25 Jul 2014

7" Singles Roundup - Paul Messis / Groovy Uncle & Suzi Chunk / Forever Pavot

Paul Messis "Nightmares" b/w "Penny Arcade"
Paul's material always sounds like it's ideally suited to the one-two punch of single format to me, and his latest is no different. A-side "Nightmares" continues the moody minor key approach of his last album "Case Closed" with visceral garage-punk undertones aided immeasurably by jagged slashes of well placed tremeloed guitar chords. "Penny Arcade" on the flip is the real winner though, with a more buoyant melody belying its melancholy lyrics - dreamy and quite lovely with a lonesome, wailing harmonica solo. Definitely one of the best deliberately vintage garage practitioners out there. Fans of the Dovers, Byrds, Nuggets comps etc need this immediately.
Available now from 13 O'Clock Records or directly from Paul below:

Groovy Uncle & Suzi Chunk "Wet Weekend" / "Barefoot In The Carpark"
Following on from last year's marvelous "One Vowel Away From The Truth" album, Glenn Prangnell's fab Medway geezers Groovy Uncle have once again joined forces with the wonderful Welsh pipes of Suzi Chunk. A teaser for an upcoming album (called "Persuaded" I'm told), this double a-sider allows both parties a chance to shine, with the aching melancholy of Prangnell's "Wet Weekend" acting as a perfect counterpoint to Chunk's storming "Barefoot in The Carpark", which benefits immensely from some of the best vintage horn charts that you'll hear this side of a James Hunter session. Ridiculously good.
Available from State Records. 
Brief sample below which should be enough to get you reaching for your wallets:

Forever Pavot "Le Passeur d'Armes"
Great new 7" from Parisian Emile Sornin. Recorded in his home studio, the door of which must resemble a time machine of some sort. Immaculately produced and beautifully arranged, the title track is a marvelously sinuous piece of cinematic, psychedelic giallo funk ala Ennio Morricone, while the flipside "Farfichat" is a fabulous slice of whimsical baroque pop - again of a convincingly vintage design, and bound to appeal to fans of likeminded souls like Jacco Gardner and The Violet Swells. Looking forward to a full album from Sornin - this is going to get plenty of repeat plays in the meantime.
7" available here, digital available below:

Triptides "Colors"

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Jaunt is a small operation out of Portland, Oregon and if their other artists are of the same calibre as Triptides, then this is a good thing indeed. Triptides are billed as ‘psychedelic surf rock’, and that is sort of accurate. The psych part is dead on, but I am not sure how much surf rock influence is reflected here. I hear more of a Byrdsian influence, especially on the swirling sonics of “Throne of Stars”, with its extended jam in the middle of the song. And the title track, “Colors” has rather modern riffing coupled with reverb drenched vocals. “Moonbeams” has a haunting guitar line that repeats and anchors the song, along with groovy organ. The trippy “I Didn’t Know” could have easily been slotted in with the best of the Paisley Underground, or any of the equally acid drenched music from the late 60s. The appropriately titled “Lullabye”, which closes the album, is mannered, pastoral pop with twinkling keys and a sedate and calming pace which lulls you into a happy, drowsed state.

No matter what you hear in, around, and between these six, brief works of psychedelic art, if you’re a fan of this genre, you will definitely like this EP. For fans of good music everywhere.

Available on cassette or digitally here:

24 Jul 2014

Adam Leonard "Octopus 1"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Adam Leonard may not be a name that a lot of you are familiar with (although I've championed him in the past when I was lucky enough to discover this astonishing album, currently downloadable for free here). Despite this lamentable semi-obscurity, Adam has built up a sizeable stockpile of rarities and unreleased material that he's now proposing to release in the eight part "Octopus" series (see what he did there?), the first volume of which is out on the 8th of the 8th (oh, stop it).

An eight volume rarities collection may sound proportionately a bit out of kilter for an artist with a back catalogue the size of Adam's so I will readily admit that I went into this with a combination of curiosity and bewilderment (both natural states of mine), not really knowing what to expect. This is perhaps a good approach to take to Adam's music, as he has a severe case of musical schizophrenia that sees him trying his hand at all sorts of things here and succeeding admirably with all of them here. I'm not even needing to use that old "interesting" euphemism card that I had tucked up my sleeve.

Opener "Lord's Station" sounds like he's donned mad scientist garb and slipped into the local church at night to soundtrack a giallo after spending the day listening to New Order. There's also quality lo-fi acoustic singer songwriter fragments committed to tape seemingly spontaneously ("UFO Over Bidston", the Beatles "Lovely Rita"), immaculate eighties style synth pop ala John Foxx ("Film Noir") and everywhere a sense of effortless songcraft encapsulated perfectly by the Syd Barrett by way of Robyn Hitchcock closer "I'm Gonna Sleep With Myself (Tonight)" - mad as a bag of hammers and twice as lovely.

If Volumes two through eight can match this, your ears are going to get very, very fat.

Oh, and did I mention that these monthly releases will all be available as free/name your own price downloads? Mad.

Available here 8/8/14.

So There "The Hidden Claw"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

So There’s mysterious psych and experimental dérives have been haunting the internet’s darker corners for some time now; it is therefore a delight to finally have a physical copy of what can perhaps best be described as Nurse With Wound meets Syd Barrett down the truly trippiest and darkest rabbit hole. ‘The Hidden Claw’ offers fifteen golden nuggets of wyrd psychedelia and spooked snippets of songs started, abandoned, reconvened and collaged into a tapestry of the uncanny. Sinister whimsy indeed.

‘Excursions’ begins with some Floyd guitar runs before the sound of a full psych garage band enters. Just as quickly, backwards scrapes and voices take over before the deranged psych jam returns. It is at turns jarring, thrilling and entirely unique. ‘After The Empty Dungeon’ starts off as a dust laden and cobwebbed dub; lost and crackling conversation entering and fading as sitar and chimes create a soundtrack of genuine drama and mystery. Unexpectedly, banjo from some distant year strolls in through the side door as if caught in a time loop before disappearing into the birdsong of ‘Mitigated Brains Of Select Channels’. This song is truly a saucerful of secrets with its backwards tapes and eternally looping echoes from deep space. Think early 70's Floyd meets Steven Stapleton. 'Togg', with its ghostly piano refrain and sudden orchestral Sherlockian theme, is as accomplished a piece of psych strangeness as you will find anywhere. Muffled and disturbing conversations emerge and echo into ‘Tomorrow’s Carriage’ which, with its Marc Wilkinson styled strings and droning guitar, could easily soundtrack some long lost Tigon 1970's classic British folk horror film. Hauntological and yet of no fixed time reference this is musick to play in the dark. The song bubbles (literally!) away as ‘Posing Ten Streets Away’ wheezes into view, its archaic rhythms ebbing and flowing amongst insect sound and clanking. Unidentifiable sounds and instruments suggest and whisper melodies before disappearing into the shadows.

This is an unusual album but make no mistake; it is a deeply catchy and inventively melodic piece of work. ‘Recalling’s delicate acoustic and analogue keyboard add a melancholy and wistful layer to the album which, as a whole, works as a soundtrack of sorts. Indeed, ‘The Hidden Claw’ may well be the accompaniment to an avant garde and out of print classic European movie, it sounds like it would fit perfectly in this role. ‘Never Seen A Postcard’s bluesy guitar is almost straight forward until it ultimately descends into a maelstrom of spaced out strings. ‘Rinse Cackles’ is genuinely exciting; a masterful piece of surf guitar Dead Kennedys style, adding a further shadowy element to what is already a very Noir album. This is So There however, so the surf ebbs away into a cacophony of tabla and distant radio voices before a whirlwind of treated strings and guitar and voice crashes into the picture. This is then only to be obscured by some unhinged and unsettling organ, creating a disturbing 'Susperia’ vibe. 'The True Circus’ is a creeped out Tom Waits-ian piano and flute crawl which merges into ‘Eva’s Crept Shy’ with its gothic keyboards and shudders of noise. Children’s voices mutter in the darkness adding an edge of hysteria to the already haunting canvas. ‘Manor’ comes on like a particularly insane outtake from Hawkwind’s ‘Warrior at the Edge of Time’, with a train whistling through the stuttering and deranged soundscape. ‘Blank Eagle’ (folk horror fans might like to treat this title as an anagram) introduces processionary acoustic pickings and a pagan choir before vocals create what is the most standard song on the album. But what a song; harpsichord and spiralling psych guitar take us screaming into the stratosphere. The haunted house of ‘Sherlock Of The Opera’ is a 1950’s hula nightmare of twisted Beach Boys guitar and chamber echoed vocals. Finally, ‘Hobnail’s Beam’ is a beautiful acoustic lament which would not be out of place on a classic acid folk album by the likes of Forest.

This is a truly disorientating and wonderful album; a dusty wardrobe crammed full of ideas, concepts and conceits. It is a magical Lewis Carroll ride from start to finish and is psychedelic in the truest sense; both otherworldly and musically accomplished you must hear this to believe it. As a half remembered dream and a beautiful nightmare, the music of So there will echo through your nights long after the stereo is switched off. This is a classic cult album the likes of which you will never come across again. Follow the rabbit. He knows where he is going.

Out now in a limited edition with a beautiful handmade sleeve on the splendid Reverb Worship label.

So There on Soundcloud.

22 Jul 2014

The Active Listener Sampler #22 Out Now

This month's best new music sampler is now available.

The cover art comes from Eric Adrian Lee - check out more of his amazing work here: http://ericadrianleedesign.tumblr.com/

This month's sampler features the following tracks:

1. Bozmo - Leather Umbrella 02:42
2. House of Fire - The Keeper of the Doors 04:16
3. The Oscillation - Corridor (Cable Street Sessions Version) 06:38
4. The Rainy Afternoons - Siren Song 05:29
5. Sam Asgari - Child Of The Autumn 01:30
6. Monta at Odds - Relentless Pursuit 02:09
7. Mark Alan Lofgren - A Pocketful of Bliss 02:02
 8. Seas, Starry - Faint Praise 03:19
9. Tara King Th. - Magnetic Bounds 04:36
10. Briars Frome - Black Carrion 05:01
11. Kingdom of the Holy Sun - Thirteen Eyes 03:17
12. Vintage Cucumber - Neuland (Ins Glück hinein...) 06:18
13. Brian Grainger - Crumbling White Oracle Of Sadness 09:13
14. Alpha Waves - Vampiric Vultures 05:32
15. Shadow Folk - Here At Home 04:29
16. Sleeping Orchard - The Whistle 03:38
17. Swimming in Bengal - Slow Burn 19:20

Download and stream here:

21 Jul 2014

"Keep Lookin' 80 More Mod, Soul & Freakbeat Nuggets"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

A sequel of sorts to RPM's 2011 collection "Looking Back: 80 Mod, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets", "Keep Lookin"is largely more of the same, which in this case is a very good thing indeed.

"Looking Back" was intended as a diverse hold-all of rare sixties Brit-Mod and raided many worthwhile archives to collate its treasures, but was to all intents and purposes a Brits only affair. "Keep Lookin" throws the net a little wider to allow rare gems from the Commonwealth as far afield as New Zealand and Canada to get a look in, and is all the better for it.

There are plenty of familiar names to be heard here (just check those emblazoned over the sleeve above), as well as worthy obscurities by names known only to collectors and early appearances by artists who would go onto much bigger things. A roster that includes Lemmy, Marc Bolan, Bon Scott, Jimmy Page and Arthur Brown among others deserves some sort of investigation surely?

As before the mix features a little bit of everything which epitomised London cool in the sixties - r&b, beat, femme pop and mod soul, saving the best for last; a monstrous third disc crammed with rarely compiled freakbeat, psychedelic and proto-prog gems that are worth the price of admission alone.

Available here.

Reviews In Brief - The Laughing Trees / The Brian Jonestown Massacre / Briars Frome / Opeth / Swimming In Bengal

In an attempt to make my everpresent pile of albums to review more manageable I'm going to compile a regular brief reviews section where I will direct you towards extremely worthwhile new releases that I wouldn't otherwise have the time to write about.

Click on the album title to listen or buy.

Geelong's The Laughing Trees are back with a new E.P "Off Our Tree", which goes a long way to proving something that we already kind of knew; Australia has a pretty great garage / freakbeat scene. "Off Our Tree" is as good as anything that their more well known colleagues The Frowning Clouds have released recently, an enjoyably shambolic take on freakbeat with more than a little motor city mayhem to spice things up.

There's no need for me to cover this in great detail because every other website you can imagine has already done so, but everything that you're hearing about the new Brian Jonestown Massacre album "Revelation" is true; it's a potential career bester up to this point and gets better on every listen. Great production too, all done in house in Anton Newcombe's Berlin studio. If this is where a total no interference policy is leading him, leave him the hell alone. Essential.

Briars Frome is an interesting new E.P by Mark Back with a similar concept to the Soulless Party's excellent "Tales From The Black Meadow". Where it differs substantially from its other hauntological brethren is in its dominant use of guitars to conjure its mood of chilly desolation. Back is to be congratulated for the exceptional sense of atmosphere he creates here without falling back onto the standard hauntology staple of vintage analogue synths. As much as I love a bit of synth wizardry, it's refreshing to hear a different approach taken like this and I'd guess that fans of Opeth's quieter moments would find much to enjoy here.

Speaking of Opeth, their new album "Pale 
Communion" has just found its way onto my stereo and judging by this first listen it's likely to spend a considerable amount of time there. Where 2012's "Heritage" sounded tentative, this is a much more confident statement from Akerfeltand co. Much more vocally driven and with Akerfelt's clean vocals sounding more confident than ever this is perhaps the most seamless tapestry of melody and heaviness that Opeth have woven so far. There are plenty of fluid guitar leads working their way into the busy prog riffery to make this a much heavier album than "Heritage" without Akerfelt having to revert to his cookie monster vocals for impact. Focused, rhythmically varied and very satisfying.

Californian psychedelic / improv voyagers Swimming in Bengal have an excellent new album out which those of you like having their mind expanded by killer exotic jams should investigate immediately. Middle Eastern/South Asian melodies, rhythms, and drones are navigated fluidly by this exceptional three piece who make extensive use of gourds, tablas and various wind instruments to conjure vivid and unpredictable soundscapes which are just as likely to ensnare fans of world music and jazz as they are the psychedelically minded like ourselves.

Last up for today is Buffalo, New York's Makaras Pen who's latest E.P "Journeys To The End" is one of the best slices of shoegazey dreampop I've heard this year. Finding a middle ground somewhere between the lush melodic dreampop sounds of the Cocteau Twins and the heavier, cavernous guitars of Serena Maneesh, Makaras Pen sound extremely confident, and with Jenna Willis's vocals at the forefront who can blame them?

20 Jul 2014

The Shanes "Let Them Show You: The Anthology 1964-67"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Shanes may have only been the fourth most popular band in Sweden in the sixties but they had the longest hair and were almost certainly the grittiest (in the earlier part of the decade anyway).

Named after the western (which starred Jack Palance), the Shanes quickly graduated from Shadows-influenced western instrumentals to vocal beat and r&b when, as with so many other bands worldwide, they heard the Beatles (whom they supported in 1964) for the first time.

Unusually, their earlier vocal material largely bypassed the cutesy mersey pop that those influenced by the Beatles early on usually succumbed to. The Shanes' Tommy Wahlberg attributes this to the band being big fans of the Animals and Manfred Mann, and the rough hewn r&b of those bands is often evoked here, along with a gritty early mod sensibility that often sounds like early recordings by the Who and the Kinks (although many of these recordings by the Shanes pre-date recorded work by both of these bands).

Also unusual was the high percentage of band originals (this collection is entirely cover-free as far as I can gather), and a knack for writing consistently convincing and memorable singles, culminating in early highlights like the perfect Bo Diddley beat of "The Shanegang" and the snotty proto punk of "I Don't Want Your Love".

"Let Them Show You" collects 22 flawless r&b / beat gems from 1964 to 1967, and perfectly illustrates the hit making power hat saw the Shanes consistently near the top of the Tio i topp - the Swedish chart compiled from votes from radio play rather than sales. The fact that none of these made much of an impact outside of Sweden is baffling, but this collection should go some way towards righting those wrongs and introducing this most deserving group to a growing number of discerning sixties collectors.

Let Them Show You: The Anthology 1964-1967 is available here.

White Candles Vinyl Release On The Way From Sunstone Records

We're very pleased to be able to announce that one of our Active Listener Records releases - White Candles "Flowers for Delia" - will be making a vinyl appearance soon on the fabulous Sunstone Records label.

Three of the five tracks from "Flowers For Delia" will be released as a limited edition white vinyl 7" on Sunstone in September.

"Think Lamb lies down on Broadway seguing into Ruth White, White Noise, Kinks, USA and you're somewhere there" the Sunstone folks tell us, and that description works fine for me too.

Keep an eye on the Sunstone Records Facebook page for preorder details.

You can still stream or purchase the "Flowers for Delia" E.P here.

19 Jul 2014

The Rainy Afternoons "The Legendary Lost Rainy Afternoons E.P"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Rainy Afternoons is the solo project of a former guitarist from excellent Flying Nun band Garageland (who made a splash in the nineties with this great song, among others). I'm not being deliberately mysterious as to this gentleman's name - it's not mentioned on his Bandcamp page, and no one else who has written about the Rainy Afternoons has mentioned it either.

Now relocated from New Zealand to Dallas, Texas via a stint in London, our mystery protagonist has a considerable catalogue of material which has recently found its way onto Bandcamp (many on a free/name your price basis).

"The Legendary Lost Rainy Afternoons E.P" is as good a place to start as any.  "Siren Song" is the highlight - a Spacemen 3 influenced dronefest with a startling, lysergic guitar solo and chiming, Byrdsian electric twelve string. There's also a notable cover of "John Riley" to drive home the Byrds comparison further. It's got a harder edge than the original, with a crazed layer of "Eight Miles High" style twelve string exploration threatening to take the reins at any moment.

Excellent stuff, and downloadable here on a name your price/free basis: