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Mother Gong – The Robot Woman Trilogy boxset (Madfish)

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This lavishly illustrated and lovingly curated box set is a wonderful testament to a brief passage in time in the early 1980s when Mother Gong, the project based around Gilli Smyth and partner Harry Williamson, put forward their own unique slant on the Gong vibe in the form of a trilogy of ‘Robot Woman’ albums. I remember picking up all 3 albums in the late Eighties as they seemed to crop up, new, with corners punched out of them in various vinyl bargain bins. In fact this is the first appearance of any of them on CD, released by Madfish, a subsidiary of Snapper, who are responsible for both the Steve Hillage box set and the forthcoming ones by Gong and Caravan. This box set includes all 3 albums, carefully remastered and augmented by a fourth, containing a series of bonus tracks which add musical and historical context to the whole project.

On my first listening to this music back in the day I succumbed to the temptation to carry out a musical  comparison with Gong themselves (that band were dormant at the time, and this appeared to be the nearest thing)  but this isn’t perhaps the most helpful starting point. Harry Williamson, who composed most of the band’s music, is a very much a different kettle of fish to Daevid Allen and whilst their paths (and Gilli’s)  crossed many times over subsequent years, producing memorable reflective work such as ‘Magenta’, ‘Stroking the Tail of the Bird’ and ‘22 Meanings’,  ‘Robot Woman’ was always much more musically abrasive, whilst providing a carefully crafted backdrop for Gilli Smyth’s lyrics in a way that Gong themselves could only do sporadically.

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All of the albums are ultimately performance art, but none more so than ‘Robot Woman 1’ with all of its sharp characterisation, the music providing a busy backdrop to a story which on the surface appears to herald the advent of computerisation and automation, but ultimately is a cleverly interweaved commentary on the perception and objectivisation of women in a male-dominated world. Whilst at times the caricatures are extreme enough to make one wince (for example ‘Customs Man – Rapist’), ultimately these are richly entertaining pastiches of musical styles, with the narrative the most important element. That said, the musically the backdrop is expertly performed, with my favourite moments being Williamson’s slick funk guitar licks, particularly on ‘Disco At The End Of The World’ and ‘Machine Song’, the latter of which has you checking yourself for perspective as Gilli Smyth puts in one of her more erotic vocal performances (whilst describing the tangle of wires inside her robot persona and breathily announcing ‘I need your screwdriver…’)  . Hugh Hopper guests on two tracks here, including the truly strange ‘Stars’, whilst Mike Howlett, Steve Hillage and Steve Broughton all get credits on ‘Machine Song’ as some of the music emanates from ‘Digital Love’, the original B-side to ‘Nuclear Waste’ from Sting and the Radioactors, which I believe was Harry’s first involvement with anyone from the Gong crowd in 1977.

Despite the fact that two of my all-time favourite musicians, Didier Malherbe and Van der Graaf’s Guy Evans form part of the core ‘band’ on ‘Robot Woman 1’ (alongside young Devonian bass player Dayne Cranenburg), their individual voices are subsumed into a seamless overall machine which propels the story along. But by ‘Robot Woman 2’ on which both musicians appear again throughout, the music is starting to find a voice too. I was surprised, hearing this album for the first time in 20 odd years, how familiar it was, testament to some heavy duty listening back then and its strength as an album. The composition is already freeing up with Didier’s interjections much more recognisably his – ‘You Can Touch The Sky’ is almost an outtake from ‘Melodic Destiny’ the lost album with Yan Emeric recorded around this time here, whilst two tracks which were still Mother Gong staples in the Nineties, ‘1999’ and ‘Crazy Town’ take their first bow. Harry Williamson’s songwriting is much more effective, and includes roles for harmonised vocals – with the addition of a female voice or two singing conventionally to augment Gilli Smyth’s patent poetry. This is musically more successful than the first album, although it takes some delving into the liner notes to find the narrative in a way that wasn’t necessary with the first album.

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By album 3 the band were moving towards the formula which would characterise the classic ‘Wild Child’ era: lengthier compositions and individually musically more diverse yet coherent pieces, although one could be forgiven on hearing early parts of the opening track ‘It’s You And Me Baby’ that we have landed directly into some sort of Eighties caricature, with drum machines, stuttering voice samples a la ‘n n Nineteen’ and abrasive keyboard interjections. Highlights for me are the slightly unnerving drone piece ‘Faces of Woman’ very much suited to the Gilli Smyth voice with glissando backdrop (from Daevid Allen) , a further hint to the way forward, whilst ‘Lady’s Song’  is an almost Kevin Ayers-like cod-calypso number, superbly realised and forming the backdrop to the Smyth voice categorising the roles of women in their many guises. I’d also completely forgotten that the first part of ‘Magenta’, the glorious meditative piece also powered by a Daevid Allen glissando drone (which reached its 30 minute realisation in a later Mother Gong release) started here – Gilli’s words here are powerful and evocative.

The bonus fourth CD is something of a delight – a selection of 18 tracks mainly from various stages of the trilogy, but concentrating most particularly on early material. Track 1, ‘Evidance’, is identified as being a tune which the band used as a soundcheck/intro for early Robot Woman gigs, but in fact appears to be taken directly from the aforementioned  ‘Melodic Destinies’, which I bought as a cassette from GAS in the late Eighties, an unfulfilled follow up to ‘Bloom’ from Didier. This superb track was by the far the highlight of that release. There are early versions of ‘Disco at the End of the World’, which actually uses ‘Moving Walkway’ from ‘Robot Woman 2’ as its backdrop, complete with the superb synth solo from Mo Vickerage;  and ‘Machine Song’. Both, in waiting to settle down for their final versions contain some really interesting variations, as do the dub versions (as in its instrumental sense but also as an indication of its reggae feel) of ‘Australia’ and ‘1999’, the latter almost like Here and Now in its ska leanings. There are voiceover tryouts from Harry Williamson, two tracks featuring the vocals of Tasmin Smyth, Gilli’s first daughter, something of a forgotten entity in the whole Gong story; and two outstanding instrumental tracks unrelated to the Robot Woman story but based around the glissando guitar of Harry Williamson, the first a superb duo with Didier Malherbe called ‘Flying Through The Machine’, the second ‘Gliss’ with violinist Matthew Arnold. Elsewhere certain outtakes from ‘Robot Woman 1’ feature more prominent vocal involvement from Gilli’s (and Daevid’s) sons Taliesin and Orlando and Harry’s daughter Bee, which adds a certain anarchic charm. Finally we hear the closing part of the ‘Magenta’ poem, which has been cleverly superimposed over a track I recognised from Harry Williamson’s duo cassette with Robert Calvert (the saxophonist from later Mother Gong) ‘Street Art’ – which is hugely resonant. This section, in which Gilli as narrator reflects on life as a 100 year old, includes a certain amount of resolution in terms of the whole narrative, squaring the circle, solving life’s conundrums etc which gives a rather positive conclusion to the whole Robot Woman story perhaps.

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And so to the packaging – which is, in addition to the bonus tracks and the release of all 3 albums on CD for the first time, the primary reason you might buy this box set. An LP-sized 48-page book blends together numerous things: all of the original artwork, including for the first time coloured versions of the first album’s cartoons by Christine Sawyer; a full set of track listings and musicians; a comprehensive publishing of all the lyrics; plus a biography and thoughts by Harry Williamson on the origins of the band plus a personal chronology of its development up until the end of the trilogy period. This includes the fascinating story of the original spark for the project at the Bananamoon Observatory on Es Clot in Deia, through to communal living in the Devonian outback which spawned a number of related projects (The Long Hello and the aforementioned ‘Melodic Destiny’) and eventually to emigration to Australia. There is a eulogy from Rick Chafen, personal friend and architect of the US gigging network which gave a platform for the band in the Nineties; and artefacts including  gig posters and ticket; and a rather moving and erudite poem written by Gilli Smyth following the death of Harry Williamson’s father Henry (author of Tarka the Otter, a book which son Harry would later set to music). This is all in all, a wonderfully presented artefact for a somewhat forgotten piece of history and a lovely tribute from Harry Williamson to Gilli Smyth and the music they created together.

Buy the Mother Gong trilogy box set from http://www.planetgong.co.uk

 

Ed Wynne – Shimmer Into Nature (Kscoper 827)

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Facelift fanzine was renowned for trying to sneak in Ozric Tentacles reviews at every opportunity, regardless of their tangential links to the ‘scene’ (there are links both musically and personnel-wise if you’re prepared to look hard enough) and I’ve followed the progress of this seminal space-rock band assiduously over the last thirty years. As their leader Ed Wynne re-located back to the UK following a number of changes in circumstances, I was lucky enough to catch him at Kozfest in 2017 firstly as a guest with the Ullulators, then memorably with his own pop-up band as most of the initial Ozrics line-up were re-united for a superb hour long jam.

But any assumption based on these good vibes that this would naturally morph into Ozrics mark z appears to have been misplaced. Instead Ed has been working for a while on his first solo album, whose appearance was initially slated for September but eventually appeared in January. What’s perhaps surprising, given the extraordinary diversity in the early Ozrics tapes both in terms of Ed’s choice of stringed instruments and a heady mix of styles, is that ‘Shimmer Into Nature’ seems to continue the homogenous path of recent band albums, most notably the admittedly excellent double ‘Technicians of the Sacred’. The music is incredibly dense, a blend of busy programmed drums, undulating bass parts and layers of keyboards, with an initial impression that there may not be sufficient space to showcase trademark guitar work.

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Despite myself living so remotely in the nether regions of West Yorkshire that running water is considered to be something of a luxury, I happen to live 3 doors down from a fellow Ozrics aficionado, and when I mentioned to him that I was finding it difficult to find a hook in to ‘Shimmer’ he sagely advised me to ‘stick with it’. And he was right: it’s a slow burner, and beyond the density are all the hallmarks of an Ozrics archetype: titles such as ‘Oddplonk’ and ‘Wherble’ and ‘Shim’ suggest the band’s legacy of slightly absurdist track names is safe – and indeed these final three tracks, each clocking in at around 10 minutes, are the album’s best. Whilst ‘Shim’ is the most instantly recognisable classic based on a superb keyboard theme, ‘Oddplonk’ is probably the best, with, eventually, all the trademark elements: the rolling bass theme, the initial guitar riffing, the swirling, bubbling keyboards, the joyful guitar solo which eventually morphs into the distorted, reedy lead line doubled by further rhythm lines. There are even the ‘Jurassic Shift’ type harmonics in there, and it almost takes me back to the semi-jammed delights of ‘Tantric Obstacles’.

In fact, from what appears initially as a predominantly synth and programmed led album, guitar reveals itself more and more, with further fine riffs on ‘Wherble’. One month on, this album still continues to give, and I’m fairly sure I’ve not finished with it yet. With the news that the spring Gong tour will be backed by support from the Ed Wynne band, this seems like a nice way to finish this particular batch of reviews. Given that the only misgivings I have about this album is a tendency to build a multitude of layers to the detriment of the ‘space’ which allows Ed Wynne’s guitar to shine at its brightest, perhaps the adding of ‘real’ bass and drums will complete a comfortably heady mix to everyone’s satisfaction.

Ultramarine: Signals Into Space (Les Disques du Crepuscule TWI 1236) Ultramarine: Meditations (Les Disques du Crepuscule TWI 1243)

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Ultramarine were Facelift darlings in the mid-Nineties as their clear love for the Canterbury scene (as witnessed by samplings of ‘Lullabye Letter’ and ‘Flute Salad’ on their seminal 1991 album ‘Every Man And Woman Is A Star’) was expanded into their memorable ‘United Kingdoms’ album. This, for the uninitated, featured original contributions from Robert Wyatt and Jimmy Hastings as well as a version of Matching Mole’s ‘Instant Kitten’. Their take on dancey electronica was subtly questioning where that of the Orb was manically subverting, and they continued to record some fine albums after the Canterbury spotlight had passed.

After a very long hiatus, the duo (Ian Cooper and Paul Hammond) reformed in 2011 and released a rather low-key album ‘This Time Last Year’ two years later which received relatively little airplay here. But any suggestion that the outfit had lost their mojo in the years since the mid-Nineties has been rather kyboshed by the appearance of ‘Signals Into Space’ a 12 track album backed by an additional 40 minute ‘meditation’ CD which can be purchased as a bonus artefact for an additional £5 at https://www.lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/signals_into_space_twi1236.html

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Whilst it was always unlikely that ‘Signals’ would ever surpass the diverse excellence of ‘Every Man’, the jazzy ‘Bel Air’ or the minimalist ‘A User’s Guide’, it manages to combine elements of all 3 into a refreshing, coherent mix. Stripped down electronica is represented in the opening track, Kraftwerkish in its top-end percussive noises, and whilst there’s little of ‘Bel Air’s funk, its gentle rave is propelled on by the excellent ‘Arithmetic’ and the vibes (as in the tuned percussive instrument) are maintained by guest player Ric Elsworth at various points on the album. That nod to the Nineties is also present in the gentle rhythms of ‘Framework’ whilst the atmospherics underpinned by the chattering beats of ‘Cross Reference’ eventually stretches out into what could be a quote from the rhythms of ‘Lights In Your Brain’.

The Ultramarine aficionado will remember that on their third and fourth albums the duo added vocals to the whirring beats, firstly through Robert Wyatt, and secondly from a quite bizarre duo from Wigan called Pooka. Several tracks on ‘Signals’, mostly notably the evocative ‘Spark From Flint To Clay’ add the voice of American singer Anna Domino, which whilst not quite as kooky as Pooka, creates a slightly unsettling ambience. The other main guest here is none other than saxophonist Iain Ballamy, a coincidence of real resonance for me as he was an integral part of Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, the first band I ever saw (in 1986?) with any sort of connection to music I would subsequently write about. Ballamy’s contributions include his lyrical stage centre on ‘Breathing’ as well as an even more understated presence on the beatless ‘Sleight of Hand’.

What’s great about Ultramarine is the fact that whilst largely uncategorisable (is this dance music or experimental electronica, or both?) they have their own unique calling cards: gentle, minimalist rhythms, simple slightly unnerving atmospherics and a penchant for overlaying this with very human voices and acoustic instrumentation. Their magic remains.

As for ‘Meditation’, well it very much does what it says on the tin. Beatless, slightly eerie and rather relaxing, these are impressionistic soundscapes, etched out by marimba-esque sounds, plinking and plonking against swathes of keyboard backdrop, and backed by the sound of distant conversations or bird song. Occasionally settling into almost recognisable themes before meandering off somewhere else, this is serene stuff and pleasant without being anodyne. Certainly a departure but none the less impressive for all that.

https://ultramarine.uk.com/

System 7 / Mirror System: Café Seven CD (a-wave AAWCD020)

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Steve Hillage makes an annual appearance in my adopted home town of Hebden Bridge with his trancey outfit System 7. I don’t always go and see him as I’ve largely moved away from dance music and have found that I no longer have the staying power or necessary faculties to endure an extended early morning wig-out. That said, I’ve purchased most of his System 7 albums since the late Eighties, and particularly enjoyed both his ambient ‘Point 7: Water’ album in the early Nineties and the equally sedate Mirror System album a decade or so later. When I last saw him at the Trades Club in September, it was as part of a 20 year celebration of local club night Cabbage, where over 3 nights Steve performed as System 7 on the Friday, as Mirror System on the Saturday, and Eat Static did the Sunday slot. As with previous viewings, it turned out the Mirror System were mirror as in ‘alternate’ rather than ‘ambient’, with a particularly hardcore set sending me eventually scurrying for the taxi rank, having enjoyed Hebden’s own Tetchi, a more benign blend of beats and instruments, rather more.

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‘Café Seven’, which came out some time in 2018 is, from what I can gather from the credits, something of a pot pourri of original compositions, collaborations and remixes and whilst it’s apparently fairly faithful airing of what you might hear live, it is in places for me somewhat more accessible, possibly because familiarity breeds context, but mainly because of a quite superb sound mix which elevates a formulaic mix based around the inevitable 4:4 kickdrum. Whilst ‘First Wave’ may appear to set the tone for some fairly standard fare, there are some choice moments at various points in the album. Best in show are Mirror System & Aija’s ‘Smooth Operator’, something of a dance classic, starting with pristine echoed synths and propelled along through some rather funky guitar licks; whilst System 7’s ‘Big Summit’  benefits from some Qawali-style sampled vocals which slice through the pounding backbeats. Even ‘A Smuggler and a Juggler’, a track that originally had me despairing for some variation, has enough hypnotic impact to grind me down into releasing my inner raver. Whilst the ‘And Justice Killed’ resurrects the rather crash-and-burn style of the first System 7 album, not entirely convincingly, ‘Elektra’ adds a more appealing spooked out feel, and the album winds down with ‘Cloudface’ (a remix from a Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society track, no less) featuring glissando guitar, and the rather reflective ‘Golden Mission’ featuring probably the only extended guitar soloing of the album. A nice way to complete an album which refused to let me ignore it.

Whilst the Hillage die-hard may hold out for this spring’s gigs resurrecting material from Green, Fish Rising and Open, let’s not forget that System 7 are 30 years old this year and have a remarkable longevity and following which may have surprised those of us who heard their debut album all those years ago. Café Seven is still available at Planet Gong at https://www.planetgong.co.uk/bazaar/cd/system7_cafeseven.shtml

The Quartet ft. Syd Arthur – Nobody’s Fault But My Own (Dawn Chorus Recording Company

a9S5xfiG.jpgThis unexpected release emanates from two different strands of current Canterbury music and also appears in an unexpected format – 21 minutes of spontaneous composition on vinyl. I’d heard of (and eventually heard) a version of ‘Facelift’ performed by this outfit doing the rounds, but confusingly credited (at least in part) to Syd Arthur. For all their wonderful repertoire, complex compositions, psychedelic credentials and a nod to the classic carefree feel of early Caravan I would not have associated Syd Arthur with the kind of extended workout afforded to either that track or what we have here.

‘Nobody’s Fault But My Own’ turns out to a release spliced together from several takes of the same piece performed by The Quartet (Jack Hues’ outfit with Sam Bailey and the rhythm section of Led Bib, who I saw the Canterbury Sound event in 2017); all of Syd Arthur minus Raven Bush; and saxophonist Paul Booth (from the last incarnation of In Cahoots). There are certainly common calling cards to the original ‘Facelift’ in as much as this is stretched out exploratory multi-instrumental work, but this is languid as much as it is dissonant, with Hues taking the clear lead on guitar. Being neither familiar with Beck nor his track covered I am taking what I hear pretty much as heard, and whilst clear themes shine through this is an accessible, occasionally bluesy free blow with multiple layers of instrumentation contributing towards a rich slightly dreamy atmosphere (although Bailey’s ‘Meddle’-style keyboards, gone slightly haywire briefly cut through the ambience)

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Interestingly, as I sat down to write this brief review, news came through of a set of gigs by the expanded Quartet with a lineup of Mark Holub – Drums;  Liran Donin – Double Bass; Sam Bailey – Keys; Jack Hues – Guitar; Liam Magill – Guitar/Synth; Joel Magill – Electric Bass; Josh Magill – Drums Chris Williams – Sax to perform ‘Nobody’s Fault’, ‘Facelift’ and as Joel puts it ‘devling into some newly re-worked stuff’ (I’ll go with the typo!).

Gigs are at April 10th – Crofters Rights, Bristol April 11th – St Pancras OId Church, London April 12th – St Thomas Hall, Canterbury. Tickets at https://www.songkick.com/artists/930261-syd-arthur?fbclid=IwAR3sc7x-hF-fPVxZiPn-zpkUJlebbo6EqffPqat-4blDN-8DkoQQmrW-E7U

Nobody’s Fault But My Own is available at https://jackhuesthequartetftsydarthur.bandcamp.com/

Manna Mirage: Rest of the World (New House Music NH05) Moon Men: Uncomfortable Space Probe (BHH 2018)

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Around this time last year I penned a few lines about a remarkable CD from Diratz, a collaboration predominantly between the French singer of that name (Carla), and American musicians Dave Newhouse and Bret Hart. Unwittingly the 4 tracks I identified as particularly outstanding were the ones from the pen of Newhouse, who will be familiar to many here as the leading light in The Muffins, that American branch of the Canterbury and RIO scenes who recorded numerous albums in the Seventies and Noughties.

Two releases here highlight his current works, the first band taking its name from a Muffins album which I reviewed (briefly) back in Facelift issue 11. ‘Rest of the World’ is an almost instantly recognisable blend of styles familiar to readers of the this blog. ‘Catawumpus’ a piece originally intended to be recorded by the Muffins, sets the scene with a Windo-esque multiple-horn fanfare, descending into ever more cacophony before a doomy keyboard note increasingly cuts through Van der Graaf style. ‘ Mini Hugh’, a clear reference to a certain Canterbury giant blends his amiable, shifting bass sounds at the start of the piece with some classic fuzz sounds at the end (courtesy of Guy Segers) but also features with some ‘Facelift-esque’ woodwind sounds as Newhouse’s sax alternately expresses or noodles, Elton Dean style, alongisde some Ratledge-esque keyboard atmospherics.

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‘Zed He Said’ was apparently written for Robert Wyatt, and this track is very much in the vein of ‘Maryan’ from ‘Schleep’ with a wonderful melody sung by Michele King, simply stark keyboard backing and some sympathetic guitar accompaniment . ‘Alchemist In the Parlour’ is a made to measure collaboration between bass clarinet and the voice of Carla Diratz, interspersed with some very Art Bears-ish faux folk lines as the obtuse Diratz voice narrates, somewhere between Peter Blegvad’s surrealism and Finlay Quaye’s deadpan delivery.

Yet the centrepoint of the album for me is ’30 Degrees of Freedom’ where an engulfing piano intro, underpinned by fuzz bass and cymbals, descends into a piano theme almost from ‘Rivmic Melodies’. The sounds that cut across that are so elephantine you feel they must be played by a trombone (in fact they are from the guitar of Mark Stanley) one of many highlights for this track alone.

It’s no mistake that I’ve written more for this album than any other single release here – it’s a very fine album whose depths extend right through to the final piece ‘That Awful Sky’ whose disquieting ambience, composed but not performed on by Newhouse closes things out. This is a very fine album, grab whilst you can as I believe it’s almost sold out!

 

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Moon Men represents another facet of Dave Newhouse’s prolific output, this time on a more equal footing with 3 other musicians (Hart, Wim Jungwirth, Jerry King) and often delving into much darker places in a seismic romp through 13 short tracks. From the Materialesque funk of ‘Phat Caravan’, all heavy bass and starkly focussed drumming, ‘Moon Men Luv’ I believe may be a reference to Hugh Hopper’s classic ‘1984’ piece ‘’, certainly it has the same stripped down dissonant sax groove that will have you, as with so many other tracks on this album, tapping a foot or wiggling a hip in appreciation, another case in point being the sleazy ‘Kai Ching Tai Ching’. Other tracks are deliberately not so light on their feet. The accordion-based ‘Anti Matter Handshake’ appears to deliberately point towards Skeleton Crew (with whom Newhouse guested in the Eighties) with its obtuse percussive effects, whilst elsewhere Newhouse in particular is keen to release his inner Zeuhl: ‘Dark They Were’  ‘Billzilla 94’ , and in particular ‘Pulsar’ with its moody, slowly building keyboards.

Whilst things loosen up even further towards the end of the album with some much freer riffing, apparently more in tune with the band’s first release (which I haven’t heard) the overall feeling of ‘Uncomfortable Space Probe’ is one of tremendous fun, powered throughout by a particularly monstrous bass sound, plucking effects and unexpected instrumentation into the mix at will.

http://www.mannamirage.com/

https://bhhstuff.bandcamp.com/album/moon-men-ii-uncomfortable-space-probe-digital

Droog5: While Waiting (Relatives Records 218 10 06)

promo while waiting.jpgWillemJan Droog is a Dutch keyboard player with a long association with Phil Miller, the most recent evidence of which was with the Relatives, the band which also featured Jack Monck (of Delivery) and Marc Hadley. The band recorded ‘Virtually’, reviewed here, the last recorded work committed to disc by Phil.

At the recent Phil Miller commemorative gig in London, Jack and Marc appeared on stage as part of the various denominations performing Phil’s music, whilst I was lucky enough to be sat next to WillemJan watching events unfold. He told me about his involvement with the Miller/Baker duo who he accompanied during Dutch gigs in the Nineties. Meanwhile, his band Droog5 have just released their  album ‘While Waiting’, and frankly, it’s a delight.

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‘While Waiting’ is an album of intricate acoustic jazz featuring drums, standup bass, soprano sax or bass clarinet, and cello (plus occasional violin) alongside the piano of the bandleader. Whilst styles flit from Cuban jazz (on ‘Luv Bossa’) to Celtic influenced jaunts to a more Balkan feel elsewhere, interspersed with more straightforward ballads, these changes serve only to convey a rich ongoing narrative – in calling on compositions from four of its members it simply opens up a range of opportunities for the band to show a really natural cohesion to back up some wonderful inventive compositions, performed with zest. Case in point is ‘Dinant’, where an undulating folk melody written by Angelique Boel and etched out by soprano saxophone would steal the show were it not for the sonorous tones of piano, bass and Boel’s cello underpinning it so heartbreakingly. Those familiar with the Relatives’ album ‘Virtually’ will recognise the track WillemJan wrote for it, ‘Stately Waltz’, and it benefits from the more organic instrumentation here.  Other highlights are ‘Last Tango’, an Twenties-style romp which unexpectedly changes tack into Latin jazz half way through, and ‘For Charles’, where author Stan Stolk’s jarring double bass line eventually gives way to  wonderfully serpentine soprano sax work from Hans Rikken.

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‘While Waiting’ is uniformly excellent, mixing memorable compositions with fine musicianship. Well worth checking out at http://www.relativesrecords.com  Incidentally  a bonus track, ‘Duo for Tarzan’ featuring guest violinist Erik Koning, is a piece co-authored by Droog and Jack Monck, presumably another track dating back to Relatives days.

Visit http://www.relativesrecords.com which includes a band history, and a CD shop including various collaborations by Relatives band members with Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Laurie Allan.