Archive for October 24, 2013

Earthling Society – Interview with Fred Laird

I last interviewed Fred Laird in 2006 when Earthling Society had released their second album, Plastic Jesus + the Third Eye Blind (CLICK HERE to read that interview). Since then the band have released five more full length albums, had a 7″ single out on the Fruits de Mer Records label, and contributed to several Fruits de Mer compilations. With each new release the band demonstrate that they remain on the cutting edge of the contemporary space rock/psychedelic axis. In the following interview, we discuss all the albums since Plastic Jesus, and bring the world up to date on all things Earthling Society since we last chatted in 2006.

CLICK HERE to visit the Aural Innovations Space Rock Radio page where I’ve posted an all Earthling Society radio special to listen to while you read the interview. Scroll down to show #318.

Aural Innovations (AI): Let’s pick up from where we left off in 2006 and work our way through the catalog. While listening to the third album, Tears of Andromeda-Black Sails Against The Sky, I was reminded of the band’s original mission statement that Earthling Society formed with the intention of creating music influenced by their heroes Funkadelic, Ash Ra Tempel, Can, Amon Düül II and Hawkwind. The album has the variety that I think has become an Earthling Society trademark through the years. You manage to cover a lot of ground while somehow remaining cohesively and distinctly Earthling Society. Wromg gets into a Neu!-ish groove. Black County Sorcerer is a floaty dreamy song. Lucifer Starlight goes into distinctly Amon Düül II Yeti territory. A Song For John Donne is totally spaced out psychedelic trippy. And the title track is a 20 minute Space/Psych/Prog jam.

Fred Laird (FL): Yes, no matter who we try to sound like we always end up sounding like Earthling Society; which I suppose is a good thing, although I do find us to be a bit of a curate’s egg to some people. Maybe because they can’t attach a specific tag to us. To me, Hawkwind, Funkadelic, Can, 13th Floor Elevators, and AD2 all fall under psychedelia and not spacerock, krautrock, acid rock. If it’s trippy and out there whether a pop song or a long jam then it’s psychedelia right?

AI: Beauty And The Beast is the most SONG oriented of all Earthling Society albums, though there’s still plenty of deep space-psych rocking. You’ve got alien pop-psych. A couple songs reminded me of a psychedelic take on the 60s band The Association. Parts of A Modest Flower have a Beatles feel. You really went into some different territory on that album.

FL: We just got signed to 4zero and we felt we had to do something a bit different. A lot of those songs were old, going back 10 or more years, stuff I had written in my previous band. I had this urge at the time to do a Moody Blues thing or that soul medley in ‘A Wizard A True Star’, were there were these nice pop standards that sounded like they were recorded in space. A utopian feel.

AI: I like how Beauty And The Beast opens with Drowned World, which has fascinating contrasting elements occurring at once. The odd rhythms and piano add a sort of avant-garde element, but at the same time you’ve got ripping psych guitar and spaced out atmospherics and effects. It’s very intense and disorienting. And THEN you follow it with the Country-ish Candlemass, which is a complete shock. Thinking about that makes me wonder what kind of thought goes into the order of the tracks on Earthling Society albums?

FL: Jon (drummer) wrote the bass line to Drowned World. Well he can’t play bass but he’s the greatest drummer and it’s the odd rhythm that he brings to the song. Kevy Canavan played some wonderful Aladdin Sane style piano on that which I think is the best bit of keyboard playing commited to a ES release. I used this old Teisco guitar that would do a little whistle between each chord, but the noise would send a signal down the mic to the 24trk and cause it to stop. It was a great song to record and is still one of my favourites. It’s definately on the VU meter. Candlemass came directly after it to show the transition from ‘Tears..’ to Beauty And The Beast as the opening track is more reminiscent of the former. But yeah, it’s a kind of WTF moment. I still think if some mainstream country pop act or whatever did a version of it, it would make me a lot of money… ha ha. Sadly, although we started to get reviews in the mainstream monthly magazines with Beauty And The Beast, it met a lot of indifference. It’s a strange one really as it’s retro but it sounds like Earthling Society; not just a band that thinks to be psychedelic they have to wear a nehru suit and play a vox phantom.

AI: On the longer Earthling Society tracks, of which there are many, you guys really do a good job of transitioning through multiple musical themes. This really stands out on the next album, Sci-Fi Hi-Fi. There are several examples on the album but I’ll single out the 20 minute E.V.I.L.U.S.A. It’s got some of the most high intensity rock I’ve heard from you guys, but it’s also got pastoral elements, classic Prog elements, and the finale is like a combination of old time sci-fi TV show theme and spaced out disco! That may sound all over the map to someone who hasn’t heard it but it all comes together seamlessly. How does Earthling society create tracks like that? Is it a combination of improv and composition?

FL: Well when I write a long song like that I try to keep the same chords for each piece, simple as that really. All I do is change the style of the song to reflect the mood. I really can’t be doing with music that has one chord going on for 30 minutes while the guitarist tries out his 30 pedals, so I’ve always worked with the ethic of changing the mood and style to keep one interested. I think we were really lucky to get away with that ending to E.V.I.L. It’s borderline kitsch. The keyboards are that bad they are almost taking the piss!!

AI: Tell me more about the topic that E.V.I.L.U.S.A. is addressing. The lyrics stand out… “Can you feel the evil of America”.

FL: I was reading the book ‘Shadow over Santa Susana’ by Adam Gorightly about Charles Manson, MK Ultra, the smuggling of nazi war criminals into the US like Josef Mengele, operation paperclip, that kind of thing. It’s about the darkness that lays beneath the American government and the CIA. How Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan, Lee Harvey Oswald could be linked in a Manchurian Candidate kind of way. Well that’s what the song is about…

AI: Is it safe to assume that Temple ov Flaming Youth is a play on Genesis P. Orridge and Temple ov Psychick Youth? That’s an interesting reference for Earthling Society.

FL: It’s a nod to Psychic T.V and Kiss. The reason for the latter is that when I was recording the melody I kept on singing ‘Flaming youth’ over the top messing around. Not sure where the PTV reference came from!!

AI: One of the things that struck me about the next album, Stations Of The Ghost, is the strong presence of acoustic guitar. The Last Hurrah starts off sort of space-folky with a Country-ish vibe. Child Of The Harvest has a strong acoustic element, though across its 14 minutes it goes in a variety of directions. I love the combination of acoustic guitar, ripping electric guitar and atmospherics on The Halloween Tree. Even Night Of The Scarecrow, with its Stoner space riff rock, includes strumming acoustic guitar space-folk passages.

FL: I think the acoustic guitar is a very important instrument to use in colouring songs. Something that struck me years ago when listening to ‘Forever changes’. It gives a power and reinforcement to the songs. It also gave the album a kind of rustic vibe like those early 70’s bands like Mighty Baby. It suits the mood of the album which is very Autumnal.

AI: Your latest album is Zodiak. When Nasoni first released it on vinyl, other than the brief Silver Phase, this album was all about side long jamming epics. Was that just the mood you were in at the time?

FL: I don’t know. We just replaced our bass player Luis Gutarra who was on SOTG with Kim Allen. Luis is a very good but busy bass player that suited the tracks he played on. But the problem was playing live was not an enjoyable experience. The songs were like playing maths, it was horrible. So I wanted to strip it back and Luis’ playing style was not suitable. I wanted to enjoy playing live again and Kim was the perfect remedy. The whole album was written, rehearsed and recorded within 6 weeks on and off. SOTG took over 12 friggin’ months!!! It was like a reborn ES. We were listening to QSMS ‘Happy Trails’ and Live/Dead at the time. It was like the psychic playing that you hear about in the Can stories of how they read each other’s minds during rehearsals. It just came together in a very connected way.

AI: Tell me about the themes of those two lengthy tracks, Zodiak and The Astral Traveller. The music on Zodiak has lots of great rocking grooves and really feels good. But pay attention to the lyrics and you realize how disturbing the subject matter is. It starts with “I need a witness. To document my sickness”, and ends with “Jesus can’t save me. A shadow baits me. I hate all human kind”. I assumed this is about the Zodiak killer who terrified northern California in the 60s-70s. Ditto for The Astral Traveller. Like the title track the music feels great but has lyrics that are more akin to doom metal, like “Oh my darkly sweet, sweet Satan. I kiss your hoof”.

FL: I think there’s this notion especially in doom metal and Goth that a serial killer must dress in black, wear makeup and listen to NIN’s all the time or Electric Wizard. I find it quite cliched. I think the serial killer is having a jolly old time on his killing spree and is probably tuning into some nice country channel or putting on the best of the Carpenters into his stereo cassette player. Zodiak was more about ‘Henry Lee Lucas’. When he was arrested he told the Sheriff, “I done some real bad things”. That’s what the theme started from, that one sentence. As for Astral Traveller, well I just thought it had that mournful empty sound, but it’s hard to really explain. There’s a melancholy to the track that somehow explains the loneliness of the occultist’s main goal. Now that actually sounds very pretentious!!

AI: When 4 Zero reissued Zodiak on CD you had several additional tracks, plus the title track had several minutes tacked on. Would you have preferred the Nasoni release to have been a double LP set?

FL: No, the aim was to make two seperate albums, although some people think the album more complete without the extra tracks. Can I just expalin that Silver Phase is on the CD release. All that track was was the final few minutes of Zodiak faded in and out. So the Zodiak on the CD is both the title track and Silver Phase combined.

AI: Is Nasoni only doing vinyl now? For a long time all their releases came in black vinyl, a limited number of colored vinyl, and CD.

FL: Not sure really Jerry. They only offered us a vinyl release which we was happy with.

AI: 4 Zero released the Moon of Ostara album last year, which was a Fred Laird solo project. I liked the space rock with ambience and electronica with a dash of Berlin school and some Manual Gottsching styled guitar. How did Moon of Ostara come about as something separate from Earthling Society?

FL: Well we finished SOTG and I was getting very frustrated with the band at that point. the gigs as mentioned earlier were crap, the band wasn’t connecting as a unit and quite frankly the wrong people were on board. I just needed to do something on my own, secretly hoping I could jack it all in and go solo but having Jon (Drums) come along too. I was listening to a lot of Manual Gottsching and the first 5/4 Eno albums and just went for it. It came together very quickly. However, I didn’t realise that ES was a bigger beast than I thought and that I just couldn’t walk away from it.

AI: As of Beauty And The Beast I see that the band was still the original trio of Fred Laird, David Fyall and Jon Blacow, plus a different keyboardist. I don’t have credits for Stations Of The Ghost but see on Zodiak you have a new bass player and you and Neil “Vert:x” Whitehead share keyboard/synth duties. Neil has been posting about Earthling Society shows on Facebook. Is he a member of the band now? I believe I saw him post that Vert:x had come to an end now.

FL: Dave (Fyall) left the band during Beauty and the Beast. He played on one track and before that on Black Country Sorceror on Tears of Andromeda. His last FULL album was Plastic Jesus. He had a lot of personal demons at that time and he moved away. I believe he’s ok now which makes me happy. Sadly we haven’t been in contact for over 4 years. Neil (Vertx) is our main guy on keys now. I always wanted to be a guitar driven band with the keys/noises in the background, but Jon with his progressive background always wanted a ‘proper’ keyboardist. That issue has been resolved now and I think the line-up we currently have is the best, if not better than the line-up around 2007 and Roadburn.

As for Vertx, I think it’s just sleeping…

AI: You’ve made several contributions to Fruits de Mer Records compilations and even had an Earthling Society single on the label. There were some interesting and varied covers you did. Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi, Amon Düül’s Paramechanical World, The Chocolate Watch Band, and The James Taylor Move which I’d never heard of before. How were the cover choices made, or are they assigned to you?

FL: No, we made the choices and FDM just say yay or nay. The James Taylor move was requested to us from long time friend Jules Normington who used to be Radio Birdman’s manager. He has a wealth of musical knowledge which is quite staggering.

AI: I liked your contributions to Fruits de Mer’s Strange Fish series. You were on Strange Fish three, the theme of which was “Kosmiche/Motorik/Sequencer/Neu!/Schulze influenced music.” The first two shorter tracks had a nice spacey cinematic quality. And Kiss Of The Vampire was like Motorik Klaus Schulze, but then goes off into a trippy dreamy acoustic psychedelic segment.

FL: To be honest I wasnt sure about it. It’s ok. I actually thought it would get rejected but FDM really liked it. It’s had some great reviews, comparisons to Broadcast etc; I was surprised by the reaction.

AI: Have you been playing many live shows/festivals?

FL: A few festivals and the odd gig. We’ve been more busy than the previous couple of years but it’s still not enough. The genre is so small. Apparently there’s a psychedelic revival happening but we’ll probably miss the boat and get left behind on our little desert island. Nevermind. But yeah, we’d like more gigs and more festival please… anywhere… especially abroad!!

AI: Earthling Society formed in January 2004. So as we exchange our emails you’re coming up on your TENTH anniversary!

FL: Jeez I don’t know what to say about that. In 2004 it was just a happy little project. Happy near anniversary Jerry and thanks for your support all these years…

AI: Any current/upcoming projects or news to share?

FL: Yup look out for our next album ‘England have my bones’ in 2014. It might just be the album to bow out to….


Albion (2005)
Plastic Jesus And The Third Eye Blind (2006)
Tears Of Andromeda: Black Sails Agains The Sky (2007)
Beauty And The Beast (2008)
Sci-Fi Hi-Fi (2009)
Stations Of The Ghost (2011)
Zodiak (2012/2013)

Moon of Ostara – The Star Child (Fred Laird solo album)

Fruits de Mer Records contributions

2-song 7″ single (cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Green Manalishi” and The James Taylor Move’s “And I Heard The Fire Sing”)
Strange Fish 3 (3 originals)
The Crabs Freak Out (1 original)
Head Music (cover of Amon Duul’s “Paramechanical World”)
Sorrow’s Children: The Songs of S.F. Sorrow (cover of The Pretty Things’ “I See You”)
Keep Off The Grass (cover of The Chocolate Watch Band’s “Dark Side Of The Mushroom”)

For more information you can visit the Earthling Society web site at:

Interview with Fred Laird conducted by Jerry Kranitz

Mechanik – “Velut Stella Splendida” (R.A.I.G. 2013, R080, CD/Download)

After a few digital EPs and a contribution to the recent Fruits de Mer Records Strange Fish compilations, we have the first full length by Madrid, Spain based Mechanik. Velut Stella Splendida consists of newly composed tracks and newly recorded versions of tracks from their 2012 released EPs.

The album opens with Wherever You Are Is The Entry Point, a heavy driving acidic space rock instrumental with a minimalist, slowly developing pattern, and a principle melody that sounds like a sci-fi TV show theme. In The Faith That Looks Through Death is just as heavy rocking and includes haunting vocals and keys, pulsating space electronics, a cool throbbing bass line and guitar leads that sound like Robert Fripp gone acid rock. Pills is a schizophrenic tune that’s part bouncy dance rhythmic space rock song and part acid-demonic prog-psych. I really dig the contrasts and especially the manic alien freakout finale. De Tepenecz starts off very atmospheric, and when the vocals kick in the pace gradually picks up and a cool rolling groove takes over. This is a solid example of accessible song and DEEP space mind massage. Zum Traum is another hip shakin’ rhythmic space rocker that is adventurous yet accessible. I love the full band rocking finale with ripping psych guitar lead. BliSS & GloSS is a slowly drifting, acid-atmospheric tension laden song. Russian Doll has a similar effect, but slowly builds to a mucho intense psych-metallic rocker in the last couple minutes. I love the disorienting throb, white knuckled intensity, anguished vocals, and electronics that sound like alien beetles crawling down that back of your cranium on Inner Temple. And wrapping up the set we have the 23 minute Most People Were Silent. It starts off dreamily meditative, with a slow calming beat, howling soundscapes, trippy guitar melodies, Frippoid leads, astronaut voice samples, strolling space synths and a parade of sundry effects. Then around the halfway mark it settles into a minimal, hypnotic, and somewhat paralyzing electro pattern that carries through to the end.

In summary, there’s lots of variety on the album though not so much that Mechanik stray from a sense of cohesiveness. I especially like the tracks where the band create adventurous space rock that is also highly accessible, something I think can be a challenge to do. This will be a strong candidate for my best of 2013 list.

For more information visit the R.A.I.G. web site at:
Stream, download and purchase all R.A.I.G. releases at

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Abunai! – “Universal Mind Decoder” (Krauted Mind Records 2013, 2-LP, originally released 1997)

Abunai! were a Boston area band who between 1997-2003 released three albums on CD and 2 vinyl EPs on the late great Tony Dale’s Camera Obscura label. Of the three full length albums, two were song based, and one (Round-Wound) consisted of all instrumental improvised space rock face melter jams. The Krauted Mind label (Germany) has reissued the band’s debut – Universal Mind Decoder – as a remastered double LP vinyl set in an edition of 500 (250 blue and 250 red), with two 1997 cassette demos as bonus tracks.

I liked Abunai! because they could write a good song, they could crank out a killer space-psych jam, and they could do both at the same time. The album opens with a voice calling, “Space assignment, rocket to the moon”!, and several of the tracks are loosely connected in this way. Cosmo Gun is a stoned and droned yet merrily melodic tune with searing acid-noise distortion guitar and soaring alien synths. This combination of psychedelia, space rock and cool grooving song is what I liked so much about Abunai! 77 Gaza Strip is similar but with a dark and dreary sense of foreboding. Opening with, “That’s a call from our secret agent on outer space patrol”, Inspiration is a bouncy, trippy pop-folk-acid-psych song. Calvary Cross consists of dreamy melodic folk-rock, with organ and distortion guitar. And then Gypsy Davy and Chromatic Moire go in very different directions, the former sounding like some traditional Celtic pub song with dirty rocking psych guitars, and Chromatic Moire being a quirky avant-rhythmic jam.

We’re also treated to two lengthy space-psych monsters. Quiet Storm is a 9 minute dreamy and steadily grooving song. The guitars are like a spaced out blend of the Bevis Frond and Neil Young, though there’s plenty of bubbly liquid psych guitar as well. Wrapping up with, “Looking through the windows of our rocket ship, we can see the Earth below. What wonderful things we see”, it leads into Dreaming Of Light, an instrumental that closed the original set. The music continually shifts gears, from flesh rending distortion guitar, to high powered stoned guitar and rocking psych solos. Add in the high powered organ and you’ve got 9 minutes of the heaviest rocking intensity of the set.

Fans of the jamming instrumental side of Abunai! will love the bonus tracks. Dropped From A Rocket is a totally spaced out, stoned yet trippy instrumental excursion with a cavernous sound. And the 17 minute epic Mirror of Galadriel / Drinks the Young Wine features more stoned jamming, this time with an Eastern ethic vibe, haunting keys and space electronics. About halfway through there’s some narration and the band transition to a slower paced dreamily stoned jam with a spaced out sense of drift and vocal chants.

VERY nice to see Krauted Mind reissue this gem. It would be great to see them work their way through the entire catalog, though all are available for digital download, and looking at the band’s Bandcamp site it seems there are still some vinyl copies of the Two Brothers vinyl EP left.

For more information about the Universal Mind Decoder reissue visit the Krauted Mind Records web site at:
Streaming and download of all Abunai! albums is available at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Hawkwind – “Spacehawks” (Eastworld/Plastichead, EW139CD, 2013, CD/LP)

Here is a nice little treat from Hawkwind. Imagine, Instead of being bludgeoned to death with 3 Hawkwind double albums in 3 years of varying quality – Blood Of The Earth (2010), Onward (2012), Stellar Variations (2012) – as well as a nice solo effort from Dave, Looking For Love In The Lost Land Of Dreams (2012), we get “the Best Of” this decade’s “three years on” summary of Hawk-activity on one disc from those four records, with several unheard studio and live tracks from this era, as well as remixes of tracks from those albums mentioned. Tracks from Warrior On The Edge Of Time (1975) are re-recorded by the current line up. Assault & Battery / Golden Void and Demented Man, and both are excellent. From In Search Of Space we get the Dave Brock solo-reworking of We Took The Wrong Step, from the Looking For Love In The Lost Land Of Dreams CD/LP, and Master Of The Universe, as well as a nightmarishly spoken Sonic Attack, all vintage EMI-era Hawkwind songs from the first half of the 70’s. Fan reaction has been generally positive, comparing “Spacehawks” to a latter day “Out & Intake” mayhap, or a “tour companion” CD for the botched US tour of Hawkwind playing the entire Warrior album for the Hawk-starved Americans over the pond. There are new tracks as well, like We Two Are One, Sacrosanct and Touch. There is little fat to trim on this collection, as it is thoughtfully compiled, so just imagine that… We get a remix of the vinyl only track from the Blood Of The Earth LP, the exclusive song Sunship, we get It’s All Lies from the Stellar Variations LP/CD, as well as a remix of Sentinel and Seasons from last year’s Onward LP/CD.

The core of Hawkwind old timers Dave Brock, Tim Blake, and Richard Chadwick are well augmented by more recent Space Cadets Mr. Dibs and Niall Hone, and Inner City Unit man Dead Fred on violin. It seems Hawkwind love the compilation format when it is geniune and not some sort of ripoff operation for fans and band alike, like all those dodgy comps we have seen in the past with the same stuff over and over again. Here we get some fresh stuff, remixes and rare tracks as well as reinterpreted 40 years on versions. It’s a lovely little record I recommend to all Hawkfans old and new, it is a treasure for old fans and might very well be a fine introduction to the band for those who never heard Hawkwind. It is also also availible on LP. Set forth and procure this item, as you most likely will not be panicking as it IS Hawkwind! It’s a 69 minute Hawk-conniseur tour de force. Achtung! Blast off into 2014 with the mighty “Spacehawks”!

Reviewed by Christian Mumford

Various Artists – “Shrunken Head Music” (Fruits de Mer Records 2013, Crustacean 43, 2 x 7″ vinyl)

In 2012, Fruits de Mer Records released an amazing 2-LP set called Head Music, which celebrated the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Brain label and consisted of contemporary artists covering music – both classic and obscure – from the pioneering German Krautrock bands. Long after Head Music was released the label continued to receive submissions for it and the new double 7″ Shrunken Head Music features four of the best.

To Another Universe was a track from Brainticket’s Celestial Ocean album, which is intense freakout for the first half and melodic oddity in the second half. Frobisher Neck, which is the solo project of UK based musician Tony Swettenham, takes the melodic oddity portion and, using Mellotron as his only instrument, creates a dreamy, exploratory, space excursion. Nice.

Black Tempest is another UK based solo project, this one by Stephen Bradbury. He takes Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon Part 1 and condenses it down to just under 6 minutes of Tangerine Dreamy electronica and avant-space noise.

Russian band Vespero take another shot at a Faust song, having covered Jennifer on last year’s 2013 Fruits de Mer Annual. This time they tackle J’ai Mal aux Dents, which for Faust was a quirkily strange combination of off-beat psychedelia and free-jazz. Vespero do a stellar job of laying down the core groove of the original and making the rest completely their own. It’s mostly the drumming that retains the free-jazz elements of the original, the rest being a space rock workout with bubbling, rocking and soaring guitars, plus colorful alien synths, flute and spoken word bits.

Ok, so Gong and Steve Hillage weren’t Krautrock bands. Brainticket technically weren’t either. Jay Tausig covers The Glorious Om Riff, which was originally the rocking and appropriately named RIFF portion of the song Master Builder, from Gong’s You album, which was recorded when Steve Hillage was still in the band and later recorded as The Glorious Om Riff on Hillage’s Green album. The promo sheet says Tausig tried to find a happy medium between the Gong and Hillage versions. Whatever. Jay kicks serious ASS, this being a monster high energy space-prog rocker.

The single will be available mid-November, and as usual this is vinyl ONLY, no CDs or downloads. If interested you better hurry because Fruits de Mer releases sell out QUICK!

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

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Vibravoid – “Colour Your Mind” (Fruits de Mer Records 2013, Crustacean 41, 7″ vinyl)

The latest from German spaced out psych monsters Vibravoid is a 3-song 7″ on which they cover three tasty obscurities. Colour Your Mind was originally recorded in the 1980s by an Australian band called Tyrnaround. It’s a total 60s Syd Barrett meets The Beatles styled psych tune with ripping guitar and eerie organ. Vibravoid’s cover is trademark Vibravoid, being 60s inspired but has a robust and well produced heavy rocking sound. The 60s organ is ever present and we’re treated to killer instrumental passages with absolutely awesome psych guitar and tripped out effects. La Poupee Qui Fait Non was a 1966 acoustic driven pop song by French singer/songwriter Michael Polnareff. Vibravoid remain true to the spirit of the original but create a combination of jangly pop tune and mildly freaky psychedelia. Human Expression were a Los Angeles based band who the promo sheet says issued only 3 singles during their short-lived 1966-67 existence. Their song Optical Sound is a dreamy but nicely freaky psych song with nifty guitar effects. Vibravoid rock it harder and take it into the cosmos with lots of cool effects and phased, efx’d psych guitars. These guys always do a great job of taking other people’s songs and really make them their own (They Vibravoid-ize it!)

The single will be available mid-November, and as usual this is vinyl ONLY, no CDs or downloads. If interested you better hurry because Fruits de Mer releases sell out QUICK!

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

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Vespero – “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” (Fruits de Mer Records 2013, Crustacean 42, 7″ vinyl)

The latest from Russian space rockers Vespero is a 2-song 7″ on which they take on two Pink Floyd instrumental classics – Careful With That Axe, Eugene and One Of These Days. Eugene is suitably atmospheric, with lots of cool spacey effects, Mellotron (or Mellotron sounding), organ, spaced out guitar licks, and rockin’ solos, though it doesn’t deviate dramatically from Floyd. One Of These Days, on the other hand, is taken in interesting, different directions. Whereas the Floyd version is hard rocking intensity, Vespero for much of the track are more exploratory, heavier on the electronics, and get into some freaky experimentation. The big meltdown comes later in the piece and Vespero rock hard, though the slide doesn’t gnash its demon teeth like Gilmour did. But I like it when bands doing covers take the original in new directions and overall I like what Vespero did with the song.

The single will be available mid-November, and as usual this is vinyl ONLY, no CDs or downloads. If interested you better hurry because Fruits de Mer releases sell out QUICK!

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

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Nik Turner’s Space Ritual – Live at The Palomino, Calgary, Canada, October 14, 2013

I can`t tell you how disappointed I was when Hawkwind postponed their North American tour. I found out literally just hours before my flight was leaving for Toronto. I had built up so much expectation for this that it was a huge, inflating letdown. But I had one thing to console me. One week after Hawkwind had been scheduled to play in Toronto, Nik Turner was coming to Calgary, and I already had my tickets. My expectations were doubly high now, and I have to say, Nik did not let me down.

My wife and I left Edmonton in the afternoon for the road trip down to Calgary. Nik was playing at the Palomino Smokehouse and BBQ, and yes, it was both a restaurant and a nightclub. We decided to grab a bite to eat there before the show. Our waitress was very cool and the food was great. We heard music coming from downstairs, so we went down there a bit early to check it out and I caught of glimpse of Nik and his band as they were doing their soundcheck. I recognized the song instantly as D-Rider. My excitement just went up a few notches.

You have to understand. I’ve been a fan of Hawkwind for over 30 years, and having never seen them or any member of the band live before, I had been waiting a long, long time for this show. And fortunately it wasn’t long before they opened the doors and started letting people in downstairs. Once into the club, I gravitated to the merch table. There were lots of cool T-shirts (I bought two!) and some CDs. I already had Nik’s new album, having reviewed it a few weeks before here in AI, but there were a few others I had my eye on. I got talking to a guy by the table who turned out to be Nicky Garratt, who was the guitarist of Nik’s touring band but had also played on the Space Gypsy album (in fact, as he told me, it was he who put that band together for Nik). Although having begun his music career in the punk world with UK Subs, Nicky was now deeply into psych/space and especially Krautrock. His own band, Hedersleben, was not only the opening band, but also Nik’s touring band. Anyway, I had a good chat with Nicky and he turned out to be a really cool guy. I saw Nik himself walking around too, but didn’t get a chance to talk to him before Hedersleben took to the stage.

Hedersleben put on a short but quite awesome show. Kephera Moon on synths and keyboards, Bryce Shelton on bass, Jason Willer drums (he was also part of Nik’s recording band) and Nicky Garratt on guitar. Before the show, Nicky had told me that Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma had been a big influence on their sound. That being one of my favourite Floyd albums, I was looking forward to hearing them. With the spacey atmospheres and Kephara’s dreamy, sometimes dissonant organ sounds, I could definitely hear the Floyd in their sound, but that was simply the launch point as they took off and went in amazing directions with motorik and tribal rhythms, seriously cool grooves and some very freaky soloing. One song they did really stood out for me, The Fall of Chronopolis. After the show, Nicky told me it was set to appear on their third album. So far they only have one album out. Talk about planning ahead!

Next band up was a local band called Witchstone. These guys played in a serious early Black Sabbath style, all deep, plodding riffs and lyrics about witches and demons and souls being dragged to Hell, but they had a guy on keyboards who injected the music with all sorts of freaky drones and electronic squalls, which I guess is why they were chosen to open for Nik. Let’s face it, Alberta is probably one of the least psychedelic places you could visit, so this was about as close as they could get to spacerock, I imagine.

Just a short time after Witchstone, Nik finally took to the stage. When I heard those first swirls of cosmic sounds and Nik beginning to chant, “This is Earth calling…this is Earth calling…” I felt like I was about to explode with excitement. Then the band launched into a scorching version of Born to Go and I just let the sound wash over and through me. After 30 years of waiting, this was like finding the Holy Grail. I was here at last!

Against a backdrop of ever changing, trippy images, Nik and the band enthusiastically rocked through many of the Hawkwind classics: Time We Left This World Today, Orgone Accumulator, Master of the Universe, Brainstorm, and of course the aforementioned D-Rider. He gave a couple of nods to his latest album, Space Gypsy in the form of the lead single from album, Fallen Angel STS-51-L and the lovely, acoustic Galaxy Rise, which saw him set down his sax and bring out his flute. It was nice to see that the night was not all about rocking and there were some nice mellow moments as well. And of course there was the poetry. Nik did powerful recitations of Sonic Attack and The Black Corridor while the band provided spooky atmospherics. Honestly, I`d never really gotten into Sonic Attack before, until this very night when Nik made me a believer.

There were a couple of surprises. The acoustic Children of the Sun was a real lovely hippie moment. Keyboardist Kephara Moon had re-emerged after the Hedersleben performance in a dramatic transformation, from the jeans and plaid shirt she’d worn, to an exotic purple and gold dress, complete with mystical symbols and space tribe markings on her face. She left the keyboards during Children of the Sun to play tambourine, and dance around Nik, eventually joining him at his mic as the whole band chimed in, singing the title phrase over and over in a soft musical chant as coloured lights swirled into a beautiful, hazy yellow glow, almost like a sunset. It was one of the most striking moments of the show. Another surprise was when Nik played Ejection, a song from his former band mate Robert Calvert’s album Captain Locheed and the Starfighters, verbally acknowledging it in a nice a little tribute to his fallen comrade.

The evening came to its grand finale with a ripping version of Silver Machine that just kicked all sorts of major ass and had everyone in the audience singing along. Throughout the show, Nik looked like he was just having the time of his life. The 73 year old can still rock with the best of them. He had barely left the stage when he was suddenly back for the encore of You Shouldn’t Do That, which had some of the young women from the audience (including our waitress from earlier in the night!), jumping up on the stage and dancing with the band. It was an awesome close to an awesome night!

It was too bad I didn’t get a chance to talk to Nik, but I did go up and briefly meet him after the show while he was still on stage. As he shook my hand, there was this huge grin on his face, which said it all. You could tell just how much Nik loved his fans and loved performing for them. And his fans loved him too. It was a small, but very enthusiastic crowd that came out and I was glad to have been a part of it.

Check for other tour dates on Nik’s web site at

Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald

Hawklords – “Dream” (Shellshcok, 2013, LORDS0913, CD/LP)

Welcome to the future, you are only dreaming in the year 2013… It seems to be the self police parade as well these days with Hawkwind offshoots calling themselves near-copyright infringement names next to the real deal Hawkwind. While Hawklords have had a couple of members in past lineups to semi-justify their name, namely Harvey Bainbridge and Steve Swindells from the 25 Years On Album roughly 35 years ago, to say I initially was not very thrilled when I heard the first CD of this new “Hawklords” band last year, called We Are One, is not a mild statement. I thought it sounded like a bad punk record I had heard a million times over. So I shelved it and after a few months checked it out again, and went “wow!” and thought “this is some good rockin’ old fashioned Space Rock!”. It had no real sound that brought it closer to the original 70’s bands electronic ambience or mellow new wave aesthethics though, and there was no Dave Brock or Robert Calvert involved, obviously. Though also having past Hawkwind members like Ron Tree (vocals), Jerry Richards (guitar) and Adrian Shaw (bass) onboard, they really are a different entity. Especially now that Steve Swindells seems to have left the band, leaving only Harvey as the sole original “Hawklord”. Additionally on Dream we seem to have Paul Hayles now guesting on one track, being the man from The Sonic Assassins ’77 band and the recent Lastwind (whose sole album from a few years ago is rather excellent)! Which brings us to 2013’s Dream. Much like its predecessor from last year it chugs along rather nicely, but now interspersed with a few “dreamier” mellow tracks scattered throughout the CD. For those who like this sort of head-on spacerock no matter which Hawkwind camp it is from, and crave more, go ahead and get it, you won’t be disappointed. I am not so sure Dream fulfills my Spacerock Destiny as any better than We Are One. I even find it slightly weaker than the first effort. Stand-out songs are the opener, Dream A Dream, and the track Elemental Mind which seems to borrow a lot melody-wise from Hawkwind’s song Hippy, the punky Nowhere Everywhere, and the progressive-psychedelic closer Psychic Eyes, which clocks in at 7 minutes. If you are seriously demented, this album is also availible on silver vinyl!

For more information visit the Hawklords at:
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Reviewed by Christian Mumford

Various Artists – “The Fruits de Mer 2014 Annual” (Fruits de Mer Records 2013, Crustacean 44, 7″ vinyl)

As 2013 winds down we get the new Fruits de Mer annual in which FdM Keith finds a home for songs he really liked but couldn’t fit anywhere else during year.

I’d never heard of The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies and a quick search reveals them to be a UK based band (or more like a collective) that’s been around since 2010. They do a high energy Surf rocking cover of Barry Gray’s The Joe 90 Theme (60s UK sci-fi TV show), with lots of fun spaced out soaring electronics. AND they do a killer Surfin’ take on the Lost in Space theme.

Johnny Remember Me was a 1961 UK hit for John Leyton and apparently Joe Meek’s first #1. Astralasia give it the cosmic electronic treatment while simultaneously retaining the Rawhide-like Country-ish vibe of the original. But then we get a second contribution from Astralasia called Johnny In Dub in which they take the song and do exactly what the title suggests. Freaky!

The Raiders were a UK band whose 1964 song I Remember was never officially released. The guitarist, Trevor Midgley, went on to record as Beau for John Peel’s Dandelion label and has also contributed songs as Beau to a couple Fruits de Mer compilations. I Remember has a slow sort of ambient-Surf quality and is driven by a simple but lovely guitar melody.

The single will be available mid-November, and as usual this is vinyl ONLY, no CDs or downloads. If interested you better hurry because Fruits de Mer releases sell out QUICK!

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

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz