Tag Archives: ‘Organ’ (magazine/promoter/record label)

June 2016 – upcoming gigs in London – Tim Hodgkinson triple event with Zinc Trio, John Greaves, Yumi Hara, Geraldine Swayne, Guy Harries, Static Memories, Tom White and Rob Lyle (14th-17th)

7 Jun

The continued association shared by the former members of Henry Cow (and their ceaseless inspiration to work either collectively and individually) remains a gift that keeps on giving. Over the course of a single week in London this month, Henry Cow reeds-and-keyboard player Tim Hodgkinson (arguably the band’s most prolific and rigorously avant-garde member) plays at two shows at the Iklectik Arts Lab, one of which also features his old Cow sparring partner John Greaves as well as two vigorously creative women from the younger generation of the ever-broadening Cow/Faust/Rock In Opposition avant-rock circles. In between, he’s launching a book and delivering a talk on his own concept of musicality, complete with another live musical performance.

* * * * * * * *

The Horse Improvised Music Club presents:
Gus Garside/Dan Powell/Tom White/Rob Lye + Zinc Trio (Tim Hodgkinson/Hannah Marshall/Paul May)
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 14th June 2016, 8.45pm
– more information

At this evening for Lambeth experimental night The Horse Improv Club, Tim Hodgkinson plays clarinet in spontaneous free-jazz team Zinc Trio, which also features Hannah Marshall on cello and Paul May on drums. Paul is the most recent member of the trio, which previously saw Tim and Hannah working with another drummer – English improv legend Roger Turner. The earlier trio can be seen here, scurrying and forging through a full-torrent 2009 improvisation.

Also on the bill are a new and possibly one-off quartet. Brighton duo The Static Memories, made up of Arc/In Sand/Safehouse collective member Gus Garside (double bass player, educator and National Arts Development Manager for Mencap) and Dan Powell (guitar and electronics, also a member of mischievous Brighton performance duo Nil and one of the people behind Brighton’s Spirit of Gravity experimental night) team up with the London duo of Tom White and Rob Lye (who work with electronics and reel-to-reel tape recorder). Here’s a Static Memories clip to clue you in, along with a White/Lye one: soundclash them together all on your own.

 
* * * * * * * *

Tim Hodgkinson book launch, 16th June 2016

CPAD (Centre of Performing Arts Development) at School of Arts and Digital Industries, University of East London, presents:
UEL Practice as Research event Series #1: ‘Music and the Myth of Wholeness’ talk and performance by Tim Hodgkinson (hosted by Yumi Hara and Guy Harries)
US.3.02 (Studio 3) University Square Stratford, University of East London,
1 Salway Road, Stratford London, E15 1NF, England
Thursday 16th June 2016, 7.00 pm
– free ticketed event with very limited space – tickets here

This is a launch event for Tim’s latest book, in which he “proposes a theory of aesthetics and music grounded in the boundary between nature and culture within the human being. His analysis discards the conventional idea of the human being as an integrated whole in favor of a rich and complex field in which incompatible kinds of information — biological and cultural—collide… As a young musician, Hodgkinson realized that music was, in some mysterious way, ‘of itself’ —not isolated from life, but not entirely continuous with it, either. Drawing on his experiences as a musician, composer, and anthropologist, Hodgkinson shows how when we listen to music a new subjectivity comes to life in ourselves. The normal mode of agency is suspended, and the subjectivity inscribed in the music comes toward us as a formative ‘other’ to engage with. But this is not our reproduction of the composer’s own subjectivation; when we perform our listening of the music, we are sharing the formative risks taken by its maker.”

Tim will be expounding on this in a lecture including passing examinations of “three composers who have each claimed to stimulate a new way of listening: Pierre Schaeffer, John Cage, and Helmut Lachenmann.”. In addition, there’ll be a music performance in which Tim is joined by University of East London lecturers and musicians Yumi Hara (voice, harp and found objects) and Guy Harries (flute and found objects). Both are experienced and diverse musicians – as well as being a perpetually active solo performer and serial collaborator, Yumi is a member of various Henry Cow/Faust related projects (The Artaud Beats, Jump for Joy!, Lindsay Cooper repertoire band Half the Sky), was a former Frank Chickens member, and was the driving force behind London’s ‘Bonobo’s Ark’ events (at which ‘Misfit City’ spent a number of intriguing evenings in the late ’90s); while Guy’s work spans singer-songwriter projects, experimental multimedia musicals and opera, and assorted collectives (Bodylab Arts Foundation, the POW Ensemble, Live Hazard) across multiple genres.

