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Further Reflections: The Complete Recordings 1967-1969
Further Reflections: The Complete Recordings 1967-1969
Price: £11.06

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reflections upon Reflections, 26 Jan. 2013
I knew nothing of this band until reading about them in Rob Young's book Electric Eden, and listening to their two albums I am surprised that they didn't enjoy success in their day to match their abilities, but we all know that commercial success isn't distributed according to level of talent.

Tangerine Dream feels in part like a whimsical foray into the hazy heart of flower-power, with all sorts of allusions to childhood and fairytales, but that sense falls apart somewhat upon paying closer attention to the generally melancholy and sometimes pretty dark lyrics, which often return to themes of depression and isolation.

The album starts off with the request "Relax your eyes, for after all, we can but share these minutes" before bursting into the playful high spirits of Kaleidoscope, sounding almost like a childrens television show theme, all sensory delights, but this is followed by the resigned Please Excuse My Face ("...I feel dead, I'll hide myself away..."). For me this odd pair of songs don't make for a particularly strong opening salvo, the album really gets going with the propulsive and shimmering Dive Into Yesterday, and doesn't look back.

Mr Small, The Watch Repairer Man is an exquisitely crafted vignette about a man on the edge of society who people only value because he is giving away his expertise for next to nothing. This song is a highlight and it sits comfortably amongst many similar miniature portraits of unusual characters by the likes of Syd Barrett and The Kinks. Something about the exuberant singing in the relatively straight-forward Holidaymaker also brings to mind Syd Barrett. The Murder Of Lewis Tollani is one of my favourites, a chilling, atmospheric piece precarious on the verge of madness. With most songs under 3 minutes each the 8-minute-long The Sky Children stands out for it's length as it concludes the album in dreamy style.

Amongst disc one's bonus tracks, single A-sides A Dream For Julie and Jenny Artichoke are very good. The former preceeded Pink Floyd's lovely Julia Dream by three months and I have to wonder if there is any connection, whilst the latter is a rather perky but nevertheless catchy and fun piece reminiscent of Donovan's more upbeat material. Why these two songs weren't hits I can only imagine...

Faintly Blowing is to me as strong as Tangarine Dream, though more rocking and sure-footed. A couple of songs divert from the psychedelic vibe into that curious sub-genre "Dylanesque", whilst the title track takes some hints from The Beatles' headier psychedelic songs. Snapdragon is a gorgeous song, one of those happy moments when everything seems perfect. (Love Song) For Annie is also very cool, schizophrenically alternating noisy boisterous passages with quiet folky sections. If You So Wish is another example of Kaleidoscope at their best. Bless The Executioner is a mellow piece with Donovan written all over it, unfortunately the lyrics to this song don't agree with me, so I tend to pass it by, along with the second "Dylanesque" song The Feathered Tiger. I love the song between them, Black Fjord, all overblown theatrics with a string section accompanying the band adding cinematic drama - yes it might be a little silly but I still like it. Again Kaleidoscope close with a longer song, though this time it's a heady tour-de-force of distorted guitars and rampaging drums, whilst down-right bizarre phasing and an amusing assortment of sound-effects help create a surreal finale.

Do It Again For Jeffrey and Balloon, Kaleidoscope's last singles, aren't as strong as the best pieces on Faintly Blowing and illustrate a slight drop in quality as the band made more compromises with the record label, still trying to get that first hit single.

I am disappointed with the sound quality on this release, anything loud distorts, which is a real shame and does a disservice to the music and its creators. Also, half of the bonus tracks are the "single mix" of album tracks, but these mixes are so close to the originals as to be superfluous.

The booklet comes with lots of pictures of the band and album and single artwork, along with an essay that sheds some light on their story. I'm really glad to have a copy of this release, I don't have a broad enough knowledge of the music scene from which Kaleidoscope came to compare them to many of their contemporaries, but it's pretty fine stuff.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2013 3:17 PM BST


Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music
Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music
Price: £8.11

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Electric Eden review, 29 Dec. 2012
Rob Young's book Electric Eden is a genuine delight to read, something to savour and to revisit, a book that chronicles the convergence and melding of traditional folk-music of the British Isles with popular, classical and experimental styles over the course of the Twentieth Century and beyond, creating diverse works of art along the way that re-imagine our connectedness to the heritage of the land. This cd works as a companion to the book, focusing in upon the time-period perhaps closest to the heart of the author, the blossoming of folk and folk-rock in the 1960's and 1970's, though in the same breath I should add that he doesn't limit himself to those hazy-edged genres previously mentioned, and nor should he. As I see it, the subtitle "Unearthing Britains Visionary Music" indicates that there aren't any clearly-defined boundaries over which he shouldn't cross, so long as that "British visionary" element is present, and perhaps this collection could have been more eclectic yet without the risk of losing the plot.

