What I really enjoy about being amongst the contributors, in a small way to this site is that I can do album or live reviews of bands and musicians from a wide range of musical genres and is certainly not driven commercially. It`s heartening to flick through the major Rock and Alternative music magazines each month and see a number of new reviews that have already been on this site. I enjoy some of the more idiosyncratic or unique offerings that arrive, and Oddfellow’s Casino fell into this category.

Oddfellow’s Casino are an English band based in Brighton, At the controls is singer-songwriter, author and radio presenter David Bramwell plus an ensemble of long-serving band members and occasional collaborators including Fujija Miyagi`s Steve Lewis, former Stereolab`s bassist Simon Johns and Grasscut`s Andrew Philipps. The band has been described as ‘an outlet for Bramwell to explore his more macabre and supernatural interests rather that the outright bizarre and they mark their 20th anniversary with the announcement that they’ll be releasing three albums over twelve months: a new album of songs, Burning! Burning! an album and booklet of spoken word and music based on Bramwell’s solo show, The Cult of Water, in collaboration with Alan Moore Rough Trade Books and illustrator Peter Fowler and a retrospective album called Oddfellow’s Casino Revisited. The first of these releases Burning! Burning! takes its themes from the symbolism of light and fire, ritual, poltergeists, Neolithic monuments, space exploration and old legends.

The album begins with `Chime Children` that has some tinkling piano with a beating drum and some gentle clarinet before the quietly shared vocal join this wonderfully hypnotic jazzy opener. The legend goes that the ‘chime child’ was born at a magic time of the night, the times varied but involved bells and they had psychic abilities. We have a more cinematic mesmerising piece with `Sol Ra` written about the solstice.

David joined a druidic order (the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) last year. It certainly feels like an awakening or seasonal movement of the sun with some rhythmic chanting towards the end.

`Leave Behind` blends music with extracts from an interview with David`s neighbour Pat and her poltergeist issues which, she claims, taunt her with the cryptic message “leave behind” It`s a quite ambient entrancing number which reminded me of French chill out duo Air. A song that came to Bramwell in a dream, alluding to the true identity of Pat’s poltergeist follows with `Where Are The Memories Of Henry Sargeant? `. It`s quite a minimalist track with just piano, vocals and vocal harmonies broken up with some clarinet like swatches midway through. A song that could have fitted into composer Michael Nyman`s score for the film `A Zed And Two Noughts`. We have another marvellously spellbinding ambient number with `Strange Lights In The Sky` which does musically conjure up this strange image. There`s some really nice flute like textures toward the latter part of the song.

`Twice Around the Sun` is a laid-back flowing number that narrates visits to explore Neolithic, megalithic stones, and landmarks around Wiltshire. A dream like journey through these mystical sites. We have an interesting cover of Nico`s `Frozen Warnings` from her second album “The Marble Index” which begins quite close to the original before venturing off into more of a psychedelia haze,

`The Red Eyes Of Mars` has a really curious feel about it, musically it could be called electronica or indietronica with the subject matter about The Red Planet of Mars. A place inhospitable to humans where average temperatures are eighty degrees below zero, windstorms of toxic dust regularly rake the planet, and an atmosphere that is 95% carbon dioxide which would kill in minutes.

The eerie and hypnotic `Night Of The Dab Tsog` tells the true story of how hundreds of healthy men from the Hmong tribe in Laos mysteriously died in their sleep when relocating to the US in 1979 following a coup. The Hmong believed these men to have been visited by the dab tsog, equivalent to our night hag or sleep paralysis. Western doctors remain mystified to this day. The album closes with `Marian Marks`. A sort of folky, dream pop piece written after a visit to Alan Garner’s 15th century home in Alderley, the author and his wife Griselda revealed the Marian Marks and Daisy Wheels scratched into the doorways and staircases of their house, there to ward off evil spirits.

“Burning! Burning!” is a fusion of gently shared folk, dream pop, electronica and jazz revealing themes that were inspired from events and occurrences in the life of the singer-songwriter. These experiences supposedly even shaped the band`s name as the singer inherited from an eccentric aunt, a hundred-year-old moustache belong to Victorian freak show host Ambrose Oddfellow onetime ringmaster of his Oddfellow`s Casino. The music and stories that lie within are enthralling and captivating and a must listen.

Rating 9/10


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