Bradford, in the north of England, known for their working class pride and also for their musical storytellers. This brings us to the pairing of Nick Toczek & Signia Alpha for the album, The Columbus Memoirs, released on the 4th of June. Nick Toczek is a ranting poet (as in they emotionally air their grievances in angry monologue and normally in the form of free verse), while Signia Alpha is Matt Webster, supported by a revolving retinue of musicians, creating post-punk style music incoporating funk, jazz and indie rock.

The first track “The Hour Glass” is literally about time and how there is never enough of it. The guitars wail in a cacophony of noise and it is wonderful plus I am sure I heard a flute. There is a near aching colonial sadness in “Another Shoreline” as the music ebbs and flows as a ship on the ocean. A track about the movement of slaves for the advancement of Imperialism and capital gain which comes with a loss of culture and identity. There might be a slight nod to the sound track War Of The Worlds, especially in mentioning H.G.Wells with the track “Time Tripper” in the wandering guitars and it is not aliens but rather can the Earth survive the human race’s selfish ways.

The psych-funk is strong in “Threads” with amazing bass thumping through the track as Toczek contemplates how technology has changed the world and everyone is being watched. The tempo changes and swings before we are given the next piece, “Dead Lines” because while the print press was huge at the end of a second world war, there is an air of live for now and excess…maybe they were dead inside and the music reflects the era of glamorous jazz filled soirees, at high end bars. “Just For A Moment” is a simple lament for a lost one and the sax reaches into your soul to touch that memory, so real.

With “Moonwatchers“, for me is like, looking at the night sky and the moon as a child, with a wild imagination that conjures up all sorts of stories, which some of us never grow out of. A lightness and joy in reveling in the darkness, the edge of where reality and lore meet in the inky hours. The 60s funk is dripping through with “Four And A Half“, a tale of youth and a telling of past experiences with near fatal consequences, sucking you in with the true events. For the title track, “The Columbus Memoirs“, North America is similar to a pop-up book, watching a strange amalgamation of that nation’s history, the oddities that make it what it is. I don’t think Columbus would recognise the America he first stood on to claim for Spain. I listen to this and cannot help to hear a line from a song of the band, The Church, Oh Columbus, I never should have let you go. The final track, “Dignity“, is straight out sleazy rock. A song for the survivors, the refugees, the tortured and maimed, to whom the world turns a blind eye and yet deserve so much more than being told they are a burden and should be grateful for a handful of dust.

The level of musicianship is stellar. Webster has really got some top notch talent to help out, which includes Paul Gray (The Damned) playing on four of the tracks. It is political at times and that is the raw punk edge showing but also wistful and even tender tinged sadness, all by using voice of a wordsmith while the music gives those words greater weight and emotional depth. I think the poetry is masterfully woven throughout and the instruments given their own voice in a story, that as of yet, has not an end.

The Columbus Memoirs | Nick Toczek & Signia Alpha (bandcamp.com)

Nick Toczek & Signia Alpha | Facebook

Signia Alpha | Facebook

We like a bit of the voodoo music, so when I crossed paths with Voodoo Drummer, I thought….ooohhhh. There is the new single “Set The Controls (Pink Floyd in 7/8 Greek Rhythm)” and yes this is a kind of cover version of the Pink Floyd classic, “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun“, off their 1968 album, A Saucerful Of Secrets. Now I do say kind off because they have recorded it in a tradition Greek rhythm of 7/8, instead of 4/4 and at the end you get to hear the “Milo mou kokkino” from which the tempo comes. Within all this, they have mixed in John Coltrane’s track, “A Love Supreme”, which is from the album of the same name and possibly one of the most influential and important jazz releases ever.

BUT WAIT! There is the added bonus of not only a Voodoo Drummer playing drums, tubular bells & percussion but also Stavros Parginos on cello, Tasos Papapanos on bass and it features Adrian Stout, of The Tiger Lillies, on musical saw. Yes you read it. MUSICAL SAW. Life is good! The saw makes those wonderful eerily haunting sounds, cello and bass give a hefty weight, pinning the saw down so it doesn’t fly away. The drums and percussion guide you through and it amazing to listen to such a fascinating version. There seems to be only the YouTube version to listen to this project but if you like quirky covers with strong musicianship, then I highly recommend you check out Voodoo Drummer.

Voodoo Drummer | Facebook

http://www.instagram.com/voodoo_drummer/

If you drive west of Brisbane, through the beautiful countryside, you can reach Mount Nebo on the land of the indigenous Jinibara people. This is also the home of Ghostwoods, a new project by musician James Lees. Lees is better known in the scene for the more rock’n’roll style bands he drums with but he has found this didn’t quite feed his soul.

“During lockdown last year, I lost most of my work, so I had a lot of time and was pretty much isolated here at
my place in Mt Nebo so the seclusion and influence of the environment throughout the winter was really
strong. I had made a start on the project prior to this, but the lockdown made me turn back to the music for
solace. Another element of the project is for me to do some music with my partner Karl who plays bass and
some acoustic guitar – he also loves playing super-dark spooky music, so he agreed to this pretty readily!”
– James Lees

JAMES LEES – GHOSTWOODS

There is the magical tinkling of chimes that heralds the dark tones of the slow, deep piano and cymbal that is “Dark Moon“. It might be a flute that mournfully cries like a storm bird in the night. Soon joined by an electric guitar that languidly plays as if it is somewhere on a grim bayou. Anticipation fills the air and dissipates again with chimes like the frost in the heat of a new day. There is something austere and aloof about “Spiral Up” and yet a sadness pervades throughout, until the saxophone invades to bring a sense of longing. All the while the synths swirl of pulsate beneath, a creature wanting to escape. The recording of parrots crying out at the beginning and end of the Panoptique Electrical remix of “Dark Moon” is so utterly Australian. The mix by Jason Sweeney, is such a powerful noise inspired soundscape that almost is on the edge of becoming overwhelming and yet does not. You could swear it was trying to consume the light and air around it as it becomes a vortex, circling. Final track is “Spiral Down” and this is a much more electronic in feel than “Spiral Up“, however oddly the flute in the back ground gives it an unearthly feel in combination. The morose tones of the blues sax in juxtaposition with the ground swell of electronic noise .

Though this is James Lees’ project where he played piano/synths/drums/percussion, he fortunate enough to collaborated with Mark Angel on electric guitars, Karl O’Shea on bass guitar/ acoustic guitar and who is also in the band Daylight Ghosts, as well as Andrew Saragossi playing flute/clarinet/saxophone. These are very emotive pieces created in a time of uncertainty, in a remote and timeless landscape and a lot of that seeps into music.The Ghostwoods are mysterious and once you go in, you might not come out the same way…….

https://ghostwoodsau.bandcamp.com/album/dark-moon

Ghostwoods | Facebook