Nebelnest - Nova Express. 2002 France

Nebelnest - Nova Express. 2002 Cuneiform (USA CD)

When Nebelnest first burst onto the scene in 1999, they were a revelation. A mix of aggressive space rock and cosmic 60's Pink Floyd-like sounds, and for me represents one of the best albums of the 1990s. With Nova Express, the band tightened the ship, and were pretty much all aggressive... all the time. Gone were the hazy psychedelic dreams, and its place dark nightmares became predominant. With this shift towards constant intensity, Nebelnest always seems like they're in the middle of the song. So I do miss the build-ups and ultimate release. Very good album, but not to the level of their debut.

No vinyl as of this writing.

Last update: December 29, 2016

CMU - Open Spaces + Space Caberet. 1971, 1973 England

CMU - Open Spaces. 1971 Transatlantic
CMU - Space Cabaret. 1973 Transatlantic

CD reissues: 1993 See For Miles (both albums on one CD); 2006 Strange Days/Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2008 Esoteric. Latter two released both albums separately.

Packaging details: As noted above, the SFM release contains both albums. But in order to fit them in, they excluded one 6 minute track from "Open Spaces". This version also has unique liner notes. I bought this CD in 1994, and it's still my keeper copy. In 2006, both albums received the mini-LP treatment from Japan, and most likely sounds similar to the SFM release. In 2008, Esoteric reintroduces both of these CDs (sold separately this time but now is complete) to the marketplace. Their version of Space Cabaret also has two bonus tracks, which I also haven't heard though one is only a single version of one of the duff tracks from Side 1.

Notes: Man, where do I start with CMU (Contemporary Music Unit)? Both of these albums are entirely frustrating listens. It's worth noting that other than the husband and wife team of the Odell's (and guitarist Hamlett), these two albums feature two entirely different lineups with different songwriters.

Since I own the See For Miles reissue and they put Space Cabaret first, I'll start with that. All of Side 1 is written by newcomer Richard Joseph. Sad to say, but I don't like any of his songs that much. They are of a pop / folk rock variety, and bear little resemblance to anything else by the band. The short opening title is kind of cool in a bizarre show tune sort of way, but the rest is mediocre songwriting. Side two opens with 'Dreams', and is the only composition written by guitarist Ian Hamlett. A brilliant track, that is highly progressive with a dark undertone. They should have let him write more. Here's where Larraine Odell shows she is a great female singer - in the big leagues with Linda Hoyle. But the real monster of a song is the closer 'Lightshine'. And sure enough, it is the only composition written by Leary Hasson. You may recognize the name Hasson, as he's the grand master of Marsupilami, one of the UMR's all time favorite bands. He joined only for Space Cabaret, and sadly wrote only this one song for them. As I listen to it, the reason I love it so much is it's basically a 10+ minute Marsupilami-styled track. This could have been their 3rd album! Hasson may be one of the best progressive rock songwriters ever. It is absolutely brilliant in every way, from compositional construction to the type of sounds generated (fuzz guitar, crunchy organ). I had goosebumps and hair raising through the whole thing. I'm not sure one modern band has been able to achieve the feelings I'm getting here. And as I write this, it tells me the creative well isn't empty - just no one knows where it is anymore!

Converse to Space Cabaret, Open Spaces starts excellent, with an ideal English styled psych rock track in 'Henry'. 1971 is a little late for the type of psych they're doing here, but it would have been the PERFECT soundtrack to a Swinging' London film like "Otley" or "Blow Up". However, the middle of the album tends to drag, with their interpretation of Pharaoh Sander's 'Japan' being a low point. But, like Space Cabaret, the last two tracks save the day, with the super sweet and exotic 'Mystical Sounds' followed by the weird psych space jazz title track, sounding like Kalacakra and Furekaaben jamming on the MPS label. Apparently the song 'Open Spaces' was commissioned for an interactive sculpture exhibition with a psychedelic light show. Any chance I can go back in time and see this?

Highlights for Space Cabaret: 6. Dream (9:46); 7. Lightshine (10:24)
Highlights for Open Spaces: 1. Henry (4:47); 7. Mystical Sounds (3:17); 8. Open Spaces (11:38)

So what happened to the Odell couple? They went onto to form one of London's most famous early 1980's disco groups in Shakatak (pronounced Shack Attack). There's plenty of vintage YouTube videos of the band out there for you to check out (be sure to find the ones from the 1980s not the modern renditions). Pretty talented bunch but playing the usual vapid music with bad hair. For me, though, it does bring back memories of a time and place and I quite like it. But that's way out of scope for the UMR methinks... If you did check out the videos you may be asking who is that 80's big-haired blond girl? No, that's not Larraine Odell (who doesn't appear to actually have been in the group long, though Roger is indeed the drummer), but rather Jill Saward - of ... ready for this? Fusion Orchestra (another UMR favorite band)!!! Jeesh, who knew?

Gomorrha - I Turned to See Whose Voice it Was. 1972 Germany

For the 3rd album on the legendary Brain label, the very cleverly titled I Turned to See Whose Voice it Was (referencing the Biblical story of Lot's wife no doubt), I can recommend this one easily. Now this is true hard styled Krautrock. The kind of album where fans of complex progressive rock go scratching their heads wondering what the big deal is. It's underground rock, baby. Nothing more than simple blues rock motifs, gruff vocals, pounding drums, organ shards, and the cherry topping is the long stretches of fuzzy guitar solos, all played at "11" of course. And since it's on Brain, naturally Conny Plank was at the controls, so you can expect all sorts of echoing, phasing, and every other studio trick that just plain sounds cool. So while not necessarily memorable, it is the kind of album that sounds great while playing it. And really, isn't that when it matters most? So strap your seat belt on, plug in your air guitar, and get ready to jam. Best track is 'I Try to Change This World' (9:31). According to the liner notes of the Repertoire CD, this was it for the band, and they quit music and went into the workforce. A pity really.

Personal Collection
LP: 1973 Brain
LP: 2013 Long Hair
CD: 1997 Repertoire

Originals come in a fine gatefold cover. Apparently the original press comes in a non-laminate cover with spelling mistakes in the inner gatefold.  The second press (1973) fixes these while laminating the cover. Apparently most of these laminates have peeled through the years. This is the version I own and can validate this finding. The CD on Repertoire is excellent, as were all of their Brain releases, with unique liner notes, photos, etc...  The Long Hair LP adds new liner notes.

Last update: August 4, 2017

Body - The Body Album. 1981 England

I seem rate this album higher than most of my peers, and I'm not entirely sure why. Body are a really good space rock band that is completely incongruous with anything else coming from England in 1981 (other than maybe the first Twelfth Night album). There are very few references to the early 80's UK synth pop scene though a couple of tunes are musically relevant 'Brave New World' being the most obvious whereas 'Lights Out' could have easily been a hit single during that era. Overall I hear elements of You era Gong as well as the obscure Italian group St. Tropez here. The near 15 minute spaced out 'Andromeda' is the song Pink Floyd never made after Ummagumma and is the standout track on the entire album. The bonus tracks are uniformly excellent except for maybe the goofy Falkland Islands political rant - but no matter - it was, after all, an important topic in the mid 1980's!

Personal collection
CD: 1997 Ozit

My introduction to this album came via the SPM/World Wide CD that I purchased upon release (1992 or so). The Ozit release (scan above) comes with 4 bonus tracks, a full history, photos, and is overall a great reissue. Definitely a marked improvement on the bare bones SPM version.

TNVVNÜM - Ouroboros. 2009 Estonia

TNVVNÜM - Ouroboros. 2009 private (CD)

Excellent new, primarily instrumental, band from Estonia whose full name is Tõele Näkku Vaadates Võib Näha Ükskõik Mida - just rolls off the tongue doesn't it? The name translates more or less to Facing The Truth You Can See Anything.

The opening of TNVVNÜM's second album Ouroboros sits somewhere between the post rock of Tortoise and Ummagumma era Pink Floyd. The song structures meander similar to the former, but the Gilmour leads and fuzzy sounding ancient organ point to a late 1960's sound. By track 4, the album is already in full blown psychedelic rock mode, which endears itself to this listener anyway. The eerie narration/vocals of 8) give off more than a whiff of first album Trettioåriga Kriget. The album peaks on the sublime 'Bad Chemicals', an appropriate name given the disorienting psychedelic nature of the song. This song could have easily been part of the Pärson Sound repertoire of 1968.

Highlights (using the provided English translations as I'm too lazy to type in the Estonia names): 3. Seagull (3:30); 4. State of the Dream (6:36); 6. Ambrosia (4:10); 8. Solar Eclipse (6:09); 9. Bad Chemicals (5:31); 10. Earthbound (5:30)

The band seem to be very enthusiastic for downloads, but through persistence I found a CD on ebay, and it comes in a nice hard bound mini-LP sleeve. I hope they don't go download only. I refuse to buy worthless assets, so let's hope they continue to press CDs for old-schoolers like me.

Neom - Arkana Temporis. 2009 France

Neom - Arkana Temporis. 2009 Soleil Zeuhl (CD)

Neom's debut is a slow burner, built on intense thematic melodic lines while adding guitar, Rhodes electric piano, wordless voice, and of course the all important driving woody bass and percussion. The guitar is a unique dimension for the Zeuhl style, and only on the debut by Eider Stellaire will you hear so much of the instrument in this context. The fact that they can write beautiful melodies within the confines of the martial style of Zeuhl is a testament to Neom's talent.

Wolf People - Steeple. 2010 England

Wolf People - Steeple. 2010 Jagjaguwar (USA)

CD issue: 2010 Jagjaguwar (USA)

Unlike Canadian label mates Black Mountain, there aren't any traces of modern indie or stoner sounds to be found on Wolf People. For me, they are one of the best retro psychedelic influenced progressive rock bands I've heard. The late 60's acid guitar tone is to die for. You can file Wolf People next to that other most excellent UK retro band - Diagonal.

Steeple peaks on the ultra freak-out 'Cromlech', which recalls UFO era Guru Guru of all albums, and is a complete monster in this setting. The flute on 'Tiny Circle' is a really nice touch, and I'd love to hear the instrument utilized further into their sound.

The Word of Life - Dust. 1995 Sweden

The Word of Life return with their sophomore, and ultimately last effort, Dust which is somewhat different from the predecessor. There'...