Archive for August 30, 2015

Greg Segal – “Beauty Sleep” (Phantom Airship 2015, Download)

Greg Segal is seriously making up for lost time after having musically laid low for some years to concentrate on parenthood. In March he released the marvelous A Handful Of Ashes album, I’ve now got the new Beauty Sleep in my greedy little hands, and I see that yet another new set (Skeleton Parade) is available.

Greg continues to get down with his bad Prog self on Beauty Sleep, with three lengthy instrumentals that mix, morph and fuse a variety of styles into something very much his own.

First up is the 22 minute A Reseda Of The Mind which features what seems like a stylistic cast of thousands, including theatrical classical piano melody that at times reminds me of Alain Rochette’s work on the first Present albums, droning synth lines, sci fi synths and Jazz drumming, soon adding orchestral Mellotron keys, and when the jamming fuzz guitar joins in we’ve got one hell of a cauldron of instrumentation and styles as we segue surprisingly seamlessly through Canterbury, darkly intense Gothic themes, Neo Classical/Prog blends, Soft Machine Jazz, spacey atmospherics and more. You’ll be forgiven for rolling your eyes as I realize I’ve just described something that sounds ridiculously all over the map… but it’s not. I’m picking out elements that are genuinely present but Greg, in both composition and performance, has created something that is both complex and accessible, being simultaneously playful and intense, while permitting himself a free-wheeling license to experiment. Like the Frippoid Crimson-ish guitar layered over Jazzy Canterbury inspired passages that lead into a combination of similarly structured compositions and jamming Prog-Psych that recalls Greg’s Cold Sky and Jugalbandi projects. There is a LOT happening here and the fun of it all is that each component is crisply distinguishable, making for a multi-layered and smoothly flowing whole. In short, this is VERY fucking cool!

The 8 minute Beauty Sleep explores a similar path, starting off with ooo-wee-ooo sci fi synths plus cool grooving Jazz bass and piano melody, making for an intriguingly oddball combination of alien and smoky Jazz lounge ingredients. Finally the 15 minute It Ain’t Gonna Work lays down high energy Jazz drumming over which a bevy of wild electronica and spaced out soundscape synths do their sci fi magic. Part of this brought to mind an avant-garde Jazz take on a John Carpenter film soundtrack, though Greg twists and turns through Present/Univers Zero and whimsical classic and spaced out Prog territory, and at one point throws some Eastern flavored Psychedelic themes into the mix. Anything is game. And it works!

In summary, this is gift that keeps on giving music which rewards the attentive listener with additional tasty morsels upon each new spin. Beauty Sleep grabbed me on the first listen but I needed several digestive revisits before I could write about this roller coaster ride in any coherent way. If you like Canterbury and RIO styled Prog and have a taste for Jazz, Beauty Sleep will entertain and challenge you in equal measures. Oh, and if you’re interested, the sleeping beauties on the cover are Itchy and Scratchy from the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

For more information visit the Greg Segal web site at: (There’s LOTS of history and information here)
Stream and download from the Greg Segal Bandcamp site:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Giöbia – “Magnifier” (Sulatron Records 2015, CD/LP)

Milano, Italy based Giöbia are back with the successor to their 2013 released Introducing Night Sound album (also on Sulatron). In my review of that album I commented on how very different it was from their one previous set I had heard, the 2004 released Beyond The Stars. Whereas the earlier album was like a song-oriented take on an Ozric Tentacles meets Ship Of Fools style, Introducing Night Sound was characterized by a combination of 60s influenced Psychedelia and Space Rock with bouzouki and sitar inflected ethnic influences.

Magnifier seems to draw on the styles of music that graced both those albums. This World Was Being Watched Closely is a smokin’ opening track, featuring throbbing Space Rock with riffage that anyone who knows Giöbia’s Beyond The Stars will recognize, and has Orson Welles War Of The Worlds radio narratives scattered throughout. The convulsively high intensity The Pond brings to mind a Stoner-Space Rock Vibravoid. The Stain is an eerie brand of Space Rock that starts off in sludgy cosmic Stoner mode, but soon envelops the proceedings in orchestral synths, then dips into a Kosmiche Prog organ and synth led transition before launching into a somewhat dancey Space Rock dirge. LOTS happening in only 4 minutes! Lentamente la luce svanira is another Space Rocker with a hypnotic mind-bending throb, extra-terrestrial guitars and cool sci-fi keys. At only 3 minutes, Devil’s Howl is the shortest and most intensely rocking song of the set, cutting a stoned rocking swath and obliterating anything in its path. This is followed by the epic Sun Spectre, which at 15 minutes is by far the longest track of the set. It rocks hard in Psychedelic space and features more riffage that recalls the Beyond The Stars album, but also soaring and wailing spaced out guitars, wilding oscillating and volcanic effects and steadily propulsive drumming. After a while it veers off into a dreamy floating Hawkwind and old time Komiche Prog segment that’s at first synth dominated but then slowly starts to bring in the other instruments before abruptly blasting off into hot rocking space again. Absolutely monstrous! Finally, The Magnifier goes into Vibravoid meets Farflung mode for a majestic close to this magnificent set that is sure to make my Best of 2015 list. Highest recommendation!

For more information visit the Sulatron Records web site at:
Visit the Giöbia web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Seven That Spells – “Superautobahn” (Sulatron Records 2015, LP reissue)

Sulatron reissues this 2012 album on vinyl LP, which by necessity trims some of the track lengths but provides a tasty package for vinyl junkies. Superautobahn is a super special set in that joining Seven That Spells ship captain and guitarist Nico Potocnjak is Acid Mother’s Temple’s Kawabata Makoto on guitar.

Side A opens with The Wall, which has a cool and strange combination of fiery frantic Rock and trippy chanting vocal harmonies. A minimal and oddly percussive piano melody provides a calming melodic counterpoint to the acid industrial noise guitars, which wander snake-like throughout the proceedings as they scream, howl, grind and tear holes in the ozone layer. The Pyramid is next and goes all manic mindfuck right out of the chute, sounding like Red-era King Crimson at a Noise-Psych festival. The guitars are freak flag flyin’ tortured yet are screeching against a solid rocking rhythmic foundation, and here again we have a calming influence in the form of the floating chant vocals. I don’t see a violin in the credits but it sure sounds like one so it must be Nico or Kawabata’s guitar. If there’s such a thing as Noise-Trance then this is it.

Side B consists of the 22 minute The Colossus, which is the same length as it was on the original release. The music is as steadily rocking and rhythmically linear as the first two tracks, and the chant vocals continue to be a distant backdrop presence, yet while the guitars are certainly aggressive they somehow don’t feel like the in-yer-face sonic assault we experienced on the first two tracks. Sure, they screech and howl, but this is a relatively laid back affair, and I really dig the addition of saxophone jamming along with the guitars.

In summary, Superautobahn is a splendid blend of heavy rock, trance and Psychedelic noise-craft, and the influence of Kawabata adds, as you would expect, a twist to the Seven That Spells sound (which has been evolving anyway). If you missed this the first time around and consider owning a vinyl edition a worthwhile tradeoff for two trimmed down track lengths then Sulatron has what you need.

For more information visit the Sulatron Records web site at:
Streams and downloads of lots of Seven That Spells albums are available at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Krautzone – “Spiritual Retreat” / “The Complete Works” (Sulatron Records 2015, LP/2-CD)

Krautzone is a German collective of musicians from such bands as Electric Moon, Zone Six and The Pancakes, who got together in 2011 for some jamming and produced enough recordings for several albums. Kosmische Rituale was their debut in 2013, a split with Lamp Of The Universe came out last year, and now we’ve got Spiritual Retreat, a vinyl release (limited to 777 copies) with one 20+ minute excursion on each side.

And what a journey it is! Side A opens in stoned, grooving cosmic mode, and gradually picks up the pace as the fuzzed out and acidic elements mesh with one another and the buzzing and tinkling effects provide an alien presence. I like the free-wheeling Space-Blues and generally brain scrambling jamming from the guitars as the music trips along steadily in stoned, doomy space. Later the music transitions to a freakier passage where the organ is pulsating, the guitar is cranking out wailing and bubbling, spaced out angst licks, and the rhythm section is maintaining a slowly propulsive march that eventually starts to rock harder but not much faster as things go cosmically quiet for the Side A wind down. Side B picks right up and quickly develops into a spacey Psychedelic Pink Floyd mode, at first having a deep space Shine On Your Crazy Diamond vibe and then morphing into an extra lysergic Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun groove with spaced out and acid crashing guitars and eerie oscillating organ lines, creating one big atmospheric and effects laden voyage.

Capping off the Krautzone story is the new Complete Works 2-CD set which brings together the first album, Krautzone’s side of the split with Lamp Of The Universe, the new Spiritual Retreat, and one unreleased track. If you’re new to Krautzone this is the way to go. And if you’ve got the vinyl this is a nice CD package. The 7 minute Schwebung is the unreleased track and includes intense Space-Blues guitar licks that at one point have a cool Pink Floyd One Of These Days grind, plus symphonic keys, hypnotic drone atmospherics and a throbbing beat. Another small bonus is that both sides of the Spiritual Retreat LP play as a single track for a more seamless experience on the CD.

It’s all about the journey friends. If you like music that expects you to climb aboard, strap yourself in and just enjoy the ride, Krautzone will keep a smile on your face.

For more information visit the Sulatron Records web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Lisa Cameron & Ernesto Diaz-Infante – “Sol Et Terra” (Kendra Steiner Editions 2015, CDR)

Occupying an always interesting space on the accessible/avant-garde axis, California based guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante never fails to serve up something different, be it a solo effort or collaboration. Sol Et Terra pairs his 12 string acoustic guitar with veteran ST 37 drummer Lisa Cameron on percussion, electronics and lap steel. The eight tracks, most very different from one another, were recorded at Ernesto’s home studio in the Bay Area. The music has a live feel but the sounds from each player are very precise.

Rise consists of repetitive strumming and freeform bang-a-can percussion that creates a part hypnotic and part easy paced grooving effect. Queen of Pentacles combines a similar strumming pattern with minimal electronic drone waves. And Labor and Fruits continues the 12 string strumming theme, this time with a variety of chiming bells.

The House at Pooneil Corners goes down a much more schizophrenic path, combining dreamily lulling guitar strumming, which creates a strangely droning effect, with harsh Noise-Psych guitar, which I’m guessing Lisa is producing on the lap steel. I really like the sensation that is simultaneously confusing and intriguing created by these strikingly different sounds that seem to pair up so well. Sun Psychic showcases another cool and strangely different synthesis, blending a tinkling Oriental style with a Folk Americana feel. The multi-layered Stars Within Stars sets a frantic and rhythmically linear yet oddly off-kilter pace. The first half of this 10 minute piece feels like a chase scene, before easing into a slowly strumming and picking noisy yet emotional Psychedelic dissonance. Imagination Eye also creates a soundtrack feel, like an ominous march or countdown to something evil. The guitar strums are singularly slow and repetitive, yet portend something to be feared, while the percussion and haunting atmospherics work to enhance that feeling. Lots happening on both this and Stars Within Stars, which together are my favorite tracks of the set. Finally, The Daughter is like an avant-garde surrealism exploration, as the duo experiment with trippy dissonance and a succession of single note manipulations and noise/drone/soundscape bits, scrapes and blasts.

Lots of very interesting variety here. The performances are subtle yet there’s far more going on that requires multiple listens to absorb.

For more information visit the Kendra Steiner Editions web site at:
CLICK HERE to go direction to Sol Et Terra

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Stephen Palmer – “Beautiful Intelligence” (Infinity Plus Books 2015, Paperback/Ebook)

Having read eight previous Stephen Palmer novels the first question that comes to mind with new stories is what kind of world will he create? Palmer has told several tales depicting environmental devastation and last year covered the whole of London in hair. Palmer begins to answer the question in the novel’s opening line reference to a “post-oil world”, leading into what is in ways like and unlike previous books.

Beautiful Intelligence is both philosophical inquiry and action packed thriller. The year is 2092 and a dominant presence is the nexus, a complete model of the real world “created by Pacific Rim programmers to supersede the internet”. Internet social networking had led to an “inexorable erosion of the concept of privacy” (gee, what a surprise), and the nexus is “the internet’s social media taken to its logical extreme”. The nexus knows where everybody is all the time. In fact, for those under the age of 14 without knowledge of a pre-nexus world, the nexus is their life.

The central (human) characters are several research scientists who worked for and have now escaped from Ichikawa laboratories and its controlling head honcho Aritomo Ichikawa. The researchers form two schools of Artificial Intelligence thought that are the core of the book’s food for thought focus. There is the AI team, who create a single artificial intelligence, and the BI team, who create what started out as a connected consciousness of nine, which are then separated to form a social group of individuals.

What does it mean to be human? What is the importance of the solitary experience relative to our experience of one another?

The AI team has Zeug, who is described as humanoid in appearance. The researchers want to create what they call a true artificial intelligence – It has consciousness and communicates through language. “He cannot become conscious unless he speaks, unless he thinks”.

Zeug at first speaks in a way that sounds robotic. Yet we sense his stress as he runs with the team during a chase. Zeug can experience distrust and dislike. He can experience anger and lash out violently, and is even at one point smug at the knowledge of his worth to the group. When the group is attacked, Zeug lashes out. Zeug is even capable of murder.

What is conscious for Zeug? At one point a team member asks if they are building the best computer in the world or conscious artificial intelligence? Can there be consciousness without social interaction? Zeug is the only one of his kind. As Aritomo says, “Zeug’s problem is that he lacks others like himself to interact with”.

The BI team has the nine ‘bis’, which one team member describes as, “Half a metre tall, deep blue and rubbery, it looks like an exotic toy Nippandroid”. Despite the sharp contrast to Zeug’s appearance, these are no toys. The team’s hope is for the bis to become conscious; to have ‘subjective experiences’, emotions and a method of communication. Each of the bis slowly start to take on identities… displaying “nuances of behavior”. And they are clearly learning.

Early on we realize that they are alert, aware, and watching each other. Most important, they are taking on distinct personalities and levels of comprehension. And they are communicating with one another. When the team is threatened by an old man with a rifle, the bis team up wordlessly to lure him into a trap so the security expert can defend everyone. As one researcher describes, “They are growing up. It’s the beginnings of consciousness – and it means they can work together as a team… as a “society”.

Self awareness. The awareness of being in a social group. The head of the BI team says, “Beautiful Intelligence exists in a society and nowhere else, just like consciousness only exists in a society”.

But just as Zeug struggles on his own, learning to interact among others presents its own challenges. The bis care for one another after a violent encounter. But they also kill one of their own. Are they like little kids who have learned faster than they can learn morals? One of them eventually reveals the ability to describe the characteristics and abilities of the others, and even makes an argument for wanting to be found by Aritomo.

While immersed in Beautiful Intelligence I also happened to read a review essay of a new book called Machines Of Loving Grace, by New York Times technology reporter John Markoff, which includes a history of AI developments. Markoff tells of early 1960s research at Stanford University where they were attempting to build machines that mimicked human capabilities. Markoff describes how this early research focused on the ability of machines to act like humans.

Whether machines are (merely) copying humans or actually learning is crucial and addressed by Palmer. At one point in Beautiful Intelligence the BI team members are debating the bis humanity as they find themselves treating them like children and ask, are they part human if they mimic us? Similarly, with Zeug, after a violent encounter when the entire AI team is recovering, one member wonders if Zeug really experienced fear, or did a loop of copied emotions cycle through his brain “to then be written on his bioplastic face”.

Markoff also tells of another team at the same Stanford institute who focused on using computer technologies… “employing an array of ever more powerful software tools to organize their activities and create a ‘collective IQ’ that outstripped the capabilities of any single individual”. And he goes on to say that even today there exists two rival engineering communities: One of these communities has relentlessly pursued the automation of the human experience – Artificial Intelligence (AI). The other, human-computer interaction, or Intelligence Augmentation (IA), has concerned itself with ‘man-machine symbiosis’.

Palmer’s tale of the future is not far off from the very real present. It’s both fascinating and frightening how AI is developing and Palmer provides us with much to think about while keeping the entertainment level high, having created a colorful group of characters who contribute to the action as everyone stays on the run from Aritomo and his agents. Palmer has spun one of his most simultaneously fun and often hair raising adventures, but also one that is as ominous and thought provoking as any of his previous novels.

For more information visit the Infinity Plus Books web site at:
Paperback and Kindle editions are available at Amazon

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Vibravoid – “Stepping Stone” (Fruits de Mer Records 2015, 7″ vinyl)

The latest from these German Space/Psych rockers is a vinyl single from Fruits de Mer with a trio of killer covers. The Monkees’ (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone is treated in true Vibravoid power Psych rocking fashion. It’s got a brief but awesome instrumental jam in the middle. We also get a multi-colored and whimsically fun and freaky take on Traffic’s Hole In My Shoe. Crystal Jacqueline & The Honey Pot also did a very cool cover of this a few months back. And who can forget (Young One’s) Neil’s fun cover on his Heavy Concept album. But I digress… Finally, and this is my hands down favorite, Vibravoid let their freak flag fly high on a cover of H.P. Lovecraft’s 1967 song, The White Ship. The band retain the core sound of the original but really take it into totally trippy yet hauntingly alien spectral space. Absolutely fantastic. Everything by Vibravoid is always well produced and arranged which really makes a difference.

The single is scheduled for release in September. For more information visit the Fruits de Mer Records web site at:
Visit the Vibravoid web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Nick Nicely – “49 Cigars” (Fruits de Mer Records 2015, 7″ vinyl)

The latest from Nick Nicely is a 4-song vinyl single from Fruits de Mer. 49 Cigars was originally the flip side to Nick’s 1982 Hilly Fields and opens this new 7″ (an earlier FdM single featured Hilly Fields). It’s a beautifully crafted 60s styled Pop-Psych song that smacks of Arnold Layne and includes lots of Tomorrow Never Knows styled effects and general freakiness. We’re also treated to a live version that’s about twice as long and much heavier acid freakout Psych rocking. Wow, I’d love to hear the entire show this was taken from.

The other two songs are very much in the spirit of the experimentalism that characterized Nick’s 2014 Space Of A Second album. Well… one, Lobster Dobbs, is from that album. Belinda is a totally spaced out Pop-Psych tune that takes all kinds of wild twists and turns as it roams from accessible song to avant-garde surrealism. Lobtser Dobbs is similar, being a cool and strange blend of song and wigged out lysergic freakiness. I like the groovy Jazz flavor, though the song ends too quickly and abruptly. Consider this my wishlist request for Nick to flesh the song out a bit more on an upcoming album.

The single is scheduled for release in September. For more information visit the Fruits de Mer Records web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Magic Bus – “Seven Wonders/Eight Miles High” (Fruits de Mer Records 2015, 7″ vinyl)

Magic Bus are new to me, though they have two full length albums out to date. Don’t confuse them with the Psych band of the same name from Michigan. These guys are UK based. We’ve got two songs, one original and one cover.

Seven Wonders starts off with a tasty blend of gentle Folk infused Prog-Psych, with nice vocals and beautiful harmonies, acoustic and electric guitars, flute and organ. Then just past the halfway mark the band take off on a Prog instrumental that sounds like a lost gem from the 70s. The flip side consists of Magic Bus putting their own spin on The Byrds classic Eight Miles High. The song opens in droney drifty Psychedelic mode for an intro and then takes off into a cool grooving Prog-Jazz flavored take on the song that includes lots of instrumental segments and a fuzzed out Mike Ratledge styled organ melody. Great stuff. I’ll have to check out their previous albums.

The single is scheduled for release in September. For more information visit the Fruits de Mer Records web site at:
Visit the Magic Bus web site at:

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

Tir na nOg – “Ricochet” (Fruits de Mer Records 2015, 7″ vinyl)

Hot on the heels of their first new full length album in 42 years is this 2-song single from Fruits de Mer. Both Acid-Folk and Prog-Folk are terms that been used in reference to this Irish duo and both hit the nail smack on the head. Ricochet is a song from the band’s latest album, The Dark Dance, and is a spirited tune that incorporates Arabian influences and would be equally at home in both Pub and far flung Eastern souk. The flip side features a previously unreleased live version of the song Tir na nOg, which first appeared on their 1971 self-titled album. I love the combination of Celtic Folk flavored vocals, hypnotic drone, Psych guitar melody, and periodically animated percussion, which together create a mystical blend of both traditional and Acid-Folk trippy vibes. This vinyl single would make an great companion to The Dark Dance.

The single is scheduled for release in September. For more information visit the Fruits de Mer Records web site at:
Visit the Tir na nOg web site at:
CLICK HERE to read my review of The Dark Dance

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz