Review roundup - the best new psychedelic prog releases

Cover art for Kikagaku Moyo's House In The Tall Grass

Plenty to yell about this month, the pick of which is Kikagaku Moyo’s extraordinary House In The Tall Grass (Guruguru Brain). The Tokyo quintet’s third album, it’s a warm draft of folksy psychedelia with a heady snort of incense, largely due to the prominence of a sitar. Factor in some krautrock, blues and Eastern classical music and you have a potent brew indeed. The eight-minute Green Sugar somehow manages to combine all these things without sounding unduly burdened, while the dreamily brittle vocals of Tomo Katsurada and Go Kurosawa make the whole record feel like an extended trip.

Magnet AnimalsButterfly Killer (RareNoise) is nearly as impressive, though a little more experimental. Formed in Mexico by Minneapolis-reared guitarist Todd Clouser, the quartet deal in nebulous prog psych that ranges from the throbby and deliberate (Atayde) to the incantatory (Little John The Liar). Amid the blasts of funk punk, art-rock and Slint-ish discord, Clouser offers spoken-word oddness and leftfield poetry. The overall effect is riveting.

Compared to The Lavender Flu’s Heavy Air (Holy Mountain), however, it sounds positively mainstream. Issued on the same label that brought us Wooden Shjips and White Manna, this 30-song epic is helmed by Portland guitarist Chris Gunn. The promo blurb invites us to imagine “Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life remade by the ghost of Philip K. Dick”, though it’s actually less narrative-friendly than that. Weird, distorted and playful, with the attention span of a toddler, Gunn’s fractured avant-psych carries echoes of The Fugs and The Holy Modal Rounders. Coke Sunday is punctuated by chirrups and found sounds; Telepathic Axe begins like a nursery rhyme before splintering into guitar noise; My Time is as deliciously wonky as anything by Panda Bear.

Sendelica’s The Cromlech Chronicles (Fruits de Mer), on the other hand, is a little more cohesive. The Welsh instrumentalists, who recently celebrated their tenth anniversary with a digressive version of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, deliver space rock in spades, with forays into crushing riffage, electronica and ambient jazz. The Cromlech Suite Parts I To IV (named after a 3,000-year-old megalithic structure close to their recording studio) is a continuous piece that stretches and flexes across its 23 minutes. While their appropriation of the Flower Travellin’ Band’s Satori is a languid, deeply atmospheric nod to the influence of prime Japanese prog.

Fans of Ty Segall will already be familiar with Charles Moothart, a member of Segall’s band and spin-offs like Fuzz. Still Life Of Citrus And Slime (In The Red) is the first release from his new project, CFM. Dashingly good it is too, ranging from the fizzy electro-punk of You Can’t Kill Time to the hallucinogenic Purple Spine and the echoey space surfing of Lunar Heroine.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.