Rob has done a fine job of compiling a diverse selection of artists, the first disc concentrates on acoustic music and disc two introduces electric instruments. Much of the music is pastoral in feel, some is firmly rooted in the ground whilst others levitate above the ground on psychedelic journeys. Both discs contain tracks by the big names of the day alongside more obscure artists, creating a fascinating collection with discoveries to be made around every corner. As with all compilation cds some people might be disgruntled with the omission or inclusion of certain bands or songs, but space is very finite, and to me he has clearly put a lot of thought into each track and moreover the task of refining it down to these particular pieces must have been a mammoth labour of love.

I give the cd 5 stars because it's a delight and I think it makes a fine companion-piece to the book, giving the book a sonic dimension, but I also find myself wondering if it would have been better yet had Rob included music from across the entire scope of the book rather than just one time-period. Creating such a collection on two discs would have been a really tall order, but I can imagine approaching it in one of two ways: either by dipping into the Discographic Timeline at the back of the book for a representative selection, or choosing a couple of tracks relevant to each chapter. I'm not familiar with much of the pre-60's music he talks about and would be curious to hear some to help create a deeper context for the later music. Also it would be fascinating to see him pencilling in a line from Arnold Bax through Ralph Vaughan Williams to Ewan MacColl, Martin Carthy, Pentangle, Kate Bush, Talk Talk, to the Boards Of Canada and onwards - I'm not aware of any other compilation out there that takes such a journey.

I am very happy to own a copy of this compilation, and I'm itching to explore the work of a number of artists that are featured on here whom I have previously not been acquainted with. I see that this collection has the catalogue number EDEN001, so I for one look forward very much to EDEN002.


Nightingale
Nightingale
Price: £9.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shapeshifting, 26 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Nightingale (Audio CD)
The enigmatic photograph that adorns the cover of Nightingale is an unsettling and murky starting point for this album, that succeeds in capturing an essence of the album to come. It is a photo from the famous Enfield Poltergeist mystery and with this image we are invited into a strange world, or perhaps it's a glimpse of our world from a strange vantage point.

Erland And The Carnival weave together dazzling concoctions, some of their songs are like swirling vortices swallowing fragments of folk-song, psychedelia, industrial noise and gothic gloom, other songs are sparse and edged with tension or despondancy. Shapeshifting along their lengths, a kind of logic just about holds each song together, as E&TC build fantasies from found objects.

The folk music of the British Isles is fascinating to me and close to my heart, and hearing the results of this band's re-imaginings could perhaps have been unpalatable, but I find it a real delight, a freak wind blowing through a landscape and re-arranging things rather than destroying them. The band have an understanding of the tradition, but that element is just a starting point, they have embraced the way that the tradition has been pulled and pushed in various directions over the years, and they themselves have spied it through kaleidoscopes and crucially have not viewed folk-songs in isolation but as an element within a here and now world that is of course itself a mish-mash of countless elements from across time and place. The lyrics are alive, little scraps of folk-songs and fables and even a Carpenters song extended outwards in unexpected directions.

There is something about this approach that reminds me slightly of Blur, who similarly were building upon folklore in ways, following in the wake of Barrett-era Pink Floyd, Bowie, The Kinks and others, portraying a kind of British mythology of shipping forecasts and village greens and eccentric characters. Some of the songs however veer away from this and are perhaps partial self-portraits, with Erland singing with a weariness that echoes Damon Albarn. Two other bands that come to mind in regard to the musical backdrops of carnival and gothic drama are The Damned during their mid-80's goth/psychedelic period, and Miranda Sex Garden.

My favourite tracks include Emmeline, about a girl who vanishes "between two tall trees at the end of the green", Nightingale, East And West, one of the few with a recognizeably "folky" setting (I say that with a dash of irony: why should acoustic guitars be labelled folky anyway?) Wealldie, and The Trees They Grow So High, which works as a coda or sequel to the folk song of the same name. This is a very fine album, a cleverly organised chaos.


