I have got horribly behind with my reviews this year. It’s not that I’ve been particularly writing less, there just seems to be more to write about. It gets to the stage where there is do much that I want to bring to your attention that I have to periodically do a series of shorter reviews, not because I think any less of these albums… rather because it would be highly remiss if I didn’t feature them. Here then is the first of two ‘4-packs’ of eight brilliant albums that have been on my ‘to do’ list for a while now.
Natt o Dag by Me and My Kites
Well it seems that summer is in full swing, around these parts at least, and as I sit in the shade of the back garden I can think of nothing more appropriate than listening to this wonderful album by Swedish collective ‘Me and My Kites’. The bandcamp page for this album reveals that there were no less than fifteen musicians playing here, with a very healthy crossover with the wonderful ‘Our Solar System‘. But whereas the latter tend towards long experimental jams, here we ten songs which capture quite magically a variety of feelings and atmospheres that are mixed together with skill and clarity.
The overwhelming feeling here is one of warmth. These songs are imbued with the sun, but a gentle sun. They do not sear but slowly take the chill away from the heart and soul. But if this was a wholly optimistic set I wouldn’t really go for it. There is also a sense of melancholy to these songs as if the good feelings they imbibe must somehow come to an end; and I can also imagine listening to this album in September as Summer turns to Autumn and that feeling of ending comes around. In this sense much of the album reminds me of bands such as Tahiti 80 in tone and approach. This is especially the case through the often lush production and beautiful arrangements which just seem to glide through your consciousness.
This then is a stylish album and an album of styles with bucolic English and East Coast 60s psychedelia melding rather marvellously with, in places, folk vocals and that Scandinavian vibe that an number of Progg and more recent bands have excelled in. Whether you’re feeling the warmth of the sun or longing for it, this is an album that will satisfy your needs and leave you in a better state than when it found you.
‘Dag o Natt’ is available on LP, CD and D/L here.
Lionfish by Elkhorn
Elkhorn have been on the Psych Insight radar for some time now, including one of my ‘Essential Albums‘ of last year. The New York guitar duo have released some superb improvised psych/ folk over the past few years, and this latest offering is no different. Without going into the boring details I have the sort of physiology that doesn’t take kindly to having mind altering drugs added to it so, I’m very happy when a band do it on my behalf. Elkhorn have done just that here, experimenting with the venom of the Lionfish to create two long improvised tracks of wonderful hazy other-worldliness that have me away in the clouds. As the album description explains:
At 11:09PM on the evening of December 2nd, 2017, a day now known as “Lionfish Day,” Gardner and Sheppard each snorted two enormous lines of lionfish powder from the surface of a mirror adorned with the silkscreened image of Bill Kreutzmann’s face. They then proceeded to capture the recording you have in your hands at the band’s Sharktooth studio in New York City.
What I particularly like about this is the balance between freedom and focus. You can tell that Elkhorn have shed shackles in recording this, but not to the extent that the music has lost all form… this is no jellyfish of an album, but one with clear lines and a sense of progression throughout. I’ll certainly be mainlining it regularly.
‘Lionfish’ is available from Eiderdown Records on cassette and download here.
Enter The Stream by Prana Crafter
One of the more well-known sayings of the Buddha is that you can never enter the same stream twice. Another is that you can build a raft to traverse a stretch of water, but if you then keep it with you it will only be a burden when on dry land. Whether or not the title of this album was intended to bring these ideas to mind I have no idea but they are certainly appropriate. Like Elkhorn, Prana Crafter (the solo project of Washington State’s William Sol) is an act that I have very much enjoyed in the past. And also like Elkhorn it’s music that is produced spontaneously, Sol saying that he does not some much make music as channel it. In which case this channel is certainly a one-shot stream crossing which has been beautifully captured here in a series of songs that brings to mind some of the great psych/ folk music of yore.
Like the two albums above this is music that communes with nature is a very deep way to give the listener a sense of peace, but also a sense of challenge. This is music that really bites into the soul, opening up fissures in our psyche through which we can reflect and learn more about ourselves and our relationship to the world around us. Not the latest advertising slogan, but the earth beneath us, the air we breathe and the sky above. In listening to this we enter the stream, become the stream and leave with a new sense of purpose and understanding. In a word: serene.
Primi by Ex Canix
Back to Sweden again for the final album in this ‘4-pack’. Ex Canix are a group of musicians who may have been playing under this name since 2015, but have apparently been playing together in one form or another for around fifty years. So although this is their first release, they bring a wealth of playing experience into the mix here. This is obvious from this collection of recordings what have been taken from improvisations that the band have been jamming over the last few years.
Like the other albums here this is beautifully chilled out music that is played with a huge amount of emotion. This is not music that you should have on in the background because, well, in the first place that would be criminal. In the second place it would mean that you would be missing out on sublime story arcs of sound that take you away into the joyousness of inner thought… a journeys that the band accompany you on all the way. These tracks are also strange in the sense that they seem to stretch time, each feeling much longer than it actually is… in a really good way.
If I had to describe the music I would say that there is a distinctly jazz element to the music, but only in the way that there is with other Swedish bands from Pärson Sound to Hills and Flowers Must Die in the way that the sound is structured. But there are also experimental elements here that reflect a much wider sonic exploration that take you into some really deep places. Places that you will find both rewarding and inspiring.
‘Primi’ is available on LP, CD, and D/L here.
Spofity playlists here.