29 Apr 2013

The Active Listener Sampler 7 - Get It Here!

I hope Martin Butler's (http://www.elixirsue.co.uk/) beautiful sleeve art has you in the mood for some quality new (mostly psychedelic) music, because it's sampler time again!

I'm particularly pleased with this one and can guarantee that you'll find some amazing new stuff to obsess over.

This month's sampler features the following tracks:

Soft Hearted Scientists - Halloween People
Dolly Rocker Movement - Your Side of  Town
The PeΔrls - Be In One
Dead Pylons - Dream Cargoes
SLIGHT - Edison
Brother Rutherford - Surround The Forest
Buried Feather - Sink To The Bottom
Vince & His Lost Delegation - I Hate You
Arrowwood - Under Root a Winding Stair
Jon Brooks - Neap Tide
Beaulieu Porch - Golda 03
The Solar System - The Void (Full band version)
My Drunken Haze - Gambling Woman
Earthling Society - Theme From a Vampire's Kiss
Greanvine - Season of the Witch
Permanent Clear Light - Constant Gardener

As always, the bandcamp page has links to more information on each artist - please follow these links if you hear something that you like.

Stream or download it here :  http://theactivelistener.bandcamp.com/album/the-active-listener-sampler-7                                                  
Feel free to download it for free or make a donation to the running costs of the Active Listener. These costs are mounting, so any donations are very gratefully accepted.

Thanks, and enjoy.

Waves "Waves / Misfit" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I presume that apart from a few dedicated collectors, not many of you have heard of New Zealand seventies outfit Waves. I don't blame you - they've been pretty obscure here in New Zealand too, with only a few collectors and the odd bearded hippie relic seeming to remember them - which is odd as apparently their 1975 single "The Dolphin Song" was a bit of a hit here at the time.
The excruciatingly rare album this was lifted from, simply titled "Waves" is exactly the sort of country / folk gem that labels like Light in the Attic salivate so rightly over, and as of Record Store Day 2013 is back on the market (albeit only in New Zealand I believe).
But why exactly should you care about this band you've never heard of? Well you like Crosby, Stills and Nash right? And their hordes of second tier close vocal hippie clones too? Well you can forget Redeye, America and the like, Waves are THE BEST of these bands hands down, and their debut is one of the best kept secrets in New Zealand music.
As is often the case with these acoustic close harmony groups, Waves sound pleasant but a little generic on first listen, but after repeated plays it becomes apparent that Waves are impressive but subtle songwriters who never settle for an obvious hook when they've got something more insidious to let loose on your psyche.
Waves triple pronged songwriting and harmony attack much like CSN, provide three very different songwriting styles that blend seamlessly. And while tracks like "Wornout Rocker" take an obvious cue from the harmony masters, there's a more progressive side visible on tracks like "Waterlady Song" that sounds more like yes in their less manic moments.
"Waves" should have been a hit, but when the Direction label folded taking most of the album's takings with it, the band were left in dire straits. After production talks with Little Feat's Lowell George went nowhere, a second album was eventually recorded in 1976 under the watchful eye of Warner's frontman Tim Murdoch.
Murdoch was unimpressed with the results, and with just a few overdubs left to be recorded he ordered the multitrack tapes to be wiped. Fortunately the band were able to grab a rough mix, and the CD release of this includes these tracks packaged together as "Misfit" on the bonus disc.
While Murdoch may have been disappointed with this material, it's hard to imagine what he was expecting as "Misfit" sounds very much like a continuation of the debut's sound, and while the songs themselves are arguably a little weaker (which says more about the strength of "Waves" than any weakness on "Misfit"s behalf) , the band's playing and presentation had improved tenfold with Kevin Wildman's slide guitar often put to excellent use, and on tracks like "Jacob and El Tornado" an adventurous progressive element was unfolding which could have led somewhere fascinating.
Two top albums that have been rescued from obscurity.
The band reformed for an instore appearance on Record Store Day at Real Groovy Records in Auckland, and there's talk of heading back into the studio too.

Available as a limited edition vinyl reissue (first album only), or 2CD reissue featuring both albums.
Available from various New Zealand based online stores - get googling!

28 Apr 2013

Kim Fowley "Wildfire : The Complete Imperial Recordings 1968-1969" Review

Reissued by Tune In Records (Cherry Red)

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Kim Fowley was already a larger than life legend when these recordings were made, having among other things produced the Rivington's "Papa Oom Mow Mow" which would be borrowed by the Trashmen for their huge hit "Surfin' Bird", as well as releasing the way ahead of it's time (and frequently banned) 45 "The Trip" in 1965, before heading to the UK to work with Cat Stevens, The Soft Machine, and Them.
On returning, Fowley fell back in with an old friend, teenage wunderkind Michael Lloyd of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, with whom he collaborated on a number of fruitful projects, particularly Smoke, St. John Green and The Fire Escape.
Before long he was signed by Imperial, and that's where we come in with this new two disc collection from Tune In Records.
First on the cards (chronologically anyway)  is "Born To Be Wild", an album of instrumental cover versions of popular songs of the day done in a lightly psychedelic, organ-heavy, lounge funk style, geared towards the fortysomething wannabe hipsters of L.A. It struck a chord and according to Fowley sold 76,000 copies. Not bad for what is essentially an exploitation record, recorded in around four hours. Admittedly it doesn't have a great reputation among collectors but it's not bad of it's type, and is certainly a lot more funky than most of it's exploitation peers. It also benefits from being spread over both discs as bonus tracks to it's two more well regarded follow ups on this collection, a decision that may rankle the more anally retentive out there, but certainly improves the flow immeasurably.
With the success of "Born to be Wild", Fowley was given more freedom for his second Imperial release, and the fruits of this are "Outrageous" in both name and character. Largely improvised in studio and recorded in one session with a band led by Steppenwolf's Mars Bonfire, "Outrageous" is probably Fowley's most infamous and well regarded album. Over a bedrock of the most raw, nasty proto-punk the world had probably heard in 1968, Fowley rants and raves his way through stream of consciousness lyrics that occasionally coalesce into memorable anthems ("Bubblegum", "Wildfire", "Animal Man"), but more often than not resemble a more demented Jim Morrison. "It was time to make a rebellious record" said Fowley, and that's exactly what he did. This would have scared the bejesus out of any dentists out there expecting more "Born To Be Mild". Imperial Records were freaked out too and  demanded a less obnoxious album that would sell and hopefully not offend anyone.
"Good Clean Fun" is Fowley's amusing response to that request, a bizarre mixture of comedy and rock music inspired by Fowley's brief association with the Mothers of Invention. Fowley called in a diverse bunch of friends to help on the record including among others, the Byrds' Skip Battin, a young Warren Zevon (whom Battin was producing at the time), and a couple of passing Bonzos, Neil Innes and Viv Stanshall.
The results are predictably unpredictable, with a large portion of the album given over to spoken word, broken up by the excellent Byrdsian country of "Baby Rocked Her Dolly", and the unexpectedly poignant "I'm Not Young Anymore", one of several early Zevon compositions to be found here.
An impressive package - music for freaks to be sure, but always entertaining and sporadically inspired, these are fascinating period pieces that still pack quite a punch today.

Available here on Tune In Records.

25 Apr 2013

Wolf People "Fain" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

How to follow up on "Steeple", a debut (excluding singles catch-all "Tidings") that was born with the sense of identity and purpose that most bands take half a career to craft?
Obviously a reinvention wasn't in order then, and there must have been a temptation to follow the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' maxim. "Fain" clearly demonstrates however that Wolf People are not the sort of band who are satisfied to rest on their laurels. Instead, on "Fain" they've accentuated the elements that made "Steeple" such a unique prospect in a field where so many sound alike.
To escape the distractions of everyday life they decamped to guitarist Joe Hollick's remote house in the Yorkshire Dales laden with so much gear that they had to sleep in tents when they weren't busy recording. Naturally it was freezing, and rained almost constantly - ideal conditions then to create their distinctly British strand of psychedelic druidic rock. Not since Led Zeppelin 3 has a British rock album been such a product of  it's environment.
"Fain" sees Wolf People digging deeper into traditional folk forms, with Jack Sharp's vocals in particular speaking of experiences beyond his years and evoking the stark humanity of the likes of Nic Jones.
Which is not to say that this is in anyway a folk album (although the thought of an acoustic Jack Sharp performance is not unappealing in itself) - if anything the guitars are louder, and fuzzier than ever and the drums are alternately funkier and heavier than on previous outtings.
The masterful "All Returns" further refines their 'Fairport Convention dabbling in black magic' sound while "When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate" manages to successfully integrate epic Dark Side of the Moon style backing vocals with some stunning twin guitar leads and a surprisingly nimble heavy funk outro.
Elsewhere there are longer instrumental segments inspired by Scandinavian rock both new and old, and on "Thief" a moody, first person highwayman story ("It's like a form of tourism. You can visit but not live in the mind of an appalling human being." explains Jack) with some of the most spooky male / female harmony vocals you'll hear this side of "Battle of Evermore".

"FAIN" is released April 29.  BUY IT HERE ON :  CD  VINYL  OR DIGITAL


I don't always get the chance to review everything that I want to, so here's the first in an occasional batch of mini reviews and links for things that you need to know about.

Greanvine may not be a name that rings a bell with you yet, but it will in good time as they're  former Owl Service members Steven Collins and Diana Collier.
"Witch Songs" is a free three track digital download E.P which like the best of the Owl Service's releases evokes the early seventies U.K folk-rock revival, with nice contemporary touches (the slashing electric guitars and hammond of "Prickle Holly Bush" for instance.) Also includes an excellent cover of Donovan's "Season of the Witch".
Listen : Download from the Stone Tape Recordings Bandcamp page here, and check out the rest of the label's excellent catalogue while you're at it.

Black Springs are an excellent new psychedelic rock act from Australia. "Sunrise" is their first E.P, and a very promising debut indeed. Opener "Sunrise" is as good an introduction to their sound as any, with it's bouncy McCartneyesque basswork buoying heavily reverbed, jangly guitars in a fashion that finds middle ground between early Flying Nun and the likes of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Excellent.
Listen: Available on CD or to download through their Bandcamp page here.

Three long, psychedelic stoner rock tracks that start slowly and build a nice head of steam from this rather good U.K based group. Refreshingly for stoner rock the emphasis is not on big riffs, but trippy textures and heavily treated bluesy lead breaks delivered at a hypnotic pace that gets under your skin and stones the soul.
Listen: Available as a name your price download from their Bandcamp page here.

A welcome vinyl release from Poppydisc of Joe Meek's batshit mad 1959/1960 concept record which does a surprisingly good job of making a dodgy skiffle group sound if not alien, at least very odd indeed. The speeded up Chipmunk's voices tend to grate a little, but there's no denying Meek's inventive production techniques are at their best here on these memorable tunes. Influential stuff, and still entertaining today.
Available on vinyl only. Get it here.

This is a fascinating solo release from Ethan Johnstone who also plays drums for Active Listener favorites Houdan The Mystic. "Take Root" is an instrumental release that is almost impossible to categorize, combining the complex time signatures of progressive rock (and some jawdroppingly clever drumming) with lushly arpeggiated twelve string acoustics and some lovely cello from Caroline Connolly. Inventive, lush and frequently beautiful.
Listen here: Available as a name your price download from Bandcamp here.

Uh Bones are a chicago based garage group that largely bypass the more common garage psych route in favor of gritty garage R&B. The results hearken back to pioneers like Them and the Yardbirds, helped no doubt by some convincingly authentic production that makes it sound like everything is being run through a Vox pedal. Top tunes too with "Amess" taking the crown at a pinch.
Listen here: Available on vinyl or digitally through their Bandcamp page here.

broaddaylight are one of a growing number of bands using the template set by the Cocteau Twins to launch out into new and exciting areas of shoegaze and dream pop.  broaddaylight are sticklers for details and do a far better job than most of recapturing that lightning in a bottle dreampop sound of the late eighties / early nineties, no doubt aided somewhat by the mastering skills of Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie. It's Sarah Eakin's ethereal vocals that impress most though, coupled with a very strong set of tunes.
Listen here: Available digitally through their Bandcamp page here.

The Go are fucking brilliant, and the sprawling 20 track "Fiesta" has finally surfaced after a long wait, and it was worth every second. An impressively diverse set of vintage psychedelia and powerpop with surprises around every corner, choruses that will floor you, and a production sound to die for - I really cannot recommend this highly enough. Get it now.
Available from Burger Records website here.

24 Apr 2013

Beaulieu Porch "We Are Beautiful" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Y'all probably remember how excited I got back here when Simon Berry a.k.a Beaulieu Porch's self titled debut was released right?
Then there was "In Touch With The Infinite", a second album release in quicksmart time, coerced from him by an unsympathetic label under the Beaulieu Porch name, but padded out partly with Spider 72 ( Berry's other project) tracks. Now don't get me wrong, the Spider 72 tracks are great, but their sugarpunkery made slightly uncomfortable bedfellows with the more breezy psychedelia of the Porch material.
Fortunately Mr Berry is back in control of his own musical legacy now, so out goes "In Touch With The Infinite" and in comes "We Are Beautiful", the proper, non-rush released follow up to that magnificent debut . I'm gushing aren't I? Well, so I should be. "We Are Beautiful" is another mind-boggling look at what one man, laden with a bunch of killer tunes and a whole bunch of studio ingenuity can come up with when left to his own devices. I like to imagine Simon Berry as a MacGyveresque figure, able to construct a leslie speaker out of a biro, a paper clip, a rubber band and one of those brick sized late eighties portable telephones.
But I digress.
If you wish that the Beatles had spent a little more time cavorting around the countryside in a garishly painted bus and climbing trees with silly woolen hats on instead of getting all beardy, serious and hateful on each other, then this is the album for you.
Mr Porch pulls out all the Peppery stops on opening track "Golda A" with it's swirling repeated refrain of "oh what a beautiful place" being pretty hard to argue with. Delicious.
Similarly "Is" imagines the ambitious crescendos of Abbey Road through a filter of treated vocals and backwards tapes with very Harrisonesque arpeggiated guitars accompanied by some searing leads.
It's not all psychedelic pomp either - "Daylight Faces" and "Of Particles" show a moodier, more contemplative side that relies more on stark beauty than kaleidoscopic grandeur.
Impeccably paced and balanced, "We Are Beautiful" is a very carefully constructed record indeed that fleshes out and expands upon the soundscapes of the debut in a most impressive manner.

Stream or purchase through the link below:

Wolf People Guide Us Through Ten Albums That Influenced Their New Album "Fain"

Wolf People's fantastic new album "Fain" is released April 29.
For those that want to hear a little more about the music that inspired "Fain", Wolf People's Jack Sharp and Joe Hollick have put together this illuminating, in-depth list of ten albums that inspired "Fain", as well as a corresponding mix of their favorite tracks from the albums.

Click on album covers for more info.


JACK: When we started making Fain, I had it in mind that I’d like it to be our ‘Jug of Love’; solidifying the spirit of the band, and maturing the music and lyrics to reflect the fact that we’ve been a working band for another two years.
We have collectively obsessed over the first Mighty Baby record since the beginning of the band and it’s always something we come back to, putting it on in the van and at parties, dancing round like loons to it at festivals. But this second record took a while to sink in. It’s nowhere near as immediate or incendiary as the first. Martin Stone swapped his fuzz for a volume pedal and they crept into more country rock territory, with lyrics that reflected their conversion to Sufism.
But once you get over the fact that you’re no longer listening to hedonistic rock music, Jug of Love is achingly beautiful, and deceptively complex. The songs seem simple, and you can sing along to them, but sit down with a guitar and you realize the chord changes and song structures are stunningly intricate.
They reigned in the jamming a lot for this record compared with their live set at the time, but it’s still there at the tail end of every song and their interplay is breathtaking (have a listen to the last half of Happiest Man in the Carnival, for example). That’s something you can only get from living together and playing night after night.
I don’t think we’ve ever even slightly reached the heights that Mighty Baby did with Jug of Love, but I like to think there is a thread of the spirit of this record at least, in Fain.


JOE: Our Tom has been an avid collector of Scandinavian psych music over the years and I first heard the track “Future on the Road” on a comp CD he made a while ago. It blew my mind, it was the almost dream-like combo of Hendrix and Can in one band. This was also a band found through the obsession with Dungen; I had read in an interview that the super-jam “Mon Amour” on Tio Bitar was, to quote the article, “mecki music”. Therefore, to stem the salacious thirst waiting for new Dungen material, this band needed discovering, and it has gone straight in to my all time top list of records. You can hear the influence of Hendrix on them and in particular guitarist Kenny Hakansson, (earlier incarnation Baby Grandmothers supported the Experience in their native Sweden) and then onto Dungen. Hakansson’s guitar sounds are just superb, internet research has brought up that he used two fuzz faces, and goes someway to explaining the compressed, singing sustain on tracks such as the elegiac reiteration of the Baby Grandmothers 7” track “Being is More Than Life”. I love that the recordings are clearly the band playing live, but augmented with unusual overdubbed percussion and sound effects, you could say its “of its time”, but these idiosyncrasies provide a unique texture that elevates this album beyond a mere fuzz rock record. “Butterfly” has been a huge influence on us, and we’ve gone as far as jamming it on a regular basis, trying to cop the extreme fuzz and fluid bass. Wolf People never attempt to copy any of the influences (we’re frankly not skilled or attentive enough) but the waltz sections of “When the Fire is Dead in the Grate” are definitely our attempt at stealing some “mecki music”. We played this record in the van when touring Scandinavia in 2011. Watching the scenery fly by, it all made sense.


JACK: This is a personal indulgence and not something that has influenced the band as a whole at all, just me. I understand that Joanna Newsome’s voice and music is pretty divisive so I try not to evangelise about this album too much, but I can’t think of a record that has had more of an effect on the way I write lyrics or think about phrasing and delivery than this one.
Obviously, Joanna Newsome I ain’t, I’m a pretty limited vocalist. But listening to this definitely made me strive to tease out a bit more from the lyrics and delivery and ask myself if what I was doing was good enough all the time. I mean, who uses the word ‘etiolated’ in a song and makes it sound not only natural but beautiful?! (Not me btw, Joanna obviously).
‘You and Me Bess’ especially had a massive impact on me. I was bewildered that someone could write a song about Dick Turpin’s horse (I think) and give it a strong emotional centre that robbed it of the twee-ness it could so easily have had. The lyrics are so visual it’s like reading a book. Lines like “tangling tails like a sodden sheet/Dangling entrails from the gut of the sea” are of an alien brilliance that’s difficult to even aspire to.
I’m still in the process of discovering this album, and I’ve been listening to it for three years. This is grown up music, and that’s what we want to make.


JACK: Hearing this for the first time was like a lightning bolt. YUP. Here we go. This is it.
Reine Fiske from Dungen made a chart for B-Music magazine years ago with this and some other amazing stuff on it, which is where we first heard it. This is one of those ridiculously priced holy grail records, but in this case the music almost justifies the price tag (not that I have a spare £8000 to get myself a copy!).
The songs tend to start with spindly thin guitar melodies, weird chords and oddball, slightly whiney lyrics, then all of a sudden they’ll morph into this unruly fuzz dragon burrowing its way to the centre of the earth.
Most bands would be happy to write three or four great riffs per album. Dark stick about 25 together at the end of each song, repeat them twice and never return to any of them.
One thing that makes this stand out from other cult albums that went nowhere, is that it SOUNDS AMAZING. Weighty drums, meaty fuzz, glassy clean guitar chords, big bottom bass. It sounds HAIRY. This sounds so much better than anything we’ve ever done, and it was recorded 40 years ago for nothing in a tiny studio in Northampton. Knowing that they never got anywhere makes you wonder what the point is. At least they’re getting a bit more recognition now.


JACK: Every time we get asked to put a list together, I have to talk about this album. I’m starting to feel like a missionary for the church of Astral Navigations. The truth is I would totally understand if you listened to this and didn’t get on with it, or felt the hype was unnecessary, but to me it encapsulates so much that I look for in music. It’s humble yet ambitious, home made, strikingly unique and almost painfully British. The words either sound ancient and mystical, or just plain weird.
It’s ramshackle and budget-recorded, but obviously put together with huge amounts of love and hard work. It also has some of the best fuzz tones ever.
A friend gave me a cdr of this a long time ago* saying it sounded a bit like us. A massive compliment! At first I fell in love with the noisier side but soon got entranced by the Lightyears Away numbers on the A-side too. We always keep this record in mind when writing and recording, and if we ever get even close to the magic captured here, I’d be very happy indeed.
I learnt from a friend that David Smith, one of the members of Thunder Mother passed away recently. I really hope he knew just how highly regarded his music was.
*I since bought the full CD direct from Mike Levon the producer, who still runs
his own online shop! The original vinyl was pressed as a run of £250 at a loss and
copies currently change hands for around £1000.


JACK: I think it’s fair to say that without Fairport Convention, there would be no Trees. But Trees took what Fairport had pioneered and steered it down a slightly different road. Where Fairport were majestic and graceful, Trees were a wilder, more rugged prospect, with longer jams, tight but ramshackle and a little more rough around the edges. Their treatment of traditional songs is fantastic but they also had a few original songs that were pretty peerless and deserve more attention. For us, Trees’ leaning towards heavier rock in their folk ballads just begs to be taken further. You ask yourself “What if the drums were louder and the guitars more distorted?” That question usually ends in one of our noisy attempts at folk rock.
We’ll keep trying.

7. DUNGEN - 4

JOE: Without exaggeration, this record changed my life. It became one of those albums that I can hold up alongside those influential and precious ones that I first heard when I was a kid. It has shaped how I feel about music, and how I experience it. For an entire year it sat glued to my turntable, merging with the machine to such an extent that I didn't have a record player anymore, I had only a Dungen 4 player.
Many others have waxed lyrical about this album, especially its stellar orchestration and production (notably the sumptous drum sound). I should add that you don't have to understand Swedish to be taken by the sheer beauty in "Det Tar Tid" (an entire piece could be written about the slight lift of the wah pedal that makes Reine's guitar "purr" in the intro alone) and how "Mina Damer Och Fasaner" contains the heaviest yet subtlest riff that never tires, the sheer weight and drama of the "Satt Att Se" intro, excetera excetara. The whole thing is both under and over played, on a knife edge that constantly tempts and teases the listener, just when you think it gives too much, it drops away and holds back. At times it sounds like Gershwin...incredible.
One track in particular has soundtracked everything I’ve done since its release,  the instrumental "Samtidigt 2". Before "4" was released, Reine Fiske had already changed my outlook on the guitar, I was really in the doldrums playing wise, and seeing the band play at The Garage in 2006 was like having someone clang a giant bell above my head whilst shouting: "this is it, this is what you need to aspire towards". I’m nowhere near, and it gets me down. This particular track is part of two on the album, an edit of a longer improvised piece to fit the constraints of an LP (an unedited version exists on a tour only 12"). The way it glows in at the start still gives me goosebumps. Usually when you listen to a guitarist, you can imagine their hands on the fretboard, with Reine Fiske it's just a blur, I cannot "see" how he is doing it. It's the sound of someone thinking out loud, the language is just more than notes, its tiny changes in volume, tone, wah position and pickup selection. The nature of the circuit in a healthy fuzz face and octavia pedal mean they are very sensitive to the input volume that they receive, varying between 8 and 10 on the guitar’s volume yields a myriad of subtlety different tones and changes in attack. This is all on display, and it comes as natural as the note choice, adding a different voice to each phrase. It never pauses for thought, every riff is a melody. It is some of the most magical and inspiring guitar playing I’ve ever heard. For the uninitiated its akin to Hendrix, but if he had been born in a forest in Northern Europe, it doesn’t seem to fit with normal Western phrasing, and eschews all your tired blues licks yet still retains weight and power. I wish it would never end, I wish I could play like it.


JACK: The Groundhogs encapsulate a lot of what we think a band should be; hardworking, humble, great at playing but without showing off, ambitious but not pretentious, the ultimate underdogs. Often when I’m tying myself in knots trying to think of a lyric or come up with a clever chord change or something, I have to call on the ‘spirit Tony McPhee’ to remind me that simple and pure ideas come across a lot better than self consciously clever or complicated ones.


JACK: The way Richard Thompson uses traditional music to inform his songwriting is something we’ve started to look up to more and more over the last few years, and Fain is definitely the furthest we’ve gone into that territory. The sparsity of the songs and the bleakness of the lyrics are things I really hope have seeped into our music, at least in a small way.
Richard Thompson’s playing is one of the chief influences on the way that Joe has learnt to play guitar, and in turn I’ve taken on (stolen) some of those ideas over the years.


JACK: Normal guys making freaky music on a shoestring. Brilliant. The thing I love about bands like Tractor, The Way We Live, Dark and Thunder Mother is you get a sense that this is pure escapism for them, it’s not a box ticking exercise to climb up the industry ladder (and that would have been a more realistic aim at the time), it’s just good msic for the sake of it. God bless John Peel for basically paying for this album.
Jim Milne’s playing and sound is something me and Joe talked about a lot while making Fain, but there’s some voodoo there that you just can’t recreate. We got in contact with him a while ago and he was going to come to a gig in Liverpool. Maybe he’ll appear on the next record!

"FAIN" is released April 29.  BUY IT HERE ON :  CD  VINYL  OR DIGITAL

Stream a playlist of tracks from these albums here:

23 Apr 2013

Jimmy C & The Chelsea Five "Play With Fire" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Small Texas label 13 O'Clock have carved an impressive niche for themselves, specializing in records that sound like they should have been hits in 1966 and 1967 (The Higher State, Flight Reaction etc. ).
They've taken this approach one step further now and dug up their first reissue - and not surprisingly considering label boss Brian Smith's reliable ear, it's another shoulda been hit - except this time it actually does come from the era it evokes (some reports say 1965 although the label claims 1967).
Jimmy C and co managed just the one single but it's certainly one that deserves a far wider audience than it has so far received.
The A-Side of this reissue is a cover of the Nanker Phelge number "Play With Fire". Stripping the Stones version of all it's baroque Andrew Loog Oldham hardpsichord flourishes and upping the tempo proves just what a top song this is (if there was any doubt?). A propulsive bassline and appealingly jangly guitars set a solid garage bedrock for Jimmy's surprisingly direct vocal - a very nice comparison piece to Mick's petulant brat vocal on the Stones much more sophisticated, but not necessarily better version. It's a great example of garage reinvention. It doesn't even matter that Sammy Simmon's drums are so far back in the mix that it's hard to tell whether he's playing a kit or just a tambourine.
The flipside is "Leave Me Alone", a band original, and a more cracking unknown proto garage punk nugget you're unlikely to find. Lyrically it's your standard young love gone wrong, boy gets angry piece, but lyrical sophistication is not what one should seek on a record such as this, and the garagey bluster on display here (seemingly indebted to Love's version of "Hey Joe", although obviously this wouldn't be possible if this is a 1965 recording) is more than enough to satisfy this avid garage fiend.
I'd love to see 13 O'Clock dig up more local Texas rarities if the quality can match these sides. Top work.

22 Apr 2013

Soft Hearted Scientists "False Lights" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Welsh alchemysts of sound are back with a new album - always a cause for excitement, and as always that expectation is fully rewarded with an album that may well be their most well rounded and memorable yet.
After an unlikely, moody, hauntological introduction the psychedelic pop gears are engaged thoroughly with "Seeing"s playful bounce, which has moments that suggest George Formby disappearing down the rabbit hole.
"False Lights" sees the Soft Hearted Scientists exploiting their pop smarts to the max and pound for pound, I'd say it's their most concise, hook laden effort so far - which is saying something. Reining in their more proggish tendencies may not on paper, sound like a particularly good idea for a band who's reputation has been partly built on diversity, but the decision (conscious or not) to trim the excess back has resulted in an album with an instant appeal that previous albums - great as they have been - have had to work a little harder at.
I don't imagine for a moment that these lads have any interest in stardom, but "False Lights" certainly feels like a breakthrough album. History has proven of course that quality is no guarantee of success, but it's hard to imagine anyone not getting carried away by the irresistibly catchy "Song From The River" or the innocent, childlike charm of the sinister nursery rhyme "Seaside Sid & The Giant Squid", which makes being eaten by a giant squid sound like it's been given an unnecessarily bad rap.
The Scientist's ability to switch from whimsical good humor to the beautifully dark melancholy of the flawless "Golgotha" at the drop of a hat is their biggest drawcard though, which makes approaching any of their albums a thrilling prospect, and "False Lights" has more twists and turns than most bands cram into an entire career.
Certainly one of the most tuneful albums I've heard this year. Highly recommended.

Pre-order "False Lights" on CD here or digitally here.

Vince & His Lost Delegation Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Vince Posadzki may not be a name you're familiar with but that doesn't mean that he hasn't been busy.
Since moving to France from Canada he's spent time in the Fatals, BobPopKillers, The Chimiks, and Destination Lonely, as well as a stint drumming for acclaimed acid revivalists Aqua Nebula Oscillator.
Clearly Posadzki's not green around the edges which goes some way toward explaining the self assured and some may even say brash nature of Vince & His Lost Delegation's self titled debut.
Recorded in just three days with Adrian and Simon from Aqua Nebula Oscillator onboard this is a spontaneous and varied E.P that covers heaps of ground, from the swirling garage psychedelia of "Don't Wanna Go Back There" to the more aggressive "La Fin du Monde" with a giant guitar riff, punctuated by stabs of demented Bad Seeds style organ.
In my opinion though, the best moments occur when the volume is dialed back and Vince allows his trippier sensibilities to take hold. You'd assume that "I Hate You" would be a snotty garage anthem, not the  subversive piece of sickly sweet, phased psychedelia that it turns out to be. It sounds like an outtake from the second Ultimate Spinach album. And it's fantastic.
Best is saved for last though with "Try To See Around" a sparkling folk rocker that recalls early Love or the Byrds filtered through an offkilter Flying Nun sensibility that gives it an appeal, both fresh and timeless.

Available here as a 12" E.P.

The first two tracks can be sampled below:

21 Apr 2013

The Soulless Party "Tales From The Black Meadow" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

An irresistibly evocative title that no budding hauntologist could rightly ignore. This was what first drew my attention to this new release from the Soulless Party (previously responsible for this rather good E.P of science fiction library music) - sleeve notes from Warren Ellis and a quick perusal of the promotional clip below sealed the deal.
Such is the attention to detail, that without any research on my behalf (there's been none) it's hard to separate the history from the cobblers (presumably mostly the latter) in the intriguing backstory of Black Meadow.
A mysterious area of the North Yorkshire Moors, a disappearing village, and the hapless Professor R. Mullins feature prominently, and "Tales from the Black Meadow" captures the spirit of this in a thoroughly successful manner - almost enough to convince of it's claim to being the incidental music created for a 1978 BBC radio documentary on the area.
An omnipresent vinyl crackle certainly assists in the suggestion that this music's ideal medium would be wax cylinder, but it's the somber and often mournful tunes themselves that have imprinted themselves firmly into the darker recesses of my psyche.
The main theme (and opening track) is the most memorable of these. Combining eerie organ work that sounds like the work of a certain Dr. Anton Phibes, with a beautifully stark melody which evokes the best work of Hammer Studios much underappreciated James Bernard, this is a tremendous mood setter that sets a tone that doesn't let up for a moment.
While the following pieces are often of a more incidental nature, they're no less riveting for it with swelling strings, the restless flapping of crow's wings and synthesized choral vocals which kept this particular listener in a state of blissful nostalgia with a nagging sense of  trepidation lurking just below the surface.
Lovely stuff.
I've been checking out the ten track bandcamp version (downloadable here), but there's also a CD version with twenty tracks, which also includes a bonus disc featuring the 1978 radio documentary (also available through the bandcamp link).
My curiosity is certainly piqued. How about you? Check out the backstory in the promo clip below.

19 Apr 2013

Happy Record Store Day!

Happy Record Store Day friends!

It's the morning of Record Store Day over here in New Zealand - meaning it's not too far off for the rest of you presumably?

First things first - the winner of the Trouble in Mind Test Press Record Store Day E.P competition is (drumroll, please..) Ryan Wainwright who chose Mikal Cronin's self titled debut as his fave piece of Troubled Mindedness.

Thanks to everyone who entered - hope you manage to grab a copy of the E.P at your local indie record store today!

If you haven't already downloaded it and need some new music to get you in the mood for the big day's cratedigging here's a special mix of sixties covers from artists like Sky Picnic, Beaulieu Porch and other great psychedelicists put together especially for today - get it here : http://theactivelistener.bandcamp.com/album/happy-record-store-day

Good luck with your crate digging today folks, and even if you're not a vinyl buyer I'd urge you to visit your local independent record store (if you're lucky enough to still have one!) and pick up some CDs and soak up the atmosphere.

I'm off to my dayjob at our local independent, to spin a bunch of my favorite records and hopefully convert a few folks back to the ways of vinyl.

Long live the independent record store!

17 Apr 2013

The Wands "Hello, I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

A title like "Hello...." doesn't leave much to the imagination in terms of where this is going to fit in on the tripometer, and surely enough this duo from Copenhagen have unleashed a terrifyingly trippy debut E.P that somehow manages to find some middle ground between the Spacemen 3 and the Incredible String Band.
They describe their sound as 35% Fuzz, 25% Reverb, 5% Sitar, 9% Reverse, 10% Drones, 16% Other stuff - I'd perhaps swap the fuzz and reverb around, but otherwise this is pretty much spot on.
You've heard from the Fuzz Club label here before (I reviewed their Reverb Conspiracy comp here last year), so presumably you've got a pretty good idea of their aesthetic (and if not the clues are in the names - namely, lots of fuzz and lots of reverb).
The Wands certainly fit into this aesthetic to a certain extent - the title track is a good indicator of this, with a "Tomorrow Never Knows" drum pattern and swelling tabla drone adding some nice paisley touches behind the layers of deliciously fuzzy guitars, but they also have a lighter side that manifests more on the second side of this E.P. These more acoustic based tracks provide a wide open, expansive vista that give these tracks a more cinematic feeling - "The Key" is perhaps the best of these, bathed in a shimmery desert haze.
So there's two very complimentary sides to the Wands - and on the evidence of their first E.P, they do both sides equally well.
But don't take my word for it - they're lined up for the next Liverpool Psych Fest, and "Hello, I Know The Blow You Grow is Magic" is available on 10" from Fuzz Club here.

The title track has a great video too - check it out here :

15 Apr 2013

Record Store Day!

You've all entered the Trouble in Mind Record Store Day competition right?

Well here's your other treat for Record Store Day.

To get you all in the mood, we've put together a special mix of your favorite sixties songs, covered by some of our favorite artists. Some have been pulled from the archives of these bands (the Sky Picnic track dates from one of their earliest sessions), others recorded especially for this collection.

Thanks to all of the great artists who've gotten involved.

Thanks also to Dawn Louise Sims for the great sleeve art - see more of her art here: http://www.sunriseart.co.uk/

So as not to distract you from actually getting out and visiting these great stores on the day, we've made an executive decision to give you this wee treat early - it's a FREE DOWNLOAD, but you can make a donation to the running costs of the Active Listener if you feel so inclined (no pressure though!).

And let's not forget what Record Store Day is all about - please visit and support your local independent record store, not only on Record Store Day, but also as often as possible throughout the year. They're an invaluable resource and paying a dollar more here and there ain't too much to ask to keep these fine folks providing us with their knowledge, expertise and the best music money can buy.

Zoltan "First Stage Zoltan" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Continuing my rewarding trawl through Cineploit Records recent releases brings me today to London's Zoltan.
One thing that's been particularly surprising about going through the Cineploit catalogue, is how a label with such a niche approach has managed to sign artists that you'd assume would all sound pretty similar, but all have their own unique approach ; Oscillotron have a Tangerine Dream fetish, Orgasmo Sonore worship at the altar of sixties / seventies eurofilm, Sospetto are giallo / polizei fiends, and now we have Zoltan who on the evidence of "First Stage Zoltan" seem to think that John Carpenter should have spent some time working with virtuoso prog rock players.
They make a convincing point.
Now don't get me wrong, Carpenter's late seventies / early eighties film scores (along with the films themselves) are items that I have an almost religious fervor for, but think how much more powerful some of those themes could have been had they been fleshed out with a rhythm section.
Zoltan do just this - a three piece with one of the most progtastic rhythm sections I've heard this side of the seventies.
Andy Thompson's keyboards take care of the melodic side of the equation with consumate ease, but it's Matt Thompson on bass and Andrew Prestidge on drums that truly elevate this to the next level. The mediocre pap that we're spoonfed through the popular media of today seems intent on convincing us that bass and drums are supporting instruments only - clearly a view that Matt and Andrew quite rightly don't subscribe too. Both play in a busy, "look how much more interesting I can make this" (rather than "look how good I am") kind of fashion that provides plenty of surprising rhythmic and melodic counterpoints to the keyboard parts.
So while the synth heavy soundtrack work of the likes of Carpenter are an obvious touchstone, prog rock also rears it's very welcome head, allowing these rather fine musicians a  greater dynamic palette with which to paint these eventful epics.

Stream or buy below. Also available on vinyl through the same link.

14 Apr 2013

New Electric Ride "E.P" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

You may think that the bag I'm pulling all of these great new psychedelic acts from is bottomless, and I'm beginning to think you're right. There's an awful lot of people in the world right now and the fact that an increasing number of these folks are starting bands that sound like the Beatles is a something to rejoice fully in.
The latest of these acts is Sunderland four piece "New Electric Ride". Their credentials? Well, they've opened for the Pretty Things, and that's pretty good in my book.
One listen to their debut E.P ( yes it's called "E.P" too...) will make it immediately apparent why these lads are getting offered these slots, and I'm sure bigger and better things are on the way too. But before I start sounding like the liner notes to a vintage sixties LP let's ditch the superlatives and look at the music itself.
"New Electric Ride" have thus far been described as a psych-pop band.
Lush harmonies have been mentioned.
Pristine pop songwriting has been alluded too.
All elements that are present and correct here of course, but one thing that folks so far seem to be overlooking is how quirky these tunes are. They're unfaillingly melodious and tuneful of course, but there's also an approach to tempos and organ abuse (stop it....) that suggests the Canterbury Scene and Frank Zappa are as important an influence as the mop tops.
Tunes like "In Chains" suggest an alternate universe where the protoprog bands that littered the late sixties U.K scene retained an interest in writing songs rather than setting up spots for elaborate solos.
It's hard to pick a favorite but the easy rolling swagger of "Lovers" is pretty top stuff, with a vocal that recalls the more ragged bluesy moments of Lennon's sixties material - it's like Tame Impala's "Elephant" with all the T-Rex siphoned out.
"Stone For Stone" on the other hand couples a McCartneyesque chorus with layers of mad professor keyboards, and a slowed down, almost Steely Dan style vamp. And that flute tacked onto the end is a pretty lovely afterthought - more of this on the next recording please.
Oh, and speaking of the next recording there's a 7" due out soon on Hot Rats Records. But don't wait 'til then for a listen. Visit their bandcamp page through the widget below where the E.P is available on CD and as a download. Our operators are standing by.

11 Apr 2013

COMPETITION ! - Win a Trouble in Mind Record Store Day Test Press

You all know I love Trouble in Mind Records - (Jacco Gardner, Maston, The Resonars, The Paperhead etc - what's not to love?!!) and to show just how much they love you, they've given me a test pressing of their marvelous Record Store Day 7" E.P to give away to one of you fine folks.

The finished product will look like what you see above, but this test pressing is a white label, white vinyl deal with a special test press sleeve. There are only SEVEN OF THESE IN EXISTENCE! As much as I'd like to add it to the collection here at Active Listener HQ, one of you lucky people are gonna end up with it!

How good is this tracklisting??

JACCO GARDNER ("Always On My Mind" - originally by Billy Nicholls), 

THE RESONARS ("It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft" - Fairport Convention"), 
MMOSS ("Cathy's Clown" - Everly Brothers), 
MASTON ("I Go To Sleep" - The Kinks)

Pretty great huh?
To go in the draw all you need to do is :

1. peruse the impressive Trouble in Mind catalogue here, then

2. visit the Active Listener facebook page here : https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Active-Listener/188959981198270   (hit the like button if you want to keep an eye on future competitions or review updates)

3. comment on the post labelled "TROUBLE IN MIND COMPETITION - enter here" with your favorite Trouble In Mind release, and why it's your favorite. One entry only, and only entries made on this post will be deemed valid.

Easy as. 

Entries close, and prize drawn on the 19th of April (we wouldn't want you not to buy a copy of this on the 20th assuming you're going to win!)

Don't forget to visit your local independent record store on Record Store Day (and as often as possible on other days too) to look out for this and other goodies.

Thanks to Trouble in Mind Records for this pants-dampeningly good prize too. 

Desert Island Discs - James McKeown

Our moribund Desert Island Discs section has been dragged, kicking and screaming back in to life by James McKeown (of solo, Hi-Fiction Science and Dead Pylons fame).
James is responsible for one of my favorite albums of last year "English Dream" (seriously, check it out here, it's magnificent). He's also got some more Krautrock flavoured goodies coming up through Fruits de Mers new Strange Fish offshoot soon, so keep an eye out for that Dead Pylons release.
But back to the task at hand, James was locked in a dark room until he could commit to the ten albums he'd need to retain his sanity if marooned somewhere that just happened to have a stereophonic device or a very small iPod.

1.       Odessey and Oracle  - The Zombies

“What’s your name, who’s your Daddy ?”

I tracked this down in the mid ‘90’s when pretty much all I listened to was Psychedelia, it was a re-issue in a terrible cover (a weird sci-fi/fantasy castle scene ?!) from the now legendary ‘Revolver’ records in Bristol. I'm now lucky enough to have the 'Zombie Heaven' box set.
I love this album, it so well crafted, baroque pop with a light touch of Psychedelia. Quintessentially English on so many levels. Colin Blunstone’s voice is has such a hushed, airy quality to it, Rod Argent’s keys – Mellotron, Piano, Organ are sublime.
It really is the sound of a English Spring morning or a Autumnal late afternoon, sipping tea and walking through the leafy lanes of St.Albans in the late '60's (I like to imagine anyway!)

2.       Begin - The Millennium

“Take off your shoes and feel the grass, lie back and let the hours pass”….

As you will see I am quite a sucker for late 60’s baroque psych pop and harmonies (The Left Banke are another massive favourite) and this album by the Curt Boettcher lead ‘supergroup’ is no exception. Some of it is twee beyond compare and borders on (Ch)easy listening, but there is enough balance with sheer beauty and groundbreaking studio experimentation to make it worth a listen. Boettcher is criminally underrated as a musician, arranger and studio boffin. This album also has the legendary status of being Columbia/CBS/Sony's lowest selling album of all time!! Also worth checking out are The Ballroom, Sagittarius albums and his solo material although none of it quite reaches this level of brilliance.

3.       Hounds of Love – Kate Bush

"It's in the trees! It's coming!"

I’ve always had a massive crush on Kate Bush. I heard Running up That Hill when I was about 9 years old and felt real sense of eerie attachment . These days I would equate that feeling with Hauntology and Psychogeography – now that may seem a bit strong or over analysed but at that age your mind is a sponge and this went right in and lodged itself. Enough has been said about the mystery and legend that surrounds Kate Bush, but specifically Hounds of Love is the perfect example of intelligent pop. Hooks, melodies and also really off the wall experimentation – for example, the Ninth Wave section - for such a mainstream, essentially commercial album is pretty off the wall -  and once again, very English!

4.       Eye - Robyn Hitchcock

"Hey baby! come on in and help yourself to my soul"

I was a fan of Pink Floyd since seeing the Delicate Sound of Thunder concert on TV around 1988. I had always had a vague (foggy) notion of the name which intrigued me but seeing a portly David Gilmour and a host of mullet headed middle aged men with a crazy light show really did it for me. I loved the Storm Thorgerson's 'cod psycology' artwork and the general air of 'something is a bit weird and different' a head trip - which I didn't really understand at the age of 12. They are still my first love and all time favourite band - like my musical football team - even though the Syd years are hip and post Animals is all a bit half baked, I still love them. This preamble is a means to explain that I have read just about every book or Mojo special about them and thus I came to learn of a man who invented himself, who was a living breathing, modern day Syd Barrett. Robyn Hitchcock.

So I took a gamble on this album and on first listen was disappointed that it wasn't off the wall early floyd, it was closer to Nick Drake in a tube station. After many plays it has grown to be one of my most cherished albums and I have a large collection of Hitchcock's output. - See also The Soft Boys! - He is whimsical, Pythonesque, raconteur and a bit like a less obvious Vivian Stanshall. I met him with Peter Buck after a gig in Bristol a few years ago and got him to sign a copy of Ole Tarantula. Eye has a handwritten/drawn cover and when he signed my album I said "Wow! the Robyn Hitchcock font" to which he replied "Its just my handwriting"

5.   Spirit of Eden - Talk Talk

"Spirit of Eden has not dated; it's remarkable how contemporary it sounds. It's the sound of an artist being given the keys to the kingdom and returning with art." Alan McGee 2008

Beautiful. To those who know, this album is the equivalent of being a member of the Freemasons. A nod, a secret handshake and sense of knowing. Such a special album and the mystery and journey that the band went on to get here is all the more intriguing.

Spirit of Eden recording engineer Phill Brown's book "Are we Still Rolling" talks of music being "recorded by chance, accident, and hours of trying every possible overdub idea." of intense sessions with studios in near darkness and the clocks and watches removed so that everyone lost sense of time and became lost and entranced by the music. It's influences range from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Béla Bartók, and Claude Debussy and are about as far removed from the Duran Duran synth band they arrived as.

Music can be useful in many ways and whilst it seems a portentous statement, this should be regarded as a spiritual experience.

6.    Scott 4 - Scott Walker 

“The Angels of Ashes, will give back your passions, Again and again”

Whilst I love Tilt, The Drift and what I have heard of Bish Bosch I would class those albums more as works of art that you pay a visit to, reflect on and then return to again when the time feels right or you want to be moved, amused, shocked or need to pay a visit to the outer reaches of abrasive tonality. In short, it’s not an everyday listen in the same way you may enjoy a film several times, but it wouldn’t feel right to watch it every day.

Again in the same way that Talk Talk’s latter day output is nothing like their genesis, here we take the reverse journey.

The thick fug of late ‘60’s studio session musician professionalism hangs over this recording. Yet it is anything but stale and feels like a warm and accessible journey. Lovely big upfront clicking ‘60’s bass, big sweeping strings, plucked harps and nylon stringed guitars combined with Scott’s poetry noir, croon-a-thon make this an absolute jewel in the canon of Noel Scott Engel. It failed to chart.

7.    Histoire de Melody Nelson - Serge Gainsbourg 

“En anglais, surnomma Spirit of Ecstasy”

If anyone balks at the proposition of a concept album, conjuring images of Torpid Tales from Topographic Drudgery play them this. At just under 28 minutes this is a sweet breeze of a ‘concept album’. Stylistically close to Scott 4 yet with a almost ‘post –punk’ aesthetic in places (particularly noticeable in the guitars on the title track – played by Alan Parker who also played on The Walker Brothers No Regrets). It's sexy and sassy, hypnotic and tidy all at once.

I first heard the funky/clunky bass loop from ‘Melody’ used as a sample by Massive Attack on ‘Karmacoma’ so there is a nice, if somewhat tenuous, Bristol connection too.

The lush, deep string and choral arrangements were composed by Jean-Claude Vannier in collaboration with Gainsbourg which really work to either stab in dramatically or deftly float over the top of the dry rhythm section. Gainsbourg’s near spoken delivery provides a wonderfully strung out storytelling rap to Jane Birkin’s coquette sweetness despite the fact that she’s just been knocked off her bike by a miscreant Frenchman.

8. Musik Von Harmonia - Harmonia

"the world's most important rock band" - Brian Eno

That's a fair bold statement but a very fair one.  Everyone knows, loves and namechecks the Kosmische Klassics Can & Neu! but Harmonia - basically being Cluster + Michael Rother for me always feel a bit neglected. In the days before the internet I found out about these obscure Krautrock bands through Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler in which he includes Musik Von Harmonia in his top 50 (and rightly so)

This album fits passive listening as 'Ambient-rock' or immersive engagement and is a real trip from start to finish. Michael Rother's guitar is clean or razor-like but never lacking feel and precision. Mani Neumeier of Guru Guru is drumming and captures perfectly the Klaus Dinger Motorik Apache beat - it's in the blood for these guys - see also Michael Rother's 'Katzenmusik' where Jaki Zeibzeit's minimal drumming fills out the bass parts of this beautiful, melodic, instrumental guitar music.

I once shook hands with Michael Rother after watching a 'Harmonia' show with him and Mobius performing. He was very unassuming, spoke perfect English and was impeccably polite. A great player, a real guitar hero.

9. The Return of the Durutti Column - The Durutti Column 

"The melodic genius of Vini Reilly"

Life is an unfair business. Vini Reilly's lack of millions and rock star credentials are essentially a trade off for him being one of the greatest ever guitarists in a Mancunian/Hacienda version of the Robert Johnson sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-
at-the-crossroads-pact. I've already express my love for The Pink Floyd and David Gilmour's string bending, rooted in the blues is a rich, thick double cream of sound. Vini is the polar opposite. His thin, bony hands chime and pick the most heartbreakingly melodic phrases you could ever bless your ears with. Martin Hannett's production whilst purposely cold and detached captures Vini's sound perfectly "...he more or less got sounds for me that no one else could understand that I wanted. And he understood that I wanted to play the electric guitar but I didn't want this horrible distorted, usual electric guitar sound and he managed to get that."

I saw Vini and The Durutti Column live once in Bristol and it was a profound, cathartic and spiritual experience for which I can only thank Aidan Searle and Jeff Green for being my post-punk mentors. If push comes to shove - Vini Reilly is my favourite guitarist of all time. Such an inspiration.

10. Snow Borne Sorrow - Nine Horses

"We will lie back, on a pillow of the whitest snow, and the silence we were promised, will engulf us"

David Sylvian - The most beautiful man in the world, yet so much more than just a pretty face. This is an album I return to time and time again. It's steered me through all kind of emotional turmoil and serves as a perfect lament to the human condition. Recorded in 2005 with his brother Steve Jansen (also of Japan) This melds high Art-Rock, fragmented, skittering electronica (from Burnt Friedman), jazz, pop and introspection. Coming off the back of Sylvian's improvised and experimental 'Blemish' this feels like a return to pop but with all the weight of a war-torn world, a personal life in crisis and worn emotions.  There are subtle hints of the final Japan project the 'Rain Tree Crow' album but this feels contemporary, yet timeless. Slowcore, melancholic and companion album to No-Man's 'returning Jesus' of 'Schoolyard Ghosts'.