29 Aug 2016

The Greek Theatre - The Sunniest Day EP

Reviewed by Kent Whirlow

The Greek Theatre's debut LP "Lost Out at Sea" is absolutely brilliant and, for my money, they are the best outfit to be found on Bandcamp. So naturally, my expectations were extremely high when this lovely EP appeared. And it surely does not does not disappoint. The EP kicks off with the title track - instantly recognizable as The Greek Theatre, yet still sounding quite different from their wonderful debut. It starts with a lovely blast of trumpets, thundering drum rolls, warm soaring vocals and some nice, twangy country guitar, beautiful acoustic guitar, pedal steel - a stunningly complex track, so much going on here. Musically, I fail to see how this could not appeal to fans of Scott Walker's first four solo records.

Next up is "Stray Dog Blues", a gentle introspective song with some really sweet vocals, flute, and nice harmonizing female backing vocals. This song, too, is complex though in a rather unassuming way. With each listen, I am picking out something new from the many layers. The timing of the arrangements on this track is truly impeccable and the song has both a melancholic and pastoral feel to it.

Rounding out this gorgeous EP is the mysterious "Paper Moon", another track filled with an exquisite layering of sounds, all so cleverly constructed. They take you on a dreamlike journey from the outset with all sorts of sounds conjuring up so many intriguing thoughts and images. There's some terrific bass playing which anchors this track, not to mention some very fine guitar work. I'm truly astounded by how much they have compressed into just five and a half minutes in this last track - there is more to enjoy here than most bands can manage to deliver in an entire LP. It truly gets better with each listen, it all just resonates so beautifully.

This is easily my favourite release of 2016, and that's saying something, as it has been quite a stellar year for music thus far. Highest possible recommendation!

Editor's note - The Greek Theatre's second album isn't far away either. I've had a sneaky listen, and it won't disappoint. Stay tuned!

Stream or download the EP through the Bandcamp link below. Extremely limited vinyl available here.

25 Aug 2016

Oscillotron – Cataclysm / Orgasmo Sonore – Themes International

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

If the Death Waltz Recording Company are the undisputed kings of the horror soundtrack reissue biz, then Austria’s Cineploit must be their sister company in terms of contemporary artists producing new music in this field.

Two of the labels biggest hitters have new releases out to drive this point home, and for anyone new to the label, there are many fantastic places to delve in, with no better starting point than here.

First up is the second album from Sweden’s Oscillotron, AKA David Johansson (Kongh, Cult of Luna, Switchblade). You'd be right in thinking that they’re not names you’d normally see mentioned in these pages, but Oscillotron’s output is far from what you’d expect given Johansson’s day job as doom-metaller. Carrying over from Johansson’s other musical output is an oppressive doom-laden atmosphere which permeates everything here, as you’d only reasonably expect on an album called “Cataclysm”, especially one featuring an ominous image of a disintegrating planet on the sleeve.

And that sleeve couldn’t be more perfect to encapsulate the sound of this record, which is one brooding, terrifying album, but one with impeccable tunes that only very occasionally become a case of atmosphere over content. While the debut had a real Fabio Frizzi meets John Carpenter vibe, this followup is its even darker twin, showcasing an array of mellotrons and vintage synthesizers to marvellous effect. The end result suggests some sort of lost end-of-the-world soundtrack by the dream team-up of mid to late seventies Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre, although I’d be hard pressed to find anything as hair-raising as “Terminal” in either artist’s formidable repertoires.

This is certainly horror/sci-fi doom-synth at its finest.

Accompanying this release is the newest album from a favourite of ours here at the Active Listener, Orgasmo Sonore. The solo project of Quebec’s François Riendeau, previous Orgasmo Sonore releases have featured interpretations of Riendeau’s favourite giallo, eurohorror and Italian library tunes, but on this release he introduces us to his own compositions.

“Themes International” is the result of a challenge that Riendeau set himself. Riendeau selected 21 different cinematic themes and set himself the challenge of picking one randomly every two weeks. He’d then write and record a piece that evoked that theme within that limited timeframe. Something has obviously rubbed off during all of the time spent studying the masters, as the twelve highlights from this experiment collected on the album are masterful examples of how studious enthusiasm can help create fresh sounds in genres associated with a bygone age.

Aside from showcasing Riendeau’s impressive compositional skills (which I’d like to hear a lot more of on future releases), “Themes International” allows a much greater glimpse into his versatility, featuring everything from exotica to giallo to spaghetti western to krautrock to electro groove, without a misstep anywhere along the way.

Despite the wide array of styles covered here, “Themes International” fits together seamlessly as a listening experience, best taken as a whole rather than scoured for highlights. That being said, I particularly enjoyed the tongue in cheek track “Ennio Morricone” (each track is simply named after the theme being evoked) – fans of Morricone’s “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” will love this affectionate tribute.

Orgasmo Sonore’s releases are all highly recommended, but I’d start here. And the fabulous sleeve is the work of Active Listener contributor Eric Adrian Lee, which gives us some serious proud Dad fuzzies.

Available direct from the label on CD, and don't those vinyl pressings look amazing? "Cataclysm" can also be downloaded digitally or streamed through the Bandcamp link below, while all 21 tracks from the "Themes International" project are streamable through the Soundcloud link.

22 Aug 2016

Kay Hoffman - Floret Silva

Reviewed by Mark Winkelmann

"This band sounds like group X meets group Y". We've all heard it but all too often it means a really crappy version of group X meets someone who once read about the Fall in the NME. At best, this lazy descriptive technique is mildly helpful. At worst .... we've all been disappointed by music that didn't meet the hype. So if I tell you the things that Kay Silverman's "Floret Silva" reminds me of Vashti Bunyan meets Henry Cow you've every right to be wary. Except this release is quite unique, greater than the sum of its parts. So here goes with attempting to make you believe that "Vashti Bunyan meets Henry Cow" isn't the worst description of any music since the last issue of the NME hit the newstands. Assuming it even still reviews music, or there are any newstands left.

What we have here is one of the few attempts to integrate Early Music and some form of funky jazz, or is it jazzy funk? Early Music and similar strands turned up as an influence mainly with English prog groups to a greater (Amazing Blondel) or lesser (Third Ear band or maybe Jethro Tull) extent, though this usually seemed like a subset of the widespread integration of classical elements. However none of those bands made much attempt to make a crumhorn swing. It's not entirely without precedent, English session musicians recording as The Roundtable, attempted something similar albeit with more of an easy listening/exotica ting and Baroque moves were adopted by the "swinging" US group Mariano and the Unbelievables. This rather unique project which was finally issued in Japan in the mid 80s remains far more sui generis and exudes none of the whiff of cheesy commercial cash in. Perhaps the nearest fellow travellers were Circulus who set off down this road twenty years later. "Floret Silva" is however distinguished from all of these by its rigour, its austerity and perhaps also its obscurity.

A lot of reissues with a strange back story fail to truly deliver. Their obscurity is often deserved, or at least understandable. Kay Hoffman's "Floret Silva" however is going to stand or fall on the music. The story is borderline dull, no UFO abductions or grand stages on farms in the middle of cornfields. One of the album's collaborators does have form for working with Faust that we could get some mileage out of. Really though the primary composer Kay Hoffman is a student of a variety of musical styles, Bartok, minimalism and renaissance music all get a mention though the primary focus was the 12th Century Carmina Burana texts. There it is, there's not much more to say to hype the back story. They went to Italy and recorded the music, but the deal fell through and it was only issued years later. The magic and mystery comes when you hear the intoxicating and by times austere music. Beautiful voices remind me of Vashti Bunyan, though the Latin and High German lyrics have no twee hippie folksiness. Strange woodwinds, polytonality and complex time signatures remind me of Henry Cow though without the aggressively difficult extended material. I doubt there was any awareness of those acts when this was recorded though, they're just the sounds this active listener was reminded of. Other listeners are bound to identify different reference points.

I suspect there are people who'll struggle with this album, or find it inconsistent, or even an incoherent amalgamation of ill-fitting parts. If you wander in and out of the room as it plays, you'll be greeted with a wide variety of sounds from stripped-down austere voice to whirring rhythmic keyboards and strange combinations of these and other elements. Yet given time it makes perfect sense as a well realised and unique artistic vision.

P.S. As a post script, during the preparation of this review I have remembered the existence of a third fellow traveller alongside The Roundtable and Circulus: Ray Manzarek's mid 70s setting of the "Carmina Burana". More or less regarded as a joke by serious rock fans, perhaps it too is due some critical reappraisal? That's another day's work and the critical heavy lifting involved may yet be too much for any normal reviewer.

Available here.

21 Aug 2016

Mt. Mountain - Cosmos Terros

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

It seems that in recent years Australia has been steadily ahead of the curve in regards to musical trends, so much so that I can almost pick up on motifs that are distinctly Australian.

And now Mt. Mountain is among those pace setters, performing adept heavy psych on “Cosmos Terros” that cultivates those expansive, open passages and dense, behemoth riffs. For a debut full length – after a string of EPs and a 7” – Mt. Mountain comes out strong just four years after their formation in Perth. Consisting of 6 long-form songs, “Cosmos Terros” heralds the arrival of a forceful and finely tuned outfit. Equally meditative in their song structure and tumultuous in their execution, Mt. Mountain is a worthwhile excursion into a melding of heady doom, thunderous rhythms and shimmering landscapes.

As an intro, “Seek the Sun” provides counterpoint in some ways to what follows. It lulls the listener – perhaps falsely – while the following songs shake anyone within a wide radius awake.

The core of the album consists of three heavy tracks: “Freida,” “Elevation” and “Moon Desire.” Each song develops differently their paths, but the effect, in the end, is an unabashed, cosmic jam when they each come to a close. “Freida,” the lead single of the album, builds to fervor before “Elavation” introduces a propulsive beat and warbling guitars. The conclusion here feels natural and inevitable, so that, as “Elevation” crashes through the wah-wah heavy outro, “Moon Desire” provides the release – a head banging slow-burner that channels the shamanistic side of metal that’s come to the forefront in recent years.

Already laurelled and revered – named 2014 Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the WAMi Awards – Mt. Mountain will only gain tread in the years to come. Having shared stages with the likes of Sleep, Mono, Thee Oh Sees, Earthless, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Boris, Mt. Mountain has carved a niche for themselves as a furious and dedicated live act. If you get a chance to see them, do so and pick up a record while you’re there. Otherwise, “Cosmos Terros” is available digitally or on variously colored vinyl from their Bandcamp page linked below.

Highly recommended.

19 Aug 2016

Living Hour - Living Hour

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Winnipeg dream pop group Living Hour is surfing the big reverb wave, like so many bands before them (thinking of Best Coast here). But they do it with style and grace and an appealing laid back vibe.

Opener “Summer Smog” is a perfect example of this, as it offers up sweet female vocals (courtesy of occasional trombonist Sam Sarty) and evokes a wide-eyed innocence of times past. “Seagull” is a hazy delight, painted in watery brush strokes by the smoky voiced Sarty. “This is The Place” has some tasty guitar licks fronting it, and dreamy vocal turns from Sarty. It is expansive and reminds me a bit of Baltimore dream pop faves, Beach House. “Steady Glazed Eyes” ventures a bit off the path into widescreen, psych-pop territory, inhabiting it loosely with sun-kissed melodies and warm, gauzy vocals. I also like the harmonies on this one, though no album credits are given, so I am not sure who is harmonizing in the background. “There Is No Substance Between” has a lot going for it with tasteful singing and a shimmering melody, but it would benefit from an injection of energy. “Mind Goodbyes” is my favorite song here, from the huge reverb and expansiveness down to Sarty’s cooing vocals. “Miss Emerald Green” has trippy infusions to set it apart, and Sarty’s voice is crystal clear instead of being drenched in reverb. “Feel Shy” closes the record at close to seven minutes, and it takes a while to get going. It’s a beautiful song that I imagine is dynamite in a live setting. Sarty does a fair bit of wordless singing, and brings the listener back to Earth gently.

CD and digital available here:

16 Aug 2016

Ramayana Soul - Sabdatanmantra / 破地獄 Scattered Purgatory - God of Silver Grass

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

There are few who read this rag who would doubt that we place Kikagaku Moyo at the very pinnacle of the current Japanese psychedelic scene. That being the case, it's not unusual at all to discover that Guruguru Brain, the label run by Kikagaku Moyo's Tomoyuki Katsurada is a veritable treasure trove of adventurous psychedelia, inhabited by names known to few in the Western world. Their first release was a wonderful and essential sampler of modern Japanese psychedelia which can still be downloaded for free here, but it's two more recent releases that we concern ourselves with today.

Ramayana Soul is first on the turntable, and while the band are actually Indonesian, it's obvious why Katsurada's interest was peaked. "Sabdatanmantra" is a joyous wonder that perfectly illustrates the singular way in which Eastern psychedelia embraces free form spontaneity without sacrificing a tune, or in Ramayana Soul's case, a groove. At its best it evokes vintage Can jamming with the Soundcarriers, while the transcendent jam sections in "Raksoya" sound exactly like I've always wanted Santana to sound, with the filthy, barely contained guitar of Adhe Kurniawan wrapping its tendrils around everything in sight and giving it a right good shakeup. Fabulous.

And when they're not chomping at the bit to unleash furious genre-straddling electric psychedelia, they exhibit a more spiritual, earthy side, exemplified by a series of fine, trippy, sitar, drone and chant pieces which sound like full on devotionals; only the language barrier prevents me from knowing for sure, but if so, this is my kind of place of worship, lots of incense and an elevated sense of consciousness.

And then at a rough midway point between these extremes, there's the quite extraordinary "Demensi Dejavu", with its slinky, sinuous bassline, swells of backwards guitar and creephouse organ, and the otherworldly, snakecharmer vocals of Ivon Destian casting a hypnotic spell, before reaching an unexpected hysteria laced crescendo.

Definitely an album worthy of the sort of crossover success that Kikagaku Moyo have achieved, and one of the best I've heard this year. Lovely packaging too on the vinyl version.

Accompanying this release was another from Guruguru Brain - the second album for the label from experimental Taiwanese duo 破地獄/Scattered Purgatory . This one is a cassette and digital release and is lovely stuff indeed, merging experimental, ambient, psychedelia and kosmische into four semi-improvised suites that fit together seamlessly, with an adventurous approach to composition and structure which sounds thrillingly exotic to these uncultured ears.

Opener "Pao-p'u-tzu" sounds like an outtake from the second side of Bowie's "Heroes", had Bowie begun investigating drones, while "Pathway Ghost" rides a relentless krauty pulse that generates a heady, claustrophobic tension by the time it reaches its conclusion. "Dim Moon" is a reworking of an old fifties Eastern pop tune, but you'd be hard pressed to recognise it beneath the lovely vintage synth, nightmarish vocals, and wailing guitars. Fab. And then there's the 24 minute title track which is truly indescribable; a collaboration with several other like minded local musicians it's a true tour de force. Experimental, uncompromising, and equally challenging and rewarding, it's quite a journey.

Investigate through these links (with full streams):

14 Aug 2016

JuJu - JuJu

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

Another fine release from Sunrise Ocean Bender, this time from JuJu, the latest from Sicily-based musician Gioele Valenti (perhaps known from other projects, Lay Llamas and Herself). Many acts propose a 21st century awareness of music history, accepting into their bloodstream disparate influences, but few enter that same log as their heroes; too many will simply pay homage, ignoring the fact that the greatest homage to the musicians that shaped them would be to continue their legacy of influence on new listeners. JuJu achieves what so few can.

Press material for the album makes claims about the musical journey “inspired by sources of Earth magic and soil secrets.” JuJu strives to tell “the story of an on-going exodus from Africa that more often than not ends in ignored tragedies at sea.” Whether the average listener hears it as such, the fact remains: JuJu is a powerful release that celebrates multicultural inspiration, instrumentation, and storytelling. Anyway, it’s a refreshing return-to-form: desire for social awareness running parallel with a love for music.

“Samael” creates a logic of its own with Valenti’s eclectic influences, putting post-punk basslines, polyrhythms, melodic noise counterpoints and blissed chant all in a grinder. Though the propulsive bass sounds familiar, it is off-set by the arrangement and use of physical space in the recording – everything’s given opportunity to become expansive and profound; in fact, the familiarity is surreal and primordial: never heard but inertly known. And that’s a thread that can be traced throughout the entire album, Valenti’s mining of base sound for modern compositions (apparent too in the cover art). Below, you’ll find a link to the well-matched, prismatic-impressionist video for the song.

“We Spit On Yer Grave” is a highlight of the album. It’s bass-driven, like almost every great post-punk anthem, and grim in the most upbeat of ways. A simple but reliable note anchors the song, but the way the arrangement builds around that note is impressive, using everything from dissonant, airy melodies that subtly alter the mood and industrial-sounding guitar work to eerily harmonized vocals. Beyond all the wonderful noise put into this short song, it’s catchy too.

“Lost” takes a different spin through all its eight minutes, expanding “JuJu” to include adept, melodic post-rock that builds with earthy rhythms and otherworldly vocals. There’s everything here for fans of the Manchester scene (definitely hear some Happy Mondays on closer, “Bring ‘Em War”), modern psych, shoegaze, post-rock and post–punk). This one comes highly recommended.

Look for this release on limited edition ‘orange crush’ vinyl, and check out the wonderful video for “Samael.

10 Aug 2016

The Green Pajamas - If You Knew What I Dreamed

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Now that you've had a chance to digest that wonderful new album by the Junipers let's take a look at another of the releases which accompanied it from Sugarbush Records.

I'm sure that you're all aware from my glowing reviews of Green Monkey Records' excellent archival reissues of the Green Pajamas mid-eighties albums of exactly how much I love this particular band. They may well be THE great lost pop band, still recording today, and with an enormous, rewarding back catalogue.

Jeff Kelly (who has always written the majority of Green Pajamas material) is a bit of a genius, a graduate from the classic school of pop songwriting who combines Beatlesque melodies with imagery you'd more reasonably expect to encounter in classic gothic literature. His songs often contrast chiming guitar riffs with wistful, melancholy melody lines in a way that leaves the listener expecting a twist around every corner. All of which makes the fact that this release focuses solo on Kelly's compositions a very good thing indeed. "If You Knew What I Dreamed" is a live-in-studio release with a few new songs and several GP deep cuts as well as fleshed out band arrangements of some of the very best tracks from Kelly's solo albums. The arrangements are tight and powerful, and I'd argue that every featured song that I've also encountered in it's original form is improved upon here. The new mastering from Green Monkey's Tom Dyer is immaculate too. Cut down from 16 tracks on the original digital version to 11 for the vinyl release, I'm a little sad to see "Raise Ravens", with its fevered guitar work and memorable lyrics ("..if you raise ravens, they'll peck out your eyes.." - there's that gothic melodrama again), miss out on a spot here, but what would you cut out to make room for it? I wouldn't want to have to make that decision.

What we do have here though ranges from the beautiful melancholy of "Panda in the Rain" to the jangly "Claire's Knee" - great songs that appear to come naturally to Kelly, bearing his own distinctive melodic touches. How he has been able to write so many songs of this quality over the last thirty years is quite beyond me.

Perhaps best of all is a dramatic arrangement of "Wait by the River" from Kelly's hard to find spy-jazz album "The Rosary and the House of Jade", originally released on a long out of print box set and heard by very few.

I won't say that this is the most obvious gateway to the Green Pajamas music. Indeed you could pick up any one of 20+ albums as a starting point and become obsessed with this band, so consistent is their output, without any real obvious standout. Far from being a slight, what I mean by this is that the GPs can join a very select few ( The Beatles, Bob Dylan etc.) where you could ask five people to choose their best album and get five different answers. It's subjective and there are few weak moments.

The vinyl edition is limited to 300 copies so if you want one of them you'd better swoop in here quickly. The newly remastered 11 track edition is also available digitally through the Bandcamp streaming link below, where you should listen immediately.

Also released at the same time on vinyl by Sugarbush Records is 8x8's excellent "Azalea's Room". I covered this here when it was originally released on CD and digitally. AlI that I can add to that review is that it's an album that continues to reveal new surprises even after several years, and that it sounds even better upon revisiting. The vinyl edition (again in limited quantities) is available here.

8 Aug 2016

A Public Service Announcement from The Active Listener

Editing The Active Listener has been a tremendously rewarding experience for me and it's been immensely gratifying for me to know that it brings enjoyment to others too. It's also been a massively time consuming affair and over the last six months or so I've been trying to juggle The Active Listener with new parenthood (which is an amazing experience), major illness (not such an amazing experience - but hopefully behind me), and full time work (a necessary experience).

You'll have noticed that posts have slowed down a little over this time. I've tried a number of ways to make these things all tie neatly together but there are simply not enough hours in the day for things to continue as is, and my number one priority is my family. So, after much deliberation I've decided to semi-retire the Active Listener - not a decision that I have made lightly, but a necessary one. We still have around a month's content lined up before this change takes place, so still a few surprises heading your way.

The website and the Bandcamp page will both remain as resources in their current format, and a few of my disciples and I will still post the odd review, although this will not be on the semi- daily basis that you've been used to, more likely one or two a month, tops.

If you don't already do so, please follow us on Facebook. We'll still be sharing lots of new and exciting music as it comes our way (just without the reviews) and this is the medium we will most commonly use to do so. We still want to be the place you look for new, obscure psychedelia. And the Active Listener Sampler will be an ongoing thing - although releases won't be quite so regular.

Artists and labels: please continue to send us your wares if you so wish; we will still share things with our readership that really impress us - we just can't promise reviews (although occasionally they will still happen). And we will still be needing submissions to feature on The Active Listener Sampler so be sure to advise us if you'd like to feature there too.

I'd like to offer a very special thanks to my lovely partner Lotus for all of her patience over the years, and to all who have contributed, particularly Grey Malkin, who has been here since very early on, and Matt Talbot who has had a very strong influence on the visual side of the Active Listener, designing the logo and contributing many sampler covers during our formative years. To all of the other writers, artists, bands etc. who have been involved, and to anyone who has taken a moment to read or make a kind comment: Thank you. There's been an amazing sense of community here that I never thought possible, created by each and every one of you.

4 Aug 2016

Badger - One Live Badger

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

For those who haven't heard it, Badger's debut is often assumed to be a prog rock album. This is a natural assumption to make given the presence of ex-Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye, Jon Anderson's co-production credit, the Roger Dean cover, and the fact that this live album was recorded at shows where Badger were supporting Yes (the same shows that resulted in Yes's "Yessongs" album and movie). You'd certainly expect that equation to yield an answer that equals prog, but that wouldn't be taking into account the presence of the rather excellent Brian Parrish (who'd just come off of a still underrated album for Regal Zonophone with Adrian Gurvitz). Parrish is all over the album, with his soulful Stevie Winwood style vocals and heaps of scorching guitar giving this a really nice heavy rock vibe, albeit one with longer, more complicated song structures than you'd normally associate with hard rock. If it's prog, it's prog for those who wear head to toe denim rather than wizard's robes.  Maybe taken out of a studio context and placed in front of an audience a lot of prog bands of the time had this harder drive - I certainly wasn't around at the time to see any of these shows.

While Parrish proves to be the dominant figure, the rest of the band do their part in shaping the material too. Tony Kaye gets plenty of solo time and plays an array of keyboards, including some really nice mellotron (check out "Wind of Change") and Moog - ironic given that he was apparently asked to leave Yes for refusing to integrate these new (at the time) keyboards into his repertoire. The rhythm section of David Foster (co-writer of several early Yes tunes) and Roy Dyke (of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke) are superb too, giving this a tight drive with plenty of groove.

I can't think of another band who debuted with a live album, but it all seems to click perfectly on this. Atlantic obviously saw Badger as a safe move with Kaye and Anderson's involvement, and the recording equipment was already there for the Yes shows so why not eh? They certainly sound well practiced and the material sounds very much lived in - not a bum note in sight.

Kaye and Parrish work particularly well together, with Kaye often harmonising Parrish's lead guitar parts. The intro to "The Preacher" sounds almost like a Thin Lizzy dual guitar attack, until one realises that Kaye is involved.

There aren't any weak moments here, and while the songs do tend to sound a little samey for the first few listens (largely down to Parrish's excellent, but relentless guitar tone), they certainly distinguish themselves after this.

Parrish and Foster left after this, with a rejigged lineup following up with one sole studio album, a soulless, commercial, white soul travesty that is best avoided.  "One Live Badger" however is a highly recommended addition to your seventies rock collection.

Esoteric's new reissue is remastered from the original Atlantic tapes (previous reissues haven't been) and given the opportunity to compare this to an original vinyl pressing, I'm happy to report that the remastered CD actually sounds better - I'm a vinyl nut and don't often find remasters to be improvements over the original LP, but boy this sounds great. Great dynamics and a really nice, warm transfer. Lovely job on reproducing the sleeve too - no pop up badger (as on the original LP), but otherwise very nice.

Available here (UK), or here (US).

3 Aug 2016

Kane Strang - Blue Cheese

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Kane Strang is from Dunedin, NZ and this is his first proper album, which was released earlier this year on Flying Nun in New Zealand, and Ba Da Bing Records internationally. If you’re expecting that grand sweep of Flying Nun sound (think Bats and The Clean) we all love so much, think again. Kane is certainly tuneful, though he laces jagged melodies in with the occasional pure pop rush. I am reminded of bands like Interpol and The Pixies, and even 80s postpunk. He also plays all instruments on this record, and it was recorded during two months of house sitting for his parents.

Opening track “The Web” is full of these raggedy edges, with its throbbing bass and icy keyboards. The lyrics are great, and discuss Internet dating. “Things Are Simple” follows in similar fashion, albeit with sweet harmonies to offset the slightly dour guitar welling up from the bottom. Kane is a fine storyteller, and the lyrics are engaging and interesting. “Full Moon Hungry” feels a bit lighter, and I enjoy the interplay of vocals and melody lines. “What’s Wrong” is an off kilter melody, typical of the early songs on this record, approaching melodies from different directions than expected. “Scarlet King Magnolia” has a really nice melody at its center, though to reach that oasis you must stumble over some discordant notes. I quite like “The Canyon Her River Carved”, mostly because Strang thrusts the melody in your face. “It’s Fine” is a bit trippy, with some echo on Strang’s vocals. The main melody is repetitive and the song takes an odd turn by its end. “You Think” is rather lovely, and one of the more straightforward songs on Blue Cheese. The best song “She’s Appealing” resides at the very end, and Strang channels his inner Brian Wilson. I would love to see him create more in this vein, as it hits that sonic sweet spot in this listener.

An intriguing new artist well worth checking out.

CD and vinyl available here (US), or here (UK/EU).

Streaming available here: