The Holy Family- S/T review + Q&A (2021 Rocket Recordings)

The Holy Family is a new art music project by members of Guapo, and their debut album is a wonderful dreamy forest walk of adventurous freak folk chants and shamanistic mumblings wrapped in thick clouds of purple smoke. It is really beside any point to reference this work to other music, the point is more to take it in with your third eye opened up as wide as mentally possible and let the concept engulf you.

The term freak folk has been coined before, but never really justly. Just listen to this record and realize why. The album unfolds to the listener as some kind of strange magical realistic children’s book, with lots of colorful pictures and a completely different feel to each page. though its nature is narrative, how the story goes exactly remains completely up to the listener. The Holy Family has written a deep trip, but it is lighter than heavy trips usually are. It is a magical wonderland you can visit when you feel like, and be on your way again when you leave. It is a unique experience, and I just had to talk its mastermind David Smith. Here is what he had to say:

David Smith

How have you been? How have you been keeping yourself in these troubled times? 
FORTUNATE AND THANKFUL THAT I’VE BEEN ABLE TO KEEP A ROOF OVER MY HEAD FOR SURE AND COMPLETING THIS MONSTER OF A NEW RECORD HAS BEEN A MUCH NEEDED DISTRACTION AND HELPED KEEP ME SANE…..

My word, this new album of yours is an incredible album! So much happening, so many different styles and directions! Could you sketch me your band and own your musical background that would lead to such an album?

I THINK FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE FAMILIAR WITH MY WORK WITH GUAPO AND THE STARGAZER’S ASSISTANT YOU CAN PLOT A PATHWAY THROUGH THE STARS THAT LEADS TO THIS ALBUM.


Most of you guys were in the band Guapo, right? What made you start a new project, Guapo is already so genre-bending, why did you feel the need to start a new project for The Holy Family?

YES, THIS RECORD FEATURES THE LAST LINEUP OF GUAPO AND WE BEGAN RECORDINGS FOR THIS RECORD BACK IN 2018 STILL UNDER THAT NAME TO SOME EXTENT. GUAPO HAS ALWAYS CENTRED AROUND THE DRUM KIT AND ONE OR MORE MEMBERS OF THE GROUP WRITING THE MATERIAL AND THEN THE WHOLE GROUP REHEARSING INTENSIVELY PRIOR TO GOING INTO THE STUDIO. THE HOLY FAMILY ALBUM BEGAN AS A SERIES OF LENGTHY FULL GROUP IMPROVISATIONS THAT I THEN WORKED ON ALONE FOR THE MOST PART. ADDED TO THIS THE FACT THAT HAND PERCUSSION AND DRUM SYNTHESIZER’S TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER THE DRUM KIT AND THE USE OF VOCALS MADE IT QUITE A MAJOR SHIFT EVEN FOR US. 25 YEARS HAS BEEN A PRETTY GOOD INNINGS FOR GUAPO TOO SO IT’S EXCITING TO BE STARTING A NEW CHAPTER……


Did you have a plan or concept when you started The Holy Family? Like ground rules, or a common starting point, or perhaps even a story that you wanted to tell? The album feels very much like a story unfolding, that’s why I ask….

 WELL, ONLY IN THE SENSE THAT WE HAD DECIDED TO START A NEW RECORDING PURELY THROUGH IMPROVISATION AND THAT IT WOULD NOT BE CENTERED AROUND THE DRUM KIT. (AT LEAST TO BEGIN WITH) WE WERE RECORDING LIVE IN THE SAME ROOM SO THIS NATURALLY LENT ITSELF MORE TOWARDS USING HAND PERCUSSION, ACOUSTIC GUITAR, ACOUSTIC PIANO ETC…  THE “UNFOLDING STORY” AND SUBSEQUENT ARRANGEMENT OF THE MATERIAL CAME LATER BUT I’M GLAD IT COMES ACROSS THAT WAY TO YOU AS THAT WAS THE INTENTION.


What can you tell me about the lyrical concept? 
IT’S AN INCREDIBLY PSYCHEDELIC MURDER MYSERY TALE!


What was your main inspiration for this album lyrically, and what was your inspiration musically? 

THE LYRIC/STORYLINE IS VERY MUCH INSPIRED BY THE WRITINGS OF ANGELA CARTER, MOST NOTABLY HER REIMAGINING OF CLASSIC FAIRY TALES FROM HER COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES ‘THE BLOODY CHAMBER’. ALONG WITH DOROTHEA TANNING’S NOVEL, CHASM: A WEEKEND. 
THE BANDS NAME IS TAKEN FROM ANGELA CARTERS LAST WORK – A TV DOCUMENTARY CALLED THE HOLY FAMILY ALBUM.
DELVING INTO THE WORLD OF DRUM SYNTHESIZER’S AND TAKING THE PLUNGE TO SING ON IT WERE THE KEY TO TURNING THIS RECORD AROUND AND INSPIRING ME TO FOCUS MUSICALLY. 


Can you tell me about the recording process? It feels like you guys were recording during a trip in the woods, but I guess that wouldn’t have made for such an incredible sound haha…

THE INTIAL RECORDING SESSION WAS PRETTY MUCH LIKE THAT ACTUALLY EXCEPT WE WERE IN A HOUSE IN THE COUNTRY NOT RECORDING OUTDOORS IN THE WOODS. IT WAS WINTERTIME!
WE RECORDED SEVERAL HOURS OF IMPROVISATIONS OVER A WEEKEND THAT WERE THEN GRADUALLY HONED DOWN TO WHAT I THOUGHT WAS USABLE MATERIAL. I THEN BEGAN WORK ON AN INSTRUMENTAL ARRANGEMENT BUT OVER THE COURSE OF A COUPLE OF MONTHS IT JUST DID NOT COME TOGETHER SO I SHELVED IT FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. DURING THIS PERIOD I BEGAN EXPERIMENTING WITH THE AFOREMENTIONED DRUM SYNTHESIZER’S FOR THE FIRST TIME AND WENT BACK TO THE RECORDINGS WITH THESE NEW TOYS. THIS INJECTED A FRESHNESS AND RENEWED ENTHUSIASM AND PUSHED ME INTO CREATING A LYRICAL THEME AND FROM THEN ON THE WHOLE RECORD CAME TOGETHER.


Would you say you are a “psychedelic” band? Can you explain why/why not?
VERY PSYCHEDELIC IN THE BROADEST FUTURE SOUND SENSE YES! AS OPPOSED TO A RETRO NOD TO 6O’S PSYCHEDELIA ETC… 


Who are your kindred spirit(s)?
I HAVE NO IDEA! WHAT DO YOU THINK?

What are you going to do immediately after the pandemic is over, and what are your long-term goals?
HUG MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY A WHOLE BUNCH AND ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES…… FINGERS CROSSED WE’LL GET TO PERFORM AS THE HOLY FAMILY LIVE SOMETIME TOO!   WILL IT EVER BE OVER THOUGH? WILL IT??!!!!!

Legs On Wheels- Idelia EP + Q&A

My my, it is such a beautiful thing to make discoveries like Legs On Wheels. To find a band solidly under the influence of Syd Barret, King Crimson, and King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard release such a tantalizing EP with three songs that are easily spun again and again is sonic psych out bliss. In under fifteen minutes these Brits make an unforgettable impression and stir up a raving hunger for more…

I knew I just had to talk to them, you readers best pay attention because I am quite certain this isn’t the last we’ve heard from them. I fired a bunch of questions to singer/guitarist/flutist Danny “Hondo” Murgatroyd, and this is what came back:

Hi guys! Can you introduce yourselves to the Weirdo Shrine audience?
Hi, we’re Legs on Wheels, a Manchester-based five-piece playing a blend of prog, psych, punk, pop and more. It’s a pleasure to meet you.


What brings a couple of healthy chaps to even start a band and play music these days? 
As a picture of unhealth, we’re not too sure. But for us it was fortunate that frontman Hondo wanted some people to play some kinda weird songs he had written and recorded at home, and that there were just such people waiting in the shadowy corners of JoinMyBand.com. At that time, Hondo was living in Macclesfield, so the Internet seemed the best way to look for talent. Three fifths of the band were recruited this way, so yes, not everyone you meet online is a scam artist, it turns out.


How did the pandemic fit into your plans so far? For instance; how did you keep creative?
The what now…? Oh…Ohhhhh, THAT pandemic. The one we’re in. Right, yeah. Well, it meant we had to film the music video for Milktop Mandy in the absolute nadir of lockdown, which was a fun challenge. And it meant there was little choice but to knuckle down and edit the thing almost non-stop, which provided lots of room for creativity whilst also being a huge pain in the arse. The pandemic also meant working from a distance with our producer Steve on the Idelia EP, which took a long time, but it all worked out in the end. The numerous lockdowns also encouraged us to get to grips with a lot more of the administrative/promotional side of being a band, which was quite daunting at first but has turned out be marginally less daunting than that.


What are your band practices usually like? Are you a democratic band-why/why not?
In a typical practice we’ll spend 45 minutes to an hour deciding who’s going to stand where, for how long, and for what reasons. We’re lucky if we ever get to playing any music. So yes, we are democratic — to a fault, perhaps. But this way we ensure everyone’s feelings and opinions are heard, so that Hondo can then ignore them and roll dice to decide. Once we’re practising, it’s a pretty rigorous affair, working on tunes or specific parts until they’re sounding right. Imbibing of intoxicants is discouraged, as the music is often tricky enough without it.


What are your main influences? Do you ever talk about other bands and what you think is cool these days (or back in the day?)

There’s a broad range of musical interest across the band members, but we all share weird and proggy inclinations. The songwriting takes a scoop from the classic 60s and 70s UK prog bands (Genesis, King Crimson, Gong, Jethro Tull, etc.), mainly in the sense of ignoring or playing around with conventions of songwriting…along with sprinklings of lots of other styles – world music, jazz, soul, punk, funk, skunk, crunk and junk. We like stuff that’s hard to pin down, and there’s lots of that on offer at the moment, which is brilliant. But we also hope we can carve out our own little niche within an already pretty small niche.


What are your future plans? What would be the ultimate goal?
Total dissolution between the band and the BENEVOLENT CREATIVE IMPULSE, such that each contains the other in an infinite and ecstatic fractal unification, would be the ultimate goal. But for now we’re looking forward to playing to live audiences again, as well as making the next record, the next video, etc. There’s a wealth of material that’s been building up – we’re constipated with songs, which is great, if a little uncomfortable.


What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do directly after reading this:
Thank the stars that blogs like Weirdo Shrine exist to shine a little light on music from “the other side of the fence”, as Beefheart put it. Then drink some water…folks don’t drink enough water these days…Then go and check out Milktop Mandy on Youtube, and finally, if you enjoyed that, go visit our Bandcamp (legsonwheels.bandcamp.com) and order a copy of the Idelia EP. The artwork on the physical copy is beautiful (credit to artist/animator Mario Radev) and also has a really cool surprise buried within it…or you can just download it if you’re not into that sort of thing.

Taras Bulba- Sometimes The Night (2021 Riot Season Records)

Sometimes to be by yourself is the best thing you can be. Take Fred Lair’s alter ego band Taras Bulba; on this third outing he once again displays an amount of artistic freedom and genre-stretching many other multi-headed “collectives” would start personal wars about. In Taras Bulba mr Laird is master and king, and so the ship sails where he wills it, even if it means threading the weirdest and remotest territories.

For instance, I don’t even know how to genre-tag this. I hear shards of Nick Cave, Gallon Drunk, and other dark and avant-garde rock music. Of course Laird’s Earthling Society space rock background is ever present as well, but Sometimes The Night is more about atmosphere and cinematics than about tripping balls. Even though it is probably very possible to trip balls on it too, don’t ask me, I’m just a innocent bystander trying to tell you what I hear…

Fred Laird

Trying to fit into words what is on display here is difficult enough of a task indeed. There are reverb-drenched surf-y guitars abound, carnivalesque organs, sparse moments of beautiful female vocals, trippy off-kilter percussion, and loads of quirky and adventurous melodies worming their way inside your skull. Unhindered by any superficial image worries or genre boundaries Taras Bulba soundtracks a dark movie that does not exist yet. It has become a movie David Lynch would have wished he directed, and an experience that is probably better lived through than written about.

Dark as it is, ultimately it radiates some light as well. For if one lonely guy in lockdown can make art like this, we as a species can never be truly lost.

HAQ123- …More (2021 self-released)

More HAQ123 means more creepy kids vocals over demented synthesizers. More deep fried crunchy basslines dooming away over noise rock landscapes. More galloping drums and otherworldly songwriting, more yelling and more awkwardness.

More sick and twisted lyrics too, even sicker when you you stop and think they were written by a not-yet teenage girl. Which of course is a context that deeply improves the whole listening experience of this fifth full-length by these Birminghamites: they are young kids yelling and battering, turning noise rock and metal upside down supported by a huge kid-like adult on bass.

Like the artwork of this album it’s a fascinating, ugly, ridiculous, but pretty entertaining ride through some Butthole Surfers meets Sesame Street in a toy store hellish nightmare world. Having listened to their earlier works and spoken to them before, I can positively say they are rapidly improving their nuclear racket without losing any of their infectious spontaneity. It becomes increasingly interesting to watch where exactly these kids are going, because one of these days it might be out of Birmingham and way beyond.

Into space and beyond perhaps? Who can tell?

Millie, Zac, and Dave

Iceburn- Asclepius (2021 Southern Lord)

Iceburn, or The Iceburn Collective as they called themselves back in the day, takes me back a great deal. All the way to 1997 and little punk me discovering them on the In Flight Program sampler by hardcore label Revelation Records. Iceburn was the odd duck on that compilation, playing some of the most intriguing stuff ever somewhere between jazz, metal, and postrock. Totally ahead of their time too, and of course criminally underrated. The band disbanded in 2000 and members went on in bands like Eagle Twin and Ascend…but now after 20 years they are back!

For their comeback album Asclepius (named after the Greek god of medicine) the band wrote just two songs. However, both tracks stretch themselves for about 18 minutes, so the album is still pretty much a full length affair. It doesn’t become quite clear whether Iceburn forged these tracks completely on improvisation alone, some of these riffs just seem too strong to have been crafted on the spot. Iceburn has been known to improvise a lot before though, and there is definitely an element of adventurist “let’s see where this riff takes us” vibe present.

Like his other heavy doom outlet Eagle Twin, Iceburn’s music on Asclepius is mostly riff based, with doom-y beardo chants. References to bands like Om, Sleep, and Melvins are justified. There is however a deeper layer to these tunes, with strange rhythmic patterns and outlandish song structure that firmly establishes their own place among their peers. On Dahlia Rides The Firebird there’s an underlying element of Greek folk mysticism that serves as its red threat. In the end, the versatility of these songs makes them easy to listen to, even considering their great length.

The overarching theme on Asclepius is healing, which is a quite magical coincidence considering the fact that they wrote it before Corona times. Nevertheless its message is welcome; healing is always possible, just take the time it needs. Iceburn lives by that message through these songs and their length, but also by returning back to their original form after 20 years of silence. A lot has changed in heavy music over the years while they were absent. Perhaps now the world is finally ready for them?

Yagow – The Mess (2021 Crazysane Records)

To be messy isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes a whirl of grimy fuzz can add just that bit of an edge a record needs stand out in the crowd. Yagow’s The Mess has exactly the right amount of grit to stay interesting, even or especially after multiple listens. In fact; this record definitely grew on me after a while, I guess my ears had to rub the dirt to let it shine…

Props to the production team at Supernova Studio Eindhoven who made this record sound this filthy. I am not a chauvinist at heart, but it does feel cool if an international sounding album was made in your country. The band themselves are from Saarbrücken, Germany, so The Mess is a smooth German-Dutch collaboration, which is quite rare in fact!

Musically the band fishes in the psychedelic rock pond, picking up styles and sounds ranging from The Black Angels‘ ear for songwriting to early Pink Floyd weirdness, to heavier stoner rock fumes reminiscent of early Colour Haze.

All in all a pretty pleasant surprise for these psych loving ears. The Mess is a cool, unpretentious piece of psychedelic rock music that might not blow your mind immediately, but will definitely win you over if you can muster some perseverance.

Den Der Hale-Harsyra (2021 Sound Effect Records)

To sleep, to dream, aye perchance there’s the rub! Shakespeare’s Hamlet contemplating the “big sleep” is perhaps the best known example of an actor thinking about suicide. Of course in Shakespeare’s play sleeping is never without peril. Hamlet’s father is killed in his sleep, and the night is where Hamlet talks to his ghost. Of course in the end Hamlet’s inability to sleep will drive him insane, and in the end everybody dies…but why would I bring that up while writing about this album by Den Der Hale? Read on, my dear audience.

Children of the corn?

Den Der Hale from Sweden describe their music as post-psych, in which they suggest an amalgamation of postpunk and psychedelic rock, which I can follow while listening to their debut album Harsyra. It’s an album that sounds incredibly sleepy in a real Shakespearian way; dreamy, spooky, deadly, never dull. The band seems to yawn cobwebbed ghost chants, gently lulling the listener into a sleep with incredibly vivid and meaningful dreams. While I’d be hard pressed to label their sound “gothic”, there is a strong spooky element to their music, that is just hazy enough for most psych heads as well. That is to say; the music is contemplative and dreamy, not necessarily bad-trippy.

Their first single Armoured remains their strongest outing, with an elvish choir and a killer bass line that will haunt your daydreams. The other songs are definitely good too, and they establish their characteristic sound, but they have a bit harder time to worm themselves into your system.

Clocking at around 35 minutes the album is on the short side, but it is a perfectly fine business card for a new band on the block. As far as sleeptime goes it’s about the time you’d need for a good, strong power nap. Which can still be quite a dangerous endeavor, just ask William Shakespeare. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Dez Dare- Hairline Ego Trip (2021, CH!MP Records)

Oh man, the end of the 80s, the start of the 90s…what a great time to be a kid. Watching Super Channel on Saturday mornings with cartoons like Mask, He-Man, and Dinoriders. All the while munching colorful cereal, and afterwards playing outside, skateboarding, climbing trees, riding your BMX…and musicwise? Listening to casette tapes with bands like DEVO, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, The Cramps, the B52s…truly cool days, people.

Listening to Hairline Ego Trip by UK artist Dez Dare I’m instantly warped back to those days. Musically, visually, everything reminds me of being a snotty but comfortable alternative kid in those times. These tracks go from high sugar energetic bouncing balls like Dumb Dumb Dumb to more stretched out psychedelic garage wheezers like Tractor Beam, Shitstorm, and everything in between. Take all the before mentioned artists and maybe add Black Sabbath, and Black Flag, and you have a pretty solid idea what to expect.

It’s music made for summer and skateboarding, and it naturally makes me extremely happy to have been alive at that era, and still alive today. I know Dez Dare feels this too, he was a rocker in the 90s in Australia. Even though there might be hairlines to worry about these days, it’s still a hell of a trip to go on. So I’d like to thank Dez for this trip down memory lane, and if you are reading this your youth was anything similar to mine, you’d look up this record and thank him too.

Oslo Tapes- Ør (2021 Pelagic Records)

Space is the place indeed! The new album by Italian neo-krautrockers Oslo Tapes ignites in all the right colors with opener Space Is The Place, setting the tone and atmosphere for the rest of the record. This is an album for heads, reverb addicts, and krautrock chewers with their third eye widely open to weird experiences.

Your mind needs to open itself like a window in spring, because Oslo Tapes don’t walk any easy roads. Nor do they settle for a certain comfortability in their sound, as each song sounds completely different. For instance, Zenith and Kosmic Feels are more electronic-based haze tracks, while Bodø Dakar starts of with a Queens Of The Stone Age riff, only to completely electro-fy it later. Sometimes they do a ritualistic New Order dance, at their poppiest they’d even border 80s wave like Cocteau Twins. At other times they edge towards goth via Nine Inch Nails or even the harsh psych noise of a band like Gnod. And not a Norwegian in sight! It’s outrageous.

As an album experience, Ør really feels like a dream in which your mind wanders from room to room. In each room there’s a different weird experience, from the surreal weightlessness of Exotic Dreams to the electronic gothwave stomp of Obsession Is The Mother Of All. However, in all its haziness one thing is crystal clear: Oslo Tapes provides an electronic palette of sounds and will never settle for boredom. Ør is an electrifying album that serves a much needed breath of fresh air in a scene based on old values. It comes highly recommended.

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