29 Nov 2012

Maston Album Coming From Trouble in Mind

Good news everybody! Active Listener favorites Maston are following up their two self released E.Ps with a debut album on the esteemed Trouble in Mind label. As if Trouble in Mind need another psych-pop genius on their roster.
"Shadows" will be available in February on Vinyl and CD and promises to continue Maston's experimental approach - equal parts Morricone and Van Dyke Parks.
You can read more about it on Trouble in Mind's website here : http://troubleinmindrecs.com/bands/maston.html
Don't know Maston? It's not too late! Check out my review of the second E.P "Voyages" here : http://active-listener.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/maston-voyages-review.html
The Bandcamp links have disappeared for now, but I'm sure you'll find something on Youtube to sample.
And keep an eye out for an exclusive track on the Active Listener's Christmas Special coming in December.
In the meantime here's "Young Hearts", which will appear on "Shadows"

28 Nov 2012

Sand Snowman - The World's Not Worth It Review

CD / Vinyl / Bandcamp

This actually came out about a year ago, but I've only just become aware of it recently, and needed to share it with you as it's pretty much brilliant.
Sand Snowman - that's Gavan Kearney to his mum, has been around for a wee while now and it shows in the confidence, professionalism and polish of "The World's Not Worth It".
Kearney makes music that boils folk, progressive rock, classical and psychedelia down to it's very best elements and coalesces them into a whole which at it's best recalls early King Crimson during it's more pastoral moments.
Another more recent touchstone is Storm Corrosion, a comparison which makes a lot of sense when a very familiar voice pops up on "A Life Rehearsed". Steven Wilson's presence is obviously welcome, but it says a lot about the quality of the musicianship here that the tracks he appears on aren't the obvious highlights. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I suspect that this was recorded before "Storm Corrosion", and it appears to have left quite an impression upon Mr Wilson.
Elsewhere, "Events in a Skyline" is built upon a marvelously soothing piano figure which conjures mental pictures of the first part of Eno's "Music for Airports" gone rural, and drifting peacefully from a darkened snowcovered village.
"Samhain Rain - Arise" is an atmospheric spookfest with lovely vocal harmonies and quietly arpeggiated acoustic guitars.
"Ice and Rainbows" is where it all come together best though, starting with psychedelically cascading guitars, and "Suspiria" chimes providing a wonderfully textural backdrop for an insistent melody-line that is both timeless and gorgeous before also finding time for a medieval sounding acoustic guitar and flute section, and a sinister, distorted bridge, and all done in under eight minutes.
It's this approach of cramming a lot of ideas into an economical space which ensures that there's not a moment here that outstays it's welcome, and that after twenty listens I'm still hearing new things with every spin.
Marvelous, and totally essential for anyone with even a remote interest in the non-metal side of modern progressive music.

Available on CD + Vinyl here.

27 Nov 2012

Wyrd Radio

This week's episode of Active Listener Radio is something a little different, very English and very weird.
Those of a nostalgic bent should hopefully enjoy this.

Tightrope - Theme
12 Gates of the City - Ginger Baker & The Airforce               
Julia Dream - Pink Floyd                   
Autumn Theatricals - Moon Wiring Club           
Evacuation - Mike Oldfield       
Children Of The Stones - Theme               
The Cornubia - BEAK>
The Seventh Seal - Scott Walker           
Willow's Song - Doves       
Environmental Studies - Delia Derbyshire       
Turn Into Earth - Al Stewart   
Number 33 - Jan & Lorraine       
I See You - The Pretty Things       
Tam Lin - Fairport Convention       
O Death Melmoth The Wanderer Mix - Sproatly Smith               
Sky - Theme
Wicked Annabella - The Kinks       
Wenceslas Square - John Cameron               
Spine Of A Wave - Emily Portman       
Hammer House of Horror - Theme               
Highgate Cemetary - Roy Harper                   
The Astronauts - Peter Howell       

25 Nov 2012

The Resonars - Crummy Desert Sound Review

Burger Records

"Crummy Desert Sound" is another candy coated punch in the face from a band that can do no wrong and that somehow gets better with every release.
Imagine a world where Alan Clarke of the Hollies decided he'd rather be in the Who, but left the songwriting duties to Pete Townshend with perhaps a bit of help from Ray & Dave Davies every now and then.
Sounds like an idyllic setting for the discerning lover of British Invasion to while away their days, and if you were to knock on the door of the house next door in this picturesque world, chances are fairly good that it would be answered by Matt Rendon - the gentleman responsible for this maelstrom of melodic freakbeat.
Making a one man band arrangement sound like a tight knit beat combo is not a skill many have mastered, but fortunately Mr Rendon is a master of his domain and this gives any, and I mean any of the big name British Invasion groups of the sixties a run for their money.
Which is not to say that listening to a Resonars LP is an entirely nostalgic exercise as there's a relentlessness and an applied layer of grit that wouldn't be possible for a group that had never heard bands like the Clash before.
"Crummy Desert Sound" as you may have gathered then is an album full of top notch Bristish Invasion inspired guitar pop tunes, highlighted by windmilling guitar parts, stratospheric Keith Moonesque drumming, and picture perfect vocal harmonies, all delivered with the sort of snotty bravado that all the best rock n rollers aspire to, but few achieve.
Highlights are pretty much everywhere, but special attention should be drawn to the propulsive "Tomorrow Gears", the merseyside beat of "I Had a Dream", the guitar histrionics and killer chorus of "It's What They Do" and especially "A City Out of Reach" which glows with all the melodic sunshine of "Summerteeth" era Wilco.
Available very soon from the fine folks at Burger Records - visit them here.
Fancy a sneak preview of one of the tracks from this? Visit here : http://theactivelistener.bandcamp.com/album/the-active-listener-psychedelic-sampler-12-12

