We’ve lost a few of the great British folk guitar players and songwriters in the past 10 years – Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and now Michael Chapman. But there is a new generation of guitar players continuing the tradition, by updating it as those players did, while also maintaining a strong connection to the past. One such guitarist and songwriter is Henry Parker, who has an album “Lammas Fair” out soon. Here’s the title track:

While the song (lyrics and voice) is in the style of traditional 1960s British folk, there’s a more adventurous 1970s exploratory character to the song. Parker’s use of the DADGAD open tuning, combination of acoustic and electric guitar and the non-traditional melodic diversions along the way in “Lammas Fair” bring some more exotic psychedelic rock guitar elements in to the music.

“The album explores an intersection between past and present, using the groundwork of folk music set out decades and centuries ago and moving it into new terrain, as it explores ideas, themes and lyrics that explore both historic and contemporary settings. The title Lammas Fair refers to a historical annual celebration held across Europe on the 1st August, which heralded the first harvest of wheat.”

The Lodger return with a new song (single?) following the release of their impressive ‘comeback’ album “Cul De Sac of Love” which was released back in March and quickly sold out its first LP pressing. “Bewildered” here is a new standalone track – so far anyway…

Bewildered” is another very classy 3 minute slice of melodic and optimistically reflective melancholic pop, this time led by piano. It has a classic descending chorus, and a heap of subtle details in the musical arrangement. It’s a little bit Beatles (“A Day in the Life”) but with an almost Polyphonic Spree twist of unpredictability and lush inner-glow vocal harmony.

By way of a recap for anyone who missed the March post for the single “Dual Lives” which preceded the album, The Lodger – a Leeds, UK trio led by songwriter and guitarist Ben Siddall – went into a decade-long hiatus in 2010. Prior to 2010 The Lodger released a handful of much-loved singles and EPs and 3 studio albums through a variety of labels including Slumberland Records in the States.

The Lodger are masters at capturing the distilled essence of the craft of Pure Pop, an era perhaps most associated with the second half of the 1980s onwards, a period where the UK produced numerous practitioners of the Pure Pop craft like the Lightning Seeds, later period Orange Juice, and also a semi-forgotten band, Frazier Chorus, who released a beautifully melancholy single “Sloppy Heart” on the independent label 4AD before signing to Virgin Records. In fact it’s the honey-on-velvet voice of Frazier Chorus’s Tim Freeman on that song that Ben Siddal’s tone remind me of here. And his lyrics too for that matter, straight from the (sloppy) heart:

how do we get so bewildered
why do we fall apart
love isn’t complicated
we’re just not that smart

Itasca is songwriter and guitarist Kayla Cohen, who abandoned Los Angeles for New Mexico where she wrote her second album “Spring”, released at the end of 2019. Here’s “Only a Traveler”:

Coming across like a world weary Joni Mitchell channeling Nick Drake “Only a Traveler” is built on Cohen’s finger-picking guitar playing, full of subtle complexity, her introspective captivating vocals adding melancholy and mystery to create a powerful but restrained song.

The whole album “Spring” is a quiet wonder. Unhurried and restrained but bursting with surprising musical and melodic flourishes, most notably the delicate jazzy piano accompaniment of Marc Riordan (Sun Araw). “Spring” is not really folk, or country or even Americana, but seems a kind of American Cosmic Music, where the psychedelia may be dialed right back, but so often there in the minimalism of the luminous understated accompaniments and in Cohen’s exploratory songwriting.

As well as those Joni Mitchell/ Nick Drake vibes on “Only a Traveler” the rest of “Spring” at times carries ghosts of David Crosby’s “If Only I Could Remember My Name” and Ry Cooder’s “Paris, Texas” haunting atmospheric soundtrack, while also fitting alongside the music of contemporary songwriter Aiofe Nessa Frances.

Kælan Mikla describe their music as appealing to fans of “dark and dreary music”, but there’s more dark magic than dreariness in the Icelandic dark wave synth trio’s sound, as “Ósýnileg” here shows:

Kælan Mikla was founded in 2013 as an entry in a Reykjavik, Iceland poetry competition, somehow evolving into a dark wave synth trio, releasing their first song in 2015, followed by albums and performing at international festivals. “Ósýnileg” (invisible) is from their upcoming 4th album which they say “will mostly revolve around folklore and fairytales, drawing the band even deeper into their realm of magic and mysticism.”

The music of Kælan Mikla is likely to appeal to contemporary dark wave synth-pop artists like Boy Harsher, and Death And The Maiden.

The New Existentialists are the Auckland ensemble of George D. Henderson (The Spies, The And Band, Mink, The Puddle). They have just released an album called “Poetry is Theft”. This one’s a proper album, as in, recorded in a studio. Last year they released an album called “Didn’t Have Time” which was a collection of works in progress rather than a proper, planned album release. Not that you would notice. Anyway, here’s the wonderful “Flavor of Love”:

Flavor of Love was an early 2000s reality TV dating show series , in which Flavor Flav (of Public Enemy fame) chose to not marry or date any of the winners from any of the three seasons over which twenty different ladies competed for his heart as they live together in a California mansion. It seems the unlikely inspiration for a gloriously wonky piece of underground NZ lounge pop, yet here we are.

Clearly songwriter George D. Henderson has been a committed viewer, investing emotional energy in the romantic outcomes of Series 3, episode 15 (“Parlez-Vous Flavor?”), but managing to turn the narcotic of reality television into a work of wonder; tender, romantic, and funny, from it’s opening refrain “She forgot how her love had been tested/ When he showed her the streets where he’d been arrested”.

The New Existentialists on “Poetry is Theft” are George D. Henderson (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards), Jamey Danger (bass, backing vocals), Ned Bycroft (drums, percussion), and Chris Heazlewood (synth). “Flavor of Love” here also has a beautifully melancholic brass contribution by Don McGlashan (Blam Blam Blam, The Muttonbirds).

When Bruce Russell (The Dead C/ Xpressway Records) explained in 1991 in a review in NZ music weekly Rip It Up: “that since the mid-70s George Henderson (poet, nutritional theorist, connoisseur of the esoteric) has been constantly engaged in an obscure but utterly uncompromising investigation-cum-pilgrimage through the ‘secret’ side of music, thought and the fine arts in this country” he could not have anticipated the investigation-cum-pilgrimage of this “connoisseur of the esoteric” would lead to “Flavor of Love”. But it has.

We can’t travel far in Dunedin right now, but we can explore outer space with Space Bats, Attack! thanks to a brand new release of timeless 5 year old recordings called “Oort”. Here’s “Suns”:

“Suns” is a relentlessly heavy psychedelic monster of a track, melting together hot sparking guitars with an old analogue mono synth to stretch the fabric of space and time. It’s in the same kind of league as those fabulously heavy psych jams created by the combination of Kandodo McBain.

The whole album – recorded 2016 but unreleased for 5 years – is a deep well of psychedelic space-rock, futuristic astral surf rock, and, well, just joyfully inventive noise. There’s so much to explore here, and so much exploratory wigged out energy, insane riffing, and pulverising bass and drums, it will give your stereo (or heaphones) a good workout.

To recap briefly – Space Bats, Attack! are also a discovery point for a swathe of other noisy Dunedin guitar bands. As well as guitarist Lee Nicholson (Thundercub, and Lightning Wave effect pedal guru) you have guitarist Richard Ley-Hamilton (formerly of Males, now Asta Rangu), and the Nicholls brothers – Josh (drums) and Zac (bass). Zac is also a brilliant guitarist and along with Josh is in  Koizilla. Various members are also present in current noisy Dunedin bands Bathysphere and Dale Kerrigan.

Insincere apologies for the lack of new PopLib posts for about 3 weeks. I’ve been too busy play XR’s album “XR!” (see previous post) to look for any new music on bandcamp. Not quite true, in that I did buy The Green Child’s “Shimmering Bassett” album as well and have been playing that half as much as “XR!” (which is still a fair bit). Here’s the opening track “Fashion Light”:

So, as we discovered on the previous post, The Green Child is Raven Mahon from XR (and previously in US band Grass Widow) with the ubiquitous Mikey Young who either plays on, recorded, mixed or mastered every second album of Australian underground pop/ rock. Slight exaggeration but Mikey brings new meaning to the word ‘prolific’.

Almost exactly a year ago PopLib shared some Mikey Young solo music, which, somewhat surprisingly was not garage rock, but instrumental synth pop. So the melodically melancholy low-key synth-pop/ dream-pop of The Green Child is not out of character. Anyway, it’s a cool album, lots of nicely baroque, dreamy, adventurous pop, which takes a while to reveal its quietly amibitious character (a good thing). Chances are you’ll love it too if you buy it, download it and live with it for a week or two.

We absolutely adore a bit of minimalist post-punk pop here at PopLib, and this slice of spacey minimalist post-punk pop wonder is from Melbourne band/ duo XR and their perfectly concise mini-album “XR!”.

XR take that melodic off-kilter approach associated with Wire, but strip it back and create something spare but wonderful. There’s perhaps a little bit of the feel of Young Marble Giants or The Raincoats here (especially on “Melody”), but also at times a whiff of the cool angular primitivism of Robert Rental’s proto-synth-pop post-punk oddness maybe. If it’s not obvious already, this kind of scatter of references all adds up to something really wonderful!

XR consists of Xanthe Waite and Raven Mahon. If Xanthe Waite sounds a familiar name then you are clearly an attentive PopLib reader and recall the 2020 album “Sogni” from Primo! from which we featured the song “Perfect Paper” in 2020 or you are a fan of Terry.

Raven Mahon should also be a familiar name, from US post-punk band Grass Widow. Mahon has now relocated to Australia and in 2020 released a dream-pop/ synth-pop collaboration called “Shimmering Basset” as The Green Child, with the ubiquitous Mikey Young

XR and The Green Child together offer an almost overwhelming rabbit hole of new music discovery leading deep into the extraordinary Australian underground.

Marielle V Jakobsons “Starcore” album has been one of the most-played albums in PopLib HQ this Southern Hemisphere winter. It blends synth with Jakobson’s own acoustic instruments and voice to create layered hypnotic devotional music. Here’s “The Beginning is the End”:

Oakland, California-based Jakobsons is a classically-trained multi-instrumentalist playing violin, flute, synth, bass, and piano and adding her voice to create Kosmiche Music of the highest order. The combination of instruments and voices keeps the balance heavily on the human side, with electronics providing a helix of rhythm and melody to bind the acoustic drones into a rich, layered universe of sound.

If you like the ambient music of Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy (circa their 1979 album Rainbow Dome Musick which preceded the 90s ambient soundscapes of The Orb et al.) or contemporary synth+acoustic instrument inner space explorers The Utopia Strong, then “Star Core” is your cosmos to explore.

The blissful voices on this track remind me of the voices of another favourite instrumental album, also on Thrill Jockey – the glorious “Looks at the Bird” album (2003) by Tortoise-adjacent band Brokeback. Mary Hansen and Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab contributed vocals to three songs on that album, so if you want another Thrill Jockey rabbit-hole to fall down, start with that Brokeback album.

Dunedin noise-band Dale Kerrigan, led by guitarist and vocalist Shlee Nichols, have released their first album “Noise Bitch”. It’s a punishing blast of full-fury noise rock, as “RipGirl101” demonstrates ably:

“RipGirl101” is a great introduction to the album. Typical of the songs on the album it’s monstrous, in a Sonic Youth meets Slayer kind of way.

The band tag their sound as “noise rock” and “emo” on bandcamp but there’s also elements of punk, sludge metal, avant-garde dissonance and goodness knows what else going on in the chunky riffage, and loud-quiet dynamics of their particular style of noise rock.

Dale Kerrigan (a band, there is no-one called Dale Kerrigan in the 4 piece group) is the brainchild of Ōtepoti/ Dunedin musician Shlee Nicholls (Mary Berry, Flesh Bug), another from the noisy Nicholls family production line of musicians, alongside hyperactive drumming brother Josh Nicholls (Koizilla, Fazed on a Pony, Asta RanguSpace Bats, Attack! et al.) and friends Joel Field (Porpoise), and Connor Blackie (Koizilla, Adelaide Cara).

“Noise Bitch” will be available on cassette tape with art book soon. In the meantime, treat yourself to the download.