* * * * * * * *
'Other, Of Itself', 17th June 2016

Iklectik Arts Lab presents:
‘Other, Of Itself’: Yumi Hara + Tim Hodgkinson + Geraldine Swayne + John Greaves
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Friday 17th June 2016, 8.30pm
more info

Yumi (on voice, harp and piano) and Tim (on bass clarinet and pedal steel guitar) reunite the very next evening for another concert. For this one, they’ll be joined on keyboards, electronics and voice by Geraldine Swayne (fine artist, film maker and – as musician – a member of both Faust and …bender) and by Tim’s old Henry Cow sparring partner John Greaves (voice, bass guitar, piano). It’s a loosely-structured quartet evening during which the four musician will work in various combinations including a Hodgkinson/Hara duet and a John Greaves solo set on voice and piano (performing selections from his own song repertoire).
In addition, Marina Organ (‘Organ‘, ‘The Other Rock Show‘) will be contributing a DJ set.
 

July 1999 – EP reviews – Cardiacs/Camp Blackfoot’s ‘Cardiacs Meet Camp Blackfoot’ EP (“an explosion in a fairground repair shop… a belting mixture of howling-for-vengeance free-jazz saxes, prog-from-hell and hardcore trash-blues”)

7 Jul

Cardiacs/Camp Blackfoot: 'Cardiacs Meet Camp Blackfoot' EP

Cardiacs/Camp Blackfoot: ‘Cardiacs Meet Camp Blackfoot’ EP

You already know Cardiacs, or you ought to. They’re that gang of besuited gentlemen from Chessington, Kingston and Milton Keynes – upsetters of pop rules known for busting out of tight waistcoats, with a sound like an explosion in a fairground repair shop. And who specialise in hatefully brilliant singles midway between masochism and ecstacy, as pleasurable as scratching a really luxurious, pestilential itch.

Sleep All Eyes Open doesn’t let that line of guilty pleasures down, tying knots in Super Furry Animals and The Glitter Band to make a glammy mess of noisy guitars and monkey-gland logic. Here’s something that really enjoys how gloriously dumb-to-the-max it is – listen to those handclaps, and that dum-dum riff bouncing its knuckles along the ground. Yet it evolves fast, ideas yomping around, running off into ever-more crowded angles and arguments while Tim Smith yelps like a circusful of trampolining dogs. Cardiacs always cram their songs to bursting point but never lose any of it to blind alleys or prog meandering. And if I still haven’t a clue what they’re singing about, I think there’s something in the back of my head which does, whooping and waving a flag whenever I hear them let something like this out of the box.


 
The five-year-old bonus tracks (from the mind-boggling ‘Sing to God’ album) haven’t worn badly either. Dirty Boy hammers and claws through seven minutes of huge black-metal guitars and ends up flailing against the wall in an ecstatic stuck groove of wailing choir and electric-shock organ. Foundling is a mediaeval creak of sleep, death and aching men’s feet, worthy of Robert Wyatt. And there’s a celebratory, singalongaTim instrumental mix of Insect Hooves on Lassie- and that’s so tuneful it could get a corpse up and idiot-dancing within seconds. These guys are old enough to be Blur’s granddads, for God’s sake – how come they still make almost any other British rock group sound half-hearted and half-asleep?




 
Camp Blackfoot, hanging onto the other half of this EP, grab the challenge with both hands and a ravening mouthful of teeth. It says here that they’ve chewed their way out of the corpse of Thirteen Ghosts (Oxford’s finest in thrash-improv… hmmm), and they don’t bother with all that business of the dichotomy between social discipline and chaotic emotions. They just hit the record button and scream. A belting mixture of howling-for-vengeance free-jazz saxes, prog-from- hell and hardcore trash-blues comes tumbling out onto the carpet and burns a huge hole in it. Somewhere, Lester Bangs is laughing his head off.


 
If you wanted to hear serious avant-garde psychobilly locked into a no-holds-barred deathmatch with art-noise, you’ve come to the right place. Ruins forcibly manhandling the Blues Explosion into a blender wouldn’t even come close to The Blue Hood’s shredding monster-movie music; while The Other Giaconda is what might’ve happened had King Crimson ever really exploded onstage in squalling Stooges style, neurotic precision blowing the safety valve a foot deep into the ceiling. And The Red Mist tops the lot- squiggly Morricone noises that burst into enormous barbed- wire riffing and an epically hallucinating murder song, a weird doomed narrative which sees a desperate man’s mutter rising to a horrified scream: “The street melts under my feet… I’m drowning in a boiling sea of salt,/ faces are ugly / I – Mother of God!”



 
Songs to crash your car to, and the soundtrack to strutting away from the blaze looking cooler than ever. Not really something that works with Coldplay, I think.

Cardiacs/Camp Blackfoot: ‘Cardiacs Meet Camp Blackfoot’
Org Records, ORG 056CD (5 028151 010568)
CD-only EP
Released: 5th July 1999

Get it from: (2020 update) Limited edition of 1,000 – best obtained second-hand.
Cardiacs online:
Homepage Facebook MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Google Play Pandora Amazon Music
Camp Blackfoot online:
Homepage MySpace Last FM YouTube Amazon Music
 

January 1997 – live reviews – Podsdarapomuk @ The Hope & Anchor, Islington, London, November 13th 1996 & January 23rd 1997 (“passages of dreamlike contemplation with surges of magnificently tangled art-rock splurge”)

29 Jan

Podsdarapomuk - concerted action (photographer unknown).

Podsdarapomuk onstage (photographer unknown).

On an early-November afternoon in 1996, I’d hopped out of a car travelling up from Kent and made my way to one of ‘Organ’ magazine’s “Vital Organ” gigs at the London Astoria 2. As usual, I was following their lead on where newer progressive and psychedelic rock was pushing at the door. At the moment I can’t quite remember who was playing. Some scribbled notes somewhere might tell me that it was Sleepy People (still tootling, yelping and gamely plugging away at their foothold on the capital), or Porcupine Tree (keeping a sharp grip on themselves and gathering speed at their own pace). Or perhaps it was Terry Bickers continuing on the slow, injured trajectory out of his House of Love and Levitation stardom – winding out ashy cigarette-coils of dream guitar with his recently trimmed-down, soon-to-vanish Cradle, he was avoiding eye contact, preparing to evaporate. However, that’s a story for another time, if I can dig the details up.

Over at the merchandise stall, I was leafing through the Organ stock of colour-splashed vinyl and obscure demo tapes – a typically eclectic, magical crop from bands with unknown names, complex influences and musical agendas ignored elsewhere (people were concentrating on Oasis’ gobby bloat, and on the sorry disintegration of The Stone Roses). It was then that I was collared by an earnest young German drummer called Claas Sandbothe: wiry limbs and granny glasses, a schoolboy’s fringe, a grinful of persistent little teeth. He tried to talk me into buying something by his band, Podsdarapomuk; an enthusiastic rave about it from Marina at ‘Organ’ clinched the deal. So I bought Claas’ band’s EP, and it just knocked me out.

Ten days later, and I’m in a pub cellar in Islington as the group takes the stage. Podsdarapomuk turn out to be five young gentlemen-longhairs in suits and ties; German-born (hailing from an out-of-the-way little town near Stuttgart) but London-based (up near Leyton, home to many an intriguing left-field band of late). They look like a young undertaker’s convention. They grin shyly, and sound like…

Daniel Klemm in contemplative mood. (photographer unknown).

Daniel Klemm in contemplative mood. (photographer unknown).

…well, hell, we really are onto something here. Imagine a band with the nervous jazzy edge and contemporary noisy indie-cum-art-rock punch of dEUS, but which also sounds like every period of King Crimson from 1969 to 1996 all rolled into one; apparently taking its melodic cues from Gentle Giant and its double-back musical bungee-jumping from Mr. Bungle or Primus, and stirring in more than a smidgin of John Zorn. That’s what we have here – something complex, wearing its hungry tonal erudition on its sleeve.

But don’t expect wackiness or calisthenics; and while there’s a strong dose of prog to the band, it’s the crepuscular kind. While Podsdarapomuk may have left home, they’ve also brought it with them – trailing sombre Germanic influences, their music prowls rather than jiggles. It has a peculiar, rickety-ghost-house unease to it. Studied, grotesque expressionism wells through the lyrics – images of puppets, of ships in peril, of flowers and beautiful paintings about to have huge, horrible shadows cast over them. Elusive, sinister pictures are etched by the beautiful haunted wail of Daniel Klemm, which rooftop-hops over Lars Puder’s sinewy bass, Klaas’ stalk-and-pat drumming and the dual punch of clawing guitars from brooding main tunesmith/spine-provider Thorsten Pachur and his sweeter foil Christian Schmidt. Debra Scacco (one of London’s art-school journeywomen), guests on flute, offering a sunny smile and journeying melodies which seem to follow their own sweetly oblivious path on top of the raging electric music underneath.

They’re scrupulously polite and smiling throughout: solicitously ensuring that we’re comfortable before they tear into our eardrums. A Dream & Rage In A Cage teeters briefly on Daniel’s eerie chant before the band plunge down into concerted action and a succession of metallic talon feints, as they were trying to blowtorch and harrow fresh life King Crimson’s ‘VROOOM’ via Captain Beefheart restlessness. Heavy jazz-electric riffage ransacks the room on A Fool’s Smile, like a threesome of John McLaughlin, Fred Frith and Hendrix turned bad, all stalking each other with Bowie knives. The punks in the room are confused and sulking. The little knot of proggies present are jamming themselves up near the front to drink it all in. They get it. Crimson-like, the Pods alternate passages of dreamlike contemplation with surges of magnificently tangled art-rock splurge.

Podsdarapomuk's Christian Schmidt conjures a noise (photographer unknown).

Podsdarapomuk’s Christian Schmidt conjures a noise (photographer unknown).

The effect is a bit like unscrewing the back of a magnificent antique clock, only for the clockwork to burst out and ambush you in a chaotic explosion of precision parts. Torn Puppet Without Hands Nor Tongue tumbles into grungy post-Fripp shapes, lunging haphazardly over Daniel’s slice’n’dice vocals and the bebop-y spine of Claas and Lars’ rhythms. On the hunched, hanging Make The King Laugh ( which sometimes sounds like the Shulman brothers soundtracking ‘Twin Peaks’ by way of stuttering trip hop), Christian adds to the unsettling shimmer by tricking alien insect-calls out of his guitar with his slide and the jack-plug.

Podsdarapomuk close the set with the comparative calm of Is It? – a spindled and vulnerable bit of near-acoustica which, again, is reminiscent of Gentle Giant, but which also has the ravaged prayer-feeling of Kurt Cobain. On the final whispering, jazzy chord, it’s as if a door has shut on a world of ever-so-slightly dangerous wonder: one you know you’ll soon want to open again.

*********

Two months and four gigs later… It’s January 1997, and I’m back at the Hope & Anchor watching a group that’s evolving at a frightening speed. Personally, they’re still as polite and amiable as ever, still given to mild surreal humour and little comedies of manners. (In a nod to ‘Don’t Look Back’, Daniel is now holding up cards with the song titles printed on them). In contrast, Podsdarapomuk’s mutable music seems about as stable as nitro-glycerine these days. Watching it go off is a rare thrill. Sometimes the band’s music explodes in a jagged flash of brightness: sometimes it’s just an ominous smoke-cloud rolling out from the stage, filled with glowing cinders and embers.

Thorsten Pachur - Podsdarapomuk's brooding heart (photographer unknown).

Thorsten Pachur – Podsdarapomuk’s brooding heart (photographer unknown).

There’s plenty of new material. The chippy guitar intro of Waiting For God leads into a mating of jazzy-walking with Beefheart word-slicing, and even if you could brush this off as being a little shapeless and jammy, they rock you back on your heels with the following I’m Your Dog, a blistering blast that could have come off the most ferocious moments of ‘Exposure’ via The Jesus Lizard. Another new song swerves along like a sprinter weaving through a minefield, Thorsten and Christian morse-coding their guitars over the kind of skittish body-blocking drum patterns that’d make Bill Bruford weep with joy. Later, they’ll be telling me that they’ve been saving every penny to catch Bob Berg gigs at Ronnie Scott’s: that they’ve been studying with Talvin Singh, and listening to Portishead.

It’s clear that their studies and their omnivorous hunger is flourishing into new creative heights. Most evidently, the restless electric jazz that was always percolating deep down in the Podsdaramomuk sound is starting to flood up now, raising the boats and crowding in at the windows. Songs are evolving – Make The King Laugh has somehow deepened, added layers of delirium and almost become a new genre of dub-prog. When A Dream & Rage In A Cage makes a reappearance, it’s been seductively greased and funked-up; Torn Puppet Without Hands Nor Tongue has become tighter, fiercer. Another new piece, Biscuit Murder Blues, is full of forbidding Bark Psychosis jazz-guitar swells, and effortlessly morphs from Daniel’s sleazeball lounge-lizard singing to frenetic pogo-punk in an eyeblink.

They finish up with the tap-dancing metal-mathcore of Little Bombs, with a shriek of John Coltrane saxophone flown in on tape. I finish up with a dawning belief that Podsdarapomuk could go anywhere from here. Unfortunately, it looks as if it’s going to be Berlin – they’re already planning for the end of their London sojourn, and we’ll only have them until the middle of the year. It’ll take us that long to remember how to pronounce their name properly. Perhaps we should spend the time appreciating what we’ve got, while we have it.

Podsdarapomuk - concerted action (photographer unknown).

Podsdarapomuk – concerted action (photographer unknown).

Podsdarapomuk online:
Homepage MySpace Last FM

The Hope & Anchor online:
Homepage Facebook

October 1995 – live reviews – Organ presents Poisoned Electrick Head + Sleepy People @ The Monarch, Chalk Farm, London, 17th October (“another little banquet of progressive strangeness”)

20 Oct

Another little banquet of progressive strangeness is being laid on for us by those fine people at ‘Organ’ – unusual nourishment, as usual.

Newcastle’s Sleepy People are another from the expanding pool of bands under the giddy influence of Cardiacs. Those beloved warning signs are present: bizarre stares, a manic focus on the sort of music that ransacks your brain while it entertains you, frantic stop-start rhythms, and an obsessive love of cramming: cramming enough melodics for forty songs into the space of one, squeezing a whole orchestra’s-worth of sound into the kitchen-sinker of a rock band’s line-up. They don’t exactly look like your average clutch of prog-rockers, either. Two sane-looking people handling the rhythm section, some unholy cross between Bernard Cribbins and Sparks’ Ron Mael on synth, two impassive women doubling-up flutes and backing vocals, a singer who looks like the monster under Suede’s bed and a dead ringer for Uncle Fester Addams chopping away on guitar. More tea, Vicar?

The music itself starts out as Hammer Horror prog-punk and veers off to uncharted places: foggy treated flutes, yelping digressions, hallucinated carousel tunes, folk-classical suites composed by crazed cartoonists. I try and fail to write down coherent descriptions. The closest analogy to Sleepy People’s music is the glorious noise which you get when you knock over the music cupboard and everything falls out. If you can imagine that full-tilt chaos with intent and lunatic melodies, you’re halfway there. They announce songs with cheery, cosy titles like Home is Where Your Telly Is and Mr Marconi and His Unusual Theory, and they could write about paint drying and make it sound like the most fantastically surreal thing in the world. A band to cure the terminally bored.

We’re not out of Hammer Horror territory yet. Accompanied by hymnal keyboard invocations, a trio of fearsome skeletal masks take the stage and grin out at us. Poisoned Electrick Head have materialised. The singer (whom, for reasons best known to himself, chooses to travel under the name of Pee) comes skipping up through the audience in a devil mask, a sprightly little Old Scratch in a business suit. But although the masks may be other-worldly, the music is less so.

In contrast to Sleepy People’s cut’n’paste barrage of demented chops, Poisoned Electrick Head stick to a more familiar recipe of chunky geometric hard rock (not too far from prog metal, but light on the flashy virtuoso posing and stronger on the roughneck oil and grime), flavoured with a spicing of Hawkwind space rock and topped off with the kind of hooky, brassy keyboard spurts favoured by Devo (or by Asia, if they’d ever had a sense of humour). It’s diesel-powered music, sometimes close to biker territory, but always with wild colour and imagination spinning it clear of grease-pit stodgery and into far more delightful zones. The odd thrash-cello sound, thundering piano ostinato or blazing Marillion-style keyboard lick doesn’t hurt, either.

Just ask the people romping away down at the front. Poisoned Electrick Head are sturdily and definitely rock: but they’re also marvellously, bewilderingly poppy and absurdly danceable. Pee’s manic, acrobatic presence and cunning, theatrical vocals are a major part of the appeal. Even with the devil mask off, he may look a little Satanic; but this is a sly friendly off-duty Mephistopheles, here to give us a conspiratorial wink in a bar after working hours, and to tell us exactly how much we’ll be swindled in the end when we sell our souls.

Some such diabolical bargain might have gotten PEH their excellent songbook, though; packed with raucous intelligent liveliness and sardonic strangeness. Angular stalks through Amsterdam nightlife, songs about doublespeak or the infiltrations of technology. Crowd hysteria is reserved for the scathing Snobs, an urban class-driven savaging of privilege and pretention along the cartwheeling lines of Marillion’s Garden Party, complete with an assortment of silly noises of the patent Zappa kind.

As a genre, contemporary prog can get so humourless sometimes that it’s a rare delight to discover a band that can be funny, smart, sexy and a bit prog. If Poisoned Electrick Head were a motorbike, they’d be one of those sinister James Bond practical joke-machines – faster, brighter and gleamier than the competition, yet full of all sorts of deadly surprises; capable of dealing out mayhem with impeccable comic timing. Unmissable stuff.

Poisoned Electrick Head online:
Homepage Facebook MySpace Soundcloud Last FM YouTube Vimeo Spotify Amazon Music

Sleepy People online:
Facebook Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Amazon Music
 

September 1995 – live reviews – Organ Night: Lake of Puppies + The Monsoon Bassoon + Fear of Fear @ The Monarch, Chalk Farm, London, 19th September (“music to spin the brain like a top”)

24 Sep

Just across the road, the great decaying wheel of the Roundhouse is housing Cirque Surreal and Wakeman with Wakeman. Over here, in the less salubrious surroundings of the Monarch, a collection of various punks, proggies and other wonderful low-lifers (including myself) are cramped together to check out some rather lower-profile musicians. Somehow, I think we’ve got the better deal.

This is ‘Organ’ Night, so we’re guaranteed a rich feast of music from all directions, as exemplified by opening act Fear of Fear, whose Metallica-meets-PJ-Harvey take on the punk/funk thing is tight and excellent. But judging by the overwhelming number of Alphabet Business Concern T-shirts filling the room, plus Bic Hayes hanging around near the bar, it’s a pretty safe bet that tonight is going to have a strong Cardiacs flavour. And yes, those unjustifiably obscure prog/punk/music-hall eccentrics do have a lot to answer for as regards the shape of this evening. Some of the seeds they’ve sown during their lunatic nine-album career are springing up with a vengeance in this little Camden pub.

The Monsoon Bassoon are a real brain-skewing treat, and a demanding one. Their music has those Cardiacs components of mind-boggling tempo changes, raucous crashing melodies and cheerful gibberish in Cockney/Estuarine English (although they’re originally from Plymouth, so my ear must be out of tune). The War Between Banality and Interest is a fine example, a Cardiacs-type tossed rhythmic salad so perkily crazed that it makes ‘Larks’-period King Crimson sound like James Last. Aside from Cardiacs and King Crimson, The Monsoon Bassoon show an affinity with the wilder American side of things: the “anything goes” spirit of Captain Beefheart and (to pick a more recent example) Mercury Rev. The double voice-and-guitar team of Kavus and Dan, Sarah’s voice, flute and clarinet, and the rhythm section of Laurie and Jim offer us song titles to die for and music to spin the brain like a top.

How is it that they can play songs so insanely complex yet so insanely catchy? Five hundred hooks and time changes in each four-minute burst, it seems. And how can they play it with such unflappable cheerfulness, Kavus in particular finding the time for some Who-style scissor jumps? Forget it… just stand back and have your mind tickled… Oh, comparisons? well, if I must…

Some simplified examples: Bullfight in a China Shop is a stretchy boogie in 5/4 with Mercury Rev flute, Leyline PLA is like a crunchy thrashy Schizoid Man played by an unholy alliance of The Buzzcocks and Ian Anderson with the odd lick of harmonised Queen guitar. Bright Lucifer goes from a cataclysmic snare-roll opening to Cardiacs-meets-‘Thrak’ mayhem, while Aladdin mates Frame by Frame with Living in the Past. Tokmeh has elements of that wandering Frippy gamelan sound of the ’80s, but ends up as the sound of five instruments dancing separate dances to a common end – a freaky fugue. And that’s where The Monsoon Bassoon are at. A pure, wild, Dionysiac musicality with a roguish five-fold intelligence kicking it into gear: hung up on no scene, naturally sparking and kinking. Let them into your life and watch your world take on brighter, loopier colours.

Headlines Lake of Puppies have a more direct link to Cardiacs – they’re led by William D. Drake, who was formerly Cardiacs’ keyboard player, And yes, it does show – although the anarchic musical mayhem which is one of the central Cardiacs characteristics is absent here, Drake’s new band share that specifically English eccentricity. In fact, they take it down a few notches and on a few steps. If Cardiacs’ Tim Smith is the intense, slightly scary motormouth maniac on the rural bus, Bill is his refined elder cousin who restricts his own lunacy to deranged sessions on the tennis court. Lake of Puppies are like Cardiacs exhuming the ghost of Noel Coward for tea on the lawn: all summery waltzes, genteel harmonies from Bill and from singing bassist Sharron, easy-going nylon-string guitar (from Craig) and the cosy burr of baritone sax and clarinet. Kevin Ayers could get a mention on the influences list, as could the Kate Bush of Coffee Homeground.

All of this is not as harmlessly cuddly as it sounds. Although the lyrics are difficult to make out amidst the weaving melodies, I get the impression that Lake of Puppies are singing about trickier subjects than crustless sandwiches. There’s the occasional burst of noise when Bill abandons his piano for fuzzy organ and the band launch into gutsy cyclonic roaring, and the music is just too complex and cerebral to be entirely cosy. But in the prog environment of today – where bands tend to be either sickly, prissy and pompous or thrashily confrontational and noisy – Lake of Puppies stick out as a sunnily listenable and enjoyable alternative. And I wouldn’t be surprised if all of that gentility was a Trojan horse for something gloriously warped… definitely one to check out again.

Keep it up, ‘Organ’!

Lake of Puppies online:
Homepage Facebook Last FM

The Monsoon Bassoon online:
MySpace Soundcloud Last FM YouTube Spotify Amazon Music

Fear of Fear online:
(no online presence)

Additional notes: (2020 update) Lake of Puppies didn’t last very long, with various bandmembers going on to The Shrubbies, North Sea Radio Orchestra and Quickspace while William D. Drake eventually started a solo career. There have been a couple of Lake of Puppies concert reunions over the years, with the latest one being at 2018’s ‘Spring Symposium‘. The Monsoon Bassoon lasted until 2001, with Kavus Torabi moving on to a multitude of projects including Knifeworld, Guapo, Cardiacs, Gong, The Utopia Strong and a solo career, while Laurie Osborne moved into dubstep with Appleblim. Daniel Chudley Le Corre also has an intermittent solo career. Several former Monsoon Bassoon members occasionally reunite in sea-shanty band Admirals Hard. I have no idea what happened to Fear of Fear.
 

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