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JANEL LEPPIN AND ANTHONY PIROG – NEW MOON IN THE EVIL AGE CD/ 2 x LP (Cuneiform Records)

LP one is 10 tracks of instrumental duets and LP two is a 9-track vocal album. This couple play together in ENSEMBLE VOLCANIC ASH, named with reference to the 2010 Icelandic volcanic eruption, whose two albums have been enjoyed and reviewed by DISS.


I don’t really know what to say about the first LP except that I was captivated throughout as time flew by, beautifully recorded, beautifully played, haunting, uplifting, beguiling, flowing effortlessly from piece to piece, a future classic of all instrumental music to my ears. I had an especially careful listen to ‘Pacific Grove Monarch’ where I am told Pirog’s guitar arpeggios have been compared to JOHN FAHEY; the cello melody atop is, as to be expected, sublime. ‘Boom Boom’ is another piece that attention was drawn to in Cuneiform’s customarily thorough press release, and I looked forward to hearing the promised exploration of the koto as an additional ‘arrow to the bow’, with additional mellotron; again, the sum of the parts of considerable, the whole is even greater. Subtlety is a byword for the music of Janel Leppin and her confrères. Before moving onto the vocal album, ‘Crystal Wish’ was nice synthesised/ keyboard way to end an album of extraordinary guitar and cello combinations.


As for the vocal LP, I am reluctant to go into too much detail about individual tracks as once again it is album that flows and shows Leppin as a very able singer, with a variety of instrumentation that includes dulcimer, piano, koto and guitar synth, in addition to cello and guitar. There is also a guest bass player: Devin Hoff, and the production is great. There are some tracks out there to sample like ‘Fly Over Iceland’ which has been compared stylistically to PORTISHEAD. I am less sure if Janel has listened to much KATE BUSH, but the ambition of Bush’s music is evident here. ‘Evil Age’ refers to the era of Trump and Covid, and the title “New Moon in the Evil Age” is an obvious reference to a call for action to stop the spread of monetarist and far right hegemony. ‘Surf the Dead’ may owe a little to SONIC YOUTH. During the recording, Pirog experimented with running a home recorded track through a reel to reel, using fingers to slow the tape down, (on ‘Hearts Heath’) and the explorative spirit and conceptual unity of this album make it a must listen.

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