Weirdlore: Notes From The Folk Underground
Weirdlore: Notes From The Folk Underground

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weirdlore, 30 July 2012
Folk Police have once again released a very fine album in Weirdlore, which was compiled in part to accompany and expand upon a musical event scheduled for June 2012 but sadly cancelled due to lacklustre advance ticket sales. The event, featuring several of the artists on the cd, would I think have been marvellous, but at least we have this very nice compilation which features exclusive songs by eighteen artists working in the dusky verges of folk music.

Many of the artists assembled here have previously graced the John Barleycorn Reborn series of cds, and Weirdlore seems clearly to be inspired in part by those releases, right down to the style of the album art (though to me the sleeve design here is disappointing). As such I consider it to be something of a companion to that series, with an almost identical focus, gathering music that resides within the realm of folk and acid-folk, not light-years from mainstream folk and certainly intertwined with it yet at the same time perhaps too strange to be normal.

If You Fall I'll Fall With You by Starless And Bible Black is one of my favourites, where dreamy female vocals drift and two guitars weave patterns together and the result is not unlike some of the work of Pentangle. Another highlight is Sproatly Smith's take on the traditional Rosebuds In June, replete with curious sound-effects and a flock of sheep it is both gently seductive and faintly detached. Emily Portman's Spine Of A Wave is another wonder, and as with many of the songs here it explores mystical territory, in this case being inspired by a dream she had in which a man turned into a whale. Telling The Bees draw inspiration from The Golden Bough, their song alive with eastern phrasing building to a frenzied climax. Pamela Wyn Shannon's track is really lovely, the whispered names of mosses upon a beautiful atmospheric soundscape. Alisdair Roberts' Haruspex Of Paradox is quietly majestic, breath-taking and intricate, I am reminded of Robin Williamson's rambling story-songs. And talking of Robin Williamson, one of his Incredible String Band songs, Come With Me, is covered by Kate Denny (formerly of the Kittiwakes) and The Witches - it's nice but The Owl Service's Steven Collins provides some vocals and whatever effect he has used on his voice it sounds like he has a clothespeg on his nose, which is a bit distracting.

Jeanette Leech, (author of The Seasons They Change) wrote a curious essay in which she seems overly pre-occupied with such shallow things as fashions, folky pigeon-holes and commercial viability (or the lack thereof) of this music, to which I don't relate. She then moves on to devote rather too much space to eulogizing Alisdair Roberts. To me these pages could have been put to better use expanding the biographies or musings of the bands, or with some of Rob Young's (author of the wonderful Electric Eden) florid observations, but instead we get a cold lecture that seems to lose sight of the essence of the music, or to miss the fact that many people who like this music are passed superficial pigeon-holes, the opinion-molding efforts of critics and fads. Maybe they arrived at this music by circuitous and unique routes and take delight in finding honest, explorative music that they resonate deeply with, they probably aren't checking the pulse of "the scene" every five minutes.

Ian Anderson of fRoots magazine provides an introduction, as well as a very fine new interpretation of one of his songs from days of yore, in the guise of The False Beards. I was a frequent reader of the then Folk Roots magazine in the 90's, and I'm thinking wryly that back then they would quite likely have cast three-quarters of the artists on this collection into the lions-pit of the "And The Rest" review section, to be torn apart by anonymous critics for our entertainment (there really was some "folk policing" going on and that aloofness was a key reason I stopped reading the magazine). Good on him for embracing this.

Anyway, back to the music, should you purchase a copy of Weirdlore you can expect to hear some truly wonderful and varied music, infused with the essence of traditional music and folklore but not restricted by it. If you feel that folk music should be strictly about preservation through re-enactment and that purveyors should behave themselves with these brittle artefacts this might not be a good choice, on the other hand if you recognise music to be a living thing that's always been in a state of flux, and you have a fascination with our weird heritage and folklore it might well be for you. All round, yet another intriguing and inspired cd from the Folk Police label.


Isla
Isla
Price: £9.34

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elemental, 13 July 2012
This review is from: Isla (Audio CD)
Portico Quartet play an almost indefineable concoction part minimalism, part jazz, part avant-garde, part "world-music". They create soundscapes into which I am delighted to venture, though jazz has only played a peripheral part in my own wanderings until now, and much of that has been in the form of cross-pollinations with traditional music, such as with Pentangle, Lena Willemark And Ale Moller and others.

The quartet's instrumentation is comprised of saxophone, the hang, double-bass and drums, with occasional electronics and piano. The four musicians play with a level of intuition and depth of subtlety that is a real delight to behold. The album has a feel not dissimilar to some of the Scandinavian artists on the ECM record label, whilst that curious hang adds a certain quality redolent of warmer places.

Sometimes, as with Line and Shed Song the quartet evoke images of perpetually shifting reflections on the surface of a lake, or a cascading, bubbling stream, their instruments interweaving and their music forming and reforming. At other times I am reminded of Amnesiac or In Rainbows-era Radiohead, as with Clipper, which was first contact for me and the piece that convinced me to buy this album. Some tracks move as brooding meditations borne upon sinuous undercurrents, threatening to burst forth into discordant cacophony, and then live up to their promise with passages of squawking, honking abandon. Other tracks, like Paper Scissors Stone and Subo's Mental Meltdown, bound along with a playful joie de vivre. The title track Isla is a beauty, a dynamic piece where the band are joined to wonderful effect by a string quartet. The Visitor has a slight Middle Eastern or Klezmer quality to it. Shed Song - an improvised piece named for the garden shed at the bottom of the band's garden in which they were playing, reminds me of the Rockies, vast, epic, quiet landscapes, there are even "cries" reminiscent of the bugling of elk. To me much of the jazz that I have heard elsewhere seems to be "of" the city, but this album frequently feels far removed from all of that. Isla has been intriguing and enchanting me more than any other album these past few weeks, it's a beauty.


The Inner Octave
The Inner Octave
Price: £7.44

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Inner Octave review, 19 Jun. 2012
This review is from: The Inner Octave (Audio CD)
The Inner Octave is a compendium of the goings on at the Rif Mountain independent record label, bringing together tracks from several of their releases, including some that would have eluded virtually everyone on their initial limited-edition releases, plus a small number of previously unreleased tracks.

The artists present are The Owl Service, The Straw Bear Band, Jason Steel, Nancy Wallace, Robert Sunday, The A. Lords, Roshi featuring Pars Radio, and Alisdair Roberts. The general mood drifts between wry and melancholy, with the pace now and then reaching a canter but generally pretty laid-back, or at the verge of sleeping and waking, as with the blissfully drowsy pastoralia of Freohyll by The A. Lords, and the lullaby-like calm of Roshi's Armenian folk song.

One of my favourite tracks is the opening curiosity Lyke Wake Dirge, as performed by The Straw Bear Band. This is a chilling and fascinating relic about a journey from death to purgatory, that The Young Tradition and Pentangle captured beautifully in shivering sparsity in years gone by, but here The Straw Bear Band gleefully transform it into something altogether more... uplifting - if in a decidedly off-kilter manner. Oddly enough it brings to mind Spirit In The Sky! This sounds disastrous, and it probably is, but it's not the first time a creepy or sinister folk-song has been performed in a seemingly inappropriate mood, and this has become one of my favourite Straw Bear Band recordings to date.

Other favourites come from folk-rock outfit The Owl Service. January Snows is a great choice from The Burn Comes Down E.P, an epic and beautiful piece; the cover of Lal Waterson's Fine Horseman (different from the Bitter Night EP version) is also very good; and Katie Cruel is something to treasure. Robert Sunday's song Hush Feral Dog is fun, with a catchy tune and lyrics.

The collection is centred around the musicians who created the label, resulting in about half of the 19 songs featuring lead vocals by either Nancy Wallace or Jason Steel, whilst Dom Cooper of the Straw Bear Band sings lead on a further three. Furthermore all of the core artists guest on each other's recordings. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does have the effect of limiting the colours on the palette, and perhaps slightly narrowing this glimpse of the label, which has featured the work of other artists (for example on Echoes From The Mountain). The mellow mood sometimes works against things, some of the songs not leaving much of an impression on me, just drifting by. I think inviting The A. Lords, Roshi, Robert Sunday and Alisdair Roberts to provide something exclusive in place of a song each from the main four artists would have made for a more balanced and satisfying compilation, but it is still a fine thing as it is, attractively packaged and priced to inflict no pain.


The Woodbine & Ivy Band
The Woodbine & Ivy Band
Price: £13.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Woodbine And Ivy Band review, 3 Jun. 2012
This review is from: The Woodbine & Ivy Band (Audio CD)
Two songs into my first listen to this album I was thinking Steeleye Span in cowboy hats! A slightly abstract country-rock feel permeates most of the album, often accompanied by a very British brass section evoking band-stands, overcoats and rain. The intriguing prominance of pedal-steel sees The Woodbine And Ivy Band weave further knots into the glorious tangle that is roots music. Furthermore, occasional eye-brow-raising electronics (a particularly nice touch on The Roaming Journeyman) and the warmth of massed backing singers complement the predominant tone of the album. Well-thumbed folk-songs are launched upon subtly strange seas.

Highlights for me include Spencer The Rover with Fay Hield, (which was promoted as a single), Under The Leaves with Elle Osborne (probably the most out-there track, all spooky atmosphere, shivering desolation and quavering vocals)and Derry Gaol with Jackie Oates (her singing is gorgeous and the musical setting is sparse with drones, half-imagined keyboards, harp and brass along with mysterious grating sounds).

There isn't a weak track, the mood moves from familiar and warm to chilling, boisterous to seductive. Jenny McCormick indulges her lover in the one none-tradional track, Gently Johnny from the soundtrack to The Wicker Man (the lyrics altered to the woman's perspective). And then there's Jim Causley... Rollicking is a word I seldom use, but Jim is certainly rollicking on this upbeat number, amongst growling guitars and playful double-entendres.

I was immensely impressed with Folk Police's Oak Ash Thorn, which features several of the same singers, and I have to say this album doesn't have quite such a profound impact upon me, but it is nevertheless a very worthy release and I am keeping a close eye on what Folk Police are releasing, because they are fearless adventurers prepared to take the tradition on strange journeys.


The Great Folk Discography, Vol. 1: Pioneers and Early Legends
The Great Folk Discography, Vol. 1: Pioneers and Early Legends
by Martin C. Strong
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.00

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!, 21 April 2012
I had been privately wishing for several years that Martin C Strong would turn his gaze in the direction of folk music, but I knew it seemed a completely unrealistic hope of mine, that would never actually materialize into print. And then it happened, like a figment out of my imagination, there it was, for real!

And it is a beauty, this and Volume 2, created with the meticulous attention to detail that we have come to admire in Martin's weighty tomes. For people unfamiliar with Martin's mighty works, he presents hundreds of artists, in this case falling within the "folk" idiom, presenting in each case a concise essay detailing the history of the artist, and album ratings, before launching into virtually complete discographies (exclusive tracks released on various artist albums aren't usually listed, or download-only tracks) in chronological order, with tracklistings and various minutiae including release date, record label, UK and US highest chart positions, bonus tracks on later re-releases, catalogue numbers...

The Great Folk Discography Volume 1 is separated into three sections: North American Pioneers And Early Legends; Britain And Beyond; and Cult, Collectable And Continental. It covers artists first active before the mid-70's, and giving all their releases up to the present day. The second volume focuses upon artists active since then, and volume 3 will cover Celtic and World artists. Personally I'd have prefered the three volumes to simply be alphabetical, I think that in the long-run this would be the most user-friendly, perhaps with an appendix that breaks down artists by region or time-period, which the reader could look to if they wished to consider artists within the context of their contempories, but this is not a big concern.

The array of acts exceeds my expectations, taking in many cult and minor name artists, as well as exhaustively compiling spin-off acts. "Folk" of course is a contentious label, much like most labels I suppose in the world of music, where artists rarely stick to a given genre faithfully, but wear coats of shifting colours like cuttlefish. Whilst readers might not quite agree with certain inclusions or omissions from these discographies, I think we should accept that our own definitions of folk, if we have them, are just as doomed to be imperfect, to varying degrees, and really, Martin has done an absolutely fantastic job that is not likely to be out-flanked anytime soon (and if it is, I'd think it would be by Martin himself, honing things further still).

I expect to be dipping into this book for many years to come, until it's a disheveled dog-eared thing with odd pages selotaped back in. I do appreciate reading discographies on the internet, but I get more mileage out of Martin's books. As with owning physical copies of albums rather than downloads, so having a book like this, that I know I'll treasure, is a mightier thing.


People's Spring
People's Spring
Price: £15.41

4.0 out of 5 stars People's Spring, 19 April 2012
This review is from: People's Spring (Audio CD)
People's Spring is a heady concoction, rough-edged and in-your-face, it swirls along spitting and snarling, stoney female harmony vocals are often yelled into the face of the storm of malevolent fiddles, incessant percussion and brass, while dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy and jaw's harp spin in and out songs.

To You Kasiuna opens the album with a long dulcimer intro, to which the band one by one join in, hesitantly at first, drones and percussion, and then trumpet explodes into the scene and the pace quickens and the girls start singing a high-spirited, mesmerising wedding song, the tempo slowing and speeding up, the vocals seemingly out of step with the music, but in the best possible way.

Chassidic Dance is a real delight, as the band whirl us off our feet with a delicious melody and crashing, stamping rhythm.

As songs such as At My Mother's and I Had A Lover play the shadows grow longer and the folk memory of a nation seems to be present over our shoulders. I know that many of the songs concern tales of love and lust but they conjure something more menacing or fantastical in these relentless settings.

One of the album's highlights, A Red Apple creaks slowly into life, moving like a listing log cabin full of memories, cracking and groaning as the temperature outside plummets. The song moves at a funereal pace, while a lone vocalist sings of love and doubt in a standout performance.

As an epilogue, two remixes of key tracks have been added, which take Warsaw Village Band's sound to clubland, perhaps making it marginaly easier on the ear and more danceable, whilst still sounding fierce. These are both entertaining in their way but ultimately not as satisfying excursions as the originals.

I've long been a fan of Scandinavian artists including Garmarna, Hedningarna, Varttina and Mari Boine, with whom Warsaw Village Band share an affinity, conjuring heady, bewitching music. People's Spring seems perhaps a little limited in scope in comparison, and I prefer playing favourite tracks in smaller clusters rather than the album from start to finish, but when the planets are in the right alignment, these songs make for an incredible, raw experience.


Suspiria
Suspiria
Offered by inandout-distribution
Price: £12.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suspiria review, 10 April 2012
This review is from: Suspiria (Audio CD)
Suspiria was Miranda Sex Garden's second full-length album, following 1992's Madra, a set of 400 year old madrigals sung a capella. In between the two albums a transitional EP, Iris, saw the original trio expand their ranks, opening with a distorting of the traditional folk-song Lovely Joan before moving into ambitious goth-rock and avant-garde melancholia, and Suspiria continues to expand their palette with seeming capriciousness, to create a majestic swirling, heady sensorium of dark delights that infiltrates avant-garde, industrial, shoe-gazer, early musick, church music and even jazz whilst maintaining a neo-classical, goth-rock, psychedelic core sound of violin, viola, guitars and pounding percussion. Crystalline female voices move at times dis-embodied through somnolent spaces and elsewhere seduce or burn fierce and vital at the heart of their maelstrom. Epic lead single Play manages to capture many of the above elements, opening almost serenely before building into a towering self-destructive darkness. People familiar with Miranda Sex Garden's radio-friendly early television appearances, sweetly singing debut single Gush Forth My Tears over totally edible electronica in 1991 might have been a tad surprised when confronted with Play.

Suspiria opens in majestic fashion with Ardera Sempre, a song ambitious in its scope, seemingly owing as much to medieval music as rock, propelled along with pounding percussion and caterwauling guitars and keyboards, while stunning vocals soar and cavort above the din. Open Eyes begins quietly with church organ before building to a mighty thing. Sunshine, the second single, sounds almost joyous, with scorching electric guitars, rampant drums and ecstatic vocals, very much in a shoe-gazer style but with much more bite than most contempories. Distance is sparse and solemn, sombre piano and lost vocals in the foreground and angelic vocals in the background like unattainable ideals. Feed is pure sensuous exotica. Everything thus far has been 5 star material, but for me Feed is the last song with real impact, though some reviewers regard the towering fire-storm of the instrumental Inferno as a high-point (if you can find it, the quite different Inferno (Version II) is well worth hunting down, originally a b-side on the Play single, to me it is superior). Beyond the intensity of this track things quieten down considerably, Willie Biddle And His Waltzing Maggot could be described as a surreal encounter between a marching band and Enya at a fun-fair, and the album ends with a sultry cover of the jazz standard My Funny Valentine.

I first heard this album when it was brand new, and I always think of it in the context of solitude and a dark room lit only by an open fire and candles. I had been attracted to Miranda Sex Garden by the sunlit Gush Forth My Tears, but Iris and Suspiria became my favourite works by them.


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