Reviews Column 62: Psychedelic Prog

Off to a flyer this month with Example 22 (Woronzow), the latest from Nick Saloman’s The Bevis Frond.

Saloman has been nurturing his own distinctly British strain of neo-psychedelia for some 35 years now and, like a decent wine or a prized leather jacket, it only seems to improve with age. The album carries on where 2013’s White Numbers left off, with Saloman and fellow guitarist Paul Simmons leading the charge on a set of mostly riff-driven songs with swirls of organ and some burning solos. Drummer Dave Pearce and Hawklords bassist Ade Shaw provide able rhythms as Saloman, singing in his thin estuary tones, delivers wonderfully descriptive songs like I Blame The Rain, Where Is Egon Schiele? and Second Son.

English psychedelia of a different kind is evoked on Ty Rex (Goner), a fine assemblage of Tyrannosaurus Rex and T. Rex tunes as covered by Californian Ty Segall. Culled from two hard-to-find Record Store Day EPs, with a venomous new version of 20th Century Boy, the album reconciles the trippy phase of Marc Bolan’s early career with his glam-rock superstar days. Fist Heart Might Dawn Dart and Buick MacKane are heavy on distortion and fuzz; Salamanda Palaganda and Elemental Child are more prog-centric and exploratory.

Elsewhere, Jody Seabody & The Whirls offer a mighty spread of stoner-ish psych on their second album, Holographic Slammer (Artificial Head). The Texan combo are at full pelt on stampeding epic Grassman, apply the brakes for the mellower Byrds-rock of You Always Come In Twos and deliver Haight-Ashbury vibes on the outstanding Rake One. Just when you think you have them sussed though, they go ahead and hit you with the hardcore slam of Charlemagne Pts.1 & 2.

Equally enervating is Sun Future Moon (Svart), the third long-player from Finland’s Death Hawks. The premise is reassuringly psychedelic – “songs that explore ancient mythical astrology and the cosmos within the modern man,” according to vocalist/guitarist Teemu Markkula – and the tunes are suitably out-there too. The perfumed Aquarian folk of Hey Ya Sun Ra 2 is terrific, as are the harder-rocking Dream Machine and Behind Thyme, the latter with a pleasantly McGuinn-like jangle. There’s even room for a little prog-funk on the unstoppable Heed The Calling.

Natasha Khan is best known as a leftfield purveyor of beguiling dream-pop in her guise as Bat For Lashes, but her new project is something else entirely. Hooking up with producer Dan Carey and Brighton psychonauts Toy, the self-titled EP from Sexwitch (Echo/BMG) reimagines five psych-folk oddities from 1970s Iran, Morocco and Thailand, along with Skip Spence’s magnificent War In Peace. It’s all deliciously untamed, the band indulging in freaky Persian grooves and percussive Middle Eastern jams while Khan scats and shrieks like a dervish in ecstasy. More please.

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.