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The Dreaming SpiresThe Dreaming Spires
Album: Paisley Overground
Label: At The Helm
Tracks: 8

When I spoke to Robin and Joe Bennett at sister Katy's album launch and asked if there was any new material in the wings following "Searching For The Supertruth" (one of my favourite albums of 2015), they said there was nothing imminent. So, it was a very pleasant surprise to learn of this eight track mini-album, the first four of which are new recordings, three put down at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis while in America touring the album, and the fourth, an updated version of an older previously unrecorded song, written on Sunset Strip, recorded back home in Oxfordshire.

The title is a play on the L.A.-spawned mid-80s sub genre, the Paisley Underground, that took its inspiration from the jangling sounds of The Byrds and Love and filtered it through garage, punk and psychedelia, and was associated with such outfits as The Long Ryders, The Rain Parade, Green On Red, Game Theory and The Dream Syndicate.

As such, the title track not only recaptures the era perfectly with its circling ringing guitars and soaring harmonies, but references the original movement in the lyrics, following on with the equally heady "Harberton Mead", the sort of title and track you might have found on an album by some obscure Swinging London combo. Featuring a 60s Eko 12-string acoustic, the melodically cascading "Silverlake Sky" (the one from the Strip, though not necessarily under the influence of the mentioned Sunset substances ) is of a more cosmic persuasion, while the last of the new numbers, "The Road Less Travelled", is a keyboard (clavichord?)-backed mid-tempo ballad cast in folk-rock colours.

The second half of the disc serves as a sort of shop window for kindred spirits and friends of the band who occupy similar musical territory. "Tell Her All The Time" (aka "I Tell Her All The Time") was written by Sid Griffin and first appeared on the debut album by The Coal Porters and, subsequently on Sid's solo live acoustic release. There's also a different live version on the "Aurora Sampler Vol 1" album, a compilation by Tony Poole, frontman of the 70s British answer to The Byrds, Starry Eyed And Laughing. He remixed that version (and also mixed the first two tracks on this EP) and both produced and plays on the new recording here (which is credited to the two of them), a full band sound with 12 string and harmonica. The second is the gently tumbling Byrdsian folk rock "Save The Queen Blazer", a highlight off "Slows To Go", the most recent album by Joe's other band, Co-Pilgrim.

Then there's The Hanging Stars, a London-based psych-folk outfit outfit (and friends of the Spires) whose Grateful Dead influenced "Crippled Shining Blues" (complete with opening rain sound effects) comes from their recently released "Over The Silvery Lake". The final contribution comes courtesy of The Raving Beauties, a Brighton outfit that grew out of a fictional 60s West Coast influenced band that featured in a short story by Graham Bell, the Byrds/Buffalo styled track "Arrows" an old song written by fellow member Gordon Grahame for a previous band and resurrected for their eponymous debut album, also released by At The Helm.

It may be a while before there's a full new album by the Spires, but, in the meantime, this not only keeps the flames burning, but also set you off on further discovery of the supporting cast. Available as 12" coloured vinyl and download.

Mike Davies