Reviews roundup – Dr Chrispy ~ Turnbuckle Blues Review ~ Ectratis ~ Damaged Goods ~ Lord Helmet
I first heard “VHS” back in January and much to everyones surprise I was really taken with its electronic synth pop psych sounds. Now it’s back. Remixed.
Former NASA engineer Dr. Chris Boshuizen decided to put out a call to arms in the world of electronic synth pop psych aka synthwave. That cal was answered by The Stunt Man, Psybolord, T-ROM, Kevin Ochoa, Manor Sound, Always Romantic, Synthapex, and B Wiley, most of whom I suspect are operating under pseudonyms. Is it any good? Yes. Ish.
Most of the remixers have decided to emphasise the dance side of the Dr Chrispy rhythm machine which is their prerogative. Which isn’t my world. Luckily a few of them have gone down a more trance route with the odd psychedelic twist. That means I really loved ‘Vancouver’ along with the self same remixers take on ‘Be There Soon’. They certainly cued up a few eighties soundsystem flashbacks. Fortunately I only have my herbal arthritis treatments to hand these days. Dr Chrispy also gives us an instrumental take on the folk song ‘Follow The Wild Geese’ which closed “VHS” and delivers a mellow yet slightly scary treat.
I still prefer the original but this is another helping of Chrispy cream.
TURNBUCKLE BLUES REVIEW
Backpack Full Of Soul
Well, that was fun.
The Turnbuckle Blues Review rose from the ashes of a Northern Californian band called Morrison Creek with Eric Weber and Max Chaparro starting out as an acoustic duo before slowly acquiring additional members to end up as an actual band.
The various members have plenty of experience to hand and bring it to bear on a set surprisingly low in blues but high in American roots rock. It’s their debut album and sits squarely in the middle of the freeway with some excellent playing.
The first couple of tracks are fine but then they actually remember they have the world blues in their name and hit you with the slow blues of ‘Going Home’, which has a low down and dirty vibe. ‘Miss Isabelle’ is the first song where they kick out the jams a wee bit and it has a southern rock vibe that really works especially with some honking harmonica. The one thing that doesn’t really work is the split of vocals, primarily between the founding duo of Eric Weber and Max Chaparro. The former has a more traditional rock voice while the latter goes for a gruff Mark Knopfler style. They’re good enough bit neither of them are great singers and when they bring in a guesting Melissa Corona for a couple of songs it really shows.
But it doesn’t take away from the quality of the songwriting with at leat half of the ten tracks meriting an immediate hit of the repeat button.
The Artificial Spirit
Now I liked this. Probably because I’m a sucker for late period Soft Machine and Pierre Moerlen led Gong. You know that seventies jazz meets fusion meets prog vibe.
ectratis is a one man band comprising Croatian multi-instrumentalist Matej Blečić. He’s recorded a few demos over the last five years or so but this is his debut album proper. And it’s really good.
Granted, it’s at its best during the instrumental passages as he’s only a serviceable vocalist. Maybe he doesn’t like the idea of a stranger in his bedroom but I’m pretty sure that the internet allows for collaborations and with a really good singer a song like ‘The Alternative Fact’ could shift easily from good to great.
But I don’t come to damn Matej Blečić with faint praise because the compositions are very impressive and he handles the bass, guitar and keyboard parts with skill and taste. Definitely a talent to keep an eye on.
PLANET OF RHYTHM
EMP Label Group
Back to America for your new favourite bar band. And I mean that in the best of ways.
Because Planet Of Rhythm are exactly the band you want to hear on a Friday night oot. And I say that having spent last night drinking and listening to an acoustic duo covering Fleetwood Mac, Tracy Chapman and Frankie Valli. I know who I’d rather was there. It’s the second album from the band and it’s enjoyable from top to bottom.
Their thing is basically seventies rock with a heft dose of roots and a hint of chooglin’. As should be obvious to anyone who spots a Creedence Clearwater Revival on the tracklisting. It’s one of only two covers (the other being ‘Polk Salad Annie’) with the originals coming from the pen of vocalist Doug Hafford. He’s put together an excellent band and the songs really benefit from the female harmony vocals, courtesy of Juliet Roberts. There is also some great lead guitar work from Elliott Jason. They’re at their best when the ramp things up a wee bit with the likes of ‘Voodoo Woman’ and ‘Road Angel’ real highlights.
There is a slight lull in the running order early on and I’d maybe have went for a ten song album but it’s a small gripe on an enjoyable release.
Forget The End Of The World
The brainchild of David Tomkin, who takes care of bass, guitar, synths and vocals, Lord Helmet is a truly terrible name for a band!
That said, this is a strong release. Tomkins, along with Adam Figura on drums, has previous form in the world of heavy prog with his band The Shadow Principle but this sees his taking a sideways step into the world of post rock.
Not normally my thing but Mr Tomkins has very kindly decided to incorporate some melody into his music which means its more towards the Porcupine Tree side of things rather than the abominations of Tool. He’s also got a great voice for his style of music which is melodic, rich and sometimes, jazz hands!
They have their moments of near prog metal especially on the near ten minutes of the title track but earlier on in the album the likes of ‘Building Castles’ and ‘The Judas Tree’ are just (!) really good songs that have been arranged for maximum post rock effect. Musically it’s damn near faultless and there is definitely a place for Lord Helmet at the prog round table.
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