For some reason – bias, probably – it feels like it can be harder to track down good British underground artists than American ones. My attempts to put together lists of new British bands I like, for whatever reason, can consequently be a bit harrowing. But the likes of Forest Swords are making the process a fraction easier this year. And over the past couple of weeks or so, a couple more have been flushed out.
Beggin’ Your Pardon Miss Joan are a duo of Lex and Vanessa Panayi on Blackest Rainbow, a label I think I last mentioned with regard to some of those Natural Snow Buildings albums/cassettes. There’s an element of that French duo’s misty etherealism to “Edges”, especially what sounds like a shared affection for Flying Saucer Attack and the lo-fi Bristolian psych world that they inhabited. It’s easier, though, to contextualise BYPMJ (not my favourite name, or abbreviation, really) alongside some of the players who used to be called freak/acid folk. Ben Chasny’s Six Organs Of Admittance is perhaps the most obvious influence (listening to “Edges”, I’m thinking something earlyish; “Dark Noontide”, maybe?), and also Hush Arbors.
But along with some really lovely, acoustic-led drifts and drones, there are also a few songs, built around airy, sighing harmonies, that are hookier and more memorable than a lot of music which comes to the surface from this scene. “Avon” especially, and “I Am The Messenger”, which reminds me, a little vaguely, of Robbie Basho (“Song For The Queen”?).
The vibe gets slightly heavier towards the end of “Edges”, dovetailing nicely into another worthwhile Lex Panayi project, Guanaco. “Sky Burials”, also on Blackest Rainbow, shares similarities with various bits of Chasny’s back catalogue, but is more of a humming, eldritch trip than the generally more beatific “Edges”. Again, it’s a strong set, intstrumental this time, with Panayi stretching out his fingerpicking technique more expansively. Looking for British comparisons, we could probably work with some of Voice Of The Seven Thunders’ Rick Tomlinson’s solo acoustic work (like the live one on Kning Disk), possibly C Joynes.
Or, at a push, Dean McPhee, who’s also just come onto my radar, his “Brown Bear” having come out a while back on a label called Hood Faire, but now reissued on Blast First Petite. Weirdly, I’ve just this moment noticed that the first track on “Brown Bear” is called “Sky Burial”, which suggests a certain collective underground subconscious, or at least that both players are circling the same cosmic drain.
No matter. Again, this discreet three-tracker is a genuine find, with McPhee – from Bingley, according to his Myspace – specialising in expansive solo guitar meditations that sit nicely with other stuff mentioned here. That said, McPhee is a fractionally less psychedelic, more conventionally lyrical player, and the three instrumentals on “Brown Bear” come cloaked in a load of reverb which tends to fill in the atmospheres where drones would be on the Panayi albums.
I’m struggling to place exactly what this one reminds me of: the allegiances to the New American Primitive school are much, much fainter, and the folk strain is played down, though I do keep thinking of John Renbourn, imprecisely. Please have a listen to both of them – Dean McPhee here and Beggin’ Your Pardon Miss Joan and Guanaco here – and let me know what you think.