THE MICROPHONES – It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water (2000)

Review by: Victor Guimarães
Album assigned by: Alex Smith

The Microphones is that kind of experimental band that would not be easy to find, even in experimental circles. Phil Elvrum, the creative genius responsible for this madness, is definitely something out of the ordinary — for whatever reason one may consider, be it a positive or a negative reason. 

But as I want to be objective tonight, It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water is a big art, experimental rock album. It sounds great, it never gets boring, but ok, it could be tiring, even if just a bit. The listener can appreciate some of the basic rock song structures, with guitars, basses and drums, while getting amazed by Phil’s musical idea of telling a story. Yeah, conceptual for you. Or it seemed so to me. The album flows smooth, full of lyrical metaphors and their corresponding sounds, creating a hazy atmosphere orchestrated by elements as different as electronic beats, synthesizers and organs, plus his very nice voice, dual male/female vocal parts, production-added traits, such as the distinctive sound of wind blowing, and noises, noise-pop style. The main song structure is very good as well. Good melodies, smart riffs, yadayada. 

After listening to it once, I dug a bit and found that there are some noticeable tributes to Eric’s Trip and other minor inspirations from many other sources. For me, the album sounded quite original and I got the feeling the big Phil added his touch to everything. I respect his way of doing things. And I may say I admire his work. And maybe his madness. Anyone around who’s got the same liking for a well-organized musical journey, in a progressive, creative fashion could take the bait and listen to Elvrum’s insanity. It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water is a good way to start.

LOVAGE – Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By (2001)

Review by: Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
Assigned by: Alexander Shatkevich


It’s called Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By but the sound is so pleasantly soporific that you’d be forgiven for thinking that rohypnol must have been involved somewhere along the line. For, despite the occasional breathy orgasmic groan and Mike Patton’s throaty perv croak, too lethargic for the vigour and tumble of heated lovemaking, the album never really screams out raging erection or well-tongued tumescent clitoris. Instead it feels like the aural equivalent of a good vintage cognac in a warm glass tumbler taken, of course, in front of a roaring fireplace — that same slow viscous consistency and that same comforting sense of crackly mellow warmth — and no one’s going to blame you if you just happen to doze off partway through. In the end Dan the Automator has dusted off some of his choicest vinyl samples to craft a captivating piece of easy listening revivalism. It’s not exactly the Swans  Scott Walker + Sunn O))), but then so what? This is an album for late in the evening, when all the business of the day is over and done with. Loosen your tie, ease yourself into your favourite armchair with the aforementioned vintage cognac in one hand and perhaps a big fat one in the other and let this wee gem of a Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By work its magic. (7/10)

YES – Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)

Review by: Jonathan Moss
Assigned by: Irfan Hidayatullah


This is without a doubt one of the best albums Yes have ever done. Easily top five, perhaps top three. Definitely in the pantheon of top prog albums in general. God, its such a fucking good album. Why? The whole package man, its got almost everything that makes Yes good (it is missing one rather crucial element, which should be obvious to Yes fans). Jon Anderson’s esoteric religious lyrics, his bizarrely high pitched but melodically pleasing and strangely friendly vocals, Chris Squire’s thick, busy and catchy bass lines, Steve Howe’s acidic, hooky guitar playing, Rick Wakeman’s ear grabbing, rich keyboard textures and symphonic playing (though at points he does seem to cross into cheesy sci-fi territory, but that gives the album a goofy charm rather than diminishing it in any serious way), and last but certainly not least, co-producer Eddie Offord, who manages to get a nice, clear separation between the instruments. Oh, and Alan White’s competent drumming.

Of course, this album does have a reputation for pretension, and at eighty minutes with four songs, I can’t really argue with that. However, I will argue that there’s nothing entirely wrong with being pretentious. Obviously it can result in a lot of pretty crappy music, but so can music that’s lacking in pretension, like most modern indie bands. So I guess I would call this album an example of successful pretentious music.

Besides, the album manages not to be monotonous through a variety of ways. For one, the four songs all have a different mood from each other, and within those songs there are different moods, and different sections, like an experimental novel written by multiple people, but with a similar vision. It helps, that as Mark Prindle pointed out, the album is not particularly bombastic. All the songs are pretty, and they generally sound too mystical and withdrawn to get extroverted, as bombastic music requires. I swear, if he’d been born later, Jon Anderson would have been a great neofolk artist. And Rick Wakeman would be a synthpop legend!

The way the instruments intertwine is amazing as well, it shows something of a lack of ego in the band, because although the instruments all get their own moments and in general sound fantastic, they work together beautifully at all times, never fighting for supremacy. In this regard they are like a good team of improvisatory comedians (this comparison will definitely be used sardonically).

On to the songs now! It starts off with “The Revealing Science of God”, which is definitely my favourite song on the album. It starts off with these mysterious ambient sounds, then starts to build in intensity, as Jon chants his lyrics, before the bass joins in and launches into a fantastic melody along with a majestic mellotron line from Wakeman. The song just has such a sense of joy to it, it sounds like celebration music for some esoteric religious party. Steve’s guitar playing is clean and melodic, almost byrdsy, but with a jazzy edge. It’s amazing how much the band can get out the beginning, just Jon’s angelic “what happened to wonders we once knew so well” bit, the bouncy guitar, catchy as fuck guitar and heavenly synth. This launches on to a tenser, more hard rocking bit, with aggressive but tuneful guitar playing and an uncertain vocal melody from Jon. And then! A very pretty synth bit, the song can’t stay tense, its just too jolly! It does become more chilled out though, kind of back to the proto-ambient vibe. For a prog epic its not that similar to something like Supper’s Ready, its more like “Close to the Edge”, it has different sections, but it always returns to the same themes. Of course, each times with variations, like a different riff or a frantic piano bit. Layer it more and keep it interesting and multifaceted while following the same melody, which is good, because what a fucking melody it is. Steve gets a very weird guitar solo as well, it becomes more pretty and conventional, but at the beginning it sounds almost like something that could be used in an artsier new wave song as a goofy sound effect. This leads to the “young christians see it” bit, which has an epic and of course, religious vibe, with some mellow synth playing. The song ends on a bouncy, joyous note, with spastic keyboard and bass, before getting more mellow, with dramatic singing from Jon, before returning triumphantly to the central melody.

The next song, “The Remembering”, opens with pretty swirly keyboards. The atmosphere of the song is mellow and lush, this is aided by Steve Howe’s hypnotic guitar line. This gives the song a sleepy energy, like animals napping in a humid jungle. This is followed by an ominous keyboard line and a more energetic bit. The guitar line is poppy and the bass is smooth. Then there is what I regard as the best bit in the song, because during it the percussion is actually punchy! Alan White temporarily stops being shite. Of course, the chiming acoustic guitar helps as well. It reminds me of The Wicker Man, only if it hadn’t been a horror film. The song ends on a cool celestial section, with beautiful guitar and choir like mellotron. The song can get repetitive within its structure but, along no Revealing Science, it is still a very strong song, though not quite a classic.

Admittedly, “The Ancient” is pretty bad. The song has its moments, like a pretty folk pop bit near the end, which could almost pass as its own song, and some interesting noises. But outside of this it has some of the ugliest guitar playing Steve Howe has done on record, just a kind of squealing atonal mess. The percussion doesn’t work either, it is overly busy. It’s just a very formless, confused song. It’s like they tried to go from prog to outright avant-garde. Leave that to Crimson, guys. The noises, for me make me conceptualise it as a kind of proto-Gates of Delirium, even if they don’t actually sound much alike. Ultimately it just sounds like video game music for some forgettable 90s game.

Luckily the song ends with an absolute classic, and the second best song on the album. This is of course “Ritual”. The best bit of the song is the “nous somme du soleil” chant. This occurs twice, relatively early in the song, featuring the beautiful chant of that title from Jon, under carefree, sweeping guitar and catchy bass. It creates this religious atmosphere, but one of joy, like a charismatic Church, but not at all! It’s reprised again at the end, but this time it’s more mellow, with otherworldly tinkling piano. These sections are for me definitely the highlight of the song, they convey something I cannot put to words, a spectral beauty. Something life affirming. However, if the rest of the song was junk, it would still be filler, so luckily the rest of the song is pretty great. Throughout it features various pretty vocal performances from Jon, pretty guitar leads and riffs (including at one point a nice punchy riff) from Steve and Squire’s catchy bass playing. There is also a good hard rocking bit, though it still retains the fundamental optimism of the tune. The song is a beautiful epic mantra, just not as quite as realised as revealing science.

