OLI HAS MOVED! I'll still post excerpts here for the time being, but to read my articles in full, visit

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Farewell Blogger! Join me at my new site!

I will no longer be posting any new material here: if you'd like to keep reading my stuff (and you know you would) then come and bookmark

My archive will be slowly transferred to the new site, as and when I find the time, and then gradually truncated and removed, until there's nowt left but some links.

Karda Estra – New Worlds (psychedelic/ progressive/ chamber music)

This post can be read in full at

No Image NI DL 15, 2011, DD album, 37m 50s, £1

This album opens with a strummed guitar chord, and an oboe. The oboe is an instrument not often featured in rock, jazz, popular or folk music, and it signals with its presence that we should prepare ourselves for a variety of ‘not often featured’ elements. There are some sounds of rock in here, electric bass, distorted guitar, drum sounds and synthesisers: but these elements take their places in a broader soundworld, as seats in the orchestra pit rather than swaggering stage performers.

I could perhaps best describe this music as ‘chamber rock’, although in truth its orchestrations are larger and more potent than that might lead you to believe. They often feel more intimate than they are, possessed of a paradoxical quietness, a calm which survives many potentially disruptive changes of direction. Arranged for bits and pieces of a rock band, in various combinations with oboe, violin, flute, EWI, clarinet, trumpet and voice, the material on New Worlds takes its melodic and harmonic cues to some degree from the psychedelic rock tradition, and to some degree from twentieth century classical music. I realise that it’s my job to describe this music for you, and that’s something I pride myself on being good at, but I’m going to stay fairly general, because I can’t call on any well known precedents, and really, you’ll have to hear it to get it. And you really should hear it, because this is extraordinary music.

Read the rest of this review here

etokle – The Golden Bear And Other Works LP (drone/ ambient)

This post can be read in full at

Auraltone Music AM005, 2011, CD album, 50m 14s, $9.99

Sometimes when you visit my site to read a review you find yourself struggling through some complicated exposition on a rarely considered aspect of experimental music, full of technical terms and pointless intellectual gymnastics. I’m sorry about that. I’m a bit self indulgent sometimes. However, if I suspect that enough of my readers will be unfamiliar with an unusual style or genre to warrant it, I do feel it’s worth spending a bit of time on explication.

Drone is a style characterised by the use of sustained tones: not long notes in the normal sense, but single tones, generated by a variety of means, that may continue for ten or twenty minutes, or even longer. It bears a certain conceptual, and sometimes aural resemblance to minimalism, in the way that certain generative conditions may be established at the beginning of a piece, which cause a repeated or continuous sound to gradually change over an extended period; it is also clearly not concerned with the usual valuations of performance skills as indicative of musical value. There is also a relationship with ambient music, which under certain circumstances may be hard to distinguish from drone; drone music certainly addresses some of the same ideas, with its emphasis on the production of an atmosphere, and its interest in timbre to the exclusion of rhythm or melody.

Read the rest of this review here

Fit And The Conniptions – Sweet Sister Starlight (blues rock/ folk rock/ singer-songwriter)

This post can be read in full at

self released, 2011, DD album, 39m 22s, 

£name your price

Although I have written elsewhere about the singularity of the song as an artistic form, and the fallacy of regarding it as merely a fusion of music and poetry, it can be observed that most singer-songwriters focus their efforts more on one aspect of their craft than another. Some are principally instrumentalists, some singers, some emphasise composition, and some are primarily poets. My impression is that Wayne Myers, the ‘lead Conniption’ falls into the last category.
This is not to say that he neglects the music. These are some well crafted arrangements, with that relaxed feel that comes from a group of musicians comfortable in each others’ company and well in command of their musical materials. The style is generally a bluesy, melancholy folk rock, performed with a good sense of space and dynamics, at slow to medium tempos. There are some splendid musicians on this recording, including trumpeterKevin Davy, who played with Lamb, and guitarist Sean Taylor, whose own Corrugations is one of the best albums I picked up from other performers when I was playing accompanist on the singer-songwriter circuit.

Read the rest of this review here

VK Lynne – Whiskey Or Water (blues rock/ singer-songwriter)

This post can be read in full at

self released, 2009, CD album, 34m 57s, $9.99

VK Lynne plays to the mythical archetype of the strong but vulnerable, hard drinking rock chick: how much of that is VK Lynne the narrator of this sequence of songs, and how much of it is VK Lynne the writer and woman is above my pay grade to speculate, but there’s a powerful sense of sincerity in this music. God crops up quite a lot, which I’ll return to below, and unless an artist is playing to a specifically religious audience, which Lynne does not seem to be doing, that’s sticking your neck out.

Musically she doesn’t stick her neck out too far, preferring to work within a genre and master its conventions: from reading her bio it seems that producer James Thomas has as much to do with the sound of this album as she does, and he is obviously a consummate professional. Stylistically it is informed but not enclosed by the conventions of blues based hard rock: there is also some country in the mix, and a more inventive approach on a few songs. Everything is precisely right about these arrangements, the performances that realise them, and the way they are recorded and mixed; another team would have made some different choices, but they couldn’t have showcased these songs to better effect. Regular readers who know my taste for black metal, free improvisation, psychedelic prog, experimental electronica and so forth may be surprised to read me praising something that is as generically conventional as this, but generic conventions can be manipulated to expressive effect as much as any other musical material, and they are used here with a huge amount of knowledge, sophistication and imagination.

Read the rest of this review here