30 Jun 2014

My North Eye

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

With this deceptively low key and underground release My North Eye have arguably created a stand out psych folk masterpiece. Recorded in one day in Normandy, France in 2013, each song is a perfectly crated piece of melancholy that catches the listener firmly in its emotional grip. Essentially the work of one man, Yann Lafosse, the album affects and arrests in equal measure and proclaims the arrival of a major talent to the folk and psych scene.

The album opens with a version of the gospel standard ‘Wade In The Water’, the double tracked lead vocals adding a sense of approaching dread to a backdrop of wheezing organ and gnarled distorted fuzz guitar. Sounding not unlike a demented Walkabouts, My North Eye make this track into their own apocalyptic vision. In contrast ‘Love Just Love’s harmonium and plaintive vocals are heartbreaking in their despondency and simplicity. Not a note is wasted here and the lack of over embellishment just adds to the emotional power. Similarly ‘Butterfly’ (with its repeated single drumbeat the sole backdrop to Lafosse’s vocal) is deeply engaging, reminding this listener of Black Heart Procession’s classic ‘1’ album. ‘Lullaby’s shimmering and celestial organ frames a desperate paean to the listener to ‘sleep, close your eyes’ as cosmic winds circle all around. This would have been the perfect soundtrack to the ending of Lars Von Trier's ‘Melancholia’; it is as heartrending as it is bleakly beautiful. ‘Walk’ begins with a single repeated drumbeat, a stagger of a song depicting an exhausted and worn protagonist before the defiant chorus brings a delicately picked acoustic into the frame. This is hugely affecting material and reminds one of Nick Grey’s desperate and heartworn opus ‘Thieves among Thorns’. ‘Your Pain Is like a Drone’ is an epic nine minutes of pain and sorrow; the naked harmonium emphasising the raw and stripped back emotion expressed in the song. A tense and unsettling crescendo builds as the volume grows and reverbed discordant and wracked guitar howls into the darkness. The track is physically and emotionally draining yet is utterly compulsive and mesmerizing. Fans of Michael Gira’s work with both Swans and Angels of Light will find much to like here. 'Metonimy’ follows as the calm after the storm yet is still much wrought and greatly resigned. Indeed, the whole album begins to take on the form of a song cycle or concept and it’s not hard to imagine each of these songs being sung about the same person. Handclaps, the buzz of harmonium and shimmering strings create a melancholy sing-along as the tracks ends repeating ‘you refused to see’. It’s a curiously uplifting moment and illustrates the strong emotional palette that My North Eye are working from. ‘Nothing Lasts’ strummed doomed vision is a powerful piece of Americana; effectively the finale of the album, it offers no solace or happy ending but does provide an atmospheric and cinematic conclusion with its ringing guitars, twilight chimes and hazy strings.

Make no mistake; this is a hugely accomplished album and it being the work of one man’s vision makes this all the more so. There is heartache here but also some of the most affecting and beautiful music you may ever hear. In future years this should be filed next to Peter Hammill’s ‘Over’, Smog’s ‘Red Apple Falls’ or Big Star’s ‘3rd’as one of those soundtracks to late, candlelight nights of the soul. Available now as a limited edition with splendid handmade artwork by label Reverb Worship. Essential.

CD and vinyl available here. Digital download and stream below:

Cosmic Rough Riders "Panorama"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

When it was originally released back in 2000, the Cosmic Rough Riders second album "Panorama" had the cream of the U.K music press (Uncut, Q, Mojo etc.) falling over themselves to announce its brilliance, but despite the critical adoration, the subsequent signing by Alan McGee and the obvious charms of the songs themselves, this never translated into the sales that music like this would receive in a fair and just world.

Fortunately Markus Holler (a bit of a jangly harmony pop addict himself) has given us the chance to revisit "Panorama" on vinyl for the first time (unbelievably).

A Scottish band with a convoluted personnel history (let's just say that singer / songwriter Daniel Wylie basically is the Cosmic Rough Riders), on their second album they added a whole bunch of sunny California and West Coast to their melodic Teenage Fanclub jangle, with Wylie writing the best songs of his career (although his subsequent solo career has been pretty flash too).

There's an immediate appeal to these songs that makes it easy to see why they were tagged the "next big thing", but harder to work out why they didn't stick in the public consciousness of the time. Certainly the open adoption of the vintage sixties influences on display here was unusual for the time, and may have been enough to confuse the casual punter into buying the latest Travis album instead, but tracks like "Revolution (In The Summertime)" and "You've Got Me" tick all of the right catchy and melodic boxes to be players on radio, and there's plenty of depth beyond the surface level hooks;  "Afterglow" dabbles in alt. country harmonies more effectively than anything you'll hear this side of the Jayhawks, but it's "The Gun Isn't Loaded" which packs the biggest punch with its spot on Eastern psychedelia easily recapturing and redefining "Within You Without You" for a contemporary audience.

Let's get it right this time and buy it, huh?

Limited vinyl edition available from Sugarbush Records.

29 Jun 2014

Fabio Frizzi "City of the Living Dead" / Bruno Nicolai "All The Colours of The Dark"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Two essential Italian horror soundtrack vinyl reissues here from the two labels inarguably doing the most important work in this field: Death Waltz Recording Company and Finders Keepers.

First up is Death Waltz's marvelously garish reissue of probably the most accessible of Fabio Frizzi's three scores from Lucio Fulci's "Gates of Hell Trilogy". "City of the Living Dead" has all of the normal hallmarks of a classic Frizzi score -  great synth / bass / drums interplay and discordant synthy dread juxtaposed against gorgeous, melodic piano melodies - but what really sets it apart from Frizzi's other great scores is the fantastic use of electric guitar. Filtered through a talkbox effect that will have David Gilmour fanciers reaching for their wallets, the guitar parts on here mirror the anguished cries of the recently resurrected, and are arguably creepier than anything the director cooked up onscreen.

For me it's a toss up between this and "The Beyond" for Frizzi's best (and Fulci's for that matter), and I'd hate to have to choose between them. You need this.

The eclectic cratediggers at Finders Keepers have graced us with some very fine vinyl Bruno Nicolai reissues of late (this, this and this for instance), but cream of the crop is the fabulous score for Sergio Martino's masterpiece "All the Colors of the Dark" - a score as multifaceted and complex as the film itself (which as those who have seen the film will attest, is no mean feat).

Nicolai pulled out all the stops on this one, and deftly balances the psychedelic freakouts necessary to accompany the onscreen mayhem with some of the most exquisite melodies in his considerable catalogue.  The woodwind theme on "Magico Incontro" is particularly memorable, with a sense of melancholy underpinned by a slight unease that helps heighten the film's sense of claustrophobia.  Elsewhere, "Sabba" (recently covered here to great effect, by Orgasmo Sonore) is a terrifying prog-funker with a killer riff and a cacophonous vocal chorus that sounds like the sort of thing that Graham Bond was aiming for during his occult period on Vertigo. And did I mention the nuts sitar workouts? All of which makes this pretty damn essential too.

Pre-order "City of the Living Dead" here.

Order "All The Colours Of The Dark" here.

28 Jun 2014

Primordial Undermind/ Thought Forms "Alchemy In The West Country"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Abstract and freeform, the new album by Primordial Undermind /Thought Form ‘Alchemy In The West Country’ is a psych noise ritual that, although uncompromising and strictly for the brave, amply rewards with each repeated listen. For a noise and freeform instrumental work it is also curiously meditative and is properly psychedelic in its warped and cosmic elevations and voyages. Primordial Undermind should need no introduction; the Californian collective having been involved previously with such psych giants as Nick Saloman, Tom Carter and Fit+Limo as well as being a prominent Ptolemaic Terrascope favourite. Their Facebook page states ‘genre is a crutch’ which gives a sense of their experimental bent and genuine mood of freedom and creativity. Thought Forms, a young English band whose sound veers from ethereal doom to all out guitar noise, are a fine match for Undermind; having been a part of Adrian Utley’s guitar orchestra and no stranger to epic freeform freakouts themselves, they combine with Undermind to create something new and radically different than the sum of its parts. In 2011, having toured together, both bands found themselves with a day off and a monumental jam in a band member’s Wiltshire home began. This album is the document of that day.

Starting with picked guitar and a discordant haze of percussion and voices, ‘On the Wine Dark’ quickly becomes a James Blackshaw-esque drone epic. Freeform slide guitar enter and departs over delicate and rapid cascades of arpeggios, the clangs and sawing of violins increasing in volume to produce a choir of pure noise. Like a mid-western (or west midlands) Einsturzende Neubauten, the Americana tinged discordancy is at once thrilling and unsettling. ‘Rattle the Bones’ picks up where its predecessor left off with a waterfall of percussion and bells, scraping strings, chimes and feedback hum. Almost abruptly it ends, leaving the listener disorientated and unsure of what has just been experienced or heard. ‘Helicate’s rock n’roll bass notes motor the track along krautrock style before a ritual drum beat enters, the clatter of cymbals joining in to create something akin to a noisier Popol Vuh in their 70’s heyday. Indeed there is also an element of Faust at work here in the sheer inventiveness and sense of deranged creation, perhaps with a hint of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Black Angel’s Death Song’. A twenty minute epic, the song slows and surges towards a coherent and powerful finale. ‘Cauchemar’, with its finger cymbals and bells, is both hypnotic and has a real sense of dread. Swathes of noise pass over the echoing chimes and drones, a tension building within the track as the noise builds and ebbs. A whirring noise emerges as do several muddy cosmic drones and chants as a steady metronomic beat comes to the fore. Listen to this in the dark on headphones for maximum effect; its Nurse With Wound style scrapes and unexpected sounds will haunt you for days afterwards. Finally, ‘Anathema Marantha’ adds what sounds like an electronic shimmer to a sinister perpetual drone before the sound of something clockwork being wound up appears, the track growing in a loud glow of percussive madness.

This is alchemy indeed; from the sum of its parts something was converted that day in the West Country into aural gold. Take a trip into the abyss with Primordial Undermind/ Thought Forms, you won’t know where you are going but the journey is unforgettable.

Available now in a limited (to 50 copies) edition from Reverb Worship in a lovely handmade sleeve. 



27 Jun 2014

Jobriath "As The River Flows"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Eschatone Records have put together something a little bit miraculous with this fine collection of two previously unreleased, early (1971) sessions from one of Morrissey's favourite singers.

Misjudged and mishandled by Elektra Records' promotional department, Jobriath's two Elektra albums stiffed, despite their obvious quality, and a sound comparable to the then enormous Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars. It seems the American public weren't ready for the world's first openly gay (potential) rock star.

"As The River Flows" brings together two early sessions from 1971 - one with a small, edgy combo featuring with guitar, bass and drums supplementing Jobriath and one with Jobriath alone at the piano - both sessions featuring a wealth of material never to be revisited (as well as a couple of tracks that did make the final cut on the debut, albeit in very different shape). The sound quality is superb, and rather than present the two sessions as two separate entities, Eschatone have elected to sequence the tracks into a more logical flow that gives this the illusion of an album, rather than an historical document, and as such it easily stands alongside its two predecessors, with a freshness and raw vigour that - fine as those two "real" albums are - give this a youthful edge, and a sense of life that may have helped to sell those two albums to a more reluctant audience.

Opener "Amazing Dope Tales" is an edgy gem that easily matches the streetsmart cool of Lou Reed's contemporary material, with a barely controlled sense of abandon that makes Reed look positively uptight in comparison. Stripped back to a solo piano arrangement, the demo recording of "I'm a Man" found here, showcases Jobriath's deft piano skills (including a few quotes from Beethoven unless I'm mistaken?), married to a riveting, 'in the room' sounding vocal performance, that demonstrates perfectly the key selling point of these intimate, impassioned sessions, that offer a direct connection from the singer to his audience that occasionally became a little obscured once the enormous recording budgets of the albums came into play.

"As The River Flows" is now my go-to Jobriath record, which considering the way I feel about his debut, is quite an achievement.

Beautiful, limited edition vinyl, CD and download (full stream too) available here:

26 Jun 2014

Rexford Bedlo

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Not content with being amongst the UK’s current finest (and most prolific) songwriters with his band/alter ego Dodson And Fogg Chris Wade recently released the rather fabulous Rexford Bedlo album, a collaboration with his brother Andy. Intended to be as raw and organic as possible with little overdubbing or finessing, this album captures the seemingly genetic melodic sensibilities that exist between the brothers.

Opener ‘Hold On (To What You Love)’ begins the album with intent; Andy Wade sounding not unlike another famous brother in a band; Dave Davies. As one might expect there is more than a touch of Dodson inherent (never a bad thing) and, although stripped back, the arrangements and songwriting of Chris’s tracks still boast his classic psychedelic rock and pop instincts. ‘On and On (It Goes)’ is an able demonstration of this, with touches of psyche legend Paul Roland, a smattering of T Rex and a hint of Kinks evoked in Chris’s distinctive voice and ease with harmony. Brother Andy is no slouch in the songwriting department either; ’Taking Your Breath Away’ is a plea to be taken out of a life too ordinary, Chris’s Thin Lizzy-esque guitar lines curling around his sibling’s plaintive vocals. ‘Life’s a River’ is a shiny golden psychedelic nugget; one can almost smell the English summertime and countryside in the harmonies and Syd Barret-like minor key changes. This music is both timeless and potentially could command a large audience yet is hugely evocative of a certain kind of English whimsy and peculiarity; in years to come chances are both this and Dodson’s albums will be spoken of in the same breath as Barrett, Calvert and Stanshall. ‘I’m Alive’ sounds as if it could have been pulled straight off a classic and revered early 70’s album; no-one else (apart from Dodson!) is making music like this at the moment with both a keen sense of musical history and heritage and yet with their own distinct and identifiable style. Rod Stewart would give his wrinkled, tanned right arm to write a track like this these days. ‘I Will Be Here For You’ takes the album down a darker path, Chris Wade’s electric guitar evoking Dead End Street era Kinks . It is genuinely thrilling and menacing; one of the album highlights. In general, the brothers take a song apiece, alternating between songs authored and sung by each other. Yet each harmonise and play on the other’s songs allowing for a consistency that lets the album flow fluently, although each have a distinct style; Chris is more overtly psyche and Andy rawer and bluesier. ‘Carry On’ with its vocal harmonies and strident acoustic guitar sounds like its genesis was in a London folk club in the 60’s; if this was the case we’d be hailing this a classic now; it’s that good. ‘Lily’s Lullaby’ is a delicate finger picked Bert Jansch style instrumental with an almost Celtic air to the accompanying electric guitar trills and lines. It’s beautiful, wistful and provides a diverting interlude between the brother’s compositions. ‘Everybody Loves You’ adds banjo; here Andy’s vocals and songwriting sound not unlike George Harrison (imagine that banjo as a sitar!). The bluesy, acoustic ‘Throwing Your Life Away’ adds tension to proceedings; the explosive bursts of fiery guitar and sinister harmonies adding a sense of foreboding. Sticking in shadowy territory, ‘Don’t Take This Away From Me’ is a plea to God from a desperate soul, a heartfelt scream into the void. In contrast ‘Whispering in the Breeze’ is a jauntier closer, with talk of rainbows and creatures living in the trees; an eccentric English psychedelic nursery rhyme. The music itself deserves special mention on this album; the brothers have been playing together for years and it shows. Each track is layered simply with mostly just acoustic, bass and a light touch of electric guitar yet the composition is intricate, detailed and accumulatively powerful. The idea of creating an honest, no frills album only confirms what the faithful have known for a while now; that Chris Wade cannot write a song that is not brimming with melody, invention and odd but thrilling angles and ideas. It turns out that his brother is yet another in the Wade family with an in-built unfailing songwriting instinct.

For Dodson And Fogg fans this is a must. For others, this is an album that stands tall on its own two feet, displays another side to maestro Chris Wade and introduces us to the prodigious talents of his brother. With a beautiful design by Mrs. Chris Wade, Linzi Napier, (this is a family affair) Rexford Bedlo should be on your album wish list.

Available now as download or a limited CD from wisdomtwinsbooksbandcamp and wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com respectively.

24 Jun 2014

Free Download Roundup - Monster Rally / Vintage Cucumber / Sleeping Orchard

Here's reviews for another three releases available for zilch on Bandcamp (some have name your price options if you want to make a donation to the artists - they're all worthy).

Monster Rally "Sunflower"
Master audio and visual collagist Ted Feighan (the cover art is his as well), is back with a new E.P of his beautifully constructed psychedelic exotica turntablism.
Inspired by a trip to Japan, and the discovery of a vintage American aural travel guide, "Sunflower" is put together like a brief guide with brief vocal interludes from the travel guide introducing each musical section, which masterfully combine the exotic with the loungey and the beaty. Imagine if you will an early D.J Shadow album constructed entirely from Martin Denny samples (with added beats) and you'll get an idea - beautiful strings, exotic instrumentation and a sunny disposition.
At just over twelve minutes it feels more like a stopover than a full visit, but there's plenty more to discover on his Bandcamp site to keep you busy, some with vinyl releases too - they're all incredible.
Available as a free / name your price download here:

Vintage Cucumber "Neuland"
I've written about prolific one man band Johannes Schulz before (here & here) - not as often as I'd have liked to, but that would require a dedicated blog of its own. With a huge backlog of E.Ps that have appeared over the last couple of years in styles ranging from kosmische to krautrock to psychedelia to ambient to eighties video game style MIDI music, Johannes is a busy character and his latest E.P "Neuland" is my favourite from his more recent releases.
"Neuland" casts his motorik psych impulses through a sunny prism that makes it sound like something that Kraftwerk would be listening to on the autobahn on their summer vacation if they were headed to the idyllic holiday locale on the E.P's sleeve. There's plenty of trippy effects on the layers of guitars and vocals that keep the steadily building tracks interesting over their sometimes lengthy playing times, with a pleasingly hazy and chilled underwater vibe that should be at odds with the insistent rhythms but fits very snuggly indeed.
Extra points for the cover looking EXACTLY like the contents sound too.
Name your price download available here:

Sleeping Orchard "George" "Planet Snakes" 
It's only been a month or two since I reviewed the latest E.P by this slightly mysterious outfit, so I was very surprised to find not one, but two new E.Ps on their Bandcamp page within a week of each other. I'm not sure if they've elected for two E.P releases for artistic reasons, but the "George" and "Planet Snakes" E.Ps sound very much like they're cut from the same cloth as each other to me, making a nice album length package between them. Both show considerable growth as well, with a heightened set of songwriting skills, and hooks with a stronger grip than those on their previous E.Ps. Oddly this more structured songwriting approach has coincided with a more psychedelic feeling in general, which gifts these often simple, and always melodic vignettes a hazy, desert-swept, peyote-infused, around the campfire charm. Lovely stuff, and a huge progression from the already fine material they were previously responsible for.
Both E.Ps are available here as free / name your price downloads:

23 Jun 2014

The Projection Company "Give Me Some Lovin" / Staff Carpenborg & The Electric Corona "Fantastic Party"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This is the pick of a recent bunch of excellent reissues from Gear Fab Records, a number of which focused on late sixties / early seventies exploitation titles - quickly recorded cash-ins masterminded by greedy labels and played by session musicians who would typically cover a few hits of the day with a bunch of self composed instrumentals for padding. Against all odds some of them are pretty great too!

This two-albums-on-one-CD extravaganza features two albums that make unusual bedfellows, but between the two of them offer two of the best psychsploitation titles of the era - if these two don't do it for you, you should probably close the door on the whole exploitation arena now and move on.

Starting with the Projection Company's "Give Me Some Lovin" from 1967, this is before the era when fuzz guitars really ruled over exploitation albums so it's not as wild as some, but has plenty to offer as a good time party record. Kicking into life with a perfectly serviceable cover of the Spencer Davis Group's title track, there's a very enjoyable mod-soul tinge to a lot of these tracks, with nods to the bluesy psychedelia of early Cream too, not to mention a cover of the Id's "Boil The Kettle". Things really heat up with the closing trio of tracks though - a hypnotic piece of sitar-heavy raga, a Hendrix tribute that sounds little like Hendrix (but cooks nonetheless) and a groovy organ laced gem with some lovely, jazzy guitar octaves.

Things get much weirder as we step forward into 1971 with the German exploitation classic from Staff Carpenborg & The Electric Corona. It's easy to see why this one has the reputation it has and has been reissued in so many formats over the last few years, sounding like the band have been given a bottle of Electric Kool Aid each as they enter the studio, with the material sounding as unconventional as the song titles themselves ("Shummy Poor Clessford Idea in Troody Taprest Noodles" anyone?). "Fantastic Party" shows the full potential of the exploitation concept and is a lightning in a bottle showcase of what can happen with the right people are thrown together in a studio for a day with full creative freedom. Sure it's psychedelic as all hell, but it also owes a heap to both free jazz, and Miles Davis of the era (the magnificently slinky double-basslines are pure "Bitches Brew"), not to mention funk, krautrock, eurohorror films and a bit of almost anything else you can imagine. Vocals appear sporadically, with an off the cuff, scat delivery but their general absence isn't missed in the slightest - there's so much going on here, that there's just no room for them.

So a pretty great combo here packaged in a nice vinyl replica sleeve, with the original front cover art from each title on either side - hugely recommended.

Available here.

21 Jun 2014

Active Listener Sampler #21 Now Available

This month's sampler is now available, featuring a selection of tracks from recently reviewed artists in these (virtual) pages, as well as a few surprises...

Special thanks to Courtney Jones for the sleeve art.

This month's sampler features:

1. Southern Boutique - Don't Be Yourself (Cowboy Song Pt. 2) 05:18
2. The Electric Magpie - Mourning Gloria 02:46
3. Coloured Clocks - It's Getting So Close 03:50
4. Verma - The Traveller 04:29
5. Tor Peders - Smafaglars varn 07:40
6. Pez Headz - Black denim 03:24
7. Dark Haze - Arrival 05:28
8. The Unseen - Susan's Dream (From the Motion Picture Soundtrack "Goatman") 02:06
9. Firefay and Alison O'Donnell - Strawberry Wine 04:49
10. Savage Sister - Huge Moves 04:48
11. The Planets Collide - Message In The Sky 03:08
12. The Galileo 7 - You're Not Dreaming 03:27
13. The Love Explosion - Eternally Recurring 03:34
14. Torpa - Dead Letter Drop 04:35
15. Casual Strangers - Casual Strangers (See You Around) 02:00

Download or stream right here, and don't forget to follow the links on the Bandcamp page to hear more music from all of these artists.

Firefay and Alison O’Donnell "Anointed Queen"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Alison O'Donnell should need no introduction to anyone with even the vaguest interest in both psychedelic and acid folk’s back pages. Her background in such luminary and legendary bands as Mellow Candle and Flibbertigibbet alone should be a recommendation in itself to all Active Listener readers and that’s before consideration of her recent sterling work with modern wyrdsters United Bible Studies and The Owl Service. ’Anointed Queen’, with Alison ably backed by Firefay’s masterful psych folk, is an album that is at turns unpredictable, chilling, heart-breaking and exhilarating; it easily stands shoulder to shoulder with her best work.

Opening the album, ‘Living on the Concrete Path’s storytelling narrative is backed by a hallucinatory waltz to describe a gritty and real life tale of homelessness. Psych guitar patterns finish the song as our protagonists head to the next cardboard box bed. ‘Night Spell’ is a ghostly tango, reminiscent of Marc Almond's ‘La Magia’ period, flamenco guitars and haunting vocal backing creating an atmosphere of yearning and mystery. ‘Under The Church Tower’s Brechtian accordion and acoustic guitar builds to a rousing stomp and frames O’Donnell’s tale of five little maids. Again an air of something slightly unsettling abides; the interlude of fiddle and Alison’s spectral choir only adding to this tension. ‘White Lilies’ electric guitar puts us pleasingly back in trad folk rock territory again. No-one currently does this better – not your Steeleyes or Fairports and it is a veritable joy to hear. Listen to the final fading reverberation of fiddle and voice and tell me you don’t agree. Recounting a journey back to a more rustic, rural life following a spell in the city, the song brims with life and solace. ‘Hart Felt’s accordion led acid trip is the most overtly psychedelic moment, reverbed vocals and analogue keyboards add an almost Eastern tinge. This is apt as the lyrics tell of one Syd Barrett, fallen magus of the early Floyd. ‘The Day The Winged Fury Came’ starts with a funereal bell before harpsichord adds an almost Elizabethan, deeply English touch to the tale. Midway a veritable storm of fuzz guitar echoes and crashes into proceedings, howling into the void before once again the bell tolls. It's at once both chilling and enthralling; a sepia photograph set to music. It is in fact inspired by a WWII bombing of a shopping centre and its aftermath, O’Donnell having taken inspiration from a relative’s published poem about the incident.

Indeed the musical backing on this album needs special mention; it’s both hugely creative and descriptive, adding flesh, muscle and tone to Alison’s stories and words without once overpowering or over embellishing. Inspired by the 2012 riots across England, ‘Come All Ye Malcontents’ fiddle led jig starts as more straight ahead folk rock reminiscent of the Fairport’s best although O'Donnell's lyrics and vocal performance mark this out as very much her show. Her multi tracked vocals at the close lift the song into new dramatic heights and a cosmic almost krautrock keyboard takes the song into unexpected territory. It is these unusual and inventive touches that make the band such a good match for O'Donnell's searching and unique take on the folk medium. ‘Strawberry Wine’ begins with a swirling drone before finger cymbals and picked guitar lead us into a medieval procession via 1960s Greenwich Village; there is then arguably the most amazing vocal break this side of O’Donnell’s work in Mellow Candle which leads us down the rabbit hole into deep psych territory again. Alison in Wonderland indeed. ‘Blood on His Horns’ addresses the issue of bullfighting, raising images of the sheer horror these creatures go through in the interest of ‘entertainment’. ‘Golden Carpet’ competes (in this writer’s opinion) for best track in the album. Almost chanson and musical-like in style it sparkles eerily across sympathetic and restrained choired backing; a broken hearted dream. O’Donnell’s voice is as clear as glass and ends in a shimmer that is both heartrending and unsettling. Closer 'The End is the Beginning’s sinister majestic drones and Floydian feedback is both beautiful and unpredicted; indeed one is left reflecting on the sheer level of creativity on this album both vocally and musically.

Released by the splendid Stone Tape Recordings (home of Greanvine, the aforementioned Owl Service and many other fine artists) the album is available from the 23rd June both as a download and in CD format in a beautifully illustrated six panel sleeve. Recordings as inventive and truly beautiful as this are scarce these days; do not miss out on this one. All hail the anointed queen.



Read Grey Malkin's interview with Alison here.

20 Jun 2014

The Fresh & Onlys "House of Spirits"

Reviewed by Jason Simpson (Forestpunk)

The Fresh & Onlys are a San Fransisco band, rooted equally in Buffalo Springfield and Big Brother & The Holding Company, as well as the fuzz scuzz garage pop of the 2000s; the many, myriad John Dwyer projects and Ty Segall, for instance. While many San Francisco musicians confine themselves to reliving that hilly city's heyday, forever remaining in a static 1967, The Fresh & Onlys are expanding, looking outward, browsing through time.

To receive the essence of "House Of Spirits", frontman Tim Cohen actually had to leave that misty city on a hill, to relocate to an isolated horse ranch in Arizona, cheap synths, drum machines and a battered guitar in tow. It was in this spacious desolation the skeletons were created, and "House Of Spirits" is a dreamtime half-life simulacra, in this house, in the middle of nowhere. In this house, there's a cauldron of hearts on the stove, and someone is always watching.

I was mainly familiar with The Fresh & Onlys as a reverbed garage pop outfit, and as retroactive psychedelic warriors, via Tim Cohen's Magic Tricks solo project, so to say seeing "House Of Spirits" compared to The Cure's enigmatic "Faith" in the press was surprising is an understatement. Further reading yielded references as diverse as Ennio Morricone, The Smiths, The Shins, and Einsturzende Neubauten. I was intrigued.

"House Of Spirits" starts off with the desert vibes conceived at the horse ranch, and then drags them back to San Fran, to adorn and twine them with haze and sculpted fog. This embellishment strikes right at the heart of who The Fresh & Onlys are, and what makes them so special.

Like I mentioned, a lot of psychedelic musicians are stuck in 1967. Rather than trying to create authentic anachronisms, TF&O are more inspired by five decades of close lysergic listening. There's plenty of guitar rave-ups and country waltzes, that sound right at home with the school of '67, but you can also hear traces of Steely Dan's studio sheen, like on the track "April Fools". Clean, ringing guitar arpeggios recall artful psychedelic post-punk, like The Cure, or the underappreciated Felt.

Rather than trying to slot into some neat category or niche, The Fresh & Onlys draw upon decades of lysergic listening to create something personal, something unique . To create an environment, a world of their own, using whatever tools are at their disposal. And if you were to view the original psychedelic school as painting in a pallet of avocado and day-glo, House Of Spirits is drawn in lavender and spring green and penwashed greys; like a Japanese ink drawing of a city clinging to the edge of a cliff.

With exquisite taste and songwriting instincts, House Of Spirits addresses the weaknesses of some of the genres they draw upon. It's more passionate and exciting than a lot of post-punk. It's rootsier and more personal than shoegaze. It's more forward thinking than a lot of psych rock, bringing in some of the tools of the '80s. The Fresh & Onlys, with "House Of Spirits", have created a slab of Nuggets psych rock for the blankgaze generation. It's The Byrds, adorned with triangles and inverted crosses. It's a ghost-train through an empty house, thick with dust, the air thick with voices. It's the desert, swaddled in mist and vines. It's the past, brought into the present, giving way to the future.

The future looks bright for The Fresh & Onlys, and for lo-fi scuzz garage pop. Not choking down the ashes of the past. Not being crushed under the stones of weighty influence. Instead, a living organism; a house, a world unto itself. "House Of Spirits" is a haunted dwelling you could lose yourself in for days, weeks, months. A proper record artifact - gatefold sleeve as gateway portal. The Fresh & Onlys haven't released a bad one yet, and if you haven't been paying attention, you really should.

"House Of Spirits" is available here on vinyl, CD, and digital formats.

19 Jun 2014

Alison O'Donnell talks "Anointed Queen", Mellow Candle and more....

Alison O’Donnell should need no introduction; legendary vocalist with Acid Folk luminaries Mellow Candle, sometime singer with Irish wyrdsters United Bible Studies and England’s own acid tinged folk outfit The Owl Service, solo artist in her own right (listen to ‘Hey Hey Hippy Witch’) and now collaborator of the band Firefay with their splendid new album ‘Anointed Queen’. Oh and she has also recently recorded with a couple of chancers called The Hare And The Moon, whoever they might be. This latter escapade introduced me to Alison on the eve of the release of the Firefay album; what better a time to ask this most influential of singers a few choice questions about ‘Anointed Queen’, her rich musical past, and range of projects both ongoing and future.

Alison, ‘Anointed Queen’ is a strong and diverse piece of work. You sound seamless as a band, like you have been playing together for years. How did you meet with the other members of Firefay and what was the process of putting the record together? Are there plans to tour the album? 

Our computers kindly made the introductions. We bumped into each other online and tentatively edged forward over a period of time. This was a few years ago and we are only going to meet in person when we get to launch the album at Leigh-on-Sea Free Folk Festival. Firefay are rehearsing in London and I am practising with their rehearsal recordings in Dublin. There were a number of embryonic songs that Firefay had knocking around and I had a few also. We wrote them all together and worked them up to full recordings over time. Since the record is going to be released on CD with Stone Tape and later on vinyl with Golden Pavilion, we want to organise a few mini-tours with a full set in the latter part of 2014 and through 2015 if we can.

The tracks on ‘Anointed Queen’ have a strong lyrical narrative. ‘Living on Concrete Paths’ deal with homelessness and ‘Hart Fell’ is inspired by late Floyd leader Syd Barrett. ‘The Day the Winged Fury Came’ describes a WW2 bombing raid. Where did the inspiration and ideas for these songs (and others) on the album come from? 

Adam Bulewski asked me to write a song with him loosely based on Syd Barrett. In the current recessionary times there are more and more people facing mental health issues so ‘Hart Fell’ was something I really wanted to write. Adam gave me the title also. Since he and I both have experience of contact with homeless people, a topic that always requires attention, it was another song that got written quickly. ‘Living on the Concrete Path’ is the second song I have written on that subject. My mother’s cousin Peter O’Donnell, a lovely man long gone now, was a teacher and published poet in England. In 1960 he wrote a poem about the bombing of a shopping centre. I suppose I wanted to pay homage to him as I admired him so much for his intellect and gentle and kind demeanour so I wrote ‘The Day the Winged Fury Came’, which is more about the aftermath of a WW2 bomb blast. ‘Strawberry Wine’ is from an original lyric and idea by Carole Bulewski, akin to parts of the story of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in that potions and altered states are endowed upon a young person in a fantasy setting. The album title came from this song. ‘Come All Ye Malcontents’ came along when I read about and saw reports of how ordinary people going about their business during the London riots suddenly got sucked into the temporary madness of looting and stealing, which later ruined quite a few of their lives. ‘White Lilies’ is about a country girl who becomes enthralled with the excesses of city life but who manages to find redemption and ‘Blood on His Horns’ deals with the cruelty of bull fighting and attendant sports. Golden Carpet is quite spacey; a warning of the downside of impetuosity, and Night Spell is dreamy – the influence of the moon.

‘Hey Hey Hippy Witch’, your solo album, was recorded with a wealth of well-respected and well-known names in folk and psychedelia such as Michael Tyack (of Circulus) and David Colohan (of Agitated Radio Pilot, Raising Holy Sparks, United Bible Studies). What do you feel these collaborators brought to the album and to the songs? What made you choose to record a solo album rather than as a collaboration or a part of a band (such as with Firefay or UBS) and are there any plans for a follow up? 

Well to be honest, part of the reason for recording HHHW with a bunch of collaborators living in other countries and cities was purely financial. I was in touch with them all and had done work for various of their own projects, so it seemed an obvious thing to do to ask them to co-write songs with me for my solo album. I didn’t have funds to get together with a group of people and go into a studio. They all worked up the tracks with me, recorded their parts and I did mine in Dublin. I would love to follow up sometime but I have been so busy working with United Bible Studies both live and on record, and having two albums out in the past few years, and also a string of contributions on other musicians’ projects, that I haven’t had time to get round to thinking about another solo record.

You must get a lot of people wanting to talk about the Mellow Candle years. Has this been increasingly so as the Swaddling Songs album has come to be regarded as an acid folk classic? You were very young when you recorded the album. What do you remember about those days? 

I don’t remember as much as I would like to – ahem! If I’d known that ‘Swaddling Songs’ would become a cult classic, I’d have paid a bit more attention. I was 17/18 and life just rushed along in quite an exciting fashion. I was in thrall to the music and the lifestyle of that period. It was absolutely everything to me. It was incredibly rich and rewarding.

As a fan and collector, are there any plans to re-issue the Flibbertigibbet ‘Whistling Jigs to the Moon’ album? You have been involved in the past with your back catalogue and its reissuing; is there anything left in the vaults that might be released at some point in the future? 

‘Whistling Jigs to the Moon’ is a collector’s item now also. It was supposed to have been reissued on vinyl a few years ago but it fell through. I was involved with reissues for some years back in the mid to late 90s and always keep an ear to the ground when a reissue is happening, but I have too much current music swirling around now to get too involved. That was back when I had a lot less going on. If I say there is something left to put out, someone might pounce on that. There is one song somewhere but it would be difficult to do anything with it and I don’t think it would be worth the effort. There might be an external attic recording knocking around but it is probably all material that has already been released.

As well as being active as a singer and musician in both Ireland and the UK you also spent time running a music club and playing with a jazz band in Johannesburg and playing with a trad band in Belgium. You also starred in a pantomime there in a leading role. The Firefay album and your work with United Bible studies and others suggest an artist who can’t or won’t be defined within the sometime narrow parameters of ‘traditional folk’. Recently you also recorded with Big Dwarf who are have an electronic aspect to their music and Cathedral, a well-known metal band. How would you define yourself as an artist and how important is it for you to experiment and work with others and in different genres? 

I used to coolly stand still with hands on hips in Mellow Candle performances. It was only when I got involved in theatrical and satirical revues in Johannesburg that I started to consider stagecraft. A lot of technical and dramatic ability only came together very late in my career. I have felt a lot freer to experiment since around 2008. I revel in working across different genres and strive to be defined for writing and performing, as well as singing.

You recorded absolutely beautiful and personal versions of Nick Drake’s day Is done And Nico’s Frozen Warnings for the Fruits Der Mer 7” single series. I’m interested in your choice of both these artists and these particular songs; how did this venture come about and why those choices? 

‘Frozen Warnings’ remains a set number that I have performed with a number of musical groupings. That song really pierced through my being and I still hold on to that. Fruit de Mer suggested several songs which I didn’t go for and wanted a Nick Drake, so I felt I could do something with ‘Day is Done’. I felt I made a good version of ‘Frozen Warnings’ although some Americans would disagree with me and have said so (well one or two)! Taking on Drake and Nico is always going to piss someone off.

Your music may be known to a number of readers due to your collaborative work over the last few years with The Owl Service (The Fabric of Folk EP) and United Bible Studies. How did these collaborations come about and to what extent are you still involved in these acts? Have you any further collaborations in the pipeline? 

I am intending to do two songs with Steven Collins and Nancy Wallace of The Owl Service at Leigh-on-Sea. I love working with them. We’ve done quite a lot of songs together over the years and they have all worked out really well. I’m always up for new collaborations with former and new potential collaborators.

You can read Grey Malkin's review of "Anointed Queen" in these pages over next few days.


18 Jun 2014

Fogbound "Whispering Corridors"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

After including the sublime a-side of this single on a sampler a few months back, I promptly forgot how great it was and only a random Facebook post from a friend alerted me to the fact that I hadn't actually gotten around to reviewing it, which as it's quite possibly the best psych single of the year so far, is a pretty big oversight on my behalf.

As debut singles go this is a hugely confident effort, no doubt largely due to the experience of the band members who are also regularly to be found in Wolrus, Misterioso Viaje Holanda, The Twin‑Sets, One Of These Days & Thee Heavy Random Tone Colour Lab among other bands.

Combining the best elements of neo-psychedelia with some extremely authentic sounding vintage psych moves, I honestly can't recommend this highly enough.

"Whispering Corridors" is a monster - moody and mysterious, with an insistent guitar riff, an unexpectedly spooky pre-chorus refrain that suggests something sinsterly Lovecraftian, and heaps of crazed guitar trickery making all of the sounds we love to hear here at Active Listener Towers. If this really was the sixties artifact that it sounds like it'd be deified alongside the Misunderstood - it's that good.

Flip it over and "Come & See" is slightly more conventional, but none the worse for it boasting a tough mod riff that could have graced a record by the Creation, with Fabio Mahía's vocals alternating between tough and ethereal at the drop of a hat, and that huge freakbeat guitar sound on the solo's not to be sneezed at either.

Astoundingly good.

The good news doesn't end there either - they've already got a followup lined up. You can hear the flipside of that here.

The Whispering Corridors 7" was released in April by Sunny Day Records - the first pressing has sold out but if enough of you are vocal about it they could do a second press? You can stream both sides here.

Check out the great video for "Whispering Corridors" below:

Icarus Peel & Mordecai Smyth "Barnburner"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Mega Dodo regulars Icarus Peel & Mordecai Smyth challenge each other to a friendly bout of fisticuffs on this fetching split 10".

Icarus Peel comes out swinging early in the first round with "Aunty Powders Her Nose" landing strongly with an early U.K psych pop hit ala "Granny Takes a Trip", before tag-teaming regular collaborator Crystal Jacqueline in for the entertainingly daft "Almost Murder Ballad", which sounds like Gomez and Morticia Addams dressing up as Nancy & Lee for Halloween and tackling Roxy Music's "In Every Dream Home a Heartache". Peel's last song, a tribute to Crystal Jacqueline has a nice mellow "Castles Made of Sand" vibe, with backwards guitars ebbing and flowing nebulously against a backdrop of busy Hendrixian rhythm guitar.

One might expect Mordecai Smyth to be on the ropes at this point (especially given that sneaky,  unsporting double teaming trick earlier on), but Smyth's side has plenty of charm of its own. "Out In The Stars" is a lovely, melancholy opener that may suggest Smyth will be struggling to stand by the end of his side, but he quickly rallies with the irrepressibly perky "Plastic People" thumbing its nose to all and sundry, before the marvelous "Drifted Along" makes itself comfortable atop waves of gorgeous mellotron.

So, no K.O in this particular bout, we'll have to look to the judges for a result. And on points the winner is?

Available on vinyl and fully streamable here:

16 Jun 2014

Kikagaku Moyo Vinyl Pre-order Now Up

Just a heads up here on a couple of extremely limited edition, (not to mention essential) vinyl pre-releases that I don't want y'all to miss out on - the first two Kikagaku Moyo releases coming real soon from Captcha Records!
The key bit of information below is that they are only going to press the amount of orders they receive, so you HAVE TO PRE-ORDER, so no time to sleep on this one.

+++++++++++++PRE-ORDER HERE ++++++++++++++++++++

Press release follows

Captcha Records is stoked to be collaborating with KIKAGAKU MOYO

We are releasing both critically acclaimed albums, "Kikagaku Moyo" and "Mammatus Clouds" on heavyweight vinyl on 9/2. This is the first time that both are available in the United States.



KIKAGAKU MOYO/幾何学模様. The name means GEOMETRIC PATTERNS in Japanese. This Tokyo band started channeling the spirits of the Japanese psychedelic underground in the summer of 2012, quickly developing the sound of ‘60s psychedelia to a breathtaking degree. Their debut album exerts an elemental power. Enlivening their sound with sitars, percussive drums, theremins, wind instruments and ethereal vocals, the band manages to sound powerfully spacious and lazily serene all at once. Their songs can be light as air, or heavy as earth. Many evolve out of intense experiences of engagement with the natural world. The album’s first track, “Can You Imagine Nothing?” was written over a night spent jamming on a suspended footbridge in remote mountains. As the song progressed the bridge began to sway, making band members feel as though they were floating weightless in midair.

Drummer Go Kurosawa says that KIKAGAKU MOYO use sound to recreate passages in nature where natural geometric patterns appear, like snowflakes and honeycombs. The music also reflects patterns found in the mental state of hypnogogia, where one sees colors and patterns appear out of complete darkness. The simple, hypnotic drones on this album gradually unfold into complex polyrhythmic structures—fractal architecture for the ears. Each song builds on a direct yet otherworldly folk/psych vibe, evolving into a joyous, haunting, far-out and totally colorful tribal sound. Lysergic mind-expanding soundscapes, ghostly rhythms, clouds of uplifting fuzz, swirling guitar excursions into space, water-stained sitar licks and beautifully wasted vocals are guaranteed to send you. We say if you’ve dug bands like Amon Düül, Ghost, Can and the Flower Traveling Band, you should take a chance on Kikagaku Moyo.

Krakatau "Riddells Creek" 16 mm Video

Following on from our review of their upcoming debut on Trouble In Mind Records, Melbourne based three piece prog band have released an excellent 16mm film of the highlight track from that album - the twelve minute plus "Riddells Creek"
Cast in the same vintage BBC pastel tones as the Radiophonic keyboards contained within, this is a perfect example of matching video to film and creating something that is more than the sum of its parts.

Check out the video below:

Hi Fiction Science "Curious Yellow"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Uncategorisable (but I'll give it a go anyway) Bristol band Hi Fiction Science have come a long way since I reviewed their debut back in 2012 (as hopefully have I - terrible review that one!)

In the meantime they've contributed to more Fruits de Mer Records projects, guitarist James McKeown has wowed me with his solo work ("English Dream" made number two on my albums of the year list for 2012), and now album number two for HFS is out on Cherry Red's progressive rock imprint Esoteric Recordings, mixed by Portishead associate Jim Barr.

And esoteric it is too. Like their first, it's an unusually effective amalgam of genres that, cross-blended in this fashion doesn't sound remotely like anyone I can think of - the closet comparisons that come to mind are Amon Duul II and Curved Air, but "Curious Yellow" is a much more contemporary sounding album than those names would suggest, also evoking the adventurous approach of post "O.K Computer" Radiohead.

With an inventive, Krautrock informed rhythm section creating a dynamic and varied bedrock for guitarist McKeown and keys player to Matt Rich to apply liberal layers of texture to, this would function perfectly well as an instrumental album, but it's the otherwordly vocals of Maria Charles that give "Curious Yellow" its distinctive edge. Charles has seemingly grown in confidence since the band's debut, and her vocals here are extremely powerful, with the sort of timbre you'd normally associate with the early seventies U.K folk-rock movement. Charles here does what even the likes of Sandy Denny couldn't manage when she tried later on in life though - integrating those distinctively Albion vocals with a more contemporary, genre-defying approach, particularly effective when given a mysterious eastern tinge on "Digitalis".

McKeown's guitars do inventive things throughout too - occasionally flashy, but at their cleverest when subtly manipulating textures and creating a psychedelic brew with Rich's lush keyboard washes, or providing an unusual rhythmic counterpoint to Aidan Searle's dexterous drums.

In the grand tradition of classic progressive rock - which I guess "Curious Yellow" fits into just about as well as any other genre - it's an album that feels like it's supposed to be experienced as a complete package, with a flow and progression from track to track that's rarely valued or achieved these days and which makes the idea of highlighting specific tracks redundant.

You won't hear another album this year that sounds like "Curious Yellow", but you'll hear many from bands who are struggling to capture the diverse spirit that Hi Fiction Science have trapped with apparent ease here.

"Curious Yellow" is available here.

The preview below will give you an idea of what to expect, but be warned, listening to the album in full is required to really connect with it, and will increase your enjoyment of it exponentially.

The Soundcarriers "Entropicalia"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

In a move that sees them stepping in a slightly different, but complimentary direction, the bastion of English Hauntology, Ghost Box have released the Soundcarriers third album "Entropicalia"(fourth if you include the instrumental precursor to this album "The Other World Of the Soundcarriers").

When the Soundcarriers first burst upon the scene a lot was made of perceived similarities to Broadcast - a band that many critics (myself included) are always looking for indirect descendents of, but as the Soundcarriers have refined their unique blend of motorik rhythms, quintessential Englishness, sixties cinema, sunny Tropicalia and vintage Gallic pop, they've shrugged off the limitations of comparisons and ended up in a very odd field, with very little in the way of peers, but plenty of admirers.

Unusually for an album that follows on from an instrumental statement as strong as "The Other World of.." undoubtedly was, "Entropicalia" may well be the Soundcarriers most vocally dependent album yet. Which is not to say that the vintage cinema grooves and Canterbury influenced prog/psych of previous albums are absent or even diminished, but that the material on "Entropicalia" showcases songwriting chops every bit as sharp as their already acknowledged instrumental virtuosity and attention to vintage detail. Simply put these songs function just as well on a left-field pop front as they do as instrumental jams, with tracks like "Low Light" and "The Outsider" driven as much by the glorious sunshine harmonies of Leonore Wheatley and co. as they are by the inventive, often krauty rhythm section.

There's guest appearances by Jesse Chandler of Midlake and Elijah Wood for trainspotters, but it's the core group of Adam Cann, Paul Isherwood, Dorian Conway and particularly Wheatley that really gel and spark here, forging an album that works on so many different levels - we've already heard the majority of this as a storming instrumental set, but one gets the impression that the songs on "Entropicalia" could be just as easily stripped back to vocals and the barest of accompaniments and succeed just as readily.

Pretty great, and certainly their best offering so far.

Entropicalia is available on vinyl here, CD here, and digitally here.

14 Jun 2014

Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab "Ever Evolving Lounge"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

If it wasn’t for Todd Rundgren trying to dance like a granddad to bad techno music, none of this would have happened.
For Joe Kane (The Owsley Sunshine, Them Beatles) and Stu Kidd (BMX Bandits, Wellgreen), that fateful night turned from despondency to dreaming as they left the ABC early to drown sorrow in cider and concoct a musical utopia that Todd Rundgren should really be dancing to.

And why not? "Ever Evolving Lounge" is the first album length ripening of the fruits of that night (although I was just about to write an early review of a completely different and bonkers album from this duo ("Beyond The Silver Sea"), when I got word that it had been scrapped in favour of this one.)

Fear not though, "Ever Evolving Lounge" is bonkers too, different bonkers to "...Silver Sea", but bonkers nonetheless, and probably even more eclectic. In fact there are moments here where the diversity on show captures the easy cross-genre pollination that the younger Todd Rundgren used to so effortlessly master, but then, it's a young person's game innit?

From infectious mod-soul ("A Sting In The Tale") complete with kazoo mock-bees, to mad as electro-pop "(Adopt a Rabbit), through vintage Kinksian pop ("Animal Man"), studio-tinkered psychedelia ("The Secret of the Tibetan Grapefruit Is...?" downloadable for free on last month's sampler), via a memorable instrumental, frothing over with mad sequencers, and with "Trading Time" a poignant and subtle, mellotron-soaked piece of loveliness that sounds like mid period Wings re-scoring John Barry's "Midnight Cowboy."
Temper this with plenty of nice Beatlesque melodic touches and you've got a ridiculously hyperactive album that will more than likely take a few listens to get your head around, but will have lodged itself firmly in place by the end of those few listens.

Soooo good, and the pre-album single "Pin The Tail" / "Girl in Winter" is well worth your time too.

Fully streamable here, with downloads and CDs available from June 30:

Music From The Motion Picture "The Goatman" Performed by the Unseen

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

The soundtrack to long lost and almost forgotten 1970’s cult horror ‘The Goatman’ finally sees the dark light of day after several decades lying cobwebbed in the crypt. Ostensibly a movie about a young couple who on moving to a seemingly idyllic Somerset cottage encounter the terrifying and fatal vision of The Goatman, it has become over the years a folk horror film legend. Any attempts to find an original print of the film have failed, sadly leaving The Goatman as a word of mouth cult classic. This has only been made more so by director Simon Grundig meeting an untimely and mysterious demise, apparently in circumstances too horrific to recount.

However, many years later a chance meeting between two young horror aficionados, the unnamed author of the Unseen Horror blog (www.unseenhorror.wordpress.com) and one Septic Boaby, led to an afternoon of hazy reminiscing and recollection of seeing Goatman in their youth. This then led the intrepid pair to search for and discover the long thought lost Goatman original soundtrack as performed by The Unseen; a duo consisting of Simon Magus and Harold Legg. Both Magus and Legg are credited on the sleeve with ‘electronics’ and their work certainly falls into the category inhabited by horror soundtrack luminaries such as John Carpenter, Goblin and Acanthus, particularly their music for Jean Rollin’s celluloid chillers such as ‘Les Frisson Des Vampires’. There are also echoes of Orville Stoeber’s masterful accompaniment to ‘Let’s Scare Jessica to Death’. Opening track ‘Eerie Meadow’ recalls Carpenter’s music for ‘The Fog’ in its sinister, synthesised glacial minor key brilliance. This is genuinely chilling and expertly draws the listener in to a landscape that is apparently normal and sedate yet is chock full of hidden, unknown and unspeakable goat-like terrors. The track ends with an alarming reverberating drone that leads us directly into the echoed glockenspiel of ‘Newlywed Arrival’, as protagonists Frank and Susan disembark at their (supposedly) tranquil Somerset holiday home. A single repeated piano note alerts us however to the caprine capers and darkness that lies within. ‘Footsteps outside the Cottage’ adds suitable tension and the sound of said footsteps (or hoof steps?), inhuman breathing and the screeching of crows mixes with a disturbing electronic shimmer. ‘Susan’s Dream’ wavers in and out of psychedelic eeriness; a single ritual drum beat echoing again and again against some acid folk style flute and reversed tape loop as her dream unfolds.

A description of the lost footage describes this sequence thus;

Susan is wandering through a meadow, and she hears a young girl singing; the sound is strange, reversed, the feeling becoming weird and dreamy, hallucinogenic. She sees the little girl sitting in the long grass, and as she approaches her, the girl turns around. But it is actually a really small old lady with coal-black eyes and great big long bony fingers. She reaches out to grab Susan, who runs away. The sequence is filmed in grainy, old-school slow motion, and the sound of a heartbeat only adds to the creeping terror. The thing is gaining on her, grabbing at her, and tearing at her clothes. Susan makes it into the woods and just as she thinks she might be safe, she becomes aware of being surrounded by malevolent entities, whispering all around her. She awakens screaming…

‘Melancholy Glade’ adds synthesized strings to the increasingly oppressive atmospherics before ‘Séance in the Farmhouse’ takes us further into creeping analogue dread. Mention must be made of the superb electronica that is featured on this album. Fans of Pye Audio Corner and Ghost Box’s roster of Belbury Poly and The Advisory Circle will find much to enjoy here. The majority of the soundtrack was reportedly recorded on electric harpsichord, vibraphone, vcs3 and Mellotron Mk11 and as such contains the sweeping icy beauty so redolent of bands of the era such as King Crimson and The Moody Blues. Other instruments appear as required, adding to the palette of the soundtrack; indeed ‘Passion in the Woods’ introduces Hammond organ and a rather funky guitar line to adorn one of the more fruity sequences in the film. ‘Shadows at Hunter’s Lodge’ is more akin to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop as crackles, electronic swirls and bleeps and bells flange around the speakers like a suitably demented Quatermass or Dr Who soundtrack, before stately guitar sounds and drums enter to proclaim the hircine terror within. ‘Surreal Rural Sequence’( in which Frank dreams of being chased by Susan with what appears to be the head of a goat) adds sinister backwards children’s voices; these lend a chilling hue to the otherwise tranquil birdsong until glistening electronic chimes reverb throughout to disquieting effect. The additional sound of a heartbeat only adds to the nightmarish atmosphere conjured by Magus and Legg (an unlikely looking pair going by the website, Legg himself bearing an uncanny resemblance to comic warlock Alan Moore). ‘Strange Sex’ is, belying its descriptive title, a rather beautiful orchestral mellotron and flute epic and, to this listener, one of the high points of this demented and underrated opus. ‘Betrayal’s choral voices are deeply disturbing; do not listen to this in the dark, actually on second thoughts do – it is the perfect ambience in which to enjoy the delights of ‘The Goatman’. Arcane drones evoke a cavernous lair in which the anthromorphic beastie himself dwells. ‘The Goatman and his Maidens’, as well as being the best title for a song I’ve heard in a long while, is a tremendous scream of static, white noise, radio (and animal) howl. Nigel Kneale would have commissioned these chaps for any of his Quatermass or TV chillers had they not been so unknown and, well, unseen. A crescendo builds in the madness until the end title ‘Lullabies’ closes the album, its bass led harpsichord and echoed vocals a song the likes of which Jeff Wayne would have killed to write.

Who knows if the discovery of this music will lead to a print of The Goatman movie being unearthed? By all accounts it is a terrifying and unusual film in the vein of The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan’s Claw and other British classics of the era. So much mystery and misinformation exist around the existence of the film and its troubled making that it is already a cult classic without having been seen in decades, instead only half remembered from late night TV viewings.

As a soundtrack this is essential; it ably sits amongst the revered soundtracks of other 70s cult horror films that you should already have on your shelf by the likes of Paul Giovanni, Luboš Fišer and Marc Wilkinson. It was clearly a labour of love and is hugely enjoyable on its own as a piece of music. Reverb Worship have kindly made this lost classic available again in a limited edition, the sleeve beautifully replicating the original movie poster. Enter the world of The Goatman; you will be both terrified and pleased that you did. No kidding.

Available on CD from www.reverbworship.com

13 Jun 2014

Galileo 7 "False Memory Lane"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Those of you with long memories may remember that I really enjoyed the last album by The Galileo 7, and guess what? There's a new Galileo 7 album out, and I'm loving this one too. Happy days!

The Galileo 7 is of course the songwriting outlet for the venerable Allan Crockford. Most well known previously as bass player in the Prisoners and the James Taylor Quartet, Crockford has his his fingers in many other Medway pies to the point where he's become a bit of a legend down that way.

All of which goes a long way towards explaining just why "False Memory Lane" is such a fine brew. None of this bandwagon jumping that you see going on with a lot of the major label slightlydelic artists of today, Crockford is the real deal and the Galileo 7 has an honesty and directness that can't be fudged. "False Memory Lane" continues on nicely from "Staring at the Sound" with a perhaps slightly rebalanced ratio of vintage sounding power pop to psychedelia that gives this a more contemporary edge than its predecessor.
Crockford's songs, and the conviction of his performances are the key elements here though - these aren't the tentative doodlings of a sideman, but the confident outpourings of a born frontman who has had the grace and humility to allow others their time in the limelight before claiming his own moment or two. Top band too, with the Higher State's Mole on bass and great vintage organwork from Viv Bonsel providing able support.

Highlights then? Well initial spins would lead you to believe that this is a frontloaded album with "Your Cover is Blown" and "You're Not Dreaming" providing immediate fixes early on, but subsequent plays reveal the moody baroque pop of side two's  "Fools" to be a prime candidate for most substantial cut here.

And I won't pretend I understand what's going on with that nifty cover art, but I'm pretty sure that's the same field as on the cover of "The Other World of the Soundcarriers", perhaps the most psychedelic field in England?

Available on vinyl, digital, and CD.

12 Jun 2014

Tor Peders "Brev Fran Ederstorp"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

We've got Fruits de Mer head honcho Keith Jones' persistence and dedication to thank for even having the opportunity to hear this great release from now sadly defunct Swedish proggers Tor Peders.

Self recorded back in 2011 in their rehearsal space, Tor Peders guitarist (and driving force) Jonas was part way through negotiating with Keith Jones for a Fruits de Mer release of "Brev Fran Ederstorp" when he was hit by a car and taken from us. With Jones' only contact within the band gone, the album release was reluctantly shelved, and it was only when Jones noticed drummer Johan's name on another project that he was able to reconnect with the band and negotiate its eventual release.

Keith's enthusiasm for the album is easy to understand, and traceable to his roots as a record collector. In his words, "Brev Fran Ederstorp" reminded him of "the best instrumental parts from my Vertigo / RCA Neon / Charisma record collection from the early seventies, with all the embarrassing bits left out", and while Tor Peders often have a much more European sound than that comparison may suggest, the vintage sound implications and quality level inferred are both without peer among modern recordings.

Jonas's guitar takes centre stage as a muscular presence, equally at home with Hendrix influenced guitar heroics or the occasional surf guitar run, but the exquisite organ work is arguably more responsible for supplying the authentic early seventies vibe, although the simple, live in studio production style helps maintain this illusion as well.

An excellent cover of George Martin's "Theme One" rubs shoulders with a number of band originals that easily match it in quality with the spiraling guitar riff of "Smafaglars varn" and the atmospheric space-rock of "Incident vid Domsted" being the most memorable of a superb bunch that goes to show that just occasionally, they do make them like they used to.

Also included is a bonus 7" single containing two tracks recorded in the band's last session (after the album was recorded", which show further growth, especially the majestic, "Nights in White Satin" evoking "Signed TP".

A sad loss to be sure, but we're blessed to have this remarkable aural document to remember the man by.

Also released by Fruits de Mer Records this month: "I Have Known Love" a brand new 7" e.p from classic Irish psych folkers Tir Na Nog, "Wind on the Water" an excellent new LP from Astralasia showcasing their adventurous progressive Kraut side, with a minimum of the electronic music that often creeps into their work, and "Sonar" by Craig Padilla, a great collection of solo synth pieces that will make fans of late seventies Tangerine Dream very, very happy indeed.

All of these titles are available here directly from Fruits de Mer Records for UK readers. International readers are directed here, to the always excellent Norman Records, who ship internationally for an extremely reasonable price.

11 Jun 2014

"The Dark Haze E.P"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Brazilian Pedro Alves began tinkering with the idea of The Dark Haze in 2013. With his work as a video editor and motion designer giving him a unique perspective on the cinematic qualities needed to evoke a sense of activity, coupled with his experiences of scoring his own projects in college, all of the pieces were in place to ensure that the Dark Haze was going to be something special, and not your standard, tentative debut.

Conceived as a tribute to the likes of Goblin, Fabio Frizzi and particularly, John Carpenter and Allan Howarth, Alves created a backstory for this non-existent movie that really helps to sell the action that's happening on the screen in his head, and gives him a focus that other 'soundtracks for imaginary films' often lack.

In Alves' story a group of astronauts arrive on a distant planet and discover the remains of a well-structured, religious alien community. Their subsequent exploration of the planet soon reveals that the haze that decimated this particular civilisation hasn't gone anywhere, and that the arrival of the astronauts has awoken it from its hibernation - a sci-fi cliche, Alves is quick to admit, but one that is ripe for moody musical exploitation.

A sense of dread and impending doom is manifested almost immediately but Alves trumps many of his like-minded contemporaries by never imposing atmosphere at the expense of melody, as demonstrated by the memorable and naggingly familiar refrain of "Arrival", which builds up to a fever pitch with an eminently hummable tune in tow.

The rest is just as memorable, with grand finale "The Temple" boasting the sort of creepy minor key melody that sounds custom designed to be performed on some sort of makeshift ribcage-as-xylophone apparatus. Fans of VHS era sci-fi and horror will be right in their element here. Definitely sleeping with the lights on material. Highly recommended.

Available as a 'name your price' download here:

10 Jun 2014

Free Download Roundup - Guruguru Brain Wash / Savage Sister / Torpa / Prana Crafter

Here's another batch of great free stuff courtesy of the artists and labels involved.

Various Artists "Guruguru Brain Wash"
Put together by Japanese psychedelic label Guruguru Brain, this extremely generous 21 track sampler is a fresh and vibrant snapshot of the current Japanese psychedelic scene, which shows that the children of the Acid Mother's Temple are every bit as adventurous as their forefathers.
I'm not usually one to make sweeping statements to describe an entire nation's approach to making music, but on the whole "Guruguru Brain Wash" shows the current Japanese scene as one that doesn't rely on effects and studio trickery to give their music a lysergic edge, when explorative jamming, relentless riffing and occasionally intimidating wig-outs will do the job even better.
Active Listener favourites Kikagaku Moyo are present and accounted for of course, but there's plenty more gold to be discovered here, particularly Deigen's "Cosmic Upside Down" and Icecreams' "Tachikurami (Dizzy)" which clocks in at over ten minutes (as a number of tracks do here), and could quite easily double its length before I started to lose interest.
Mind expanding and rather grand.
Available as a free download here:

Savage Sister "Huge Moves"
"Huge Moves" is the new three track single from prolific Chicago based dream-pop trio Savage Sister, and from the moment the big Gil Norton / Pixies drums of the lead off track kick into life you know they've studied the production techniques of the masters. Big Cocteau Twins synth washes and drop-dead gorgeous, heavily reverbed vocals seal the deal, and the songs have hooks to match their ambitious production refererences. "Huge Moves" is a big, cavernous anthem of a track that will leave the vocals swimming around in your head for days, but its B-sides are equally seductive, and will be treasured by all who have ears to hear.
Available as a free / name your price download here:

Torpa "Dead Letter Drop / Spiral"
This intriguing U.K based electronic duo already have about a million releases out through their Bandcamp page which show a diverse approach to incorporating their electronic tendencies into everything from psychedelia, ambient, dub, shoegaze and more.
This recent release is the one that grabbed me and shook me the hardest though, a two track tribute to John Barry that bypasses the more obvious brassy Bond approach and heads for Barry's more intriguing and low key mid sixties work for inspiration. This is moody, slightly sinister stuff most closely aligned to Barry's work on "Seance on a Wet Afternoon" with the slightly more subtle spy twang of "The I.P.C.R.E.S.S File" sneaking in too.
Deserving of its own movie, or at least a short film for a video clip.
Available as a name your price download (starting at $0) here:

Prana Crafter "Mountain Throned" / "Forest at First Light"
An artist that we've covered before (and will continue to do so long as he releases stuff this good) is Will Sol, who records under the name of Prana Crafter.
"Mountain Throned" is an instrumental set that showcases his rustic, hazy, woodsy psychedelia at its best. Opener "Treasure in a Ruin" has the eerie resonance of Pink Floyd's "Signs of Life" without the eighties production values. Elsewhere Sol's guitar rumbles with the brooding intensity of "Dead Man" era Neil Young.
A newer, stand-alone single "Forest at First Light" introduces vocals for an affecting performance not unlike early Bon Iver or a less produced Fleet Foxes.
Check out Prana Crafter's bandcamp page here for these and many other free downloads.