Jesus, look how long this review is. Now I understand why critics hated prog so much, it is hard to review succinctly, unlike a punk song where you can just say “catchy aggressive guitar riff and sneering vocals”. Well, that doesn’t change that this album is great, even if one of the songs blows and it does suffer from padding. The classics make up for it!

FRANK OCEAN – Blonde (2016)

Review by: Eric Pember
Assigned by: Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan


I hadn’t really heard Frank Ocean before now. I did like “Pyramids” because of John Mayer’s David Gilmour-esque guitar solo (which is still his only reason for existing, as far as I’m concerned), but that was about it.

I admit that I’m pretty suspicious of this type of music. It seems very calculated to appeal to those who are too smart for normal Top 40 pop, but at the same time feel distanced from truly experimental music. That also describes me relatively well (I’ve taken to calling myself a “contratarian populist” lately), and thus, I should be able to like this music.

However, I just can’t bring myself to do so. I suspect that part of it is modern production standards. I know that sounds like such a rockist thing to say, and it kinda is, but I can’t get myself not to feel that way. I know that rationally, that’s not true, since I quite like Janelle Monae and Kendrick Lamar. Then again, I’m told that both of them throw back to earlier epochs with their sound, so that’s probably why.

(I’m gonna note right now before I go further that I don’t feel like everything should sound like it did in the 1960s, as much as I like the general sound of the era. It’s just the pop production of this decade that really annoys me, somehow.)

I did start to get used to the production after a few tracks, but that’s when I unveiled another layer. Much of this album sounded like a variant on white guy with acoustic guitar (or as Todd in the Shadows calls it, WGWAG) music. It’s just that, buried underneath modernistic production and the trappings of R&B/soul music, it sounds suave enough to lure in the kind of people who’d usually be repelled by music like this.

Thankfully, after that, yet another layer peeled off and the album suddenly started showing actual potential. “Solo (Reprise)” is written and performed by Andre 3000, which is always a treat. “Pretty Sweet” then manages to build off the momentum that interlude created with some pretty clever atmospherics, which make me want to go back and listen to Channel Orange, because I’ve heard that album is full of that kind of thing.

Unfortunately, immediately after that one more layer peeled off, and the onion was revealed to be rotten from the beginning. “Pretty Sweet” is followed by a potentially-justifiable-but-probably-useless spoken word interlude about Facebook, then it unfortunately returns to the modernistic production and WIGWAG stylizations. So much for the promise the preceding two tracks showed, I guess.

The last layer then peels off, and the album just flatlines in a weird mass of Radiohead-esque emptiness that’s probably supposed to mean something, but doesn’t really add up to anything.

Sorry Star Trek II Wrath of Khan, but I can’t bring myself to like this album, although I could if more of it sounded like “Pretty Sweet”.

THE JIM CARROLL BAND – Catholic Boy (1980)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: B.B. Fultz



Well, somebody said once: “music, like life itself, is cyclic”. So, that means we regularly need a reboot. Humans need to get back (to somewhere they feel like) home, and Music needs to go back to.. well, rock’n roll. Even the good ol’ Beatles had in their short but meaningful career a return to roots (“Get back, Jojo!”).

And Punk was the best reboot that Rock and Roll could think of, at the time at least, with all those Elton John wigs and Styx shining suits. But .. Do you remember that weird band from the late 80s, “Pop Will Eat Itself”? (You don’t? Lucky you, but the name was great). Well, as any major movement, or government or world leader (Hey Romans, I’m looking at you!), no matter how big you get.. You’re scheduled to fall down.

And “Punk ate itself”. Or well the system ate it.. “streamlined it”. But those who survived, those who reconfigured themselves, did great stuff at least for a longer while (Clash, Jam, Cure, etc). The Sex Pistols would apparently reject any “dinosaur rock” reference, but they ended up acknowledging people like Lennon or The Doors.

Thus, Best Punk learned to reconnect with the raw emotion of rock and roll, that was the key, more than any  plastic hairdo – enter Jim Carroll.

