ROTW: Spiny Normen!

Whoops, we forgot what day it was. Well, this is our Record Of The Week, not Record Of The Tuesday, anyway… So, this time, if y’all haven’t met before, we’d like to introduce you to Spiny Normen.

Named after a mythical giant hedgehog from a Monty Python sketch,* the band Spiny Normen were a bunch of long haired community college students from Houston, Texas in the mid-to-late ‘70s, who were deep into English prog rock and heavy psych, a la Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, Black Sabbath, etc. Inspired by such bands, as well as copious pot and acid, these trippy teenagers came up with their very own progressive, heavy, experimental sounds.

The RidingEasy label dug up a track by 'em called “The Bell Park Loon” for their Brown Acid: The Second Trip compilation in 2016 (that excellent series of seventies acid rock rarities is already up to Vol. 6, btw!) and have now just put out an entire Spiny Normen album, with that song and lots more radness, recorded circa 1979 but unreleased until now.

Check out the video (above) that’s been made for that comp track with what looks like vintage Super 8 footage of the band, and then imagine a whole album along the same lines – it’s quite good! Also, did we mention, FLUTE! (Plus vintage Vox Jaguar electric organ, fuzzy guitars, Mellotron, timpani, lots of echo effects, etc.)

Or don’t imagine, listen below... and you’ll forget what day (and decade) it is, too...

RIYL: Van Der Graaf GeneratorKing CrimsonBlack Sabbath, Sproton Layer, Gnidrolog, Los Dug Dugs...

*And they're not the only band to take their name from that particular Python sketch, see also Ethel The Frog.


ROTW: Demons Crawl At Your Side!

We can't let the release last month of a new album from our favorite formerly-one-man melancholic Italian doom act pass by without mention... That's right, there's a new opus from old pal Tony Tears, the cd version via Minotauro, vinyl forthcoming on Blood Rock.

Super atmospheric and spooky in the heavy, psychedelic style of Paul Chain, Demons Crawl At Your Side has got that whole vintage Italian horror film soundtrack meets metallic Sabbath-y sound that we love. Paul Chain associate Sandra Silver even guests with her dramatic, haunting female vocals, and there's plenty of spacey, eerie Moog synth creeping on you all over the place, amidst the lugubrious doom guitar riffery. Absolutely possessed of occult vibes, this album is all quite wonderfully spacious, dark and mesmeric, but boasts some surprising rockin' moments as well ("Demon Always Stands At The Darkness Of Fear" being one such example).

While nothing could ever surpass the primitive, lonely, almost-outsider charm of Tony Tears' cd debut Voici Dal Passo that we made a Record Of The Week at aQuarius back in 2009 (and really became a bit of a hit for us, astonishingly enough), we're pretty pleased with where ol' Tony has gone with his music in the years since, even as he's become less of a loner and brought other likeminded musicians into the fold (this album's lineup includes members of Abysmal Grief and Soul Of Enoch by the way). Bravo, Tony Tears!

RIYL: BlizaroJaculaPaul Chain's Violet Theater, Black Hole, Death SSGoblin...


ROTW: Stellary Wisdom!

Our last couple Records Of The Week have been loaded with synthesizers – the South African bubblegum boogie-synth of Gumba Fire! last week and the spaced-out kosmische cassette-culture synth of The Nightcrawlers the week before that. And at the beginning of the year, we made the Japanese video game synth soundz of the Diggin In The Carts comp a Record Of The Week too. So sue us, we like synth. Now this week, the question is: have you gotten into 'Dungeon Synth' yet?

We definitely had dungeon synth, and proto- dungeon synth, stuff at aQuarius, but mostly before it became a 'thing.' Don't think we ever used the term in any of our reviews (not even when we wrote up the awesome Cave Evil Radio Mix). Now, it's a entire burgeoning, Mortiis-lovin' underground genre of minimalist, medieval-sounding lo-fi electronic music that has a lot in common with DIY one-man black metal bands, but, like, consists of the intros only. Those troo cvlt nerds over at Bandcamp provided a great listener's guide last year, a good place for noobs to dip their toes. And the first act mentioned in that article is the one responsible for our Record Of The Week now – the 'Wampyric Specter' himself, Dutch dungeon synth maestro Old Tower, definitely one of our faves in the genre. The Profound Lore label are obviously also fans and jumped in to bring us Old Tower's first ever cd release (dungeon synth is usually more of a cassette or digital-only phenomenon, so glad to see some now on our favorite format – in this case, appropriately packaged with its "slipcase and booklet on matte cardstock for that old/decrepit feel").

What exactly is so special about Old Tower and new album Stellary Wisdom? Well, absorb about five minutes of the first of the disc's two lengthy tracks, "Deep Within My Somber Castle Halls" and you won't have to ask. Instead you'll be imagining crumbling stone passageways beneath an ancient fortress, lit by flickering torchlight, haunted by the specters of slain warriors, that sort of thing. Like a lot of the best dungeon synth, not surprisingly it's good, solemn ambient organ music for playing D&D – not for fighting battles, so much as for after the battle when your party is taking a 'long rest' to mourn fallen comrades, recover lost hit points and study spellbooks, keeping watch for any horrid wandering monsters that might intrude from the darkness.


ROTW: Gumba Fire!

There are plenty of funky, sunny, feel good grooves here on this awesome new Soundway compilation Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa! that comes out this Friday, March 9th on cd and triple 12", featuring 16 tracks fully living up to the description in its subtitle.

Basically if the terms "Bubblegum Soul" and "Synth-Boogie" sound good to you, you'll probably love this, and we think you'll understand why it's our Record Of The Week pick this time 'round as soon as your ears fasten on to the irresistible beat and catchy refrain of this comp's title track "Gumba Fire (Madlakadlaka)" by Ashiko – check it out:

Could spin that one again, and again, and again... but then, when would we listen to the rest of the cuts on this comp, which are awesome too?? Tracks by The Survivals, Stimela, Hot Soul Singers, Zoom, and all all the rest, so good.

For sure, the cover graphics don't lie (see below), it's very '80s sounding indeed, naturally with lotsa Yamaha DX7 as our synth loving pal Lee quickly noted, all of which means this has a certain retro nostalgic charm too, but the South Africa part of the equation means these are tracks that probably you (and certainly we) hadn't ever heard before, so super fresh sounding too, and thus extra ripe for the repeat spins alluded to above.

By the way, what IS a Gumba Fire? We're told that it's "derived from gumba gumba, the term given to the booming speakers of the old spacegram radios that broadcast music into South Africa’s townships and villages. The phrase later evolved into Gumba Fire to refer to a hot party." Aha, okay.

Of course, the unique cultural/political/historical context of this music is also doubtless interesting and relevant, we assume the liner notes delve into all that but we haven't read 'em yet, too busy grooving to the music...