Sunday 26 March 2023

Judee Sill - The Donor

Judee Sill - The Donor (1973)
If I recall correctly Judee Sill had been a teenage delinquent who was sent to a Christian reform school where she ended up playing the church organ. Later she became enamoured by hymns and channelled all things mystical into her music. At some point though I think she was even in some kind of new age cult. Sill was a fascinating woman, an erratic genius and a rock'n'roll outlaw. How has she not been on the cover of Mojo magazine ten times by now? However her infamous notoriety and ultimate tragedy usually overshadows her artistic achievements which is a shame because THE real story is her exalted music. This stuff is just elevated higher than the rest.

Judee Sill is a musical messiah offering up her divine gifts to we who are not worthy. The Donor outdoes the peak sublime moments of Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Linda Perhacs, David Crosby, Gene Clark, Dennis Wilson et al. and foreshadows the delights of His Name Is Alive, Liz Phair, Panda Bear, Grouper etc.

The consensus in the youtube comments is that The Donor is "heavenly" and "a masterpiece" One thing I love about comments sections under great ye olde songs is that you usually get some oldies who heard the music back in the day and still can't believe how good it is. Then you have the young folk, who heard it for the first time the day they left a comment and they also can't believe how good it is. Anyway it seems everyone who hears this track is totally moved by it. Sill was aware of the effect of her music stating "my music is really magnified four part choral style. It gets to people's emotional centres quickly"

This is just one song, sure it's her most divine and epic effort but she has two LPs worth of enchanting folk pop with cosmic, classical and ecclesiastical overtones. Judee Sill came up with a term for her deceptively simple yet complex music "country-cult-baroque" which is perfectly succinct.

Speaking of perfection. It does not get better than this.

Johnny Cash - They Killed Him

Johnny Cash's influence on the whole hypnagogic chillwave scene has been underestimated. The heavenly reverberating production on this is just gorgeous. Plus that ghostly kids choir moment is an unexpected creepy delight. It's a shame he didn't do an entire double LP in this style. It would have been the best album of the 80s. I dedicate this to the only holy son of man I know me. How this was not a number one smash across the globe in 1984 still puzzles me.

Friday 24 March 2023

They Are Gutting A Body Of Water

Kmart Amen Break (2022)
Well I guess I was expecting some kind of of retro Amen smasher 94 style with a dash of shoegaze but that's not really what we get exactly. Actually I'm not even sure what we've got here. TAGABOW are another group from the the current Philadelphia scene. I can hear hints of their forefathers like Blue Smiley and early Spirit Of The Beehive. This is noisey shoegaze jungle (There's some kind of breakbeat science submerged under that racket) goes slowcore hypnagogia with a chipmunk choir singalong. As far as song structures go this is anarchistic. The kids might have a name for this kind of genre mash up, who knows? It's something you might have imagined James Ferraro doing once upon a time instead of whatever crap he's actually doing right now. Unpredictable, strange, psychedelic and ultimately quite fabulous.  

Menthol Box (2021)
This one has an audible assemblage of breaks jungle stylee. I can't make out if it's an Amen or not. Anyhow it's a pretty faithful facsimile of a 93/94 jungle rhythm with added My Bloody Valentine-esque noise. It's as good as anything Third Eye Foundation ever did... only thing is they did it in the 90s when it was, you know like... a happening thing. Nevertheless it's pretty infectious. Back to the future.  

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Stephen Kilroy


Stephen Kilroy - When Planets Align (1991)
Killing Capitalism With Kindness: An XPRESSWAY Compilation - Various 

I wanted to show an example of the "no-fi diy psych drone ambient noise" that had been going on in New Zealand before Flying Saucer Attack renamed it rural psychedelia and called it their own. These are peak examples noise-y psych drone from the late 80s/early 90s. 

Kilroy is mainly known for being an engineer and producer. He's recorded some of NZ's most legendary artists like The Clean, Snapper, The Terminals, The 3Ds, The Cake Kitchen, Sandra Bell et al. Naturally he has engineered some of Roy Montgomery's most well known music as well as being a fleeting member of 90s Flying Nun groups Chug, King Loser and a duo with Peter Jefferies.

Anyway he really could have had a promising tiny career as a cult guitarist doing these little noisey psych-folk/space-rock jamz but that was not to be. He only ever had a few tracks released.   

Stephen Kilroy - 45 Degrees Below Frozen (1988)
5 Xpressway Pile=Up - Various (cat no. X/WAY 5) Cassette

Saturday 18 March 2023

Full Body 2

Full Body 2 - Mirror Spirit (2022)
I wonder if the members of My Bloody Valentine realise the enormity of the spell they have cast over generations young regional guitar bands. They are more popular and adored than ever before. Go on youtube, bandcamp or spotify and you will find a gazillion kids from all corners of the globe doing spirited replicas of all things shoegaze-y. 

Full Body 2 are a relatively new group on the Philadelphia scene. It's hard not to like Mirror Spirit's electrifying buzz.

Full Body 2 - 2g ether (2022)
This one's even better. A jubilant sonic sherbet bomb.

For the shoegaze nut who lives in a perpetual 1994, this is what we would have really preferred instead of the disappointing bullshit of Slow Buildings, Carnival Of LightSouvlaki etc. and the non arrival of any new My Bloody Valentine material.

*I must admit I've now come round to Souvlaki. Only took 30 years. The other two records? Fuck off. 

Full Body 2 - Dancer's Theme (2022)
93/94 style ambient jungle meets the fizz of Glass Swords era Rustie. I like how Full Body 2 have no qualms about mixing in all these elements so long as an ecstatic goal has been reached. They get the mission statement of My Bloody Valentine. 

Another influence on the more adventurous of bands in this milieu seems to be Sweet Trip whose dream-pop, shoegaze, IDM, drill n bass,  ambient, glitch and noise amalgam seemed a bit too obvious and clunky when those early records appeared on Darla at the turn of the millennium. However, as is often the case, the next generation has picked up on these ideas, particularly 2003's Velocity:Design:Comfort, and found them useful. 

Full Body 2 - Sprite Ocarina (2021)
Quite the impressive sound design, Sprite Ocarina goes off the beaten path into some glitch-y gloomy doomcore and ends up in some strange Steve Reich goes ambient techno jam or something. A lot going on here. 

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Blue Smiley - Return

21st century shoegaze bands really haven't appealed to my 80s & 90s soul. I couldn't stand Deerhunter and Atlas Sound. Then there was a glut of groups which were so awful that I can't even recall their names. There was a Welsh group I heard once and liked. I didn't mind Belong and Winona Dryver had an excellent song. Then blackgaze and the whole doom and whatever metal crossed with Shoegaze... just nah... no thanks...nope... and I love me some old school and second wave Black Metal. M83 were sometimes ok whatever their sub-genre was. I've never checked Grouper's Liz Harris in her shoegaze outfit Helen which is weird because i'd probably like them. I didn't understand how Spirit Of The Beehive's consummate throwback to 90s slacker alt-rock & psychedelic grunge got tagged shoegaze but whatever...

So that brings us to Blue Smiley who were contemporaries of Spirit Of The Beehive in Philadelphia during the mid 2010s. Blue Smiley's Return mini album from 2016 is probably the only innovative shoegaze record of the new millennium. They did the impossible and made shoegaze fresh, fun, exciting and unique again. Its got heavy use and abuse of that chorus effect (sorry I'm no gear head, is it chorus?), frantic shimmering jangles, helium cloud synths and ecstatic lawn mowing lead breaks. 


If the Pale Saints were fully obsessed with all the fluttery bits of guitaring from rock's history, had the brevity and dexterity of Minutemen and were produced by Scott Cortez it might have sounded like this. This is some of the most buoyant shoegazery put to tape. The sonic shapeshifting's like squishing marshmallows. These fizzy to fuzzy and back again tunes burst into life like fireflies, just a flash and then they're gone.


Talk about leaving you wanting more, not long after the release of this all too brief album of supreme sherbet bomb shoegaze the band's mastermind Brian Nowell died. He was just 26. The twenty minutes of Return has already proved influential though, inspiring the current crop of groups in Philadelphia including They Are Gutting A Body Of Water, A Country Western and Full Body 2

Monday 13 March 2023

Flying Saucer Attack

Flying Saucer Attack - Everywhere Was Everything (1994)
This is right in the sweet spot of all the converging things noise-pop, shoegaze, space rock, lo-fi, drone-y psych-folk and whatever else I've forgotten. Such fresh exciting territory at the time, it gave new hope for those of us still wanting the ultimate in psychedelic pop noise.

Flying Saucer Attack - For Silence (1995)
Probably my favourite FSA jam from their second LP Further. Starts out out all mellow, lo-fi & folky then ends up in a meteor shower space rock storm. Peak FSA.

Friday 10 March 2023

Cocteau Twins 1984

Cocteau Twins - The Spangle Maker (1984)
You can't ignore this musical statement from 1984. You can ignore all the cliches ever written about the band though. All you need to do is listen and you will realise why so many idiots have made fools of themselves trying to come up with superlative adjectives to explain their awe while listening to Cocteau Twins. 

Cocteau Twins - Pearly Dewdrops Drop (1984)
Is this their best tune? Glistening guitar waterfalls cascading into fluffy clouds, celestial alliteration and ecstatic glossolalia coalesce in this sublime, enigmatic and magic music.  

I have recently read a lot of absolute crap on the internet since I started posting stuff about Twin Peaks, Cocteau Twins, dreampop, noise-pop, shoegaze etc. I have the knowledge because I was there in the 80s and 90s when it all happened. However finding old reviews written at the time these records were released is impossible. I've always thought the level of information and discourse about music on Pitchfork, allmusic, Trouser Press, wikipedia was poor but boy are they are scraping the barrel way worse than ever now. So many bad writers with so little insight. The internet had such potential with regard to music, its history and the history of of writing about music but it's time to face facts: It's pretty crap. Potential not realised. I would have thought every obscure fanzine from the 80s & 90s would have been scanned and uploaded to the web by now creating an unprecedented abundance of material for fans to revel in. Where are all the great music resources? Am I just not finding them or are they just not there?  

I just read a feature article about Cocteau Twins on, I think, a Chicago newspaper's website. The story was so wrong it was backwards. The writer was asserting how much the Cocteaus were influenced by The Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine and how they integrated various aspects of each of these bands into their own aesthetic. It was strange because the author was obviously a fan of the group, or at least the Heaven Or Las Vegas LP, and had a good understanding of what made them so great but had this part of their story so fundamentally wrong. The funny thing is, this was posted a couple of years ago and the incorrect article has not been taken down or corrected...

Cocteau Twins - Otterley (1984)
One of the Cocteau's most restrained efforts but also one of their most atmospheric. This dark tone is deliciously eldritch. Surely this is another track that Angelo Badalamenti loved as that haunting vibe was all over Julee Cruise's Floating Into The Night and Twin Peaks.

Cocteau Twins - Pandora (1984)
Hang on I nearly forgot this one, it might be their best tune. Luxuriate in the subtle impressionistic psychedelia of the most perfect kind. The shoegaze brigade totally missed this memo.  

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Flying Saucer Attack - 1993

Flying Saucer Attack - Soaring High (1993)
Hard to believe FSA's debut single is 30 years old. This was a much needed injection of youthful exuberance into a flailing noise-pop, shoegaze, neo-psych scene at the time. Underneath the foggy hiss and distorted reverb is perhaps an indie pop gem. The swathes and waves of beautiful noise, reminiscent of early Jesus & Mary Chain and early AR Kane, are fused with the ghostly remnants of a Barney Sumner-esque pop tune. Soaring High indeed.

Flying Saucer Attack - Wish (1993)
The second single starts out all calm with low key distorted jangling and soft choir boy vocals but that soon surges into a maelstrom of supreme mangled psychedelic space rock. Such fun. Now that I'm old though, I'm wondering if they needed to rinse & repeat that outlined description or maybe they could have just ended the song at the halfway mark. Yeah nah, just listened to it again and the second round of cacophonous psych space rock is even better so er... rock on FSA.

Flying Saucer Attack - Oceans (1993)
The b-side does what is says on the tin ie. it's oceanic. Textures, ebbs and flows as opposed to going for the jugular of the previous two tunes with quiet to loud pay off dynamics. This is indebted to AR Kane's Sixty Nine, Kosmische, The Residents' Eskimo, the Xpressway catalogue and their no-fi production aesthetics. 

Sunday 5 March 2023

Cocteau Twins 1983

Cocteau Twins - Sugar Hiccup (1983)
What's amazing about this most exquisite pop tune is that it's a blueprint for what was to become The Cocteau Twins most famous record Heaven Or Las Vegas which was still 7 years away at this stage. It's also the signpost for all future great Cocteau Twins tunes.

Sugar Hiccup is a truly historic moment in pop. This is where Cocteau Twins emerged out of the post-punk and goth jungle with a lustrous template of future pop which would eventually lead them to becoming music icons.

Someone asked me in the mid 90s "Why on earth are you still listening to this?" As if it was the most anachronistic and lame thing to be spending my time doing. As if to say "You left high school five years ago. Grow up. This is so 80s it's embarrassing that you are still listening to this right now" This was a dumb comment then, as it is now.

What they were really saying was: "Timmy why are you listening to one of the most delightful tunes in history of pop music?"

Timmy: "Gee I dunno because it's the best!"

For new artists The Cocteau Twins are still a popular name to drop as an inspiration in interviews apparently. They ended up becoming one of the most influential groups ever. The thing is nobody who has employed a Cocteau aesthetic has ever bettered them. Not one artist influenced by them has come anywhere near capturing their essence. That would be impossible due to their supreme uniqueness. Even capturing their spirit or showing a proper understanding what they were achieving artistically seems elusive to the countless artists who have cited them as influence.  

Cocteau Twins - When Momma Was Moth (1983)
If you stripped the vocals and drums off here, this would sound like a Burzum intro from 1992. 

Also this is produced by John Fryer, just before The Cocteau Twins took over producing their own records. Nobody talks about him any more but he was good at the ole producing and stuff. I mean this fella fiddled the knobs on Song To The Siren as well as for 80s legends Fad Gadget, Depeche Mode, Clan Of Xymox etc. He later produced Nine Inch Nails & Pale Saints.

Impressively Cocteau guitarist Robin Guthrie quickly became a consummate producer so by 1984 he was also producing other artists. By the time he got to 1987 he had produced some legendary records for some great artists like Felt, Gun Club, Edwyn Collins, Dif Juz & AR Kane. Not a bad roll call for somebody who'd been producing for less than five years.

Anyway this has an epic nocturnal vibe. Their goth-y post-punk moments are underrated. Also very bloody strange.

Thursday 2 March 2023

Roy Montgomery - Scenes From The South Island

Roy Montgomery - Winding It Out On The High Country (1995)
My favourite thing is when he does the space-rock jams. He's just so good at it. The way he gets his guitar to sound like a cosmic orchestra with just a few fx is remarkable. 

Why are the aliens landing in an isolated corner of an island at the end of the earth?  

Roy Montgomery - Twilight Conversation (1995)
A wonderfully restrained atmospheric excursion where every meditative second is captivating. Pure hermetic psychedelia.


Roy Montgomery - The Road To Diamond Harbour
This is the vibe. The Two Lane Blacktop/Zabriskie Point/Vanishing Point vibe. Blow out the mutherfuckin cobwebs like we're on the xpressway with fellow travellers Pete Gutteridge and Chris Heazlewood. Motorin to the end of the earth until we fall off.

*The sound of this recording is what it's all about. The two albums, the previously posted Temple IV and Scenes Of A South Island, were recoded during the same sessions. Together they are masterpiece of four track sound engineering. My best mate from high school was a sound engineer he could probably tell you the ins and outs of why this album sounds so great. Me, I've just got layman's terms and crap poetic analogies. The guitar tone and guitar sound are like nothing I've ever heard. This is a subtle thing but if you go ahead to Montgomery's early 00s recordings the guitar just doesn't sound like this. Kinda like being wrapped up in a warm blanket on a brisk night on a windswept ocean cliff.