31 Aug 2013

Schnauser "Where Business Meets Fashion" Review

I've been playing this album a bunch since it was sent through to me a few months back for inclusion on that month's sampler. The actual release date isn't until the end of September, but I can only hold my enthusiasm in for so long, and I reckon I've done a pretty good job over the last few months, but I'm about to burst so here goes.
Schnauser are one of those bands that you expect would have a massive following, but bafflingly don't (for now anyway, but I suspect the future holds something good instore for them).
"Where Business Meets Fashion" has a cover that perfectly sums up the ethos of their music, equal parts humorous quirkiness and sprawling ornate beauty.
Incredibly tuneful psychedelic pop, with unusually proggy time signatures, this is music that is equally cerebral and approachable - imagine Caravan fronted by Jarvis Cocker and you've got a bit of an idea of how often the quirkometer is tweaked here.
They also show an aptitude for the straightforward too - the jangling guitars and heavenly harmonies of "Dinner Party" compress pretty much everything I love about sixties pop into one near-perfect pice of ear candy.
Those harmonies are used to maximum effect throughout, sugarcoating the album in a slightly addictive fashion that makes revisiting the album often something that this particular listener has had little control over.
Keyboardist Duncan Gammon's sparing use of mellotron is a revelation too. Now synonomous with earnest upper crust English prog (Moody Blues, I'm looking at you), it's refreshing to be reminded that most of us were introduced to the instrument via much more fun, psychedelic pop channels.
And that in a nutshell is the appeal of "Where Business Meets Fashion" - Schnauser have an uncanny ability to channel the difficult, the overtly cerebral and the proggy into irresistible and timeless pop music.
So, yes a little mean of me to have you salivating over something that you can't actually hear yet, but follow them here on facebook . You won't be sorry.

Update! bandcamp pre-order link with a couple of streaming previews now up!

30 Aug 2013

James McKeown "Sublime Knight Elect" Review

Longtime readers will know that I have a bit of a thing for the music of Mr McKeown (his previous album "English Dream" occupied the number two position on my 2012 albums of the year list here).
His "fingers in many pies" approach means that you're never quite sure what you're going to get from his projects. Since "English Dream" he's also done some effective remixing for Sproatly Smith, covered the Hollies with his band Hi Fiction Science and produced a selection of krauty instrumental songs with Hi Fiction Science offshoot Dead Pylons which appeared on one of Fruits de Mers recent Strange Fish collections. The Strange Fish compilations also featured four show-stealing instrumental tracks credited solely to McKeown, and the newly released nine track album "Sublime Knight Elect" features the full batch of songs from which those four were selected.
Taking astronomy, Masonic ritual, alchemy and neolithic ceremonial sites as inspiration, these moody instrumental numbers cast a subtle, but gripping spell with a cumulative appeal that makes repeated plays almost a compulsion.
Cast using a palette of acoustic and electric guitars, bass, ebow, and various keyboards, synths and tape manipulators, these are evocative mood pieces that in lesser hands could quite easily fall into the trap of being cast as 'background' music (surely musicians must HATE this?) Fortunately McKeown is wise enough to grace each tune with sparse, skeletal melodies, which are simple and often naggingly familiar.
It's best experienced as a whole, but special mention must be made of the shadowy melody of "Silbury" which positively smacks of ancient mystery and ceremony, as well as "Ursa Major" which multitracks McKeown's voice into a wordless chorus, before soaring into ebowed guitar heaven.
Ambient hauntology embued with the sort of quintessential Englishless that this sort of stuff thrives on, this is unceasingly clever and manages the nifty trick of using thoroughly modern means to conjure an ancient and almost timeless druidic vibe.

Limited edition hand numbered CD available from Reverb Worship.

Stream or download available here:

29 Aug 2013

Electric Citizen E.P Review

Ohio's Electric Citizen mention "witchy seventies metal" on their bandcamp page, which only begins to describe their sound which has a sort of Pentangle-laced Pentagram vibe to it, but unlike the majority of vintage heavy rock revivalists cropping up (mostly over in Europe admittedly) who seem to wish they were on the early Vertigo roster (Witchcraft, Graveyard, Vidunder etc.) this lot have a pronounced West Coast psychedelic influence that gives it the sort of period flavor that crate digging readers will eat up.
Debut, double 7" "Electric Citizen"  pressed in a tiny edition of 300 is a complete marvel.
"Shallow Water" is a downbeat opener, heavy on the evil sounding Pentagram riffs, and the first appearance of Laura Dolan's vocals makes quite an impression which doesn't let up for the remainder of the E.P - it's as if Stevie Nick's had followed her witchy seventies compulsions to their natural conclusion. There's also what sounds like some wonderfully unexpected mellotron flute blanketing the chorus in a very pleasing vintage fashion.
"Shallow Water" and "Magnetic Man" up the tempo and add some Sir Lord Baltimore to the Sabbs / Pentagram equation nicely.
Most impressively though, closer "Hawk Nightingale" crops up just at the right time to confirm that Electric Citizen are aware that heavy atmosphere can be conjured without relying on crashing drums and heavy guitar riffs. An epic piece of psychedelia with hazy organs, jangly eastern-tinged guitars and Dolan's piercing banshee wail creating an intense atmosphere of dread that reaches proportions unparalleled since Jim told us about his unfortunate parental issues in "The End".
A perfect primer for an act that are gonna be huge. Only 300 copies of the 7"? Criminal. Make sure you get one!

Order the vinyl here.

Stream :

28 Aug 2013

The Giallos Flame "The Analogue Bazaar"

With a name that makes it pretty clear exactly what he does (and presumably pays dividends with Google searches and the like), as well as a large, and consistently great back catalogue, the relative obscurity of Giallos Flame (AKA Ron Graham) is a puzzling dilemma in serious need of rectification.
As you've probably gathered Ron is a devout follower of Italian cinema of the seventies / eighties persuasion and his own music plays like the soundtrack to a film that you can't help feeling disappointed doesn't actually exist. All of those names that are uber-cool to drop - Goblin, Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, Nora Orlandi are effortlessly conjured, but never aped in Ron's music.
"The Analogue Bazaar" is his latest release - a continuous suite of sleazy funkiness that covers a ridiculous amount of ground seamlessly and in a short space of time.
Menacing, staccato strings mingle with funky library style drumbreaks that rarely give up (this is a crate-digger's dream) before giving way to burbling synths and tense soul-funk guitars. Vintage radiophonic synthesizer sounds make their presence felt, and add a welcome space-rock dimension, which gets trippy as hell around the halfway point, before stepping sideways into the land of prog on their way back to the climactic string and synthesizer crescendoes that signal "The Analogue Bazaar"s fade to black...
Definitely one of Ron's more relentlessly upbeat offerings, this seamlessly balances the sleazy end of the giallo spectrum with the more synth laden eighties output of Goblin / Lucio Fulci et al, with total aural authenticity every step of the way, and an implicit understanding of the relationship between menace and funk that few have such a mastery of these days.
Essential listening for fans of funky library obscurities, terrifying prog / psych and especially those who enjoy the odd recreational descent into nightmarish seventies soundtrack heaven/hell.

Available straight from Ron through this link (along with the rest of his back catalogue - gems all.)

There are no soundclips available from this online so far, but you can check out some nice Giallos Flame material on their Soundcloud page here.

Man "Welsh Connection" Review

Good on Esoteric Records for giving us a chance to re-evaluate Man's much derided original studio swansong.
Originally released in 1976, "Welsh Connection" has caused crinkled noses among Man fans (myself among them) for many years now, with the original vinyl release having a thin, reedy sound that was impossible to warm to, and the only previous CD release sounding like it was mastered from the worst copy of that vinyl that the manufacturers could lay their hands on.
Esoteric have a rep for providing some of the best remasters in the reissue market (their Ginhouse reissue a few months back puts my original vinyl copy to shame), and "Welsh Connection" may be their best salvage work yet. Phil Ryan's keyboards are still high in the mix, but Ben Wiseman's sensitive mastering unveils all sorts of nuances in Deke Leonard's guitar playing that were buried in the original mix.
But what of the material itself?
It's a tough one, and I can see where big Man fans struggle with this one, because as a Man album it essentially fails. The progressive and psychedelic rock elements of previous albums are largely absent.
This however doesn't mean it's a bad album by any stretch of the imagination.
"Welsh Connection" is a very polished affair, in terms of both production (with this new mix anyway), and performance. Those looking for something with a little grit should certainly delve back further in their catalogue, but those with a more open mind will discover an album with peaks that at times reach the heights of prime era Steely Dan, and occasionally suggest an Alan Parsons Project raised on the Grateful Dead rather than Pink Floyd.
And if you're still not convinced there's still the little matter of the bonus tracks to consider - Man's full concert performance at The Keystone, Berkeley, California from 9th August 1976, a chance to relive some of "Welsh Connection"s tracks in the grittier, less polished form that many expected when the album was originally released.
So, not a triumph, but certainly not the dog some would have us believe it is either. Well worth a revisit.

CD available here.

27 Aug 2013

The No-Men "Ways To Annoy The Devil" Review

Another No-Men album then. Must be a Tuesday.
For those who aren't in the know, the No-Men are prolific. Very prolific. Chances are they've released more albums this calendar year than you own. You get the picture.
"Knock 'em out fast" is their motto, and they do just that, which one of these days should start leading to diminishing returns.
Not today though, "Ways To Annoy The Devil" is another winner - daft as, but hugely entertaining, with the No-Men's enthusiasm and good humour shining through.
Long term listeners will know that pretty much anything goes with this lot, but "Ways To Annoy The Devil" is one of their more cohesive collections so far, with an emphasis on drone-laden space rock (Julian Cope style) with extensive use of George No-Man's new sitar pedal, which in typical No-Man style ends up sounding more like a Cylon crossed with a common house-fly than an actual sitar.
A concept album of sorts, "Ways To Annoy The Devil" is a diabolical affair with tongue firmly in cheek, highlighted by the Doors fan-baiting "Ray & Jim" (clip here), and "These Are The Ways To Annoy The Devil", which is fairly self explanatory.
They're at their best when they stretch out musically here though with the creepy space-dub of "Crawling Up the Walls" impressing, while "Back To You" subverts the natural order of things by suggesting what Hawkwind might have sounded like in the mid fifties (as apposed to in their mid fifties).

Available on CD or via download through the streaming widget below.

