31 Jan 2014

Midlake Antiphon Acoustic

Midlake peeled back the dense psychedelic fog of their new album "Antiphon" recently by performing two of its most distinctive tracks in an acoustic format for KDHX.
Stripped of all their psychedelic trimmings, they're revealed to be among the strongest songs in the Midlake arsenal to this point.
You can stream the two tracks recorded on the fourth of December here:

30 Jan 2014

The Space Spectrum "The Red Eyed Queen" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

German space-rock explorers The Space Spectrum first came to my attention when they sent me this fabulous track for my last sampler. I quickly visited their Bandcamp page, and I've been all over their most recent full length "The Red Eyed Queen" ever since.
Comprised of two long, exploratory pieces that should get boring pretty quick, but retain enough melodic structure to never feel like they're entering jam territory, "The Red Eyed Queen" is a pretty special piece of music. Obviously inspired by any number of krautrock, drone and space rock explorers of the past, this never fails to sound entirely modern, dragging the likes of Faust and Amon Duul kicking and screaming into the present.
In a way it's more Kosmische than anything else with plenty of trippy keyboard washes creating space and texture. The rhythm section and chugging guitars have a slow burning cresendo approach that at times sounds like some sort of unholy Hawkwind and Godspeed You Black Emperor alliance. It's probably this post-rock approach to structure that gives "The Red Eyed Queen" it's contemporary appeal, taking a quick look at the map before heading off, but still leaving plenty of choices as to which roads to take to get to their final destination. A red eyed approach would probably make this even better, but far be it from me to recommend such things.
Marvelous stuff then, best taken as a whole, but if you don't have the attention span to sit through the whole thing try the first five minutes or so of Part 2, which combines an ominous bass riff with spooky theremin style keyboards in some sort of approximation of a haunted house on the moon.

Vinyl version on the way very soon too.....

29 Jan 2014

The Active Listener Sampler # 16 Available Now!

This month's sampler is here and ready to download.
We've been blessed with some EXTREMELY talented artists this month, from those you know (Morgan Delt, Doug Tuttle, The Resonars) to those you may not, but definitely should (how good is that Fogbound track - sheesh!)

Welcome back to our fantastic cover artist Martin Butler who's creations always capture the essence of what we're trying to do here perfectly - follow his artwork on Facebook here.

This month features the following tracks:

1. Doug Tuttle - With Us Soon 02:54
2. Violet Swells - Only 03:37
3. The Orgone Box - Mirrorball 02:46
4. Fogbound - Whispering Corridors 03:16
5. Vintage Cucumber - Das Mönchsgebrabbel 08:46
6. Lunar Grave - Rune Spells 02:45
7. Morgan Delt - Obstacle Eyes 03:27
8. The Frowning Clouds - Into The Ground 02:48
9. The Resonars - Six Daisy Neckchain (New Mono Mix) 02:52
10. The Prisoner of Mars - Radio Dada 04:15
11. Bat Faced Girl - The Voodoo Found You 02:06
12. The Diamond Family Archive - Old Time Religion 03:05
13. Dodson & Fogg - Mystery 03:03
14. Tönen - U-Raumfahrtprogram 08:00
15. Rosco A.K.A Sterling Roswell - Nobody Loves The Hulk 03:12
16. Palace of Swords - (We Are) The New Hyperboreans 02:14
17. Kanoi - Obstacles 06:36

Discover more music from these artists:
Bat Faced Girl : http://batfacedgirl.bandcamp.com/
The Diamond Family Archive : http://thediamondfamilyarchive.bandcamp.com/
Dodson & Fogg : http://wisdomtwinsbooks.bandcamp.com/
Fogbound : http://fogbound.bandcamp.com/
The Frowning Clouds : https://www.facebook.com/thefrowningclouds
Kanoi : http://kanoi.bandcamp.com/
Lunar Grave : http://lunargrave.bandcamp.com/
Morgan Delt : https://www.facebook.com/morgandeltmusic / http://troubleinmindrecs.com/
The Orgone Box :  https://www.facebook.com/orgonebox
Palace of Swords : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Palace-of-Swords/208750835810091
The Prisoner of Mars : http://theprisonerofmars.com/
The Resonars : http://theresonars1.bandcamp.com/
Rosco : http://rosco-aka-sterlingroswell.bandcamp.com/
Tönen : http://tonen.bandcamp.com/
Doug Tuttle ; https://www.facebook.com/dougtuttledougtuttle / http://troubleinmindrecs.com/
Vintage Cucumber : http://vintagecucumber.bandcamp.com/
Violet Swells : http://violetswells.bandcamp.com/

Download or stream the sampler here:

28 Jan 2014

"Yesterday, Perhaps - Songs of the Kitchen Cynics" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

A true musician's musician, Aberdeen's Alan Davidson has been quietly accumulating an impressive back catalogue of CD-Rs on his own Les Enfants Du Paradiddle label, and for the 100th (!) release on the label (on vinyl this one) he's been given the tribute treatment by a fine selection of artists that will lead you to the conclusion that Mr Davidson is one of those rare artists whose fan to performer conversion rate rivals the likes of Big Star and the Velvet Underground.
Not that he sounds like either of course. The Kitchen Cynics material is folk music with a creepy disposition, with originals like the horrific "When Father Hanged The Children" (here covered by Sharron Kraus) giving even the most sinister of the original Childe Ballads a run for their money.
What makes these often bitter pills so easy to swallow is the easy grace and verve of Davidson's performances, a natural storyteller's delivery and lyrics that could function as well as poetry as they do as prose. Not to mention the supple guitar work.  Dylan Carlson of Earth once memorably described Davison as reminding him of "a meeting of Anne Briggs and Robert Fripp" - a description I have yet to hear either bettered or disproved.
A pretty hard ask then to get a disparate bunch of characters together and get them to do justice to songs so individualistic, but one accomplished with aplomb by almost all involved here.
It helps that this isn't really a cross genre exercise. These are all artists that fit snugly into the folk-psych genre - perhaps even more so than Davidson himself, with some lovely evocative soundscapes accompanying, but never obscuring the stories that serve as the centrepieces of these great songs.
Pearls Before Swine's Tom Rapp turns in a memorable version of "Richard in Bedlam" early on, only to be outdone on the very next track by Alasdair Roberts and friends' sinisterly percussive "The Horseman's Word". Impressively, the standard doesn't drop at any point thereafter with Adam Leonard transforming "The Place You Hid" into an unlikely anthem with (gadzooks!) commercial appeal.
Wonderful stuff, with just the right balance between well deserved reverence and experimentation.
And an ideal entry point to an essential catalogue that there's a very good chance you haven't investigated.

This special vinyl release is available directly from Alan by e-mailing kitchencynics@googlemail.com.
It comes with a CD-R of the album which also includes the original Kitchen Cynics recordings of each song.

If you'd like to hear more of the Kitchen Cynics music, the Active Listener label has just released "The Orra Loon", a collection of some of Alan's best music which can be streamed or downloaded here.

There are no online samples to listen to from "Yesterday, Perhaps" but you can listen to a Kitchen Cynics performance of "Richard in Bedlam" here:

27 Jan 2014

July "Resurrection" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I'm sure that there will be very few of you who are not familiar with July's self titled 1968 psych-pop classic. The much compiled "Dandelion Seeds" is only the tip of that particular iceberg and the album has earned it's place alongside the likes of The Blossom Toes "We Are Ever so Clean" and Kaleidoscope's "Tangerine Dream" as one of the very best examples of U.K psych-pop to not come from a name that the average joe in the street would recognise.
What you may not have noticed however is that July have reformed and have a brand spanking new album available, recorded over 40 years after its predecessor and fittingly named "Resurrection".
Of course a lot has changed in 40 years, and apart from the swirling haze of the beginning of "Can I Go Back Again", it's very clear that Tom Newman, Peter Cook and co. have no intentions of laurel-resting or slavishly attempting to recreate their past triumphs. These guys have moved on musically and the listeners who are going to benefit most from it are those who are willing to move with them.
There are still plenty of psychedelic moments to be had, but there's a more progressive mindsight guiding them with some purely Floydian guitar leads butting heads pleasingly with material that is noticeably more informed by hard rock.
Looking forward rather than back, "Resurrection"s relationship to the original 1968 album reminds me a lot of that of another unexpected comeback - last year's new Fuchsia album. Much like that, "Resurrection" is a graceful and mature effort that may disappoint those looking for more of the same, but will reward those of a more flexible mindset.

Available exclusively from the Griffiths label here.

26 Jan 2014

Active Listener Records January Releases

You've probably all seen and heard the first five releases on the new Active Listener label now.
I'll leave you to digest these for now and I'll have another batch of releases around the end of February for you.
The response has been great to these so far, both from buyers (thank you) and reviewers / bloggers etc. It's great to see that these artists that I love are loved by some of you as well.

You can check out the label's website / blog here.

For those that have missed them, here's a rundown of the first five releases. Thanks to all downloaders for their support!

From: Bristol, U.K
Style: Psychedelic Folk / Singer Songwriter
Recommended if you like: Acoustic Pink Floyd ("If", "Cirrus Minor" etc.)
"songs that feel totally lived in with sparse, textured production that leaves plenty of room for these superior compositions to breathe"
Read more / listen / buy here.

From: Aberdeen, Scotland
Style: Psychedelic Folk / Singer Songwriter
Recommended if you like: Alasdair Roberts, Roy Harper
"evocative lyrics cloaked in a haze of drifting sound, each moment perfectly realised for maximum effect"
Read more / listen / buy here.

From: Nova Scotia, Canada.
Style: Psychedelic Pop.
Recommended if you like: U.K Psych-pop, The Kinks, The Beatles, Kaleidoscope.
"....prime psychedelic pop with a distinctly English tinge, specifically that of the era where bands were abandoning their beat and r&b roots in favour of full blown flower-power pop with unpredictable and often spectacularly exciting results"
Read more / listen / buy here.

From: Melbourne, Australia
Style: Psychedelic Xian Doom Folk.
Recommended if you like: Comus, The Third Ear Band, Clive Palmer.
"enough acoustic instrumentation to warrant the folk moniker, but layered with all sorts of drones, sinister ritualistic chanting, psychedelic organ work, and beautiful, exotic sounding instrumentation from far off climes"
Read more / listen / buy here.

From: Salisbury, U.K.
Style: Psychedelic / Baroque Pop
Recommended if you like: "Sgt Peppers", "Smile", The Dukes of Stratosphear, Nick Nicely, The Orgone Box.
"if Mozart ever wrote psychedelic music, this is how it would sound'
Read more / listen / buy here.

22 Jan 2014

Psyche Ward Vol. 1 Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

While it seems that my homeland New Zealand is largely ignoring the psychedelic music revival, I can at least rest safe in the knowledge that our closest neighbour, Australia has picked up more than its fair share of the slack. My writing over the last year has been littered with great new psychedelic albums from the land down under (although over us) that haven't managed to gain much traction internationally so far, but prove that there's a lot more to the local scene than Tame Impala and Pond.
This new collection from the Melbourne based Psyche Ward label aims to go some way towards addressing this situation and does a pretty convincing job, showcasing the year's best tracks from psychedelic artists associated with the label.
Of the nine acts featured here, the Grand Rapids and the Citradels have already both been glowingly reviewed in these pages, so you know what to expect there. The other seven acts are no slouches either and build a convincing argument that Australia is near the forefront of the new psychedelic rock movement. While not necessarily highlighting the diversity found within the scene, Psyche Ward has attracted artists that fit into a certain aesthetic, mostly heavy psychedelic rock that sounds like it was raised on nineties alternative rock - an attractive proposition for a thirty-something like myself musically weaned on a similar diet, not to mention a recipe for a very cohesive sampler with an excellent flow, unlike some of the more disjointed moments that a more diverse collection invariably presents.
Contrast's "Dull" channels the melodic chime of early Placebo through a wall of heavily shoegazed guitars in a fashion that nods towards certain influences without loosing any of it's contemporary clout. Lioness Eye on the other hand combine reverb-laden jangle with a big grungy riff that showcases some nice harmony guitar details.
There's plenty more to love here too with no-one letting the side down, and this particular release only representing the tip of the proverbial iceberg in a scene that continues to grow and diversify in new and exciting directions.
All on a lovely thick slab of black vinyl, lovingly enveloped in a glorious sleeve by Jason Galea that's almost worth the admission price alone.
Highly recommended.

Available directly from Psyche Ward.

19 Jan 2014

The Resonars "The Resonars" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Those that haven't been paying attention may not have noticed that a holy grail of sorts for fans of the Resonars is now available again. Long out of print, and only represented by one song on Trouble in Mind's recent "Greatest Songs" retrospective, the Resonars self titled album from 1998 has only been a mysterious name on online discographies to alot of us who discovered the band later in the day, so this opportunity to investigate the early days of Matt Rendon's output is entirely welcome.
Elbowing aside 1995's "Tripping In Your Coffin" (a cassette only release recorded with a full band line up), we'll treat "The Resonars" as the official debut full length, as Rendon himself appears keen to do.
The first album multitracked with Rendon on all instruments (as has been the case since, although a touring band has been doing the rounds and is lined up to record with Rendon next time), the seeds of the Resonars sound had already well and truly sprouted by the time of this recording, with Rendon's distinctive harmony vocals and vintage sounding instrumentation not sounding a day older or younger than those found on last year's "Crummy Desert Sound".
Originally mixed onto and mastered on a cassette tape with no E.Q, it seems that part of the reason for the album's long hibernation was down to Rendon being dissatisfied with the mix, so given a little downtime he's come up with a fresh stereo and mono mix of the album, and given the recording conditions (drums recorded with one hanging mic etc.), he's worked wonders. They're both great mixes too, with the stereo mix giving added prominence and depth to the multitracked harmonies on tracks like "Hello Lemmings", while the mono mix provides a punchier listening experience that suits the windmilling guitars and vintage layered harmonies down to a tee.
Musically it's very much what we've come to expect from recent Resonars albums - a garagey, vintage folk rock sound with mildly psychedelic harmonies, frantic Who style rhythm section and plenty of garage jangle adorning catchy nuggets style numbers that sound like they've been discovered on old acetates rather than written.
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy's "Dark On You Now" gets a double speed makeover, and stripped of its distinctive eastern riff, sounds like a lost garage folk gem rather than the thoroughly enjoyable harmony pop original, and the originals are every bit as infectious from the slow building Merseybeat of "Own Up" to the more propulsive 'Six Daisy Neckchain" and beyond, this is gold all the way and another completely necessary purchase for the Resonars' growing legion of fans.
Word has it that a vinyl reissue is on the cards at some point in the future (my vote would be for the mono mix!), but you can download it now from the Resonars bandcamp page for a measly $3 U.S - money very well spent.

You can download or stream the mono version through the Bandcamp link below, or if you'd rather get the stereo version visit here.

18 Jan 2014

Mogwai "Rave Tapes" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

There seem to be two schools of thought regarding Mogwai; one advocates that "Young Team" was their magnum opus and that they've been creatively treading water ever since, the other that they've been maturing and evolving into something less bombastic and far more interesting since that time. I suspect that which school you belong to depends on how much time you spend listening to their music as opposed to reading about it.
I had at one point begun to suspect the former school of thought to be true (with the odd exception like "Rock Action"), but last year's excellent, evocative score to french TV series "Les Revenants" broke me out of that reverie, and "Rave Tapes" continues this growth.
Opener "Heard About You Last Night" is a nice mood-setting opener which continues in the thoughtful mold of the "Les Revenants" material with a more lyrical quality than many of those pieces exhibited and further investigation of the sorts of guitar textures that "Rock Action" reveled in. It's certainly not representative of the album as a whole, although nothing here really is as the net has been cast quite wide on "Rave Tapes" and although there's nothing on here that you couldn't immediately identify as Mogwai, there's certainly no sign of a formula being stuck too either.
"Remurdered" implies that much like everyone else over the last year or so, Mogwai have been listening to a lot of John Carpenter, seamlessly integrating the influence of his oppressive synthwork into their own sound, and opening up an interesting new direction that I'd like to see more of. "Master Card" on the otherhand is almost chipper, with an insistent riff that should sound quite alien in these environs but never does.
"Hexon Bogon" and "Deesh" meanwhile both produce evidence that the old Mogwai we fell in love with in the first place is still present and correct, and able to produce emotive material that is more than the sum of its parts, an impression that the vocoderized "The Lord is Out of Control" does little to dispel.
So, an interesting album then that aims to step boldly forward while still providing for those fans who aren't moving at quite the same speed as the band themselves are. The fact that these many different approaches fit together so snugly just goes to show what a great job Mogwai have done of creating an aethetic entirely their own, and bodes well for an even more confident and decisive step forward next time.

Rave Tapes is available on Vinyl, CD, and Limited Edition Box Set.

16 Jan 2014

Cult Psych-Folkie Linda Perhacs Premieres New Song "River of God"

Many of you will be aware that psych folk legend Linda Perhacs (responsible for 1970's much loved cult album "Parallelograms") has been coaxed back into the studio and back out onto the road - 44 years after her "Parallelograms", her first and up until this point, only album.
After a run of successful solo shows, March 4 sees the release of her long awaited second album "The Soul of all Natural Things" on the Asthmatic Kitty label, and today Linda has shared the first track to be made publicly available from the album; "River of God".

"The Soul of All Natural Things" can be pre-ordered on CD here, or on Vinyl here.

"River of God" can be streamed here (if Soundcloud widget is not visible please hit refresh):

"Book a Trip 2 - More Psych Pop Sounds of Capitol Records" Review

Reviewed by Tom Sandford (The Clarkophile)

Well over 40 years removed from its demise (circa 1970) it seems less and less relevant whether the blending of 60’s pop with trippy psychedelic additives – better known as Psych-Pop or Popsike – was motivated by genuine artistic expression or some record industry accountant’s calculated exploitation of a musical fad. In truth it was probably a combination of both. But in the period of 1965-1970, psych-influenced pop was the now sound to pursue, having been legitimized by, among others, the Triumvirate of B’s (Beatles | Byrds | Beach Boys).
It’s doubtless more than coincidence that, with both the Beatles and the Beach Boys signed to Capitol Records US during this period, there would be a slew of knockoffs, also-rans and assorted psychsploitationists who sought to take an acid-lite trip to the top of the charts. However, it’s also true that bona fide, first-class talents made their tentative pre-fame steps as students of the genre.
And so with "Book a Trip 2" we have another handpicked, gorgeously packaged, lovingly compiled selection of tracks from Capitol’s lesser-known artists. Yes, there are some tracks that sound a little too close to those by whom they were obviously influenced (The Surf Symphony’s ‘That Bluebird of Summer’ is a Rutlesque-league copy of Brian Wilson’s Wrecking Crew/Pet Sounds-era production style in general, and ‘God Only Knows’ in particular) but this is by and large a faultless collection.
Fans of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band will be excited to note the appearance of two tracks by WCPAEB side project The Laughing Wind, featuring brothers Shaun and Danny Harris and multitalented wunderkind Michael Lloyd (another Lloyd project, Raw Edge, is represented by ‘October Country’). Elsewhere, pre-Not the Freeze Penny Arkade principals Chris Ducey and Craig Smith offer ‘I Can’t Go On,’ recorded in 1966 but unreleased until now. It’s as good as, if not better than, the material recorded a year later by the Penny Arkade, a Michael Nesmith-produced album which was itself given a belated release on Sundazed in 2004.
There are far too many highlights to name, but the real delight of the set is Ellie Janov’s chamber-pop gem, ‘Portobello Road’ (an early Cat Stevens cover, not to be confused with Billy Nicholls’ song of the same name). Janov was the daughter of author Arthur Janov, whose Primal Scream therapy informed much of John Lennon’s harrowing Plastic Ono Band album. Only 14 years old when she recorded this bittersweet, ‘Penny Lane’-influenced 45, Janov nonetheless sings with great poise and just the right amount of pathos.
Other highlights include: These Vizitors’ punchy ‘For Mary’s Sake’; James Fleming’s Wilsonesque weeper ‘Alone, Alone’; and the Unforscene’s ‘Little Toy,’ which is powered by a chiming guitar riff that sounds like a composite of every lick in the Byrds’ canon.
As psych hunters know, many compilations of 60’s-era obscurities are often sourced from vinyl, with crackles and clicks a common intrusion. It’s the price we pay for loving music of which the master tapes are long gone. That’s what makes this CD such a sonic revelation. Sourced from the original tapes, these recordings are nothing short of pristine. "Book a Trip 2" is another impeccable offering from Steve Stanley and the folks at Now Sounds.

"Book A Trip 2 - More Psych Pop Sounds Of Capitol Records" is available on CD here.

15 Jan 2014

The Frowning Clouds "Whereabouts" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Album number two from this Geelong (Australia) five piece sees them progressing nicely from the appealingly primitive circa '65 freakbeat sounds of their debut "Listen Closelier".
An extremely enjoyable stop gap tour-only cassette release (a CD version of which accompanies early vinyl copies of "Whereabouts") revealed a Kinksier side to their sound (review and streaming link here), and "Whereabouts" continues that evolution nicely with more overtly psychedelic flourishes and a less frantic and more melodic approach to songwriting, resulting in a noticeably higher hit rate of memorable choruses to back up the already flawless attention to period detail.
Modish freakbeat moments still rear their welcome head occasionally, but there's much more of a pop sensibility evidenced here with heaps of lovely twelve string jangle and primitive psychedelia openly embraced with the dreamtime chorus of "Going Dreaming" proving a good example. Even better is "Beetle Bird", which combines a lovely, chiming guitar part that epitomizes everything I love about folk-rock jangle circa 1966 with hazily treated, underwater vocal parts that, accentuated by its laconic tempo, leave me in a state of hypnotic bliss every time.
It's not all half speed, wading through lysergic treacle either - there's a wider range of material here than anything that they've embraced so far: "Human Being, Human Doing, Human Going" combines primal "Wild Thing" guitar riffery with the effortlessly melodic garage crunch of early Kinks - an amazing Nuggets style garage pop anthem that sounds like the best piece of crate digging archaeology for years. At the other end of the spectrum is "Dreamtiming", an instrumental bossa nova which would sound like a throwaway piece of filler were it not for it's naggingly melodic chord sequence and ornate guitar work.
Plenty to love here, and it'll be very interesting to see where the Frowning Clouds end up next - if they're following the pattern set by their sixties predecessors we've got some full-blown psychedelia ahead of us and on the evidence of "Whereabouts" closer "Product of the Peanut Butter Company" this is by no means a bad thing.

Full album stream, digital download and vinyl LP all available here:

The Prisoner of Mars "You've Got a Friend in Satan" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

You've been harassed about The Prisoner of Mars in these pages before, and considering chief Mars man Bryan Shore's obsessive compulsion to release music at a speed that belies its quality, you're likely to again.
Previously a one man band sort of operation, Mr Shore has now acquired an actual band and his latest release with these other musos combines his winningly quirky lo-fi psychedelic pop charms, with a ramshackle 'friends knocking out a tune in a room' quality that initially sounds completely off the cuff, but draws further into focus with each listen.
It's a particularly appealing listen that after compulsive relistening is, I reckon the best set of songs this lot have bundled together so far under one umbrella.
The tuneful, lo-fi pop tunes of previous releases still constitute the root element of these songs, but the added band interplay gives the infectious "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" homage "Carry Bag Bag Bicycle Man" an added drive and choogle that you just can't get multitracking parts by yourself. Similarly, "Did You See Me/POMRAkestra" segueways from a moody, acoustic piece of indie psych smothered with lovely mellotron touches into a hypnotic space-rock jam that should feel interminable at over twelve minutes, but locks into such a solid groove that I'd be quite happy for it to double its length.
Best of all though is "Radio Dada" - a track that plays to all of Shore's strengths, with an infectious chorus backed by a naggingly familiar, descending arpeggio guitar figure straight out of the George Harrison rulebook, and an engaging vocal performance that will have fans of the Phoenix Foundation's Samuel Flynn Scott checking the credits for a non-existent guest appearance.
It's a grower not a shower for sure, but well worth the effort and a habit former for those willing to invest the time.
Available as a name your price download here:

13 Jan 2014

Lunar Grave "Prismatic Earthship" Tönen "Kosmischen Benommenheit" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

If the song titles weren't enough to convince you ("Rune Spells", "Crystal Mastery" etc.), one look at the visual material on Portland band Lunar Grave's facebook page should confirm that they wish to be viewed as some sort of shamanistic space druid society, an impression I have no problems supporting after a listen to their newest release, December's "Prismatic Earthship".
While similar imagery led to last year's arrestingly mad chamber prog album from Our Solar System (think early King Crimson's maddest bits or Marsupilami for reference), Lunar Grave's ritualistic urges soar further heavenward with a krautrock infused space rock sound built on unwavering rhythmic patterns that allow the guitars to venture off into unexplored realms, notably on opener "Pyramid Initiation" where walls of backwards guitars wash over the listener in a fashion too melodic to be improvised, but seemingly too free to be entirely composed either.
An intriguing opener to a fully instrumental album that those not on the level will probably accuse of being 'lacking in variety', but which does exactly what it needs to do to ensnare its more knowing target audience with its trancelike atmosphere.
Thoroughly engrossing space rock that never descends into the more modern heavy stoner rock territory that seems commonplace with the kids these days, Lunar Grave instead rely on gently lysergic guitar textures ("Rune Spells" eastern riffery being particularly attractive) to induce a sense of hypnotic disconnection.
Very nice, and it's not alone. Also released in December was "Kosmischen Benommenheit" by Tönen, a band who share members and a similarly investigative mindset with Lunar Grave.
Tönen tone back the drums / bass rhythm section in favour of banks of synthesizers which gives an impression of spaciousness that the Lunar Grave record lacks, and plenty of room for intricately entwined synthesizer and guitar interplay that occasionally noodles a little too much to fully retain the listener's attention, but more often than not (and particularly on "U-Raumfahrtprogram") creates a hypnotic atmosphere with just the right levels of melodic exploration.
Definitely one for kosmische musik fans to investigate quicksmart.

12 Jan 2014

The Hypnotic Eye "The Optical Sounds of the Hypnotic Eye" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

London's Hypnotic Eye have impressed over the last year or so with a couple of memorable singles and a split 7" with the mighty John's Children for last year's Record Store Day. These early singles showed a mastery of the vintage sounding garage psych single, but while they'd proven themselves with a focused artform best suited to the three minute format, there was a nagging suspicion that the Hypnotic Eye might struggle when it came to putting out a full length.
"The Optical Sounds of the Hypnotic Eye" casts these nagging doubts aside as they take ownership of this particular format with ease, forging what is not merely a selection of potential singles but a fully fledged and immaculately sequenced album with it's own internal logic that shows a versatility only hinted at on their single releases.
Opener "The Man From The C.I.A" follows the same classic garage punk footprints as early singles "Marianne" and "Satisfaction" (both included here) with added sci-fi guitar breaks for good measure, but there's a moody undercurrent frequently at play here too, first hinted at on the jerky domestic drama of "Frying Pan" and milked for all it's worth on the percussive slo-mo organ fest of "The Dark Part of My Mind" which brings to mind the moody epics peppered throughout the early Doors LPs - a track that realizes that mindset is more important than length when it comes to establishing a work of gargantuan proportions.
It's this effortless back and forth between primal garage beat, and moody, slow-burning epics - both rendered in only the most vintage of tones - that keeps the listener (me, anyway) on their toes, with plenty of grey areas between these two extremes also investigated herein.
Highlights then? How about a gritty, authentic take on the Human Expression's "Readin' Your Will" which kicks off the album's impressive middle stretch with snotty attitude in spades and a strange, shimmering guitar part low in the mix that sounds like the sort of thing that early psychedelic pioneers who couldn't track down a sitar would knock up with a bit of studio ingenuity. What about the intricate guitar and organ interplay of "Action Woman"? Or the stampeding spy flick beat on the ridiculously catchy "Searching"?
You get the picture.
Visceral, and thrillingly authentic garage psych with enough contemporary awareness to pull in the casual punters too. Nice.

The Hypnotic Eye on Facebook.

Available here on CD and LP.  

Available digitally on iTunes here.

10 Jan 2014

Orgone Box "Centaur" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The convoluted and frustrating path that led to the recording and release of 2001's self titled "Orgone Box" album (actually recorded in 1996) makes a fascinating read, and the resulting album is an acknowledged lost classic - heard by few, but cherished by that small number.
So when Sugarbush Records boss Markus Holler decided it was time that the world had another chance to digest this exquisite psychedelic pop treat, Orgone Box mainman Rick Corcoran took the opportunity to give things a bit of a tweak, resequencing, remixing and re-recording (vocals mostly I gather) to make an album that I initially thought was untouchable, even better.
Strictly speaking this isn't exactly the "Orgone Box" album. The sequencing is completely new, a few tracks have departed, and there's a new one in it's place (the fact that this new track "Wethouse" is one of the weaker tracks on the album says more about the quality of the 1996 material than any weakness of its own). It is however the definitive statement of what the Orgone Box was, and promisingly enough appears to still be about - Beatley pop tunes with cleverly subversive verses and gloriously soaring choruses. And while the original mixes of these songs sound very much like psychedelia as remembered in the nineties (think a more psychedelicized Cotton Mather), with the clean and occasionally sterile sheen that comes from a mostly home-recorded affair, these new mixes sound both startlingly contemporary and far more authentically vintage sixties at the same time.
The overall effect is that what was once a slightly-delic power-pop album of fantastically well observed Beatlesque pop moments, is now a kitchen-sink psychedelic baroque pop extravaganza. Regular readers of this rag will have found themselves instructed often to investigate the recorded works of Beaulieu Porch - anyone who has investigated that catalogue and been impressed should follow up immediately with "Centaur" sight unseen. You'll love it.
"Mirrorball (When I Want To Feel)" is a personal favorite, with a chugging "I am the Walrus" cello section, chiming Harrisonesque guitar arpeggios and effects laden vocals and guitar parts sweeping through on a solar breeze. The anthemic "Judy Over The Rainbow" benefits similarly from it's retweaking with a slightly slower tempo and added chorus harmonies finally realizing its full regal splendour.
In Corcoran's own words: "Centaur is very important to me now not just as an artist, but emotionally, and I think it's self-defining now. There was a disconnect before in many ways, but now I think that collection of songs have caught up - to the best we could do anyway without re-recording the whole thing, which would have been a disaster! That story is now complete as far as I'm concerned and it's time to move on. The next full album is going to be much more dream sequence than Centaur, much more Plastic Ono too, harder I think - it wont be soft rock I know that for certain."

Limited to 400 copies on vinyl only, you can buy "Centaur" on eBay directly from Sugarbush Records here. 

There's a new, official Orgone Box page for you to follow on Facebook here.

Check out a promo mix of tracks from the album below (if Soundcloud embed isn't visible please hit refresh)

Richard Moult and David Colohan "Hexameron" Review

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

The latest release from the splendid Time Released Sound label features two students from Ireland’s premier wyrd folkers United Bible Studies who are also musical luminaries in their own right; Richard Moult (of Far Black Furlong, Orchestra Noir and composer of many fine recordings under his own name) and David Colohan (of Raising Holy Sparks and Agitated Radio Pilot). Hexameron is a beautiful and melancholic journey recorded by Moult in the early hours of darkness during gale force winds at his home on the Isle of Skye and later added to and embellished by Colohan in Ireland. Much like the circumstances of its recording, Hexameron is a dark, spacious twilight of an album with moments of quiet reflection occasionally punctuated by sudden and heart wrenching gales of noise.
Each piece is accorded a number rather than title, suggesting that the album is to be taken as a movement or as a set piece that builds and grows. Emerging from the twinkling, peaceful acoustic dusk of the first piece, Moult’s piano merges with Colohan’s distorted electric guitar on track two, elegantly evoking slivers of sadness and longing in a haze of fuzz and tremulous reverbed notes. The third piece is built upon Colohans’ acoustic fingerpicking, the sense of beauty and gentleness added to by Moult’s piano until huge sudden swathes of electric noise come crashing through like wind against the landscape to be joined by haunting keyboards before fading back to piano notes; the swell of the storm subsiding. Moults’ most recent album Aonaran (also featuring Colohan and highly recommended) evoked a sense of the Western Isles and the mountainous, wild terrain that Moult was writing in. Colohan’s Raising Holy Sparks also do a good line in painting a vivid picture of wide open horizons and desolate yet beautiful vistas; both artists do not disappoint with this joint outing. You can almost taste the darkness over the hills and water; the sense of quiet and loneliness inherent in these songs. Yet there is an extra element include this time around; a sense of the time of year (January) and small hours that Moult initially recorded in. This music exists at the liminal margins of both night and day, when one is fading into the other; the night sky is lightening yet is still dark. It is this texture and quality that affords such a melancholy and wonder to these tracks. Colohan’s guitar virtually yearns over Moult’s Popol Vuh-eque keyboards, the piano glistening like dawn over the water. Occasional discordant blasts of alto saxophone and trombone add to that 3am sense of disorientation.Track five adds tense John Cale style bass notes to the building and gathering maelstrom of guitar and piano, not unlike Nico’s classic ‘Evening of Light’ (itself reminiscent of a winter storm). Final piece, number six, appears to herald in the dawn, broken yet triumphant guitar proclaiming survival over echoing keyboards and piano.
The nearest comparison to this album is the artists’ own individual previous work and collaborations but at a push there are elements of Godspeed You Black Emperor’s most widescreen and atmospheric adventures as well as perhaps ‘Music for Films’-era Eno and again, Popol Vuh. However the music that these two criminally under sung artists make is truly theirs; it is in a world of its own.
Special mention must be made of the beautiful packaging that this album comes housed in; Time Released Sound are known for their releases being works of art in themselves (witness Plinth’s ‘Collected Machine Music’ which came as a music box with its very own individual song strip and covered in vintage photographs and ephemera). A surrealist collage made from original work by Gustave Dore and added to by Colin Herrick of the label it features waves, angels, woodland and machinery adorning the cover, suggesting an uneasy mix of nature, spirituality and the industrial world.  Indeed this album is spiritual; it evokes a sense of human frailty and search for meaning, and who hasn’t been in that space at 3am at some point? This standard edition is limited to only 200 copies; do not miss out.
The deluxe limited version package, in an edition of just 75 copies, is composed of original pages from a 90+ year old book on the work of the obscure 15th century printer and illustrator Anton Sorg. The collaged, inked and stamped envelope comes in a hand worked, outer translucent envelope with a selection of his medieval drawings, a banded CD sleeve made from a page of heraldic crests and a large double sided insert.
This is music for those dark, empty times of night when all you can hear is the wind and your own thoughts. A soundtrack to the storm.

8 Jan 2014

The Kinks "Muswell Hillbillies" Deluxe Edition Review

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Muswell Hillbillies is one of the best Kinks albums, and also ranks as one of the best albums of the past forty years. It defines a specific period in England after the war, and contains Ray Davies’ miniature portraits of a whole host of colorful characters. While it doesn’t top Village Green Preservation Society as my favorite Kinks album, it sure is darn close. It has aged extremely well, and could have been released anytime. Consider “20th Century Man” which states:

I was born in a welfare state
Ruled by bureaucracy
Controlled by civil servants
And people dressed in grey
Got no privacy
got no liberty
Cos the twentieth century people
Took it all away from me.

That could have been written last week! It remains one of my favorites from this excellent album, along with “Have a Cuppa Tea” and “Muswell Hillbilly”. But there are so many treasures here that it’s hard to pick a favorite. The Davies brothers mix in bits of music hall/vaudeville, country, folk, and blues with their usual rock and roll
Is it worth paying extra for the reissue? The extras are fine, but I am not sure they are essential. Still, the alternate version of “Waterloo Sunset” in “Lavender Lane” is really good, even if the former tune is superior in execution. And “Mountain Woman” almost sounds like a Grateful Dead outtake.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe this album wasn’t a huge hit for them, but other than discerning critics and long time fans, people were indifferent and this bombed on the charts. I must admit that at the time I first heard it, it didn’t impress me as much as it does now on repeated listenings. There is a lot of depth to Ray’s observations that just skips past most people looking for a quick sonic fix. You won’t find that here, sorry. This requires concentration and reflection, and most people won’t give it the time. Which really is a shame, given the quality and variety of this music. In summary, this is a wonderful, gently nostalgic and essential collection for all Kinks fans.

The "Muswell Hillbillies" Deluxe Edition is available here.

6 Jan 2014

Morgan Delt "Morgan Delt" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Back in April or May of last year I received an e-mail with a download code for an E.P by Morgan Delt with an extremely brief note, the gist of which was "Here's my E.P, you might dig it."
He was right - I did (review here), and so did a whole lot of other people, among them the folks at Trouble in Mind who gave him the opportunity to release this self titled full length, comprising the majority of that first E.P and a bunch of new tracks that fit seamlessly alongside.
"Barbarian Kings" is the track that has had most foaming at the mouth and it's very easy to see why; after a hundred odd plays, it's yet to lose its appeal for this listener with it's unusual hybrid of baroque pop, woozy psychedelia and off kilter John Barry spy drama revealing new layers of sonic delight with each listen.
Naturally this should be your starting point for the album and if you're not grabbed and shaken around by it, it's probably best to not only move on, but give up on music appreciation entirely.
The new material that accompanies it shows plenty of melodic and sonic invention too - impressive given the pressure that must arise when a bedroom project with no implicit expectations suddenly turns into a record deal.
"Mr. Carbon Copy" is another hit in the waiting, with it's insistent rhythm barrelling forward like a caffeine fuelled beat poet perched at their typewriter and a lovely lyrical guitar line that compliments its irresistable melody perfectly.
And that's part of the major appeal of Morgan Delt's work - his songs at their core are deceptively simple and melodic, but they're blanketed with so many layers of sonic artifice that you have to actually pay attention to be rewarded with the pay off. In that regard the cover art for his album functions equally as well as a manifesto for his approach to production - that is indeed a portrait of the artist buried under layers of colorful foliage.
A comparison made by Trouble in Mind's press release probably illustrates this best; "equal parts Odyssey & Oracle and Parable of Arable Land ". A lofty claim I grant you, but here Morgan Delt has reached the heights of melody and invention that such a statement implies, and forged the perfect marriage between the two.

Available soon on vinyl, CD, and digital.

Rob St John and Tommy Perman "Water of Life" Review

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

A labour of love from Edinburgh based artists Rob St. John and Tommy Perman, ‘Water of Life’ is a paean to the city’s waterways and the flow of water from the Pentlands to the Forth that at times in history has become the city’s industrial power source, drinking water and lifeblood. St. John is known for his psychogeographical bent, including his recent work with archive film artists Screen Bandita (soundtracking a live showing of antique footage of the Western Isles) and Folklore Tapes. He is also an environmental writer and here his evident love and interest in his adopted city’s history is soundtracked in a limited edition 7”.
Found sounds and field recordings of running water introduce ‘’Sources and Springs/Abercrombie 1949’ before St. John’s harmonium maintains an almost kraut rock motirik pulse. The sense of machinery and water systems pulsating and pumping the life blood of the city is tangible. ‘Liquid City/The Shellycoat’ continues the analogue, Kraftwerkian vibe. The Shellycoat is said to be a water spirit that haunts the Pennybap Boulder that sits in nearby Leith and a chorus of voices recount the children’s song about this entity.  These tracks, an ‘alternative travelogue’, evoke memories of 1970s Tomorrow’s World style programmes about a brave new world and as such fit into the hauntological universe of acts such as The Advisory Circle and The Eccentronic Research Council. This music really should be sountracking a BFI release of archive footage; indeed both artists recently performed live to such visuals as a part of the ‘Echo of Light/ Water Of Life’ events.
The field recording element adds an additional dimension to this project; the drum sounds are from hydrophonic recordings made under water, the reverb effects deliberately replicating sub surface natural reverb. Sounds from rivers, manhole covers, spring houses, pub barrel rooms, pipelines and taps also permeate this recording bringing life and authenticity to the carefully orchestrated and beautifully descriptive music. 
Limited to an edition of 200, the 7” comes with art prints, essays by St John, and a hand, letter pressed folder. Appropriately the single comes on recycled vinyl. Artefacts like this come along rarely and when they do often do not reach the level of thought, care and quality of Water of Life. Take a drink or dive right in.

Stream or buy here.

4 Jan 2014

The Warlocks "Skull Worship" Review

Reviewed by Timothy Ferguson

"Skull Worship" has been on my personal radar since seeing the band blow the lid off the Levitation Tent at Austin Psych Fest in April of last year. The opening track "Dead Generation" was one of the highlights of their set and I simply jumped at the chance to review this record.
The Warlocks have been one of the bands leading the neo-psych revolution since their self-titled first record in 2000. Despite an ever-changing lineup, chief Warlock Bobby Hecksher has maintained a constant upward path, with each release building on the strength of the previous and never slipping an inch. This consistency in quality despite such a chaotic inner circle is as much a testament to both Hecksher’s song craft as his gift for managing personnel and maintaining a consistent vision. And that vision is indeed a dark one.
Since the LSD drenched pop of "The Phoenix Album" of 2002, Hecksher and company has been following a more dangerous path, begun with the release of "Surgery" in 2005. The subsequent "Heavy Deavy Skull Lover" (2007) and "The Mirror Explodes" (2009) seem to have been leading up to the dark majesty of "Skull Worship". In this, the form seems to have finally been perfected.
"Skull Worship" is a mournful, droning epitaph of a record full of broken glass and broken hearts, the soundtrack for a land where the pale sun only rarely illuminates a slate colored sky. Multiple guitar tracks layer one upon the other, like oils in the portrait of a dying man. From the aforementioned "Dead Generation", the band moves from one dark dream to the next.
"Chameleon" comes on like a persistent memory of personal disaster, with it’s pounding toms and hornet-in-the-ear guitar. Organ and bass introduce "Endless Drops" and give way to huge walls of guitar. "Silver & Plastic" paces through with the help of acoustic guitar and viola. "He Looks Good in Space" utilizes mellotron and synths and serves as a perfect lead in to the guitar overdose of "You’ve Changed". "It’s a Hard Fall" follows with its refrain of “You’re sick, when I need you. You’re sick.” "Eyes Jam", the final song, is a backwards-masked drone reminiscent of Spacemen 3 by way of the Velvet Underground. It completes this dark journey, but somehow leaves one with the impression of the darkness retreating back into the void, or the feeling of having survived the dark subway journey and of climbing that long staircase once more into the light of day.
Throughout "Skull Worship", Hecksher’s frail vocal seems like at any moment it could break. Instead he perseveres, which is probably the message The Warlocks would wish to impart. We live in a world that is sometimes shrouded in darkness, but we somehow get through. Maybe the purpose of art is to give us an understanding, or a tincture of the void so that we might grow accustomed to it, and in so doing lose our fear.
The Warlocks dark vision is a glimpse into madness and despair, but one that leaves us somehow stronger for having taken the journey. Highest recommendation.

"Skull Worship" is available on vinyl, digital, or CD.

Paul Ferris "Witchfinder General" Soundtrack Review

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

After a false start last year, Paul Ferris’ soundtrack to Tigon Film's folk horror classic ‘Witchfinder General’ finally sees the light of day courtesy of De Wolfe Music. Never released and thought potentially missing for nearly 40 years (there are myths and rumour about this particular soundtrack, such is the esteem it is held in and its relative rarity) but deeply loved and sought after by the select few, ‘Witchfinder General’ is finally reclaimed from the shadows. Ferris’ soundtrack’s subsequent influence on a number of musicians and folk artists cannot be underestimated, not least The Owl Service whose Tigon Sessions EP featured a version of the main theme. This release comes resplendent in a panelled digi-pack with extensive linear notes, all lovingly put together; as an unexpected yet thrilling bonus, De Wolfe have found and included two previously unheard and unused tracks.
Partly influenced by medieval and traditional folk music (hence the occasional steal from ‘Greensleeves’) Ferris’ soundtrack aspires to higher status than your more run of the mill 1970s horror film accompaniment. Fittingly, the film itself came amongst a purple patch for British folk horror alongside cult standards such as ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Blood on Satan’s Claw’. No stranger to the horror genre himself, Ferris had previously scored 'Witchfinder General' director Michael Reeves ‘The Sorcerers’ and ‘Revenge of the Blood Beast’ though was curiously probably better known at the time for his arrangements on pop hits of the period.
So, to the music itself. The soundtrack itself is lush, nostalgic and evokes a period where British folk music and horror briefly met in a hark back to times past, attempting to conjure a sense of Olde Englande and regional tradition. The new folk music revival of Fairport Convention and Pentangle (amongst others) was reinventing and redescribing the traditions and beliefs of the British Isles and the film industry briefly obliged with its depictions of rural terror. This mix of old and new can be found in the music of ‘Witchfinder General’; there is something of Vaughan Williams in Ferris’ pastoral score, although discordancy via harsh string scrapes and brass reminds us of both the era it was recorded and also of the subject matter we are dealing with. ‘Nearly Home’ with its sweeping orchestral washes paints the English landscape at once timeless and also deeply set in the historical (and shameful) period depicted in the film. ‘A Ride in the Dark’ with its picato strings warns of what is to come in the form of Vincent Price's Matthew Hopkins whilst ‘Interrogation of the Priest’ allows violin stabs to ratchet up the tension. The music expertly weaves between this sense of drama and a more sedate and autumnal depiction of the English countryside in much the same way as the film and likewise builds to a terrifying and disturbing crescendo with ‘The Castle Dungeon’.
There is a similarity in style here to Marc Wilkinson’s soundtrack to ‘Blood On Satan’s Claw’ in the music’s combination of more traditional orchestra fare such as xylophone and descending string motifs with more modern concrete sounds and effects. And, as with both that soundtrack and Paul Giovanni’s ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘Witchfinder General’ can be listened to and enjoyed separately as a piece in itself. It’s evocative, charmingly English and speaks of a fertile creative period in cinema and folk music now long gone but that has also perhaps become a part of the lineage of British folk tradition, music and storytelling.
The sound quality is perfect, the remastering immaculate – each harp string or mandolin note easily discernible. Great care has been taken as is befitting to such an important element of folk horror’s short history and it makes for a satisfying and chilling package for fans of the genre. The two unreleased pieces add to the sense of ambition and canvas that Ferris was aiming for and are a welcome addition to this release. Pick this up before it disappears into the ether again. You will be spellbound.

Finally available on CD, right here.

3 Jan 2014

The Active Listener Sampler 15

Happy New Year friends, the new sampler is now ready for download!

This month we feature :

1. Tredici Bacci - Lucertola 06:20
 2. Kingdom of the Holy Sun - Swarga 03:03
3. Strange Milk - You & High 03:32
4. Hi-Fiction Science - Magpies (Against The Sun) 02:52
5. Merrin - Plymouth Fury 04:44
 6. Paul Roland With Ralf Jesek - Agnus Dei 03:42
7. Dead Radio - At Dusk 04:26
8. The Space Spectrum - The Head-Nodding King 12:48
9. Social End Products - On The Wrong Side Of The Track 02:18
10. The Citradels - Dervish 04:12
11. Energy Gown - Round House 04:33
12. Volage - Not Enuff 02:28
13. Sounds of Sputnik - Astronomical Summer 05:28
14. Big Dwarf Featuring Alison O'Donnell - Inner Space 09:20
15. Ummagma - Lama (Ian Baird Remix) 04:49

Thanks to Matt Talbot from mattrobot.com for the beautiful sleeve art.

Shearwater "Fellow Travellers" Review

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Some may say that recording an album full of covers is unremarkable, but Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg decided to commemorate all the artists his band has toured with on this new release. I am not sure that's been done before, but it's a great idea, and he's done a wonderful job on these covers. Starting delicately with "Our Only Sun" (Jesca Hoop) and merging seamlessly into the driving rocker "I Luv the Valley Oh!" (Xiu Xiu), Meiburg has completely transformed and in some cases improved on the original tunes. Such is the case with Coldplay's "Hurts Like Heaven", which is stripped down to the bare bones of piano and voice for a good segment of the song. Instead of Chris Martin's overdone treatise of this tune, Meiburg uses strings and guitar to transform this into psychedelic heaven. "Natural One" is quite faithful to the spirit of Lou Barlow's original tune by his band, Folk Implosion. "Ambiguity" is a lovely, fragile cover by David Thomas Broughton, performed at a different tempo. Meiburg plays it straight and keeps it simple and slow, whereas Broughton's version is married to electronic tomfoolery. I prefer Meiburg's version by a long measure, because for one thing, he has a better voice than Broughton and dives into the vocals straight away. "Cheerleader" (St. Vincent) is a tuneful and well crafted song, and quite different from Annie Clark's warbly, banjo-strummed tune. It's a great song either way, but I like the odd swerves and swoops of Clark's version. Clinic's "Tomorrow" is markedly different, turned from a psychedelic nugget into a whimsical pop tune. Chris Flemmons from The Baptist Generals does backing vocals, sounding markedly like Don McGlashan, and I wish he did more on this song, because he really elevates it above the ordinary. And then there is my favorite track, "A Wake for the Minotaur", an original song penned by Meiburg and accompanied by the mesmerizing Sharon Van Etten. What a voice and talent she has with her smoky alto, meshing perfectly into this gorgeous folk tune. Wye Oak's "Mary is Mary" is another standout track, confirming that Shearwater can enter the folk arena anytime they choose. Meiburg has an instinct for these songs, and his band is up to the task across the board. They close out the set with "Fucked Up Life" (The Baptist Generals) which has fantastic lyrics. All in all, this is a great covers album and well worth picking up for any Shearwater fans, or anyone who wants an easy introduction to the band.

Fellow Travelers is available on vinyl, digital and CD.

2 Jan 2014

Doug Tuttle "Doug Tuttle" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The initially disappointing news that freaky New Hampshire psychedelic outfit MMOSS were calling it a day has become much easier to stomach after spending a little time getting to know the self-titled debut from former MMOSS guitarist Doug Tuttle.
It's an album that sounds like a solo labour of love from someone who knows exactly what they want to do and suddenly finds themselves in a situation where compromise is no longer necessary.
Don't get me wrong, the concise psychedelic pop nuggets of "i" and then the more freeform krauty jams present on "Only Children" both appealled greatly to this writer, but "Doug Tuttle" is the definitive statement up to this point for this extremely promising writer. If he's feeling at all nervous about stepping out on his own, there's no sign of it here.
The krauty jams are shown the backdoor here (probably fairly natural without an actual band to jam with), in favour of  usurpingth e song orientated approach favoured on "i" and openly embracing the most inescapable of earworms.
Opener "With Us Soon" is a joyous slice of bedroom psych-pop, equal parts Opossom and the Beach Boys with a buoyant falsetto vocal and frazzled fuzz guitar parts vying for attention. In a world where Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Tame Impala can make it big, it's not too much of a stretch of the imagination to picture this appealing to a mainstream audience too.
And it's in fine company with tracks like "Forget the Days" and "Leave Your Body" both giving it a run for it's money and ensuring restless nights for anyone assigned the task of picking a first single.
Where this may sound suspiciously like a bid for mainstream appeal I'd like to ensure you that this isn't some watered down psychedelic affair designed to appeal to the common demoninator - these tracks are loaded with mellotrons, backwards tapes, effects pedals stretched beyond their intended limits, flower power flutes and all of the lovely updated period details that made the MMOSS albums so refreshing in the first place.
And while the songs here are generally punchy and concise, there's still room for the moody "Turn this Love" - a six and a half minute epic that spends two thirds of it's running time showcasing Tuttle's tasteful guitar wrangling which betrays a love of both Neil Young's primal instincts and the technical prowess and stinging vibratto of Richard Thompson.
A lovingly frazzled and deeply tuneful album that I recommend without hesitation.

Available soon on vinyl, digital, and CD.

Check out "Turn this Love" below (please hit refresh if Soundcloud embed is not visible):

1 Jan 2014

The Hawklords "Dream" Review

Reviewed by Timothy Ferguson

We are currently experiencing an embarrassment of riches, we fans of all things Hawkwind. Currently there are two versions of the legendary space rockers touring and the late Robert Calvert’s spin-off Hawklords have just released a new record called "Dream". Hell, it’s 2014. This must be a dream.
Since the passing of Mr. Calvert in 1988, many were surprised to see the Hawklords brand reincarnate, with Martin Bainbridge, Ron Tree, Adrian Shaw & Co. bringing the band back to life with the release of "We Are One" (2012). Maybe one of the things that always frustrated me about Hawkwind (the constant turn over of members) has finally turned out to be a real strength. After all the incarnations/ reincarnations of the group and spin offs there are now a league of former members who can step in to fill roles. Perhaps Hawkwind (or for this review) / Hawklords have become a self-perpetuating entity.
"Dream" is an interesting record, and I think it carries on quite nicely from the original Hawklords sound (1978’s "25 Years On"). This is not the heavy, chugging freak-out space rock of Hawkwind, but more of the shorter form, space prog pop that the original ‘Lords specialized in. Although they are definitely related, one must see the Hawklords as a separate entity, because they always were.
Right out of the gate, "Dream" impresses with the song "Dream a Dream"; whirling sound waves give way to acoustic guitars and Bainbridge’s melodic bass lines on a song that is a perfect primer for the record. There’s that sonic space gloss that comes with the best moments of all things Hawk, but Hawklords provide this in more bite sized, melodic packages. "I.D. Man" recalls such Hawkwind classics as "Urban Guerilla" or even "Days of the Underground" and seems a fitting, if not conscious tribute to the late Mr. Calvert.
"DNA", with it’s lovely violin and acoustic arpeggio-laden melody lays a foundation for lyrics that suggest a requiem for our modern culture. This is in fact a recurring theme on "Dream". Songs like "Nature’s Dance", "White Rag" and "Psychic Eyes" follow this message of a world growing weary with mankind.
Overall, there is a pervading sense of melancholy on "Dream". Perhaps it is the hindsight of a group of songwriters who began their mission in the hopeful times of the late 60s, finding those dreams of a spiritual rebirth left unfulfilled. There is something comforting to me in having the Hawklords back, and in having Hawkwind continuing to blaze along, full of sonic attack and personal recrimination. The fact that these guys were never as big as they should have been is a testament to the frailty, joy and pride of humankind. I’m glad I live in an age when aging rockers are still our best spokesmen. Long live Hawkwind. Long live Hawklords.

"Dream" is available here.