Monday 7 February 2022

Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful

Article by KevW

I haven't commented on any new music here for years, but this mighty effort from Spiritualized is worth it. A bit of info, a bit of opinion and a track by track guide. 

First the bad news: originally due for release at the end of this month, Everything Was Beautiful has been pushed back until April 22nd due to manufacturing issues. 

Now the good news: it's well worth the wait, as reviews so far have suggested. From a personal point of view it's exactly what I was hoping for after the largely melancholy (but still stunning) And Nothing Hurt almost four years ago. 

Prior to the release of And Nothing Hurt, Jason began working with producer Youth (formerly of Killing Joke and producer for a multitude of artists including The Verve, The Orb, The Charlatans and The Firemen, the band he shares with Paul McCartney). From what I heard, 21 tracks were recorded in these sessions, but things weren't right and these recordings were abandoned. That was the advance for the album spent, and this is why Jason had to painstakingly record And Nothing Hurt pretty much in his house on his own (see any articles about the last album for more on this). And Nothing Hurt was nine songs; this must have meant that there was a lot more material floating around which made me personally dismiss Pierce's claims that it could be the final Spiritualized album. Lo and behold we now have another and given that some of these songs have been knocking around in various guises for years, it's probably safe to assume that a lot of this material was attempted in the aborted sessions with Youth, and therefore could mean that Everything Was Beautiful is something of a companion piece to And Nothing Hurt.

“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt” - Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 

Maybe this well known literary quote confirms this...

On Everything Was Beautiful there are numerous references to past work (although I really should stress this is no rehash of previous albums), not least the artwork. It's a clear reference to the pill packaging of Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space – an album that also took its name from a literary quote (Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder) – but notice that the silhouette of the unfolded packaging in the image above is the shape of a pill press, complete with pill in the middle. A clever touch. 

Always Together With You:

The album's first single came out of the blue in November. 2014's Always Forgetting With You (The Bridge Song) had until now seemed like a man looking over his shoulder to a style/genre that he was moving away from. Something of a one-off. It's a song Jason has said he always considered unfinished (a demo). This rerecorded, finalised version is pretty gargantuan with overlaying vocals in the vein of the song Ladies & Gentlemen We're Floating In Space or Perfect Miracle from the last album. The video is a strangely compelling compilation of clips showing various aspects of humanity and wonders of nature. My interpretation? Well... you'll notice that for the first half of the video the silhouette of the pill press/pill packaging is masking the clips, all of which are beautiful/life affirming/spectacular... however you want to put it. Then when this pharmaceutical packaging is taken away we're bombarded with disaster, pollution, war, horror. With the medication things are beautiful, but take away the medication and we see what it has been masking all the time; the reality of what humanity is doing to the world. Are we just medicating ourselves with TV, media, commercialism, celebrity fascination, gossip... music? Are we failing to see the bigger picture because the drugs of modern life are anaesthetising us to the stark reality? Just a thought...

The Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song):

One of the songs that had me convinced the previous album wouldn't be the last and also had me convinced that the next album would be more upbeat. This was first played live as The D Song a few times back in 2013. To the best of my knowledge there are no high quality recordings of these shows out there, just a couple of crowd recordings from camera phones. But it seemed like a garage rock/Krautrock stomper. The finished version chucks in a load of brass and gospel and is just the bluesy, psych-rock opus I'd been hoping for. Oh, and when the guitar fires up properly, there's a very deliberate nod to Electricity, but only briefly. There's already a sense of reinvigoration here despite this lyrically not being a bed of roses. The production and orchestration makes it bristle with a moody nonchalance. 

Let It Bleed (Song For Iggy):

A couple of obvious musical references in the title. There are hints of Let It Bleed era Rolling Stones here, but only hints. Again we get a lot of horns, gospel and a bubbling electrical undercurrent... this album is the biggest production Spiritualized have given us since Let It Come Down. Let It Bleed is a proper builder and is filled with ghosts of previous Spiritualized songs... that piano is like... something by them, it's just difficult to pinpoint exactly what. That tremolo effect simmering away in the background is reminiscent of... well, again, nothing you can pinpoint. It's the same with many aspects of this track. But who is Iggy? There doesn't seem to be any clear references to Mr Pop.


