record reviews may 2021

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Waves (Gare du Nord)

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From Bologna but based in London for some years, guitarist, singer and keyboardist Marco Magnani is patently in thrall to the psychedelic pop of 60s UK, here working as a trio with John O’Sullivan (on bass, vocals and guitar, and Shin Okajima on drums, augmented by Rachel Kashi on keys, violinist Maya Kasparova (and Tom Hammond and Joseph Hammond supplying brass. He has an appealing nasal tone to his delivery and the songs, anchored by his organ work, are melodic and hummable with some solid guitar flourishes.

The core influence is clearly Sgt Pepper era Beatles, Harrison especially, but you’ll also hear strong echoes of the era’s psychedelic underground more cult names such as The Idle Race, Simon Dupree & The Big Sound and The Pretty Things alongside hitmakers like Hendrix and the early Quo, working their way through American garage band (think Count Five, The Beau Brummels, styled rockers such as ‘You Wanna Put Me Down’, the spacy balladeering ‘Winter Song’, moody acoustic strum ‘Free Me Now’ (definite hints of the UK’s Kaleidoscope) a riff heavy ‘No One Makes A Sound’, the brass bolstered ‘Heavy Drops of Rain’ and the jangly pop ‘In The Big Crowd’. Closing with the five minute cinematic work out of ‘Someday Else’ with its spaghetti Western guitars, they’re not perhaps among the first division of retro psych rock, but a very credible entry in the league playoffs. Mike Davies


Quarantina (Sonic Ritual)

joe cardamone artwork js 240321

The former Icarus Line frontman is now something of an independent filmmaker and this second solo album serves as a soundtrack to his latest project, a series of nineteen real life-based shorts exploring a couple’s relationship over the course of lockdown. Musically stripped right down with running times varying from 66 seconds at the shortest to three minutes 21 seconds at the longest, generally just his yearning, at times pleading voice and keyboard drone, it’s a brooding affair that works largely as a collection of tone landscapes variously evocative of Bowie, Cave and Scott Walker’s experimental later years.

There’s a minimalist beauty and emotional ache to things like Dead Sky, New Moon and Flowers, three of those that stretch barely over a minute, while Nine Of Swords is a more dramatic, more forcefully expressed number with stark cabaret colours, Nite Theme (Rock N Roll) set to an electronic pulse, Crushed Skull an appropriately disorienting listen, Yeshua a simple churchy organ vignette of a ballad and, another taking its title from the Tarot, The Tower a disquieting instrumental shrouded in storm clouds. Cluster B is another instrumental, this a late night neon and rain soaked number featuring saxophone by Taiwanese-Canadian actor-musician Alex Zhang Hungtai.

Baby Blue, with its Bowie inflections, drums and background harmonies is the closest it comes to what you might call radio friendly accessible, the 19 tracks ending with the dreamy cosmic drone of Ur So Cool 2, but, while doubtless having more impact when heard in tandem with viewing the films, it makes for an immersive experience. Mike Davies 2020