31 Jan 2013

The Freezing Hands Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

"Indie" is a term that has taken a turn for the worse in recent years.
It may make me sound like a bitter old-timer, but I prefer to look at the term nostalgically and use it in it's original, more literal sense, where it had nothing to do with people's perception of cool, and everything to do with the artist and their approach to their art.
So when I say that The Freezing Hands are some sort of indie supergroup I don't mean that they possess perfectly manicured beards, nor that they have a tendency towards post ironic covers of bad eighties tunes, or rock a wardrobe consisting entirely of checked shirts (although admittedly I am fond of checks myself and am often somewhat hirsute).
No, what I mean is that the Freezing Hands are D.I.Y - they do what they want, the way they want and can happily release their material on cassette because they don't have some big label executive breathing down their neck stressing out that kids today want digital.
And I certainly think that Travis from the Knockout Pills and Matt and Jeremy from the Resonars constitutes suitable grounds for using the somewhat unfashionable epiphet supergroup, whether they balk at it or not.
Now that I've finished justifying myself I imagine you've either jumped ship or want to know a bit about the music. Fair enough on both counts.
Travis certainly picked the right co-conspirators when he decided to make an album of classic sounding guitar pop/rock tunes as anyone with a Resonars LP in their collection can attest, and while The Freezing Hands approach is generally less anglophile than that of the Resonars (bar a rather excellent cover of the Hollie's "You Must Believe Me" and a few Mersey forays), they've certainly got it right first try here with an album that I can honestly say is at least as great as the newest Resonars LP "Crummy Desert Sound", which is sure saying something.
Now before you take issue with me for throwing around over the top superlatives I'd urge you to settle the fuck down and have a listen to this - it's everything a good, scratch that, great rock n roll album should be; raucous ("Get Away (Leave Me Alone")), reverential (the lovely one two Mersey balladry of "Numbers For Sale" and "Oh Bird"), irreverent and silly ("Cakes and Doughnuts Awesome") and full of cracking, great tunes (um, everything on here pretty much). "Baby Watermelon" even sounds like a falsettoed Buffalo Springfield to these ears - brilliant!
Burger Records have released this as a Limited Edition cassette (here), and there's talk of a vinyl release coming too - seriously, I pity the fool who doesn't hear this. Don't be that guy.

30 Jan 2013

"Re-Evolution - FdM Sings The Hollies" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The nickname "The Manchester Beatles" was always going to be hard to live up to, and while the Hollies had a lot of luck commercially in the sixties, that success never seemed to cross over to widespread critical acclaim. Subsequently, their period of psychedelic experimentation from 1966-1968 hasn't received the recognition it perhaps deserves.
Fruits de Mer records are doing their bit to make this right with "Re-Evolution", a tribute album with songs all drawn originally from this period, and featuring  a number of familiar Fruits faces and a few new ones.
There's almost an unwritten law that tribute albums will be about 50/50 wheat and chaff and that pretty much everyone will disagree upon which tracks fit into which category, but by focusing on such a concise period and featuring such likeminded artists, Fruits de Mer have managed to bypass this generally impassable universal truth. In fact there's so much good stuff on offer here that they've had to add a 7" E.P to the LP to keep it all in.
It's a consistently adventurous and entertaining listen (it helps that the source material is psych-pop of the highest order), with very few acts taking the safe route, and the bigger the risks taken, the higher the dividends paid. To this end, moonweevil's instrumental space-dub version of "Bus Stop" really shouldn't work but is hugely entertaining. Same goes for Hi-Fiction Science's indescribable tribal reinterpretation of "King Midas In Reverse" which has a fantastic hypnotic pulse, and perhaps the finest vocal Maria Charles has yet delivered on a HFS release.
Other highlights include a splendid trippy version of "Try It" by Brookyn's psychedelic explorers Sky Picnic, whom I suspect could cover almost anything and make it sound like one of their own, and the Higher State whose take on "Don't Run & Hide" sounds like it's drifting out of an old transistor radio.
Add stalwarts like the Bevis Frond and a bunch of new psychedelic pioneers and the end result is something very rare - a tribute album that I suspect I'm going to play more often than the source material.

Fruits de Mer recognize that vinyl is king so this is a vinyl only release, with no digital or CD.You can order it here.

Check out Hi-Fiction Science's "King Midas in Reverse" here. Plenty of other tracks from this can be sampled on the individual artists Facebook and Soundcloud pages.

