New and Updated

Updated 14th November:

Anaïd (France): I Have A Dream (No label JMEC2019/1/1, CDR, with digipak, 2019)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Emmanuelle Lionet (lead vocals)
The music here is elegant and beautifully crafted and soars in all the right places; in particular, the abrupt end to ‘Ikebana’ is truly starting. Emanuelle Lionet is in superb voice throughout, sometimes channelling Kate Bush and sometimes adopting an almost classical soprano approach. The recording is genuinely impressive, with superb sound quality for such a low-profile release. If you’re expecting a ‘but’ at this stage, there isn’t one: this is consistently excellent and a fine addition to the band’s slim discography. GRADE: B–.
Anaïd (France): Lïve Ïn Parïs (No label JMEC2020/2/2, double CD, with digipak and booklet, 2020)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Emmanuelle Lionet (lead vocals)
Emmanuelle Lionet once again reminds me of Kate Bush here, but this time Bush from The Dreaming and more specifically songs like ‘Pull Out The Pin’ and ‘Get Out Of My House’. Or to put it another way, what this live set loses in subtlety compared to studio Anaïd it makes up in sheer wildness, energy and abandon. GRADE: B–.

Kuunatic (Japan): Gate Of Klüna (Glitterbeat GBCD117, CD, Germany, 2021)
Psychedelic
Shoko Yoshisa (joint lead vocals, bass), Fumie C Kikuchi (joint lead vocals, keyboards), Yuko Araki (joint lead vocals, drums)
Mantric, ethnic, tribal, wild and weird, this is above all very, very Japanese. And whilst they’re usually classified as psychedelic, which is probably a better description than any other, I can hear echoes of all kinds of other Japanese avant-rock here, with elements of everything from Ghost to Koenjihyakkei, adding up to a fascinating sonic stew. GRADE: B–.

La Morte Viene Dallio Spazio (Italy): Trivial Visions (Svart SVART257CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, Finland, 2021)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Melissa Crema (joint lead vocals, keyboards, theremin), Camilla Chessa (bass)
This offshoot of Giöbia also plays space-rock, as its name implies, but of a slightly different hue. This is more overtly Hawkwind-influenced than the parent band, with lots of electronics thrown into the mix, and a focus (if that is the right word!) on jamming rather than songs. There was also an earlier album Sky Over Giza that was effectively a Stefano Basurto solo project, with Melissa Crema making minor contributions to a couple of tracks. GRADE: B–.
See also Giöbia

Last Flight To Pluto (UK): See You At The End (No label, CDR, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2015)
Progressive
Alice Freya (lead vocals)
Last Flight To Pluto are an odd mass of contradictions. They display clear seventies influences, but this feels thoroughly modern, with a few rap and hip-hop touches thrown in. With plenty of robust riffs, they’re very much a rock band but this is packed with pop hooks and Alice Freya’s girlish vocals are as carefree and featherlight as you can imagine. As such, I can envisage this dividing opinion, though to my ears the music here is pretty good. I just wish I could say the same about the production and mastering, which are some of the worst I’ve heard, presenting the music as an exhausting wall of sound. GRADE: C+.
Last Flight To Pluto (UK): A Drop In The Ocean (White Knight WKCD0319, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2019)
Progressive
Alice Freya (lead vocals)
Last Flight To Pluto’s second album confirms their strong pop credentials, although with constant heavy riffing this once again isn’t lightweight music. It’s considerably more mature than their debut, though, and the move to a ‘real’ label has worked wonders in the sound quality department; the loss of the trip-hop touches also makes this sound less dated. Whilst I still have occasional reservations about Alice Freya’s singing (which threatens to invoke the ghost of Tracy Hitchings), this remains a pleasant, unpretentious album and one of the better discs with Rob Reed’s name in the credits. GRADE: C+.
Last Flight To Pluto (UK): Random Karma, Fate And Destiny (No label, CDR, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2022)
Rock/Progressive
Alice Freya (lead vocals)
The band’s announcement that their third album marked a move towards a lighter and more pop-oriented style seemed ominous, given that they weren’t exactly in Magma or Henry Cow territory in the first place. The good (or relatively good) news is that this doesn’t sound hugely different from their earlier work, offering a procession of melodic, inoffensive symphonic rock songs that I could imagine many people enjoying, though I can’t imagine Last Flight figuring among anyone’s all-time favourite bands. GRADE: C+.

Updated 7th November:

Farpoint (USA): The Journey (No label SCM-118, CD, with digipak, 2022)
Progressive/Folk/Rock
Jennifer Meeks (occasional vocals, flute)
Farpoint leader Kevin Jarvis described this to me as the band’s best album; for my part I’d say it’s their best since Cold Star Quiet Star. Slightly folkier than normal, this is a richly melodic set with sympathetic arrangements and production but it’s all too unassuming to be truly memorable. GRADE: C+.

Golgotha (USA): Old Seeds Bootleg (No label, 1973)
Rock/Psychedelic
Betsy Lee (occasional vocals)
Anyone who enjoys mellow laid-back Grateful Dead-like guitar rock with mild psychedelic edges should like this private pressing, which captures the band’s 1972-to-1974 vibe with aplomb. However, I can’t imagine anyone loving it as it’s all a bit generic and much straighter than the Dead, mainly serving as a vehicle for singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Scofield. Although credited as a full band member, Betsy Lee duets on only a couple of songs. As a footnote, this was apparently recorded for major label Jubilee; when its commercial release fell through, the band pressed up 100 copies privately, hence the title. As a second footnote, it’s not entirely clear that the group was called Golgotha: from the cover, ‘Antipodes Astrologicon’ appears equally likely. GRADE: C+.

Lane Lane (USA): Neptune Blue (Frontiers FR CD 1181, CD, Italy, 2022)
Rock/Progressive
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Lana Lane’s first album in 10 years is almost certainly one of her better releases – but Lana Lane being Lana Lane, it’s not all that easy to tell. As usual, this is tasteful rock, blending influences from Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, ELO and anything and everything eighties, all nicely played, sung and arranged; and ultimately all not-bad-to-quite-good. GRADE: C+.

Loading Zone (USA): The Loading Zone… (RCA Victor LSP / LPM-3959, 1968)
Psychedelic
Linda Tillery (joint lead vocals)
Crossing R&B, soul and West Coast psychedelic rock to good effect, Loading Zone frequently resemble countless other bands of the era but their sound is lifted by the powerful black singer Linda Tillery. However, the standout cut is the closing near-10 minute instrumental jam “Can I Dedicate?’, on whith they add a pronounced jazzy edge and some proto-prog references to impressive effect. GRADE: C+.

See also Linda Tilley, Sweet Linda Divine

Laura Meade (USA): The Most Dangerous Woman In America (Doone DR18-669563, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2021)
Singer/Songwriter/Progressive
Laura Meade (lead vocals, keyboards)
Once again backed by IZZ, Meade offers a procession of songs – dominated by piano and trip-hop-influenced programmed percussion – that are glossy, melodic, atmospheric and accomplished. Unfortunately, they don’t sound distinctive or memorable or even particularly heartfelt. GRADE: C+.

Prophets Of Zarquon (UK): Solstice (Otherworld Music, CDR, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2022)
Rock/Progressive
Zoey Blaize (lead vocals)
This is more mature than their first two albums, with more pronounced progressive edges, including some (sampled) Mellotron. But whilst it’s usually unfair to describe one act’s sound in terms of another, Prophets Of Zarquon’s music can still be summed up in a single sentence: Stevie Nicks fronting Mostly Autumn. GRADE: C+.

Therion (Sweden): Leviathan II (Nuclear Blast 61240, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2022)
Metal/Progressive
Taida Nazraić (joint lead vocals), Rosalia Sairem (joint lead vocals), Noa Gruman (occasional vocals)
The title says it all – this is more of the same, specifically regarding Leviathan rather than Therion as a whole, although a cynic might also assert the latter. But whilst the band will never again demonstrate the sheer audacity of its nineties incarnation, this is a good-to-great symphonic metal album, with their most overblown tendencies (just about) kept in check. GRADE: B–.

Updated 31st October:

Fabio Antonelli Ensemble (Italy): The Art Of Dreams In A Little Bottle (Mellow MMP 447, CD, 1998)
Progressive/Folk
Micaela Gotelli (principal vocals)
Given the date and label, I expected this to be some kind of neoprogressive, but it’s actually a series of delicate, folky vignettes, with acoustic guitars and a chamber orchestra creating a dainty atmosphere that perfectly reflects the title. In fact, it’s lovely stuff, with strong and well realised classical influences, but it all hinges on the word ‘vignettes’: as a series of short songs and instrumentals, this ultimately feels a little insubstantial and some longer suites or an overarching concept would almost certainly have taken it to the next level. GRADE: C+.

Braindance (USA): Fear Itself (Double Edge DEBD002, CD, 1995)
Metal/Progressive
Vora Vor (guitar, programming, backing vocals), Robynne Naylor (keyboards, backing vocals)
Braindance’s second album is considerably more mature and notably better recorded, alternating metallic songs with instrumentals and found voices (including, unless I’m very much mistaken, snatches of Richard Briars). It’s all well done and enjoyable enough, taking its clearest influence from Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’, and Sebastian Elliott is undoubtedly a very capable vocalist, but over the course of 65 minutes the lack of variety and absence of truly great songs becomes obvious. GRADE: C+.
Braindance (USA): Redemption (Progressive Darkwave PDR0103, CD, 2001)
Metal/Progressive
Vora Vor (guitar, keyboards, programming, backing vocals), Robynne Naylor (keyboards, violin, viola, backing vocals)
The label name offers a fair summation of the music here. Alternatively, they could have released this on Mildly Interesting Power Metal With Lots Of Found Voices And Sound Effects Fronted By A Stentorian Singer Whose Style Is Distinctly Eighties And Who Could Comfortably Have Fronted The Human League or Depêché Mode Or Even Classix Nouveau Records. GRADE: C+.
Braindance (USA): Master Of Disguise (No label, CD, with digipak and booklets, 2014)
Progressive/Metal
Vora Vor (guitar, keyboards, programming, backing vocals)
Braindance’s first album in 13 years is slightly less metallic than its predecessors, with the emphasis more on synthesisers and programmed percussion (which adds a near-dance element to some cuts). Otherwise it’s very much business as usual: seventies in its inspiration, eighties in its vocals and modern in its execution. GRADE: C+.

Jerry Garcia Band (USA): Garcialive Volume 17 – NorCal ’76 (Round JGFRR1038, triple CD, with digipak and booklet, 2021, recorded 197)
Rock/Psychedelic
Donna Godchaux (backing vocals)
Typically for a Jerry Garcia Band live set, this triple CD – recorded at three different gigs during November 1976 – is somewhat somnolent and to say that much of the music meanders would be an understatement. But it also has to be said that this is lovely stuff from start to finish and beautifully recorded to boot, and when the band catches fire you certainly notice. GRADE: B–.

Headline Bluesband (West Germany): The Legendary Headline Bluesband At The Club (No label HBB 1, with poster, 1978)
Blues/Rock
Conny Keller (joint lead vocals)
This is old-school white blues, complete with a horn section, that sounds somewhat like an updated Chicken Shack. They don’t write any of their own material but tackle a number of old warhorses (‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’, ‘I Wanna See My Baby’, ‘St James Infirmary’, ‘Night Time Is The Right Time’) and a couple of more unexpected numbers (including ‘Sexy Sadie’). The performances are robust and lively and the recording generally pretty good, despite some volume variations and the odd foible of placing nearly all the lead vocals in the right-hand channel rather than the centre. But ultimately it’s all a little generic: no doubt an excellent souvenir of a night out with the band, who were doubtless impressive on stage, but not a standalone record I can imagine anyone wanting to play regularly. GRADE: C+.

Alison O’ Donnell (Ireland): Hark The Voice That Sings For All (Talking Elephant TECD475, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, UK, 2022)
Folk/Rock
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, harmonium, bodhrán, melodica, shruti box, omnichord)
The subtitle ‘New Songs In An Ancient Tradition’ tells you everything you need to know – this is an attempt to write contemporary songs that sound traditional then interpret them in a variety of folk and folk/rock styles. The concept is hardly new: Steeleye Span and other electric folk bands have been doing this for years. But I’ve never encountered an album that has taken this approach so successfully: the songs are lyrically fascinating and musically incredibly rich, the arrangements exceptionally sensitive, and O’ Donnell is in better voice than she’s ever been. The results are simply superb. GRADE: B–.

Updated 24th October:

C Sides Project (UK): Different Plain (White Knight WKCS0918, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2022)
Progressive
Siân Elson (occasional vocals), Lucy Elson (occasional vocals)
This tends to reinforce rather than challenge the impression given by previous C Sides albums: they’re a damn sight better than most neoprog outfits and they’re not afraid of some mild experiments, but this doesn’t quite have what it takes to lift it from good to great. Perhaps it’s simply not challenging enough. GRADE: C+.

Amanda Cohen (South Africa): Medusa (Warner Brothers WBC 1206, 1973)
Pop/Rock
Amanda Cohen (lead vocals)
Cohen’s solo debut contains no self-penned songs, with the backing provided by her Hammak colleague Keith Lentin (who contributes a couple of numbers) and one-man rhythm section George Wolfaardt. Nicely sung, played and recorded, this is a highly competent collection of bluesy and folky pop/rock numbers, but none of it has the X-factor to make it truly memorable. GRADE: C+.
See also Amanda Blue, Hammak, Shanghai, Spider

Goat (Sweden): Oh Death (Rocket Recordings LAUNCH287, CD, with digipak, UK, 2022)
Psychedelic
As I noted in my review of the compilation Headsoup, Goat are probably the best band in the world in their particular field. As such, any new Goat album is going to fall into one of two categories: very good indeed or truly sublime. On first listen, this is in the former – it does everything you’d expect a Goat album to do and does it very well, and it delivers a few surprises (notably, this is much jazzier than normal), but at around 33 minutes it’s a little slight. GRADE: B–.

Hammak (South Africa): Live (Cameo CAM 1039, with inner, UK, 1972)
Rock/Progressive
Amanda Cohen (occasional vocals)
Recorded live in June 1971, this South African band offers enjoyable jamming rock with plenty of chunky guitar and organ plus a few jazzy edges. With everything except the closing jam being a cover version, this isn’t what you’d call a profound artistic statement but it has period atmosphere in spades plus dynamic performances throughout and a surprisingly decent recording, adding up to a thoroughly involving release. Surprisingly, Amanda Cohen (as “Amanda Leigh”), guitarist Keith Lentin and drummer Anton Fig relocated to the USA and formed the nucleus of the well-known AOR band Spider along with keyboardist and (later) superstar songwriter Holly Knight. As a footnote, the disc was pressed in the UK in a run of 500 numbered copies, all of which were exported to South Africa for sale by the group. GRADE: B–.
See also Amanda Blue, Amanda Cohen, Shanghai, Spider

Magenta (UK): The White Witch (Tigermoth TMCD0922, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2022)
Progressive/Classical
Christina Murphy (principal vocals)
This unusual album, which sees two old and one new Magenta number scored for guitar and orchestra – is by some margin the best thing they’ve ever done. The orchestral arrangements are very well executed, Christina Murphy is in fine voice and the whole thing is rich without being pompous, avoiding the neoprogressive clichés that plague much of their other work. Yet whilst there’s nothing wrong with either the singing or the scoring, I simply don’t find it very exciting – so maybe it’s the material? GRADE: C+.

Major Parkinson (Norway): Valesa (Apollon AP143CD, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2022)
Progressive
Claudia Cox (occasional vocals, violin), Linn Frøkedal (occasional vocals)
The snatch of ‘Life On Mars’ in the opening sound collage and the line ‘and we could be heroes’ in the closing song are no accident: David Bowie casts a long shadow over this odd, unpredictable LP. Most of the rest of the influences are early eighties, but not the usual suspects for a prog band: ABC and Depêché Mode and the Pet Shops Boys rather than Marillion or Pendragon or Solstice. Glossy, widescreen, synthesised and constantly surprising, setting Jon Ivar Kollboton’s dry basso profundo against girlish singing from violinist Claudia Cox and guest Linn Frøkedal, Valesa is a baffling yet cohesive trip that indicates how far progressive rock has evolved in the last 20 years. GRADE: B–.

Un P’tit Fond De Rouge (France) : Un P’tit Fond De Rouge (No label FR 500, 1978)
Folk/Avant-Garde
Isabelle (joint lead vocals, guitar, percussion, effects), Christine (percussion, flute)
Housed in a foldout poster sleeve, this extremely rare private pressing crosses dark acoustic folk with electronic experimentation to eerie effect. The backing sometimes resembles Brigitte Fontaine & Areski, whilst the use of spoken vocals and electronics recalls the more avant-garde recordings of Colette Magny, who was probably the band’s most significant influence. Comparisons could also be drawn with the Krautfolk movement and with Scandinavian outfits like Furekäben or Spilld Mjölk, though with interjections from chipmunk-like vocals and electronic screams this is far weirder and more unsettling than either of them. GRADE: B–.

Updated 17th October:

Meg Baird (USA): Seasons On Earth (Drag City DC470CD, CD, with digipak, 2011)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk/Psychedelic
Quite different from her first two, Seasons On Earth consists mainly of original songs and for the most part sounds like a semi-unplugged Espers. I can also hear marked echoes of Sandy Denny, although Baird’s stule is more ethereal, adding up to a lovely album that effortlessly bridges the seventies and the noughties. GRADE: B–.
Meg Baird (USA): Don’t Weigh Down The Light (Drag City DC632CD, CD, with digipak, 2015)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk/Psychedelic
Meg Baird (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion)
Beautiful, mesmerising and haunting, Baird delivers another atmospheric album of her own songs. On the downside, the lyrics and music here aren’t going to stick in your mind in the same way as Sandy Denny’s – to whom there is once again an occasional minor resemblance – but Baird is as much about sound as songs and this is certainly a stunning sonic tapestry. GRADE: B–.
Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore (USA): Ghost Forests (Three Lobed Recordings TLR-125, CD, 2018)
Folk
Meg Baird (lead vocals, guitar), Mary Lattimore (harp)
This takes ‘ethereal’ to the next level, setting blissful layers of Baird’s acoustic and electric guitars against Lattimore’s harp; no other instruments are credited, though I’m sure I can hear occasional keyboards. The whole thing has a dreamlike ambience, sometimes sounding like Clannad in the world’s largest echo chamber. GRADE: B–.

Braindance (USA): Shadows (Double Edge, cassette, 1994)
Metal
Vora Vor (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals)
The shrill, trebly sound quality of this cassette-only album – which features the same five tracks on both sides – does the band no favours, but the music is decent enough. With a mixture of electric and acoustic moments and some interpolated sound effects, this is solid metal with some progressive edges and far less pretentious than the ridiculous credits (‘double-edged throat and unmentioned vocal processes’) might imply. GRADE: C+.

Brave New World (UK): The Laddie (Future Grave FG 18, clear vinyl 10", with insert, 2022)
Folk/Psychedelic
Lydia Twigger (principal vocals)
Alongside a different version of ‘The Laddie’ (though the only change appears to be the lead vocalist), this EP features the short and sinister ‘Broken’, which sounds like a proggy twist on Pentangle, and the haunting singer/songwriter-styled ‘Harmonics’, which also has a strong late sixties or early seventies vibe. It’s all stunning stuff, but it does make me wonder when (if?) the band are going to deliver a full album. GRADE: B.

Softwire (UK): Phase Shift (No label, download, 2022)
Folk/Rock
Emily Feinson (occasional vocals, guitar, keyboards, clarinet, harp, ukelele), Gabi Mikolajczak (occasional vocals), Sarah Binney (occasional vocals, piano), Wiesje van den Heerik (occasional vocals, spoons)
The assertive hard rock of the opening ‘Get High, Stay High’, complete with florid early seventies-style organ, is something completely new for Softwire and works remarkably well. It’s an impressive kick-off to possibly the collective’s best album yet, a rich and inventive musical tapestry spanning everything from haunting folk/rock to OMD-style early eighties synth excursions, from classical music from Ibiza-style trance, and from acapella singing to assertive rock. In its own way, this resembles a modern-day version of something like A-Austr, with the same ‘anything goes’ sense of derring-do and adventure, and the same complete isolation from commercial considerations. GRADE: C+.

Updated 10th October:

Meg Baird, Helena Espvall & Sharron Kraus (USA): Leaves From Off The Tree (Bo’Weavil Recordings weavil 16CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2006)
Folk
Meg Baird (joint lead vocals, guitar), Helena Espvall (joint lead vocals, cello), Sharron Kraus (joint lead vocals, guitar, dulcimer)
Whilst Espers are known for their shimmering acid-folk, Helena Espvall for her experimental leanings and Sharron Kraus for her psychedelic tendencies, this is straightforward traditional folk with three-part harmonies, acoustic guitars, dulcimer and cello. However, that description undersells it: this is absolutely stunning traditional folk with a subtly spacy atmosphere, stunning harmonies and perfectly judged, restrained instrumental backing creating an atmosphere that feels both sacred and austere. GRADE: B–.
Meg Baird (USA): Dear Companion (Drag City DC340CD, CD, 2007)
Folk
Meg Baird (lead vocals, guitar, dulcimer)
This time round Baird really does offer straightforward traditional folk, accompanied only by her own acoustic guitar, dulcimer and occasional harmonies. The result is a nice album – delicate, restrained and well-judged – but this isn’t truly special in the same way as Leaves From Off The Tree. GRADE: C+.

Everlasting Praise (USA): Everlasting Praise (No label WFB 862, 1972?)
Folk/Rock/Garage
Marcy Hess (joint lead vocals), Doris Hirshey (joint lead vocals)
This garage folk/rock album is an unassuming delight, featuring winsomely amateurish dual female (and occasional male) vocals backed by electric guitars, bass and drums. Steeped in period atmosphere, it’s remarkably winsome and effective throughout, but their covers of ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘Let it Be’ are especially delightful. This is still a cheap album but outclasses many $500 Christian ‘psych/folk’ rarities, so expect that situation to change as more collectors hear it. GRADE: B–.
Everlasting Praise (USA): Sonshine (No label CR-18, 1973?)
Folk/Rock
Marcy Hess (joint lead vocals), Doris Hirshey (joint lead vocals), Carol (piano)
This has the charm and naïveté of their other debut, but is considerably more sophisticated, with the sound fleshed out with complex multi-part harmonies and acoustic and Spanish guitars and electric piano. As such, it’s still quite lovely, but it was the raw electric edges and garage atmosphere that made their first so special and they’re entirely absent here. GRADE: C+.

Frog & Co (West Germany): Essen (TST 78000, 1974)
Folk
Evelyn Engler (joint lead vocals, recorder)
Despite the German sleeve notes on the back, this is sung entirely in English and consists of Americanised coffeehouse folk with plenty of banjo and harmonica. Their versions of ‘Banks Of Ohio [sic]’, ‘Sloop John B’, ‘Guantanamera’, ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ et al are pleasant enough, but this simply isn’t one of my favourite styles of folk music. On the plus side, they manage a sensitive reading of ‘Polly Von’ and it’s a pity they didn’t concentrate more on this kind of haunting, introspective material. The band had previously released a 1971 album Internationale Froglore, which I haven’t heard but which appears to be in the same vein. GRADE: C+.

Steve Hillage (UK): Glastonbury Experience (GAS GAS 9, cassette, 1979)
Psychedelic
Miquette Giraudy (keyboards, backing vocals)
This live recording doesn’t quite have studio sound quality, but it’s more than good enough. The actual music is considerably better than ‘more than good enough’: this is an hour of peak Hillage, roaming across his first few albums with aplomb. As a footnote, this was reissued on vinyl and CD in 2022, with a misleading hype sticker claiming it was ‘previously unreleased’ though the ‘vibrantly psychedelic’ part is undeniably true. GRADE: B.

Shashi Keshet, Gidi Gov, Tovia Tzafir, Gali Atari & The Band (Israel): Sing Your Heart Out (Hed-Arzi BAN 14716, with insert, 1977)
Folk/Rock
This collection of songs from the Israeli Army Entertainment Units – reinterpreted by the cast of a stage musical telling their story – is far than just a quirky curiosity. With full electric backing, this covers a wide range of folk/rock styles – some dreamy and melodic, some ethnic and a little cheesy, some rocking and almost psychedelic or proggy, adding up to a creative album with a unique backstory. GRADE: C+.

Röda Ropet (Sweden): Spänn Bågen (Ungkommunistens Fürlag MLLP 475, with insert, 1975)
Rock
Ingrid Källman (occasional vocals), Rosa (occasional vocals)
Like many Swedish polit-rock albums, this offers lively and varied rock and has a pleasing homespun atmosphere. However, also like many Swedish polit-rock albums, one gets the impression they paid rather more attention to the lyrics than the music. GRADE: C+.

Updated 5th October:

Baird Sisters (USA): At Home (No label, CD, with minisleeve, 2003)
Folk
Meg Baird, Laura Baird
Don’t expect anything like the stunning psychedelic folk of Meg Baird’s band Espers. Do expect stunning female harmony vocals and simple, heartfelt acoustic backing based around acoustic guitar, banjo and cello. The better half of this (to my ears, the less American half, without the banjo) is a comfortable B­– and the other half a solid C+, though still with the beautiful harmonies, so I’ll upgrade the whole thing due to its charming homespun atmosphere. GRADE: B–.
Baird Sisters (USA): Lonely Town (No label, CD, with minisleeve, 2008)
Folk
Meg Baird, Laura Baird
Whilst unquestionably pleasant and undeniably in the same vein as their first, this is a slight but definite step down. The reasons are simple: fewer harmonies, lots more banjo, more American in feel. GRADE: C+.
Baird Sisters (USA): Until You Find Your Green (Grapefruit GY2-2, 2012)
Folk
Meg Baird, Laura Baird
The obvious highpoint here is the delightful 10½-munute title track, which adds flute for a mildly psychedelic ambience and is the single best thing the sisters recorded together. However, there’s plenty more to enjoy, with a return to the slightly more ethereal style of their debut, bolstered by an added spaciness that makes the textures all the richer. GRADE: B–.

Iconoclasta (Mexico): Concicerto De Aniversario – 35 Años (Azafrán Media AP 2241, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2022, recorded 2015)
Progressive
Greta Romero Silva (joint lead vocals, bass), Nohemí d’Rubín (joint lead vocals, bass), Rosa Flora Moreno (keyboards)
Iconclasta are a band who never fulfilled their early promise – their 1983 debut is their only album I’ve rated above a C+. This live retrospective, recorded in 2015 but released seven years later, isn’t going to change that. For sure, it contains nearly two hours of good prog, half fronted by Greta Romero Silva and half by Nohemí d’Rubín, but very little of it has that indefinable X-factor to take it to the next level. GRADE: C+.

Magma (France): Kãrtëhl (Seventh A XXXXI, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2022)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Stella Vander (joint lead vocals, chimes), Isabelle Feuillebois (occasional vocals), Sylvie Fisichella (occasional vocals), Laura Guarrato (occasional vocals), Caroline Indjein (occasional vocals)
Unlike Zëss, this is a large-scale vocal work that formally recalls MDK; but unlike MDK it’s generally quite laid-back, hinting towards Merci and Offering. As such, it does everything you’d expect a modern Magma album to do – massed vocals led by one Vander, assertive drumming from the other, slashing fuzz bass from Top (that’s son Jimmy, not dad Jannick) and so on and so forth. It’s undeniably very good, but ultimately it makes me wonder two things: will Magma ever do anything radical again and will I ever rate one of their new studio albums above a B–? GRADE: B–.

Minstrels For Sleepless (UK): My Father The Sea And Other Fables (Reverb Worship RW 465, black CDR, with insert, 2022)
Progressive/Folk
Sharron Kraus (joint lead vocals), Ellen Harris (occasional vocals), Gráinne Nestor (occasional vocals)
All clanging percussion, mournful piano and oozing atmosphere, this is a delicate pastoral trip whost contents accurately reflect its title. Almost entirely the work of multi-instrumentalist Nick Palmer, aside from some guest vocalists, it’s a fascinating audio journey that never really seizes the attention but is all about mood and melancholy. GRADE: C+.

Courtney Swain (USA): Between Blood And Ocean (No label, CDR, with gatefold minisleeve, 2019)
Rock
Courtney Swain (lead vocals, keyboards)
This is the genesis of the fuzzy, big-beat electropop that dominated Bent Knee’s Frosting, taking Swain some distance from progressive rock – though this is certainly quite bold and experimental in its own way. Throw in a bit of autotune and a few more conventional singer/songwriter moments and the result is an odd little disc that doesn’t really sit anywhere stylistically but is a slightly more enjoyable listen than my description may suggest. GRADE: C+.

Updated 29th September:

Bongwater (USA): The Power Of Pussy (Shimmy Disc SHIMMY-040, CD, 1990)
Rock/Garage/Psychedelic
Ann Magnuson (lead vocals)
Whilst in the same vein as their earlier albums, this is perhaps a touch straighter, with more focus on the music and slightly less on the sound effects. That’s no bad thing, and there’s plenty of variety here too – everything from folk to pop to heavy acid-rock – but once again there’s a certain lack of substance. GRADE: C+.
Bongwater (USA): The Big Sell-Out (Shimmy Disc shimmy 050, CD, 1992)
Rock/Garage/Psychedelic
Ann Magnuson (principal vocals)
This isn’t a sell-out, big or otherwise, but the sound effects have disappeared altogether, with the duo focusing entirely on music. That’s no bad thing – this is a lot less arch than earlier works, offering a pleasing tapestry of songs spanning a broad range of moods. GRADE: C+.

Crippled Black Phoenix (UK): Banefyre (Season of Mist SOM 646B, digipak, with box, patch and pin, 2022)
Progressive
Belinda Kordic (joint lead vocals), Helen Stanley (keyboards, trumpet)
Crippled Black Phoenix’s distinctive sound is genuinely difficult to describe. Anathema-meets-shoegaze, maybe? Early seventies Pink Floyd-goes-metal, perhaps? A much heavier Pure Reason Revolution without the dainty harmonies, at a push? But whatever you’d call it, I’d call them one of the most remarkable bands working today. GRADE: B–.

Kaipa (Sweden): Urskog (InsideOut IOMLp 626, double plus CD, some on green vinyl, 2022)
Progressive
Aleena Gibson (joint lead vocals)
There’s no doubting that Urskog is a good album, not just a good Kaipa album. With three tracks over ten minutes, there’s plenty of ambition here and the music is much more dynamic and well-crafted than is usual for them. At times, it’s very good indeed: ‘In The Wastelands Of My Mind’, with its dainty violin, is quite lovely. However, this particular style of pastoral prog is never going to deliver an album that’s among my all-time favourites, though if your tastes differ from mine you might consider this a minor classic. GRADE: B–.

Updated 22nd September:

Anchoress (UK): Versions / EP1 (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, autographed photo and ribbon, 2022)
Folk/Progressive
Catherine Anne Davies (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, flute, dulcimer, music box)
At just over 16 minutes, this four-track collection of cover versions isn’t what you could call substantial, but the songs are well chosen and the sparse, spacy arrangements beautifully executed, so it’s still just about a B–. Just about. GRADE: B–.

Bloody Panda (USA/Japan): Pheromone (Level-Plane LP106, CD, with digipak, 2006)
Metal/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Yoshiko Ohara (lead vocals)
‘Yoko Ono meets Black Sabbath’ proclaims the hype sticker, and it’s half right: Yoshido Ohara bears a definite resemblance to Ono. But Black Sabbath would never have produced funereal doom this formless and experimental. I find it majestic, bleak and unsettling, but some listeners might struggle with the lack of identifiable songs or unforgettable riffs. GRADE: B–.
Bloody Panda (USA/Japan): Summon (Profound Lore PFL-048, CD plus DVD, with digipak and booklet, 2009)
Metal/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Yoshiko Ohara (lead vocals)
Listening to this spacier second album, it’s obvious how much of an influence Bloody Panda were on Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. The vocal style may be considerably more aggressive – they don’t compare Ohara to Ono just because of her ethnicity – but the blueprint for one of my favourite modern metal bands is entirely present and correct. GRADE: B–.

Bongwater (USA): Breaking No New Ground! (Shimmy Disc shimmy 0002, 1987)
New Wave/Garage/Psychedelic
Ann Magnuson
The 18½-minute debut by Ann Magnuson and Mark Kramer showcases a trashy ‘no wave’ aesthetic, blending garagy riffs and squalling acid guitar with sound effects and perversely catchy songs that sometimes resemble a scrappier, wilder early Blondie. But whilst they have early Blondie attitude on steroids, they don’t share the band’s gift for unforgettable melodies so the results are little more than an amusing diversion. GRADE: C+.
Bongwater (USA): Double Bummer (Shimmy Disc shimmy 0000000000011, double, 1988)
Garage/Psychedelic
Ann Magnuson
From the slight to the gargantuan: this epic double album, featuring no fewer than 27 tracks, sloughs off their new wave influences somewhat for a more old-school acid-rock sound, though it takes in parodies of everything from country to Chinese music. Ditties and jams are contextualised against tapes of diverse dialogue, as on their debut, creating a sound that’s both highly conceptual and clearly satirical. But despite the length, I once again find the contents a touch insubstantial though never less than engaging. GRADE: C+.
Bongwater (USA): Too Much Sleep (Shimmy Disc shimmy 000000000000000000000000000000031, 1989)
Garage/Psychedelic
Ann Magnuson (principal vocals)
The biggest surprise here is a cover of Slapp Happy’s ‘The Drum’ – it’s not as good as the original, but it’s still a stunning song in any rendition. Elsewhere, this offers the usual mixture of songs and sound effects and the usual range of pastiches – melodic, accomplished, sometimes quite beautiful or dynamic and ultimately a little forgettable. GRADE: C+.

Luna Rossa (UK): Atropa (Firefly Music FFMCD010, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2018)
Singer/Songwriter
Anne-Marie Helder (lead vocals, guitar, piano, percussion, whistle, samples)
This may just be their best album – beautifully arranged, recorded and produced, with two effective cover versions, including an acoustic reworking of Abba’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’. But whilst there’s no doubting the duo’s level of craft (or indeed their level of talent) I’m not convinced that this has the truly memorable original songs to lift it from good to great. GRADE: C+.

Bridget St John With Taku Hayashi (UK/Japan): Jolie Madame (Alga Alga 1, CD, with poster sleeve, poster booklet and obi, 2011)
Singer/Songwriter
In case you’re wondering who Taku Hayashi is, he’s not just a backing musician but a singer/songwriter in his own right, who splits this much later live release with St John. Apparently he was the support act for her Japanese tour as well as her sole accompanist, but he also appears to be the label owner, hence his elevation here. His contributions – which are perfectly pleasant singer/songwriter fare, wispily sung in Japanese – do not elevate this album, however. GRADE: C.

Updated 15th September:

Absolute Zero (USA): A Live In The Basement (No label SP01, CD, 1990)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Aislinn Quinn (lead vocals, keyboards)
This crazy collision of Cantebury, RIO, electronica and all kinds of other influances goes some fascinating places. It’s just a pity that the journey is so short – two tracks totalling a fraction under 19 minutes. GRADE: B–.
Absolute Zero (USA/UK): Crashing Icons (M=R M=R2, CD, with poster, USA, 2003)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Aislinn Quinn (lead vocals, keyboards)
With four tracks of between 12 and 21 minutes powered by ex-Gong drummer and Canterbury stalwart Pip Pyle, this much later album certainly isn’t lacking in ambition. It isn’t lacking in experimentation either, with the title accurately summing up its incredibly diverse contents. Each of the four pieces could be compared to a sea journey: sometimes tempestuous and thrilling, sometimes calm and engaging, sometimes a little dull and uneventful. As such, some moments of this work much better than others, but overall it’s a fascinatingly bold and weird project with truly incendiary musicianship. GRADE: B–.

Angelblood (USA/Hungary): Angelblood (Captain Trip CTCD-222, CD, with booklet and obi, Japan, 2000)
Garage/Avant-Garde
Rita Ackermann (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums), Lizzi Bougatsos (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums),  Jess Holzworth (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums)
I remembered this as being badly played and recorded metal, but listening to it again after 20+ years it’s nothing of the kind. Instead it’s probably best described as a mixture of garage rock and tribal elements, with some jazzy edges – and it’s very well recorded, though the playing is certainly amateurish (or faux-naïve, take your pick). On “Adverts”, they resemble a cross between Amon Düül (not II) and the GTOs, if such a hybrid can be imagined, and elsewhere this constantly surprises and occasionally baffles. GRADE: C+.
Angelblood (USA/Hungary): Masses Of The Daggers (Captain Trip CTCD-287, CD, with booklet and obi, Japan, 2001)
Garage/Metal/Avant-Garde
Rita Ackermann (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums), Lizzi Bougatsos (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums),  Jess Holzworth (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums)
This is considerably heavier than their debut, with more pronounced metal influences, but equally insubstantial, not even reaching half an hour. That’s not necessarily to its disadvantage – a throwaway, trash aesthetiic is central to Angelblood’s blend of heavy riffs, girlish chanting and offhand diversions into god-knows-what. GRADE: C+.
Angelblood (USA/Hungary): Labia Minora (Printed Matter 75918A, CD, USA, 2003)
Garage/Metal/Avant-Garde
Rita Ackermann (joint lead vocals), Lizzi Bougatsos (joint lead vocals)
Album number three (though I use the term loosely, as this runs for a grand total of 25½ minutes), recorded by a different line-up with three male backing musicians, is even more metallic than its predecessor. There are even some death growls this time around, although the whole thing is once again rooted firmly in garage-rock, tribal sounds and the avant-garde and, as usual for Angelblood, has an offhand, inconsequential feel. GRADE: C+.
Angelblood (USA/Hungary): Mambo Mangé (No label, CDR, USA, 2004)
Garage/Metal/Avant-Garde
If not for the screeching, yelping vocals, Angelblood’s final album – which runs for a whopping 39 minutes – could also be considered conventional metal, though the playing is pretty choppy and disjointed. Bringing the band’s career full circle, this once again reminds me of Amon Düül, though more in terms of concept than musical execution. GRADE: C+.

Leger De Main (USA): The Concept Of Our Reality (Progressive Music Management PMM-0100, CD, 1995)
Progressive
Melissa Blair (lead vocals)
Listening to this again after a break of more than 20 years, it’s considerably better – or perhaps, more accurately, considerably more creative – than I recall. The band’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, primarily expressed through constant contrapuntal riffs, gives them a distinctive sound, and when it works could make you think you’re listening to a B– album. When it doesn’t, which is more often than any band should get away with, my original grade of C may seem generous. GRADE: C+.
Leger De Main (USA): Second First Impression (Progressive Music Management PMM-0200, CD, 1997)
Progressive
Melissa Blair (lead vocals)
Like their debut, Second First Impression – whose title was chosen to communicate the band’s desire to offer a more complex and ambitious sound – made a better impression on me than it did a couple of decades ago. As background listening, it almost convinced me that I’d completely misjudged it and they’d produced a solid B–. However, a more careful relisten made its drawbacks more obvious: this is a band with a great command of dynamics and bags of energy, but they don’t know when to stop. The discordant synth lines on ‘Changes With The Day’ are grotesque and completely unnecessary, and whilst nothing else is as egregious this is definitely a band that should embrace the mantra ‘less is more’. Both albums were remixed and remastered (and also resequenced in the case of Second First Impression, which lost its instrumental intro) for the compilation A Lasting Impression (Progressive Music Management PMM-0102R, double CD, 2005) with two pleasant bonus tracks: acoustic re-recordings of two numbers from The Concept Of Our Reality. Mweanwhile, the band went on to issue a third album under the new name of Mythologic. GRADE: C+.
See also Mythologic

Poly Styrene (UK): Translucence (United Artists UAG 30320, with inner, 1980)
Singer/Songwriter
Poly Styrene (lead vocals)
A world away from the punk of parent band X-Ray Spex, Poly Styrene’s solo debut is a beautiful, mystical folk/rock album with marked world music and new age edges. Gentle, serene and haunting, it’s a clear B– on the more reflective songs, though the more uptempo, pop-oriented numbers are less memorable (whilst never less than pleasant). GRADE: B–.

Sproatly Smith (UK): River Wye Suite (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2022)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Sarah Smith, Kate Gathercole
As usual for Sproatly Smith, this is beautiful, haunting and atmospheric, offerin a continuous suite of music about the titular river and its environmental challenges. Also as usual for Sproatly Smith, it’s at times a little ponderous – the found voices and nostalgic jazz songs add ambience but I’d have preferred more of their own music and fewer of the interludes. As is not usual for Sproatly Smith, this adds electricity and a rhythm section here, moving their music from folk to folk/rock and adding another dimension to their rich, lush, beguiling sound. GRADE: B–.

Updated 8th September:

Brandstifter (West Germany): Meine Schafe Hören Meine Stimme (Sela SELA 4006, 1982?)

Folk/Rock/Progressive

Michaela Miller (joint lead vocals)

The laminated gatefold sleeve of a Middle Eastern shepherd with his flock is striking indeed, and the music here is pretty memorable in its own way too. This Christian album has a sort of widescreen, cinematic sound, and it’s very slick and polished – bordering on the downright cheesy, and with a quintessentially eighties production to boot. Some of the pieces are songs, whilst others have spoken-word sections instead; all fall broadly into the symphonic rock category and border prog, whilst having folky edges too and a slightly haunting mood from the extensive use of oboe and flügelhorn. In addition, the female-fronted tracks have something of a naïve school project feel, adding up to a thoroughly odd, but by no means displeasing, LP. GRADE: C+.

Casket (Germany): Emotions… …Dream Or Reality (Serenades SR 009, CD, with digipak, 1996)

Metal

Karin Trapp (occasional vocals)

The best doom metal is majestic, bass-heavy and widescreen; the best gothic metal has angelic vocals and haunting melodies. Should either genre employ death vocals, they’re best delivered in a genuinely chilling manner or they simply appear silly. Whilst well recorded and far from bad musically, this doom/gothic crossover can be trebly and tentative and lacks any truly memorable tunes; whether Karin Trapp’s vocals are angelic is moot as she sings lead on only the opening number. Meanwhile, the male vocals, which alternate between pseudo-growls and a shaky tenor, are strange through and through: maybe Karin should have opened her Trapp more often. GRADE: C+.

Casket (Germany): Tomorrow (Serenades SR 00000132, CD, 1997)

Rock/Metal/Progressive

Karin Trapp (joint lead vocals)

After their rather odd debut, Casket change style significantly here, offering a mixture of hard rock (with definite pop edges and a few AOR tinges) and symphonic progressive elements. They sound a great deal more comfortable in this mode, and at its best – notably the segue of the hard rocker ‘Questions Of Life’, the beautifully recorded instrumental ‘Secrets’ and the lovelyl ballad ‘Last Days…’ – this far outclasses anything on their first LP. GRADE: C+.

Casket (Germany): Faithless (Serenades 007393-2 SR, CD, 1998

Rock/Metal/Progressive

Karin Trapp (joint lead vocals)

Their third and final (and by some margin best) album mixes early seventies-style hard rock with more relaxed symphonic ballads to good effect. The music here isn’t what you could call groundbreaking, but it’s thoroughly satisfying and beautifully crafted – a world away from the stumbling hesitancy of their debut just two years previously. In a nice touch, the first track from that album is reproduced as the last track here, completing the band’s oeuvre and bringing them full circle. GRADE: C+.

Cast (UK): Raindance (Excellent, cassette, 1987)

Progressive

Rachel Schollar (lead vocals)

Not to be confused with the prolific Mexican neoprogressive band of the same name, this Cast (or technically ‘The Cast’) was an early project by the equally prolific and equally neoprogressive keyboardist Clive Nolan. With its melodic female vocals and low-budget backing from guitars, keyboards and programmed drums, this three-track, 20-minute EP in some ways provides the blueprint for Strangers On A Train, although I far prefer Rachel Schollar’s vocals to Tracy Hitchings’s. GRADE: C+.

Folk Studio A (Italy): Folk Studio A (Folk Studio A FS-A 01, with insert, 1985)

Folk

Laura Rossi (joint lead vocals)

This Italian folk album is traditional in its material, but not its arrangements; then again, it definitely isn’t folk/rock either. Instead, the band bring a classical, or more accurately chamber music, touch to the arrangements, with lush and varied acoustic instrumentation, rich strings and slightly echoed, spacy vocals. The results may be a little dainty for some years, but there’s no questioning the album’s beauty or its remarkable level of craft. GRADE: B–.

Grateful Dead (USA): Dave’s Picks Volume 42 (Rhino R2 677186, quadruple CD, with digipak, minisleeve and poster booklet, 2022, recorded 1974)
Rock/Psychedelic
Donna Godchaux (backing vocals)
The first set of the main show from 23rd February 1974 is unremarkable, but the second features a superb segue of ‘He’s Gone’, ‘Truckin’’, ‘The Other One’ and ‘Eyes Of The World’ that just about lifts this to a B despite a fair level of filler. The subscriber-only bonus disc from the previous night is an enjoyable addendum, with a 21-minute version of ‘Playing In The Band’ being the centrepiece, but doesn’t equal the stellar quality of some of the past bonuses. GRADE: B–.

Grateful Dead (USA): Dave’s Picks Volume 41 (Rhino R2 677187, triple HDCD, with digipak and booklet, 2022, recorded 1977)

Rock/Psychedelic

Donna Godchaux (occasional vocals)

According to the liner notes, this show made the shortlist for the very first Dave’s Picks release but was pipped to the post by the show from the night before. I’m baffled as to why, as this is superior in every regard – not because it has the intensity of some of the band’s early seventies shows but because it has impeccable track selection and some of the same metronomic near-perfection as the fabled 8 May gig. In fact, I’m baffled as to why it took so long to gain an official release. GRADE: B.

Mostly Autumn (UK): Graveyard Star (Mostly Autumn AUT0354, double CD, with digipak and booklet, 2021)

Rock/Progressive

Olivia Sparnnen (joint lead vocals, keyboards)

What makes Graveyard Star different from other Mostly Autumn albums? The answer is weight of expectations. Two excellent LPs after a long relatively fallow period made me have high hopes for this – so have the band managed to pull off a hat-trick? Sadly, no. There’s nothing exactly wrong with this, but there aren’t any truly memorable songs and nor does the band really catch fire more than once or twice. For sure, it’s all pleasant enough, so it’s entirely worthy, but at 20 songs and nearly two hours it’s all a bit dull. GRADE: C+.

Moth Masque (USA): Moth Masque (Hand/Eye h/e 016, black CDR, with digipak and booklet, 2004)

Folk/Psychedelic

Alicia Lee Wade (joint lead vocals)

This unusual acid-folk album solely features male and female vocals and banjo, with the latter frequently processed to create some otherworldly sounds. The results are effectively eerie and trippy, crossing spacy, almost sacred atmospheres with raw Americana to remarkable effect. The excellent deluxe reissue (Hand/Eye h/e 055, triple CDR plus DVDR, with booklets, inserts and box, 2013) adds a disc of aborted recordings for a planned second album, a disc of re-recordings by the duo, and a DVD with the original album set to some unsettling low-budget footage, plus a couple of similar promo videos. GRADE: B–.

Mountain Caller (UK): Chronicle: Prologue (New Heavy Sounds NHSEP034, with download card, 2021)

Metal

As its title suggests, this 20-minute EP is intended as a prequel to the album proper and the band suggests they’re listened to in sequence in order to understand the concept (which remains pretty nebulous given that their music is all-instrumental). The music here is perhaps mildly better than that on the LP proper, bolstered by a superb, dynamic recording, but the band’s approach clearly lays bare the limitations of their ambitions, with no truly incendiary playing or audacious time shifts on display. GRADE: C+.

Psychedelic Source (Hungary): Golden Age Of Glorious Jam Sessions (Psychedelic Source, download, 2020)

Psychedelic

Kriszti Benus (lead vocals)

The title makes this sound like a Five Fifteen album, but unlike Five Fifteen – and like everything else Kriszti Benus has recorded – this is full-blown psychedelia rather than old-school retro rock. Also like her best work, it's very good psychedelia indeed. GRADE: B–.

Satorinaut (Hungary): Gem Jam/Box Turtle Telepathy (Psychedelic Source, download, 2020)
Psychedelic
Kriszti Benus (synthesiser)
Ms Benus and co’s psychedelic jams seem to get better and better: fronted by Manuel Göttsching-style guitar and her vintage Gem synthesiser, these are wonderful cosmic excursions that trip out to the stars and beyond. GRADE: B–.

Rub (USA): Three Wishes (No label, CD, 2002)
Rock
Leslye Barrett (joint lead vocals)
The Rub’s style can pretty much be summed up in two words: Steely Dan. Admirers of that band will instantly recognise (and love) the jazzy chord changes, the rich harmony vocals, the spindly saxophone filigrees, the minor progressive diversions and the über-smooth mood. I am not an admirer of Steely Dan, but this is undeniably superbly done and perfectly enjoyable – and the lack of the Dan’s smug, knowing, postmodern edge is a huge bonus. GRADE: C+.rrible tinkly keyboard solos that grace a couple of songs) plus several backing singers including Kantner’s daughter China. Mostly concentrating on recent material, it’s a decent live set but the band’s energy can’t conceal the fact that many of the songs are merely fair-to-middling. GRADE: C+.

Witchrot (Canada): Hollow (Fuzzed & Buzzed/Dark Hedonistic Union DHU/063 / FNB/011, some on coloured vinyl, with insert, poster and download card, 2021)

Metal

Lea Reto

‘Fuzzed & Buzzed’ indeed: these Canadian doom rockers have an impressive sound, with plenty of distortion and a few minor glam references. However, they don’t have very impressive material or a particularly impressive vocalist, so fellow Toronto denizens Blood Ceremony won’t be looking over their shoulders. GRADE: C+.

Wyndow (UK): Wyndow (Summer Critics SC001, CD, with minisleeve and inner, 2021)
Pop/Psychedelic
Laura J Martin (joint lead vocals, keyboards, flute, clarinet), Lavinia Blackwall (joint lead vocals, piano, autoharp)
According to their own blurb, this is ‘a melting pot of influences with both artists at the top of their game, reflecting on the smallest human influences set against a galactic sonic canvas’. However, don’t expect anything über-tripped out or cosmic: this is a relatively straight set of songs – betwixt pop and singer/songwriter – given a psychedelic edge by the hazy flute and impressionistic production. It’s nice stuff – at its best haunting, delicate and slightly eerie – but although it’s just about a B– I’d question the claim that this is the best thing the extremely talented Lavinia Blackwall has ever done. GRADE: B–.

See also Lavinia Blackwall, Crying Lion, Trembling Bells