I am delighted to present the brand new collaboration between News from Neptune and my great friend and creative compadre Craig Sinclair, best known as vocalist and songwriter with Liverpool band Lovecraft. I have played with Craig before in Cartwheels on Glass but this new release, entitled ‘FIELDS OF INDUSTRY EP’, is quite separate from our previous work together and we’re both very proud of it. Once again Matthew Freeman takes credit for the recording of vocals, mixing and mastering at Fresh Goods Studio.
At the risk of over-simplifying, the music is me, the vocals are Craig and the lyrics are a bit of both of us. Think of it as homemade experimental pop dragged out of the bedroom into the cold light of day. The words explore childhood memories of Widnes, depressed lunch breaks on the Birkenhead waterfront and the utter desolation of the here and now – happy songs for happy times! Anyway, hope you like them – they can be downloaded for a price of your choosing on Bandcamp or streamed for free on both SoundCloud and YouTube.
I’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the upcoming Oddfellow’s Casino album ‘Burning! Burning!’ – it’s out officially on 6th August – and without giving too much away, it’s further confirmation of David Bramwell’s status as one of the finest and most subtly distinctive songwriters operating today. The LP is in fact only the first of three collections coming our way from the Brighton bard and his band this year – it will be followed by ‘The Cult of Water’, which features spoken word contributions from Alan Moore and ‘Oddfellow’s Casino Revisited’, which will include reinterpretations of songs from their first three releases. For now, here are a couple of extracts, the wistfully expansive ‘Where are the Memories of Henry Sargeant?’ (which is inspired by a dream about his elderly neighbour’s poltergeist) and surprisingly anthemic album closer ‘Marian Marks’ (which reflects upon a visit to the home of author Alan Garner).
1995’s ‘Animal Magnetism’ by Arnold Dreyblatt and the Orchestra of Excited Strings is one of the most purely enjoyable experimental albums I’ve heard, its polyrhythmic, microtonal, post-minimalist mosaics sounding quite unlike anything else (though fans of Moondog, Harry Partch and Arthur Russell should find something to love). ‘Star Trap’, recently released on Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle Records label, is an illuminating collection documenting live recordings from the period which drops the tempo and amps up the drone element to entrancing effect. I’d also recommend it to any Ex-Easter Island Heads out there – I have fond memories of seeing them perform with Dreyblatt at BBC Radio Merseyside a few years back. Yours truly came in for a stern telling off from Roger Hill for asking if we could bring drinks in (I think he thought I meant booze).
WELL… we’re at the halfway point in the year and I think it’s safe to say that few of us will have foreseen back in January where we would be in June. Fortunately there’s been loads of wonderful new music so here’s a News from Neptune playlist featuring tracks from just a handful of my favourite 2020 releases. The artists featured are… De Kift, My Bus, Les Marquises, Aksak Maboul, Single, Tara Clerkin Trio, Graham Mushnik, Spirit Fest, Majid Bekkas/Magic Spirit Quartet, Alabaster dePlume, Marion Cousin & Kaumwald, Urs Graf Consort, Julian Curwin, Nick Storring and Dakota Suite & Quentin Sirjacq. Here’s to six more months of marvellous albums!
Stuart Moxham first found acclaim in the late ’70s/early ’80s with sparse post-punk minimalists Young Marble Giants, released a cult solo LP as The Gist and has recorded sporadically under his own name ever since. Philippe Auclair is best known as a football writer but has a second life as Louis Philippe, one of the unsung heroes of chamber pop (his 1999 album ‘Azure’ is especially lovely). Moxham and Philippe have worked together before on 2007’s ‘The Huddle House’, which I’ll have to look into on the strength of their lovely new collection ‘The Devil Laughs’ for Tiny Global. The utterly charming songs are the embodiment of breeziness – think late-era XTC, Sean O’Hagan/The High Llamas and classic bossa nova, not to mention the post-YMG work of Moxham’s former band-mate Alison Statton, both with the underrated Weekend and in her more recent output alongside Spike.
Shruti box meets synthesiser, the elemental meets the experimental on the superb recent LP by Paris-based vocalist Marion Cousin and Lyonnais duo Kaumwald (Ernest Bergez aka Sourdure and Clément Vercelletto, both of the wonderful Orgue Agnès). ‘Tu rabo par’abanico’ (released on Les Disques du Festival Permanent) features otherworldly re-imaginings of traditional Spanish folk songs and stands as strong evidence, if more were needed, of the fine fettle of the French underground.
If pressed for a pithy pull quote describing Dutch collective De Kift, I might opt for something concise like ‘The Ex gone avant-folk’ (G.W. Sok has been known to lend vocal cameos). That would, however, undersell the unique nature of the band’s sound and spirit. Active since the late ’80s, they specialise in rich, brass-laden arrangements (shades of mariachi, Kurt Weill, Tom Waits, Carla Bley) and yearning melodies drawing upon folk modalities of Eastern Europe and beyond. Previously they tended to lean more in the direction of poetic spoken word but the new LP ‘Hoogriet’ tips the balance more towards vocal melody, perhaps making the songs more accessible to non-Dutch-speaking listeners like myself. There are also some surprising instrumental choices, notably steel drums on several tracks, but these textures are always integrated with tact and subtlety.
I first encountered French post rock outfit Les Marquises through their 2017 LP ‘A Night Full Of Collapses’, a smouldering, atmospheric gem and one of my favourites of that year. Their excellent new album ‘La Battue’ is a tenser, more turbulent listening experience and no less engrossing, building upon the techno and krautrock influences that characterised the interim EP/soundtrack ‘Le Tigre De Tasmanie’.
Some brilliant, thoughfully-executed avant-jazz from the recent LP ‘Good Days’ for the Astral Spirits label by Chicago Underground Quartet, reconvening on record as a four-piece for the first time since 2001. The line-up features some of the most respected names from the Windy City’s illustrious experimental scene, namely guitarist Jeff Parker from post-rock heroes Tortoise (not to mention his great solo album ‘Suite for Max Brown’ from earlier this year), trumpet maestro Rob Mazurek of Isotope 217º, drummer Chad Taylor and bassist/keyboardist Josh Johnson.
Ak’chamel, The Giver Of Illness – an unfortunate name given our current predicament but the Texan duo make up for it with some marvellous, dizzying, ritualistic psych-folk on ‘The Totemist’ for French label Akuphone from earlier this year. At points I was put in mind of an unlikely collaboration between Sun City Girls and Ilyas Ahmed…!
I was originally drawn to the recent Julian Curwin LP ‘Midnight Lullaby’ after noticing that it features bassist Lloyd Swanton from jazz minimalists The Necks. Fellow Australian Curwin’s album, released on Sydney-based label Romero Records, is quite a different kettle of fish though. Comprising low-key, gently cinematic instrumentals, it draws upon jazz, folk, classical and Latin influences among to wonderful effect. The nocturnal theme and atmosphere put me in mind of D. Rothon’s brilliant 2018 collection ‘Nightscapes’ for Clay Pipe Music, while the prominent use of pellucid, chiming nylon string guitar melodies recalled the work of Ibon Errazkin (both solo and with Single). To top things off, a handful of tracks, the opener in particular, bore an uncanny resemblance in instrumentation and arrangement to some of Cathal Coughlan’s criminally-undervalued early ’00s solo work, which can’t be a bad thing. This is Curwin’s first release under his own name, though he has been active since the turn of the century with acts like The Tango Saloon, The Mango Balloon and The Fantastic Terrific Munkle – I will have to investigate further…!