosmic folk-psych and part singer-songwriter rock ‘n roll. Infinity is next and includes interesting, contrasting thematic shifts like Missing Time. On this song Nick transitions between piano and acoustic guitar driven psychedelic groove rock and lulling spacey segments. I especially like the section with the blend of orchestral soundscape atmospherics, lulling acoustic guitar, light alien electronics, and a gorgeous piano melody that makes for a hypnotic psych-prog blend. This is followed by Psychic Blues, which cruises along at a bouncy rhythmic pace that sounds pretty cool along with the acoustic guitar and organ, and Nick keeps things spaced out by working in colorful space electronics.

Too Much To Know kicks off with a somewhat tribal percussion groove, quickly adding acoustic guitar and proggy keyboards. Nick’s slightly efx’d warbling vocals are trippy, and I like the combination of acoustic guitar, 60s styled high pitches organ melody, dark mellotronic keys and sundry other effects. Near the end Nick goes into deep space with a slow efx’d guitar solo, played within a bubbling psychedelic cauldron of atmospherics and effects. Side Effects is a barroom style rock ‘n roller with sassy saxophone leads. But Nick can’t resist infusing the music with freaked out space rock effects, which get pretty intense near the end, blurring the line between pub rock swing and lysergic fun. I love it. Radiant Beings is the shortest song of the set, being a robotic whimsical rocker.

The title track features down ‘n dirty acoustic guitar riffage combined with heavy bleepy blurpy spaced out electronic effects. But it’s also got dreamy drifty melodic psychedelic segments with orchestral atmospherics that add a heavenly vibe to the music. And for the grand finale we’re treated to a balls-to-the-walls dual acid guitar freakout jam. The album closes with Open Mind, one of the most uplifting songs of the set, with head boppin’ melodic hooks that will put a smile on your face. It’s full band, led by acoustic guitar plus orchestration, and a bouncy groove like the best 60s pop. But after about 4 minutes Nick seriously shifts gears, creating a dark and ominous space-prog rumbling, like an alien force is gearing up for attack. It just keeps pounding away, and the wait for what’s to come is downright nerve-wracking. Yet there’s no explosion, no peak… it just quickly lightens and fades… and that’s the end.

The promo sheet describes “psych-folk-prog songwriting” and I’d say that’s a great description of what this album is about. At the core is Nick Riff the singer-songwriter, though this minstrel has a penchant for all things psychedelic and a proghead’s resistance to staying in any one place for very long. The songs are accessible, and Nick is a talented songwriter, yet the music is performed, arranged and recorded in the true spirit of adventure and will nicely satisfy any space-psych hunger. I’ll add that any Nick Riff album holds it own as a stand-alone, and if you look to the Aural Innovations alpha index you’ll see we’ve reviewed all his albums. But I also feel that Nick is an artist who listeners need more than one of his albums to get a real feel for what he’s about, and I see on his web site that the CDs are very reasonably priced so space cadets can affordably take the plunge.

For more information you can visit the Nick Riff web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Earthling Society – ZodiaK (Nasoni Records 2012, NASONI128)

Earthling Society return with their 7th studio album, ZodiaK, a new vinyl only release (it is scheduled to come out in CD format with two bonus tracks sometime in the first half of 2013). Earthling Society have continued to evolve throughout their career, changing directions on almost every album but still retaining a certain core sound that is all their own, and ZodiaK is no exception.

Jettisoning the shorter songs heard on most of their previous albums, this time the band decides to stretch out on two lengthy cuts, the 25-minute title track and the 21-minute The Astral Traveller. In between them is a brief 2-minute instrumental called Silver Phase. It’s not the first time the band has done 20 + minute tracks. There was Plastic Jesus and the Third Eye Blind’s Kozmic Suite No. 2, Tears of Andromeda’s title track and Sci-Fi Hi-Fi’s E.V.I.L.U.S.A. But this is the first time two of them together have made up an album’s worth of material. There’s also a notable difference in sound from previous albums, as these were played and mixed live in the studio all in one day. The music is palpable; it breathes as if alive as it flows naturally from one section to the next. The sound is rawer to, less produced, with a nice gritty edge to it.

The line-up for this album is Fred Laird on guitar, vocals, bouzouki, Moog, Mellotron and syntar; Kim Allen on bass and Jon Blacow on drums. Without a dedicated keyboardist this time out, the sound is a bit less synth and electronics oriented, with more emphasis on guitars, but bandleader Fred Laird does do an admirable job of incorporating a wide range of instrumental sounds into the pallete, considering this is all played live. The title track shifts wildly through deep cosmic ambience; driving riff-based spacerock; Grateful Dead-like jamming and dreamy, psychedelic soundscapes taking the listener on a dazzlingly trip fantastic (apparently through the mind of a serial killer, according to the Nasoni website!). The short Silver Phase seems to be somewhat of a coda to the final part of the previous track. I’m not exactly sure what it’s doing here, but that is perhaps just one of the mysteries of the album that has yet to reveal itself to me. The final track on the album, The Astral Traveller, is my favourite. I found this track to have a bit of a similar vibe to Nektar’s first album, Journey to the Centre of the Eye, as it glides from spacey layers of jazzy guitar and keyboards to experimental echo chamber odysseys. But man, does this one ever catch some serious solar fire in its latter half, as the rhythm section picks up speed and we’re treated to some mind melting, epic guitar riffing and soloing. Truly exhilarating stuff!

