10 May 2007

Alexander Tucker

Kentish acoustic balladeer Alexander Tucker has been gradually making his name as a purveyor of what could be described as folktronica or perhaps even - in a pathetically transparent effort to maintain ever more spurious genres - countrytronica. With two albums released through ATP/Recordings, Old Fog (2005, from which Hag Stones is taken) and Furrowed Brow (2006).

Hag Stones is typical of Tucker's looped open-string and detuned acoustic style. Layered over this country-tinged finger picking and strumming are distant droning vocals and occasional bursts of blissed noise. On record, this is comparatively polite, but live, one man and his army of effects combine to create an ear-splitting, often highly improvised wall of noise. I recommend witnessing one of his sets very highly (and for anyone living in southwest England, he is playing at the ATP festival, 18th May in Minehead).

Tucker is also a visual artist, creating artwork for all of his album covers and side projects, including ongoing drawings and comic artwork for 'Sturgeon White Moss' (White Moss Press) and the new cover for Nordic doom-master Wolfmangler (Aurora Borealis).

Alexander Tucker - Hag Stones MP3 off of Old Fog (ATP/Recordings, 2005)

01 May 2007


Following soon after the Black Tar Prophecies collection on Important Records, Portland, Oregon's Grails return with their first proper studio album since 2004 release of Redlight.

Starting like some throwback psychadelic Appalachian guitar workout and ending more as a Krautrock-inspired jam, Dead Vine Blues is an example of Grails' ambition to provide some connection between instrumental post rock and more archaic song structures and formats. Rather like The Six Parts Seven, Grails make use of traditional American instrumentation (bango, picked guitar, mouth harp and lap steel) alongside the more usual electric guitars and looper pedals of their post rock peers.

Dead Vine Blues is a modern interpretation of what perhaps might have happened had Led Zeppelin jammed with the Grateful Dead high in an Appalachian homestead. Taken off the suitably moonshine titled Burning Off Impurities - their debut for Temporary Residence Ltd. - this is a rare album that not only pushes the group forward but also significantly raises expectation in where the instrumental rock genre will go next. With psychedelic, ambient and world music all playing a part in the current Grails sound, it will be interesting to note where they and bands such as The Six Parts Seven and Grail's TRL labelmates Explosions in the Sky will go next. The band themselves cite Ash Ra Tempel, Erkin Koray, Popol Vuh, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as influences and not only are these clearly seen in their output but also potentially incendiary points for their musical exploration. Post World Kraut Psychrock anyone?

Grails - Dead Vine Blues MP3 from Burning Off Impurities (Temporary Residence 2007)
Grails - Stray Dog MP3 off of Black Tar Prophecies Vol's 1, 2, & 3 (Important Records 2006)

Grails on myspace
Grails webspace