E Motive (ho ho)'s sole, self-titled album is a fascinating piece of work, covering a lot of ground in its hour-plus. In some ways, it could be said that the band had too many ideas, which could account for their apparent demise, I suppose, but it keeps E Motive fresh, which is more than I can say for an awful lot of modern prog albums. Actually, 'modern' isn't a word I'd necessarily use in relation to this band; there's nary a hint of neo-prog to their sound (hurrah!), influences being more along the lines of King Crimson or even Gentle Giant, although it's actually quite difficult to pin them down, which has to be in the album's favour. Stylistically, they veer between the pretty keyboard intro to The Ones Two Grieve to the abrasive guitar work of Schtzorythmia and across all points in between, while the four improv tracks are all at the very least interesting, falling into an area all-too infrequently covered in the prog field. Zero 'Mellotron' from keys man Frank McGlynn until track eight, A Gathering Of Days, with major string and flute parts on the track, fairly obviously sampled.
British/American collaboration The Earlies produce a kind of electronica/weird folk/psych that will either grab you by the lower intestine and hang on for grim death... or won't. Despite playing their first album (actually a collection of early singles and EPs), These Were the Earlies, a couple of times, I just can't warm to their schtick, I'm afraid. Maybe there's too much going on? Not usually a problem in PlanetMellotronLand. Too morose? Ditto. Just too indie? That could be it. It whines where it, well, shouldn't, which is everywhere. Whining is just not attractive. Am I being unfair? Probably, but the electronics and the vocals really put me off something I might otherwise like. Mancunian (or nearby) Christian Madden plays samplotron, although with all the instrumentation on the album, it's not always easy to work out exactly where. Definitely on One Of Us Is Dead and Wayward Song, with choirs on the former and strings on the latter.
Earlimart (named for a small town in California) are a fairly typical US indie outfit of the 'massed strumming acoustics' variety, often compared, for reason, to Elliott Smith, although I'm having trouble spotting the similarities, apart from, er, the massed acoustics. Their fourth album, 2004's Treble & Tremble, is a pretty dreary effort all round, to be honest, not deserving of wiping Smith's... boots, the chief dissenter being the distorted drum loops and guitars of Unintentional Tape Manipulations, which isn't to say it's any good. Someone plays sampled Mellotron strings on The Hidden Track and All They Ever Do Is Talk, with maybe the odd part hidden away elsewhere, too. You're not going to bother getting hold of this to hear it, though, I can guarantee you.
Earth (cheekily named for Black Sabbath's original moniker, of course) have been around since 1990, purveying their own, unique brand of instrumental slowcore, generally known as drone doom. 2007's Hibernaculum consists of re-recordings of older material, one track dating right back to their first EP, in the style of 2005's Hex release. The new-look Earth have thrown off the shackles of unbridled distortion, using it more as an occasional effect than as their entire modus operandi, showing a remarkable willingness to progress from which many of their peers could learn. Who said their mates Sunn O)))? Steve Moore (not the Zombi guy) is credited with Mellotron on the sixteen-minute A Plague Of Angels, but I'd love to know what he actually uses. Is that a vague string part towards the end? Muted brass, backing up his own (real) trombone? Difficult to say, but it isn't obviously audible and is almost certainly sampled anyway. So; a good album, perfect for background listening in the dark, even though I played it just before lunch.
I've had Earthling Society's Moon of Ostara - the Star Child listed under Moon of Ostara for a while; to be honest, I'm still not entirely sure which heading it should go under. Fred Laird (whose project it is) lists it as ES on Bandcamp, so ES it is. Essentially one long instrumental track in four parts, this shifts through several varieties of EM, all backed with (sampled or synthesized) drums, to reasonable effect, but why is Part 4 quite clearly a mutated piece of Jean Michel Jarre? Laird plays fairly obviously samplotron choirs on Part 2.
