Archive for January 29, 2013

Insider – “Vibrations From The Tapes” (Phonosphera Records 2012, PH04)

I’ve long enjoyed Italian band Insider’s last albums – Jammin’ For Smiling God and Simple Water Drops. Both were killer sets of ultra-heavy space rock and space infused stoner rock and metal. But Simple Water Drops came out in 2005 and I’d heard nothing since so I figured that was it for the band. Bassist Piero Ranalli has been busy since then with the prog band Areknames and released several CDs of his solo kraut/psych/prog project Unimother 27.

And now, courtesy of Phonosphera Records, we’ve got Vibrations From The Tapes, with the trio of Piero on bass, brother Marco Ranalli on guitars and effects, and Stefano Di Rito on drums. But this is very different from the last albums, which were a combination of composed pieces with vocals and instrumental segments. Vibrations From The Tapes features nearly 80 minutes of pure improvisation.

The set opens with the 22 minute Your Brainticket. Piero and Stefano set an easy-paced rhythmic foundation over which Marco jams. His guitar sails away playing steady melodic psych leads, edgy acidic runs, and free-wheeling rock leads. Sometimes I hear a Dave Gilmour flavor and near the end Marco briefly goes into Hendrix mode. He continually shifts gears and it all flows seamlessly. We’re also treated to tasty meteor shower alien electronics which embellish things nicely. This is followed by Killing Boredom, an aggressive rock ‘n roller which at only 3 minutes seems a little out of place amongst the lengthy behemoths that accompany it. The appropriately titled Raga In The Sky is next and has a drugged dervish-like rhythmic pulse over which Marco plays trippy Eastern slathered leads. I like how Piero’s bass patterns contrast with the drumming, so that each musician is operating in his own space, yet it all gels together perfectly into a lysergically whigged out heavy rocking whole.

You like improv that takes off and explores and doesn’t ever want to stop? First Steps is the monster track of the set, clocking in at a whopping 27+ minutes. It starts off slow, like a psychedelic band waking up in the morning. The bass melody leads the way while Marco plays mind-bending ambient guitar leads. The pace gradually accelerates and I start thinking of Robert Fripp doing his soundscape thing with a space rock band. But eventually the band settles into a steady groove as Marco jams away in various styles, similar to what we heard on Your Brainticket, though he goes far deeper into space on this one. Dark Age is the closing track and starts off similar to First Steps, with a slow rhythmic pulse and ambient guitar leads. But Marco quickly transitions to a spaced out melodic rocking style, cranking out winding and near screaming licks, really ripping it up at times, and all the while the bass and drums are following along at a reserved pace. Then for the final minutes the entire band goes into aggressive mode, finishing on a completely stoned note like Black Sabbath gone totally acid freakout.

In summary, Vibrations From The Tapes is exactly what it’s trying to be – damn good stretched out spacey psychedelic improvisation. The music was recorded live with two microphones, and you do get that raw live feel. I thoroughly enjoyed it. BUT… what I REALLY want is a full blown new Insider studio album! Note that the CD is limited to 200 copies.

For more information you can visit the Phonosphera Records web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Various Artists – “Re-Evolution: FdM Sings The Hollies” (Fruits de Mer Records 2013, Crustacean 37, LP + 7″)

Fruits de Mer Records (FdM) kick off 2013 by tackling The Hollies with a 16 song LP + 7″ vinyl package of contemporary bands doing covers of classic tracks by Manchester, England’s great 60s pop maestros. For those not in the know, FdM is a UK based label who specialize in vinyl only releases of current bands covering music, often quite obscure, from the 60s-early 70s, though the label also features some original music as well. Re-Evolution: FdM Sings The Hollies is a tasty set and deserves a track-by-track overview.

Beautify Junkyards, a Portuguese band who I was introduced to last year when they released a 7″ on FdM, do a gorgeous rendition of Butterfly with a spaced out medieval vibe. Atlanta, Georgia based The Seventh Ring Of Saturn do a beautifully executed cover of All The World Is Love, upping the psychedelic ante far beyond The Hollies original. I love that Eastern tinged vibe. Ditto for Nevada based musician Jay Tausig, who does an ultra-trippy and intense version of Elevated Observations. It’s got solid production and arrangements with killer guitar, sitar and effects. Between his FdM contributions and [almost] monthly The Trip Around The Sun series of albums, Jay was one of my big discoveries of 2012. From Bristol, UK, Hi-Fiction Science released an excellent album in 2011 and have made several contributions to FdM compilations. Their take on King Midas In Reverse starts off as a stripped down acoustic, sorta garage-tribal jam that gets more fleshed out as the song progresses, especially when the psych guitar leads and freaky electronic embellishments are added. The Re-Stoned are a Russian stoner rock band that I’m well familiar with from their three albums on the R.A.I.G. label, and pleasantly surprised to find doing a Hollies cover. Then The Heartaches Begin was a pretty psychy Hollies song with cool acidic guitar licks. The Re-Stoned quicken the pace and add female vocals, making it a rough and tumble fuzz-psych-pop rock ‘n roller, with a fantastic stoned rocking instrumental freakout break. Moonweevil, who I think might be a Cranium Pie side project, wrap up Side 1 of the LP with a wildly whacked rendition of Bus Stop, running it through an avant-spaced out electro-groove grinder. Adventurously off the beaten path this one is.

Side 2 kicks off with The Gathering Grey doing an almost spot on cover of Postcard, though adding mellotron-ish sounding embellishments and other little effects, and I dig their trippy prog-psych instrumental finale. auralcandy are a UK based band I don’t think I’ve heard before, but I really like the way they add a soulful and slightly funky edge to Heading For A Fall. Hard Hard Year, as recorded by The Hollies, had a Beatles-esque You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away feel to it. This was a good song choice for The Bevis Frond, as its ideal fodder for Nick Saloman’s acid-minstrel craftsmanship. Try It was one of The Hollies more tripped out, effects-laden psych songs, and the New York City based Sky Picnic are just the ones to take it even deeper into space. Theirs is a valium-paced cross between classic lysergic 60s psych and dronier Velvet Underground experimentations. The Neutron Drivers are a New Jersey based band I’d not heard before who do a relatively faithful cover of Water On The Brain, but their instrumental section goes way out into intense outer space. Very cool. Side 2 ends with Swedish duo Us and Them being the second band to take a whack at Butterfly, and really make the song their own with an acid/wryd-folk interpretation that will make you start thinking there should be a “Pagan-Prog” genre. I loved their songs from The Wicker Man 7″ on FdM a couple years ago.

So that’s the LP, but we’ve got four more songs on the 7″ EP that comes with the package. King Penguin are from the New York City area and do a very interesting take on Dear Eloise. It starts off with a country-rock feel, then veers off into sitar and tabla driven Eastern influenced psychedelia, which I found to be a disorienting but very cool transition. The Higher State are another band I’d not heard before this compilation. Their cover of Don’t Run And Hide is one of the more spot-on covers of this set. Ditto for Scranton, PA based Langor’s rendition of Everything Is Sunshine. And UK based The Electric Stars are also mostly faithful to the original with their version of Jennifer Eccles, but do add some tasty guitar and effects embellishments.

In summary, the bands on this compilation all do better than fine interpretations of their chosen Hollies songs, and not a few really took the music in a different direction, which always appeals to me.

The album will be available in February and is limited to 800 copies, and as usual this is vinyl ONLY, no CDs or downloads. If interested you better hurry because Fruits de Mer releases have a tendency to sell out QUICK!

For more information you can visit the Fruits de Mer Records web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Soft Hearted Scientists – “Whatever Happened To The Soft Hearted Scientists” (Fruits de Mer Records 2013, Crustacean 38, 2-LP + 7″)

It’s unusual for Fruits de Mer Records to release a full LP of a band doing all original music so when they do it’s gotta be good, and this sucker is a 2-LP + 7″ package. Soft Hearted Scientists are the Welsh quartet of Nathan Hall, Dylan Line, Paul Jones and Michael Bailey. They formed in Cardiff in 2001 as the duo of Hall and Line, making cassette demos in Hall’s house, and have been releasing albums since 2005. Whatever Happened To The Soft Hearted Scientists compiles Fruits de Mer’s favorites from the band’s CDs, plus a title track exclusive to this set, songs from their soon to be released new album, and a 7″ consisting of previously unreleased demos. We’ve got a total of 23 songs here so I’ll give you the skinny on some of my favorites that should provide a good feel for what the band are about.

Soft Hearted Scientists cover a fair range of territory. The music is heavily 60s influenced and mostly folk-psych and pop-psych based, though the band incorporate traditional influences, progressive rock, and much more. Mount Palomar is a seductively dreamy folk-pop tune with a 60s vibe and spacey alien effects. I love how it starts off acoustic driven and then blasts off into a lush and uplifting chorus. The space effects are front and center on the haunting yet melodic Wendigo. The tale of the The Yongy Bongy Bo combines traditional folklore elements with a pagan folk feel. The acoustic guitars and vocals are enchanting on Siberia, and the looped effects and keyboard lines add multiple layers that keep things continually interesting on this beautifully flowing song. Rockford’s Return is a fun, quirky, spacey acid-psych-pop song. Eyes has a stick-in-yer-craw melody that sounds straight out of 60s pop-psych, but incorporates the fun freaky space effects that the Scientists seem to like so much. Most of the songs are in the 3-6 minute range, but The Caterpillar Song is a 10 minute epic. It starts off as a spaced out folk infused pop-psych song and eventually builds into full blown progressive rock, with BIG keyboards, a ripping tripped out guitar solo, and oscillating UFO effects. Wow! Road To Rhayader consists of mesmerizing psychedelia, with its hypnotic melody and vocals, interweaving acoustic and electric guitars and marching rhythmic pace, and all-around beautiful instrumental arrangements. The Scientists show their flair for foot stomping music-hall fun and whimsy on Halloween People. And the four songs on the 7″ may be billed as “demos”, but they’re as good as anything on the LPs, my favorite being Newest Things, a stellar example of immaculately produced 60s influenced pop-psych.

In summary, this is a thoroughly captivating set of music, with outstanding compositions, arrangements, and excellent production. I agree with the folks at Fruits de Mer… this is a special band.

The album will be available in February and is limited to 800 copies, and as usual this is vinyl ONLY, no CDs or downloads. If interested you better hurry because Fruits de Mer releases have a tendency to sell out QUICK!

For more information you can visit the Fruits de Mer Records web site at:
Visit the Soft Hearted Scientists web site at: They have LOTS of mp3’s you can hear!

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Oceanfire – “A Set Of Songs EP” Parts 1 & 2 (2012/2013, Digital Download)

I’d previously known of UK based musician Keith Hill from Citizen Zen and his participation in Vert:x. Oceanfire is Keith’s solo project and he recently made two sets (four tracks each) of recordings available for free download from his Bandcamp site.

The four tracks in A Set Of Songs Part 1 were recorded in 2009 and 2012. Fractal Sun sets a repetitive rocking rhythmic pace with a nice melody, around which Keith adds whooshing synths and gliss-like guitar licks. About halfway through the electronics take over for some serious cosmic dance floor action, and I like how it gets increasingly chaotic as the track progresses. Cloud 10 is a brief space-soundscape piece that develops quite nicely for something that’s less than 2 minutes. I wish Keith would have fleshed this one out more. Zirna is the hot smokin’ spacerocker among these four tracks. The first three minutes rock hard, but then Keith abruptly shifts gears and goes into a thematic ambient/atmospheric section, before launching back into the heavy blazing space rock. There’s lots of ripping guitar leads and a simple melody line that I can’t tell whether it’s a keyboard or stringed instrument, but I like the way it contrasts with the more aggressive music around it. Finally, Keith eases the pace for a smooth landing in the last couple minutes. Heliopolis is something of a cosmic avant-garde piece, mixing various contrasting and off-kilter sound/rhythmic patterns, ethnic percussion, and a darkly ominous atmosphere. It’s 6 minutes long but is another one that could have stood for more development as I was in a nice groove with it when it ended.

A Set Of Songs Part 2 also consists of four tracks, all of which were recorded in 2012. Portal is similar to Cloud 10, being a short spaced out bit of soundscapes and effects, though in this case the brevity works better because the next track, Cylindrical Helix, starts with a similar electronic based theme before developing into a pretty cool Hawkwind inspired space rocker (including Alan Davey styled bass). It’s also the only track among the eight with vocals. Freyr is a cosmic drifting, gently rhythmic piece with soaring synths and saxophone and guitar leads that I liked. And Gravitational Waves is similar to Heliopolis in the strange but interesting variety it includes. It’s got an almost industrial sounding choppy but near-dancey rhythmic groove, wild space synths and various other ambient/soundscape elements.

There’s quite a bit of variety across these eight tracks, which Keith described to me as demos. Zirna and Cylindrical Helix are my favorites because of the heavier space rock, and I’d like to see Keith aim for a full album that concentrates on this aspect of Oceanfire but also include some of the interesting space/soundscape/experimental work heard on Heliopolis and Gravitational Waves. You can listen online or download for free so check it out.

For more information visit the Oceanfire web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Plastic Overlords – “Sonic Astronomy” (Fool’s Errand Records 2010, FE01)

I have to say that I, in fact, have heard the band’s first CD, their self-titled opus released in 2000 and I believe that I like this title, Sonic Astronomy, their long-awaited second disc a bit more. Came to a complete surprise to me but finding out that Plastic Overlords comes from Atlanta, Georgia (who would have ever guessed?) I mean, in all honesty I would have immediately assumed that they were most likely British. Best described as psychedelic/progressive. Some typical science fiction references occur here and there throughout this CD’s 63:40 duration. As for the tunes, the ten-minute opener Star Avenger vs. The Winged Hippopotamus is where one would likely get the initial impression that these blokes are from the UK. I’ve actually played their wonderfully cosmic psych piece You Crumble To Bits by itself on a few occasions and I thought that A Moment Of Silence For Unsynchronized Watches sort of maybe reminded me of like an undiscovered Pink Floyd B-side (yet it’s been noted elsewhere this particular cut isn’t too dissimilar of the Rush masterpiece 2112). The Sunburst Going Strong? has a solid ’70’s sound and vibe to it – as it’s a bit difficult to believe this song is from a modern-day effort as such, as Twelve Steps To Seventh Heaven made me reminisce of – say ’90’s Hawkwind and the eight-minute Silver Sparks From The Holy Mountain is truly an astounding cut to thoroughly soak in. That leaves the somewhat King Crimson-inspired Your Chariot Awaits and the well-played seventeen-minute epic (of a) closer Tea and Cake With Another Mad Hatter. Overall, Sonic Astronomy happens to possess a healthy dose of impressive guitar riffs as well as an atmospheric vibe with a clear musical influence of early Hawkwind, Syd Barrett era-Floyd, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis and vintage Rush.

Personnel: David Noel – bass, keyboards & vocals, Eric Hand – electric guitar, John Eades – electric & acoustic guitars and Brad Johnson – drums. Perhaps it’s just me, but I thought that the first half of Sonic Astronomy was psychedelic and the second half was more in the progressive vein. Either way, it all makes for great listening. I do plan to keep this CD in my current rotation stack for a while.

For more info, visit:

Reviewed by Mike Reed

Atragon – “Volume 1″ (Witch Hunter Records 2012, WHR021)

Atragon are a five-piece Edinburgh-based band. Their debut, Volume 1, is available on Witch Hunter records and consists of two tracks released ostensibly as demo recordings but apparently polished and remixed for this release. The album continues the tradition of heavy doom releases featuring the ‘Volume X’ moniker, starting with Black Sabbath’s IV and continuing with Sleep’s I and II releases. The lineup of the band has already changed since the release of this album, with guitarist Danny Sweeney leaving the fold.

Track one, The Sound in the Halls, clocks in at ten minutes long and opens with a confident, and surprisingly memorable, riff. The guitar tone here is perfect for the genre being fuzzy but suitably heavy. The two guitarists are panned left and right, creating an impressive wall of sound. The drum hits are also very present in the mix. The influence of Electric Wizard is probably the most notable here with the tempo of the music appearing almost to slow down whist the riffs sound like they are constantly falling towards the ground. The vocals are also suitably tortured, being compressed and distorted to the point of incomprehension, and work well with this style of music.

Track two, Jesus Wept, starts off with a similarly downward spiralling riff. However this breaks away into the same sort of proto-Maiden gallop present on Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality or (surprise!) Volume IV albums; heavy in cymbal work in a similar manner. Once the band exhausts this tempo the music abruptly hits a much, much slower tempo as a different riff is introduced. Thematically this is identical to Electric Wizard’s Weird Tales off of Dopethrone, where a faster section of music preludes a catatonic section that nears drone-metal levels of single-digit beats-per-minute tempo. However either the mix or the confidence of the band seem a little suspect here as the band struggles to keep the music working at this tempo. Slow-filtered ambient sounds work well with the backdrop of sustained guitar chords, but something is missing here. After the band trawl this slow-tempo section they return to the original Sabbath-esque riff again bringing the track to an end a full fourteen minutes from the beginning.

What makes this release interesting is the fact it is a demo, and therefore representative of the band as a whole at the very beginning of their musical career. The influences are clearly audible, with Electric Wizard taking the lion’s share here (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!) though an earlier doom influence from Candlemass and Saint Vitus is also present in the sparse arrangement of some of the riffs. However bands such as Electric Wizard arrived at their sound and image through years of jamming, getting thrown out of clubs and rehearsal studios, and aggregating all the cheap but (then) terminally uncool tube amplifiers they could purchase. To lift this mentality and aspire towards this sound and aesthetic wholesale is quite a big step to take. Atragon do present their take on the doom genre very well, and to release such a strong debut album really stands in their favour. However there is almost an air of pastiche, or some sort of studied mythology, concerning their image and online presence which seems to revel in the same drudgery that Electric Wizard adopted through necessity. This makes it hard to understand the direction of the band; is this a parody in the nature of Spinal Tap or is this an earnest attempt at making some notably different music? It will be interesting to see what, if any, influences creep into Atragon’s music as time passes to get a better understanding of what is at play here.

On a slightly less existential level, the named are lucky that the producer here shared their vision and created such a dense and organic production. My only gripe is that the bass guitar seems to have been terminally low-pass-filtered so that it is present but not lending the same character to the recordings as the guitars. A healthy chunk of any classic doom-genre sound comes from having a rich bass guitar sound that compliments and works with the guitars whereas here it is mixed a little conservatively overall. However this is a demo recording, and given the weak bass mix on releases such as The Melvins’ debut Gluey Porch Treatments, it is still an impressively powerful release and hopefully indicative of good things to come.

For more info, visit: and

Reviewed by Alan Bragg

Timworld – “Dhoom” (Goat River Productions 2012)

At Aural Innovations we were first introduced to Massachusetts based singer-songwriter Tim Mungenast’s work through his 1999 Birth Of Monsters and 2002 The Un-Stable boy albums, both sets of psychedelic pop and quirky rock songs. On his 2008 Steam-Powered Mars Lander album, Tim explored very different territory with some avant-garde and psychedelic improvisational instrumentals.

Timworld is the trio of Mungenast on guitar and vocals, Michael Bloom on bass, and Jon Proudman on drums. Many readers will know Bloom and Proudman from the band Cul de Sac, and if you don’t then look them up in the AI alpha index and you’ll see loads of reviews and an excellent profile/interview that Jeff Fitzgerald did in AI #20.

Dhoom consists of live performances from 2006 and 2010, including both short tunes and lengthy explorations. And while there are some vocals, the album is dominated by the trio’s brand of jazz-rock fusion and spaced out psychedelia, with healthy infusions of Beefheart, Hendrix, and more. The CD opens with the 9 minute title track, a jam rocking instrumental with a late 60s San Francisco psychedelic vibe, though the rhythm section has a jazz-rock Cream-like groove. Tim’s leads conjure up thoughts of Neil Young as the guitarist on Trout Mask Replica, if you can imagine that. This leads directly into the twisted avant-psych rocking Space Goat, “a song about a goat that fights crime in outer space”. How can you NOT love that?!!

Cerulean is a short instrumental with lulling melodic guitar leads. Making Scary New Gods Out of Corn Husks features a cool combination of fuzz bass, soundscape guitar and guest (Karen Langlie (aka Wisteriax) on cello adding to the atmospherics. Spinach is one of the vocal numbers and a song from Tim’s Birth Of Monsters album and includes additional harmonies from Kelly Godshall. I dig the warbling surf-Blues guitar and Tim launches into a bit of raunchy acid rock for the finale. Karen Lost In Middle Earth (Mist and Boulders) is an 11 minute avant-space-jazz-soundscape jam. The cello is back, creating much of the strange scratchy atmospherics. And there’s some really cool and creative bass and guitar interplay, with the bass taking on a wild aquatic sound, like a fretless being played underwater. Moon Tropism is an instrumental jam with a powerhouse jazz-rocking rhythm section and spaced out snake-like guitar leads.

Penned by Jon Proudman, Turok, the Goatherder is, not surprisingly, a percussion driven instrumental. The drumming is relentless high powered jazz-rock, augmented by spacey soundscapes, jazzy bass leads and freaky cavernous guitar leads. Very cool. Dreampipe is a jamming acidic jazz-rock instrumental with a cool grooving rhythmic pulse against which the guitar explores, creating psychedelic jazz solos, whimsical melodic bits, carefully drawn out efx’d licks, and gets a bit into Beefheart territory. Finally, Mersault’s Blues, a 3 minute song on Tim’s Birth Of Monsters album, is an 11 minute combination of melodic rock vocal number and psychedelic-jazz-Beefheartian improvisational fun. Lots of cool tripped out guitar explorations and some of Tim’s most manic soloing of the set.

In summary, this is psychedelia with a twist. Or maybe I should say twisted psychedelia. Whatever you want to call it, the Mungenast/Bloom/Proudman trio are drawing on a variety of influences to make creatively unique music. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the Bloom/Proudman rhythm section, which could hold their own with the best jazz-rock musicians. Along with Tim’s guitar, we’re treated to a set of freaky psychedelic fun that stands well outside the box.

For more information you can visit

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Aural Innovations Staff Picks for Best of 2012


Jerry Kranitz (in NO particular order)

Saturnia – AlphaOmegaAlpha
Vibravoid – Zero Gravity
Darxtar – Aged to Perfection
Ohead – Visitor
Can – The Lost Tapes
Sendelica – The Satori in Elegance of the Majestic Stonegazer
Various Artists – Head Music (contemporary bands doing covers of early 70s Krautrock songs)
Space Mirrors – In Darkness They Whisper
Sula Bassana – Dark Days
Floorian – Cosmosaic
Various Artists – For Lee Jackson In Space
Litmus – Slaughterbahn
Vespero – Subkraut: U-Boats Willkommen Hier
The Linus Pauling Quartet – Bag Of Hammers
EYE – Center Of The Sun
EYE – 7″ single on Lost Weekend Records
Chickencage Experience – An Eggspoiltation Movie
Mantric Muse – self-titled
Earthling Society – ZodiaK
Nick Riff – Escape Velocity
Jay Tausig/Ed Unitsky – The entire “Trip Around The Sun” series
Hal McGee live performance in Columbus, Ohio

Jeff Fitzgerald

20) Astra – The Black Chord
San Diego psych/proggers return for their sophomore effort. Not as strong as the epic double album The Weirding, but still a fine album nonetheless.

19) Mechanik – Inner Temple Outer Temple/You Yourself Are the Teacher and the Guru (EPs)
These spacerockers from Spain have a very original and exciting sound. Looking forward to hearing a full-length from them sometime soon (hopefully).

18) Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle – Tell It To the People
Swiss band returns after a long hiatus, but this time minus the cowpunk attitude, for a more laidback, wasted hippie psych/country/rock album. If you like your psych with some twang, this is the perfect album for you.

17) Hawkwind – Onward
Sure, I liked it, it’s Hawkwind, and it did make my Top 20 list. But it’s not one of their best albums. Some good tunes on it, but it’s a bit overproduced and doesn’t quite have the energy I expect from the band.

16) White Manna – s/t
Earthy, mantric and very absorbing heavy psychedelia from these California freaksters. A great, acid drenched debut.

15) Sula Bassana – Dark Days
Epic album from Dave Schmidt, has some really great tracks on it like Underground and Surrealistic Journey, but also a little lesser stuff too. Still a fine effort from our man in Austria.

14) The Future Kings of England – Who Is This Who Is Coming
Haunting and chilling prog/psych based on a creepy ghost story by M. R. James. Some really evocative stuff on this album. Dark, gothic and moody…perfect for listening to with the lights out.

13) Saturnia – AlphaOmegaAlpha
Sprawling double CD from Portugal’s Saturnia is maybe a bit TOO much. It might have worked better as a single CD. But there are some fantastic tracks on the album nonetheless, especially the awesome opener I Am Utopia.

12) Earthling Society – ZodiaK
I liked the latter half of this album a bit more than the first half, but it was all good. A rawer, more immediate sound from Fred and the boys in two lengthy tracks (and one tiny little one in between them).

11) Moonwagon – Foyers of the Future
An excellent follow up to this Swedish band’s stunning debut. There’s a bit of a Yes vibe in some of these instrumental tracks, but it’s more spacier than Yes tended to get.

10) Cranium Pie – Geometry of Thistles
I know, these were older recordings from a previous line-up of Cranium Pie to the line-up that recorded last year’s stunning Mechanisms Part 1, but these beautiful, strange psychedelic folk songs have a mystery and magic all their own.

09) Space Mushroom Fuzz – Something Weird’s Going On
One of two great albums this Boston duo released this year. Kick-ass psych and spacerock draws on Hawkwind as an influence, but only partially. They give it their own distinct feel.

08) Motion Sickness of Time Travel – s/t
I really loved this double album from electronic musician Rachel Evans. Just 4 long tracks, rekindling the spirit of the 70’s analogue synth explorers, but giving it a modern (and feminine) twist as well.

07) MV & EE – Space Homestead
More great wasted psychedelic folk music from these modern day hippies. Possibly their best album since 2006’s Green Blues!

06) Hawklords – We Are One
This album from former Hawksters had all the raw energy and creativeness that seemed lacking in Hawkwind’s Onward. Some terrific, punky spacerock, picking up where 25 Years On left off.

05) Moon of Ostara – The Star Child
Fred Laird of Earthling Society’s debut solo album finds him exploring more rhythmic ambient sounds with synth and guitar in a similar vein to Krautrock explorers Harmonia and Ashra. Mesmerizing!

04) The Cosmic Dead – The Exalted King
Killer improvised spacerock from these Scottish rockers. Some great, long explorations to the fringes of the universe!

03) Seid – Magic Handshake
I wasn’t sure we were going to hear from these guys again. What a welcome surpise to hear them return with possibly their best album yet. Everything on here from Hawkwind-style spacerock to Eastern psychedelia and everything in between.

02) Lumerians – Transmissions From Telos Vol. IV
The San Francisco weirdoes stretch out for some longer, instrumental jams. Highly original and innovative stuff that’s sure to please spacefreaks everywhere!

01) Black Science – An Echo Through the Eyes of Forever
The second and sadly final album from Black Science, full of melodic, hooky spacerock and wild, disorienting psychedelia, complete with tripped out lyrics and concepts. An amazing album from its catchy start, to its stretched out 15-minute epic finish.

Pat Albertson

01) White Hills – “Live At Roadburn 2011″
Stunning live album that the band have already followed up on with a new studio release entitled “Frying On This Rock”;

02) Poseidotica – “Cronicas Del Futuro”
First class instrumental progressive metal. If only it was so damn short! Nice cover art, though;

03) Astra – “The Black Chord”
A worthy follow-up to 2009’s “The Weirding” debut; best of the new generation of progressive rockers;

04) Six Organs Of Admittance – “Ascent”
A Comets On Fire reunion in all but name, this adds Comets-style feedback psych to the creepy folk sounds of Six Organs;

05) Farflung/Black Rainbows – “Split CD”
Just half an album of new material from Farflung this time around, but it is great to know they are back in the game (and re-releasing some of their stellar back catalogue to boot). The stoner rock of Black Rainbows is worth a listen too, if a little ill-matched with Farflung;

06) Topati Bertiga – “Riot”
Technically amazing fusion debut from this Indonesian guitar trio;

07) Vibravoid – “Zero Gravity”
Another far out space rockin’ trip from this prolific German neo-psych outfit;

08) Hawkwind – Onward (2CD edition)
Dave Brock shows he has still got the music in him after all these years, finding time to release three new albums in 2012 (the other two being credited to Hawkwind Light Orchestra (pretty good) and a solo release of fans-only home demo recordings). The late and lamented Huw Lloyd-Langton guests on one track;

09) Acid Mother Temple And The Melting Paraiso UFO – “Son Of A Bitches Brew”
If you let your imagination run wild, this really does sound like Miles Davis playing psychedelic acid rock!

10) Oresund Space Collective – “Give Your Brain A Rest From the Matrix”
A little more laid back than their usual material, this release has a distinct (other-)world feel to it;

11) Causa Sui – “The Pewt’r Sessions 1-2″
Arriving in CD format in 2012, after a limited-edition vinyl release late last year, Causa Sui have mercifully turned down the overbearing saxophone heard on parts of “The Summer Sessions”, and delivered some guitar-heavy space jams;

12) Rush – “Clockwork Angels”
A little mainstream perhaps, but the fact that this concept album has since been novelised in book form proves that Rush have not turned their back entirely on progressive rock;

13) Howlin Rain – “Russian Wilds”
Perhaps not quite as satisfying as “Magnificent Fiend”, Howlin Rain’s third CD release still holds much to enjoy;

14) Hawklords – “We Are One”
A Hawklords reunion without Brock or Calvert?! No way! Politics aside, “We Are One” is worthy of inclusion in the (ex-)Hawkwind canon, with most of the material written by 1990 former Hawks Jerry Richards and Ron Tree, with help from former Hawklords Harvey Bainbridge and Steve Swindells. Hawkwind followers should also check out Harvey’s hilarious and thinly-veiled novel “The Light From Dead Stars”, indicating that a reconciliation with Dave ain’t gonna happen any time soon;

15) Litmus – “Slaughterbahn”
A welcome release from Litmus, this fourth album appears to indicate that their tank is in danger of running dry. Time to have another listen to “Warrior On The Edge Of Time”, guys!

Keith Henderson

01) Brainticket – Space Rock Invasion DVD (also featuring Huw Lloyd-Langton & Nektar)

02) Mantric Muse – S/T

03) White Manna – S/T

04) Parastatic – Lost Highway; plus “Far Beyond” (single)

05) Hidria Spacefolk – Astronautica

06) Eternal Tapestry – Dawn In 2 Dimensions

07) Hawkwind – Onward

08) Aqua Nebula Oscillator – Third

09) Øresund Space Collective – West, Space & Love

10) Ancestors – In Dreams & Time

11) V/A – Hope & Dreams compilation (Indonesian post-rock including Little Space Donkey, Under The Big Bright Yellow Sun, others)

12) Earthless/Premonition 13/Radio Moscow (US) – Split LP

13) Monkey3 – Beyond The Black Sky

14) Pharaoh Overlord – Lunar Jetman

15) Black Mountain – Year Zero

16) Sula Bassana – Dark Days

17) Linus Pauling Quartet – Bag Of Hammers

18) Sylvester Anfang II – S/T (Latitudes)

19) Vibravoid – Gravity Zero

20) The Spyrals – S/T

Christian Mumford

My Top 30 in no particalar order, it’s generally been a good year for Hawkwind & related releases, yet we also remember the passing of our dear Huw Lloyd Langton… so here I go:

Hawkwind – Onward 2CD
The band most of “us” at AI, love and associate with “our” genre returned in 2012 with a friendly, likeable, “by numbers” Hawk-album that divided fans quite abit. What the hell, I liked it! Onward we go! Let grumpy people be grumpy, f*ck em!

Lastwind – The Return Of A Sonic Assassin CD
Paul Hayles, former Sonic Assassins/Hawkwind keysman delivered this monster of a stoned trip out Hawkwind style album last summer, with a band consisting of members of The Groundhogs. It’s totally Ace stuff! Especially the track “Winds Of Time”. Out on Flicknife, just grab it!

Alan Davey – Cybertooth CD
Hawkwind’s stalwart long standing ex-bassist/vocalist has cut his teeth with many solo releases and with bands like Pre-Med and Gunslinger. But this is Messianic Cyber Punky thematic Hawkwindness that has an extra added unreal futuristic electronic sound to it. Get it, it’s fantastic!

Hawklords – We Are One CD
At first I hated this… I thought it was quickly tossed together, tuneless drivel, unpalpable and a disgrace to the name’s legacy being Bob & Dave, and just being a sleazy cash-in. Granted, Hawklords like Harvey B. and Steve Swindells are here, it grew on me, not because it was Hawklords at all, it isn’t, it’s just pretty intense rockin’, head-on, heavy spacerock!

Steve Swindells – The Lost Albums 2CD
Hawklords member Swindells two early 80’s unreleased LP’s on a double CD set, called “The Invisible Man” and “Treachery” follow the same straightforward punky keyboard rock of his debut from 1980. Outstanding track here is “Metro-Gnome”, but both albums are stayers all the way through. Out on the resurrected Flicknife label, 2011 release but i did not hear until early this year so I’ll include it here.

Steven Wilson – Get All You Deserve (live) 2CD/DVD/Blu-Ray box
Porcupine Blonde & bespectacled intellectual prog-prodigy Wilson. Here he really shines, i like his solo work far more than the harder sounding Porcupine Tree of late, this and the RSD LP are both essential.

Porcupine Tree – Octane Twisted (live) 2CD+DVD
All of “The Incident” + older tracks performed live, its quality one can expect from a solid musician team of Steven Wilson & band.

Sun Dial – Mind Control 12″
Gary Ramon sounds like a rough vocalist these days, seeing as the previous SD effort from 2010 was an angry heavy metal album with snarling vocals “mettle-dood” style i hated at first, but on further listen after lingering on my CD shelf, i liked it second time around. The Mind Control LP has still the metal vocals from Ramon ala Layne Staley or James Hetfield at their angriest. I have been a fan of SD through thick and thin since seeing the “Fireball” video on MTV in the early 90s and subsequent frantic obsession. On this album Gary Ramon is still abit of a mystic lyric wise, but songs like the title track is pure Krautrock while the final song on the album is a cover of Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”- i only recommend this LP to those who are familiar with SD from way back like me ’cause its not their best one by far, but still a pretty good effort.

Psychic TV/PTV3 – Silver Sundown Machine VS. Alien Lightning Meat Machine 12″
Genesis P-Orridge returns to straight up rock music since the last few years have been rock orientated – here PTV do an 18 minute mash up of 2 early Hawkwind songs with some spoken bits, and it’s not bad at all. The B-side is not Hawkwind, but a spoken word psych jam of sorts that is a bit nonsensical, lasting for another 18 minutes.

Peter Hammill – Consequences CD
For his umpfourtieth solo album Hammill gets weirder, with stuff like “Constantly Overheard” and “That Wasn’t What I Said” and other personal semi-psychotic Hammillism that only Hammill can do.

Van Der Graaf Generator – ALT CD
Unlike the 2011 effort from the trio that now is VdGG this is all odd instrumental jams, raw and low fi. I like it alot, a departure it is still undoubtly VdGG.

Savage Republic – Varvakios CD
With the going ons in Greece and other EU disaster zones it seems only fitting that post-punk desert droners motorik sounding, always politico observations of SR should be where the heat is, as it was recorded over a few days in Greece. Underrated band that has an over 30 year history.

Magma – Félicité Thösz CD
More goodness and godlike Zeuhl from Vander & Co, it’s an excellent effort that shows no trite retread or over aging from this band.

Smoke Mohawk – Viva El Heavy Man CD
Norwegian We/Gluecifer spinoff band’s second album, this is more psychedelic than their last CD. The track “Jump Out of Tyme” really grabbed my LSD processing unit upstairs…

Ulver – Childhood’s End CD
From dreamy arctic blackmetal via industrial-electronica and progressive metal forms, Norway’s Ulver never cease to change. Here they basically covered the “Nuggets” of the 60’s without straying too far from the originals and it’s excellent and lovingly produced.

Turbonegro – Sexual Harassment CD
With the departure of Hank and the arrival of british singer Tony Sylvester, Turbonegro hit the nail on the head for excessive glam-punk. Very much in style with any previous releases with outrageous themes etc, if you like this sort of stuff, punk – buy it!

Hawkwind Light Orchestra – Stellar Variations CD
This is most of Hawkwind putting out a damn fine album as HLO. Some tracks have a very classy feel ala 80s lineups and 90s as well. Get it if you like Hawkwind even remotely!

Dave Brock – Looking For Love In The Lost Land Of Dreams CD
Some of Dave’s finest lyrical accomplishments to date, a worthy album overall.

Marillion – Sounds That Can’t Be Made CD
I think Steve Hogarth’s long tenure with this band has been a sprawling, confusing, at times nondescript watered down pop version of the heady Fish era daze in the 80’s (though the 2 first ones with SH are distinct good albums with some memorable hard rock moments that did not pale against Fish ‘s tenure, namely “Season’s End” and “Holidays In Eden” albums), it lacks ‘rocking out’ like on the early stuff, but still is a worthwhile listen for old and new fans.

Burzum – Umskiptar CD
Not as good lyrically as last year’s mature work from an aging Odinist like Vikernes, the album “Fallen”, this year sees him adapting Icelandic text as theme. Not easy, it is a bit sprawling compared to last year’s truly epic “Fallen”.

Litmus – Slaughterbahn CD
Rollicking straight ahead Hawkwind style spacerock, it’s the fourth Litmus album! Its got some very good numbers here, the most recommended track here is “Streamers”.

Cradle of Filth – Midnight In The Labyrinth 2CD
I’m not including the latest CoF CD “The Manticore And Other Horrors”, because the previous double CD of orchestral reworkings of the band’s best songs really shines, especially the epic version of “Funeral In Carpathia”, the band’s symfo-wargasm #1!

Änglagård – Viljans Öga CD
Progressive symphonic rock, traditional elements of Genesis, VdGG and ELP as always, its mystical, something from the deep forests of Sweden.

Nick Riff – Escape Velocity CD
Barrett-esque psychedelia for all Seekers out there. The last in the Riffdisc series, yet a return to the early Freak Element sound from the early days. Wondrous songs from the heart and the psychedelicized mind of Mr. Riff.

The Stranglers – Giants CD
Black dressed forefathers of gritty old punk tricks have survived 4 decades and still deliver no matter how old and tired some members look. Hugh Cornwell was fired 20 years ago for those who dropped out of Stranglersville, have gone through 2 singers since, and so here they are again!

Øresund Space Collective – West, Space & Love 12″
Sounding like Popol Vuh and other krautrock for an album, this vinyl only release surprised me totally. It’s Art, it’s Great and you can Buy it for your Home!

Candlemass – Psalms For The Dead CD
Being the final album for the band, it has some nuggets on there, like the closer “Black As Time”, the song i always end up jumping to on my iPod.

Witchcraft – Legend CD
Strange that these occultists should get political and have such meanings to convey, under the name Witchcraft, but as a rocking doom record it still delivers some great heavy and tuneful songs.

Space Mirrors – In Darkness They Whisper CD
Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, Russian-based international metal ensemble churns out metal riffs really fast with weird spoken vocals and flute from Nik Turner and Alan Davey guesting as well.

Omenopus – The Plague/Scars 2CD
Bridget Wishart of Hawkwind returned to the music world several years ago via the Spirits Burning collective. Here her airy yet dark poetry finds its niche with tinkery industrial dark rock music. Well worth it.