26 Aug 2013

Review Roundup : We Are Toxic / Beyond From Within / The Outer Church / Orval Carlos Sibelius

We Are Toxic "Toxic Tales"
A new four-piece offshoot from the earlier Pink Floyd inspired french outfit Pink Nicotine, We Are Toxic retains that influence and reels in a whole lot more for an impressive debut that has one foot in the past, and one very much in the present.
Psychedelic rock, glam stomp, big Sabbathy riffs and modern alternative rock are all touched upon in this excellent debut, which I bet sounds even better live.
"A Green Feedback From Mars" is the clear highlight, covering all the bases mentioned above and adding synth-pop and King Crimsony, mellotron -infused prog rock to an already alarmingly diverse palette.
Available here.
Listen here:

Beyond From Within "Beyond From Within"
The brainchild of Steve Andrews, Beyond From Within is an accomplished psychedelic studio project with lyrics seemingly beamed direct from Haight-Ashbury circa 1968 or the unpublished writings of Timothy Leary.
Musically this is more along the lines of neo-psychedelia than the original hippie psych stuff, with naggingly catchy songs that make an immediate impression, swathed in subtle, often eastern sounding keyboards, and layers of scorching acid-guitar ("Forever Road" being a particular face-melter).
Well worth checking out for those wanting a modern spin on the classic hippie ethos.
Available here.
Listen here.

The Outer Church
Established by music writer Joseph Stannard ( Mojo / The Quietus / The Wire) in 2009, Brighton's Outer Church has quickly become a spiritual home to the best envelope pushing English electronic musicians, with this double CD collection showcasing unreleased material from 28 artists associated with the church, including big hitters like Pye Corner Audio, Time Attendent and Hong Kong in the 60s.
It's not uncommon for collections like this to act as a dumping ground for otherwise unreleasable material, but the quality control here is set very high.
Staggeringly diverse, this is a no-brainer not only for hauntology buffs, but anyone with an interest in what's happening outside the square.
Available here.
Listen here:

Orval Carlos Sibelius "Super Forma"
Another lysergic transmission from France, this time from the incredibly talented Orval Carlos Sibelius who has tagged his music on Bandcamp as, among other things, "weird pop" which is an apt description for what he does. VERY psychedelic, Sibelius isn't afraid to take his incredibly melodic pop tunes in unusual directions with the balance of experimentation to simple tunefulness reaching Barrett / Floyd levels of creativity.
With the possible exception of Animal Collective, there's no one else I know of making music as adventurous as this, yet somehow he's managed to integrate an immediate melodic payoff that'll hook those that aren't in the mood to be challenged.
Very clever stuff, with my highest recommendation.
Available here.
Listen here:

Hidden Masters "Of This & Other Worlds" Review

Glasgow three-piece Hidden Masters first announced their presence in 2010 with the 7" release of "Nobody Knows That We're Here / Grey Walls Grey" and it was immediately apparent that this lot were contenders.
From these strong beginnings. they've taken their time, carefully crafting their debut full length, and it shows.
Now signed to Metal Blade / Rise Above who are obviously diversifying their catalogue (welcomely so if they can keep snaffling stuff of this pedigree), "Of This & Other Worlds" fulfills all the promise of that early single, and then some.
Diverse doesn't even begin to describe the sounds these three conjure and master effortlessly.
Opener "She Broke The Clock of the Long Now" only needs four and a half minutes to wind it's way from heavy prog-rock riffery to agit-psych pop to a massive three piece harmony section that out-Corals anything the Coral have done for ages (and you're reading the opinions of a pretty massive Skelly fan here).
There's also hints of everything from lush barbershop harmonies to evil, trill-laden Sabbath riffs, with pretty much everything you could imagine falling inbetween being integrated in a seamless fashion. Short attention spans have never sounded so good.
Diversity and adventurousness aside though, it's the carefully crafted songs that are the true success story here - varied and complex enough to never feel overdressed in their often resplendent finery, but full of memorable hooks that could be stripped down to the most basic arrangements and still retain their ability to connect with the listener.
Masters? Without a doubt. Hidden? Not for much longer if there's any justice in the world.

Available on vinyl, CD, or digital download.


25 Aug 2013

The Road to Suicide/Spökraket Split Review

Levitation Records have bagged a winner here with this self-titled album length split from two of Denmark's best new psychedelic bands - merely the tip of the iceberg from what I'm told is a very exciting local scene which I need to hear more of if this is anything to go by.
The Road to Suicide's side starts impeccably with "Sleepers (Sort Sondag)" a massive piece of shoegaze laden psychedelia that's all slowburning glacial beauty with ever-building intensity that owes a debt to Verve (before they became "The" Verve) and is all the better for it. Pretty powerful stuff for an opener and a hard act to follow you'd think, but their other two tracks here don't let the standards slip even a notch, with "Before Lexington" picking up the pace and the percussive jam "Looking for Water" introducing sitar and didgeridoo into the mix.
Spökraket obviously have some big shoes to fill on side two, and "Climb So High" sets the atmosphere nicely, sounding like a vintage piece of krautrock being played at half speed with a demonically possessed Jim Morrison initially on vocals, contrasting nicely with the female vocals that enter part way through.
"Repetition Will Save Your Life" drops the atmospheric melancholia in favour of a more upbeat and aggressive sound built on an unlikely but highly successful blaxploitation hi-hat riff and rumbling walls of bass and guitar.
Danish psychedelia appears to be in very good hands.

Available digitally through the bandcamp links below, or on vinyl through the first bandcamp link.

23 Aug 2013

Stream The Winning Entry In The Mix CD Competition

Here's the winning entry in last month's Mix CD Competition.
The entries were all great, but the winning entry from Anni Raasu ticked all of the right boxes - well sequenced and well selected, mostly artists I was unaware of (Hezus, Strange Holiday and the Beatmen are particularly great!), and packaged very nicely indeed.

Thanks to everyone who entered, I enjoyed listening to all of your entries.
You can stream Anni's mix here:

22 Aug 2013

Soft Healer "E.P" Review

Just when I thought that I knew what to reasonably expect from Austin psychedelic bands, Soft Healer have thrown me a total curve-ball with their new four track E.P titled, er "E.P".
It is of course a crass generalization for me to assume that every psychedelically inclined band from the area is going to peddle reverb laden garage psych of the Black Angels variety (which I rather like), but still Soft Healer came as a major surprise.
Opener "Ghost" is a sparsely atmospheric sprawl, anchored by a spidery bassline, with economical percussion, heavily reverbed sax of Hawkwindian proportions, and Marie Butcher's emotionally engaging vocals all vying for attention.
"Desert Work" on the other hand is taut and concise - Nick Cave tackling Johnny Cash after replacing his Bad Seeds with Sky Saxon's Seeds. And it's brilliant.
For the most part though "E.P" is an engaging, yet meandering cinematic sprawl which unhurriedly allows it's tunes to unwind with Sara Berger's organ making a particularly bold impression as it insinuates it's way into each song and wraps itself around the spines of these tunes.
Eerie stuff. More please.

Available here on vinyl from Monofonus Press.

21 Aug 2013

Download new Black Angels Live E.P

The Black Angels have shared this great free three track E.P from a live performance in San Francisco in May.

Live from San Francisco
1. Indigo Meadow
2. Evil Things
3. Broken Soldier

Download through the widget below

Sample the new Jonathan Wilson Album "Fanfare".

Jonathan Wilson's sophomore album titled "Fanfare" will come out on Downtown Records in North America on Oct 15 and on Bella Union Records in Europe & Australia on Oct 14.
"Fanfare" features vocal and instrumental contributions from many of Wilson's friends, including Graham Nash, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Josh Tillman (aka Father John Misty), Wilco's Patrick Sansone, Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith and Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.
Additionally, Wilson and British folk legend Roy Harper co-wrote several songs on the record.

Prevrat "Symbols" Review

When a link for Prevrat's "Symbols" arrived in my inbox, I was dismayed to see the list of tags associated with the album; alternative, dreampop, garage, post-punk, power-pop, shoegaze, synth-pop - pretty much everything except psychedelia, which to be frank is kind of what this blog's all about innit?
So, it's not looking like this is gonna be my sort of thing, but I hit the play button anyway - this guy's taken the trouble to e-mail me a link so the least I can do is give it a cursory listen, right?
Hang on, what's this massive wave of heavenly, vintage Radiophonic synthesizer that greets my ears? Have I mistakenly been redirected to some new Jon Brooks project? Wait, now it's turned into Gary Numan on acid - what is going on here???!!
As you may have gathered Prevrat's "Symbols" is a surprising beast - a diverse take on vaguely eightiesish synth-pop with plentiful washes of psychedelia that won me over within seconds. There are plenty of big name artists on major labels attempting to marry synth-pop with psychedelia in this fashion, and to my mind Ric Gordon's solo Prevrat project has quietly gone ahead and trumped them all - it's that good.
"Abandoned" filters in a wistful Flying Nun influence that fans of the Bats will go nuts over, "I You Two" combines irresistible amounts of guitar jangle with a robotic shuffle, while "Safe Distance" adds a lo-fi industrial sheen.
Oh, and that list of tags that initially made me think that Gordon couldn't decide what he wanted to do, and was trying to appeal to pretty much everyone? Turns out that he's selling himself a bit short - he's mastered every one of those genres here and more.

20 Aug 2013

McKay "A New Light Shines" Review

Ray "McKay" Pierle may not be a household name, but his private press 1977 LP "Into You" has developed quite a reputation and found many admirers over the years.
"Into You" is a pretty hard record to classify. It's closest to cosmic american in spirit, but there's no way anyone's going to mistake it as a lost piece of Gram Parsons' legacy - more of a slightly psychedelically inclined Neil Young with a tendency towards southern rock and outlaw country perhaps? Anyway, the point is, if you've only heard "Into You", you've only heard part of the picture. Guerssen have unearthed a stack of McKay master tapes recorded between 1974 and 1979, and unleashed them upon us in the form of "A New Light Shines", due out in early September on vinyl only.
"A New Light Shines" goes a long way towards justifying McKay's reputation as a psychedelic artist (which was only really hinted at on "Into You"). OK, so it's not as face-meltingly psychedelic as the cover art may suggest, but it certainly leaves "Into You" for dead in terms of attention to psychedelic detail, and in this writer's opinion, in the songwriting department too. "Into You" has a solid reputation for sure, but if I were to be played both albums, and told that one was a released LP, and the other a bunch of outtakes, I'd be needing a second guess to work out which was which.
Opener "Blue Mountain" is immediately more engagingly lysergic than anything of McKay's I've heard before, with slowly sweeping Beatlesque guitar arpeggios run through an evil sounding Black Sabbath filter, covered in layers of wailing acid guitar. Where did this come from!
"The Ocean" on the otherhand is a delicate, acid-folk acoustic instrumental swathed in reverb, and peppered with vintage UK acid-psych flutework. Until it turns into a big seventies hard rock number.
And it continues in this vein, mixing McKay's more well known rural rock tendencies with all sorts of seventies rock / psych / prog stylings, and even when the songwriting occasionally shows signs of weakness ("This Is a Love Song" being the only real offender in this department), the attention to production detail and instrumental dexterity can be relied upon to step in and save it.
I can see why this wasn't released at the time - who was going to buy a psychedelic rock album like this during the first punk age? - but "A New Light Shines" needs to be heard, and it's better late than never.
So, a bit of a revelation here, and an essential purchase or at least listen, for any and all fans of seventies psychedelia.

Available early September on Guerssen.

18 Aug 2013

Beautify Junkyards "Beautify Junkyards" Review

In the days of old, it wasn't unusual for bands to release debut albums made up exclusively of covers (Vernon Joynson's "Fuzz, Acid & Flowers" is chock full of garage / psych covers albums that now go for at least triple figures), but it seems that this approach is frowned upon now, which makes this self titled debut by Lisbon psychedelic folkies Beautify Junkyards not only something of a rarity, but also a fairly convincing argument that you can say something fresh and original by recasting someone else's words in new ways.
Following on from last year's excellent debut 7" on Fruits de Mer (both sides of which are included here), this is a bold and creative statement from a group with exceptional taste, and an implicit awareness of which songs will best suit their approach.
Sourcing their material exclusively from albums originally released in the sixties and seventies, they lean heavily on acknowledged folk classics (Nick Drake, Donovan, Roy Harper), as well as a few artists with more of a cult following (Vashti  Bunyan, Linda Perhacs, Heron, Bridget St. John).
While this might sound like the bedrock for a fairly 'straight' vintage sounding folk album, Beautify Junkyards simply do not roll like that. While the basic structures often differ only slightly from the originals, the devil is in the details. "Rose Hip November" is awash in soothing, spectral keyboards with dramatic percussion entering towards the conclusion that instills this otherwise unassuming and gentle Vashti Bunyan composition with an unexpected sense of grandeur. Similarly, their take on Nick Drake's "From the Morning"still emphasizes the nimble fingerstyle guitarwork of the original, but adds some lovely pastoral keyboard flutes, part BBC Radiophonic Workshop, part contemporary folktronica in a fashion that Tunng would certainly have approved of a few albums back.
You get the idea - familiar tracks (Another Day, Parallelograms etc) recast through a psychedelic prism that takes these well loved songs into unfamiliar and often beautiful places. Plus there's a lovely crystalline version of Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity" that you have to hear to believe. What more could you want?

"Beautify Junkyards" will be released in September, but is already available on Spotify, click here to tune in.

You can also hear "From the Morning": here:

14 Aug 2013

Introducing..... The Space Agency

The latest signings to Paul Messis' Market Square Records (home of amazing recent singles by The Young Engineers and Messis / Sufis collaboration the Market Squares) are Sussex based instrumental beat combo The Space Agency who have a debut 7" "Bombay Potatoes" due out on August 26.
The Ventures released a couple of slightlydelic LPs in the mid to late sixties that attempted to marry their surf rock leanings with vaguely eastern based psychedelia which were sporadically successful, but more often than not a little lightweight.
The Space Agency work this same angle, and not being a bunch of squares, do it a whole lot more successfully.
A-side "Bombay Potatoes" is an evocative, paisley-tinged, surf raga (!) with sitar a-plenty and a scorching eastern fuzz solo, while B-side "Purple Power" ramps up the reverb to authentically vintage levels for a more traditional sounding piece of early sixties surf with all the twang you could possibly need.

Limited pressing of 300 copies available from the Market Square Recordings bandcamp page below.
Stream both tracks here:

13 Aug 2013

Sproatly Smith "Remixed" Review

While the idea of remixing a folk album might seem a little bewildering to some (those looking for Timo Maas doof should direct their enquiries elsewhere), there's no doubting the fact that the albums of the Sproatly Smith collective have the requisite depth for a remixer to get their teeth into.
Revisiting material mostly from the last Sproatly full length "Times Is 'N' Times Was" (reviewed here), and "The Minstrel's Grave" (reviewed here), "Remixed" further blurs the boundaries between folk, psychedelia and vaguely hauntological electronica, and is a logical extension of Mr Smith and company's own explorative nature by a sympathetic bunch of like-minded musical explorers (James McKeown, Sedayne and the Hare & The Moon being particular favorites of mine who all excel here).
So while the Sproatly's natural Albion instincts are present in full splendour, they're cast through a filter of often quite extreme psychedelia that suggests that Sgt Howie might have had a much better time in the lead up of the Wicker Man if he'd dropped some acid and disappeared around the corner with the landlord's daughter, instead of being a pompous twat.
The range is impressive too, with Active Listener friends the brothers Peters each taking on "O Death" with staggeringly different results - the Melmoth the Wanderer mix beginning like a lysergic George Martin production before being hjiacked by some ghostly David Gilmouresque slide guitar, while the Nightbirds mix travels from spooky unadorned vocals to vaguely clubby beats in it's six and a half minutes.
This range is typical of what's on offer here, but these seemingly disparate strands make a strangely cohesive whole, tied together by ghostly unadorned vocals, bursts of radio static, washes of psychedelia and Mr Smith and company's shared vision of an Albion dreamland.
Recommended, and get the originals too (from the Sproatly Smith bandcamp page, Folk Police Recordings and Reverb Worship.)

Available digitally below, or on CD from Reverb Worship.

12 Aug 2013

The Bevis Frond "White Numbers" Review

Reviewed By Jason Simpson

The Bevis Frond have re-opened the floodgates, returning with a second album in as many years, after a seven year hiatus. The time off must've done Nick Saloman, and his backing band of Paul Simmons (Alchemysts, Oddfellows Casino, Jello Biafra) on guitars, Adrian Shaw (Hawkwind, Hawklords, Arthur Brown) on bass, and Dave Pearce (Psycho’s Mum, Limehouse Lizzy) on drums, some good. “White Numbers” has over two hours of music, covering two CDs or three LPs. Is this too much of a good thing?
Not if you like Rock 'n Roll.
“White Numbers” careens out of the gate with 'Begone', a six-and-a-half minute fire tornado of propulsive fuzz bass and twin-guitar flagellation. This is psych-rock without the incense; this is punk rock without the pyramid spikes. It starts you off with an adrenalised rush, and pins you to the back of your seat, as the Bevis Frond winds through their bag of tricks - sweet, catchy, moving power-pop; proto-metal; acid rock; Albion acoustic balladeer. Nick Saloman has been recording as The Bevis Frond for 30 years; he's learned a thing or two in that time. This kaleidoscopic skipping through a variety of styles, tempos, and moods is what makes “White Numbers” such an engaging listen. It keeps things clipping along, never resting for a second or getting boring, with the listener getting more and more invested and excited as things proceed. For the listener of discerning taste, there's a wealth of amazing songs to get lost in, to champion.
My personal favorite, and contender for Single Of The Year, is 'High Wind Crow', with it’s country-ballad mournfulness and soaring guitar lead. It takes your breath away with it’s tenderness and gorgeousness, a pretty waltz with a funky refrain, delightfully unexpected, that will snare you like a mountain trout. Nick Saloman acts as psychic conduit, summons the specter of Hendrix, Stevie-Ray, Duane Allman on wax. It’s the guitar solo that speaks volumes however, it's like the way that Billie Holiday or Miles Davis played slightly behind the beat, that soulful quality, emotional but restrained. It’s like a sigh, or a whisper. Nick Saloman speaks through his guitar, he has wedded with his machine, the mark of a true master. 'High Wind Crow', especially taken with 'For Pat (On The Chase Lounge)' is an adequate illustration of much that is right and holy with The Bevis Frond, and their consistently interesting and adventurous material. First of all, look at the refrain for 'High Wind', with its sunburst of Celtic harmonies as the music drops into half-time. Hacks don't think to write songs like that; this is the mark of a man who has spent a lifetime drowning in sounds, the mark of a true devotee. It’s a sign of that elusive soul, the mark of a natural. It’s a moment of startling beauty, unexpectedly moving - it'll take your breath away. It’s also the mark of a man attempting to master the art of songcraft, the way Dylan or Leonard Cohen did. Messing with arrangements, instrumentation, style, these are inquisitive minds, working at making brilliant art. He never rests for long, always questing for the perfect hook, the inspired solo. Speaking of inspiration, another highlight of this record is the sprawling 42- minute "Homemade Traditional Electric Jam", recorded while testing levels during the first day of recording. It could be some Neil Young outtake, or a Velvet Underground home recording, or a particularly good Grateful Dead show. This is the sound of this band WARMING UP! Sure, most normal citizens don't take the time to listen to 40 minute freeform jams on their way to work, but they're missing out. That's why we're all fanatically obsessed with music, no? That moment when the sweet bird of Genius alights on fingers and foreheads, and we are connected to the Sublime? Fledgling psych bands, you should be taking notes on this one. There's much to be gained.
That's why there's no such thing as too much Nick Saloman music. He has claimed to "twiddle with guitars the way some smoke cigarettes." After a while, he realizes he has settled upon a melody, and the dance begins yet again. This is like a cellar door, straight to his unconscious - music pouring straight from the essence, devoid of trappings, not trying to front. It doesn't matter what you think of it. Dare I say it, Nick Saloman's music is pure. Its this purity, and this unbridled creativity, that makes The Bevis Frond a contender for That Great Undiscovered Band you can't believe you've never heard of. Punks, headbangers, power pop geeks, acid heads, there's something for everybody here, and sometimes in the same song. Nick Saloman has ironically referred to himself as an 'unknown 58 year old psychedelic musician', and that needs to change! This man could be playing a half-time show at The Superbowl. He should be playing solar eclipse shows at The Great Pyramids. Its never too late, and "White Numbers" is a great place for the uninitiated to find out, to come and worship at the altar of guitars.
And speaking of guitars, fretboard geeks are Saloman's most opportune market. I can't figure out why this guy's not on the cover of Guitar Magazine every single month. He is like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Richard Lloyd and David Gilmour run through The Fly's transmogrifier. For those that are constantly lamenting all the dead and damaged guitar gods, you have a living master walking in your midst, and you probably don't even know it. And speaking of David Gilmour, Pink Floyd fans may find much of merit in the 'Frond. For those that have worn out their copy of "Atom Heart Mother" or "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" you will be relieved to find another great cosmic rock band, both current and contemporary. And while Pink Floyd got bogged down in gothic personal melodrama and squeaky clean sterile studio machinations, the Bevis Frond have always remained a working man's psychedelic band. Like a really, truly excellent pub band that blows the roof to heaven on a Friday night, to a crowd of thriteen. The hum of amps, the squeak of fretboards, fingers on strings - this music is real, and its also REALLY, REALLY good.
The time is right for THE RETURN OF THE REAL; real people, real musicians, real songcraft. Hordes of shadowy faceless techno producers are spinning the Uncanny Citadel, creating a vast cathedral of virtual phantoms, and you can get lost forever.
I have a fondness for these illusions, but they also provide a sharp contrast to the real deal, the human spirit. Nick Saloman has never been trying to be popular, although he certainly wouldn't mind. He's trying to improve, as a musician and a human being, create something personal and expressive in the meantime. He's living his life, he's spinning his own world, and he's inviting you to come in and check it out. As far as The Bevis Frond is concerned, more is better; all the better to get lost in, to study, to be inspired by.
"White Numbers" is as good as Bevis Frond's classic work "New River Head", a worthy place to climb on board, if you've never heard.

Check out more of Jason's writing here : http://forestpunk.wordpress.com

Available on Vinyl, and CD.

11 Aug 2013

"Down To The Silver Sea" Review

Those lucky enough to currently be in a Summery part of the world, rather than under the cloud of a dark Antipodean Winter like myself are well placed to enjoy the first release on Moon Wiring Club's off-shoot label GASP (Gecophonic Audio System Productions).
"Down To The Silver Sea" according to Moon Wiring Club's Ian Hodgson "almost certainly has the potential to accompany all of your extensive Summertime activities. Whether flower-pressing in the garden, hallucinating in the summerhouse, fainting inside stifling sites of historical interest, pirouetting along the promenade, or even sea-cruise thalassophobia complications, barely a moment will pass that isn't made all the sweeter by obsessively listening to Down to the Silver Sea."
As you can imagine, reviewing Ian's albums is a somewhat daunting proposition as I'm all too aware that he could do a better job without batting an eyelid.
Back to the task at hand - joining Hodgson on this particular excursion are Jon Brooks in various guises, Howling Moss (AKA Pye Corner Audio), Time Attendant and Sarah Angliss, a veritable who's who of confusing English electronic musicians.
Having sent his co-conspirators an album of "curious Summer photographs" to get the creative juices flowing, Hodgson then left them tinkering in their respective labs to see what they'd come up with to represent the English Summer.
Given this recklessly unstructured approach, it's amazing how well "Down To The Silver Sea" fits together, and a testament to the unity of the artist's shared vision. Or a fortunate and happy accident. Either way, it makes for top listening that fans of previous Gecophonic releases will lap up.
Previous releases by Moon Wiring Club have balanced playfulness with an undercurrent of slightly sinister English mystery in a fashion which I suspected this theme may struggle to evoke, but I needn't have worried.
While a warm Summer breeze is certainly evident often here, there's also a level of aural confusion and mounting anxiety evident on tracks like "The Summer Door" that suggests that the protagonist's expectations of Summer revolve as much around dashing for cover from freak Summer storms as they do reclining in deck chairs.
And while Jon Brooks may be responsible for the most immediately engaging tune here (vintage analog gem "Pineapple Castle"), it's Hodgson who steals the show with his own compositions and more critically with his sequencing skills, which tie the many disparate moods of these pieces together in as logical a fashion as one could expect from a genre built largely on confusion.
Balmy, balmy days.

Visit the Blank Workshop Online GiftShop here to procure a copy of this limited vinyl only release.

8 Aug 2013

The Lucid Dream "Songs of Lies & Deceit" Review

 As you're all well aware, psychedelic rock is alive and kicking, and these lads from Carlisle have successfully set out to prove that the English can still freak out with the best of them.
Taking their time leading up to a full length with a number of singles released over the last few years has been a wise move, with "Songs of Lies & Deceit" standing it's ground with a degree of confidence that most bands don't accumulate until well into their career (if ever).
This is one hell of a noisy, cacophonous record, which wouldn't normally be quite my bag to be honest. However, these songs have such a pure bubblegum pop heart that I just can't resist, despite myself, and find myself playing this with almost alarming frequency.
Early single "Heartbreak Girl" (also present here) presents both sides of that coin- insistent, clamorous surf rock with equal parts Phil Spector and the Jesus & Mary Chain and an ear-baiting hook that I can't get enough of.
Meanwhile, the sweet C86 jangle of "In Your Eyes" delves back into the roots of psychedelic dream-pop in a pleasingly archaic fashion that I'd be quite happy to hear more of on future releases.
More often than not though, the influence of Spacemen 3 is the dominant one, with heavy drones, stacks of reverb and walls of guitar, punctuated by the odd Floydian organ swirl and on the longer tracks like "Sweet Hold of Me", huge, exhaustingly cascading crescendos.
Influences worn very openly on sleeve, this is a no-brainer for anyone with an interest in late eighties U.K psychedelic drone or it's more recent, reverb laden brethren.

I do have some bad news though folks - the vinyl edition of this album on the Great Pop Supplement was a limited edition of 500, and was long gone before the CD version was even released.
Even your humble correspondent here was too slow to snaffle one.
However, the ever reliable folks at Norman Records have the CD in stock right now at an offensively low price - pop over here now and grab one.
Also available digitally here:

7 Aug 2013

The Active Listener Sampler #11 Out Now!

August's sampler is with us, with tracks from some of my favorite albums of the month (I'm looking at you Sufis, Trappist Afterland, and Hollow Mirrors), plus a bunch of other amazing new tracks that will renew your faith in mankind.
The Hypnotic Eye and The Book of the Lost also premiere tracks from their forthcoming albums.

As always it's a free download, with any voluntary donations greatly appreciated and put towards the running costs of the Active Listener.

Oh, and that amazing sleeve art comes from the pen / computer / mind of the extremely talented Matt Talbot - salivate over more of his art at http://mattrobot.com/ . He'd love a commission or two I'm sure.

This month's sampler features:
1. The Sufis - No Expression
2. Elastic Sleep - Anywhere
3. Hollow Mirrors - The Falling of the Hour
4. The Janitors - Do It Again
5. The Hypnotic Eye -Thought Machine
6. Gemini Revolution - Panic On The Noon Meridian
7. The Striped Bananas - Dark Peace
8. The Book of the Lost - Instrumental Theme
9. David A Jaycock - Decanting Sand
10. Trappist Afterland - The Penitent's Rail
11. Cornershop - Free Love
12. Big Dwarf - Kill 'em (In Their Sleep)
13. Quimper - Aleph Null 
14. The Boxing Lesson - Better Daze
15. Juleah - Oceanride
16. Kanoi - Suspicions Aside

"Where Can I hear more from these artists and buy their material?"  I hear you ask. 
Follow the links and please support these talented people!

The Sufis : http://store.cornershop.com/
Elastic Sleep : http://elasticsleep.bandcamp.com/
Hollow Mirrors : http://hollowmirrors.bandcamp.com/
The Janitors : http://thejanitors.bandcamp.com/
The Hypnotic Eye : https://www.facebook.com/hypnoticeye
Gemini Revolution : https://soundcloud.com/geminirevolution
The Striped Bananas : http://thestripedbananas.bandcamp.com/
The Book of the Lost : https://www.facebook.com/thebookofthelost
David A Jaycock : https://soundcloud.com/david-a-jaycock
Trappist Afterland : http://trappistafterland.bandcamp.com/
Cornershop http://store.cornershop.com/
Big Dwarf : http://ajarrecords.com/shop/big-dwarf-towards-abstraction-album/
Quimper : http://quimper.bandcamp.com/
The Boxing Lesson : http://theboxinglesson.bandcamp.com/
Juleah : http://juleah.bandcamp.com/
Kanoi : http://kanoi.bandcamp.com/

And the sampler is right here.

Listen to / Download the new Midlake track "Antiphon"

Midlake have signed to ATO Records and their new album "Antiphon" will be released in early November.
Here's the title track which can also be downloaded for free from their webiste at www.midlake.net (although there were problems with the domain when I checked.

6 Aug 2013

Hollow Mirrors "II" Review

I get e-mailed a bunch of albums for review that have arty, ambiguous sleeves that offer little or no indication of their contents. Nine times out of ten these tend to be hipster synth-pop which the artists for some reason like to think of as psychedelic, even though the old polyester pant suits that used to hang in my Grandmother's closet were more lysergic.
It's the one out of the ten that prove to be far more interesting and this second album by San Francisco's Hollow Mirrors fits firmly into that category.
It's a staggeringly diverse album with an awareness of many genres, but a distinct sound of it's own at the same time.
"The Falling of the Hour" illustrates this diversity admirably, combining a big Sabbathy guitar riff (not to mention the underwater tremeloed vocal parts - "Planet Caravan" style, with moody seventies keyboards stabs and wide open, spacious "Live at Pompeii" textures.
Lest I have you thinking this is all prog pomp and bombast, let me direct you to "In the Garden" which largely drops the grandiose instrumentation in favour of rich, harmony laden folk, which sounds a whole lot like the Fleet Foxes taking on the druidic, neo-pagan folk rock of Midlake's "The Courage of Others"
And if that's not enough variety for you, the second half of "City Lights" gets into some intricate "Marquee Moon" style dual guitar noodling that may not threaten "Marquee Moon"s supremacy, but gives the better material on "Adventure" a serious run for it's money.
Certainly an expansive sound from a group who manage to acknowledge their influences without silencing their own voices. If you enjoy the more recent psychedelic prog stylings of the likes of Astra, or the cross-genre experimentation of the early seventies underground, you may have just found your new favorite band. Highly recommended.

Investigate here :