This album took a few listens for it to grow on me, but once it did, I was hooked. It’s another excellent release from Earthling Society, a band that seems to be on an endless roll. I’ll be looking forward to hearing the two extra tracks they’ve saved for the CD release, but vinyl nuts will definitely want to pick this one up. Better hurry though, there’s only 400 black vinyl and 100 coloured vinyl copies available, and I’m sure they’ll go quickly!

For more info, visit: and

Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald

Ptolem – “All The Jewels Of This Dead Sea” (Suisa 2012)

Ptolem are an electronic duo from Geneva, Switzerland, which employs ambient and occasionally bass-heavy beats on this, their second album following 2007’s The Almagest. All The Jewels of This Dead Sea contains twelve instrumental tracks of mainly electronic music, with spacey titles like Submerged Neurotic Continents and Searching for a Reborn Sun. Francesco Raeli and Patrick Brocca do not list the electronic equipment used on this recording, but do make room for guest cellist and guitarists on several tracks.

The journey starts with Sunlit, reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers’ second-generation electropop track The Sunlight Underground, with bright pulse-like bass-beats. Archaic Sun features more of a rock (albeit still programmed) sound with added guitar that breaks into a brief Muse-style thrash and even some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it finger tapping. The keyboard sounds range from bright and optimistic to dark and ominous, sometimes within the space of a single track, as in the above-mentioned Submerged Neurotic Continents and Chronoclastic Bends. Searching for a Reborn Sun dares to get almost funky with breakbeats and great synth-bass sounds, while Elephantine Spectres moves from Yello-styled synths to vast and echoing orchestral sounds that depart almost as soon as they arrive. Shapeshifter alternates between rather beautiful cello sections and darker electronics. The cellos return for Epochs Drifting, which does indeed have a drifting and melancholic feel, enhanced by wordless soprano vocals from Maud Deruaz. Colour Filter, the longest track on the album at just a shade over seven minutes, opens with dark and ominous rumbles and beeps like a gathering thunderstorm, before breaking out into an Ozrics-style guitar jam followed by an extended ambient coda. By contrast, The Lotus Effect features sparse and almost romantic piano and the sound of gently plucked strings, as chill-out as the title would suggest. Finally, Cloud Island features a return of the bass-beats that opened the album, calling to mind Tangerine Dream’s late ’80’s style, before winding back to a gentle close.

The Ptolem experience is not one you would seek out if you were looking for psychedelia or spacerock jams. Rather, the duo of Raeli and Brocca provide a range of electronic soundscapes that sound both retro and futuristic, and with enough mood changes to ensure that interest is maintained throughout their 60 minute search for undersea gems.

The band’s website can be accessed at:
Email at:

Reviewed by Pat Albertson

Erin Hill & her Psychedelic Harp – “Girl Inventor” (Gridley Records 2012, CD)

The standard process for new submissions here at Aural Innovations headquarters is that if I’m unfamiliar with the artist it takes its place in the queue and I get to it as quickly as possible. But the name Erin Hill & her Psychedelic harp along with the cover art aroused my curiosity, and when I spotted the “pop, opera, celtic, psychedelic, sci-fi” description on Erin’s business card, I had to hear this right away.

Girl Inventor is by no means space rock or psychedelic per se. But if I were limited to a brief description I’d say Erin’s “pop, opera, celtic, psychedelic, sci-fi” description pretty much nails it. The music is accessible to all. I could imagine many of these songs getting commercial radio play. The songs have solid melodic hooks, often with great rhythmic grooves, and often enchantingly seductive. But an attentive listen reveals that Erin is well off the beaten path.

The lyrics are firmly in the sci-fi/psychedelic realm. I Am A Lava Lamp really made me feel like a lava lamp being shaken (I do have a lava lamp just a few feet away from me where I write reviews). Stun is a symphonic love song for astral explorers – “I’ve gone 19 light years out of my way, just so I could happen to run into you today”. And on This Planet, with its seductive harp and vocals, Erin’s sings, “Oh this planet, I like it, I’ll stay a while”, perhaps imagining herself as a visitor from elsewhere.

A trademark element of the music that characterizes much of the album is the combination of Erin’s harp and Mike Nolan’s pedal steel, which has a spacey Bluesy sound. This is most apparent on songs like How On Earth, with its meditative feel that will sweep you away to the heavens. Ditto for Blue Slide, a beautiful soulful song with a spacey vibe. Erin also utilizes effects, but they’re subtle and used sparingly. I don’t know if it’s electronics or a heavily efx’d instrument, but there are freaky UFO embellishments peppered throughout the title track. Giant Mushroom, a song that has a cool groove and is both soulful and meditative, has some nifty shimmering effects that color the music. One of my favorite songs of the set is Lookout, Science. It opens with sitar and an Eastern feel, but quickly launches into the main theme which has a kind of 60s pop feel, but the harp and pedal steel propel the music into a realm all its own. The sitar returns for a brief solo later in the song and joins in the larger mix at the end.

Analogies are tough and I’ll avoid trying. (Well, maybe Kate Bush at times, sorta…) And cruising around her web site I see that Erin has a busy career as both a musician and actress. She does solo harp and vocal performances covering popular songs. Check out her web site for her harp and vocal interpretation of various songs, from Aerosmith’s Dream On, to Dolly Parton’s Jolene. And how about a solo harp take on Melanie’s Brand New Key? Erin also plays in a Celtic band and has performed with a laundry list of pop stars, had parts in movies, been on Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show, and much more.

Anyway, suffice it to say that the music on Girl Inventor is completely accessible but intriguingly out there in ways that are hard to describe. I found it refreshingly different.

For more information you can visit the Erin Hill web site at:
Visit the Gridley Records web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz