29 May 2013

New Sampler Available Now!

You know what another piece of brilliant sleeve art from Martin Butler means right? That's right the next sampler is here, resplendent in it's refinery and ready for download.

This month's sampler features:

Morgan Delt - Barbarian Kings
Brujas del Sol - Castles Upon Golden Gate
Quimper - Soft Bodies
The Blank Tapes - Double Rainbow
The Prisoner of Mars - Medium on a Train
robotmonkeyarm - Il Brutto
Dennis Olsen - Strange Gardens
Zenith : Unto The Stars - Gemini
Cloud War - Whence & Whither
Felipe Arcazas - Peyotl
Schnauser - Waterloo Teeth
Me & My Kites - My Dream, My Adventure
Worthless - We've Always Been Here
The Magnetic Mind -  Stay Away From the Door
Beau - Rainbow Jam Theme
The Green Tambourine Band - From the Seed Into The Flower
Bad Valley - Sunrise
JJUUJJUU - A Forming

Thanks to Martin, and all the featured artists. Please visit the links on the bandcamp page to hear more from these guys.

Download or stream it here:

28 May 2013

Go!Zilla Giveaway

Dynamic Italian psychedelic garage merchants Go!Zilla (I reviewed their debut E.P back here) have a signed copy of their debut 7" "I'm Bleeding" to give away to one of you lucky people.

Earbleedingly good.

To go in the draw simply send an e-mail with the subject line Go!Zilla, and your postal address in the body of the text to theactivelistener@hotmail.com

I'll draw a winner this time next week.

And keep an eye out for their debut full length which will have a European release on Black Candy Records, Rough Trade and Warner Chappel in October (Any U.S labels keen on releasing should get in touch with them ASAP). They're also keen to tour the States to add to the extensive European touring they've undertaken recently.

Go!Zilla on Bandcamp. 

Go!Zilla on Facebook.

Me & My Kites "Like a Dream Back Then" Review

Reviewed by Chris Sherman

The debut album by Me And My Kites, a new collective of Swedish musicians (notably, AnnaMy, Lisa Isaksson (Lisa O Piu), Mattias Gustavsson (Dungen/ Life on Earth)) led by David Svedmyr, has just been released via AAO.  While the download is readily available, the LP has been eluding me for the last few weeks, so good luck on your hunt for the time being! 
The band is named after Fuchsia’s 1971 underrated classic song of the same name, and that’s a great point of reference on this LP, and it would also sit along nicely with Kevin Ayers “Joy of a Toy”.  The songs are mostly acoustic based, with flutes and piano contributing lovely melodies, and mellotrons adding a darker atmosphere to the mostly breezy elements.  Overall, there is a very loose and dreamy feel here, and this is seemingly something that could be the soundtrack to your summer, perfect for those lazy days outside in the open. 
Opener “Back When I Came” begins in a grand sweeping fashion, before it dissolves into an early Floyd swirling organ freak-out with sounds floating in and out of the aural spectrum.  This segues right into the single “Was It Like A Dream”, sung by (I believe) the amazing Isaksson.  For me, the LP highlight might be “Caravello Parallelo”, with a winding groove of a bass, saxophone melodies and a beautiful Gilmour-esque lead guitar.
Again, this is well crafted psych folk and everything melts together, forming a lovely soundscape that you keep wanting to return to.  I really hope that this is not a one-off release, as I would love to hear more by these guys.

Editors note : there was a bit of competition to review this album as both Chris and myself totally flipped when we first heard it - couldn't agree more with everything Chris has to say here, and I also fully recommend that you check these guys out. A very special album.
Check out their facebook page here for music and links.

27 May 2013


THE SOUNDCARRIERS - The Other World of the Soundcarriers
Never a group to do things the way you'd expect, the Soundcarriers new and excruciatingly limited edition vinyl only release is an instrumental, alternate takes collection of material from their upcoming album - an album which suddenly has big shoes to fill.
Barnstorming organ-led groovers with a heavy rhythmic stomp and plenty of heady flute interludes and psychedelicised guitars to add texture make this a winner from first to last. Probably a bit mean to review this, as it may be sold out already but e-mail Dom at thegreatpopsupplement@hotmail.com if you're keen on a copy.
Listen here:

VERMA - Coltan
Trouble in Mind Records continue to diversify their catalogue with this lovely instrumental release from fellow Chicago psychedelic rockers Verma. Four beautifully recorded, long tracks that unwind at a luxurious pace, with the moody exoticism of "Tantalite" standing out. A few years back this would probably have been tagged with the dreaded post-rock label, but these guys are much more focused on interesting textures than the peaks and troughs that bands like Mogwai accentuated, although heights are certainly still scaled in the process.
Pretty damn lovely.
Available here.
Listen here:

HIS NAME IS CODEINE - The Only Truth is Music
Now this is some highly appealing psychedelic shoegaze, from this new Scottish six-piece, self recorded, produced and released on their own Dead Book Records label. Despite this staunchly D.I.Y stance, this is a lushly recorded work with all of the dark, caterwauling menace of the heavier end of 4AD's output - at times sounding like some unholy hybrid of the Pixies and This Mortal Coil. Vocalist Lyn Ralph is a commanding presence, and does an impressive job of distinguishing herself amongst a giant sea of sound that most would get swept away in.
Buy the album, thrash it, and catch them at the Glasgow Psych Fest. Bet they'll be great.
Available here.
Listen here.

Chris Oliver's Solar System is now a three-piece and the interplay between these guys on their first E.P together (after a huge back catalogue as a solo Oliver project) is pretty amazing. Daniel Vought's supple drumwork in particular brings these tunes to life in a way that a solo performer overdubbing has very little hope of capturing. Key moments from Solar System history are revisited and given a thorough seeing too, with an emphasis on melodic psychedelic and/or indie rock pieces that makes this an ideal place to dip your toe into an intimidatingly large body of work.
Available here. All proceeds go towards a vinyl pressing of the E.P.
Listen here:

BILL RYDER-JONES - A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart
Former guitarist for the Coral, Ryder-Jones has had an interesting time of it since leaving the fold, with production and remix work as well as a rather lovely instrumental album.
"A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart" is his first album of 'proper' songs, and anyone expecting this to sound even remotely like the Coral may initially be disappointed. This instead shares ground with the two solo albums that Bernard Butler released after leaving Suede, ignoring the Coral's sixties obsessions in favor of a more timeless approach to songwriting that isn't tied to a particular genre, and is stronger for it. Lush, heartfelt and quite exceptional. Available digitally here, on vinyl here, and CD here.
Listen here.

The Dentists "Some People Are On The Pitch They Think It's All Over It Is Now" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

To my shame, I was unfamiliar with these Medway gods, until this promo found it's way into my lap and started caressing my ears in a lovingly shambolic fashion.
Sadly in 1985 when this was originally released I was too preoccupied with Dire Straits and Michael Jackson to dig far enough underground to hear this, but I suspect even my six year old self's dubious tastes would have found room to fit the Dentists into regular rotation on my faithful walkman.
It's an album ripe for reissue too, sounding now much as it must have in 1985 - like a holy relic captured outside of it's own time stream.
Produced by the Prisoner's Allan Crockford (now of the excellent Galileo 7), "Some people are on the pitch..."  has a gritty, no-nonsense production aesthetic that is functional and basic, but also full of lysergic surprises with some particularly nice backwards guitars standing out. If you think mid eighties psychedelia is all about the Paisley Underground, this will be a refreshing, more rugged alternative for you.
The songs themselves are very strong janglers which often recall early R.E.M, especially on the riffier numbers like "The Engineers Set" which has a touch of "Driver 8" about it (and perhaps inspired it, as I'm sure Peter Buck would have heard these guys.)
There's also more than a hint of the Byrds in the tight harmonies, and on a number of tracks particularly "One of our Psychedelic Breakers is Missing" the sort of memorable riffing that made the Misunderstood's English sides so attention grabbing, while "Tangerine" has moments of pure Gordons style mayhem as well as the sweetest chorus imaginable.
Unfortunately the powers that be at the BBC have decided that the title quote from Kenneth Wolstenholme's iconic 1966 World Cup commentary that originally opened the album has had to be removed for this reissue. Boo, hiss. I guess we're lucky Aunty didn't make Trouble in Mind retitle the album, but even in it's slightly rejigged form, this first vinyl reissue from Trouble in Mind is infectious, essential and a refreshing alternative to the era of coked-up stadium stars of Live Aid.

Available soon from Trouble in Mind Records.

25 May 2013

Permanent Clear Light "Beyond These Things" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Finland's Permanent Clear Light have built a name for themselves with a succession of appearance on the Fruits de Mer label, culminating with the rather nifty "Higher Than The Sun" single, but now they're out on their own with their debut full length, and happily "Beyond These Things" shows Markku Helin and friends in their element, and stretching effortlessly beyond the confines of the single/compilation track format.
Fusing the most song orientated of classic prog rock (Van Der Graaff Generator, Pink Floyd) with contemporary psychedelia and some diverse orchestration, this is ambitious music that requires the broad canvas of a full album to fully appreciate.
An impressive diversity is on display too, from the pastoral folk and strings of opener "Constant Gardener" which briefly taps into that special place that few have found since Nick Drake's debut, to the playful Roy Woodisms of "Love Gun", via "Higher Than The Sun" - stretched here to almost ten minutes, and becoming something of a psychedelic opus in the process.
As good as the songs are though, it's when they stretch out instrumentally that the finest moments occur. There's a regal, majestic quality to these pieces when they take flight, highlighted by Helin's soaring guitar work, which has all the lyrical splendor of 'Division Bell" era Floyd, not to mention some diverse keyboard work which heightens the scale and drama of these tracks to places not seen since the prog glory days of the very early seventies. The rhythm section do a top job too -witness the way they effortlessly steer the relaxed pastoral, mellotron based progodelica of  "Harvest Time"  into crazed Flaming Lips territory at the drop of a hat.
And just when you think you're a step ahead of them and know what's going to happen next, they close with a previously unhinted at, and thoroughly authentic sounding cinematic western lament with "Weary Moon", suitable closure for an album that's traversed so many roads.

You can buy it and stream samples here.

23 May 2013

Heaven's Gateway Drugs "You Are Heaven's Gateway Drugs" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The debut E.P by Heaven's Gateway Drugs caused a quite a stir here at Active Listener HQ, resulting in an unhealthy level of singlemindedness that I'd only just managed to claw my way out of when "You Are Heaven's Gateway Drugs", their debut full length found it's way into my inbox. Oh well, time for a relapse.
Granted, all this new fangled psychedelia is still a bit of a niche genre that's a little confusing to the public at large and often viewed with suspicion and scepticism by certain music critics who accuse it's practitioners of flogging a dead horse, but Heaven's Gateway Drugs have a more wide reaching appeal than the majority of their contemporaries.
There are a number of factors you can point to for this. They write memorable songs with big choruses, have a particularly diverse set of active influences (by which I mean influences that can be heard in their own music) and they're not afraid to amp up the production values without resorting to the radio sheen or formulaic songwriting machine fodder that this often goes hand and hand with.
Cleverly combining the trippy psychedelic organ textures of the likes of "Army Coat" with ear tugging choruses that (presumably) betray an apprenticeship listening to early nineties alternative rock, "You Are Heaven's Gateway Drugs" is the sort of album which is perfectly geared to be an evangelical tool for those wanting to spread the new psychedelic gospel. We've all got one of those friends who frustrate the bejesus out of us by insisting that an album like Live's "Throwing Copper" is THE last great album. Even that guy will love this. What about that other friend who wishes Perry Farrell had stuck it out in Jane's Addiction for another twenty years? Yep, they're gonna love it too. In fact it's pretty hard to imagine anyone taking exception to Heaven's Gateway Drugs. They've certainly got everything a psych fiend could wish for; stacks of reverb, sitars, drones, trippy keyboards, the lot, but these elements are always used in service of the song, and never for the sake of novelty.
It's not often that a band in a niche like psychedelia comes along with this much crossover potential, and it's very nice to see that Tame Impala aren't an isolated incident. Get this on the radio, and these guys could be huge. Start spreading the news.

21 May 2013

Vidunder "Vidunder" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Sweden's Crusher Records are quickly becoming my first and last stop when it comes to retro seventies style rock, with fine releases by Dean Allen Foyd and Spiders under their belt.
You can now add Vidunder's self titled debut to that impressive list, an excellent example of blues based 70s style occult rock which will make fans of Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar very, very happy indeed.
Granted there's a lot of this stuff around at the moment, but it's rare for a "revival" scene to offer up as many gems as the recent 70s occult revival has - I'd rate Witchcraft's albums especially as highly as the albums they're inspired by.
Which brings me to Vidunder's debut, which may not scale the heights of Witchcraft's second album "Firewood", but in this listener's opinion trumps their debut hands down.
There's all sorts of tags you can associate with this sort of stuff ; stoner rock, proto-doom etc, but all conjure images of a more hamfisted approach than you'll find evidence of here.
Vidunder display a level of instrumental finesse that's unusual for occult rock, recalling the more challenging time signatures of the likes of Captain Beyond or Black Widow just as readily as the diabolical riffery of Black Sabbath.
It helps too that they tone back the distortion and sound like they excusively use vintage gear, giving this a mysterious, sinister air not to mention the authentic period feel of a rediscovered late sixties Vertigo gem.
Martin Prim's guitar work is the highlight here for me - key for a three piece, he has an innate understanding of when to be riffy and when to play in a more textural fashion - not to mention some surprisingly subtle lead work.

Available here!

20 May 2013

The Shadow Kabinet "Nostalgia For The Future" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Steve Somerset and his Shadow Kabinet are already a proven element when it comes to quality Beatlesque power-pop so it's no surprise that "Nostalgia for the Future" is very, very enjoyable indeed.
Previous efforts by the Kabinet, especially "Smiling World's Apart" (bit of a classic that one) have been quality affairs no doubt, but "Nostalgia for the Future" is a definite step forward and sees Somerset further developing his own songwriting voice, as well as widening his net of influences.
There are still moments of wide eyed Beatlesque wonder (particularly on the gorgeously melodic closer "Let It Go"), but for the most part Somerset has resisted the urge to throw in the kitchen sink in favor of a more understated approach that allows these song's inner light to shine of their own accord, no bells and whistles necessary.
This toned down approach makes "Nostalgia for the Future" feel like the next logical step in Somerset's evolution. Leaving the kaleidoscopic days of the late sixties behind he's taken the first step into the solo phase that many of his idols entered when their band's crumbled in the early seventies, but has retained his playfulness and wicked sense of humor, ensuring that this doesn't come across like some po-faced singer songwriter album that sounds like it'd be sleeved with a photo of the artist sitting in a field, gazing meaningfully at something deeply important just off camera.
As fond as I was of Somerset's sixties stylings (which are still sporadically highlighted), stepping into the seventies has done the Kabinet no harm whatsoever, especially when they go all "Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 11" on "Dust Descends as Light", or cheekily evoke the Police on "Ladder to the Moon".
You could argue that best of all are the sparsely adorned ballads "Honey Glow Afternoon" and "Nostalgia for the Future" which suggest that all Somerset really needs is an acoustic guitar and a tune to shine, but truth is everything he touches here turns to gold.
Essential for fans of George Harrison, Hunky Dory era Bowie and Pugwash.

Available here.
Have a listen to Steve's podcast about the album here:

19 May 2013

The PeΔrls "The PeΔrls" Review

Reviewed by Renato Miccio

Congratulations to our prizewinner and guest reviewer Renato Miccio, whose short but sweet review of The PeΔrls E.P pretty much summed up what we think about it too! Your copy of the vinyl is on it's way to you now.
Here's Renato's review:

Milan's latest super duo The PeΔrls have created a quality debut with their self titled E.P which mixes the sweet hipster pop of popular new U.S bands like Best Coast with a dirty, lo-fi garage production that works perfectly.
Short pearls of euphoric pop joy delivered with muscle and authority, that bring to mind bands as different as the Vaselines and the B-52s.
I first heard "Be In One" on the Active Listener Sampler (here) and have been a big fan since - the other seven tracks here have no problem matching that quality - the hooky "Walking" and heavily flanged "Elephant" standing out.
There's plenty of reverb and flanging among the garagey production to keep the sound diverse, and along with the upbeat nature of The PeΔrls E.P leaves me no doubt that I'll be listening to this for a longtime.

Listen / download / buy here :

The Wicked Whispers "Voodoo Moon" Giveaway

Who likes the Wicked Whispers?
We do, that's who, and we've got a signed copy of their newest 7" "Voodoo Moon" to give away.
To be in to win all you need to do is send us an e-mail with the header 'wicked whispers" to theactivelistener@hotmail.com and tell us what English city they're from (you can find out in this review if you don't know), as well as your postal address.
I'll randomly choose a winner some time next week.
Good luck!

16 May 2013

Morgan Delt "Psychic Death Hole" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

David Warner's portrayal of the fish and chip shop owning, gorilla obsessed Marxist Morgan Delt was pretty out there stuff for 1966, certainly enough so to catch the attention of a young Patsy Ann McClenny who decided Morgan Fairchild would be a name far more likely to bring her acclaim.
While things may not have quite come up roses for Patsy, that hasn't stopped this mysterious Topanga Canyon project from claiming a similar moniker.
I say project because I have no idea whether Morgan Delt is a pseudonym for a bedroom artist, the work of a band, or the real name of someone whose parents frequented a lot of anarchist cinema in the late sixties.
Mystery aside though, "Psychic Death Hole" is a pretty sterling first effort, that carefully balances irresistible hooks with just the right amount of tape manipulation and freaky deaky weirdness. This is deeply psychedelic stuff, but with a melodic core that will not be denied.
The diversity of recent Flaming Lips releases is certainly brought to mind, but ultimately Morgan Delt is in his (their?) own field with this odd, and extremely appealing bastardisation of psychedelia, tropicalia, krautrock, space rock and occasionally stoner rock.
"Barbarian Kings" is the immediate highlight, with it's sweet, vaguely eastern melody cloaked in hazy layers of shimmering psychedelia, but there's plenty more gold in them hills, so I'd advise you to keep digging.
Repeated immersion reveals many pleasures to be had, in particular the melancholy "Sad Sad Trip" with it's appealing "ba'ba'ba's" fighting for supremacy amongst a sea of kooky squiggles, while the splendidly titled "Backwards Bird Inc." rides a snaky guitar riff into a sunset both exotic, and terrifying.
Epic closer "Galactic Grids" is an even more sinister prospect - a monolithic space-dirge that transposes the evil syncopations of early Sabbath with the most disorientating of Hawkwind's interstellar trips.
Varied? Yes. Challenging? At times. Worth the effort? Oh yes.

Available on cassette or digital through the bandcamp link below.

15 May 2013

Sone Institute "A Model Life" Review

Reviewed by Jason Simpson

"A Model Life" is a shining monorail holo-cruise through quiet island villages, the (American) wild west, seventies spy thrillers and ultimately... Outer Space.
Roman Bezdyk accomplishes this by weaving a deft and dense tapestry of hip-hop, easy-listening and psychedelia that leaves the listener guessing what is real and what is sampled; an uncanny listening experience that you have to succumb to. Just kick back in your lush, plush recliner and gaze out the window, as wild & unfamiliar scenarios flit across your brain pan.
 'Witchcraft & Pornography' and 'Fear And Happiness' serve as the launching pad, bookending the album - the point of departure. Hendrix riffs and a Dirty South beat reminding us, "Fear not. It's only a ride." Once you settle into this ride, The Sone Institute takes you on a breakneck journey through nearly every genre imaginable, while sturdy hip-hop beats tie the animatronic proceedings together, rooting it firmly in the present. This pancultural polygenre is a tricky business to pull off successfully. If you screw one of them up, you fail at them all (remember acid jazz?) Thankfully, The Sone Institute's beats are tight as stretched leather and Bezdyk either
a. knows how to  play a billion and one instruments
b. is one of the greatest living samplers.
Either way, the closer you look the more A Model Life draws you into its uncanny geography. Another reviewer drew issue with this record, accusing The Sone Institute of 'merely' making library or incidental music.
I have a problem with this assessment, for two reasons:
 1. It supposes that there is something wrong with library music, as if it can't be listened to in terms of melody, dynamics, composition, and other aspects that have been around as long as songs have been written.
 2. It doesn't really sound like library music, anyway.
 True, "A Model Life" can slip into the backgrounds, around the second third of the album, but it sounds more like exotica than library music. It conjures images of tikis and moldy LPs rather than public access commercials and training films. I rather enjoy The Sone Institute recreating worldbeat easy-listening sounds and their fresh way of approaching something which might sound dated or foreign otherwise. Listening to "A Model Life" has left me yearning for Martin Denny, Astrud Gilberto and Henry Mancini spy soundtracks. Roman Bezdyk has created something special with "A Model Life", an artifact that is both classic and entirely timely.
It sounds like 2013, and also 1963.

Available digitally here, and on CD here.

14 May 2013


Here's another batch of new, upcoming and recent 7" releases to put on your shopping list.

THE WICKED WHISPERS - Voodoo Moon / Nightbird 
Liverpool's new finest return with the last of their pre-album singles, and "Voodoo Moon" may be the best they've come up with yet. This particular melting pot fuses plenty of native Mersey charm with a dash of Byrds jangle and stacks of articulate Manzarekian organ. "Voodoo Moon" is a slowburning, Audrey Hepburn inspired epic and an unparalleled mood setter, while on the flip "Nightbird" is a more rigorous affair which gives frontman Michael Murphy a chance to spread his wings with some surprisingly nimble guitar work. Magic, voodoo even.
Available here.
Listen here.

THE MERRYLEES- For You / The Coroner
An excellent debut here from this young Scottish five piece who describe their sound (pretty accurately) as psychedelic western pop. Enlisting ex -Coral guitarist Bill Ryder Jones to produce makes a whole lot of sense as there's a sense of adventure and blurred genres here that at times sounds very much like the Coral's debut. "For You" is certainly a good choice for the A-Side, but B-Side "The Coroner" is arguably the highlight here, with an eclectic, frenzied approach which bodes well for a varied and multilayered debut album.
Available here.
Listen here:

MMOSS / QUILT  - New Hampshire Freaks
I'll leave it up to you to come up with something risque to say about reviewing a 10" in a 7" section, but the truth is "New Hampshire Freaks" is too good to ignore just because it's a funny size.
While the split single is often a dumping ground for ill informed covers and tracks best left on the cutting room floor, no such accusations can be made here. The A-side offers both bands a chance to show their pop smarts with a concise, memorable psych tune apiece, while the flip features a sprawling communal jam, the like of which hasnt been seen since Amon Duul (the first) roamed the earth.
Quite marvelous then.
Available here.
Listen here:

THE YOUNG SINCLAIRS - Engineer Man / Problems
A fine second release here from Paul Messis's fledgling Market Square label, this time by the distinctly English sounding American outfit the Young Sinclairs. "Engineer Man" is "Paperback Writer" performed by the Byrds, with vocals by the Who. Not a bad triumvirate. It's a vital piece of pure garage pop that once lodged within your skull will be hard to evict. You've been warned. "Problems" has a distinctive whiff of the 'oo about it too, albeit at their most subtle and delicate but is none the worse for it.
I need to hear more by these guys.
Released June 10 and will be available here.
Listen here :
THE SKYWALKERS - Rosa / Creature of the Night
Before Jacco Gardner's ascent to baroque pop stardom, he was half of the Skywalkers (along with Hugo Van de Poel), a rough and ready freakadelic garage/beat group who released the album "Year One" back in 2010. As a final farewell to fans, the Skywalkers have revisited two of the highlights from that album and given them a major reboot here, recasting them in a form that will appeal to all fans of Jacco's album "Cabinet of Curiosities". Jacco's obviously learned a few tricks about studio craft in the last few years, because these new versions make the originals sound like demos. Rough edges are hewn off and given new form via sparkling, lush baroque pop arrangements. Lovely. The only problem is, that I now wish they'd re-do the whole "Year One" album in this format. This will sell out super quick, and rightly so.
Available here.
Listen here:

Contact nford150@gmail.com if you have a 7" that you'd like to be considered for review in the next 7" column.

13 May 2013

Culpeper's Orchard - Obscure Classics

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I was finally introduced to the delights of this Danish band's 1971 debut, via a vinyl reissue of dubious legality but excellent sound quality from the Tapestry label (does anyone out there know whether Tapestry's reissues are licensed?).
While a solid reputation among collectors is not necessarily a guarantee of quality, I can happily report that this is one major label rarity (originally released in Denmark on Polydor) that deserves all the raves it receives - and then some.
After an incongruous country folk intro with the short "Banjocul" the real Culpeper's Orchard show their true colors with "Mountain Music Part 1" a fabulous heavy rock number with progressive elements and a moody arpeggiated outro section that's very much ahead of it's time, sounding a lot like the atmospheric sections from "Strange World" or "Remember Tomorrow" from Iron Maiden's debut near the end of the decade.
What follows is a remarkably consistent and varied heavy rock album, brimming with confidence and memorable guitar work. There's Guess Who style rockers that transform themselves effortlessly into flute-heavy blues jams ("Ode to Resistance"), strong CSN style massed harmonies ("Teaparty for an Orchard", "Blue Day's Morning"), Canterbury tinged prog epics ("Your Song & Mine"), and downtempo psychedelic slowburners with a distinct U.K flavor ("Gideon's Trap").
Combining the exuberance of a debut with the seasoned confidence of a band well into it's career, "Culpeper's Orchard" is a winner on every level, and an important piece of the European psychedelic puzzle.
Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a seminal album that should be on your must hear list if you have any interest in late sixties / early seventies culture. Which I imagine is pretty much everyone who reads this blog.
Get on it then.

Available on CD here.

11 May 2013

robotmonkeyarm "E.P Parts 1-3" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Attention grabbing covers are a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, they ensure that fickle folks like myself, who like shiny things are more inclined to have a curious listen. On the other hand, they create a certain amount of expectation as to the quality and content of what's inside.
It's impressive then that these three esoteric and wonderfully evocative E.P sleeves from Matt Talbot manage to so successfully capture the essence of the music within.
U.K outfit robotmonkeyarm make very colorful music indeed, influenced chiefly it would seem by Italian cinema of the sixties and seventies - particularly the soundtrack work of Ennio Morricone.
While they're not alone in being inspired by the maestro, they do have a unique approach to how they integrate these distinctively period-referencing influences into a more contemporary setting - they describe themselves as prog-metal, but that somewhat limited tag does them a  major disservice in this writer's opinion - tips of icebergs and so forth.
"Part One...Robot Senza Nomme" is ostensibly a western, but also finds room for the frenetic surfbeat of "L'Automo" amidst twangy guitars and windswept, wordless vocals.
Things get even more diverse on the following two E.Ps which highlight among other things the crystaline Goblinesque "L'epilogo", the funky "Cinema Vomitif", while "Deliria (the final girl)" could quite easily pass for one of Mike Patton's more cinematic projects with it's woozy "Rosemary's baby" style melody.
It's rare to find such extreme levels of genre cross-pollination handled so smoothly - Mr Bungle, eat your heart out.
So why three E.Ps rather than an album? Simple - they're three distinct entities. Although admittedly they do slot together well and are obviously the work of the same fevered brain(s), they have their own internal logic and thematic code that make this episodic format ideal - and I'm not complaining about the opportunity to savour three pieces of Matt Talbot's art either.

Investigate here or click the widget below to hear a sample track or be taken to robotmonkeyarm's Bandcamp page.

8 May 2013


Here's another batch of excellent new releases that might end up missing in action if I don't cover them here and now!

SLIGHT - Melodion
A fascinating three track release here from this adventurous Montreal based outfit that merge a whole bunch of disparate influences - psychedelia, krautrock, indie folk, AMAZING, sunny Beach Boys/ Grizzly Bear harmonies, Grandaddy style analogue rusticness into a very distinctive brew. Complex progressive arrangements with a heart, these three tracks promise much for a full album which hopefully won't be too far away....
Available here.
Listen here:

ADRIAN YOUNGE & GHOSTFACE KILLAH - Twelve Reasons to Die Instrumentals
Come back - you are in the right place! Not usually my territory for sure, but Adrian Younge's impressive instrumental score for Ghostface Killah's batshit crazy and totally inspired new project about an avenging demon let loose from twelve records containing the remains of an offed mobster is a classy orchestral funk affair with hints of Giallo, Tarantino and a whole bunch of Portishead. Moody, evocative and frequently beautiful, this has been getting a thrashing here at Active Listener HQ, and that's not likely to change anytime soon.
Available here on vinyl, or here on CD.
Listen here:

HELMET COMPASS - Beautiful High
Excellent E.P from this prolific Danish three-piece (their ninth release since August 2011) who write catchy slacker pop halfway between "Mellow Gold" era Beck and the quirky character vignettes of early Mansun. There's plenty of psychedelic charm on stoner-pop opener "Come Pick Me Up" and whatever they're on kicks in fully by the near ten minute closer "You Can't Stop Me (When I'm High)" which packs quite a hypnotic punch.
Highly recommended.
Very limited edition Cassette version or bandcamp download available here.
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GENE CLARK - Here Tonight - The White Light Demos 
It's amazing that these gems have taken so long to reach the public ear. We all know "White Light" is a stone cold classic and these sparse, acoustic guitar and vocal demos (with plaintive harmonica everywhere) are a vital document that demonstrates how fully formed these songs were at this early stage. They may have been laid down for simple demo purposes, but Clark was incapable of giving a vocal performance that was anything short of riveting - especially at this stage of his career.
There are even a few previously unheard tracks that while not up to the quality of their peers, are certainly the match of anything he was releasing by the end of the decade.
A totally unexpected gem.
Available here on CD.

I'm share this will be an unpopular view, but I've always been of the opinion that Tim Hardin was a great songwriter, but with an unfortunate tendency to make a lot of his songs sound 'samey' on record.
Ideal fodder for a multi artist tribute then, and sure enough "Reason to Believe" is one of the better of it's brethren. Split roughly in half between faithful interpretations by troubadours born to sing these songs (Mark Lanegan) and surprising deconstructions (The Phoenix Foundation), it's the lesser known artists who shine brightest - chief among them Snorri Helgason whose take on the much covered "Misty Roses" grasps the song's inner beauty and gives it a slightly sinister undercurrent.
Available here on CD, or digitally here.

Speaking of the Phoenix Foundation, the lads have a new album out and it's a corker. The rhythm section have stepped up and taken control here leaving plenty of room for the guitars to get all textural and spacious with lush keyboard vistas that make this often sound like the bastard son of Neu and Wilco.
"Fandango" is a double, so things unfold at a relaxed pace but there's never a shortage of hooks either.
Available here on CD, here on vinyl, and here digitally.
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7 May 2013


Lots of great new 7" titles out recently, here's a rundown of some of the best of what's currently out, and what's on the way....

THE DOLLY ROCKER MOVEMENT - Your Side of Town / Silently We Sung / Girl of the 13th Hour
Australia's Dolly Rocker Movement enters it's eleventh year with another excellent single release on Danish label Bad Afro. If patchouli scented, psychedelic garage pop is your thing, you'll no doubt be familiar with these guys, and if not this is as good a place to start as any, with three concise nuggets brimming with memorable hooks and groovy organwork. A must.
Available through these stores.
Listen here:

GHOSTWRITER - Dimensions
A decidedly hauntological affair put together by Mark Brend and friends who describe this as "a walk in the 1930's in the company of Charles Williams", a writer of supernatural thrillers much loved by other authors - particularly C.S Lewis). Naturally then it's a somewhat spooky and distinctly English affair with pastoral folk guitars, choral vocals, creepy lullaby style piano lines, music boxes, cosmic synths, theremins, sitars and lord knows what else in the mix. The eleven minute centrepiece "Dimensions" (split over both sides) features Jim Jupp (Belbury Poly) and is particularly intriguing, with a hauntingingly lovely refrain with admirable spook factor. In many ways it's like a mostly beatless version of something that Ghost Box might release on a particularly diverse day.
Download code and bonus track included.
Released in a staggeringly small run of 200 - Norman Records have some here - get in quick!

PROTO IDIOT - You're Wrong / You Can't Hide
On which Andrew Anderson (also of the Marble Vanity) gets to unleash his inner Chris Knox with two sides of classic indie jangle punk. Whoever "You're Wrong" is written for should feel suitably chastised after a listen to this, while the rest of us can just marvel at two of the most infectious anti-anthems I've heard since the mid eighties Flying Nun heyday. Gloriously primitive.
Available soon through Trouble In Mind Records (here)
Listen here:

MIRI MAY - You Are My Angel / Five O'Clock World
An excellent twofer from the very talented Spanish born, London based Miri May Moon. Featuring covers of songs originally performed by Los Monjes & the Vogues. "Five O'Clock World" is a particularly successful marriage of psychedelia, baroque pop and girlie pop, produced by the ever popular Jacco Gardner.
Lovely stuff.
Pre-order through Saturno Records here.
Listen here:
ENERGY GOWN - I Watch The Sun
Chicago's Energy Gown make quite an impression with their debut 7" - an apocalyptic piece of garage psych-drone with roots in the Velvet Underground and Amon Duul II, but plenty of contemporary clout too. Especially appealing is the deceptively melodic A-Side "Toe the Line", while the eight minute plus "Echo Tower" strays into more more freaky, exploratory territory.
Available here.
Listen here:

Artists / Labels : Do you have a suitable, recent 7" that you'd like to see covered here? Message me through the Active Listener facebook page for details.

6 May 2013

Sic Alps "Sic Alps" Review

Reviewed by Jason Simpson

Sic Alps have clearly spent their time with their psychedelic record collection; on their 5th album they conjure Neil Young, Pink Floyd (particularly Barrett era), The Kinks, but especially The Beatles. This self-titled record seems to encapsulate every era of the British quartets phases, lo-fi garage rock, rickety orchestral pop, piano ballads. They have heartily embraced the 'everything-and-the-kitchen-sink' style favored by George Martin, and you can hear every detail in sparkling, startling detail.
Sic Alps emerged during a time of damaged cassette architects, (Pink Reason, Eat Skull, Woods, Psychedelic Horseshit), buried garage pop chops beneath layers of colorful scuzz. It was a time when a phrase like 'shitgaze' could be used as an affectionate affirmative. The thing that you had to work to realize was that almost all of these people were real SONGWRITERS, they were catchy as fuck, and they used noise as a stylized element, to throw off the squares, no doubt. They made their shit DIRTY, in a way that brings to mind THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, realizing again that noise was psychedelic in a different way - more amphetamines than hallucinogens perhaps. But these tripsters always worshiped rock 'n roll: electric guitars in the church and all that, angels in black leather.
So Mike Donovan and Matt Hartman emerge from the fog, standing in vivid detail in the studio. They reveal themselves as postmodern masters, weaving a web of homage to make something wholly personal, something wholly their own. They have done what any number of respectable bands have done - gathered their resources at an indie level until they become excellent, and then craft a pop opus. Think about Ariel Pink; he's not still recording on answering machines.
In this case, you hardly miss Sic Alp's grit at all. They are superb at songcraft; possible hits are stacked up on this record, interspersed with acoustic ballads and the occasional space rock ambiance. The records they were wearing out the most were probably Pink Floyd's "Meddle", The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper", Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" - they have the sleigh-bells and the tambourines and the occasional barking dog, switching it up quickly between songs. It's like looking at a history of rock 'n roll flip book. 'God Bless Her, I Miss Her' was the first to hook my ear; a total memorable garage raver that draws you in and makes you pay attention. The quicksilver guitars are insanely hummable, and it's got that great '60s tube warmth to it. From there, you are sold, just waiting to hear the details, along for the ride. 'Lazee Son' is basically 'Seamus' from "Meddle", with its total sunworn shamble; it actually sounds like shadows crossing
the sun.
This record sinks in; it grows on you like moss. For even the casual listener, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of sounds to be heard, and you're never sure which record to give your time to. Once I was at a psychedelic music festival, and one of the band members was wearing a shirt that read 'GIVE YOUR MONEY TO SIC ALPS'. I was sold, and they had my attention from that moment onward. I have picked this nexus from which to radially wheel; DRAG CITY have been good to us (they've given us a billion BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY records) and i'm from Chicago, so I have a certain hometown fealty. Once you give Sic Alps a chance, you will most likely be sucked into their psychodrama, and once in, you'll probably fall into a whole twilight zone of obscure tape releases, one-off collaborations, and spending far too much time on the internet than is probably good for you.

I'll sum up:

1. Glyphs - Seasick "Sgt. Peppers" string submarines. Skeletal, creepy orchestral math rock; The Unicorns covering "Yellow Submarine".

2. God Bless Her, I Miss Her - Restores my faith in rock 'n roll. Even reading about this record is fun! One critic said, "Songwriter Mike Donovan and drummer Matt Hartman sought an improbable union of pop sweetness and sonic hate, blasting Kinks riffs through Pussy Galore's shredded speaker cabinets." (Aaron Leitko, Pitchfork). This gets my vote for romantic ballad of the month, especially if your girl likes leather.

3. Lazee Son - see above.

4. Polka Vat - Musique Concrete, anyone? Exquisitely sculptured - I like the controlled feedback and how the song constructs itself like a skeleton gathering flesh. So many tasty guitar layers!

5. Wake Up, It's Over II - This is probably my second favorite in the collection; it's pretty. Nice low-key slack; another reviewer made a comparison to Stephen Malkmus and Pavement and I think there's some validity to that. They were psychedelic indie rock as well. I like how this song bobs and stomps, messy and funky and bluesy, it gets inside your head and eats you from the inside out. Like all good music should.

6. Drink Up! - This could be a party anthem for a cough syrup convention. It also bobs off time, rhythms combine, like watching multiple swiss clocks while a drum line marches nearby. While atonal noise squeals in the background. The Flaming Lips would be proud.

7. Thylacine Man - Another super pretty ballad, that could be one of those Neil Young acoustic jams, or something off of Houses Of The Holy. The electric guitar break is glorious, and suggests complete control. This is that songwriting nuance I was talking about. I'm gonna have to go back and listen to their older records, now. This track really shows off Donovan as a guitarist, also; rippling arpeggio counterpoint multi track, sparse but coordinated.

8. Moviehead - Somebody for the love of god please tell me where this melody is from! This is one of those potential hits I mentioned earlier. Those guitar hooks!

9. Rock Races - Rock Races is just gorgeous. A poignant string quartet melds with classical piano, while nearly indecipherable reverbed angels soar about yr head. The albums beating heart, worthy of The Beatles. Also like those dissonant 7th chords, never gonna play it straight! This IS rock 'n roll.

10. She Saw You On The Slope - Ends in stillness; piano and wind.

This record came straight off of a series of 7"s released last year, and 2011's lauded Napa Asylum. The band clearly has a lot to say, and is getting increasingly adept at saying it. During the duration of Sic Alps, you begin to really feel for and connect with this band, it draws you in, it makes you want to hear more, know more. Their hooks are just heaven sent, and there is clearly something here. It makes me want to dive back into their back catalog, along with digging out some of the gems of the internet epoch that helped give rise to
these Californians. It just goes to show, that our generation is making masterpieces of our own.

Available here on CD, and here on vinyl.

5 May 2013

Electric Eye "Pick-up, Lift-off, Space, Time" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Norwegian space rockers Electric Eye have rewritten the book on how an album should be constructed with their debut.
Most label execs would jump out a window when confronted with the news that not only is their latest signing frontloading their album with it's three longest (and I mean loooong) tracks, but also that the longest of those three tracks is the intended single - all nine minutes of it.
Clearly Electric Eye's attendance at Rock College was patchy at best.
Electric Eye have bypassed this particular problem by releasing "Pick-up, Lift-off, Space, Time" on their own Klangkollektivet label, with worldwide distribution handled by Fuzz Club Records.
Now I'm a firm believer in grabbing the status quo by the throat and giving it a good shake every now and then, and Electric Eye prove with their debut that the greater the gamble, the higher the gain. "Pick-up, Lift-off, Space, Time" may be a bit of a mouthful as far as titles go, but the contents are some of the most palatable servings of space rock that I've come across in many a year.
There are many touchstones for their sound - the Verve's early E.Ps, Pompeii era Pink Floyd and Krautrock of the more organic type all come to mind immediately, and refreshingly there's very little evidence of Hawkwind devotion.
The first side is where all the heavier, beatier numbers reside with a sound that heavily recalls the nineties spacerock revival - the Verve, Spiritualized et al. First single "Tangerine" is certainly the most accessible of these with it's Eastern drones giving way to a propulsive motorik pulse with walls of guitar and a kaleidoscopic, widescreen chorus.
The flipside is a more spacious affair with the propulsive sonar bursts of "Morning Light" soon giving way to the riffy spacefunk of "The Road" and perhaps most successfully, the moody, ethereal closer "Electric Eye" with layers of mellotron bleeding through the expertly controlled guitar squall.

Available from the Fuzz Club Records webshop here.

2 May 2013

Los Brincos "Contrabando" Review

Reissued by El Records (Cherry Red)

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Los Brincos (translated as the Jumpers or Leapers, also often referred to as the Spanish Beatles) were facing tough times in 1967. With two key members jumping ship, most bands would call it a day, but this popular Spanish band instead went the other way and headed to London to record in the best studios with Larry Page ( The Kinks, The Troggs) overseeing.
"Contrabando" is a giant step forward from their earlier beat orientated material, with inventive production that perfectly balances the period flavor of London with the exoticism of their own Spanish background - Ivan Zulueta's explosive cover art fits it's contents perfectly.
There are flashes of popular acts of the day - Kinksian harpsichord work, tight Beatlesque harmonies, and on "The Train", a very familiar guitar and bass riff which this reissue's liner notes charitably refer to as having a "resemblance" to "Substitute". This one small act of plagiarism aside however, "Contrabando" is brimming with originality and top tunes, more often than not sung in their native tongue.
"Lola", which according to the liner notes has become one of the most well known pieces of Spanish popular music, is certainly a good leadoff track, with a memorable melody and complex horn charts, and there's better to come.
"Un Mundo Diferente" is a moody, protopsychedelic ballad with affecting harmonies and some lovely harpsichord, "El Pasaporte" is a surging rocker with a great mersey guitar riff and "Big Temptation" has a huge freakbeat sound with moments of pure U.K psych-pop.
To cement it's "embarrassment of riches" status fully, El Records have added a whole slew of tracks from contemporary singles that are easily the match of the "Contrabando" material, making this a 26 track monster of swinging pop psych that I'd recommended not only to aficionados of world psychedelia, but also anyone with a love for U.K pop-psych and freakbeat.

Out now on El Records - buy it here.

1 May 2013

Bed Rugs "Rapids" Review

Released by Ample Play / Burger Records

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Ample Play continue their mission to bring you the best new psychedelic music from distant corners of the globe with the release of young Belgian band Bed Rugs.
Bed Rugs are refreshing in that they don't slavishly replicate the sounds of the sixties, and seem just as indebted to the Elephant 6 aesthetic (particularly the Olivia Tremor Control) as they do to the Beatles generation.
Like the Olivia Tremor Control, Bed Rugs write slightly melancholy, hookladen pop songs layered in reverb, tremeloed vocals and backwards guitars that accentuate the craft evident in the songs in the first place. Or to put it more succinctly, the psychedelic elements are used not to hide weak songwriting (as some do) but to emphasize their hooks in a more colorful manner.
Speaking of color - "Rapids" is painted from a gloriously colorful palette, expertly mixed by The Bees' Paul Butler who has already proven himself to be a dab hand at this sort of substantial aural candyfloss with his own band.
"Daydream" eases you in with a lovely piece of dreamy acoustic psychedelia - an "I'm Only Sleeping" for this generation which you're sure you've got the number of until it hits you with a lovely, vertigo inducing chord change. "Rapids" certainly has more than it's fair share of those 'surprise' moments, often in the shape of a devastatingly catchy chorus that seemingly comes from nowhere, one trait these songs all share.
This emphasis on concise pop gold makes "Rapids" a short sugar hit that you're sure to be wanting more of, even after the comparatively epic comedown of multi-part closer "Tell".
A hugely promising beginning.

Available soon on vinyl here, digital here and cassette here.