Jim was a writer, primarily. I bet that’s how he established some bond with Patti Smith, with whom he got to play about 1978. “Catholic boy” is his band’s first album. And let me tell you, as a quick spoiler, that it rocks (and pops!) really fine.

Jim’s music in this album is good ol’ rock and roll, with great poppy hooks and professional playing. It will turn up as a slow rocking tune in “Day And Night” (female vocals and all), like the early and best Bruce Springsteen. Or feverish and punkish in the opening classic, “Wicked Gravity” and also in  “Three Sisters”. “People Who Died” is another fast rocker, featured on a LOT of movies out there. And the lyrics of course, cut to the bone, and the punk/joyful tone only adds to the wow factor: “Those are people who died, died/They were all my friends, and they died”..

“Crow” reminds me of The Stones’ “Shattered” and it makes sense, being that the Stones’ New Wavish album.

Highlights however are the more adventurous and moody songs like “City Drops Into The Night”. Or The winding “It’s Too Late” and its magnificent guitar work. “Catholic Boy” is a hell of a closer with that punctuating bass riff.

A hell of rock and roll album made with the heart by a Rocker, and of course a Writer. Read those lyrics, the guy will thank you from somewhere above or below where he’s staying with the (other) People Who Died.

Keep on rockin’!

PROCOL HARUM – A Salty Dog (1969)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Ali Ghoneim 


I own a version of the album without the title song A Salty Dog (I own a 2cd version of the the first 4 albums, that also includes the debut album, called Procol harum, without A Whiter Shade Of Pale, go figure), but I will separately review that song at the end.

So my album starts with The Milk Of Human Kindness. With its folky melody and quite bluesy guitar it sounds rather unlike ‘classic Procol harum’, but the voice is Gary Brooker and when the organ joins for the chorus it’s unmistakably Procol harum. Although the guitar sound doesn’t really work for me, it’s an energetic opener.

The second song, Too Much Between Us, is more subdued, with nice acoustic guitar. Paul McCartney would be proud of this song; it’s that nice!

The Devil Came From Kansas starts relatively promising with the verses, but it turns out to be rather mediocre further on. I think it’s the mix of power chords on the guitar, the silly drumming and the whiney group singing. The guitar solo’s are nice, however.

Boredom starts with sleighride sounds ( like a Beach boys Xmas song), but turns out to be more tropical. A nice stylistic excursion, albeit not very substantial. Once again, the singing doesn’t really seem to fit the happy melody but that may be because it tries to convey boredom. With the slightly more enthusiastic yelling at the end you would expect the song to speed up and end in a frenzied hysteria, but nope…

Juicy John Pink starts with bluesy guitar and harmonica and remains a bluesy song throughout. It’s an OK performance, but this really is like ELP playing Are You Ready Eddy?, showing stylistic diversity for the sake of it. And any number of bands of the era could do this better, from Paul Butterfield to Cream.

Wreck Of The Hesperus sounds like a more piano driven and speeded up version of Whiter Shade Of Pale, with added orchestra. An impressive song nonetheless.

All This And More, again, is a very typical Procol Harum song. I like how the vocals, piano and the guitar mix; this is one well arranged song.

Crucifiction Lane is distinguished more by Trowers’ singing than by his guitar playing. It’s sort of a power ballad that suffers a little from a lack of dynamics: there is no strong build up towards a glorious finale, but the instrumental ending is nice.

Pilgrim’s Progress is a little Paul McCartneyesque once more: nice vocal lines but the organ moves into Whiter Shade territory pretty soon. The hand clapping at the end gives it almost a gospel feeling.

A Salty Dog really belongs here, as it gave the album its title. It starts and ends with seagulls screeching. It’s a very solemn song, mostly because of the organ, but also because the singing is by far the best on this song.

On the whole I would call this album more symphonic rock than progressive rock, as only in the double keyboards (and in the song titles) something proggy could be discerned. The orchestral flourishes and some nice compositions elevate it above the pop music of the day, but instrumental virtuosity, tricky time signatures and heavy philosophical or mystical lyrics are mostly absent. Not having listened to it for a few years it was actually quite a bit more middle of the road than I remembered. It’s pleasant music, but I somehow expected something more challenging of it.


Review by: Mark Maria Ahsmann
Album assigned by: Nina A



…към features fairly decent but not outstanding and somewhat generic 90’s pop rock. The songs are all well arranged – in particular I like the sound of the lead guitar which seems influenced by Reeves Gabrels’ work with Bowie on Hours. And the singing is competent. The overall sound is upbeat, accessible, melodic, mostly based on drums, bass, (alternating acoustic and electric) rhythm guitar and lead guitar. On some places horns and female vocals are added. There are a few excursions to other genres, like light hiphop on “Da”. It all sounds a little derivative though I can’t really pinpoint it to any artist that would be an obvious example. Though sometimes U2 comes to mind – I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Apart from the language in which it is sung and some minor details in the arrangements (like the start of the first song “Nov”) the sound is very Western – you wouldn’t know it was a Bulgarian album apart from that.
All in all it was a mildly pleasant listening experiment though I found the refrains of some songs quite cheesy. Especially on the first song, I found that really so off putting that at first it coloured my view of the whole album.


Review by: Charly Saenz and Jonathan Moss


Rush have a reputation as a mediocre second generation prog rock band. Their reputation is similar to first gen prog band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, a lot of instrumental talent, but most of it wasted. While I would argue slightly with this appraisal of ELP, it’s more or less completely accurate for Rush (or should that be Lifeson, Lee & Peart?). However, for a brief moment, Rush were one of the greatest bands in the world. This kind of started with Permanent Waves, but that was still too proggy and fillerish. Things got considerably better with Moving Pictures, which is a minor classic, featuring, lets get this strait, some gorgeous synth tones. However, it was only with their ninth studio album Signals that they managed completely to remove any prog influence and embrace beautiful art rockish new wave. You can hear this immediately in the guitar solos, which far from sounding generically heavy metal, are restrained and tasteful, and anyone who tells you otherwise is strait up deluded.

I know this is an incredibly uncool thing to say about Rush, but this is such a cool sounding album! Our friend Franco Micale has always argued to me that Rush had a slightly alt-rockish sound, and he’s completely correct, especially on this album, with its catchy melodies and arpeggiated guitar riffs. The synth tones are absolutely blissful as well, they have an almost retro vibe to them, like 60s organs. But at the same time they also have a kind of futuristic vibe, retro-futurism if you will. Geddy’s bass playing is great as well, fluid and melodic throughout, you can call him a frustrated lead guitarist if you want, but that whole idea is bullshit, and insulting to bass players. His vocals are certainly an acquired taste, he definitely sounds sincere throughout the album and manages to get the messages of Neil’s lyrics across with passion. Speaking of Neil, while he is definitely overrated as a drummer, his work on Signals is graceful and accomplished.

There’s a bold statement to start the album, a fierce proud synthesizer pattern that becomes a small symphony when Peart starts weaving the rhythm around with the usual perfect bassline by Geddy, and his controlled voice is the human beauty in the technically charged surroundings. “Subdivisions” is a rebellious chant detailing cold society oppression, The Machine.

“Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone” “

“The Analog Kid” starts off as a more direct rocker with the superb riff by Lifeson, but it’s the otherworldly interaction among the three players here, and those tasty keyboards that send this song directly to heaven. No, this is not Prog Rock. This is plain old Rock with a new sound. It’s definitely the most beautiful song on the album, the way Geddy sings “you move me you move me”, well, it moves me 😛

And, as resident Rushologist Jonathan Hopkins says: “One time, I got really high and listened to the Analog Kid like 20 times in a row because I didn’t realize I wasn’t changing songs. It’s a great song.”

“Chemistry” reminds us how Rush were few of the mainstream acts of their time (Police also comes to mind) to incorporate reggae vibes successfully into their sound. So does “Digital Man” and the fantastic, catchy break:

“He’d love to spend the night in zion
He’s been a long while in babylon
He’d like a lover’s wings to fly on
To a tropic isle of avalon”

The song contains a wonderfully melodic and playful bassline, and the reggaeish guitar playing gives it an almost urban vibe. The song is downright groovy. The song also has a great chorus, feauturing some juttering, funky synth playing. Oh, and that guitar solo!

“The Weapon” might easily be one of those overlooked gems in the album. The opening synth melody is somewhat Devoish (New Traditionalists Devo), just real sort of warm and deep, with a kind of looping, computerish quality. Sci-fi, if you want us to make it sound lame. I guess, to make it sound cool to the kids, we’ll call it proto-synthwave as well. The drone guitar weaves a luxury melody, and by the minute 4, it becomes bigger than life; the keyboards hardly appear as a symbol of modernity. The mid way point of the song, with its soaring guitar, sounds almost ambient. It’s got that dark urban city vibe. The finale with the fading guitar is Beatle-level fantasy.

“New World Man” was the single of the album, made at the last minute to complete its tracklist. It’s a strait rocker and it appealed to the masses. It opens with a fun goofy sounding synths, followed by some melodic, R.E.Mish guitar work. The chorus is super catchy as well, even if it does stray slightly into proggish pomposity. Still, when Geddy belts out “HE’S A NEW WORLD MAN” I just want to sing along.

The most delicate piece in the album, is without a doubt, “Losing It”. The electric violin played by Ben Mink is the best introduction to some refined lyrics using the adequate dancer’s metaphor to discuss time passing and crushed illusions:

“Some are born to move the world —
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we’d like to be”

The synth pattern that opens the song and stays throughout is gentle and lullabyish, and the guitar tone has a mournful melancholic quality. The song does have a slightly arena-rockish sound during parts, but its fine, the cunts pull it off. It still doesn’t fail to detract from the gentle quality of the song.

“Countdown” is a fine way to end the album, even if the clips from an actual countdown are cheesy as fuck. It features an ominous synth and guitar line working well together to make the song seem creepy. I guess this is to convey hour nerve racking a NASA launch would be, which, duh. Geddy’s vocal melody manages to imbue the song with some sense of calm though, he just sounds so assertive and confident. There’s a fun, squiggly little keyboard line later on, and the chorus is tense and memorable.

Signals might be considered a maligned album by many, but it meant a lot to many people, it stands right in the middle of Rush’s career between their progressive beginnings, right after their breakthrough album and their newer stuff, who arguably abuses the 80s production a little bit. It’s full of hooks, touching and meaningful lyrics.

But here, we’re still at the perfect top. Exquisite keyboards, how to sound futuristic without being a cold bitch, and feeling without leaving the rock pulse.

Fuck you, Michael Strait. With Love, of course.

MOSSING ABOUT: COMUS – First Utterance (1971)

Review by: Jonathan Moss



My dumb brother’s standard complaint about folk music is that its boring, but for me this marvellous album by Comus proves otherwise. It hasn’t been called “satanic goat music” for nothing after all. Simply put, this album features some really well-played, mysterious guitar playing and haunting, eerie vocals. But it also has an unhinged, freakish quality which stops it from sounding like Led Zeppelin’s folk shit or something. There’s something delightfully individual about this album, its sprawling and occult, and feels genuine in a way that Led Zeppelin don’t. I can’t imagine the people who made this being quite normal.

The album starts off just fucking amazingly with “Diana”. What a great way to introduce Comus! It’s bizarre and freakish to the point of almost being comical, like some weird circus song. The bass is loud and goofy, the guitar playing sounds like a whimsical sitar, there’s a chugging violin (or similar instrument) and Roger Wootton sings in a ridiculous but endearing falsetto. It’s like if The Residents played folk music, almost. The song does have moments of tenderness though, there’s some pretty female vocals and the violin playing during the chorus is beautiful. The violin rules on this song actually, it gets a very dramatic solo halfway through. So yes, this is a short, catchy opener which surrealistically shows off the albums charms. The album gets into its more mysterious side with the second song, a twelve minute creeper called “The Herald”. The guitar playing on it sounds like it could be played by the melancholic ghost of a young man who killed himself, and the female vocals his mourning lover. The accompanying woodwind works fantastically as well, even if it does sound a bit like a theremin. The chorus is actually really catchy and gorgeous though, with the rising vocals during it suggesting hope and reconciliation, somewhat reminding me of Wind in the Willows. Outside of that though the song conjures the vibe off a misty forest surrounded by mountains and abandoned villages. At twelve minutes the song shows why the album has the prog tag, but to be honest its more krautrocky, just in terms of the hypnotic quality. The mesmerising guitar playing and hypnotic vibe help the song to maintain its stamina, like a naked female runner.

Drip Drip” is the second epic, but it comes in at slightly shorter, clocking at eleven minutes rather than twelve. Thanks for the breather, guys. “Drip Drip” has a much more Indian vibe than “The Herald”, with the acoustic guitars once again sounding like sitars. The guitars are different as well on this one, being more riffy and chord based than the spiderlike picked ones on “The Herald”. With Roger taking the vocals again this is a much more menacing song, the violin sounding like it thinks it could do better than the score for Psycho. The chorus of the song is really bewitching though, with Roger’s falsetto sounding more angelic than creepy and the violin like an angel who suddenly deemed the works of Hitchcock base and immoral. The freakish, playful sound helps to give the song a manic intensity, along with the urgent “la la la la” female vocals. Now that I think about it, the song could totally be converted to a Rolling Stonesesque hard rocker, thats how driving it is! Or at least one of Gabriel era Genesis’ rockier numbers. If “The Herald” is the abandoned village, “Drip Drop” is wonderer’s finding the village and celebrating with a pagan dance, yet not managing to keep their nerve when they consider the creepy, dead atmosphere of the village. Less abstractly, around the six minute mark the tune kicks in with a great, funky, ominous bassline. Hows that for diversity!?

I don’t want this review to be too long so I’m just going to crudely lump the last four songs together in this paragraph, and describe them in more brevity than the last two. “Song for Comus” is a melodic, groovy number with some piercing woodwind, agitated acoustic riffing (it sounds like he’s just playing two notes together over and over again) and passionate vocals. The song soon builds up in passion, like when you’re microwaving popcorn and you can tell its almost done because of how rapid the popping becomes. “The Bite” has some electric guitar playing! The acoustic guitar riff and flute in this song is manic as fuck, it sounds like an escaped mental patient running as fast as they can from the asylum that housed them, and with the same amount of joy! The violin playing suggests a whole level of drama, as do the piercing female vocals during the chorus, jaunty but anxious flute, chugging violin and stern tone of Roger. “Bitten” is an eerier song, it has scraping violin like the playing on King Crimson’s song “Providence”, a chunky, menacing bassline and eerie, ghost story guitar playing. And that’s it! Cool spooky instrumental. Lonely, melancholic guitar playing opens “The Prisoner”, and more pseudo-theremin. After this a more gentle guitar line starts, along with an almost Nick Drakeish lead one. Roger delivers a touching, subtle vocal performance, accompanied by Bobbie’s sweet female vocals. The song has a really warm vibe to it, with the violin playing sounding like it could accompany a film about some ambitious go-getter. “And they gave me shock treatment!” is a super catchy singalong part of the song, leading on to more dramatic male-female dialogue. “The Prisoner” has a lot of energy and momentum to it. Something I forgot to mention earlier but will now is that the album at times has an almost gypsy like vibe, which is prominent during the end of “The Prisoner”, which is a frenzied dance with screamed gibberish vocals!

So, to conclude, this is a very special, unique album, with a collection of truly epic guitar work, violin playing, woodwind and other assorted instruments, with two unique vocalists to top it all off. Please listen to it as soon as possible! So you too can experience the pleasure of seeing satanic goats without having to take acid or watch a cheesy eighties horror film.

THE PASTELS – Up for a Bit with the Pastels (1987)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

The formula of gorgeous jangly music + random dissatisfied lyrics sung in a mostly unfeeling voice has been mined to death by the Smiths, of course (only at least Morrissey knows modulation and expressiveness), and if you add a bit of baroque pop extravaganza in the general spirit of “Golden Brown”, you get the opener “Ride”. In other words, something right at home in the 80s. In fact, the next track deviates only a bit by being a blues shuffle in jangly pop disguise. And then there are more songs. And they are all nice and inoffensive, perfect for college kids, I imagine, lyrically too, probably, but I wouldn’t know that because really the lyrical content fits the melancholic 80s kids aesthetic best when it is perceived as the generic teenage mumbling it is.
You see, if you’re over the age of 20, I doubt that you’d play any of these songs over and over and say, man, this song has so much meaning!!!! No, I imagine “old guns” only using this album as a mood music or the soundtrack to reminiscing of better times — the time when you’re under 20 and a record like this could blow your mind. And with 10 songs clocking at more or less 3 minutes each, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either, so in what I’d say in conclusion is Up For A Bit With the Pastels, “I am alright with you”.