A country ballad in the middle of a space-rock, psych-blues, electro-Kraut odyssey? Seems strange but it really does fit and once you get your head around it, it really is beautiful. The production here is masterful, as is the songwriting. Jason can't take the full credit for that for once... if you think you've heard this before then maybe you're a fan of Nikki Lane. The two toured together and co-wrote this back in 2012. Lane recorded a demo of the track as Crazy (All Messed Up) before releasing it two years later as Out Of My Mind. On paper it may seem an odd fit but with Spaceman's production and distinctive vocal it certainly feels very much like a Spiritualized song, and when he sings “all of my thoughts are of you” it's more than just a crowbarred in reference to a previous classic. It fits perfectly. 

The Mainline Song/The Lockdown Song:

Oh Boy. Dreams do come true. Having heard glimpses of the unreleased songs that were still out there I was hoping for a psychedelic Krautrock masterpiece, taking in the drones and reverberation of the first couple of albums and throwing in the songcraft, subtlety, gospel and ornate organic layering that Jason has been developing ever since. And here it is. Again this is a reworking though; in 2016 Jason recoded two instrumental tracks for fashion brand Kenzo Paris, one for the men's collection and one for the women's. These two intricately layered psychedelic electro-drones ventured into territory that it seemed he'd spent the past decade moving away from, but if 16 minute, ambient space-rock epics are your bag then they really were quite something. Well, The Mainline Song contains elements of one of these tracks, condensed and with added horns and gospel (as is a theme on the album) and a second half that introduces lyrics that worm their way into your brain in a very good way. If you're familiar with the album Pure Phase then you'll be able to pick up distant traces of that echoing down through the years. It's a song that only Jason Pierce could have made, and thank God he has. Is it too early to make a claim for this perhaps being my favourite ever Spiritualized song...? 

“Sweet heart, sweet light

oh babe it's a beautiful night

and I wanted to know

if you wanted to go

to the city tonight-ight-ight-ight-ight-ight...”

The A Song (Laid In Your Arms):

Where to go from there? No fear, this is no come down. Of all the unreleased tracks I knew about, this was the most anticipated. Another that was first performed live around a decade ago. When And Nothing Hurt was released I looked for this in the track listing and didn't see it. Maybe it was recorded with a different name? Nope. So it was a personal joy to see that it would be included here. The A Song is noticeably different from those live recordings, perhaps in a similar way to how Here It Comes evolved from the live shows to its finished version on the last album. It seems a tad slower but a lot more majestic. Not least because that guitar riff is now much more grandiose and orchestral, becoming engulfed in Spirituailzed's trademark psychedelic squall before temporarily emerging from the other side unscathed, only to be swallowed up again. The lyrics mix bluesy Americana with possible (well, likely, it is Spiritualized after all) drug references. He kept us waiting with this one but it was worth it.

I'm Coming Home Again:

Pierce has always been a man who does proper closing tracks, with some album-enders seeming to be purpose written for just that job. Whatever the genesis of I'm Coming Home Again, it certainly fits into this lineage. However, although its name might recall Pure Phase's closer Feel Like Going Home, this is much more swampy. More akin to Ladies & Gentleman's finale Cop Shoot Cop, but it sounds as though it could have been included on Sweet Heart Sweet Light and is something of a sunken-eyed cousin of Headin' For The Top Now. A soup of bluesy desperation, forlorn gospel and a dark, engulfing sensation that the end is near. That there is no way out. Yet with the ambitious layers, occasional shotgun drumming, bells and haunted choral voices it becomes a thing of distressing majesty; something that has peppered Spiritualized's career. It's mightily impressive.

For all the sonic reverberations and lyrical hat-tips to his previous work, Everything Was Beautiful almost has the sense of a rebirth. A reconnection with the more electric psych of early Spiritualized yet done in a way that he hasn't quite done before. It was said many times that And Nothing Hurt was a culmination or distillation of a 30 year career (almost 40 if you include Spacemen 3) but that was never something I could see myself. If anything it's this album that fits that bill, and given the obvious lyrical references it's not something Pierce has tried to hide. Could all of this be dropping a hint that this time it really will be the final Spiritualized album? Well, if the info about those sessions with Youth are true then there are still at least five unreleased songs plus whatever's been written since, so it's highly unlikely. On this album Pierce seems more focused and reenergised. In the future, when all the dust finally settles on this astonishing career, if Everything Was Beautiful isn't considered to be one of the very greatest Spiritualized albums, then it means we must be in for a hell of a ride in the coming years. 

Pre-order the album

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Dead Skeletons - Live In Berlin

Article by Del Chaney

Released on April 9th 2016 via the ever reliable Fuzz Club Records, psychedelic explorers Dead Skeletons bring their explosive live sound to the ears of the listening masses on one highly anticipated latest release. 'Live In Berlin' was recorded at Berlin’s iconic S036 Club and it features a plethora of live musical guests including members of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spacemen 3 and Singapore Sling gracing the band's stage. The album is available to buy/download right now on most formats from the Fuzz Club website.   

'Om Vajra Sattva Hung' meanders into earshot on a brutal tidal wave of dark, oppressive live frequencies adorned with glitchy guitar squalls and squealing feedback. The intense live atmospherics are indeed palpable as the track builds in momentum, swirling within reverberating fret noise and shuffling off-kilter snare drum theatrics. It breaks into an expansively spacious kind of reverberating peace before pounding drums and addictive guitar structures interrupt its dreamlike state to announce the track in all of its mantra driven glory. 'Om Vajra Sattva Hung' is thoroughly experimental as it works through its structured changes to become one big monolithic sonic surge. Electronic sequences coupled with intense guitars swirl within the musical void as 'Om Mani Padme Hum' breathes an explosive edge into proceedings. Its pounding drums act as a central spine as it bears the weight of the swirling instrumentation and that exquisitely repetitive vocal mantra! Up next, 'Buddha Christ' shuffles on its percussive coil as it explodes into some modern-day, psychedelically-infused rockabilly, whilst 'Kundalini Eyes' expands the rock 'n' roll trend, albeit with an infusion of driving, old-school Joy Division for good measure, before bending and manipulating frequencies at will to create a massive wall of experimental sonic brilliance.   

'Psycho Dead' drones on a sampled vocal before its subtle percussion parts add just enough weight to support those dark and oppressive vocals, allowing the guitars to swirl around the entire track with ease. It stalks the outer reaches of your audible range but unlike the previous tracks it manages to stay earthbound and straightforward enough to allow even the newest of listeners to grasp what's going on. Up next, 'When The Sun' shimmers and hangs within suspended sonic animation as it's gradually allowed to open up and gracefully show off its inner musical demons! It swerves on layers of reverb as the steadying pace of the drum track ushers in the melodic vocal and allows it to breath before it soars into the sonic ether. 'When The Sun' is simply stunning and it shows the diversity within a live sound environment that Dead Skeletons possess. They can gauge the mood of the audience on any particular night and change the sound to suit when needed. Magnificently executed.   

'Dead Cometh' builds from the off and it is packed full of experimental atmosphere as it grinds through its sonic gears. Massive guitar structures loop and arc all over the sonic arena as its addictive vocal lines ride huge waves of brooding and affected frequencies intertwined with those pounding drum patterns. Track eight, 'Get On the Train', is a modern-day psychedelic behemoth! It drives a tremulous sonic furrow through proceedings, whilst the album's penultimate track, the aptly named 'Kingdom Of God', shudders and groans on a wave of droning guitars and repetitive explosive drum patterns. It builds and builds gathering immense heights, all the while stacking layer upon layer of insanely brilliant sound-waves to create a stunning live sonic assault on the senses. The album's closing piece needs no introduction, no reviewing or fancy wording and no bloody frills! It is simply a thirteen minute plus call to arms to the modern-day psych world and is my favourite track on this entire release. Ladies and gentlemen I give you... 'Dead Mantra'.   

This is a stunning collection of live recordings from a band who can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. Dead Skeletons effortlessly transform their entire studio sound into something that's intensely otherworldly in a live setting. They can evoke out of body experiences through the medium of sound and are definitely worthy of your ears. This is psych-induced spiritual enlightenment in musical form... this is music! 


Dead Skeletons' website

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Monday 18 April 2016

The Sound Of Confusion Radio Show - 17th April 2016

Sundays at 8pm UK, repeated 8pm EST on Primal Radio


The Velvet Hands - Trains 

Buy: 'Trains'

Exsonvaldes - Cyclop 

Buy: 'Cyclop'

Simmer - Sinewy 

Buy: 'Sinewy'

Plastic Flowers - Diver 

Buy: 'Diver'

Twin Haus - I Used To Think 

Buy: 'I Used To Think'

Proto Idiot - Idiot Blues 

Buy: 'Idiot Blues'

Obligatory Record Of The Week: Beverly - Crooked Cop 

Buy: 'Crooked Cop'

Adult Books - Nihilism For Beginners 

Buy: 'Nihilism For Beginners'

Talkie - Mountain 

Free download: 'Mountain'

Egyptian Blue - This Is My Rot 

Egyptian Blue's website

ARMS - Keep It Light 

ARMS' website

Frankie Cosmos - Sappho 

Buy: 'Sappho'

Desario - Capture 

Buy: 'Capture'

Dream Wife - Hey Heartbreaker 

Buy: 'Hey Hearbreaker'

The Callas - It's Sunday I'm Bleeding 

Buy: 'It's Sunday I'm Bleeding'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Friday 15 April 2016

Juju - Juju

Article by Del Chaney

Brilliant independent record label Sunrise Ocean Bender presents a stunning collection of seven tracks by Sicily-based psychedelic explorer JuJu (Lay Llamas, Herself). The album's penned in for release on May 6th 2016. With a stunning sound that's more akin to a pulsating, living organism, 'JuJu' transcends this modern-day psych-rock plain, bringing with it swathes of rhythmic, almost ritualistic, golden frequencies to the ears of its waiting listenership. The album is available on most formats and can be pre-ordered via the labels website.

Driving bass frequencies riding a wave of panned percussive hits usher in track one, the hypnotically atmospheric 'Samael'. Its sequenced drum patterns swirl within the magical maelstrom as it builds into a whirlwind of reverb-induced vocal lines coupled with pounding drums and intertwined with suppressive droning guitars. It surges through its chord progressions with apparent ease as wave after wave of sonic frequencies batter the senses and block out any outside influence, careering you off its chosen musical path. A stunning entry point into a dynamic world of sonic delight. Track two thunders into the musical arena on a titanic wave of shimmering reverb. 'We Spit On Yer Grave' is completely addictive as those plodding synth progressions, cushioning that immense vocal attack, ride a juggernaut of explosive drums, throbbing bass lines and tremulous golden-hued guitars.

The metronomic opening bars of 'Stars And Sea', my favourite track on this entire release, swerve and move within a translucent world of shimmering suspended animation, as those stunning vocals add an air of atmosphere to proceedings. There's a subtle but brilliant country chic feel to this track as it meanders its way through peaks and troughs of psychedelic delight. The added Eastern-sounding percussive hits inject weight and balance but soon make way for an absolutely blistering finale as the track takes off into a stunning cacophony of swirling vocals, swerving synth swells and dark driving guitars. Beautiful atmospheric piano hits circumnavigated by dark, oppressive samples announce the arrival of 'Dance With The Fish', as immense, psychedelically charged synth swells sonically mimic an apparent underwater scene. It's a beautiful two-minute sonic aperitif to what comes next!

A repetitious guitar progression carefully balances a whispering but effective vocal pattern on its axis as 'Sunrise Ocean' builds momentum into a charging musical monolith! The tidal wave of sound expands as those droning guitars arrive and plough through the track's fuzzy interior with aplomb. Add into the mix those driving, addictive bass frequencies and what we have collectively is an absolutely stunning piece of music. The album's penultimate track, entitled 'Lost', begins with stunning melody courtesy of a repetitive piano sequence. There's an air of tranquility as the synth swells and drums arrive, adding subtle but firm movement to the track and allowing the vocal samples to loop and arc throughout the reverberating atmosphere. The mood then changes as we shift sonic gears. The drums increase in tempo, and coupled with the arrival of a repetitious guitar progression and shakers, the entire piece swirls within a beautiful sonic whirlwind!

The album's closing piece is simply magical! Swirling bongos, sequenced samples and droning, golden frequencies begin the hypnotic rhythmic mantra as those amazing repetitive vocals shuffle into earshot. 'Bring 'Em War' builds and builds, developing form and shape before unleashing something akin to absolute sonic abandonment! It weaves and bobs throughout and drives a deeply melodic, psychedelic furrow right through the centre of the musical landscape! A truly wonderful closing track to a blistering album.

Juju's website

Buy: 'Juju'.

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Thursday 14 April 2016

One Unique Signal - Hoopsnake

Article by Del Chaney

As most of you may or may not already know from reading any of my previous reviews, I'm a sucker for bands who push boundaries and experiment with sound. I get excited at the prospect of reading about how certain bands develop their sound on a particular album or release. The third album from UK-based sonic explorers One Unique Signal does just that. Born out of one single repetitious loop from the recording sessions on their previous album, 'Aether', 'Hoopsnake' is a collaborative four-track monolith of immense sound constructed by the three members of the band and 20 of their contemporaries, including The Oscillations's Damien Castellanos and Stephen Lawrie of The Telescopes. The resulting four tracks are a testament to the abilities of the artists involved to bend and form sound-waves at will into a sometimes dark and menacing sonic maelstrom and at other times into a beautiful, reverb-drenched, atmospheric soundscape that's awash with massive synth swells and droning psychedelic guitars. 'Hoopsnake' was released via the brilliant UK-based Fuzz Club Records and is available to purchase on all formats from the record label's website right now.

'Hoopsnake' opens with the dark and oppressive 'HS 01'. Menacing synth swells make way for an explosive whirlwind of sonic delight as a repetitive drum pattern ushers in the tempestuous guitars and off kilter vocal progressions that meld together and manifest into one impressive wall of sound. 'HS 01' is heavy work at times as it builds and builds into an oppressive sonic assault on the senses, but there is a sullen clarity hiding deep within the swirling maelstrom of reverb-induced sound-waves that just makes sense! 'HS 02' openly glitters as intricate glitchy sounds pan left and right. The sonic tempest builds slowly from far below this listener's audible range as swirling synths bubble to the surface. 'HS 02' is unsettling at first but switches into a rhythmic, almost metronomic animal as the droning guitars enter the fray, adding weight to proceedings as it leads us into that majestic expansive finale! Up next, 'HS 03' brings yet another swirling synth drone to the fore. This time accompanied by sampled birdsong and creeping, stagnated and edgy fret noise. This is intensely atmospheric as the whirling drone gathers momentum and pulsates into a living, breathing animal. 'HS 03' is so dark and malevolent it will leave you checking behind the shower curtain before going to bed every night. The album's closing track, entitled 'HS04', begins with beautifully reverb-drenched chord structures that shimmer and drone upon themselves. They build and build into a stunning cacophony of immense sound waves before an addictive but plodding synth progression takes over and ushers in the finale.

'Hoopsnake' is indeed experimental! It is also sometimes hard to listen to and in the same breath, sometimes awe inspiring. The sonic field it possesses is massive and it's that expansive soundscape that sucks you in and introduces you to magnificent swells of sonic energy. It's a wonderful collection of tracks that I feel you really need to sit down, listen and concentrate on properly. Recommended listening all the same!

One Unique Signal's website

Buy: 'Hoopesnake'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Tuesday 12 April 2016

SULK - No Illusions

Article by KevW

It may be stating the obvious a little, but SULK have always been something of a throwback. Both image-wise and in terms of music they channelled the psychedelic end of baggy from the start. So what's remarkable about them is that they also sound relatively unique. Chucking in a few shoegaze sonics helps, but then certain early Charlatans records (amongst others) did the same, so pinning down exactly what gives these guys their individuality is tricky. Could it simply be that there's currently no-one else doing this kind of thing to this high a standard? Whatever their secret, second album, 'No Illusions', doesn't have a duff moment on it.

Fans will no doubt be familiar with single 'Black Infinity (Upside Down)' by now, and it's the spiralling guitar motif of that song that kicks things off, bringing in weighty beats, mysteriously affected vocals and bold production which is really the hallmark of this album as a whole. Although engineered to create the biggest sound possible (whilst neatly avoiding becoming too "stadium"), there's always an unhurried vibe that comes over as totally natural. 'The Only Faith Is Love' adds a touch more edge and throws some retro shapes, but it still glides along with ease.

'No Illusions' really does show that SULK are capable of crafting some outstanding tunes, and the chiming intro to the title-track immediately has your ears pricking up. Possessing ethereal anthemic qualities and effortlessness, it's one of their finest moments, and following it with the equally (if not even more) impressive 'Drifting' makes for an almost life-affirming listen. 'One Day' aims for the stratosphere, and as more of those ringing guitar lines mingle with a soaring chorus, it reaches its target. Again it feels easy, and as we sail through 'Past Paradise', the fuzzy 'Queen Supreme' and the towering 'Love Can't Save You Now' it seems as though we're on cruise-control in the best possible way - as though riding the crest of a wave.

This record doesn't come down from its high until the final strains of 'Another Man Fades Dawn', by which time we've been sucked through a Paisley-powered, booming, kaleidoscopic rabbit hole to a dreamlike space where everything seems fluid and wondrous. The Horrors attempted to take us to a similar place with 'Skying', but 'No Illusions' sounds more like the complete picture. Despite its nostalgic stylings it never feels dated, and quite frankly, it's a joy to become absorbed in.

SULK's website

Buy: 'No Illusions'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Monday 11 April 2016

The Dandy Warhols - Distortland

Article by KevW

The Dandy Warhols have often been seen as a band you either love or hate, but their fans are certainly dedicated. Hits such as 'Every Day Should Be a Holiday' and Bohemian Like You' may have tickled the underbelly of mainstream success, but listeners expecting their albums to be full of those sort of catchy guitar tunes probably won't have found what they were looking for amongst more swampy-sounding psych-rock and garage (that said, I doubt many can knock the sheer majesty of tracks like 'Godless'). In fairness to them, The Dandy Warhols have never pandered to the masses for huge commercial success, and, if anything, recent albums have seen them reinforce their status as outsiders. Will 'Distortland' change any of that? Almost certainly not, but it does see the band exploring different ideas and it doesn't disappoint.

The lead single from 'Distrotland' is 'You Are Killing Me', and it can very much been seen as classic Dandys, as well as being considered this album's 'Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth' or 'Get Off'. It's also a proper grower and even a few months on from its initial release it continues to sound better with each play. Elsewhere things are more understated and often stripped-back. There is a woozy, psychedelic dreampop feel to opener 'Search Party', and even more so on 'Doves' which finds them at their lushest, but this is a record that never really "gets going" as it were, something that does mean it takes a few spins to get to grips with, although it's certainly worth it as the songs unravel their paired-down secrets.

The phasing and atmospheric 'Semper Fidelis' turns out to be a broody and trippy journey into the dark, while 'Catcher In The Rye' plods along with hushed tones but begins to sparkle after a while, with the woozy, twilight glow of 'Give' being even more hushed, much like short, lullaby-like closer 'The Grow Up Song'. Single 'STYGGO' could have been engineered to be brighter and bolder, but its catchiness probably works best the way it is; proof that big isn't always better. Both 'Pope Reverend Jim' and 'All The Girls In London' are modern garage-psych stompers that may have a little more urgency for those wanting instant kicks, but on the whole 'Distortland' requires a touch more work on the listener's part before it reveals its true colours, and it's definitely rewarding it in the end.

The Dandy Warhols' website

Buy: 'Distortland'

The Sound of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook