27 May 2014

Teeth of the Sea / The Memory Band / Nicola Piovani RSD Titles Now Available Digitally

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Record Store Day seems to be rapidly declining into a farce that sees major labels monopolising the pressing plants to reissue ludicrously expensive reissues of albums that there are plenty of copies in the world of already, the result being that smaller labels that release vinyl 365 days a year are being pushed to one side to make way for the big money clients.

While this (not to mention the straight to e-bay status of many RSD items), is certainly exerting a Grinch like hold over what was originally a noble and very worthwhile idea, I still get a visceral thrill out of visiting every indie record store I can on the day (and most other days for that matter), and a number of smaller labels were still able to grace us with quality RSD releases this year, three of which are now available digitally for those who missed out on the day, or are just not vinyly inclined.

First up is London band Teeth of the Sea, who have re-scored Ben Wheatley's excellent pagan horror opus "A Field in England" first as a live event, and now in a recorded format. It's very different to their normal work, and has a great cinematic feel to it that makes it an excellent compliment to Jim Williams original score. Making excellent use of drones, Sam Barton's evocative trumpet playing, and that ominous, tribal drum pattern used so well in Williams' original score, these three lengthy tracks do a great job of conjuring the foreboding atmosphere of the film. Heaps of synth washes and layers of other disturbingly lysergic treatments tread the fine line between capturing the feverish, hallucinogenic qualities of the film without losing any of its period authenticity.

At the time of writing there are still a couple of vinyl copies left at reasonable prices here.

The digital version can be streamed and purchased here:

Next is an excellent E.P from hauntology buffs The Memory Band. Following on from their intriguing album "On The Chalk (Our Navigation Of The Line Of The Downs)" this three tracker showcases a brand new Memory Band track based on the "Lincolnshire Poacher" (pretty good), a characteristically peppy remix by Ghost Box boss Belbury Poly (very good), and a moody, jazz tinged remix from trip hop pioneer and former Mo-Wax geezer Grantby (exceptionally good).
The Memory Band track has a little bit of Moby's "Play" about it that I'm not 100% sold on, but the two remixes (of tracks from "On The Chalk") both show very different, and very successful approaches to updating traditional Albion music without losing its intrinsically pastoral qualities.
Very nice indeed.

Again there are currently a few vinyl copies of this left here on vinyl.

Stream or buy the digital version here:

Lastly, we have one of three excellent releases from the Death Waltz Recording Company - my pick of a great bunch.
Nicola Piovani's excellent score for the 1973 giallo / psychological thriller "Il Profumo Della Signoro In Nero" (that's "The Perfume of the Lady In Black") is a lost treasure in a genre that's seen more than its fair share of reissues lately (not complaining, mind. keep them coming).
Bypassing the more overtly psychedelic tendencies of contemporaneous Giallo scores, it instead relies on subtlety and an exceptional orchestral score to portray the deteriorating mental state of our heroine. The main theme (which is revisited often) is gorgeous and lyrical, but there's still plenty of room for stabbing, staccato strings, jolts a plenty and creepy music box interludes for genre lovers.

There are still a few nicely priced copies of this available on vinyl here (at time of writing).

This one unfortunately is not available to download but can be streamed in full via Death Waltz Recording Company's Soundcloud page here:

26 May 2014

New Sampler Out Now!

The May Sampler is out now and full of great stuff:

1. No Bodies - Fence Post 06:13
2. Violet Swells - Into The Ether 03:45
3. Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab - The Secret Of The Tibetan Grapefruit Is.... 03:45
4. Borderline Symphony - Il Camaleonte 04:17
5. Kikagaku Moyo - Kodama 04:20
6. P.J Philipson - Steeples and Spires Viewed from Moving Train 04:37
7. Slows Down - The Way Down Leering 07:19
8. Unit Black Flight - Shortwave Radio Antenna Down 04:41
9. Melodien - 2-CT-TC-7 03:18
10. The Sound of The Shires - Andrew Loog Oldham 03:56
11. The Roaring 420s - Blue Jay 02:47
12. Terror of the Deep - Get It Together 05:35
13. Frantic Chant - Higher Than Arthur’s Seat 04:26
14. The Autumn Stone - Vampires 04:37
15. Gilligan Smiles - The Bonsai Tree Man 04:59
16. Sleeping Orchard - I Hope I'm Going Somewhere 05:03
17. Chris Oliver & Zachary Biggs - My Plant Doesn't Grow (Alone) 02:20
18. Alosi Den - Dion Fires 04:07

Cover art by Bob Tibbits - thanks Bob!

Download or stream below:

Oliver Cherer "Sir Oliffe Leigh & Other Ghosts"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Doing what I do here at the Active Listener, it's not unusual for me to put off reviewing an album, and there can be numerous reasons for doing so.
Some albums take me an age to work out whether I actually like them or not (if not they certainly don't find their way to your ears via me).  Others take a ridiculously long time to reveal their charms, and then there are albums like this; albums that have an immediate appeal that I procrastinate around not because I struggle to put my love for them into words (although that is a common problem for me as well), but albums that find their way into my list of stuff to review 'next week' because I'm not ready for them to not be a part of my everyday listening activities today.

I've been listening to "Sir Oliffe Leigh & Other Ghosts" for a couple of months now and have come to the realisation that if I wait until I'm kinda sick of it before I tell you all about it, you won't get the chance to check it out until it gets the anniversary deluxe reissue treatment.

"Sir Oliffe Leigh & Other Ghosts" is the first work that Oliver Cherer has released under his own name rather than his Dollboy moniker, and it's a work of such intimacy that anything less personal would be doing it an immense disservice.

A treatise on loss, inspired by "being slightly obsessed with Russell Hoban’s 'Riddley Walker'", it has a strange otherworldly charm that Cherer attributes to "using instruments that I was less familiar with and trying to use them in unconventional ways. I was after the sound of an English indigenous music. ... it’s meant to sound like a kind of pagan folk music from a modern dark age." If I hadn't heard the album, that description would have sold it to me right off the bat, and it makes my job as a reviewer here slightly redundant.

What I will say is that it's a lovely, individual piece of work with transportative powers, which may well be the most successful fusing of Albion folk and Pagan psychedelia that this listener has so far heard. It's not all trippy and ethereal either. Cherer has a knack for stark, emotionally resonant balladry, with "When We Shut Down" being a particular joy in this department - naked, direct and unadorned.

"Sir Oliffe Leigh & Other Ghosts" is exceptionally English, and I'm tempted to suggest that outsiders shouldn't be able to connect with this in quite the same way as the English will, but despite its trappings this is assembled and communicated with such care that this listener, without a drop of English blood, was affected often - and often tremendously.

This should be huge.

Available directly from Second Language Music here.

24 May 2014

Lords of Thyme Interview - Joe Woolley

The Lords of Thyme are responsible for one of our favourite singles of the year so far (which you can still pick up here if you're quick). The press have been quick to heap praise upon the two tracks contained within. We had a few words with singer / songwriter / guitarist Joe Woolley about what's been and what to expect next.

Lords of Thyme formed as a sort of offshoot of Circulus from what I understand? Is Circulus still a going concern?

Circulus are happening and will continue to happen as long as Micheal Tyack doesn't get bored or wander off through a star gate with David Ike.  The current line up played the Lewes Festival this last weekend - I'd love to have gone but it's a long way to travel.

What was the catalyst for the Lords of Thyme getting together?

I'd written some songs and wanted to record them. Pat and Tali were the obvious guys to call because I really loved what they were doing in Circulus.  They are both excellent at what they do and great guys to boot. Great guys make great records!  Michelle and I had been doing gigs together so she came to the session and sang with us.  After the songs were finished it was clear that they were the work of a band and we decided that we should play them live as a band together.

What do each of the band members bring to the table?

Tali - Hair
Pat - Flair
Michelle - Chair
Joe - Wigs

You've released a fabulous 7" through Sunstone. How did this come about?

Good taste and enthusiasm, all around.

Mixed by John Wood (Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, John Martyn etc.) no less! How did that come about? 

Tali had worked with John Wood in the past and they must have had a really good time because John was kind enough to mix our single.

I hear rumours that these two tracks come from a full album's worth of material that is already finished. Is this right, and if so when do we get to hear it and what form will it take?

They actually come from our first EP, we made 90 with hand printed sleeves and CDs. Michelle and I spent four days carving up bits of linoleum and sticking the sleeves together. It was quite a job but we were very happy with the result. They sold out very quickly so we've made a second edition which is still available, if you send us a message via our Facebook page we'll post you one. The songs on there are Proud Maisre, Moment To Moment, World In A Tangle and If I was A Bird.

We're writing and recording at the moment but can't tell you much about that until it's finished, hopefully in July.

I also see that you're supporting the legendary Bonnie Dobson for the release of her new album. That came from nowhere! Are you guys big Bonnie fans?

Well, yes. I'm a massive fan, she's written some fantastic songs.  We listened to her two RCA albums while we were recording our EP and went to see her when she played at Come Down And Meet The Folks last year. She bought a copy of our EP and she must have liked it because she came to our last gig in London and asked us to support her.

All of us lazy writers keep comparing you to Pentangle because you have a swinging rhythm section and a female vocalist. In terms of actual inspiration who is up there for you?

I'm not complaining about that - Pentangle made some great records.  I can't really say where inspiration comes from though because it's not something that is finite. We've all picked some records that have informed our taste though:

Joe : Chico Hamilton, Wizz Jones, Davy Graham and Nico
Michelle : Sandy Denny, Shirley Collins, Yes and Chas & Dave
Pat : Soft Machine, Traffic, Medeski, Martin and Wood and Jim Keltner.
Tali : Nick Drake, John Martyn, Fotheringay, Television and Jake Thackery.

What else is in the repertoire for punters who attend your live shows?

We tend to play the songs from our EP and newer material that we're recording at the moment.  The music tends to swing and sometimes we play " Singing A Song In The Morning" as an encore.  There's often incense and sometimes we have a light show.

Anything else that you'd like to mention?

Johnny Marr's hair - Have you seen it?

21 May 2014

Plasticland "Plasticland A.K.A Colour Appreciation"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Following on from Cherry Red's excellent new Bevis Frond compilation, here's their other attempt to convince us that the eighties wasn't all about flouro and that tie dye could get a bit of a look in after all.

Formed in 1980, Milwaukee based Plasticland were early trailblazers in the garage revival scene of the era, and where others tended to look to the likes of the Seeds and the Music Machine for inspiration, they cast their net further out, specifically to the U.K psychedelic scene of the late sixties. Obviously the often quaint psych-pop of that era was going to struggle to find an audience in a time where punk was still fresh in everyone's mind, but Plasticland were far from just revivalists. While it's true that their sound has direct links back to that era, they also openly embraced post-punk with a punchy sound that makes their lack of success beyond the margins even more puzzling. Perhaps the world just wasn't ready for their unique mixture of visceral punkishness, and mellotron infused kaleidoscopic dayglo.

Hopefully with this excellent reissue of their debut (also known as "Colour Appreciation") the world may have caught up.

Unusually for a band following in such a direct lineage Plasticland showed little interest in covers - indeed the sleeve notes for this release reveal that the two covers contained within (one of which, The Pretty Thing's "Alexander" is one of their better known tracks) were only attempted to fulfill a contractual obligation, with the band's two key songwriter's Glenn Rehse and John Frankovich having plenty of material of their own they were more inclined to find homes for.

And that material was more than a match for its influences - short, sharp, melodic vignettes that imagine a world where the likes of the Kinks, The Action and of course the Pretty Things were unbound by the laws of time and given free reign to rub shoulders with the Sex Pistols. The production is of its time, but less so than the majority of other recordings from the early eighties, and the occasional overclean production moment does little to bevel off the rough edges that help give Plasticland it's sense of having a foot in two eras without being tied to either.

Recommended. Much more psychedelically inclined than the majority of other garage revival groups of the time, and a pretty gritty contender compared to the paisley underground scene that was beginning to find its feet too.

Available on CD here.

19 May 2014

Full Stream - The Capsules "The Long Goodbye" Premiere

Dallas based dreampop adventurers The Capsules release their fifth album (their first for dreampop / shoegaze specialists Saint Marie Records) on May 20th.

With previous albums being compared favourably to the likes of the Cocteau Twins, Blonde Redhead, My Bloody Valentine, M83, Metric and Phantasmogram you know what to expect from "The Long Goodbye" - catchy, harmony-soaked hooks, lush aural soundscapes and compelling waves of sonic invention.

Pre-order available here.

You can stream the full album here prior to its  release date tomorrow:

15 May 2014

The Bevis Frond "High In A Flat - Highlights 1987-1990"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Cherry Red have two excellent releases this month that do their best to prove that the eighties wasn't necessarily the black hole for psychedelia that it initially appeared to be (we'll talk about the other of these two releases very soon).

First up and heralding the arrival of a mighty, and unprecedented reissue campaign that will see the first seven Bevis Frond albums reissued on vinyl and CD with copious amounts of bonus tracks comes this tidy and thoughtfully compiled collection of material from those first seven albums plus sundry other bits and pieces (notably the flexidisc guitar-fest that supplies this collection with a title) spanning the years 1987-1990.

Nick Saloman had a number of initial stabs at bandcraft dating back to the late sixties, with "varying degrees of non-success" (his words), before an insurance payout from a motorcycle accident allowed him to kit out a home studio which he quickly set to work in, with debut "Miasma" originally intended to be a one off. 28 years later he's still going strong with over 25 albums to his credit.

While the lo-fi home production values of these early recordings, coupled with Saloman's fondness for crunchy, overdriven guitar tones tend to render the bulk of this material a little samey on the first few passes, acquaintances are soon made and tunes are then quick to come out of their shells and establish their melodic credentials.

Overtly psychedelic influences aren't dominant at this point, with tracks like the lovely, lysergic ballad "Corinthian" and tape manipulation masterclass "Once More" outnumbered by sharp, punky rockers like "I've Got Eyes In The Back of My Head" and "I Can't Get Into Your Scene" - tunes that have more in common with early Dinosaur Jr. or Teenage Fanclub than they do with Syd Barrett.

Frond fans tend to be a pretty obsessive bunch so if I'm preaching to the converted there's no need for you to read on, but if you're a dabbler or someone yet to discover the Frond magic, this is an ideal starting point for sampling Saloman's early years, and does a fabulous job of cherry picking most of the essential moments from a fascinating but sometimes patchy period leading up to the fabulous "New River Head".


Bargain price CD available here.

Octopus Syng Interview - Jaire Pätäri

One of our favourite albums of the year so far is "Reverberating Garden Number 7" by Finland's Octopus Syng. We had a bit of a chat with Octopus Syng mastermind Jaire Pätäri. Grab a cup of tea and get comfy.

Reverberating Garden Number 7 is a top album - it's got a real Syd Barrett vibe to it. How much of that was intentional?

I’m actually trying to go further away from Syd's / 60's Pink Floyd's domain in my song writing / in our music making process all the time, but Syd's / Pink Floyd's style of music is such a basic archetype in old school psych music that it is hard to avoid. (And if you don't have Syd, you usually have The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or The Doors archetype anyway). Maybe there are some intentional influences from Syd / Pink Floyd sometimes, but mostly they are subconscious influences. And sometimes I feel that people hear the Syd influences in some of our songs although there's nothing about Syd in them in my opinion anyway!

What was your aim when you were recording the album? Did you have a big picture in mind or is it just a case of "these are the songs I have, and this is how it's turned out"?

