In this update we feature:
• Once & Future Band – Deleted Scenes
• Ray Russell – Fluid Architecture
• Custard Flux – Oxygen
• Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere – θ5
• Causa Sui – Szabodelico
• Stephan Thelen – World Dialogue
More from the bottomless well of 2020 releases that I neglected, or just missed at the time.
Unbeknownst to me, this came out back in April, but I only heard it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. C’est la vie…
What we have here is an alternate vision where the perfectly formed three-way lovechild of The Beatlesband, Caravanband, and Steely Danband cavort in a psychedelic garden with an octopus. They’re looking for Richard, but instead they found Bhodisattva, his fingers all sticky with candyfloss.
Or, in English, this is a charming sophisticated art-pop album that wears its influences with pride, while transcending them, leaving this mere mortal in a state of bliss. And that is much needed in these strident times, I can tell you.
The architecture is certainly fluid on this stylistically highly varied instrumental release from the respected English session guitarist, and film and TV composer, who has a parallel existence as an experimental player and collaborator. Fluid Architecture is his first solo release in seven years and covers all bases from radio friendly rock riffs, to sparkling jazz-fusion virtuosity, via cinematic soundscapes of grand opulence, to neo-classical acoustic picking, all without breaking sweat.
Aided by a revolving cast of quality backing musicians – see the Bandcamp listing for details – Ray saunters through the numerous mood changes with his recognisable style, which serves to link it all together with a seemingly effortless panache. The results was probably the most accessible release on Cuneiform Records in 2020.
Michigan denizen and multi-instrumentalist/composer/producer Gregory Curvey, who is primarily known by just his last name, is responsible for yet another Bandcamp rabbit hole I fell down recently. These rabbit holes can be enormous labyrinthine structures, containing discographies as big as your house. Luckily this one is relatively modest, more like a shed. Which was just as well, as supplies and the batteries on my torch were running low.
Custard Flux is one side of Curvey’s psychedelic coin that has The Luck of Eden Hall on the flip. He also records as simply “Curvey”, and has made contributions to dozens of other releases. The two “bands” are essentially Curvey’s alter-egos, as he seems to play nearly everything for both.
Custard Flux are purveyors of acid-pop of a high pedigree, and the tightly-knit songs flow with a seamless perfection that belies their rough and ready garage rock origins. The forty minutes or so of Oxygen zip by in no time. With the hood down, and the wind in your hair, sit back and relax as tangerine skies and chocolate highways merge into the horizon. Smile as barely-concealed Byrds tribute Monster Island pretends it’s not Rock And Roll Star, a moment of paying homage to obvious roots that otherwise are used to create something, if not exactly new, are at least as fresh as a daisy.
Recorded over a mere two days in October 2019, my favourite Sheffield Kosmische spacejazz collective return to their roots with a sprawling journey through outer and inner space, fired up by improvisational derring-do in a manner not seen since their first album, Theta One, back in 2014. If Theta Four was as close as this band came to being concise, even commercial, Theta Five takes it back out into the far-flung orbit of subliminal musical communication, a place where time is an irrelevant concept.
Not that this CD is 79 minutes of formless drifting, oh no. This expanded eight-piece version of the band provide groove aplenty, which is woven throughout the four pieces on the album, giving it a solid structure. Think Miles jamming in a teepee with Alice Coltrane and Can. Conny Plank is behind the bar, with a shaker. There are hummable tunes, hipswaying rhythms, and subsonic beats, and there is even an ethereal ballad buried within the controlled chaos of album centrepiece, the 42-minute Pillared Space! It sits there like a benevolent desert island in the middle of a vast, tumultuous sea.
Theta Five is a fabulous album that has something for every altered reality space traveller out there.
The long-running Danish psychedelic explorers turn inward for this introspective and transportive release, recorded in 2019, but finished and mixed during the Plague Year. Enforced isolation has many drawbacks, but one positive is that it forces us to examine our own psyches, something that in the bygone normal world we had little if no time for, caught up as we were in the endless headlong rush of existence. Szabodelico is the perfect soundtrack for that much delayed, and much needed mental Spring clean.
Causa Sui, their album channelling Hungarian folk/jazz guitar legend Gábor Szabó through a lightly psychedelic gauze, rein in their heavy instincts and produce a long and slightly dreamy trip, where even the full-on tunes like Vibratone, and the title track in all its fuzzed-out glory, display a deftness of touch that lends the whole enterprise an ultimately optimistic air.
Another essential listen from 2020!
Stephan Thelen is one of the two guitarists, and the main composer for Swiss masters of the minimalistic tritone, Sonar. World Dialogue is not a solo album as such, but an album of his compositions written for string quartet. Performing the pieces on this immaculately constructed work are the famous Kronos Quartet, who were approached by mutual contact, journalist Anil Prasad, as he thought, quite rightly, that Kronos Quartet were a perfect fit for Stephan’s precise musical frameworks.
Kronos Quartet play one of the four compositions on the album, Circular Lines, and much more detail is included on the Bandcamp page. In a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, the other three pieces are played by the Al Pari Quartet, a Polish all-female ensemble, who had been playing the aforesaid Circular Lines in their concerts, and were heard by one of the Kronos Quartet, who suggested them to Stephan. In another twist, the title track which was originally intended for Kronos, was recorded for the album by Al Pari.
World Dialogue is a fascinating listen, and if you have been into Sonar for a while, hearing that style played by minimalistic string quartets is a natural leap, as it opens up the sound to all kinds of harmonic resonance. Very nice indeed!