23 Nov 2012

Temples - Shelter Song / Prisms 7" - Review

Heavenly Records 7"

It's good to see some of the larger U.K independents taking a punt on some good old fashioned psychedelia lately. The mainstream acceptance of bands like Tame Impala has made it far more palatable for labels to dabble in psychedelia, and after releasing the rather fabulous debut LP from Liverpool's Stealing Sheep, Heavenly Records are back at it with the first 7" release of the even more sixties-fixated Temples.
These two tracks are very fine indeed and more than a little bit of a tease - a real throwback to the pre internet days when you weren't able to discover a band and download their entire discography within a matter of minutes.
"Shelter Song" welds a chiming 12 string riff to a stomping northern soul rhythm, and still finds room for an infectious psychedelic pop chorus. They do a very clever job of blending three disparate cult sounds to create something which should by all rights be a massive radio hit - accessibility without sacrificing artistic integrity is not something many folks manage, especially on a debut release.
B-Side "Prisms" is a slightly more subdued creature, but is none the worse for it. Introducing more of a baroque pop sound, this is a godsend for fans of the Ballroom and the likeminded Jacco Gardner.
Where's the album then? he says impatiently.

Buy here from Norman Records.

Check out both tracks here :

21 Nov 2012

The Active Listener Psychedelic Sampler 12/12

December's sampler is here for you patient people, and I think it's even better than last month's.
Please take some time to visit the band's links below to continue to support their music.
Download through the bandcamp link at the bottom of this post.
I'm always on the look out for exciting new psychedelic acts to feature on future samplers- feel free to send me a sample if you'd like to feature - message me on the Active Listener facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Active-Listener/188959981198270

1. Mechanik- Radian
From The E.P "You Yourself Are The Teacher & The Guru" Available Here
2. The Sufis- Wake Up
From the Album "The Sufis" Available Here
3. Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor - Black Mind
From The Album "Spectra Spirit" Available Here
4. WJLP - The Moon King
Check Out WJLP on Soundcloud Here
5. Sun Eater - Horse Head 
From The E.P "Sun Eater" Available Here 
6. Dead Radio -Scotch
From The E.P "Crystal Moth" Available Here
7. The Smoking Trees- Calling
From The Album "Acetates" Available Here
8. 8X8 - Snowflake In The Rain
From the Album "Anatomy of an Apricot" Available Here 
9. The Club Of Rome - Better Man
Check Out The Club of Rome on Facebook Here
10. Steve Somerset's Shadow Kabinet - Roll Over Week
Previously Unreleased. Check Out Steve Somerset's Shadow Kabinet Here
11. The Prisoner of Mars - Super Duper
From the Album "Gestalt" Available Here
12. Flat Ed - Horn Meuh Nice
Check out Flat Ed on Soundcloud Here
13. Dead Horse One -Undone
From The E.P "Dark Horse One" Available Here 
14. Street Smells - 30 Moons Past
From The Album "Creamy" Available Here
15. The Resonars - Across The Golden Border
From the Album "Crummy Desert Sound" Available Here Soon
16. The Time & Space Machine - River Theme
From The Album Volume One. Visit The Time & Space Machine on Facebook Here 

Stream or Download Right Here :

The Reverb Conspiracy Volume One - Review

Fuzz Club Vinyl 

Released to help celebrate the first Reverb Conspiracy psychedelic festival, this could very easily have been one of those dodgy festival samplers that quickly become beer coasters, or could even have found it's way into the wardrobe with that ill-fitting and grossly overpriced concert T-Shirt that seemed like a good idea at the time but in reality has questionable value as anything other than a memento.
It's a testament to the quality of the acts involved then, and to the organizers of the festival and the compilers of this LP that this stands up as well as it does as a listening experience in it's own right.
As a sampler of what the dark underbelly of the current psychedelic scene has to offer, this is pretty much unbeatable.
The potential was certainly there for this to be repetitive and one-dimensional, but the acts on here show a surprising range, whilst still retaining a unified approach that groups the artists comfortably together without restricting their creative drives.
The staples of dark modern psychedelia are very much in evidence here ; drones, reverbed guitars, heavily treated garage vocals etc, but there's plenty of invention to be found too. The chiming postpunk of The Underground Youth's "I Need You" is an attention grabber with it's clattering percussion and a riff seemingly lifted straight off an early eighties Cure record.
Elsewhere bands like The Electric Koolaid Company incorporate plenty of vintage shoegaze into their sound, the Lucid Dream inject a healthy dose of punk into "Hits Me Like I'm Stoned", while Black Market Karma's "Weightless" sounds like the most terrifying sixties creation you've ever heard.
Best of all though is Get Your Gun's "Staying For a While" which skillfully combines the gravity of Jim Morrison at his most doomladen with the heightened drama of the best Triffids and Nick Cave material.

Buy the LP here.

Full tracklisting:
1. Black Market Karma (UK) - Weightless
2. A Victim Of Society (GR) - You're Gonna Hate Me
3. The Lucid Dream (UK) - Hits Me Like I'm Stoned
4. The Koolaid Electric Company (UK)- Dreams
5. The Orange Revival (SE) - Ever
6. The KVB (UK) - Never Enough
7. Radar Men From The Moon (NL) - Heading For The Void
8. Singapore Sling (IS) - Nothing Inside
9. Oscar Suave (UK) - No Direction
10. Dead Skeletons (IS) - Kundalini Eyes
11. Lola Colt (UK) - Diamonds
12. Sonic Jesus (IT) - Underground
13. The Underground Youth (UK) - I Need You
14. Black Lizard (FL) - Spirits
15. Wall Of Death (FR) - Thunder Sky
16. Get Your Gun (DK) - Staying For A While
17. The Third Sound (IS) - Re-Elevation
18. The Wands (DK) - Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic
19. Dead Rabbits (UK) - When I'm Blue

Sample a few tracks here :

20 Nov 2012

The Luck of Eden Hall - Alligators Eat Gumdrops / 7" E.P - Reviews

The Luck of Eden Hall sure are prolific. They released a few bits and pieces in the early nineties before calling it a day. They then reformed in 2002 and have been steadily gaining momentum ever since - last year was particularly busy with various releases on the Fruits de Mer label as well as the two "Butterfly Revolutions" albums.
It's fitting then with this relentless drive in mind, that I've been presented with not one, but two new items of theirs to draw your attention to.
First up is their most recent album "Alligators Eat Gumdrops", which despite being a quote proffered to the band by a six year old (ala "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"), is actually a pretty good way of metaphorically describing the band's sound.
The Luck of Eden Hall make psychedelic pop music with a heavy Beatles and lysergic sixties influence. "Big deal" you may say, "so do a lot of other great recent bands". That is indeed true, but there are few psych outfits out there today who so successfully combine the sugary hooks of yesteryear with the crunchy guitar tones you'll find plastered all over this very fine CD.
And while the law of diminishing returns should well and truly be in effect by now with such a prolific outfit, these guys just seem to get better with every release. "Alligators" is a top album, with lots of psychedelic twists and turns for the genre afficianado, and enough big choruses and guitars to reel in listeners who would otherwise view psychedelia with a whiff of suspicion.
Available as a download or on Limited Edition CD here, this is as good a place as any to jump in and explore this particularly rambunctious psychedelic act.
Also on the agenda is a self titled 7" E.P from the fine folks at Fruits de Mer Records.
Comprised of two tracks from "Alligators" (including the probable highlight "Bangalore"), and two covers (a moody take of the Doors "The Crystal Ship" and even better, a storming, heavy version of SRC's "Black Sheep" that leaves the original for dead) this is a fine sampler of their work, and a necessary purchase for those who want to own a round piece of wax by this band, rather than a piece of plastic.
As with all Fruits de Mer releases these will pre-sell so quickly that if you don't order a copy in the next three minutes you're likely to miss out (visit here - quick!)

19 Nov 2012

Stream New Aussie Nuggets Compilation

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Nuggets, Warner Music Australia is releasing NUGGETS: ANTIPODEAN INTERPOLATIONS OF THE FIRST PSYCHEDELIC ERA, a newly recorded collection of young Australian groups pushing the boundaries of garage-rock with covers of the original songs.
The album features tracks from The Straight Arrows, Eagle & the Worm, The Frowning Clouds, Pond, Gooch Palms, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Velociraptor, The Murlocs, Baptism of Uzi and The Laurels.
Release date: Nov 23, 2012

15 Nov 2012

Sky Picnic - Paint Me a Dream - Review

Nasoni Records LP / Digital

I won't deny it - Sky Picnic are one of my favorite modern psychedelic outfits so maybe I am a little biased, but "Paint Me A Dream" is a total winner. I'm such a big fan of their last album "Farther In This Fairytale" (reviewed here) that I was semi expecting my high expectations for this album to lead to a little disappointment - "Paint Me A Dream" does have some mighty big boots to fill after all, but I couldn't be happier with the results.
I'll address the elephant in the room - Sky Picnic do worship unashamedly at the alter of Pink Floyd, but as the Floyd have "matured" into a bunch of stuffy old grumps who'd rather fly model airplanes than revisit (except Roger) or indeed add to the impressive catalogue of their youth, I'm okay with this.
It helps that Sky Picnic seem most enamored with the more interesting and adventurous side of the Floyd's work too, with "Saucerful of Secrets" and "Echoes" in particular often coming to mind.
Chris Sherman is the secret to the band's success in this listener's opinion, effortlessly evoking not only the lyrical slide guitar work of early David Gilmour, but also the more unhinged textural scrabblings of Syd Barrett - two very different styles that really shouldn't mix as well as they do here.
He's no slouch on the keyboards either and digs out a fine selection of vintage sounds that add immeasurably to the period charm. "Dream Yourself Away"s mellotron sound is particularly heavenly.
The rhythm section are very impressive too, with the interplay on the epic conclusion of "Slumber's Gate" yielding particularly satisfying results.
And while "Freakout Ethel" does comes across as an affectionate tribute to "Careful With That Axe Eugene", anyone who'd be foolish enough to suggest that they don't have any of their own tricks to add would be ignoring among other things, the circular guitar riffery of "Aurora" and the memorable pop-friendly hooks of lead off single "Rippled".
Form an orderly queue and pre-order here.

Check out "Rippled" below :

14 Nov 2012

The Solar System - Haze Of Deep Dawn Clutching For Air - Review

Bandcamp Digital Release / Limited Edition CD

The Solar System is the nom de plume of Chris Oliver, a one man band psych pop juggernaut who has a way with a winning melody which he frequently juxtaposes with experimental tendencies that are always imaginative and occasionally terrifying (in a good way!)
Chris is a prolific individual with a release schedule that makes fellow homerecording champion R. Stevie Moore look like a slouch, and this, his fourth release of the year (!) is the best of them yet I reckon.
Previous albums have shown that there's plenty of range to the Solar System's ambition and as usual there's a bit of everything on show here, from the quirky instrumental Prince-like electro funk of "Let Fun Take Over" to the wobbly prog pop of "Weather Babble" via the trippy psychedelia of "Bis Nigh" and the surprisingly melodic backwards tapes and synth squiggles pop-collage of "Perfect Disguise".
The track that epitomizes the Solar System approach best here though is instrumental "Enjoy It's Wonder" which starts with a devastatingly lovely, delicate arpeggiated xylophone melody, then layers on some tasteful guitar noodling before going nutso with a barrage of heavily phased drums.
This sweet and sour / darkness and light sort of approach is a recurrent theme in Chris' work.
Sure, this idiosyncratic approach isn't for everyone and in all fairness I don't think it's meant to be, but for those with a similarly broad musical scope there is a veritable smorgasbord to be had here.
Definitely one for the punter who would rather listen to "Kid A" then "The Bends".
Stream / Download below :

12 Nov 2012

Fuzz - This Time I Got A Reason / Liminanas - La Fille de la ligne Review

Trouble In Mind Records 7"s

Two new 7" singles from the much admired Trouble in Mind label today, and they couldn't be more different to each other if they tried.
First up is Fuzz whom I know nothing about, except what my ears tell me. Seems the label themselves have been kept in the dark too.
I'm assuming that Trouble in Mind haven't turned their attentions to the reissue field, but both sides of this Fuzz single sound like they were recorded in 1969, right down to the thin snare sound.
Things were rarely as fuzzy, and downright evil sounding as this back in 1969 though - Sir Lord Baltimore is the most obvious comparison although they'd have to slink away tail between legs when confronted with the nasty snaking stoner riffery of B-Side "Fuzz's Fourth Dream".
The A-Side "This Time I Got a Reason" is only marginally less crazed, making this a total must have for collectors of U.S heavy psych.
At the other end of the spectrum we've got the new Liminana's 7" which is a masterclass in French garage pop. The A-Side is a fantastic slice of sixties groove with a slinky bassline, tastefully applied tremelo guitar and a wobbly sustained organ note providing the backdrop for a vocal that oozes sleaze and charm in equal measure in a way not heard since Serge Gainsbourg's heyday.
"Mobylette" is a winner too, utilizing a naggingly familiar, sighing female backing vocal, combined with a propulsive rhythm track and a sultry femme fatale vocal.
Trouble in Mind sure know how to pick 'em.
You can hear the A-Side from each of these singles here.

11 Nov 2012

Melmoth The Wanderer's Psychedelic Space Dust Mix

Melmoth The Wanderer has put together this very trippy psychedelic mix, using tracks exclusively  from the November Active Listener Psychedelic Sampler.
But if you think that you've heard these tracks all before, then think again - they've been put through the wringer thoroughly and emerged on the other side in strange and unfamiliar surroundings.

Stream here :

And the original sampler is still available here :http://theactivelistener.bandcamp.com/album/the-active-listener-psychedelic-sampler-11-12

And don't forget to check out Melmoth's other creations here : http://www.mixcloud.com/Melmoth_The_Wanderer/

Balduin - Kite Come Back / Change - Review

One of the main reasons I started this blog in the first place was to do my small piece to help hard working, talented and deserving artists reach a slightly wider audience.
Swiss one man band Balduin is one gent who fits this bill down to a tee and with such an impressive (and huge) back catalogue behind him it's certainly well past time he received a little more attention.
I draw your attention then, if I may, to his upcoming 7" single release "Kite Come Back" / "Change" available for streaming via Bandcamp.
On the evidence of these two sides Mr Balduin is certainly some sort of baroque psych-pop prodigy, able to hold his own against his more lauded peers - Jacco Gardner, Beaulieu Porch and so forth.
Both sides are kaleidoscopic bubblegum psych treats that show off not only his compositional, but also production and arrangement skills impressively.
"Kite Come Back" showcases a surprisingly dirty guitar sound that still manages to retain it's wholesome bubblegum goodness thanks to it's whimsical lyrics and multilayered vocal delivery.
"Change" on the other hand is a baroque sounding piece of psych pop with layers of mellotron and what appears to be harpsichord.
Sugarcoat your eardrums below, and keep an eye on Balduin's Soundcloud page (here) for new tunes often :

10 Nov 2012

Pink Frost - Gargoyle Days Review

Those of you who managed to escape the hallucinogenic pull of the cover of "Gargoyle Days" without an aneurysm have quite a treat ahead of you.
I totally missed this album when it was released just over a year ago (so presumably a few of you did too), but when they e-mailed me through a copy my interest was immediately piqued.
Naming your band after a particularly great song by The Chills suggests both a high level of confidence as well as a very fine pedigree, both of which Pink Frost seem to have in spades, albeit minus the jangle the bandname had me aniticipating.
Pink Frost instead wear the influence of early to mid nineties neo-psychedelic alternative rock on their sleeves, with a healthy dose of melodic shoegaze.
In a lot of ways I'm reminded of "Gish" and "Siamese Dream" era Smashing Pumpkins, although aesthetically the band may have more in common with Tripping Daisy, a comparison made all the more obvious by frontman Adam Lukas' vocal similarities to Tripping Daisy's Tim DeLaughter.
Like the best albums that it evokes, it knows how to rock as evidenced by the likes of "Gravesend" and the sinister minor key groover "Where Days Go".
It's at it's best though when the guitars lay off the distortion pedals and concentrate on textures, with the delicately trippy backwards guitars of "In Clouds" making an immediate impression, and the hypnotic outro to "This Time" giving classics like the Smashing Pumpkin's "Hummer" a run for their money.
Very fine.

9 Nov 2012

The Active Listener Psychedelic Hour

Sorry for the lack of activity for the last few days - it's getting into busy season here over the next few months. Here's an hour long psych mix of old classics and a few newbies thrown in for your streaming pleasure, that I put together a few days back - enjoy!

Can Your Heart Stand By Buddy & The Huddle
Easy Ryder By Ty Segall & White Fence
I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time By The Third Bardo
I'm Leaving Home By Kathy McCord
Enigmatic Insomniac Machine By Principal Edwards Magic Theatre
Silver Runner By Leisure Birds
My House By Michael Yonkers Band
Fuzz's Fourth Dream By Fuzz
Generator By Gap Dream
Frond By Pond
Mind Flowers By The Ultimate Spinach
The Lemonaide Kid By Kak

8 Nov 2012

Watch New Tame Impala "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" Video

Active Listener favorites Tame Impala have debuted there new music video for "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" from "Lonerism".

Watch it here :

7 Nov 2012

Watch Ty Segall Tear It Up on Letterman

For those of you who missed it, Ty Segall and band performed on Letterman a couple of nights ago.

Check out their frenzied take on "You're The Doctor" here, then go out and buy the record :

Desert Island Discs Selected By Dodson & Fogg

Today's Desert Island Discs have been chosen by Chris Wade a.k.a Dodson & Fogg.

Check out Dodson & Fogg's excellent debut here.

"I tried to choose 10 albums for this challenge, but then there were others I just couldn't miss out. I have also cheated a bit really, as I've got 2 albums by some bands and put them in as 1. Naughty I know... I basically chose the albums I am playing most regularly through the average week. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Incredible String Band and Simon and Garfunkel, so they could have made the list too. Also been loving Gong lately as well, but I think I might go mad being stuck on an island with a load of Gong albums."

1. Trees - On the Shore and Garden of Jane Delawney

As a kid I always heard the two title tracks from these albums. my dad used to play them off his Fill Your Head with Rock and Rockbusters samplers. Classic records. We both got the Trees albums a few years back and I really got into them. On the Shore is my favourite, I just love the moody atmosphere of tracks like Fool and Murdoch, while Sally Free and Easy is just amazing stuff. It was a thrill to have Celia from Trees on my Dodson And Fogg album as she is one of my favourite singers. Always listening to On the Shore in my office.

2. Jethro Tull - Aqualung

I love a lot of Tull, especially the Living in the Past compilation, but Aqualung is a masterpiece. Weird really, as Ian Anderson often says he doesn't think it sounds like a great record, as they had some difficulties getting it recorded. Listening to it now though, it's just an absolute classic. There's the epic greats (title track, My God and Locomotive Breath) but I love the weird little ones like Wondering Aloud (a lovely song), Moother Goose and Cheap Day Return. Cross Eyed Mary really conjures up some images too. The lyrics are so strong, he's a great lyricist.

3. Donovan - A Gift from A Flower To A Garden

I know a lot of folk people dont like Donovan, and some people find him too quaint, but I think he's bloody great. Saw him at Varieties in Leeds a few years ago and he did some tracks off this album, which has always been my fave of his. Enchanted Gypsy and the rest of the second vinyl (or the second half of the Cd edition) is just sheer perfection. The simple songs, arrangements and Donovan's voice put you into a trance. I can always listen to this, as well as Open Road and HMS Donovan too.

4. Black Sabbath - Paranoid

This was my favourite album when I was very young, like 9 or 10, and I still play it a lot now, on my old vinyl copy and the CD. It's the one album I love to play along to as well. The flow of the songs is just sublime, the crashing of War Pigs, to the iconic title track, the chilled out oddness of Planet Caravan to Iron Man's epic clashes. And that's just side one. Ozzy never sounded better and Iommi proved he was master of the metal riff.

5. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon and Piper at the Gates of Dawn

It's much cooler now I think to like the Barrett stuff, but you can't deny the brilliance of Dark Side... I used to shun the post Barrett stuff when I was younger, trying to be cool I suppose, but when you listen properly to DSOTM it's easy to see why the album has connected with so many people and continues to do so. Gilmour's solos just send shivers up your spine.

6. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - We're Only In It For The Money

I love all the early Zappa and Mothers albums, as well as Hot Rats, but this Beatles parody really does it for me. The cover alone grabs you (even though it was originally placed on the inner sleeve due to legal nonsense) and that weird start, Are You Hung Up? with Eric Clapton muttering away fires you into Who Needs the Peace Corps? and you're off on a mad high speed journey! Some of the lyrics are so savage, especially when he's having a go at the cops, but I also love the little piss takes of flower power and the weekend hippies. He even ends it all with an avant-garde piece too. Amazingly clever album.

7. King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King

This was another one I heard growing up, in particular 21st Century Schitzoid Man, which was on another of dad's old samplers. It's just a masterpiece and no wonder it's so acclaimed. It has a doomy but emotional feel to it, gorgeous stuff. I Talk to the Wind is one of my favourite songs at the moment. But the massiveness of the title track is really something too, really powerful.

8. The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour

I love Revolver and Abbey Road too, but I play this more often. I love the weirdness, the imagination of it, the fact that nothing was impossible for them in this phase. I love other bands but I'm not sure you can be honest and say they're not the greatest band we've ever seen. Just listen to this album. If it were out today people would go ape shit. I think people take the Beatles for granted a bit these days.

9.  The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur...

Cheating I know. Village Green used to be my absolute fave. Ray Davies was at his peak here, writing for himself and no one else. The title track is now a well deserved classic, but I just adore the Englishness of Do You Remember Walter and my all time fave Kinks song Animal Farm. It's such a sad album but totally beautiful as well. Thankfully it's the band's best selling original album now, greatest hits aside. The follow up Arthur... is also a strong album, totally English and eccentric. Funny to think they were at their lowest commercial dip here. Shangrila is a masterpiece, tragic that it didnt chart as a single.

10. Cat Stevens - Mona Bone Jakon

I love all the early Stevens albums, Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat, but I always come to this one more often. Lady D'Arbanville is one of the best opening tracks ever and I love how Mona Bone Jakon sounds like something from Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack. He is such a great songwriter and his voice is one of the best for me.

11.  Leonard Cohen - The Songs of Leonard Cohen

The songs! I just love this album. Anything that starts with Suzanne is going to be good. It's so bare and haunting and perfect. He never got it this good again, I don't think. You could tell he'd been writing novels, the words are just so full, not a syllable is wasted.

12. Amy MacDonald - This is the Life

Maybe not too cool a choice, but I loved this album when it came out and still think it's one of the best albums of recent years. She's a great songwriter; Run, LA, Poison Prince, all haunting melancholy sounding stuff and her voice is fantastic. The follow ups weren't as good but this stuff is hard to beat.

13. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland

Another favourite of mine since I was very young. I was obsessed with Hendrix as a kid and this was one I bought on CD, with the different cover of course, the close up of his face rather than all the nudies and boobs. It's just an amazing album, so epic, and ending with such iconic tracks, Voodoo Chile and Watchtower... he was amazing, god what a waste!

 If you want to share your Desert Island Discs e-mail them through to me at nford150@gmail.com

6 Nov 2012

Lazy Dynamite - Bang! Review

A release with an unusual backstory this one. Lazy Dynamite are actually James Justin and Jerry Sintich of progressive power-pop outfit Vinyl Sun.
Seems the lads decided that Ko Samet Island in Thailand would be as good a place as any to write and demo new material for the third Vinyl Sun album. The picturesque location doesn't seem to have distracted them any, as after a couple of months work they left well tanned and with two albums of demo material under their collective arms.
They've decided to release this material as free bandcamp downloads so that they can get a general consensus on which tracks are worth focusing on for future Vinyl Sun recordings.
While the conditions these demos were recorded in (a Fostex 4 track tape recorder, an acoustic guitar, a Shure Beta58 and a Boss SE-50 processor), may lead you to expect something a little shabby, these compositions feel very much complete as they are with complex vocal harmony parts and the sort of Beatlesque acoustic tunes that the mersey lads were knocking out just pre-Rubber Soul.
It doesn't hurt that Justin's voice has a Lennonish bite to it, especially on gritty cuts like "Down On You" and "Love Seems to Hate You".
Sure, there's some residual analogue fuzz from the recording process that depending on your age you'll either find warmly comforting or a little distracting, but there's no doubting the craft that's gone into the songwriting and arranging here.
There's also a second volume, although this first one is my pick.
Check it out here.

The Soundcarriers - This Is Normal - Video

The Soundcarriers have unleashed the video for their track "This Is Normal" featuring Jesse Chandler & Elijah Wood, from the recently released "Boiling Point" / "This Is Normal" 7" (reviewed here).

Check it out here :

This Is Normal - The Soundcarriers from The Soundcarriers on Vimeo.

5 Nov 2012

MMOSS - Only Children Review

Trouble In Mind

I was one of the many who missed MMoss's excellent debut album last year, but after playing catch up (you can download it here from bandcamp as a name your price download) I made damn sure I wouldn't miss out on the follow up. Good thing too as "Only Children" is even better than it's predecessor.
While certainly not all but a lot of retro psychedelic outfits (and these guys are psychedelic in the truest sense) seem to pick one sound that they like and stick to it, Mmoss pick a bunch and do them all impeccably. "War Sux" is freaky Krautrock with taut Motorik rhythms and trippy Floydesque organ work.
"Another Day" is stunningly melodic UK style psych pop goodness with distant flute and plenty of phasing that seriously understays it's welcome at 1.57. "Okay" meanwhile captures all of the drama of the Byrds "John Riley" in a totally effortless fashion.
It's like they've rifled through my record collection, pulled out a bunch of my favorite albums and somehow managed to find a selection of tracks hidden in the grooves that I've been unable to access myself.
If this makes it sound as if Mmoss don't have a sense of their own identity, let me put that to rest immediately. While they have a diverse set of influences, every track on here sounds very much like it comes from the same collective brain, an ambitious one certainly, but one that knows how to put it's own distinctive stamp on everything it touches.
Another winner for Trouble in Mind Records and one to put on your Christmas list.

Out November 13. Keep an eye on the Trouble in Mind website for more info.

4 Nov 2012

21st Century Psychedelia - A Mix by Kontiki Suite

To tie in with our best psychedelic albums of the 21st Century poll (results here) we have a very special guest mix put together by The Cotton Controller, resident DJ and sound wizard for the wonderful Kontiki Suite ( visit them here : http://kontikisuite.bandcamp.com/ ).

It's an epic 2 and a half hour journey which includes the following tracks :

All Night Radio - All Night Radio
Sand Pebbles - Charmed
Yeti Lane - Analog Wheel
War On Drugs - Come To The City
Circulatory System - Round
Circulatory System - Round Again
The Sufis - Light Tunnel
Circulatory System - The Breathing Universe
Nobody - Wake Up & Smell The Millennium
Caribou - Sandy
The Sufis - Sri Sai Flora
Nobody - Interlude 3
Dungen - Fredag
Dog Age - Hi There
Tame Impala - Keep On Lying
The Sufis - In The Ashram
Wooden Shjips - We Ask You To Ride
The Go - Down A Spiral
{{{Sunset}}} - Here Comes The Clock
The Time & Space Machine - The Time Is
The Soft Hearted Scientists - Rockford's Return
Beachwood Sparks - Once We Were Trees
Wilco - Black Bull Nova
Peaking Lights - Amazing & Wonderful
Broadcast - Before We Begin
Koushik - Outerlude
The Paperhead - Do You Ever Think Of Me?
I Was A King - Kontrari
Sic Alps - Bric Jaz (Reprise)
Allah-Las - Busman Holiday
White Fence - Be Right Too
Darker My Love - Backseat
Unbunny - Entrance
Malachai - Meeches Theme
The Sadies - Translucent Sparrow
Big City - Five Elks
The Warlocks - Shake The Dope Out
The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream
The Amorphous Androgynous - In Fear of the Electromagnetic Machine (Part 4)
Super Furry Animals - Atomik Lust
All Night Radio - Anchovya Suite
El Goodo - Feel So Fine
My Drug Hell - Garden Party
RockFour - Oranges
Lilys - Untitled Interlude/Peerless [cottoncontroller edit]
Kontiki Suite - Magic Carpet Ride/The World Is Small [cottoncontroller edit]

3 Nov 2012

The Active Listener Psychedelic Sampler 11/12

Well, I mentioned yesterday that I had a special surprise for you all, and here it is.
The first monthly psychedelic sampler.
You can download or stream it at the bottom of the page.
This first volume features:

1. Sky Picnic - Rippled
From The Album "Paint Me A Dream" Available Here.
2. The Red Plastic Buddha - Tao Of None
From The Album "All Out Revolution" Available Here.
3. Kontiki Suite - See You In The Morning
From The Album "On Sunset Lake" Available Here.
4. Ummagma - Colors
From The Album "Antigravity" Available Here.
5. The Spyrals - Evil Kind
From The Album "The Spyrals" Available Here.
6. Prince Rupert's Drops - Plague Ride
From The Album "Run Slow" Available Here.
7. Vintage Cucumber - Mondsucht
From the Album "McGoyl Style" Available Here.
8. Beaulieu Porch - Virgil Part Two (Goodbye, World!)
From The Album "In Touch With The Infinite" Available Here.
9. Dennis Olsen - Aubade At Dawn
From The E.P "Aubade" Available Here.
10. Sir Psych - So Long, I'm Gone
Unreleased Outtake From The "Hello Echo" Album Sessions. Visit Sir Psych on Facebook here.
11. Paisley Sky - Liquid Salient Dreams
Paisley Sky is Malc Thompson who supported artists like the Easybeats, PP Arnold, The Kinks, and Skip Bifferty in the 60s and is still going strong today. Check out his Soundcloud page here.
12. The Electric Mainline - Let Me Drift Away (Live)
From The E.P "All Too Much" Available Here.
13. The Solar System - Bis Nigh
From The Album "Haze Of Deep Dawn Clutching For Air" Available Here.
14. Spanish Moss - Witch Rings
From The Album "Kelp" Available Here.
15. Jacdraw - How Societies Remember
Jacdraw is a new project from former Raven Beats Crow member Robin Peters. Previously unreleased.

Here's the deal - Bandcamp allows me to give you 200 free downloads a month, so the first 200 downloads will be free, and after that downloads will cost 50c for the whole album (the minimum price that Bandcamp will allow). Each month there will be another 200 free downloads available, so if it's showing as a 50c download and you'd rather get it for free, just wait until the next month's free downloads allocation becomes available. Apparently once the 200 monthly free downloads become exhausted Bandcamp then automatically make the download price $5.00 - I'll keep an eye on this and change it to 50c as soon as I can, but there may be a period of 24 hours or so where it's set at $5.00.
I've made the download a name your price download, so that you can download it guilt-free for no cost. If you'd like to donate a little towards the upkeep of the site you'll have the opportunity to pay a little, but please don't feel compelled to.
Volume Two will be available sometime in December.
There's a folkish compilation on the way too, and a Xmas special.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more release details.

In the meantime enjoy this, and please take the time to check out the artist's other work.

Download or stream it right here :

Shucks. One Year Old Today.

The Active Listener celebrates it's first birthday today!
The year's gone really quickly, but in a lot of ways it feels like I've been doing this forever as well.
Thanks to everyone who's helped out, supplied stuff for review, joined the Active Listener facebook community, become friends or even just read over the last year.
With the help of a bunch of generous and talented musicians and artists I've been able to put together a pretty great compilation to celebrate the birthday.

You can stream or download the compilation here.

There are also a very limited number of home duplicated cassettes of the compilation available too. E-mail me at nford150@gmail.com to check availability and reserve a copy. The tapes cost $2 U.S + $10 U.S postage (they'll be shipping from my home in distant New Zealand, and our postal service is very expensive unfortunately). Postage to New Zealand or Australian addresses will be cheaper of course.

Here's the tracklisting for the compilation, along with links to the artists who contributed tracks.
Please visit these links and support the artists, even if it's as simple as liking them on Facebook.

1. The Magnetic Mind - Laser Fingers
2. Sir Psych - Fly Without Wings
3. Zane Armstrong - Julia (Alt. Version)
4. Sky Picnic - Farther In This Fairytale
5. Les Annees - Catherine Fields
6. The Solar System - Dreamer's Distance
7. Mordecai Smyth - I've Been So Tired
8. The No-Men - Let's Escape Reality
9.Darius Greene - Leaves Around Their Eyes
10. Tony Wakeford - Victor Sleeps
11. Chuck Owston & Sara Masters - Amethyst
12. Emily Jones - Bed of Mud
13. The Rowan Amber Mill - Mandrake, Hemlock & Rye (Ergotism Version)
14. The Hare & The Moon - The Rolling of the Stones 
15. Sproatly Smith - Willow's Song  

The cover art was put together by Dale Simpson Art & Illustration.

I've got some more compilations in the pipeline too, so follow the Active Listener on Facebook to keep an eye on further release information for them.
The next compilations (for there will be at least two) will be free bandcamp downloads (well, 200 free a month as that is the maximum bandcamp will allow).
If you're an artist of a psychedelic or folkie nature that would like to feature on one of these, send me an e-mail at nford150@gmail.com with something to listen to and we'll see what we can do.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow for a surprise too........................................ \

2 Nov 2012

The Big Eyes Family Players - Family Favourites Review

Karate Body Records Vinyl / Bandcamp Digital

After being totally won over by the The Big Eyes Family Players' Folk Songs 2 album a few months back ( reviewed here ), I was curious to see how the band would acquit themselves without the many talented collaborators they were able to pull in for that record.
My first port of call was "Family Favorites", partly because it was their next most recent recording, and partly because it's a collection re-recordings of various pieces from their back catalogue - as close as you're likely to get to a best-of for a group of this nature.
And the nature of this group is markedly different to what you may expect, if you've only heard Folk Songs 2. There's very little folk to be found for a start, with the Players instead offering an almost unclassifiable and diverse chamber sound that pulls from many different influences to create something uniquely beautiful, and often surprising.
The delicate acoustic guitars and dissonant recorders for instance, on "Three Wheels" sound as if they're settling into improvised noodling, before the strings and drums kick in with something altogether different, the sort of grand gesture you'd be more likely to hear on a Dirty Three album (and indeed may well have as this is a cover of one of their tunes).
"Fast Loose and Lovely" on the other hand is aptly titled and rattles along at a rapid clip, like a gypsy jazz outfit auditioning for a Bond theme.
Best of all is "Amateur Dramatics" which has the propulsive snare work, and eliptical acoustic guitar patterns of a European Calexico.
Overall this is an adventurous, diverse and eloquent showcase from a group who seem to have a knack for mastering whatever obscure idiom they aim for with ease.

Buy the LP here from Norman Records, or buy digitally through the bandcamp widget below.

1 Nov 2012

Oscillotron - Eclipse Review

Trust No One Recordings Digital

"Eclipse" is the debut release by Oscillotron, otherwise known as Kongh frontman David Johansson.
In true sideproject fashion, Johnasson has veered off on a tangent here from his Kongh work and instead offers us a solo instrumental analogue synthesizer album to add to the ever growing canon of Tangerine Dream / John Carpenter disciples.
Nothing that hasn't been done before admittedly but Johansson mixes his influences very very well, resulting in an album that sits comfortably among it's forefathers in a way that not many followers have managed of late.
"Embryo" sets the mood well, a sinister piece of percussion-free ambience with swells of radiophonic synthesized organ. The foreboding atmosphere is almost everpresent, only abating briefly for the Eno-esque cascades that lull the listener into a false sense of security on "Terror" before the percussion ushers in a funereal march which sits somewhere between early eighties Fabio Frizzi and John Carpenter in a very bad mood.
Always atmospheric and often evocative, this is not music for the masses, but a tribute to the best of Italian prog horror soundtracks made by a fan for other fans. You know who you are.
Well worth a listen if you're an analogue synth buff.

Available November 2 from bandcamp.

Download New Buffalo Killers Song "Baptized" For Free

Buffalo Killers' Zachary and Andrew Gabbard along with Joseph Sebaali have just emerged from the studio with two newly recorded non-LP sonic gems that they're offering through their website as pay-what-you'd-like singles (one of which you can download as a free mp3 below to share). While the beautiful organic nature of their new song "Nothing Can Bring Me Down" hints towards some of the intoxicating strengths of both Dig. Sow. Love. Grow. and their previous effort 3, the other new track "Baptized" is a down-and-dirty rocker that weds hedonistic hard rock and heavy psych with the righteous and redemptive qualities of gospel music.

Stream or download "Baptized" here.

Visit here to download the other new track "Nothing Can Bring Me Down" as a name your price download.