Our plan was to make as intact and whole a record as possible. We wanted to make a many-sided album with a very personal and unique sound and vibes that wouldn't sound like any other band other than Octopus Syng. Obviously we failed in this vision a little bit, because people are comparing our album to Syd's / Pink Floyd's songs just like always before (Jaire laughs). Of course we always aim to make the best psychedelic album ever made - an instant classic, a cornerstone in psychedelic music. Can we ever do it? That’s another question, but this is the thing we always aim at.

There was a large gap between the recording of Reverberating Garden Number 7 and the previous album. What's been happening in that time?

A lot of things. After the "Birds of Morning..." album I recorded the next Octopus Syng album "Tree Madness" by myself and got it ready in 2009, but I didn't find any label interested in releasing it, so it became Octopus Syng's 3rd, "lost" album. But when I think about this album afterwards I'm satisfied that no label wanted to release it, because it's not such a good album. I think the songs are good, but the sound is very, very terrible and some lyrics too. At the same time when I got this album ready I broke up my old Octopus Syng live line-up and formed a new line-up (only our current drummer Jukka remains from the old line up) for live performances. After we had played for a couple of years  I realized that the new line-up sounds just like Octopus Syng should sound, so I forgot that one-man band approach in studio. Then we started to make a new album in October 2011 and after many setbacks we are here in 2014 with a new album in our hands.

How do you feel about the way the band and its sound has evolved from those early recordings through to what you're doing now?

Many things have changed since the early Octopus Syng days. It was a one man band earlier, but now it's a real quartet. I suppose we are a better band nowadays, but I think I am the wrong person to give you an answer for it. I'm too close to see the forest. I just see the trees you know.

What's the psych scene like in Finland? Who else should we be listening to there?

Psychedelic scene in Finland… there is nothing you could really call a "psychedelic scene". There is a heavy metal scene, a punk scene, a 50's rock scene etc. but no real psych scene in Finland, only a few psych bands, that's all. I would recommend you Black Lizard, Permanent Clear Light and Death Hawks. Then there's Hidria Spacefolk - they are really good at what they do, but their music style is not for me, but maybe you and your readers would like it.

In terms of classic Finnish psychedelia what are a few classic albums that you would recommend for us to listen to?

Pekka Streng & Tasavallan Presidentti: "Magneettimiehen Kuolema" (1970). I consider it the best psychedelic album ever made. It's better than "Piper" or "Sergeant Pepper" in my mind. Unfortunately (for people who don't understand Finnish) the lyrics are in Finnish. The music on this album is very soft, cosmic and mystical / magical but despite it the lyrics make the real psychedelia on this album. They are so, so cosmic. Not acid lyrics, but real cosmic lyrics about rebirth, karma, death and things like that. But his lyrics are not boring citations from old eastern holy books, they are his own cosmic visions. He was a very psychedelic guy. Unfortunately he died of cancer at the age of 26 in 1975.
Then we have Kingston Wall and their trilogy, titled 1, 2 and 3; three albums released in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Sadly their leader / guitarist / singer Petri Walli ended his own life at 26. Put Indian ragas, 60's psychedelic / 70's progressive rock and vibes of Lapland’s midnight summer nights, so called "Suomi-soundi" (Finland sound) and mix them together. Then you are very close to Kingston Wall's sound. Highly recommend!
And then there is Dark Sun and their only real studio album "Feed Your Mind" (1997). This is really psychedelic, space rock stuff. Highly recommended too!

How do you feel about the psychedelia tag? A number of the bands that I cover don't feel like it applies to their music, or admit that they're trying to distance themselves from the tag because of the loose way it's used by the mainstream music press now.

Of course it's always a little bit silly to define a band's music - "you are psychedelic stuff and you are punk rock etc.", but on the other hand, how could you easily describe a band's music if you can't use different tags? When I think about our music, what other tag could you or I use to describe our music other than psychedelia, because it is psychedelic music although after all it's just music. Tags don't matter.

Any plans for what is to come next from Octopus Syng?

Now we want to concentrate on playing more gigs but also making our next recording projects ready at the same time without hurry. We'd like to play some gigs abroad, but there is always the same old problem; money. We have a gig in Cardigan, Wales, on the 2nd of August with Sendelica. It will be nice, but I hope we will have more gigs abroad too in future. There will be a very limited CD-R release of archive material on Reverb Worship later this year. Then we’d like to put out our "Ghost" 7" EP next autumn. I don't know if Mega Dodo will be interested in putting it out too, but if they are we'd love to put it out on Mega Dodo. Then I have recorded songs for Rochelle Salt 7" EP (my one man band project under the title Octopus Syng) and then we are making our next album too. If we could put it out during the Spring / Summer of 2015 it would be great, but let's see what happens. This is one of the appeals of life. You can never know what is waiting for you around the corner: something good, something bad or nothing at all.

Check out our review of  "Reverberating Garden Number 7" here.

The album can be streamed in full or purchased here:

14 May 2014

Slows Down "The Way Down Leering / On The Street"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

London based musician Alexander Hawthorne (also a member of Death Rays - worth checking out too), has created a huge, sweeping extravaganza of an opening statement with these two tracks. Taking advantage of the no compromise necessary freedom that only a true solo recording allows, as well as the opportunity to really sculpt the sound of these tracks with numerous overdubs and extremely careful manipulation, Hawthorne has created an extremely well defined world here - no mean feat, with only two tracks to do so in.

Opener "The Way Down Leering" is a grandiose, emotionally draining epic that sounds like someone threw Portishead's "Dummy" and Suede's "Dog Man Star" into a mixer and poured the resulting mixture into a Spacemen 3 shaped mold, with walls of guitars, enormous percussion and a killer theremin part that heads into all sorts of spooky territory that just won't quit.

"On The Street" is a little less frantic, but just as epic in its own way with guitar tones that again recall "Dog Man Star" era Bernard Butler, and a much more subtle, slow build approach that insinuates rather than outwardly states, and casts a widescreen vista that reaches a furious crescendo that feels like the rug's been pulled out from under you when it quickly ebbs away.

I'm usually a bit put out by debuts that only offer two tracks - they usually don't give the artist a chance to establish their personality or if they do, they often leave the listener wanting more, but these two tracks are an exhilarating and exhausting experience that if stretched out to album or even E.P length would most likely be too much to take.

Unfollowupable? We'll see.

Name your price download below

Full Stream - Poncho Records New Canadian Psych Compilation Premiere

Our favourite Canadian label Poncho Records have chosen The Active Listener to premiere their brand new 19 track compilation cassette.

Poncho Records will release "Poncho Records Compilation Vol. 1" this Friday May 16th. The tape will feature 19 different artists/bands, most of whom hail from Halifax, NS, Canada - the home-base of Poncho Records.

Bands featured include Halifax bands: Walrus, No Bodies and Shadow Folk (all of whom you will have read about on here before) as well as Monomyth, Best Fiends, Craig Currie, Saffrons, Corner Organs: Off, The Age, Scott Nicks, Free Mansons, and Sunny Beaches, as well as songs from WHOOP-szo (London), Lonnie in the Garden (London), Psyche Tongues (Toronto), Pet Sun (Toronto), Organ Eyes (Ottawa), Harley Alexander (Ottawa), and Painful Shivers (Montreal).

You can stream and pre-order right here:

Friday and Saturday the 16th and 17th of May will see Poncho hosting two nights of release shows at Gus' Pub & Grill on Agricola St, so if you're in Halifax, make sure you're there!

The Mind Flowers / The Roaring 4-20s "Down The Line / Blue Jay"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Here's an excellent split 7" on Levitation Records that is well worth the seven minutes it demands of your time and will have you paying repeat visits with alarming regularity.

On the a-side we have the second single (but first on vinyl) for newish Copenhagen trio The Mind Flowers. Instant points awarded for borrowing the title of my favourite Ultimate Spinach track for their moniker and plenty more points coming their way for the track itself. "Down The Line" is a great slice of retro garage with some nice, versatile guitarwork from frontman Emil Bureau that keeps a nice clean tone with plenty of reverb, and some nice Hendrixy flourishes. It's nice and sparse too, with the lead breaks neatly carried along by an inventive rhythm section that leaves the guitar upfront, without leaving it too naked. The lyrics deal with the fairly timeless concept of conservative oppression that's greeted longhair music since day one, and as such they feel like they were plucked right out of the late sixties / early seventies, raising a middle finger to the "get a haircut and get a real job" generation who alarmingly enough were probably all smelly hippies when this attitude was first being knocked about.

The b-side is less likely to inspire debate, leaving social commentary at the door in favour of a simplistic and rather enjoyable slice of garage / surf from Dresden's Roaring 420s. Lifted from last year's enjoyable debut E.P, "Blue Jay" features more clean jangly guitar work that makes it a good match for its a-side, but sets its sights a few years earlier in terms of reference points. There's plenty of distinctive vintage organwork making this sound like more of a period piece than "Down The Line" - think the Allah La's and you're partway there.

Good stuff, available directly from either band via the links below:

12 May 2014

Free Download Roundup (May)

As the last of these mini-features of free downloads from around the net was so popular I thought I'd let it make a semi-regular appearance on the blog, hopefully monthly if I'm exposed to enough worthy releases to make publishing that often worthwhile.

First up this month we have "She Wants To Be Flowers, But You Make Her Owls" by the Owl Service. The Owl Service are one of our favourite folk-rock collectives here at the Active Listener, and this free (or name your price) 17 track download is basically a best of which acts as a perfect starting point for those still to discover them. They have a huge back catalogue which is available as a data DVD through the same link.

Next we have Gilligan Smiles, a Melbourne based psychedelic rock group that I know almost nothing about. Their new album "Fi​.​Fy​.​Fo​.​Funk" is available as a free/name your price Bandcamp download and has a nice range of well handled material that ranges from Tame Impala-esque jams to the moody "Flow" which sounds like Ride at their most melancholy and is quite lovely. Get it here and show them some support:

Also well worth a bit of your time is Swiss artist Luca Pollioni who has just released his debut E.P as Borderline Symphony. The sleeve art looks like something you'd find on a classic European library or prog rock album and the contents of this release hearken back to that time of invention, trims back the excess a little and lays on a fresh, contemporary sound that embraces vintage psychedelia but never attempts to replicate it. Extremely impressive for a debut, and highly recommended. You can get it below for a name your price or free download. It's worth paying for if you can afford it though.

Last up is more of a reminder. Violet Swells have released possibly the best psychedelic single of the year so far with "Jupiters Garden", and it's free. Nuts. I waxed lyrical about it here, but the simple truth of the matter is that if you like Jacco Gardner and classic baroque pop you simply must download it. There's a limited 7" pressing of it on the way soon too, and lucky us, we're just about to release the follow up single through Active Listener Records (which you can preorder here).
"Jupiters Garden" can be had for free here, although paying a little would help fund future projects.

11 May 2014

Withered Hand "New Gods"

Reviewed by Jason Simpson (Forestpunk)

"New Gods" exists at a T-way intersection of first wave, roots-inflected classic rock and the next wave of roots-influenced indie music. It's like a spectral ballroom, with Shakey lazily strumming, the Boss on lead vocals; John & Paul provide some harmonies. James Mercer sits in; Julian Casablanca drops by, strikes a pose. The ghost of Gram Parsons is spotted in the catwalks, and Conor Oberst gives chase.

Yes, you have heard something like "New Gods" before. Vitriol has rained down like napalm upon modern musicians, saying there's nothing new to be said. That as a generation, we are doomed to endlessly recycle and rehash. That we'll never be as good as their generation.

This idea raises some interesting thoughts on music history, about the role that music plays in society, and the myth of progress. There seems to be a thought that music is only valid if it's completely original, emerging from the VOID. That it's not valid to be in love with your record collection. All of this suggests music as a commodity, to be hawked out of the back of a truck. Gotta have the newest, flashiest thing!

This idea is relatively new in human history. Classically, it was more important to master a craft than to take credit. Master potters and rug weavers wouldn't even sign their work.

If you're a musician, you will grab whatever you can get your fingers into, whether that's the sound of a babbling brook or your Dad's record collection. Ultimately, as a generation, we've got to contend with our influences.

Withered Hand is basically wrestling with the same problem as every musician ever; how to organize notes, chords, rhythms, instruments, words and voice, to express themselves. And yes, Withered Hand does sound like other things. There are moments, listening to New Gods, when I was reminded of The Strokes, Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins, Sufjan Stevens, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, even Mount Eerie. "Love Over Desire" is a dead-ringer for country- era Bright Eyes, before seamlessly sliding into The Beatles, which then becomes Led Zeppelin. This seems to be done knowingly, as nearly half of the songs on this record have explicit quotes from classic songs, the "Love Love Love" medley in "Love Over Desire", "The Gilded Palace Of Sin" lyric from "King Of Hollywood", a reference to The Flying Burrito Brothers, "White Light/White Heat," from the song "California," to the Velvet Underground, played with Neil Young's lazy junkie strum.

Dan Willson is clearly in love with his father's record collection. And while the most recent generation of classic music lovers choose to bury their adoration in layers of noise, hiss, grit and reverb - whether that's the gooey-cassette disco of Arial Pink or My Morning Jacket's elegant, elegiac southern rock, or The Jesus And Mary Chain's burned ephedrine greaser snarl, Withered Hand has played it straight and clean, lushly layering acoustic + electric guitars, mandolins, organs and gorgeous background vocals to make a truly classic record.

I have heard it said that collage is the most honest form of 20th century art. Dan Willson is clearly a master collagist, moving and re-arranging ephemera and bric- a-brac to make something wholly unique and personal.

Like any master of form, the true heart lies in the embellishments. A work of art may be inspired by another, but it is always its own thing, inhabiting its own world. The nuances really shine through in the lyrics on "New Gods", with love songs to his guitar ("Love Over Desire"), junkie lamentations ("California", "Life Of Doubt"), tarot cards and paradigm shifts; New Gods and faded beauty queens.

When you peel back the layers, and "New Gods" exists in its own universe, is when there's that sky-cracking moment, when your heart bursts like a newborn phoenix, like a setting sun, like the moment when Willson's voice cracks like a rusted hinge on "Life Of Doubt", or when the crystalline choir emerges on "New Gods". For the Angel is in the details, and you've never set foot in THIS river before.

Almost every song on New Gods is in a different style, but mostly sticks to a laid- back country groove, except for the choppy piano charge of "Heart Heart", which is the only song I'll forgive shoutalong gang vocals, as I love the rest of the record. For lovers of roots-infused classic rock, new and old, all hail the new thing!

Available on vinyl, or CD.

10 May 2014

Kikagaku Moyo "Forest of Lost Children"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Plenty of great stuff has happened for Japanese psychedelic sorcerers Kikagaku Moyo (that's Geometric Patterns) since I reviewed their amazing debut less than a year ago. That debut was picked up for a vinyl release that sold out before the wax could even cool (this reviewer even missed out on a copy, sigh....), and they toured near and far, making friends and fans wherever they went, including conquering this year's Austin Psych Fest by all accounts.

Somehow they also found the time to release "Mammatus Clouds" - a longer, more exploratory digital and cassette only release that (notice a trend here) disappeared before wallets could be extracted from pockets (but fear not, Captcha Records & Cardinal Fuzz will be issuing a vinyl version of that in the coming months).

Most exciting of all though was the news that Beyond Beyond is Beyond (a label with the uncanny ability to consistently release exactly what I want time and time again) had them signed for another new album, and no procrastinating this time, my pre-order was in minutes after discovering its impending existence. A month later and it's rotating on my turntable and I couldn't be happier.

"Forest of Lost Children" showcases Kikagaku Moyo's impressive and rapid evolution effortlessly, with a good old fashioned album's album that fits together seamlessly as their definitive recorded statement so far, and makes me wish even more fervently that I'd had the chance to see them explore this stuff live at APF.

It's very much a head record, but it's much more laid back than the debut with the dreamy sitar and vocal interplay of "White Moon" lulling and soothing in a particularly tranquil, therapeutic manner, while opener "Semicircle" lopes along nicely with an off the cuff charm that makes it sound like a round the campfire improv.

Sandwiched between these moments of loveliness are a succession of jams that reach far beyond the normal sphere of influences with rhythms whose roots lie in African and South American music mingling effortlessly with those of their own ancestry and lingering traces of seventies Can.

It's an extremely intelligent album, but it's music for the entire body, not just for the head. It's got heart, it's got grooves that are unescapably infectious, and it's got the sort of soul that you just can't fake, and that made this listener feel like a much more spiritual being than I realised I was.

Vinyl, CD, digital and streams can be all be had here:

8 May 2014

P.J Philipson "Peaks"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Little Red Rabbits outsider label Little Crackd Rabbit have come up with a winner here in the shape of guitarist P.J Philipson's "Peaks". You'll possibly be familiar with Philipson's work in Starless and Bible Black or the Woodbine and Ivy Band. This is a very different creature to those outlets.

Little Crackd Rabbit's mission statement encompasses experimental, improvised and ambient works, and "Peaks" is all of those things and a whole lot more. Solo guitar pieces with heavy use of echo and delay, recorded entirely live in one evening in a church in Manchester, "Peaks" is an emotive creature full of unexpected twists and turns, accomplished with subtlety and nuance where others would likely rely on bluster and bombast.

And it's no wonder with a list of influences that include Robert Fripp, Vini Reilly, Robin Guthrie, Michael Rother and Richard Skelton, that Philipson's own pieces display such deft awareness of how to combine melody and atmosphere, without relinquishing too much power to either force.

Again, I'm impressed with the way that Philipson holds himself back from the gimmickery that this set up invites, instead allowing the natural space and acoustics of the church to generate a gigantic sound that often walks a grey line between reverential, richly beautiful and compellingly sinister.

Check out the impressively controlled atmospherics of "Landings at Stanage Edge" below - it has as much in common with post rock practitioners like Mogwai, and particularly Jakob as it does with its more improvisational brethren. Its this implied structure that makes "Peaks" such an easy album to surrender to, as even in its most challenging moments there's a sense that it's working towards something greater, and it reaches those moments of greatness with more regularity than it has any right to.

Quite splendid.

Order directly from Little Crackd Rabbit here.

7 May 2014

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart "Days of Abandon"

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Fans of "Belong", don’t despair that the band’s lineup has changed. While the group has dialed down the shoegaze element, "Days of Abandon" (the title comes from Elena Ferrante’s celebrated 2002 novel) is dreamy and lush and filled with the best sort of pop music you’ll never hear on commercial radio. Maybe you could also call it chamber pop, due to the presence of horns and strings. At first listen, I was reminded most of The Smiths, and my opinion hasn’t changed on that. The stellar melodies and boy-girl vocal interactions also hints of early Stars ("Simple and Sure"). But those are only starting points to launch you into this rather lovely confection.

My favorite tune is predictably "Until the Sun Explodes", which sounds the most like their material on "Belong", but there is also the gorgeous "The Asp at My Chest", which rolls along gently with swells of organ and the grand addition of brass. You can drop the needle or skip forward anywhere, and you’ll be treated to blissful tunes swollen with melody and melancholy. Really, you can’t miss with anything here. With help from multi-instrumentalist Kelly Pratt on horn arrangements and Jen Goma from A Sunny Day in Glasgow on vocals ("Life After Life"), Kip Berman is well equipped to move forward musically.

Vinyl available here, CD here.

6 May 2014

Active Listener Records May Releases

Here's the next two releases on Active Listener Records. Violet Swells' "Jupiters Garden" single kicked my ass when I reviewed it earlier on this year so I jumped at the opportunity to release the follow up E.P "The Soft Focus". Also out this month is the debut single from garage pop duo Doctor Nod. Their "Walkin The Dog" is extremely catchy and may well be my favourite single track on the label so far.

Investigate these new releases here, your support is hugely appreciated.

From: Tasmania, Australia
Style: Baroque Psychedelic Pop
Recommended if you like: Jacco Gardner, The Beach Boys, The Zombies

Read more / listen / buy here.

From: Fayetteville, AR, U.S.A
Style: Garage / Pop / Psych
Recommended if you like: T. Rex, White Fence, The Stooges, The Velvet Underground

Read more / listen / buy here.

Keith Cross & Peter Ross "Bored Civilians"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

By 1972 guitarist Keith Cross had already developed a reputation as the next potential Clapton, a tag that while not quite as damaging as the next Dylan tag that was being applied liberally to almost anyone, invariably had the same effect of diluting the artist's own personality and creating an image that was near impossible to live up to. Cross, by this point had two excellent future collectibles under his belt in the shape of the Bulldog Breed's excellent modish psych-rock album "Made In England", followed closely by T2's "It'll All Work Out In Boomland", a heavy guitar based proto-prog album that really allowed his guitar playing to take flight.

So come 1972, there were two directions he could potentially take, and perhaps a little surprisingly he bypassed the more obvious full on progressive rock route, and joining forces with fellow singer guitarist Peter Ross who'd been working with Richard Thompson), they settled on a more rootsy, Americanized sound that leaned heavily on the then popular Laurel Canyon sound with a distinct West Coast tinge.

"Bored Civilians" is the result of this collaboration, and the last that either had to do with recorded music. It's easy to see how its lack of success would have left them disillusioned too - it's a very solid effort, and with guest appearances by Caravan's Jimmy Hastings, Brinsley Schwartz's Nick Lowe and Cochise's B.J Cole among a host of others, it certainly had the firepower that should have led to quite a bit of exposure if it had been promoted with any sense of urgency .

It's mostly acoustic based, but that doesn't mean that the flourishing progressive rock scene surrounding them isn't given a look in - while complex time signatures and endless solos aren't really the order of the day here, these are much more complicated, multi-faceted songs than you would find on the works of their contemporaries. Lengthy stand out track "Story to a Friend" even has a middle section that sounds a lot like Pink Floyd's "Any Colour You Like" would have sounded if they'd recorded it for "Wish You Were Here", with Hastings' flute work a dead ringer for Richard Wright's synthesizer tones on that later album - interesting as this pre-dates the release of both of these Floyd works (although Floyd were gigging "Dark Side" material around this time).

Of the two, Ross has a voice that sounds less like a product of its time, with Cross's voice a mixture of Mike Patto and eco-warrior / protest era McCartney (think "Wild Life"),  often straying into an earnestness that collectors of the era will find easy to forgive, but which may prove harder to swallow for more contemporary listeners. This is a real pity as these are generally top notch songs that could perhaps do with a little more variety in terms of tempo, but are otherwise representative of the topper echelon of their era.  Opener "The Last Ocean Rider" is a lively opener with a fabulous second half that gives Cross the opportunity to spar impressively with BJ Cole's pedal steel. Their take on Fotheringay's "Peace In The End" is a sprightly, pastoral reinvention that could have provided the hit that this album really needed to take off (Ross's "The Dead Salute" could have provided a similar breakthrough), but perhaps most impressive (bar the gorgeous progginess of "Story to a Friend") is the ornate orchestration that closes the album on "Fly Home" a gorgeous and stately closer that hammers home the musical ambition that this duo display in droves here.

Esoteric have met their normal standards of excellence with this new remaster which includes two b-sides as bonus tracks.

Available on CD here.

5 May 2014

Melodien "Participation Mystique"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Chances are Liverpool is not the first place you'd think to look for the next great Krautrock hope, but if you were to go to the trouble that's where you'd find Harry Sumnall. And that's where Dom from the Great Pop Supplement found him for this debut full length on his esoteric Deep Distance offshoot label.

While Sumnall has been tinkering for a while (his Bandcamp page contains the fruits of those tinkerings), "Participation Mystique" is certainly the most impressive thing he's come up with so far.
Krauty instrumental rock with layers of great sounding vintage keyboards wooshing by in all directions as if someone from the seventies had been asked to interpret the concept of space travel as a sound experiment.

And while I have just implied that this is laced through with all manner of vintageness, it also has a foot firmly planted in more contemporary climes, making this an easy and extremely enjoyable listen for those who are yet to acclimatise to Krautrock.

Opener "2-CT-TC-7" is the most immediate track here and an instant drawcard with its "Sympathy For The Devil" shuffle soon being appropriated by a funky bassline and some wonderful eighties BBC synth sounds. 

The rest of the album is a little slower to reveal its secrets, but there are plenty of them and continued exposure to this wee gem is dangerously addictive. You've been warned.

I've been told that vinyl copies of this are sold out almost everywhere so get in quick here if you want one.

Otherwise, digital download or stream available here:

4 May 2014

The X-Ray Harpoons "Get Attuned To Our Tyme"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Cologne based garage punk merchants the X-Ray Harpoons follow up two strong singles with their first full length platter for copaseDisques, and it's a belter in the grand old tradition of the Music Machine, with lashings of fuzz guitar and heaps of melodic vintage organwork.

There's plenty on here to suggest that they could have held their own convincingly against any of the genre's kingpins with the first three tracks having the requisite muscle and attitude that a good piece of garage punk needs for its backbone. And while these three tracks alone warrant your attention, it's what comes after that makes these guys really special. The original sixties garage bands as a rule had the gritty, punky numbers down pat, I'll assume we're agreed on that. What let a number of these groups down in my opinion was that when the throttle was eased back for something with a little less beat, they generally didn't have the subtlety or the chops to not end up sounding like a bunch of wimps. Bearing this in mind "City of Light" is a bit of a revelation - mellotron and organ ducking and weaving together effortlessly, acoustic guitars (the antithesis of garage punk), and heavily treated psychedelic vocals that bring this more in line with the Doors or the Beatles than the Seeds. While this may sound like a huge departure from the sound of the preceding tracks (and it is), it still has their stamp of identity all over it, and from here on in the album ebbs and flows wonderfully, with plenty of surprises that never get away from them.

There's a couple of covers too, but the originals are so strong on here that they almost feel like an afterthought. The 8 track reel to reel recordings sound really great too, with none of that modern studio tarnish, but heaps of punch and presence all the same. You're gonna really enjoy this one.

Vinyl album available here.

Stream below: