30 Jan 2015

John Carpenter "Lost Themes"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

John Carpenter's legion of followers may be growing at an alarming rate, most seemingly armed with their own synthesizers, but at 67, Carpenter shows that he's still pretty much untouchable with "Lost Themes".

Although the title may lead you to assume that this is a collection of leftovers from director/composer/general legend John Carpenter's impressive filmography, you'd be wrong to do so. "Lost Themes" is, thrillingly, a collection of newly composed pieces put together by Carpenter, his son Cody, and his godson Daniel Davies (son of Kink Dave Davies, and himself a film composer, responsible for the score for "I, Frankenstein").

Carpenter himself seems loathe to classify these pieces as compositions, with a working method which endearingly involves hours of video game play by him and the lads, followed by sessions of improvisational synth tinkering, the best parts of which are then whipped into shape. "It's just fun" admits Carpenter, who further admits that he'd rather be creating music than directing these days.

And the relaxed process by which "Lost Themes" was created obviously works for Carpenter, as it has led to an incredibly strong piece of work. For once, not limited by the need to score music which will fit snugly into a tightly edited sequence, Carpenter and co. here have the freedom to develop this material in ways which would not have been possible if they were working on a frame by frame basis. And not needing to create mood-setting incidental music has afforded the opportunity for Carpenter to create perhaps his most melodically developed collection of music, with nine distinctly different themes.

"Fallen" has moments that would fit right in on one of the first two "Halloween" soundtracks, but elsewhere there's plenty of advancement on the signature Carpenter sound; the opening ambience and piano notes on "Vortex" have a distinct Berlin Bowie tinge, while stand out rocker "Obsidian" updates the classic Goblin sound, thanks in no small part to Davies' distinctive guitar work. Elsewhere there's plenty of what you'd hope for from a project like this; sequencers, creepy synth bells, plenty of the trademark synthesizer arpeggios, and a general sense of menace.

It's a totally welcome surprise, and the best news is that such a good time was had putting this together that a follow up is not only on the cards, but nearing completion.

"Lost Themes" is available here on CD, and here on vinyl.

29 Jan 2015

Albino Father "II"

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy.

Albino Father’s first full-band recording, II, released earlier this month, is energetic from the very start. The record – in its sound, lyrics, pacing, and arrangement – feels simultaneously improvised and painstakingly structured; the guitars are fuzzy, the vocals slap back-and-forth, and, in the pauses, there’s reverb to spare. It’s the soundtrack of mid-west garages and dens. Not far from II’s noise is the live show, ingrained in every track; you can easily imagine them pounding through the same songs with their amps at full power, and you can’t help nodding along. Formerly the solo project of guitarist, Matt Hoenes, Albino Father can now take advantage of the way musicians play against one another.

In "Disappear", the guitar and vocals float in from all directions and crisscross over the verses, while the bass and drums keep consistent, tight time. The minimalist, chant-like vocals anchor the song and create a ritual of its structure. Bookended by "WTTV" and "Tooth Powder", "Disappear" is a quick foray into the sprawling, open side of Albino Father’s music, surrounded by the faster, psych-punk of the others. In the following tracks, the band finds a happy marriage for the elements that makes them a success – Krautrock meditations on rhythm, an appreciation for musical space, and punk/lo-fi sensibilities.

A standout track, "Heavy Fucking" evokes an early ‘70s psych vibe, pulsing through its full 8 minutes. In the final third of the song, the riff takes off, embracing layers of crunchy guitars and wailing blues solos reminiscent of a few decades past and wide-open spaces.

The hiss of a tape begins many of these tracks, reminding listeners that this music is made by real people; that particular sound, though tech-based, signifies a human touch, which, when it comes to new music, is always welcome. This record embraces the subtleties of every riff and instrument. II is garage rock at its best: catchy, gritty, and human, and, in the end, very fun. Salt Lake City’s Albino Father delivers a well-paced slow-burn of rock ‘n roll.

II is available on limited vinyl and cassette or digitally here:

28 Jan 2015

Zoltan "Sixty Minute Zoom"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Prolific London synth-botherers Zoltan (one of whom is also the fabulous Cremator) are back at it again with their second full length album for Cineploit Records.

It's been a few years since their debut, but they've kept extremely busy since then with various side-projects, and two shorter Zoltan releases based on horror films "Psychomania" and the "Blind Dead" series. These other projects gave the trio of Andy Thompson, Matt Thompson and Andrew Prestidge the opportunity to branch out and experiment with textures a little different to that of their core sound. "Sixty Minute Zoom" sees them return, fully focused to that core sound, and while their are definite similarities to their debut "First Stage Zoltan", "Sixty Minute Zoom" is a much more confident and expansive platter.

There are three names that you'll see mentioned in almost every Zoltan review - Goblin, Zombi and John Carpenter. Their influence is inescapable here, but Zoltan use these touchstones only as a starting point. The rhythmic complexities that Matt Thompson and Andrew Prestidge introduce add a whole new dimension here, providing a pleasingly cerebral edge which makes use of the more appealing aspects of progressive rock without allowing the opportunity for the tedious showboating that often makes prog such an acquired taste. There's a section in "Uzumaki" which is wholly reliant on Prestige's drums to enhance the drama of the main theme's first appearance. In the hands of most other bands this would fall flat, but it's one of many transcendent moments to be found on "Sixty Minute Zoom", culminating in the side long finale "The Integral", a carefully constructed mini soundtrack which is screaming out for an accompanying short film, if only Lucio Fulci were still with us.

A definite step up from their already excellent preceding works.

Available digitally below or physically here.

27 Jan 2015

The Bingers "Gonna Get You"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I like the name the Bingers a lot. Hell, I liked it when I thought it had something to do with the strip club from the Sopranos, but now that someone has pointed out to me that it's actually a play on the fact that these guys binge, it makes a lot more sense. And the impression that "Gonna Get You", their latest 7" E.P gives, is that the Bingers have certainly ingested more vintage garage rock n roll than their dietary consultant would recommend in one sitting.

It takes a lot for a garage rock band to distinguish themselves these days. The competition is plentiful. But the Bingers have one very important thing on their side. Sure, they may sound like a bunch of snotty punks, but they also realize that buzzsaw guitars and attitude will only get you so far. With that in mind, they've ensured that all four tracks here are laden with big, memorable hooks.

The real immediate big hitters are on the first side, but the flip displays unexpected depths, with "Hideous Heart"s heavily reverbed vocal bellows subverting a classic rock n roll vocal melody in a fashion that betrays keen observational skills. And while the surf guitar riffs come thick and fast on all of these tracks, special mention should be made of "Wired", which maintains the menacing strut of vintage Link Wray played at Dick Dale velocity.

Recorded live to six track, these four tracks have a raw gutsy charm that seems to confirm that the Bingers onstage are most likely a fearsome, face melting proposition. That they've managed to capture something that demonstrates this so well on tape is a rare treat.

The 7" E.P is available here.

Stream / digital download available through the Bandcamp widget below:

New Sampler!

Top sampler this month, if I do say so myself. And it's out now! Alan of the wonderful Kitchen Cynics provided the nifty sleeve collage (as well as a new track from an upcoming release). We are much obliged to him.

This month we feature the following tracks:

1. Howlin Rain - Big Red Moon 05:50
2. The See See - Ynys Las 02:38
3. The Bingers - Wired 03:18
4. Powder Blue - Sunfire Drug Haus 07:46
5. Space Yacob & the Giant Yeti - Korong 07:11
6. Houdan the Mystic - The Meeting 03:12
7. Al Lover - Brian Jonestown Masochist 03:16
8. Mondo Drag - Crystal Visions Open Eyes 04:36
9. Dodson & Fogg - And When The Light Ran Out 08:07
10. Kitchen Cynics - Wake-Up Dream 05:20
11. Adam Leonard - Elbow of Termites 04:15
12. Acorn Falling - The Navigator Who Doubted 04:31
13. The Moon Band - My Home 04:04
14. Kentin Jivek & The Hare & The Moon - GodHead 06:10
15. Virgen Sideral - Petalos De Flujo Solar 12:50

Be sure to visit the links at https://theactivelistener.bandcamp.com/album/the-active-listener-sampler-28 to find out more about these artists.

Stream and download available here, right now!

26 Jan 2015

Al Lover "Cave Ritual"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

San Francisco producer / remixer / DJ extraordinaire Al Lover continues to diversify with this new full length album - his first for excellent UK indie Stolen Body Records.

Following on from recent successes with "Sacred Drugs" and an acclaimed Goat remix E.P, "Cave Ritual" sees Al take a more experimental approach with interesting results. Interviewed by the Quietus in September, Al admitted that his approach for this album was much more stripped back, with all samples originating from one album (no idea what that album is before you ask, but it must be pretty bad ass), with some accompanying synths and drums. With this in mind, "Cave Ritual" is an impressively varied collection which displays none of the limitations that such an approach would seemingly encourage.

It's a game of two halves for sure, with the side long "Genisis Porridge" displaying Al's layering techniques over a slowly developing build, throbbing away in a particularly intense fashion. It's quite a departure from what we've heard from him before, with a grim dystopian sound that would make it seem totally at home sound tracking "Dune" or "Blade Runner", had it been recorded 20+ years earlier.  It's probably a little intense and brooding for the average listener's everyday listening, but is just the ticket as a portentous mood setter.

The flip is much more familiar territory for fans of Al's take of garage sourced instrumental psychedelic hop hop. Edan is still a great touchstone for what to expect from this stuff. Made up of shorter tracks which fit together to create a side long sequence should you prefer to experience it as such, this has a familiar, but always enjoyable ring to it. From the jangly, beaty garage of "Death Rattle" to the riffy electro raga of "Brian Jonestown Masochist", via the ridiculously catchy bass monster "Permanent Now", this side is full of ideas which coalesce effortlessly in often surprising ways.

Great stuff then, and an exciting taster from an artist who continues to push himself in sometimes challenging, but ultimately rewarding directions.

Available now from Stolen Body Records or via Norman Records.

Michael Tanner "Nine of Swords"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Michael Tanner has been hard at work in the background during the creation of a number of the finest albums of the last few years. As a member of experimental Irish acid folksters United Bible Studies, as a collaborator to the likes of Mark Fry, Sharron Kraus and Richard Moult, and with his recordings as Plinth, Tanner is one of today's most versatile and fearless musicians. Using a mixture of traditional instruments, field recordings and drones (and on occasion music boxes) he creates something utterly unique and hypnotic with his music. With recent release "Nine of Swords" this ably continues to be the case. An album devised by allocating nine tarot cards to nine percussive instruments (water bowls, singing bowls, temple bells and cymbals) and played in the order of the cards being drawn from the deck, this is a recording of shimmering, sombre beauty.

One divinatory meaning of the Nine of Swords is that of death, failure, delay, deception, disappointment and despair. An almost tangible flavour of those are present as the album opens, the glistening drone of the singing bowl echoing endlessly as if frozen in solitude. And yet another different divinatory interpretation is that of an ecclesiastic, a priest; certainly this feel of the sacred is also present. There is something religious, ancient and otherworldly about the drones that emit from Tanner's experiments. And yet no effects, no plug-ins or sonic tampering was used. These sounds are pure, organic and natural. Reminiscent of some of Nurse With Wound's more 'ambient' creations (using that word very loosely indeed as there is nothing 'relaxing' or 'chill out' about either Tanner or Stapleton's work) such as "Soliloquy For Lilith" or perhaps Michael Begg and Colin Potter's cathedral based opus "Fragile Pitches", there is much more going on between and beneath the drones than it at first appears. Sounds blend, emerge and disappear; they have direction and purpose. This is an album to focus on and to pay attention to, perhaps an album for late nights or early mornings; there is something contemplative at heart here, this music invites reflection. The glistening of the water bowls merges into the gentle waves of temple bells, at times creating a solid, reverberating mass whilst at others a more distant echo. There is great beauty in this recording, nothing is rushed and the sound is crystalline and pure. The world outside seems to grow quieter around the music, as if in step. This is not easy listening however, but a demanding and focused album which commands your complete attention. It deserves and repays this attention a hundred times over however with truly beautiful sounds, atmospheres and textures; consult the cards and sink into the shimmer of "Nine of Swords" - you will not be disappointed.

Available here from the prolific and excellent 'A Year In The Country' label as a limited 'Night Edition' box set containing the album on all black CDr, a 12 page string bound booklet and badge and sticker set; a limited 'Day Edition' containing a white/black CDr album in 10 page string bound booklet; a limited 'Dawn' edition containing a white/black CDr album in white textured recycled fold out sleeve with insert and badge and finally a 'Dusk' edition with a hand-finished all black CDr in a matt recycled sleeve with insert. These packages are as lovely and carefully constructed as one has come to expect from this fine label and befits the music contained within perfectly.

24 Jan 2015

Howlin' Rain "Mansion Songs"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Vanguard affiliated Easy Sound Recording Co. label has had a high impact first year. Becoming the home of choice for bands like The Donkeys and Papercuts (both of whom released career best albums this past year that can be at least partly attributed to the label's artist-centric approach) with future releases on the horizon from the likes of Isobel Campbell and Vetiver.

This spirit of artistic freedom must have been particularly appealing to Howlin' Rain's Ethan Miller, particularly following on from what by all accounts was a pretty miserable experience recording 2012's "The Russian Wilds" with Rick Rubin. "Mansion Songs" is Easy Sound's first release of 2015, and is the first in a trilogy that Miller has lined up which represents a new beginning of sorts for him. "When I began this record, I most certainly hadn't given up, but I was in a dark and trying place," explains Miller, "I wanted the album to reflect a dignified despair."And it certainly does that. And how. The blazing, psychedelic guitarwork that has been Miller's calling card since his Comets on Fire days is noticeably absent, throwing the spotlight squarely onto the songs, and putting his voice centrestage to an unprecedented degree. And these are almost certainly the best songs of his career so far.

The sparse nature of these recordings certainly seems to indicate that Miller did pick up a few things from his time with Rubin, but the ramshackle, ragged glory of the performances are something that it's hard to imagine Rubin having any tolerance for. So it's just as well Miller was left to his own devices here, or we wouldn't have "Mansion Songs", an album that stands up with the best of Little Feat's recorded output, and evokes "Tonight's The Night" and "Exile on Main Street", especially in the conviction of Miller's vocal delivery.

Howlin' Rain was originally started because Miller "wanted to sonically represent the history of California bands." By dropping the psychedelic element of his music, he's come closest to reaching that ideal here. And with two more albums lined up to accompany this, I'm very excited.

Album of the year so far for me.

"Mansion Songs" is available here.

Kentin Jivek & The Hare & The Moon "The Haunted Cabaret"

Reviewed by Robin Hamlyn.

On paper, a collaboration between The Hare and the Moon and Kentin Jivek is a beguiling prospect. While both artists have a long history of exploring what might loosely be termed “ambient and/or psychedelic folk”, their respective sound-worlds are radically different. The Hare and the Moon’s Blakean muse derives from the mystical fields of Old Albion — albeit filtered through an often Velvet Underground-tinted lens — whilst Jivek’s electronic, frequently synthesized soundscapes are more recognizably modern European. It’s also true to say that Jivek’s stark, disruptive vocal stylings are very far removed from The Hare and the Moon’s more traditional, although no less compelling, approach to the voice.
What emerges is a fascinating, disturbing, haunted fairground of an album, where the attractions range from the seemingly benign to the darkly subversive. “The Haunted Cabaret” opens the show with a jaunty pipe organ solo, accompanied by exclamations in German (uttered by the multi-lingual Jisek), evoking the back alleys of Berlin, and more specifically Bruno S.’s accordion-accompanied monologues in Herzog’s Stroszek. Our spirits buoyed, we then take a turn into one of the albums many corners of glamorous despair. “The Liquorist” opens with a spacious, menacing drone before peals of maniacal laughter announce the arrival of the song’s protagonist. The liquorist then reflects on the taste of alcohol, or “God’s fluid”, whilst succumbing to demonic paroxysms of what might be joy but sound more like the agonies of a highly aestheticized addict. Gloriously, the piece breaks into one of Grey Malkin’s divine ethereal riffs, creating a vortex of Cocteau Twins-like overtones into which the cackling, ranting liquorist disappears.
“Gevaudan” opens with a Ligeti-like cloud of moaning, unquiet voices, before Jisek’s rasping tones, this time in his native French, emerge from some unclean sepulcher. The musical texture now punctuated by tambourine hits (or is that the sound of the damned rattling their chains?), the voice, quite horrifyingly, becomes a bestial roar that is quickly enveloped by the rising tonal wash. As the song slouches towards silence, the sonority is reminiscent of Popol Vuh’s accompaniment to the opening credits of Herzog’s Nosferatu, and evokes a similar, and yet even more intense atmosphere of tenebrous gloom.
“Godhead” appears to elevate us immediately, and we emerge from the stygian depths on the wings of a sweet, even sentimental, string melody. After less than a minute, however, hissing whispers attack the stereo image, hard-panned and sibilant. And as the string orchestra is bruised by waves of dissonance, Jivek emerges once more, this time delivering, in English, a full-blooded croon on the nature of divinity. If you can imagine Nick Cave being stirred in with Stuart Staples of Tindersticks, with a little bit of Scott Walker on the side, you’ll be somewhere close, but there is a frankly demented quality to Jivek’s delivery that chills the blood. When mixed with Grey Malkin’s cathedral-like sonic textures, what emerges is once more imbued with a strange, ceremonial quality.
“Petite Mort” opens in a similarly serene fashion to that of “Godhead”, with a Faure-like string melody, delicately punctuated by silvery percussion. Jivek’s quietly febrile monologue finds a less extreme counterpoint in Grey Malkin’s exquisitely layered aural backcloth, ending the piece on a note of relative peace. “Das Narren Schiff”, is rendered in French, and Jivek’s performance here is comparatively restrained. Almost subliminally, though, voices alternately demonic and mellifluous trouble our brains, as Grey Malkin’s ingenious aural fabric — ranging from sitar-like drones to clouds of dense percussion — shrouds the landscape. Once more, the ghost of Popol Vuh haunts the speakers while the sound of a ticking clock creates an uncanny tension. The album’s final track, “Black Beard” consists of a relatively serene Jivek narrating the story of a pirate, accompanied, initially, by the album’s most minimal musical backdrop. As the piece reaches its climax, however, Grey Malkin’s ambient textures engulf the listener, leading her solemnly to a place of the most intense and corrupting beauty.
This is an album to get to know slowly, over a glass or two of blood-red wine. There’s just no point in trying to get to the bottom of it. It’s a masterpiece to which you simply have to yield.
Grab your copy from Reverb Worship while/when you can. The first print run has sold out, but there is another on the way.

22 Jan 2015

The See See "Once, Forever and Again"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Legendary U.S reissue label Sundazed paid the See See an enormous compliment when they issued the compilation "Days Nights & Late Morning Lights" a year or two back. Fabled for their classic psychedelic reissues, it was the first time in the label's lengthy history that it had consented to release an album by a contemporary act. This obviously speaks volumes about the quality of the See See's music, as well as suggesting what it's likely to sound like to newcomers. Those newcomers are likely to be a little surprised by what they hear here though. While the See See certainly have one foot placed firmly in the sixties, they also display a sturdy contemporary edge that casts them as much more than revivalists, very much in a neo-psychedelic vein rather than the strict replication that one might expect.

Their latest, "Once, Forever & Again" is another masterclass in classic pop styles with plenty of paisley tinges, but also, on the likes of "Over & Under" hints that the Smiths and the Chills may be as much of an influence as the Byrds.

Elsewhere, tracks like "Ynas Las" evoke expansive, open spaces in a fashion that will appeal to fans of more contemporary fare like Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes.

And the muscular, but unforced guitar riff of "Mary Anne" is a knee to the groin of those who might be tempted to suggest that neo-psychedelia in general is a bit wussy.

Another diverse offering from this London five piece then, and one that continues to further their ambitions and broaden their horizons in an unforced and thoroughly enjoyable fashion.

"Once Forever And Again" is available here.

21 Jan 2015

Mondo Drag "Mondo Drag"

Authentically vintage seventies prog stylings from a band with Radio Moscow and Blues Pills' rhythm section.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Mondo Drag is a heavy psych/progressive rock band from California. Their hard hitting music is deftly played by highly skilled musicians, and much of it is instrumental. Standout track "Plumajilla" takes a leaf from the Deep Purple songbook,with its powerful organ riffs charging at your ears. And then it suddenly switches gears to this evocative and reflective section of the song. This is typical of the twists and turns you can expect on this record; you never know what is around the corner. It builds up again slightly before fading to silence. "Shifting Sands" is not a West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band cover as you might expect. Rather, it's muti-layered neo-psych which flits into Krautrock territory. "Pillars of the Sky" is another favorite, meandering along in the best Pink Floyd tradition. Its passages sound like the band ingested "Wish You Were Here" in its entirety, a good influence to have! "Snakeskin" closes the record and clocks in around 6 minutes, once again displaying the band's talent for slowly building the energy and then really putting the hammer down.

Though I don't listen to prog rock these days, I really enjoyed a thoroughly modern take on the genre from this talented Oakland group.

CD and vinyl available here. Digital and full stream through the Bandcamp link below.

Fight Cloud / Houdan The Mystic "Where's My Shakespeare?"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This split, which falls somewhere between E.P and album length (eight tracks in all), is a lovely showcase for these two Richmond, Virginia based bands.

We've investigated Houdan The Mystic before, with their free "Archer's Jamboree" E.P causing quite a fuss here back in 2012. One that has made the three year wait since seem interminable. I was initially a little disappointed to note that the Houdan the Mystic gents were only responsible for four tracks here, but Fight Cloud prove to be every bit as worthy and it's hard to imagine a more complimentary band. In fact if you were to play me the album in a random order I would have trouble telling you which band was responsible for which tracks. What makes this particularly unusual is that this is anything but undistinguished music. Houdan the Mystic call themselves "psychedelic, complicated indie rock", which is a much more accurate description than anything I could conjure, and one that, with a little math-rock thrown into the mix, should evoke an image of a band that don't really sound like much else out there. That two such like-minded bands have found each other and joined forces is a very good thing indeed for us at the listening end of the apparatus.

Both bands sound jazz schooled, with impressively versatile rhythm sections. And while the time signatures change with alarming regularity, this isn't just cerebral music. The part of the brain that likes things a bit tricky will certainly be fist-pumping here, but there's also an Indie vocal sensibility at play that provides a human element for the listener to bond with. Add a bunch of great guitar hooks with impressive pop smarts - think Adrian Belew era King Crimson - and you've got a couple of bands that engage on multiple levels, and sound supremely comfortable on all of them.

I'm not going to single out any particular tracks for special attention as the whole E.P flows wonderfully from start to finish, and the ever shifting nature of these tracks ensures that the listener's attention is liable to be rapt until the very last minute. Suffice it to say that these two bands are extremely impressive, with a versatility and melodic sense which is rare to hear combined. I could listen to this stuff all day.

Both bands offer their sides digitally as name your price downloads through the links below, or you can buy a limited edition cassette for $5 U.S through either of the same links.

19 Jan 2015

Acorn Falling "2nd Plateau of Normalcy"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)


Acorn Falling, effectively the solo project of Copenhagen based musician Lars Kivig, has been steadily becoming a prominent name in experimental, electro acoustic and underground circles. Their debut album "Cabinet of Curiosities" was a hugely impressive first outing which saw Kivig’s muse at full strength, working alongside cellist John Contreras of Current 93 and percussionist Thomas Wydler of The Bad Seeds.

On Acorn Falling's second release "2nd Plateau Of Normalcy" Wydler and Contreras return, joined with, amongst others, Joseph Budenholzer of Backworld and Peter Principle of Tuxedomoon. Ambitious, intense, evocative, all these superlatives describe this album but after reading, don't just take my word for it. You need to hear this.

The album begins with "Whistle at Tragedy Bay", its sombre piano and keening vocal a prelude to something ominous and dread filled. The scratch and hum of a viola enters before the track takes off dramatically, Thomas Wylder's drums a veritable maelstrom amongst the wailing strings and Laura Noszczyk's emotive vocal lines. It's a heart shuddering moment, one of many on this album. Next, "Cliffhanger's Hymn" opens with bursts of viola before settling into cascades of piano and John Contreras cello, Kivig’s vocals emotive and bare; this music is stately, precise and hugely thrilling. Reminiscent in parts of Joseph Budenholzer's Backworld, Nick Cave’s "No More Shall We Part" and the finest of Black Heart Procession, Acorn Falling paint a widescreen picture, filled with nuances and deeply evocative detail. "The Constrictor"s electronic beeps and hums lead solemnly into a heady swamp of orchestral flourishes, unsettling percussion and a reptilian narrative. The sense of dread is palpable; this music is alive with crackling energy and genuine menace. "Bitter Ashes" steady beat is enveloped by hum and whirr with echoed harmonies swirling around Kivig's delivery, the sound of glass stretched and reverberated before the most lonesome guitar you will ever hear enters. In a just world this track would be soundtracking the forthcoming series of Twin Peaks, the song’s dark atmospheres and haunted air a perfect fit for David Lynch's visions. "As Heaven Went To Hell" has scraped strings which build the tension up to breaking point before a "Soundtracks For The Blind" era Swans style funereal beat leads into delicately picked, echoed guitar, viola and windswept vocal harmonies. The drums return and the music literally howls, a majestic cacophony of control and chaos. "MS Humanity" begins with a rumble before heartbreaking piano and cello echo out into the void, warmth amongst the frozen wastes. The crash of bass notes adds a sinister motif, however the sense of hope is not lost. It's a heartrending moment of great beauty. "Lost Horizons" motorik electronics and guitar frames Kivig's strong vocals, the song building and layering to an eastern flecked crescendo of whirling viola and spine tingling power. Next, electronic percussion, synth and strings combine to begin the eerie, album standout "The Navigator Who Doubted", a shadowy epic featuring Joseph Budenholzer on vocals that recalls early John Foxx. It's a work of startling grace and depth; indeed it is frustrating that music this good is being made in virtually the underground when it should have a mass audience, hopefully this will be the case in due course. "The Shot" is a tense, piano led lament, spectral guitar echoing around the song like wisps of smoke. This is late night music, for the wee small hours when it is darkest before the dawn. Finally "Eno's Song for Mum" is an early musical venture for Lars's son who can be heard over some gorgeous waterfalling piano lines and heartrending cello. An emotional and beautiful end to an evocative and moving album.

With this release Acorn Falling have staked their claim as one of underground music's finest; the sheer scope and ambition of this album is mindblowing. Acorn Falling go way beyond any plateau and far past any average normalcy. Hear this album; trust me.

Available for download on the 21st January and on physical formats thereafter. Three songs are ready to stream at

18 Jan 2015

Powder Blue "II"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Those of you with long memories may recall how much we loved the debut from this Saskatoon based quartet a couple of years back. They've had the odd change around in the personnel department and increased their profile substantially sense then, but they certainly haven't abandoned any of the qualities that made "Dream in Black" so memorable.

Theirs is a distinctive sound rather than a formula, making their music instantly familiar, without any hint of staleness. Their deconstruction of the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire" (sadly not included on the E.P) demonstrates their sense of self admirably - it's instantly recognisable to anyone who has heard the original, but could easily pass for an original of the band's if it were to be slotted into the playing order.

"Powder Blue II" doesn't reinvent the wheel then. It doesn't need to. It does everything that "Dream in Black" did, and it does it all so much better. At heart then, they're still a hazy, slow burning, psychedelic dream with the vocals of Shelby Gaudet, Sonia Dickin and Elsa Gebremichael coalescing into a soothing blanket of reverbed loveliness, always with a hint of menace adding an edge to keep the listener engaged. That sense of unease is enhanced admirably by Amber Kraft's tribal toms and guitarist Christopher Laramee who adds plenty of bite.

The whole thing is an easy to digest serving, but closer "Run" may well be the best encapsulation of their past, present and futures tied together; trance inducing vocals over a bed of rolling tom-toms, leading into a feedback laden, carnivale outro with an exhausting crescendo that must make an excellent set-closer live.

Ideal listening conditions? Add a bean-bag and some top notch headphones. Ideal.

You can stream the whole thing, or purchase digitally or on CD here:

17 Jan 2015

Dodson And Fogg "And When The Light Ran Out"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

wisdomtwinsbooks.bandcamp.com wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com

The New Year brings a new Dodson And Fogg album and what a fine way to start 2015. A collection of songs that Dodson mainman Chris Wade describes as 'exploring themes such as home, people upping and leaving whether they be passing on or moving away, for new lives and new beginnings and leaving things behind', it is certainly a reflective and ruminative (though not always restrained) recording. Featuring a smaller cast of contributors than is usual with a Dodson album, though notably brother Andy Wade is present as is regular sitar player Ricky Romain, this is Dodson stripped back and perhaps more nakedly emotional than previous. Yet it is clearly a Dodson record in heart and soul, which is a very good thing indeed.

"We Are Going Home" opens the album with warmth, a gentle acoustic paean to where the heart lies, Wade's Barrett-esque vocals and regular impressive "Forever Changes" style guitar runs twisting the song clearly into psych territory. "Shine" continues the trip down the rabbit hole; tabla, mandolin and some 60s guitar stylings framing the song with hazy, dreamy intent. Effortlessly catchy and melodic, this is classic Dodson. Instrumental "New Autumn" adds Georgia Cooke's flute to provide a nostalgic, sepia feel not unlike the instrumentals Nick Drake flavoured "Bryter Layter" with. There is definitely a melancholic edge at play here, more of a sense of weighing up and reviewing of life. "I Know The Way" ups the pace significantly with a mandolin and guitar stomp, punctuated with molten bursts of lead guitar. It's exhilarating and layers the track expertly with brimming tension. "Straight To The Sun" returns to the more wistful vein of the album, flute twisting and turning around Wade's Kinks-ian melodies. Piano notes waterfall across the baroque setting, an autumnal anthem. "I Never Want You To Go" begins with melodica before quickly developing into a finger-picked psych beauty, xylophone cascading down the Spanish flecked guitar runs to create a lysergic and sunlit gem. "What You Looking For?" is a downbeat, folk-tinged piece of sombre reflection and sage advice for the song's protagonist. "Down Down The Rain Will Fall" mixes electric and acoustic guitar with handclaps and a Ray Davies cynicism to great effect, ably demonstrating why Wade is quite simply one of the UK's current foremost songwriters. Indeed, given Dodson's prolific output and the extremely high quality control he employs there is a case for Wade to be much more highly lauded than he is at this moment in time; the man deserves serious acclaim and recognition. As if this was not enough, he is also now introducing other essential acts via his Wisdom twins imprint; from this source came The Moon Band's debut single only a few weeks back.

"Way Out In The Cold" is a classic Dodson piece of tense pop mastery, minor key guitars jabbing and shifting under a chorus that will stay in your head for days. "My World" is a Jagger/Richards style eulogy to being an individual - all garage rock guitars and dark attitude. Next, "Sister Storm" begins with the sound of rain and thunder before mandolin, piano and sitar transports it into another time and space altogether. Part "Riders On The Storm", part raga freak out, this instrumental gives a good indication of the breadth of Dodson's imagination and ambition. Whilst there is a discernible sound to the band, they can never be accused of being predictable, there always being twists, odd corners and 'what on earth' moments (in a good way!) on any Dodson record. Similarly, album closer "And When The Light Ran Out" begins with dread filled dramatic stabs of violin before settling into a delicate Eastern psych nugget, sitar shimmering over some of the finest chamber pop you will ever hear. George Harrison would be proud of coming up with this one.

It cannot be repeated enough; Dodson and Fogg are a national treasure. Part of a musical linage of Ray Davies, Syd Barrett and Julian Cope, Wade is a truly gifted and unique songwriter. Their (now) extensive back catalogue is a well of psych jewels for the uninitiated. For those in the know, we have another classic Dodson album and for that we are thankful.

Available now with beautiful sleeve artwork by Dodson regular Linzi Napier.

15 Jan 2015

Virgen Sideral "Virgen Sideral"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

It's well past time I made mention of excellent Greek psychedelic label Garden of Dreams (G.O.D) Records. The truth is, since their relatively recent inception, they've released so much music that I can't keep up. Several things that I've intended to review have been buried under an avalanche of subsequent releases from the label, all of it good stuff too. So, rather than continue to be befuddled by the quality and quantity of their releases, I'll introduce you to one of their first releases and leave you to investigate the rest of their vast playground here, in your own time.

As is the case with a number of G.O.D's artists, Peruvian space-rockers Virgen Sideral were completely unknown to me when their self-titled CD arrived in the post, but that is certainly not a reflection on its obvious quality.

It's tempting to make comparison to another Peruvian collective (Montibus Communitas), who are popular among these pages. Yet while the two bands share a common bond and utilise similar tools (mood and improvisation), Virgen Sideral bypass the earthy, spiritual flavours of their fellow countrymen and head skywards into kosmische / progressive territory.

It could be argued that Virgen Sideral relies heavily on the teachings of "Saucerful of Secrets". Some may say a little too much, but these ears hear plenty more going on besides (including some mind bogglingly proficient work from the rhythm section), and the band's explorative side is more often than not fully engaged, showing that they intend to further the genre, rather than rest on another band's forty seven year old laurels.

The melodies are often nebulous and difficult to grasp, but Virgen Sideral's real strengths lie in their ability to build a huge, alien sound that really does sound like a broadcast from an unknown origin, complete with disembodied voices, cacophonous crescendos, and periods of eerie calm.

A real third-eye opener.

Available on CD or digitally here along with plenty of other goodies:

14 Jan 2015

She Rocola "Burn The Witch/ Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

She Rocola conjure one the most bewitching releases of the last few months with this EP on the fine label, A Year In The Country. Equal parts performance theatre, found sound and folksong (think Tiger Lillies meets the spookiest of Nurse With Wound) these tracks inhabit an especially cobwebbed and haunted corner of the imagination.

"Burn The Witch" begins with urgent stabs and wails of violin and an immediate sense of foreboding. Rocola intones the witches' fate, vocal harmonies layering ghostlike amidst the baroque setting, her voice endlessly repeating "make her leave my mind..." It is a short yet hugely effective piece, a subtle but powerful spell. Inspired by "childhood memories and by formative viewings of late-night folk-horror films from in front of and behind the sofa" this is a hallucinatory and haunting piece of folk noir.

Second track "Molly Leigh Of The Mother Town" is a music box filled shimmer of dread, acoustic guitars casting spectral shadows under the repeated nursery rhyme mantra of the verse. The voice of the witch speaks, intertwining with the sounds of the children's twisted game. It is both utterly unique and completely hypnotic; this is gothic folk like you have never heard before. With shades of Siouxsie and a hint of Maxine Peake (from The Eccentronic Research Council's Pendle Witch themed opus "1612 Overture"), this is music for when the dark falls and there is nothing but the sound of the rain and wind on the window pane. Ms She Rocola herself describes the song as drawing from "her own personal folklore and that of her home town; childhood experiences of chasing her playmates around Molly Leigh's grave and the rhymes which accompanied such games. It is an audiological conjuring of hazy, sleepy small-hours memories and dreams from those times."

Highly recommended, this single comes in the usual high quality and limited edition A Year In The Country packaging; an Owl Light Edition CD with card inserts; a Night Edition with black CDr, a 12 page string bound booklet, 4 x 25mm badge pack and 3 vinyl style waterproof stickers; a Dawn Edition with textured recycled fold out sleeve with insert and badge; a Day Edition with textured fine art cotton rag paper sleeve signed and hand numbered and finally an Arising Edition with a Giclée print. All of which can be found through the Bandcamp link below, as well as a full stream.

Fall under the spell of She Rocola and let her nightmares be the sound of your dreams.

13 Jan 2015

"Follow Me Down ~ Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era 1966-1970"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Originally released on vinyl in 2011 (and still available in that format here), this excellent overview of Vanguard Records freakier outings has now been made available to a wider audience thanks to this new CD release. Most widely recognised for its high profile releases of artists like Joan Baez and Ian & Sylvia, Vanguard is often written off as 'just a folk label' by collectors. But, as"Follow Me Down" demonstrates so admirably, the label's expeditions down the rabbit hole were both frequent and fruitful.

Vanguard's one really big psychedelic act - Country Joe & The Fish - are notably absent here, but that's not what this collection is about. "Follow Me Down" exists to give lesser known acts a chance to shine, and an opportunity to reach an audience which our reissue culture has molded into a much more open minded and receptive community.

The first striking aspect of "Follow Me Down" is how gritty the majority of this stuff is. There was a huge amount of pop-psych on the market around this time, but if this is anything to go by, Vanguard weren't having a bar of it. "Follow Me Down" is a much heavier beast than your average psych comp. Full of power trios, lengthy, lysergic guitar workouts and experimental, jazzy tendencies, this is pretty advanced stuff, but the producers have been extremely careful to ensure that their selections highlight the artist's melodic and compositional skills as much as their freakier credentials.

We've long been fans of Circus Maximus's Byrdsy folk-rock, so it's pleasing to see them highlighted here. Serpent Power's Doors invoking saga "The Endless Tunnel" is also a well known and highly prized gem among collectors, but there are plenty of other acts here that deliver on the promise of these slightly higher profile acts. Particularly good are the two selections from Boston band Listening, featuring intricate Hendrix style guitar work from a young Peter Malick, who in later years would introduce Norah Jones to the world.

I'm not enough of a scholar to know whether this should be used a starting point for further investigation of these artists, or whether this is all the average punter is likely to need, but it clearly belongs in the collection of anyone with even a passing interest in the original psychedelic era.


"Follow Me Down ~ Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era 1966-1970"is available on CD here.


Sounds of Sovereign - Junkboy Guest Mix

Several months ago, pastoral folkadelic duo Junkboy graced us with one of 2014's most lovely albums, "Sovereign Sky". The Hanscomb Brothers have now very kindly put together this exclusive guest mix for us, of music that inspired "Sovereign Sky". We're in the middle of a warm, balmy Summer over here in New Zealand, and this is the perfect accompaniment, but such are the quality of the selections contained within, that those of you beset on all sides by chilliness will find this to be the perfect escape.

"Here is a smattering of the aural confection that inspired – to some extent – our album, Sovereign Sky." says Rich Hanscomb.

"We’re proud of our album. Heck, we think it’s amazing but we’re almost jealous of each and every one of these Nuggets. Wished we wrote that! That’s the point of art surely - to always strive.

These are our melodic and recording touchstones. They also epitomise the kind of mood we wanted evoke as well as representing something inherent and inescapable to what we do as Junkboy. As such, we have lo-fi West Coast sunshine pop created by people perpetually in the shadow of one B. Wilson and skewered, hushed, autumn hymnals. Pulling the curtains shut at 4.30pm. There’s joy, soul and experimentation. Two brothers locked in a home studio come rain or shine in love with the possibilities of music.

We’re lucky to have friends who’ve hipped us to some great music not all of which could be included here. Two summers ago a friend of us played I Lied To Aunty May, a wonderful, baroque slice of whimsy, all string flourishes and wonky vocals. It sounded like utter perfection and was the strange fruit of Pete Frampton and some skinheads called The Neat Change. Thanks also to The Active Listener, Shindig!, Borderline Records, Brighton (RIP) and Flashback magazine for consolidating and developing what we know. Thanks to Simon for ‘converting’ a lot of our vinyl for the purposes of this.

Here’s to the future. Enjoy the Sounds of Sovereign and you will probably enjoy Sovereign Sky too."

Stream the mix here, and follow the link for a full track listing.

11 Jan 2015

Space Yacob & the Giant Yeti "YACOB II"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This is one that I've been intending to write about for some time, but I've held back as there is so little information available online about this "space duo". The thing is though, their album "YACOB II" (is there/ was there a "YACOB I" at some point?) is so lovingly crafted and consistently appealing that it seems a little silly to let an absence of facts prevent me from sharing it with you.

We're told on their Bandcamp page that we're dealing with a duo, and that they're from Japan (or Andromeda depending on sources). Beyond this, the music is left to do the talking, and it does so very nicely indeed.

It's a very Krauty affair, but never seems like it's stuck in the seventies. Opener "Apport" is a lovely cascading keyboard number which could have fit nicely on the Roedelius compilation I reviewed recently. A lovely kosmische vibe. "Waboon" on the other hand is almost Kraut-punk with insistent drum machines, and big, muscular guitar chug ala early eighties Hawkwind. This leaves quite a bit of ground to cover between these two extremes, and the remaining tracks fill "YACOB II" out nicely, via the delicate, post-rock guitar lattices of "Alaveska", the catchy Neu-isms of "Korong", and the spooky, tribal "Dagobah".

It's refreshing to hear an album in this neo-Krautrok vein that offers such diversity. That it does so in such an unassuming fashion, is even more appealing.

Excellent stuff, and well deserving of a physical release should anyone with great taste be in a position to make such a thing happen.

Stream or download here:

10 Jan 2015

Ty Segall "Mr. Face"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

After a relatively restrained year in 2014, Ty Segall appears to have reverted back to type - type in his case being diverse and prolific. With a live Ty Segall Band album on the way too, his first release of the year is the four track 7"/digital E.P "Mr. Face".

There's an unwritten rule that the E.P is the given outlet for material whose quality demands release, but doesn't quite fit with the feel of the current album. And true to form, "Mr Face" is not the glitter-faced glam-rock of the Ty Segall that released last year's career best "Manipulator". Truth be told, stylistically it's a bit of a step backwards, but it does see Segall doing what he does best; writing hooky songs in a classic rock context, with effortlessly huge choruses carried by his buoyant falsetto.

Again, acoustic guitars form the backbone of the majority of the material here, often fulfilling as much of a percussive role as the sometimes sparse drumming. Unrestrained guitar (and piccolo?!) solos cap off most tracks nicely. And the songs themselves have more of a classic sixties garage pop hue to them than we've heard from Segall in quite some time. In many ways this feels like a companion piece to the fabulous White Fence LP that Segall produced last year, rather than sharing an affinity with any of his own recent work. This is particularly apparent on the excellent "Circles" which opens up with a frenetic Keith Moon style drum solo before being eclipsed by a manic guitar riff which doesn't let up for the whole track. And melancholy closer "The Picture" is a mid tempo gem. Built around a lovely, circular guitar pattern, it sounds like a lost, era-defining classic snatched out of its own time.

Being such a big fan of "Manipulator", I'm surprised I'm as taken by this departure as I am. There's no denying that Segall's ear for a good tune is building to a level of almost peerless consistency, and despite "Mr. Face"s reasonably lofi nature, his means of communicating these tunes directly to the listener has never been more direct, or more appropriately in service to the song.

"Mr. Face" can be pre-ordered here, with a stream of the title track.

The Chills "The BBC Sessions"

Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub (Hop on Pop)

One of the many great bands that recorded for New Zealand’s Flying Nun records (along with The Clean, The Bats, Tall Dwarfs, The Verlaines, Straitjacket Fits, and more), The Chills’ particular brand of jangle pop is timeless. That is to say, while there is no mistaking their sound as that of an underground pop band in the 1980s, it still sounds just as fresh today as it ever has.

Beckoned to London at the request of the great BBC tastemaker John Peel himself, these sessions were all laid down between 1985 and 1988 at BBC studios, and ended before the band even started recording their classic "Submarine Bells" album.

When one usually puts on a Chills record, one pretty much knows what it is that they can expect: jangling guitars, sing-song melodies, lots of reverb. And, when one puts on a live album, one pretty much knows that they are going to hear the songs that they love in a whole new, rawer context.

The thing is, that on this live-in-the-studio document, these takes don’t sound the exact same as the classic recordings; if anything, they might sound even slicker than the original recordings! Those originals were recorded on a shoestring budget at small studios in and around the band’s hometown of Dunedin, but these sessions were recorded on state-of-the-art (at the time) gear in cosmopolitan London; so the sound is noticeably cleaner than the band’s original early low-budget singles. Classics like "Rolling Moon" and "Rain" jangle and chime along like they are supposed to. They positively sparkle and remind you all over of why this band was, and remains so important.

Is this the very best introduction for the neophyte? It’s certainly not a bad one. The track list has a couple of early favorites and also includes a few lesser-known tracks that are great to hear. And the performances are great: vital and raw.

If quintessential Chills is what you are looking for, I would suggest that you would do better to start with their wonderful early singles collection "Kaleidoscope World", or their classic 1991 LP "Submarine Bells". Nonetheless, "The BBC Sessions" is essential listening for the fan that wants a more-complete look at what made The Chills such a vital force in the New Zealand and world underground music scene of the late 80s and early 90s.

"The BBC Sessions" is available here.

9 Jan 2015

New Sampler Out Now!

This year's first sampler has just hit the virtual shelves.

We're privileged this month to feature artwork from  Matt Talbot : www.mattrobot.com and music from the following artists:

1. Junkboy - Redwood
2. Odessey & Oracle - Alphabet
3. Slight - Spirit School
4. Connected View - Long Way Out
5. Monta At Odds - Hustle For Pennies
6. Prisoner of Mars - Dimension Man (Alt.)
7. Beaulieu Porch - Golden Face
8. Violet Woods - Raw Love
9. The Wise Dude's Revolver - Air
10. Palace of Swords & Midwich Youth Club - We Are The New Hyperboreans
11. Simon Magus & The Holy See - The Children of Bow Abbey
12. Emily Jones - Pieces of People
13. Aether Beach - Friends
14. Schizo Fun Addict - Endorphin Portal
15. Sun Eater - Twin Peaks
16. L'augmentation - Soleil
17. The Ilk - The Signalman
18. Cheshire Plane - How Many Times?

As always it's a free/name your price download, available here:

The Prisoner of Mars "A Night Out in the Wrong Shoes"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Prolific Cambridge one-man-band the Prisoner of Mars has eased back a little on his productivity of late. While his back catalogue is full of E.Ps and albums that revel in their off-the-cuff charm, his new album, "A Night Out in the Wrong Shoes", manages to combine that spontaneity with a greater degree of attention that makes it feel like a real step forward.

The drolly titled opener "The First Song On My New Album" is a great piece of mutant space-disco replete with squelchy laser synths and a melody which cheekily references Bowie's hit version of "Sorrow" and "I Will Survive". A suitable opener for an album that pushes the boat out into unexpectedly successful, danceable space-pop territory without losing sight of the melodic pop sensibilities that have always graced the Prisoner of Mars' best work. Bryan Shore is clearly a scholar of classic pop songcraft. This, coupled with his willingness to turn conventions on their head, is what makes "A Night Out in the Wrong Shoes" such an interesting and unpredictable album. The ramshackle charm of previous works is still apparent, but there's a greater sense of ambition than I've noted in his work to this point. The overall impression is that Shore is confident that this collection of tracks is the one that deserves that extra degree of care, with his increasingly confident production and arrangement skills giving it an extra boost.

And from the irresistible Krauty rhythms of "You Can Dance If you Want To" and "Dimension Man" to the hook laden "We Can Win It" and "All Your Sisters", "A Night Out in the Wrong Shoes" avoids even the slightest misstep here, making it the ideal starting point in an intimidatingly large, but often rewarding discography.

CD and digital available below, with all proceeds going to The Downs Syndrome Association.

Check out more from the Prisoner of Mars here.

8 Jan 2015

L'augmentation (Retrospective)

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

L'augmentation on Facebook. 

L'augmentation may well be a name that is remembered fondly by those still in thrall to the 90's Birmingham/ West Midlands electronica scene that included artists such as Pram, Magnetophone and, most notably, Broadcast. A mix of Serge Gainsbourg, 60's beat and vintage synths they predated many of today's hauntological purveyors of English analogue nostlgia and were quite simply a damn fine act in their own right. This release from the ever reliable Reverb Worship combines their classic 'Pigalle' album together with long out of print singles, b-sides, Peel Sessions and compilation tracks; it is not only a suitable introduction to the band for new converts but also a comprehensive history and essential sweeping up for existing fans alike. Describing their music as having 'a pop heart, not without mood swings; continental sound tracks for life lived at twenty four frames per second' L'augmentation are ripe for reappraisal, this album a veritable casket of hidden treasures ready to be discovered.

Opener 'The Switchboard Operator' is a carnivalesque and dramatic 'Tales Of The Unexpected' style electronic waltz. Years before acts such as Belbury Poly and The Advisory Circle, the hauntological sounds of 70's TV themes were echoing throughout this music, vintage synths and fairground sounds adding an eerie and nostalgic air that make this track sound truly timeless. 'Negative Walk's combination of trumpet and harpsichord is equally thrilling, an instrumental soundtrack to a long lost spy movie with hints of both John Barry and fellow Birmingham analogue enthusiasts Broadcast. 'Accident Scene' adds flute and shimmering jazz beat drums to create a dark, shadowy late night vibe; indeed, there is an undercurrent of darkness inherent in L'augmentation's music, something mysterious. And influenced by times gone they may have been but there is a a uniqueness and drive here that is purely theirs; using vintage sounds the band created a world of its own and of of its own time. Next, 'Soleil's whirling hammond evokes The Doors, Lisa Sellick's delicate vocals adding a French 'yeh yeh' twist. 'Glacier' begins with the sound of a schoolyard before its stately brass and flute led beat brings tension and again, drama. This is music for TV programmes and movies never made but which would have fitted perfectly with some suspense or paranormal drama of the late 60s or early 70s. 'Rich' is a beautiful, motorik piece of beat pop, evocative and hazy, James Smith's vocals drifting over the cascading keyboards. I very much suspect Belle And Sebastian were listening to this at the time and taking notes. '3 1/2' is a soulful late Sunday afternoon blend of down tempo brass and Carnaby Street cool. 'Cartoon strip' begins with an insistent bassline and organ before adding accordion, cultimating in a Gallic vintage synth classic. 'D is for Dum Dum's moogs are pensive, more space age and reflective (and more akin to Broadcast) whilst 'Lunar Eclipse 1961' is a jazz inflected slice of vital analogue electronica. It must be noted how musical and melodic L'augmentation were; these are not simply stylistic musical replicas of vintage keyboard sounds but living, breathing songs that emote, evoke and inspire.

A remix of 'Cartoon Strip' follows, the sound of a needle on vinyl throughout before a mod style bass enters; it is deeply reminiscent of the much missed Stereolab. 'Flourish' is an arch and Swinging London tinged piano led piece of solid atmosphere, not unlike 'Men In Black' era Stranglers. 'Rich (Pebble Mill)' is a triumph, swirling keyboards glide underneath a strident brass section, Simon Maragh's vocals the veritable cherry on top; it sounds as if this track went on to influence the whole of British Sea Power's career. To complete the package five Peel Session tracks are also presented, ably adding and showing different dimensions and takes of earlier songs. All in all, this is a hugely fulfilling and rewarding compilation of jewels long out of print and has been a much needed document for some considerable time.

Housed in a vintage monochrome sleeve, this is an essential purchase (yet limited edition - be quick) for fans of electronica, Broadcast, Warp Records, Francophile pop as well as for those who enjoy a more hauntological bent. Timeless and perfect; this is music for both a previous and a new age.

Very limited number of CDs available here.

7 Jan 2015

Sun Eater "Arum / Twin Peaks"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

One of the first bands that I championed in the Active Listener's early days was this Tacoma based stoner/space rock trio. Their lo-fi but musically expansive debut had more than its fair share of surprises and managed to completely bypass the overwhelming 'meh' factor that I normally associate with all but the best stoner rock.

At the time this trio were all around 16 - surprising given the depth of that material - but this new E.P is in a whole new ballpark. A-Side "Arum" is a lengthy anthem with the perfect balance of lumbering riffery and trippy explorative guitar work reaching into the stratosphere. Great stuff, but the B-Side is the real surprise here; a spooked, desert-swept run through of Angelo Badalamenti's memorable "Twin Peaks" theme which twists the synthy melodrama of the original into  a creation of unexpected subtlety.

Available as a free / name your price download here:

5 Jan 2015

The Moon Band "Cedar People/My Home"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & the Moon)


Canada's The Moon Band have recently unveiled their new single on psych master and Dodson And Fogg mainman Chris Wade's Wisdom Twins label - and what a find they are; this is no less than a modern day acid folk masterclass. A popular act on their local live circuit for some time now, this release represents the first recorded output from the duo and bodes extremely well for their forthcoming album due later this year. A sunlit woodland mix of bouzouki, recorder, autoharp and acoustic guitars The Moon Band are troubadours for these troubled times, effortlessly evoking the hazy psych folk of classic acts such as Sunflower, Renaissance, Carol Of Harvest and Bread, Love And Dreams.

'Cedar People' is a sitar drenched psychedelic anthem; opening with strummed guitars and the harmonised vocals of Nicholas Tomlinson and Renée Forrester, the song warps, weaves and wefts into a drum led Alice In Wonderland spectral haze reminiscent of both Jefferson Airplane and Buffy Saint-Marie. Masterly and deeply atmospheric, this timeless piece repays repeated listenings with more and more detail and nuance; a carefully and lovingly crafted acid folk gem. Fans of Espers, Fern Knight and Sourdeline will find much to love here.

'My Home' is a more delicate affair; guitar and fiddle underpin several gorgeous layers of vocals to create a 70's Laurel Canyon/ West Coast feel although still notably with a strong psych element. Like a tripped out forest dwelling Joni Mitchell, it is at once otherworldly and hazily comforting.

Both these tracks are bewitching early recommendations for The Moon Band's next outing, this listener for one will be paying very close attention. I strongly recommend you do the same.