I've seen Michael Cameron "Anderson East" Anderson described as a rhythm & blues musician; thankfully, going by his third (and first major-label) album, 2015's Delilah, that translates to 'r'n'b as it used to be', with nary a hint of the current bastardisation of the term. Saying that, the album isn't my bag of gruel by a long way, but it does what it does well: a highly melodic, early '60s-influenced soul/gospel hybrid with quality songwriting, of the kind that should sell in appreciable quantities if there's any justice. Dave Cobb and East are both credited with Mellotron, but going by the audible evidence, we're not hearing anything more authentic than (at best) a hardware sample player, with background strings on Devil In Me, the same, plus flutes on All I'll Ever Need and a string melody on What A Woman Wants To Hear. While I can recommend this to fans of the genre, I suspect the rest of us may be less impressed. I shall file under 'good music I don't really like'.
East of Eden (name taken from the Steinbeck book/film, of course) are best-known for their unrepresentative one-off UK hit, Jig-A-Jig, but it seems there was considerably more to the band than that. Formed in 1967, their debut, Mercator Projected, is an excellent electric violin-driven post-psych album with loads of energy and great tunes. I'm told there's Mellotron on the record, but even though the monophonic string line on Bathers sounds a lot like a MkII, it's most likely effected electric violin. Giveaways are the few times two notes are played at once, as it stops sounding like a Mellotron and starts sounding like a solo violin, while a handful of notes slide up or down, almost impossible on a Mellotron. Something interesting/amusing I noticed is that the band's drummer at the time, Dave Dufort (or 'Dufont' as it says here) went on to drum with NWoBHM stalwarts Angel Witch a decade later, although he didn't play on their sole major-label long-player.
Candy & Dirt starts off as if it might be a reasonable singer-songwriter effort, but quickly slumps into a slough of Lilith Fairisms, at its probable best on A Kid Like You. Stewart Lerman's credited with Mellotron on Alright. Really?
Attack of the Martians is a great little album I was introduced to earlier this year (2004), not long after its release. Instrumental progressive rock that pulls no punches, has integrity and refuses to compromise; why can't more bands be like this? The band consists of bassist Bill Noland, his wife Madeleine on wind-controller and keys, Derek Roebuck on more keys and drummer Mark Cella (from Pye Fyte), but no guitar. Five lengthy and involved compositions, with plenty of (remember this one?) melody, although a few moments have that air of familiarity about them. That's being churlish, though; this is an excellent album that I can recommend to anyone into inventive progressive rock. A quick e-mail was enough to confirm that the album's 'Mellotron' use is definitely fake, although the strings are extremely convincing. The album opens with a solo string part, reprised later in the track, with several male-voice choir interjections later in the album, although those samples are less successful. Bill tells me they're hoping to use a friend's Mellotron on the next album. Go on, you know you want to...
Echo Bloom seems to be, effectively, Kyle Evans' alter ego, Blue being his debut, I believe, written in Berlin and recorded in New York. Evans describes it as 'chamber pop'; it certainly incorporates elements of that style, but could just as easily be classified as 'singer-songwriter', or even 'Americana'. The trouble with this stuff is that it frequently ends up being a bit one-paced, to the point where my favourite part of the album is the virtual light relief where the band finally lets rip on The Returning Of The Doves. Evans' Mellotron? Possible flute samples on Fireworks.
Since the tragic death of drummer Pete Hayes, just before the release of their 2012 debut, Echo Lake are essentially the duo of Thom Hill and Linda Jarvis, whose second album, 2015's Era, is apparently best described as 'shoegaze'. I'm not that au fait with the genre, although I suppose the record's ambient textures crossed with indie tropes and vaguely goth rhythms could fit the bill. Sadly, I find the end result something of a bore; think 'Cocteau Twins without the good bits' and you won't be too far out. An online interview with Hill has him saying, "'Having access to the Mellotron was a turning point for the whole record' Thom says of Echo Lake's acquisition of the vintage proto-sampler", but the string melody at the end of Sun rather gives the sample game away, ending on a sustained note that exposes the sound to a little too much scrutiny for its own good. We also get chordal strings on Waves and chordal flutes on the title track, for what it's worth. Echo Lake's particular brand of dreamy, mildly lysergic pop leaves me completely cold, I'm afraid. Sorry, guys.
Richard "Echoboy" Warren was one third of Britpop non-starters The Hybrids, before going solo in 1999, 2003's Giraffe being his fourth subsequent release. In a nod to his previous band, it's an uneasy hybrid of dance and rock styles, material such as Don't Destroy Me and Wasted Spaces being typical. Warren supposedly plays Mellotron on closer Nearly All The Time, but the track's screechy string part sounds little like a real machine. So; dance/rock with fakeotron. I shan't be playing this again and I doubt whether you'll want to, either.
Echobrain were originally put together by the freshly ex-Metallica Jason Newstead, attracting the attention of Neil Young along the way, no mean feat in itself. By their second album, Glean, Newstead was gone, replaced by vocalist/guitarist Dylan Donkin's brother Adam, although I suspect his contacts are less good. The album veers between Soundgarden-type heaviness and a more Americana-informed style, with opener Jellyneck probably summing their style up succinctly. Sampled Mellotron from both Donkin brothers, with strings on opener Jellyneck, a flute/strings mix on You're Sold, a flute melody on Seven Seconds, a bizarrely overloud cello solo on Arsenic Of Love and strings on Nowhere Too Long and closer Nobody.
To my surprise, Eclipse's Jumping From Springboards isn't some neo-prog horror, but a very acceptable (if somewhat unoriginal) symphonic prog release, notable for its occasional South American influences (chiefly its MIDI guitar-driven trumpet parts). Best track? Possibly opener Urban Hermit or closer Ritual (spot the Gentle Giant influences), but nothing here appals. Paulo Torres plays Mellotron string and choir samples, used with blessed restraint.
Eclipse play what is generally known these days as 'melodic hard rock', a catch-all term that encompasses the various flavours of tuneful hard rock, from Lizzy/UFO-esque outfits to full-blown AORsters. Eclipse fall somewhere between these two extremes (I use the term loosely and punningly) on their second album, 2004's Second to None, matching a widdly guitarist with modern metal-lite riffage and AOR choruses, the end result being the kind of thing that makes fans of this stuff wet themselves with pleasure. But is it actually any good? I've heard worse, but those choruses are a little hard to bear, as is the endemic unoriginality. Better tracks include the Dream Theater-esque Nothing Between Us and Rainbow-like Season Of Life, but to tell the truth, it's all a little clichéd and second-rate. Mats Olausson is credited with Mellotron, but is that vaguely Mellotronic stringy sound on Light Of Day (clearly audible at the end of the track) actually supposed to be one? Really? I think not.
Eden are (or were) an Australian goth band. You thought you needed long, gloomy winters in industrial towns and lots of rain to be a goth? Think again. To my knowledge, 1995's Fire & Rain is their third full album and, I'm afraid to say, it's full of all the usual goth clichés: gravelly vocals, grandiloquent lyrics, too much reverb... You get the picture. Of course, goth has moved on since its '80s beginnings, taking other influences on board, not least metal, although Eden keep the doom-riffage to a minimum. Paul Machliss is credited with Mellotron, with flutes on the ludicrous Stretched On Your Grave and a few seconds of choir at the end of closer Just Like Water; You Run From My Eyes, albeit sampled. So; one for goths. No-one else, just goths. No, not Mellotron spotters, either. Just goths. Oh and despite rumours, the previous year's Earthbound contains nothing more Mellotronic than generic string and choir samples.
Edison Woods are probably best described as 'post-rock-adjacent'; their drifting, melancholic material has things in common with that style, such as it is, but Julia Frodahl's vocals remind me more of a 'typical' 4AD band. 2003's Seven Principles of Leave No Trace is their second album; I've no idea how popular this was on its release, but I'm afraid I find it difficult to engage with this music. Online reviews use words like 'gorgeous' and 'rich', but all I hear is a rhythmless dirge, which probably says more about me than it does about the music. Frodahl's credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on opener Secrets, alongside real cellos and the solo flute section that opens Was He A Poet sound terribly sampled to me; far too clean and precise for anything but a brand-new machine and even then, I'd expect a bit more grit. So; one for miserable people with no friends who like to hear a bit of sampled Mellotron every now and again. Harsh? Moi?
Marina Tadic's Eerie Wanda have made two albums, although their take on Edith Frost's Cars & Parties isn't on either of them. I haven't heard the original, but suspect this suitably eerie Americana version (recorded on a cassette 4-track) does it justice. Kramer mixes, but has nothing to do with Adam Harding's supposed Mellotron strings and cello, which aren't.
Egotrippi are a Finnish pop group, whose fourth album, 2000's Helsinki-Hollola, reminds me of the kind of American guitar pop that gets used on TV and indeed, Egotrippi's music has been used to soundtrack various Finnish shows. Better tracks include the bouncy Umpikujassa and the (slightly) rocking Täytyy Mennä, but there's little here to attract the non-Finnish audience, regardless of musical style. Mikko Mäkelä supposedly plays Mellotron, with an unassuming string part on Lennokki and a high string line and choirs on Asunto 35, the latter of which give the sample game away. No, you do not need to hear this.
Stephan Eicher, belying his German name, is a French-speaking Swiss singer-songwriter, active since the mid-'80s. 2003's Taxi Europa is, essentially, a French-language indie/'modern rock' effort, only really coming alive on the energetic Avec Toi, the rest of it shifting between 'boring' and 'interminable'. Achim Meier and Reyn Ouwehand are both credited with Mellotron and Chamberlin, with specific credits for the Mellotron on four tracks, with nothing obvious on Mon Ami (Guarda E Passa), faint flutes on Cendrillon Après Minuit, flutes, strings and cello on Kreis 5 and faint strings on La Voisine. The Chamberlin? It could be on any of nine tracks, but isn't readily apparent on any of them.
2007's slightly Dylanesque Eldorado has that typical chanson feel down pat, mixed with a modern indie sensibility, a combination not exactly tailor-made to endear itself to myself. I can't imagine he's very worried about that, as I'm sure he has a large audience of people who hang on his every word, but even if I understood said words, I rather doubt whether I'd be joining them any time soon. Bizarrely, assuming the sleeve credits are to believed, although no fewer than four musicians are credited with Mellotron, it's near-as-dammit inaudible on the end result. For the sake of completion, Frédéric Lo adds nothing of any note to opener Confettis, someone naming himself Finn and Ouwehand allegedly do something on (I Cry At) Commercials, the album's one English-language track, Finn's solo contribution to Voyage simply isn't, Eicher himself plays nothing I can hear on Pas Déplu, leaving Finn and Ouwehand's rather dead-sounding strings on Charly. It's all sampled, anyway.
Taylor Eigsti is a young American jazz pianist who, like some of his contemporaries, has taken to genre-busting of the highest order, his more recent work incorporating rock, funk and soul elements. 2010's Daylight at Midnight is a surprisingly listenable album for the non-jazzer, although its instrumental compositions work better for these ears than those featuring vocalist Becca Stevens. It turns out that its listenability is mainly due to its largely non-jazz source material, Eigsti making a decent job of tackling Coldplay (opener Daylight), Rufus Wainwright (The Art Teacher) Elliott Smith (Between The Bars) and Nick Drake (Pink Moon), amongst others. Along with his expected grand piano, Eigsti plays Rhodes and credited Mellotron samples, with background flutes on The Art Teacher, Between The Bars and closer Midnight After Noon, all to little real effect, to be honest. I hope Eigsti carries on mining contemporary music in the future; his approach not only makes jazz more palatable to the non-jazzer, but opens his repertoire up hugely and breaks away from the tired old jazz songbook. Real Mellotron next time round, Mr. E?
Anyone remember SPK? Thought not. They were an early '80s Aussie take on 'industrial' music, but didn't last the course, although their main guy went on to compose Hollywood soundtracks (thanks, Matt). We're not talking Ministry or Nine Inch bloody Nails here, mate, this is music made using actual industrial elements. Germany's entrant in the industrial stakes, Berlin's Einstürzende Neubauten (Collapsing New Buildings), formed in 1980, making a sound reminiscent of (to quote The Guardian's Alex Petridis) "...an industrial accident happening at the same time as a catastrophic natural disaster and the finals of the All-German National Shouting Championship". Of course, they've taken on more mainstream influences over the years, but they're still one of the world's more uncompromising acts.
Surprisingly, 2014's Lament is only Neubauten's eleventh album in over thirty years, an audio version of a performance piece they were commissioned to write for the Flemish town of Diksmuide, marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. It combines material from multiple sources, many obscure (the band employed two research historians during the project), including war poetry, cabaret pieces and music by a ragtime band comprising members of America's 369th Infantry Regiment, the African-American Harlem Hellfighters. Believe me, easy listening this is not. Is the term 'highlights' even relevant in this case? Perhaps 'notable tracks' might be better. The album opens with a piece of old-school Neubauten, Kriegsmaschinerie, all scrapings, bangings and clatterings, Hymnen is a bizarre, half-English, half-German version of the British national anthem, while the thirteen-minute Der 1. Weltkrieg (Percussion Version) clearly loses a lot without its accompanying visuals. In fact, I think it's fair to say that not one track on this challenging album bears any relation whatsoever to 'normal', which is just as it should be.
Bassist Alexander Hacke is credited with Mellotron on Hymnen. Er, where? That's a real string quartet on the track and I can't hear anything else that it might be. We might not be hearing samples, then, but we're not actually hearing anything, so samples it is. So; a powerful, unique work that deserves to be heard, although, to quote Petridis again, "Lament is something to experience once, or very infrequently. After all, you're unlikely to forget it in a hurry."
Eisley comprise four siblings from a small Texan town, originally naming themselves Moss Eisley (from Star Wars' Mos Eisley), eventually dropping the prefix in case of copyright infringement. The youngest member was a rather terrifying eight when the band formed in 1997, making her a whole fourteen when they released their debut major-label EP, Laughing City, in May 2003. Marvelous Things followed in the December of that year and is best described as folky indie, I suppose, with Sherri and Stacy (the previously-mentioned babe in arms) DuPree's pure vocals giving a slight early-'70s Californian singer-songwriterly vibe to the whole thing. None of the material leaps out, although none of it offends, either. Stacy is the band's keyboard player, although the minor samplotron flute on the opening title track is uncredited.
Norway's sublimely-named El Doom & the Born Electric give the impression of being more Ole Petter Andreassen's project than a band per se; only time will tell on that one, I suppose. Their eponymous 2012 debut displays a variety of heavy, psychedelic prog that is practically guaranteed to appeal to anyone for whom things were never quite as good again after the mid-'70s. Like, er, me. Actually, El Doom & the Born Electric is less retro than I make it sound; not only do I detect echoes of (more) modern King's X/Tea Party-esque riffology, but The Lights wanders down the post-rock path. I'm not saying that's a good thing, mind, just commenting... This is probably at its best on lengthy opener Fire Don't Know and even lengthier closer Red Flag, but the aforementioned The Lights aside, there's little here that could reasonably have been left off, despite the album's slightly excessive length. Mikael Lindquist plays Hammond and samplotron strings, only obviously present towards the end of Fire Don't Know and dipping in and out of The Hook, to good, if overly brief effect.
As with Norway's Retroheads, I have a deep distrust of any artist using the word 'retro' to describe themselves; the end result is almost invariably a bland, flavourless, simplified version of a style popular in the past. El Kapitan's Retroscape is no exception; imagine The Floyd's Breathe as an instrumental (or, indeed, listen to a clip online) and you'll get some idea of what I mean. The rest of the (self-written) album's the same, only without the compositional strength. Exceedingly obvious Mellotron samples on Breathe and Trail Of Tears, possibly elsewhere.
Hanni El Khatib's first two albums have been compared to The White Stripes and Jon Spencer, amongst others, in an indie/garage kind of way, doubtless helped by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach's production on his second effort. Third time round, 2015's Moonlight, strikes me as not dissimilar stylistically, although his blues clichés soon begin to grate; material such as Melt Me and Servant actually diminish with repeated listens, although Mexico and All Black seem to stand up to the same treatment. Multi-instrumentalist El Khatib plays a fair bit of everything on the album, although it's frequently difficult to tell what's the credited Mellotron and what's synth, with sampled string section and volume-pedalled string chords on Worship Song (No. 2), but while Hayden Tobin is credited with playing it on Chasin', what he adds to the track is debatable.
Elan Sara DeFan is a Mexican singer-songwriter, hovering on the cusp between 'rootsy' and 'mainstream pop', at least going by her debut album, 2003's Street Child. She's apparently the first female Latin artist to write her own first album entirely in English, for what it's worth, as the lyrics sound like the usual run of platitudes; hardly anything groundbreaking. The music is less offensive than it might be, but largely mid-paced rock/pop numbers (think: a duller Bonnie Raitt) pall after a while, the end result being a nothing kind of record which the discerning listener would do best to avoid. Despite credits for two Mellotron players, Alan Weatherhead and Elan's guitarist brother, Jan Carlo DeFan, there's next to none actually to be heard, as in so many similar cases. In fact, the only obvious use is on the title track, with a half-second of ghostly choir at the beginning, heard as if on a radio, with a more upfront reprise towards the end of the song and cellos and possible flutes on the unlisted 'hidden' track Perfect Life, most likely sampled, anyway. 2005's overlong London Express is more of the same, effectively, although why she thinks any of her songs should top the four-minute mark, let alone Nobody Knows' seven-plus, can only be a matter for conjecture. Just her brother on 'Mellotron' this time, with background strings on Devil In Me and upfront flutes on This Fool's Life, that no-one in their right mind would ever mistake for a real machine.
Electrelane are a Brighton-based all-female outfit who, going by their fourth and last album, 2007's No Shouts, No Calls, sound like they've come to their Velvets-influenced indie via (gulp) Stereolab. Those thin organ drones, thrashy clean-ish guitars, rather Nico-esque (i.e. tuneless) vocals... You get the idea. One national newspaper critic gave it a bad review, stating something like 'every track turns into a proggy wig-out'. Now, if they actually did, I might feel more inclined to like the album, but what said reviewer actually meant was '...psychedelic wig-out', had they actually known anything about pre-'90s music. The worst offender is the interminable, six-minute Five, but the band repeat the trick on several tracks, making a dull album far longer and duller. Ros Murray supposedly plays Chamberlin, with strings on In Berlin, obviously sampled.
Female-fronted Ohians Electric Citizen are the latest entrant in the 'sound like you're signed to Vertigo and it's 1971' stakes. And this is a problem? Their debut, 2014's Sateen, charges cheerfully through nine prime examples of what is, more often than not, referred to as 'stoner metal', or somesuch, although this music bears little relation to the modern metal scene. Thank fuck. Top tracks? Well, it's all good, frankly; opener Beggar's Need reminds me of San Diego's Astra, while Magnetic Man adds a certain psychedelic quality to the Sabbathesque mix. Aargh! I said it! I said Sabbath! It's difficult to listen to an album of this type without invoking Birmingham's finest, but Electric Citizen manage the seemingly tricky feat of having them as an, rather than the influence. Other highlights include the trippy Hawk Nightingale and The Trap; suffice to say, there's little wrong with this album, other than the obvious lack of any great level of originality. One Yusef Quotah guests on keys, including what sounds like sampled Mellotron, with flutes on Magnetic Man, Future Persuasion and Shallow Water; I could be wrong, but... Listen, buy this album. Along with Astra, Bigelf and a handful of other (seemingly all American) names, Electric Citizen are helping to keep hard rock, as against crummy modern metal, alive. More power to their elbow.
Electric Heights' Another Midnight EP sits at the punky end of powerpop, allying melody with menace, as someone once said. Highlights? No actual duffers amongst its six tracks, but the ripping Mercenary Love and closer Song One might just have the edge. Derek Hames plays fairly blatant samplotron flutes on Main Street Lullaby.
The Electric Ladybugs' eponymous album is a typical example of millennial indie, better tracks including Do Do Do and Fish. Dave Carlock's 'Mellotron' string lines on Out Of The Fog and George Harrison (Are You Ready?) are, however, sampled.
Electric Music were a London-based outfit, whose pre-first album EP, Psychics F.O., features (credited) 'Mellotron' on two tracks. Showstopper's strings sounds genuine enough, but the game's up on Let It Flow, where a repeating rising string line moves into munchkinned squeakiness by its final notes. Musically, the whole EP can probably best be described as 'wistful', which is a whole lot better than 'horrible indie', which is what they'd become by 2000's North London Spiritualist Church, its only samplotron track a reiteration of Let It Flow from the EP.
The band became Electric Music AKA when ex-Kraftwerk man Karl Bartos threatened to sue. I'm not sure he needed to worry too much; they'd become turgid indie-schmindie by numbers by that point and that shouldn't really be much of a threat to anyone, although it never stopped Oasis selling billions, did it? Electric Music AKA are never going to sell that quantity of records, or indeed, that many at all, I suspect. I'm sure they're perfectly good at what they do on The Resurrection Show, but it sets my teeth on edge and makes me repeatedly stab at the 'next' button on my remote. 'Mellotron' on the title track only, with some strings from Steve Aungle that don't even sound that much like a Mellotron at all until near the end of the song, when they suddenly come lurching out of the mix in a fairly obvious way.
How do you describe Electric Orange? 'Psychedelic', I suppose, but that doesn't really tell you very much. 'Modern psych'? There's certainly some contemporary stuff going on, not least the programming, but throw in rock guitars, vintage (and pseudo-vintage) keyboards and other odd shit and you've got a band doing something a bit different, although it doesn't seem to've brought them fame and fortune yet. These have resided amongst the 'regular' reviews up until now (spring 2011), but mainman Dirk Jan Müller has just written to tell me the band have always used Mellotron samples from one source or another, although they own a good few genuine vintage 'boards.
1993's Electric Orange is a little overlong, but is otherwise a strong debut, especially when you consider it's effectively a Müller solo project, various friends helping out on guitar, drums, vocals etc. Müller plays Mellotron samples from an old Akai 700, which makes me wonder why I ever thought they sounded real... Authentically low-fi, maybe? Anyway, strings all round, with some beautifully upfront stuff on Sysyphus's Revenge and Journey Through Weird Science, though lesser use on The Return Of Eugene. Three years later, Müller released a remix album, Orange Commutation, featuring obviously sampled strings on Journey Through Weird Scenes Featuring Cows In Space (Cud Chewer Mix), The Return Of Eugene, Be Careful (Murderistic Mix) and Back In Strange World (Forbidden Mix). Cyberdelic (the ideal description for his music?) appeared later the same year; by now, 'he' had become 'they', with the addition of vocalist/guitarist Dirk Bittner, the obvious difference being that there's, er, more vocals. The album is noticeably different; I'm afraid to say that whatever made their debut quite interesting seems to have gone the way of all things. I found this rather dull, especially at over an hour. Far less 'Mellotron' too, unfortunately, with naught but strings at the end of A Vaporized Dance, plus non-Mellotronic flutes.
2001's Abgelaufen! (by which time they'd become a 'proper' four-piece band) starts off in a vaguely dance-oriented direction, before several forays into avant-jazz (Band Eins Swingklar) and, er, the avant-garde (most of the latter half of the album). Yet again, it goes on far too long for its own good, although I'm aware that the effect is meant to be trancelike rather than chin-stroking. Müller used Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock's Mellotron sample CD this time round, with choir chords on Dym that give the game away by sustaining for far too long, flutes on Band Eins Swingklar and strings and cellos on Golden Lake. Opener Off and Ganus Abgelaufen also feature Mellotron FX, most noticeable on the latter: spot the church bell. 2003's Platte (appropriately, 'record' in German, as it was originally released only on vinyl) is classed as an EP by Electric Orange standards, although it's the same length as a typical '70s album. Just three tracks, all lengthy, organ-led jams, none of them that interesting, to be brutally honest. Literally only a few seconds of 'Mellotron', with a couple of volume-pedalled choir chords on Columb, plus a little more of the same on Dedicated To MK on the CD reissue. Incidentally, the samples were temporarily retired for 2005's Fleischwerk.
2007's Morbus sounds almost as if it's by a different band. This is psychedelic space rock, though not of the Hawkwind variety, more, as Jim Morrison might've had it, music for the immaculately stoned, to the point where you begin to wonder whether you'll actually get through the enormously lengthy disc without putting yourself in the same mental state as the band almost certainly were while recording. Sadly, the end result lacks charm, committing the cardinal sin (who he?) of being... boring. Space rock is supposed to drift, but it's not supposed to make you begin to fidget. Two 'Mellotron' tracks from Müller, by now using the M-Tron plugin, with various string and brass parts on Errorman, huge, lush strings and rather lesser choirs on Reaching and vibes on Wald. 2009's self-deprecatory Krautrock From Hell carries on in a similar vein to Morbus and at similar length. I'd be quite happy to split this album into two around-forty-minute efforts, one of short(er) tracks, one of longer, as seventy-eight minutes of this stuff is, frankly, a real grind. Funnily enough, its longest track, the twenty-five-minute Neuronomicon, actually works best, possibly because the band don't hold back in any way, but nothing here's exactly what you'd call essential. Just one M-Tron track, with a heavy string part plus cellos on Neuronomicon and choirs later on.
2011's Netto (why have they named an album after a bucket-brigade supermarket chain?) is similar to its two predecessors, that clearly being the direction in which the band are currently headed. Saying that, while I frequently found myself not actually listening to it, at no point did it actually bore me, either; have they hit the psychedelic nail on its patchouli-smelling head? While not necessarily a good listen, per se, hearing this album is a perfectly pleasant experience. More samplotron than on its immediate predecessors, with strings on Fluff and Auslauf and choirs on the title track and Raumschaf. The self-explanatory Live at Roadburn 2012 consists of forty-seven minutes of Kraut/space-rock, in what has become Electric Orange's house style, instrumental apart from a few echo-drenched lines in Donocord. Three of its four tracks seem to be new compositions (the holdout being opener Raumschaf, from Netto), although how much you can call any of these freeform jams 'compositions' is a moot point. Relatively little samplotron, with distant, ever-sustaining choirs on Raumschaf and a brief string part towards the end of Sunaut.
For those of you who haven't spotted it, 2014's Volume 10 is a gentle Black Sabbath spoof, both album and track titles, although, try as I might, I can't hear any actual musical references, if you exclude the downtuned guitar chord that opens Symptom Of The Moony Nurse (ho ho). The overriding influence on the record actually seems to be drone-rock, with much (real) low-end strings work, both bass violin (?) and 'phonofiddle' (apparently a stroh violin) credited. the Mellotron samples finally make their appearance on A Tuna Sunrise, with a drifting string part, with more of the same on Seven And Smell, but, again, fairly minimally.
2015's Netto Companion is described by the band as, "...originally released as [a] bonus disc which came with the limited vinyl edition of the album Netto in 2015. This is for those of you who do not own this edition and just want to hear the music. All tracks were played during the sessions of the album Netto, recorded live in our studio with no overdubs." How nice to see a band ensure that everyone who wants to hear the music can, rather than artificially inflating second-hand prices by enforcing rarity. But is it actually any good? It's an hour or so of Electric Orange jamming: if you like what they do, you're most likely to like this. Next to no obvious samplotron; I'm not even sure if the heavily-effected choirs on Geweih count, although we have to give them the reverb-drenched strings on closer Schaf Im Abgang. The band take another minor stylistic shift on 2016's Misophonia (the condition of extreme sound sensitivity, before you ask), moving more into the relaxed end of the Gong spectrum, at least to my ears, typified by trippy jams like opener Organized Suffering or Misophonia III. Very little samplotron, with just a few flute chords on Opsis.
2017's live release, Würzburg Cairo 2015, does pretty much what you'd expect of a current live Electric Orange album: eighty minutes of tripped-out, jamming psych, the occasional trumpet solo thrown in for good measure. The material might as well all be new, or improvised on the spot (in actuality, only four tracks appear to be previously unreleased), but the album actually mostly features pieces drawn from Netto and Volume 10. Next to no samplotron from Müller (it isn't even credited), with naught but a few seconds of wispy strings on Fluff.