Friday, September 28, 2007

Swell Maps - Jane from Occupied Europe (1980)

Swell Maps originally consisted of brothers Epic Soundtracks (Kevin Godfrey) and Nikki Sudden (Nicholas Godfrey) from Birmingham, England. According to, they were "named after the charts used by surfers to gauge wave intensities." Although exisiting as far back as 1972, the group really took shape around '76 or '77 after adding members Richard Earl, David Barrington, John Cockrill and Jowe Head. They sporadically released singles until 1979 when they released their first album, A Trip to Marineville. Their music contributed to the rise of post-punk through its combination of snarly punk and Krautrock inspired noise. Throughout all of Jane from Occupied Europe, the Swell Maps sound as though they were at an extremely high level of creativity. They remained true to the sound of A Trip to Marineville while becoming even more sophisticated at integrating their songs and experimenation. I've yet to hear any of their compilations of unreleased material, but I've been highly interested for some time.


Epic Soundtracks - 23 March 1959 - 5 November 1997

Nikki Sudden - 19 July 1956 – 26 March 2006

Download Jane from Occupied Europe

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Blossom Toes - "Postcard" Single (1968)

Here's a single by the Blossom Toes with two songs called "Postcard" and "Everyone's Leaving Me Now." "Postcard" is classic psych-pop that would have fit in nicely on We Are Ever So Clean while "Everyone's Leaving Me Now" is a pop tune with a jazzy sound. In addition to this single, I recently came across the bonus tracks from We Are Ever So Clean. There are five songs that didn't make the album plus some demos, live versions and a BBC interview with band member, Jim Cregan (the songwriter who writes the "slightly more freaky things").

Download Postcard
Download the We Are Ever So Clean Bonus Tracks

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Czar (1970)

This isn't one of my favorites, but it's pretty good and what little the album lacks is made up for with the amazingly bizarre album cover. Originally known as Tuesday's Children, Czar was a British band that played mildly progressive rock with blues and pop influences. They never made it far despite heavy touring with the likes of the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, the Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, the Who and King Crimson. After changing their name to Czar in 1970, they recorded this sole album and parted ways. Apparently they recorded the album late at night after playing shows, frequently writing the songs the very same day they were recorded. These recordings were then overdubbed with Mellotron keyboard, which is a fixture throughout the album. Despite some blandness and cheesiness (check out "Today"), Czar has some great songs with interesting musical passages and adept instrumentation. The lead guitar is especially impressive, sounding strangely similar to Brian May of Queen on the Pink Floyd-esque "Dawning Of A New Day." The two last tracks are bonus tracks that are quite different from the album. "Oh Lord I'm Getting Heavy" is heavily gospel influenced while "Why Don't We Be A Rock'n Roll Band" is an all-out rock cliché.

Download Czar

Spacemen 3 Interview

Here's an interview with Spacemen 3 that I meant to post shortly after my last post. Sonic Boom seems to dominate the majority of the conversation. There's also some pretty sweet clips from the music video for "Hypnotized" during the interview. The full version of the music video is also on youtube.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Spacemen 3 - Forged Prescriptions (1987)

Spacemen 3 was a British band featuring primary creative forces Jason Pierce (later of Spiritualized) and Pete Kember AKA Sonic Boom (best nickname ever). This double disc collection of Perfect Prescription-era demos, alternate takes and covers also features percusionist Stewart "Rosco" Rosswell and Pete "Bassman" Baines. Spacemen 3 was heavily drug-fueled, which is quite evident in their droned and repetitive sound. The band would have many line-up changes throughout their existence, often due to turmoil between Pierce and Sonic Boom. During the time of these recordings they apparently worked well together, which I think really shows. I find this collection to be some of their best work. I actually prefer many of the versions on Forged Prescriptions to the Perfect Prescription versions, particularly "Things'll Never Be The Same" and the demo version of "Come Down Easy."

And now a word from Sonic Boom from the liner notes:

As I sit writing this it's 10 years to the day since we were making this record and the sun shines hard and bright just like it did at the time. The last 10 years seem simultaneously to be merely the blink of an eye and yet also a whole lifetime. Much has changed for the better and the worse. It thankfully seems a long time since the drug busts of the Thatcherite "just say no" era and its strange to remember the first ecstasy parties around this time and recall its novelty before it became a cultural icon.

Its also strange how this body of material has come to be meaningful to a whole subculture - exactly the people we hoped to live, love, cry and die with. Maybe, just maybe, this is the way it was meant to be - equally sad, joyful, destructive and generative. This is Spacemen 3 in bloom, midsummer before the seeds were scattered. Right at the point where we worked together well, and, in compliment to each other. I still have strong memories of days where we would crash out listening to nothing but one song over and over making hypno-monotony from slices of hypno-monotony. Mattresses were installed into the studio's lounging space and our kaleidoscopic light show stayed on throughout the session, permanently focused on the studio's revolving mirror-ball, myriad rays of micro-psychedelic worlds (and whirls) mixing with our minds and music. Actually the projector's fan noise permeated most of the recording and was considered an unfortunate but necessary evil.

I also remember spending several hours lying on the floor wearing headphones and having our Thai-grass addled humour fed through the echo machine and back to our ear goggles inducing a feedback of echo, laughter and stupidity. I wish I had it on tape - this sort of unusual activity and experimentation definitely contributed to pieces like "Ecstacy Symphony" and "Transparent Radiation". Slightly darker and sometimes less benign feelings contributed to the more macabre songs like "Call The Doctor", "Ode To Street Hassle" and "Things'll Never Be The Same", showing the inevitable contrast in our lives and our experiences at the time.

When some of this material was first released it oozed out to little acclaim and only slight acceptance by a clued-in few. It was a great disappointment to us. We felt we had managed to trap a portion of our souls into the micro-fine grooves of the original Glass release (symbolically somehow caught forever like a fly in amber and preserved - a moment in time and mood).

We spent several months, broken only by touring, recording and re-working these pieces until we felt they were ready slowly learning more about the studio and its techniques as we went. These versions show some variation to the original release, which was more stripped. Many different takes and versions were experimented with - "Walking With Jesus" had been an all fuzz, tremelo and feedback song before these sessions.

Here at last are the full guitar laden versions with all the layers of beautifully streamlined guitar - considered by us to be too hard to replicate live and therefore reduced for the original release. Also included for the first time are some unreleased covers, demos and tributes from the same sessions.

For me, this is where Spacemen 3 songwriting came to a head - many of these songs pre-dated "Sound Of Confusion", some were even recorded at both sessions, but I am still impressed mightily by Jason's lyrical genius on originals like "Walking With Jesus" and re-writes like "Come Down Easy" and his fluid guitar playing across the whole sessions.

To be sure "Playing With Fire" was soon to be our long and sultry Indian Summer but "Perfect Prescription" was the progeny of that hot, lazy (and occasionally rainy) summer.

Sonic Boom

Download Forged Prescriptions