As

 

Ash (Italy): Ash (Lasapa LSP 85002, with insert, 1979)
Rock/Progressive
Monica (occasional vocals)
This obscure album offers enjoyable symphonic rock, with six well-crafted (if somewhat odd) songs featuring lush keyboard backing. The best song is probably side one’s closer ‘The Desert Of The Clear Earth’, which features the only female lead vocal. The disc also boasts a strikingly beautiful and very colourful sleeve. As a footnote, the band also issued a non-album single, with both cuts in Italian rather than English, but I have never encountered it. GRADE: C+.

Ash Ra Tempel (West Germany): Seven Up (Kosmischen Kuriere KK 58001, 1973)
Psychedelic/Progressive
Liz Elliott (occasional vocals), Bettina Hohls (occasional vocals), Portia Nkomo (occasional vocals)
Recorded with a host of collaborators including acid guru Timothy Leary, this seminal Krautrock album features two side-long suites. The first, ‘Space’, is made up from segments of different cosmic blues jams spliced together, whilst the second, ‘Time’, is one long tripped-out piece of music. The result is a remarkable, if inevitably fragmentary, experience. GRADE: B–.
Ash Ra Tempel (West Germany): Join Inn (Ohr OMM 556 032, 1973)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Rosi Müller (lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this consists of two side-long tracks, each in a different style. ‘Freak ’N’ Roll’ is a lengthy space-rock jam, intense yet light and relaxed, hinting at the direction the musicians would pursue as the Cosmic Jokers and Galactic Supermarket (though this is nowhere near as far-out). Meanwhile, ‘Jenseits’ features a recitation by Rosi Müller over a gentle backdrop of treated guitars and electronics, creating an almost meditational atmosphere. The result is an impressive and original piece of Krautrock. GRADE: B–.
Ash Ra Tempel (West Germany): Starring Rosi (Kosmische Musik KM 58007, 1973)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Rosi Müller (principal vocals, vibes, harp)
Somewhat different to the last couple of albums, this featured seven shorter tracks performed by Rosi Müller and Manuel Göttsching as a duo, with the rhythm section of Dieter Dierks and Harald Grosskopf helping out. ‘Interplay Of Forces’ is the longest track, opening like a continuation of ‘Jenseits’ from the previous LP before developing into a relaxed guitar jam, but the album covers a wide range of territory from folk through to funk. GRADE: B–.
See also Dominas, Galactic Supermarket

Ashes (USA): Featuring Pat Taylor (Vault 125, 1969)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Pat Taylor (lead vocals)
Ashes was the band that preceded the better-known Peanut Butter Conspiracy. After releasing two albums under the latter name, a schism occurred between the band’s two main songwriters, guitarist John Merrill and bassist Al Brackett, with the former resurrecting Ashes whilst the latter (with help from Merrill) assembled the tracks released as the third Peanut Butter Conspiracy album For Children Of All Ages. Since Peanut Butter vocalist Sandi Robison was unavailable for the Ashes sessions, one Pat Taylor stood in, and she has a lovely alto voice that occasionally resembles a dreamier Sandie Shaw. Lovely is also a good adjective for the album as a whole: this isn’t challenging or cutting-edge music, but West Coast rock rarely came sweeter or more contemplative, and there are few obvious low points. GRADE: C+.

Ashler (Ecuador):  January 13th  (No label, CD, 2006)
Progressive/Metal
Diana Cárdenas (lead vocals)
On this 22½-minute EP, Ashler offer a mixture of neoprogressive and gothic metal styles across two instrumentals and four songs (two in Spanish and two in English). Their epic symphonic sound is low-budget and Diana Cárdenas’s vocals are occasionally amateurish and off-key, but they’re more than decent songwriters and there’s enough variety and quality here to make me wish that they’d cut a full album. The band released a second, shorter, EP Laberinto in 2010, which I have not encountered. GRADE: C+.

Ashman Reynolds (UK): Stop Off (Polydor 2383 114, 1972)
Rock
Aliki Ashman (joint lead vocals)
As a mixture of barroom rock and some countryish, soulful, gospellish and mildly progressive touches, this is a pleasant enough period piece, and sometimes similar to early Vinegar Joe. Why Aliki Ashman gets star billing is beyond me: she does co-write a few tracks, but her colleague Harry Reynolds takes the lion’s share of the lead vocals as well as dominating the songwriting and playing acoustic guitar and bass. As a footnote, Fleetwood Mac’s Bob Weston was a member of the band. GRADE: C+.
See also Ginger Baker’s Airforce

Ashqelon Quilt (Israel): The Event (Headline HDL 506, CD, UK, 2001)
Psychedelic
Sharon Rinat (occasional vocals, recorder), Merav Ben-David (occasional vocals)
The nearest comparison for this delightful psychedelic album would probably be Smell Of Incense: Ashqelon Quilt blend and filter their late sixties influences (principally Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, the Incredible String Band and Donovan) in a similar way. With its varied instrumentation, rich sound and clever production effects, it’s remarkable that the album was essentially put together by a duo of singer/songwriters and multi-instrumentalists (since the band’s third member, Sharon Rinat, only appears here and there) plus occasional guests. Beatific, folky, pop-oriented neo-psychedelia simply doesn’t come any better than this. GRADE: B.

Ashtar (Switzerland/Finland): Ilmasaari (Czar Of Crickets CZAR027, CD, Switzerland, 2015)
Metal
Nadine Lehtinen (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, violin)
This doomdeath duo offer some impressively atmospheric, sludgy drones on their appealing debut album, highlighted by a few gothic touches. The whispered and growled vocals are inevitably more kitsch than scary and the music never really goes anywhere, but it’s single-minded enough that it doesn’t really matter. GRADE: B–.

Ashtar (Switzerland/Finland): Kaikuja (Eisenwald Tonschmiede EISEN160, CD, Germany, 2020)
Metal 
Nadine Lehtinen (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, violin)
Subtlety isn’t really Ashtar’s strength, but this set is surprisingly varied – from crushing walls of noise to slower and sparer passages and even a few minor progressive moves. If you like creative doomdeath, you’ll love this; if you don’t, you may wonder what all the fuss was about. GRADE: B–.
See also Shever

Ashton-on-Ribble High School Music Society (UK): Ashton Sound ’74 (No label, with inserts, 1974)

Folk/Rock
Including Mister Trade [F Lamb (joint lead vocals), L Fishwick (joint lead vocals), A Webster (joint lead vocals)]

For the most part, this is a typical school album, with lots of brass band cuts and the likes, but there’s also a nice female vocal version of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, a ten-minute conceptual piece from the school choir and an astonishingly bizarre instrumental cover of ‘Pinball Wizard’, fronted by off-key trumpets. The outstanding cut, however, is Mister Tradd’s ‘Thomas The Rhymer’ – an amazing six-minute garage version of the Steeleye Span classic, with raw electric backing and fuzz guitar, fronted by three impossibly pure-voiced seventeen or eighteen year-old girls. It’s a quite brilliant performance, and a whole album thus would easily be worth four figures. A handsome black-and-yellow silk-screened sleeve and several photocopied inserts completes the deal here. GRADE: C+.

Aside Beside (France): Tadj Mahall Gates (Muséa FGBG 4445.AR, CD, 2001)

Progressive
Célia Huet (occasional vocals), Ana Eva (occasional vocals)
For some reason I expected this to be progressive metal, but it’s actually song-based prog with a slightly jazzy edge. Dreamy and impressionistic, it’s a pleasant but inconsequential procession of symphonic rock ballads during which nothing much happens. Oddly, the psychedelic hidden track at the end, with its incredible 3D stereo effects, is by far the most interesting thing on the disc. As a footnote, guests Célia Huet and Ana Eva barely appear (merely singing a few lines each). GRADE: C.

Asin (Philippines): Asin (Ugat TSP-5255, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Lolita Carbon
This trio of singer/songwriters deliver a lovely, gentle album of melodic folk/rock, with full electric backing plus prominent strings. This may be a little too relentlessly sweet for some ears, but at its best it’s a genuine delight. GRADE: C+.
Asin (Philippines): Himig Ng Pag-Ibig (Ugat TSP-5283, 1979)
Folk/Rock
Lolita Carbon
This is a definite step up from their first: the strings are almost entirely absent, there’s a snappy rock edge to several cuts, and the acoustic ballads are simply lovely. They even make a couple of forays into acid-folk, with assertive fuzz guitar on ‘Baguio’ and Eastern tunings and hand percussion on the lengthy closer ‘Dasal At Katutubong Musika’. Several cuts are good rather than great, so this is really on the cusp of B– and C+, but when it’s at its best it’s quite lovely. GRADE: B–.

Asin (Philippines): Mga Ginintuang Awitin Ng (Sunshine TSP-5365, 1983)
Folk/Rock
Lolita Carbon
Album number three has the same melodic, beatific mood as its predecessor and features some genuinely delightful songs. However, the occasional psychedelic edges that lifted their second are entirely absent, though there’s still plenty to enjoy. GRADE: C+.
Asin (Philippines): Himig Ng Lahi (Ivory IRC-L-A118, 1983)
Folk/Rock
Lolita Carbon
Their fourth offers a pleasant mixture of acoustic folk songs and light electric rockers: all melodic, beatific and well-crafted. Again, an occasional rough edge might not have gone amiss, but there are some fine songs on both sides of the acoustic/electric divide. GRADE: C+.

Asin (Philippines): Mga Awitin Ng Bayan Kong Pilipinas (Ivory IRC-L-A126, 1984)
Folk/Rock
Lolita Carbon
The times are a-changing for Asin, as the plasticky pop, hard rock guitars and reggae rhythms of a few tracks attest. The out-of-key children’s choir on the penultimate cut is equally unwelcome, but thankfully the better half of the album offers their usual lovely, dreamy folk/rock. GRADE: C+.
Asin (Philippines): Mga Awitin Ng Bayan Kong Pilipinas (Ivory IRC-L-A126, 1984)
Folk/Rock
Lolita Carbon
The times are a-changing for Asin, as the plasticky pop, hard rock guitars and reggae rhythms of a few tracks attest. The out-of-key children’s choir on the penultimate cut is equally unwelcome, but thankfully the better half of the album offers their usual lovely, dreamy folk/rock. GRADE: C+.
Asin (Philippines): Sa Atubiling Panahon (Ivory IRC-L-A215, 1985)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Lolita Carbon
This is their best album by far – the better half is superb psychedelic folk built around acoustic guitar and ethnic percussion, with occasional heavy electric guitar leads. The other half is no slouch either, offering some beautiful orchestrated ballads and one pretty effective rocker. Even the reggae number is solid, with more of the ethnic percussion adding a suitably weird and dissonant edge. GRADE: B–.
Asin (Philippines): Himig Kayumanggi (Sunshine TSP-5387, 1989?)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Lolita Carbon
The opening ‘Panlalawag’ suggests that Asin are heading further into the field of ethnic folk, but the remainder is gentle ballads interspersed with the odd rocker, another of their ventures into reggae and even a bizarre attempt at a country hoedown. The result is a pleasant, if slight, album that isn’t a patch on its predecessor. GRADE: C+.

Asin (Philippines): Sinta – Himig Kayumanggi 2 (Sunshine TS-5846, 1988)
Folk/Rock
Lolita Carbon
Like the first instalment of Himig Kayumanggi, this isn’t what you’d call a profound or substantial album. Nonetheless, its mix of acoustic folk, orchestrated ballads and pop/rock numbers is pleasing enough, especially the lovely, haunting closer ‘Pag-Asa’. GRADE: C+.
Asin (Philippines): Pag-Ibig, Pagbabago, Pagpapatuloy… (Vicor SCD-070, CD, 2001)
Folk/Rock
Lolita Carbon (joint lead vocals)
Asin’s reunion album, released after a 23-year break, sees the trio reduced to a duo. The seven-minute classical-styled overture is quite a departure for them, but the ten songs that follow are business as usual: lovely, delicate ballads and more uptempo numbers effectively bridging the singer/songwriter and folk/rock genres. GRADE: C+.

Aslan (UK): Paws For Thought (Profile GMOR 006, 1976)
Folk
Pam Burgess (principal vocals, guitar), Linda Beynon (guitar, percussion, recorder, autoharp)
This Christian band offer accomplished contemporary folk on their debut album, with rich acoustic instrumentation including guitars, tambourine, glockenspiel, recorder and autoharp. However, defying dealer descriptions, it’s in no way psychedelic, and only once is it truly transcendent – the sublime ‘I Am The Resurrection’. GRADE: C+.
Aslan (UK): Second Helpings (Profile GMOR 144, 1977)
Folk/Rock
Pam Burgess, Linda Beynon, Viv Holyoake
Expanding to a six-piece (unusually composed of three married couples), Aslan added a rhythm section for their slightly superior second album. There is some fine music here, including the Courtyard Music Group-like instrumental ‘Interlude’ and the beautiful ballad ‘God Make Us Your Family’, but there’s also everything from covers of ‘Dirty Old Town’ and ‘I Am A Rock’ to Seekers-style folk/pop to English trad (‘Three Kings’) to a spoken word number (‘Outside’). GRADE: C+.
See also Various ‘This Side Of The River’

Lemi Aso (Japan): Own Lines (Atlantic K-10002A, with booklet and obi, 1976)
Rock
Lemi Aso (lead vocals)
The former Yuya Uchida & The Flowers vocalist’s solo debut is a rather patchy collection of bluesy and funky rock songs. For the most part, it’s pretty mediocre, opening with the nondescript ‘Nothing Doing’ and an undistinguished cover of ‘River Deep Mountain High’, but the intense, vaguely Janis Joplin-esque ‘Stuck For Words’ works well, as does the proggy instrumental intro to ‘Everything I Had’. Although several songs are originals, none were penned by Aso herself. GRADE: C.

Lemi Aso (Japan): The Beginning (Atlantic K-100008, with insert and obi, 1978)
Rock
Lemi Aso (lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this offers slick, funky rock, ranging from bluesy stuff to sub-Sly Stone lightweight funky soul to touches of disco. The musicianship and arrangements are impeccable, the production is crystal-clear and the lyrics (and indeed the hooks) are a procession of well-worn clichés, with the whole thing sounding like a distillation of bland American seventies soft rock. GRADE: C.
See also Yuya Uchida & The Flowers, Various ‘Rock ’N’ Roll Jam ’70’

Gudny Aspaas (Norway): Snapshots (Tomato XLP 22010, with inner, 1985)
Pop
Gudny Aspaas (principal vocals)
Surprisingly, the former Ruphus vocalist’s solo set is eighties pop with dated funky guitars and programmed drums. Several tracks sound like Madonna, but whilst this is a pretty slight LP there are a few catchy hooks and interesting arrangement touches; the new wave-influenced closer ‘Alice In Wonderland’ is probably the best track. GRADE: D+.

Gudny Aspaas (Norway): No Stranger (Aspaas & Frostad AFCD100, CD, 2017)
Singer/Songwriter
Gudny Aspaas (lead vocals)
She namechecks ‘flying Dutchman fantasies’ on the opening song, but sadly this is nothing like early Ruphus. The good news is that it’s also nothing like her first solo venture Snapshots. Instead, No Stranger – Aspaas’s first release in 33 years – offers rich singer/songwriter music, with the backing drawing on both trip-hop and rock. If it sometimes feels a little self-consciously trendy in its style, that’s more than made up for by the quality of her melodies – and her wonderfully expressive singing. GRADE: C+.

See also Ruphus

Assigned (UK): Assigned (Sound News Productions SM62, 1974?)
Folk
Helen Maddox, Chris Vinnicombe, Heather Ridge
Assigned! Gospel Trio (to give them their full name, as listed on the back cover) were three teenage girls who accompanied their gentle, delicate songs on acoustic guitar. With its massed vocals and haunting atmosphere, this recalls the Spinning Jenny album on Midas or any number of school project LPs. If it has a failing, it’s the lack of variety, as they use exactly the same modus operandi on all 15 tracks, but this is certainly one of the better Christian private pressings, completed by an evocative silkscreened flipback sleeve. GRADE: C+.

Astralasia (UK): Astralasia (Great Expectations BUBBLE LP1, 1990)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Kim Oz (lead vocals)
This offshoot of the Magic Mushroom Band was masterminded by its sometime keyboardist and drummer Marc Swordfish, and the two outfits operated in tandem until the Mushrooms’ dissolution in the mid-nineties. Their first vinyl LP (also apparently released as a CD, pressed up in France) was preceded by two cassettes: Vol. 1 (an all-instrumental EP) and Vol. 2 (basically a variant on the LP, with a slightly different tracklisting). Reworking some Magic Mushroom Band numbers as well as adding new cuts, this is a pleasing and catchy album, but also a rather lightweight one; the most striking feature is probably the highly psychedelic blue and red sleeve. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): The Politics Of Ecstasy (Magick Eye EYECD 2, CD, 1992)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Kim Oz (lead vocals)
The second Astralasia album is far longer than its predecessor, although once again some of the cuts are reworkings of older material. Although credited as a band project, this was largely a solo venture for Marc Swordfish: he writes, engineers and produces everything and is the only musician to appear on all the cuts. Musically, it’s again solid and enjoyable but (as with most dance music) rather repetitious and lacking in substance. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): Pitched Up At The Edge Of Reality (Magick Eye CDLP 4, CD, 1993)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Kim Oz (lead vocals), Sam Turner (violin)
Further line-up changes meant that by now, Astralasia was essentially Magic Mushroom Band under another name. The music had evolved a bit too, in a more commercial dance/pop direction. ‘Univeria Zect’ (sic) sounds like it should be a tribute to zeuhl, but there are no obvious Magma references. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): Whatever Happened To Utopia? (Magick Eye EYE CDLP 5, double CD, 1994)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Kim Oz (lead vocals), Sam Turner (violin)
This is a big step up, abandoning the pop edges of its predecessor for a much more minimalist and trancy sound. It’s still more background music than compelling listening, though, and once again Kim Oz is barely used. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): Axis Mundi (Magick Eye MEY CD 9, CD, 1995)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Melanie Taylor (principal vocals), Kim Oz (occasional vocals), Sam Turner (violin)
Their best album to date, this was recorded with a slightly different line-up. The material here is catchy, well-assembled and – significantly – a little more substantial than most of their previous work. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): The Space Between (Magick Eye MEY CD 14, 1996)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Featuring re-recordings and remixes of some of the band’s most popular songs, this was a companion piece to Astralogy, a compilation of singles and rare cuts (and hence ineligible for inclusion here). This is a solid album and quite varied, although perhaps a notch below the last couple of studio LPs. No line-up information is given, but presumably this features Kim Oz and Sam Turner, possibly with Melanie Taylor as well. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): The Seven Pointed Star (Magick Eye MEY CD 18, CD, 1996)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Melanie Taylor (lead vocals), Sam Turner (violin)
The opening title track is one of the best things Astralasia ever did, but elsewhere this has far too many lengthy minimalist trance grooves – these might be brilliant when one is dancing stoned, but aren’t so impressive when listening sober. Nonetheless, the closing suite ‘Astral Vision’ is also quite striking. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): White Bird (Magick Eye MEYCD 22, CD, 1998)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Melanie Taylor (lead vocals), Sam Turner (violin)
This is both more accomplished and more varied than anything they’d done before, but at the same time it isn’t very inspired (though thankfully the identikit rave number ‘Special World’ which bookends the disc is as clichéd as it ever gets). I’d also have to question the wisdom of attempting a trip-hop version of ‘I Talk To The Wind’, especially as Melanie Taylor is no match for Judy Dyble. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): Away With The Fairies (Talking Elephant TECD089, double CD, with digipak, 2006)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Phoebe Thomasson (joint lead vocals, flute), Lou Palmer (occasional vocals)
After a string of enjoyable but rather tepid albums, Astralasia suddenly moved up a notch with this impressive set – around two hours of prime space-rock. Toning down the rave elements somewhat and adding lots of trippy early seventies-style guitar, the album creates some wonderful grooves that are alternately languid and energetic. A lack of truly great songs prevents this from being an all-time classic, but it’s still a significant achievement. GRADE: B–.
Astralasia (UK): Cluster Of Waves (Voiceprint VP426CD, CD, 2007)
Psychedelic/Progressive
Phoebe Thomasson (joint lead vocals, flute), Lou Palmer (occasional vocals)
Proving that Away With The Fairies was no fluke, this is another fine album of space-rock. The dance elements are toned down considerably, which is no bad thing, whilst the band demonstrates an increasing interest in ambient sounds. GRADE: B–.
Astralasia (UK): Fantasia (Shadowplay Release SPR 089, CD, Russian Federation, 2009)
Dance/Psychedelic/Progressive
Phoebe Thomasson (occasional vocals, flute), Lou Palmer (occasional vocals), Rachel Miller (occasional vocals), Angela Johns (occasional vocals)
Why they chose to release this on an obscure Russian label, I have no idea, but the decision resulted in my not discovering the album for several years. Musically it’s a huge step down from their last couple of releases, with some nice trippy moments but also a certain amount of umaginative ambient techno. In addition to band member Phoebe Thomasson, guest female vocalists are used here and there.

GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): A Coloured In Dream (Tonefloat TF91, clear/blue, clear or blue vinyl, 2010)
Psychedelic/Progressive
Anastasia (joint lead vocals), Phoebe Thomasson (flute)
The dance music elements have disappeared altogether: this features one powerful piece of space-rock (betwixt You-era Gong and early Pink Floyd), a short ambient cut and a laid-back side-long rhythmic number mixing the two approaches. Issued in a thick gatefold sleeve, the album was a limited edition of 400 copies: 50 on marbled clear and blue vinyl, 100 on clear vinyl and 250 on blue vinyl. GRADE: B–.
Astralasia (UK): Voyage Til Tomorrow (Tonefloat tf124, orange or clear vinyl, with poster sleeve, 2012)
Psychedelic/New Age
Maria Szabo (lead vocals), Chloë Chousmer (harp)
Making A Coloured In Dream appear plentiful by comparison, this was released in a run of just 100 copies – half on each colour of vinyl. The disc consists of two very minimalist side-long tracks containing some interesting moments but for the most part drifting by hypnotically rather than demanding attention. GRADE: C+.
Astralasia (UK): Wind And Water (Fruits de Mer winkle 17, clear vinyl, with clear vinyl 7" in picture sleeve, insert and printed plastic outer, 2014)
Psychedelic/New Age
Maria Szabo (occasional vocals)
An improvement over its predecessor, this mixes the long ambient passages with some slightly more uptempo moments featuring fine acid guitar. The two cuts on the bonus single are perhaps the best things on offer, although this is a fine album throughout. GRADE: B–.

Astralasia (UK): Tales From The People Who Are Astralasia (Fungus FUN007, clear, white or red vinyl, 2015)
Ambient/Psychedelic/Classical
Chloë Chousmer-Kerr (harp)
This live album (presented as a ‘Trade Mark of Quality’ mock bootleg), opens with a gentle ambient classical piece from Another Green World and the Dolce Quartet before offering a delicate harp solo from Chloë Chousmer-Kerr. The remaining three cuts are by Astralasia, and up the psychedelic and experimental quotient considerably. GRADE: B–.
Astralasia (UK): Oceania (Regal Crabomophone winkle 27, double, white splatter vinyl, with autographed 7", CDR, minisleeve, autographed poster, insert, sweets, stockings, ribbon and badge, 2017)
Psychedelic/Ambient
Maria Szabo (lead vocals)
This is another accomplished set of ambient psychedelic grooves, peaking on the tripped-out side-long closer ‘Time And Tide Eternal’. The deluxe first pressing on white splatter vinyl came with a bonus 7" featuring two additional cuts plus a CDR (in a minisleeve) of Tales From The People Who Are Astralasia. It also features a remarkable range of extras, including an autographed poster, a bag of Astralasia-branded sweets and an art print, with the LPs and the extra both being packaged in fishnet bags; some copies were then sealed with a ribbon and badge. GRADE: B–.

Astralasia (UK): A Different Kettle Of Fish (Fruits De Mer Strange Fish Fifteen, triple LP plus marbled blue vinyl 7" and CD, with insert, Rubik’s cube, game and plastic bag, 2019)
Psychedelic/Dance
Maria Szabo (occasional vocals)
Part-remixes collection, part-compilation, part-I’m not sure quite what, this features some of Astralasia’s most trippy and compelling work. The first two discs consist of remixes, seemingly of both Astralasia’s own and others’ work, and is wonderfully airy and cosmic. The third (limited to 100 copies, manufactured for sale at the 17th Dream Of Dr Sardonicus festival) features a side-long cover of Brainticket’s eponymous composition, fronted by Maria Szabo and interpolating both studio and live recordings, plus a more relaxed side-long instrumental ‘Deep Ocean Drift’, which lives up to its name. My copy comes with a bonus marbled blue vinyl 7" The Fruits De Mer Records Guide To The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (Fruits De Mer Crustacean 74) and CDR So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (Fruirs De Mer Crustacean 74 CD, with minisleeve). The latter releases are dedicated to covers of the Eagles’ ‘Journey Of The Sorceror’ (by Astralasia, Icarus Peel, the Blue Giant Zeta Puppies and the Quantum Surf Rocket Garage Dolls), with the CD featuring extended versions of a couple of the vinyl tracks plus two additional Astralasia numbers inspired by Douglas Adams’s work. This is also fascinating stuff, with the whole package (complete with a branded Rubik’s cube, game and carrier bag) adding to a superb slab of psychedelic music and arguably the best thing Astralasia have ever done. GRADE: B.
See also Harrold Juana, Magic Mushroom Band, Moonboot Oz

Asylum (USA): First And Last (No label NR-3217, 1973)
Rock
Elaine LaZizza (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
This is one of the rarest and most expensive American private pressings, and I’ve seen it described in a dealer list as ‘stupendous psychedelia’. It’s nothing of the kind, alternating between melodic guitar rock fronted by Dan Dinkins and Carole King-influenced singer/songwriter material fronted by Elaine LaZizza. If that makes it sound unappealing, it’s extremely well done and thoroughly enjoyable – just don’t buy it expecting acid-rock or indeed any kind of underground rock. GRADE: C+.
See also Elaine LaZizza

AstroVoyager (France): Temporal Gravitation (Dreaming DR 8436.AR, CD, 2006)
Dance/Progressive
Patricia Foust (lead vocals)
This mixture of space-rock, trance and mild techno elements, performed by keyboardist Philippe Fagnoni with occasional spoken vocals from Patricia Foust, resembles high-tech lift muzak from the distant future. Weaving pieces together into long suites, punctuated by sound effects and almost classical piano passages, it’s lovely, trippy stuff that may be a little too commercial for some ears but is definitely worth hearing. GRADE: C+.

AstroVoyager (France): ElectrOpera Act 01 – Pulsations (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2012)
Dance/Progressive
Sophie Elert (lead vocals)
Fagnoni's return after ten years (with soprano vocalist Sophie Elert plus a string orchestra and choir) once again offers an unusual blend of techno and symphonic progressive. The results won’t be for everyone, but it’s mostly quite listenable if sometimes overly commercial. GRADE: C+.
AstroVoyager (France): ElectrOpera Act 02 – Modulations (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2013)
Dance/Progressive
Sophie Elert (lead vocals)
Like its predecessors, this has a rather epic feel and is both well-crafted and unusual. However, despite the presence of three ‘bonus tracks’, the whole thing runs for less than 40 minutes, making one wonder when they’re going to make another full-length album. GRADE: C+.

AstroVoyager (France): ElectrOpera Act 03 – Convolutions (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2014)
Dance/Progressive
Sophie Elert (lead vocals)
Their third instalment in the ElectrOpera quadrilogy has a few hints of industrial music, but otherwise is business as usual, reinforcing the impression that this is the spiritual successor to Giorgio Moroder’s work with Donna Summer in the seventies. Once again, this is pretty short: 31 minutes including the bonus remixes. GRADE: C+.
AstroVoyager (France): ElectrOpera Act 04 – Occillations (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2015)
Dance/Progressive
Sophie Elert (lead vocals)
At over 40 minutes, this is an epic by the band’s usual standards. Overall, it’s notable how unusual the series is: not quite pop, not quite trance, not quite progressive or psychedelic, but an unusual, effective and ultimately inconsequential blend of all those things. GRADE: C+.

Asturias (Japan): Circle In The Forest (King K32Y 2155, CD, with obi, 1988)
Progressive
Yoko Ueno (lead vocals)
There’s little doubt that band leader Yoh Ohyama’s favourite artist is Mike Oldfield: this has the structure typical of mid-period Oldfield albums (four short pieces followed by the 22-minute title track) and at times the music approaches pastiche. But as Oldfield tributes go, this is an unusually good one, notwithstanding the occasionally thin and high-tech sound typical of one-man-band projects (though Asturias is credited as a quartet, Ohyama does just about everything). Guest Yoko Ueno is not heavily featured, providing some wordless vocals, most of which sound sampled, on the title cut. GRADE: C+.
Asturias (Japan): Brilliant Streams (Crime KICP 9, CD, with obi, 1990)
Progressive
Yoko Ueno (lead vocals)
Whilst following a similar format, album number two tones down the Oldfield references considerably, though a couple of passages once again resemble direct lifts. Instead, this is softer and more reflective, with a strong neoclassical feel and some beautiful and haunting melodies. Yoko Ueno takes a higher profile this time around, with her delicate wordless vocals being interspersed here and there. 

GRADE: C+.

Asturias (Japan): Cryptogram Illusion (Crime KICP 355, CD, with obi, 1993)
Progressive
Yoko Ueno (lead vocals)
Whilst continuing the neoclassical direction of its predecessor, Cryptogram Illusion adopts a different format, featuring nine short discrete tracks (the last of which is an actual song). It’s lovely, delicate stuff, again with occasional (but definite) Mike Oldfield influences, but the lack of any extended pieces here, and the unrelenting prettiness (almost, but not quite, fringing new age), means this is a fairly insubstantial album. GRADE: C+.
Acoustic Asturias (Japan): Bird Eyes View (Digiturbo AS-0001, CD, with obi, 2004)
Progressive/Classical
Kanako Ito (occasional vocals), Misa Kitatsuji (violin), Kaori Tsutsui (clarinet, recorder)
Returning after an absence of more than a decade with a slightly altered name and a radically different line-up, Asturias offer a beautiful set performed on acoustic guitar, piano, glockenspiel, violin, clarinet and recorder, with guest Kanako Ito adding wordless vocals to one cut. This is dainty and beautiful baroque chamber music with strong classical and folky edges: superbly composed, arranged and performed. It’s just a pity that this short album only runs for 25 minutes. GRADE: B–.
Acoustic Asturias (Japan): Marching Grass On The Hill (Avex Io IOCD-20184, CD, with obi, 2006)
Progressive/Classical
Kanako Ito (occasional vocals), Kyoko Ito (violin), Misa Kitatsuji (violin), Kaori Tsutsui (clarinet, recorder)
The short Bird Eyes View left me wanting more; the very long Marching Grass On The Hill leaves me wanting slightly less. It’s not that the music is inferior here – on the contrary, this is delightfully light and delicate stuff. However, over the lengthy running time, the band’s lack of variety – and occasional lack of truly great melodies – becomes more obvious. GRADE: B–.

Acoustic Asturias (Japan): Legend Of Gold Wind (Asturias AS 0002, CD, with obi, 2011)
Progressive/Classical
Tei Sena (violin), Misa Kitatsuji (violin), Kaori Tsutsui (clarinet, recorder)
I definitely prefer Acoustic Asturias to their more mainstream incarnation: this is beautiful, haunting, folky chamber music, delicately arranged for guitar, piano, violon, clarinet and recorder. But is it all a little too dainty for its own good? More to the point, with music this charming, does that even matter? GRADE: B–.
Electric Asturias (Japan): Fractals (Asturias AS-0003, CD, with obi, 2011)
Progressive
Tei Sena (violin)
Here’s a new wrinkle on Asturias’s sound: this offers the same short, classically-styled instrumentals as Acoustic Asturias but played by an electric band with bass and drums. I prefer their acoustic incarnation, as this moves them much closer to mainstream progressive rock, but it’s nonetheless undeniably very good. GRADE: B–.
Electric Asturias (Japan): Elementals (Asturias AS-0005, CD, with obi, 2014)
Progressive
Tei Sena (violin)
My prejudice against the electric incarnation of Asturias must be lessening – this is beautiful symphonic prog packed with lush textures, led by elegant violin, and underpinned by plenty of energy and dynamism. In fact, it’s every bit the equal of their chamber music excursions. GRADE: B–.
Asturias (Japan): Missing Piece Of My Life (Asturias AS 0006, CD, with obi, 2015)
Progressive
Yoko Ueno (occasional vocals)
They’re back to being plain Asturias, which means that this is effectively a Yoh Ohyama solo set, plus guests (including Tei Sena and Kaori Tsutsui). This is an impressive set: equally good as anything they’ve achieved in their Acoustic or Electric guises, with the Mike Oldfield references kept to a minimum and Ohyama’s neoprogressive leanings long since sloughed off, adding up to fifty minutes of dynamic, powerful and inventive prog. GRADE: B–.
Asturias (Japan): At The Edge Of The World (Asturias AS 0007, CD, with obi, 2016)
Progressive
Yoko Ueno (occasional vocals)
There’s no doubt that there’s some fine music here, but though this repeats the formula of its predecessor – two lengthy suites of around 25 minutes each – I don’t find this quite so inspired. Nonetheless, there is still plenty to enjoy on the album. GRADE: B–.

Electric Asturias (Japan): Live In USA (Asturias AS-0008, DVD, with booklet, 2017)
Progressive
Tei Sena (violin)
Like many all-instrumental bands, Asturias are far from theatrical on stage: they just stand there and play, with only some subtle lighting. The other issue with this DVD is that over the duration of a 98-minute concert, the lack of variety in their approach becomes clear. That said, there’s no denying the quality of their composing and instrumental skills. GRADE: B–.

Asturias (Japan): Across The Ridge To Heaven (Asturias AS-0009, CD, with obi, 2018)
Progressive
Yoko Ueno (occasional vocals), Hiroko Nagai (joint lead vocals)
The first big surprise here is that Yoh Ohyama’s infatuation with Mike Oldfield has been comprehensively rekindled: like his earliest work, this sometimes approaches pastiche. The second big surprise is how amazingly good this is: he’s finally managed to produce a work that genuinely equals Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge for composition, arrangement and inventiveness. At its best, this is simply breathtaking progressive rock. GRADE: B.