Ian Skelly "Cut From a Star" Review

Reviewed By Chris Sherman

When Nathan asked me if I wanted to write a review for Ian Skelly’s "Cut From A Star", I jumped at the chance, as this is an album I had been meaning to check out.
I was surely not disappointed.
The LP opens with the title track and its staccato keyboard riff straight out of a lost 1968 baroque pop record;  it just keeps getting better along the way.  Symphonic flourishes blanket the atmospheric vibes of the songs, with mellotrons adding that early Moody Blues feel to the proceedings.  “Nickel and Dime” exudes a "Forever Changes" feel (speaking of Love, Ian’s voice for me is an amalgam of Arthur Lee and Ian Brown), while “D.N.A.” has lovely female backing vocals that rival anything mid-period Floyd did.  '
The personal highlight for me is “Paper Sky”, with a gently strummed guitar lulling you away, building on the sensation with an acoustic and bass working their way into the magic, proceeded by ‘tron flutes and more female vocals.  I must have had that on repeat for six or seven consecutive listens before I could move any further.
For these sessions, virtually all of the instruments were played by Ian himself, and he not only displays his musical virtuosity, but makes this album feel like a full band. 
An amazing record, particularly for those looking to step into a time machine and take it back to the heyday of breezy psych pop. 
Highly recommended!

"Cut From A Star" is available here on CD or here on Vinyl with a free copy of the CD.

29 Jan 2013

Maston "Shadows" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

One of my favourite discoveries last year was Maston's second E.P "Voyages" which I procured through a Bandcamp download. After offering it a glowing review in these pages, I was dismayed to see it had been pulled from Bandcamp. Common sense soon prevailed though when it was announced that Trouble in Mind had signed Maston for an album release, which would include several of the best tracks from "Voyages" along with a score of new material.
"Shadows" is that album, and as good as I thought "Voyages" was at the time, the tracks make a whole lot more sense in this context.
For those unfamiliar with the Maston sound, think sunny baroque psychedelia - Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson, a bit of Macca all shot through a woozy cinematic filter which is equal parts Morricone and David Lynch.
These are compositions as much as they are songs, breezy psychedelic pop with every note carefully considered and placed exactly where it should be.
Opener "Strange Rituals" is one of a number of evocative instrumentals that highlight what Maston does best - sunny melodies filtered through nostalgic pastels with a spooky undercurrent - disused fairgrounds and "Carnival of Souls' immediately come to mind.
There's also plenty of vocal baroque pop of the highest order, whether propelled by a McCartneyesque bounce ("(You Were) In Love"), or cloaked in harpsichord and ornate harmonies straight out of the Good Vibrations songbook ("Young Hearts").
The fact that all of the incredibly diverse instrumentation on here is supplied by one chap, Frank Maston himself, is pretty damn impressive.
Trouble in Mind seem to be cornering the market in likeminded baroque pop multi-instrumentalists at the moment and this holds it's own nicely against Jacco Gardner's much more heralded T.I.M debut (reviewed here), and provides an excellent American counterpoint to "Cabinet of Curiosities".

Available directly from Trouble in Mind Records here very soon.

28 Jan 2013

Arbouretum "Coming Out Of The Fog" Review

Reviewed by Joseph Kyle

Thrill Jockey

Baltimore's Arbouretum has always made big, heavy psych-rock, and with "Coming Out of the Fog", they've continued that trend, but they push the boundaries of rock without going into heavy jam-out territory, as they have on previous records. Thus, the sound of this rather brief album ranges from the soft and sublime to the overbearingly heavy. Vocalist Dave Hermann has a style that is gritty and raw and haunting, but is, curiously, more Peter Murphy than Neil Young. That being the case, Neil Young's Crazy Horse is a natural point of comparison, especially on the barbed-wired tough "The Promise" and "World Split Open," as the sunburned, stoned melodies clearly share DNA with "Zuma" and "Tonight's the Night".
Though they can do loud and heavy quite well, they're also masters of subtle beauty; "Oceans Don't Sing," is a simple, sorrowful country-blues weeper, and when Hermann sings "Everyone says it'll come to an end/Oh, but oceans don't sing of impossible things," you believe him.
Better still is the title track that closes out the album, a dusty, solemn number that is accentuated with sad piano and even sadder pedal steel. It has all the power and feel of the end of a tragic western; close your eyes and you can easily imagine credits rolling. It's a nice ending, and after the rough and heavier moments that preceded it, it's a calming balm. "Coming Out of the Fog" is a masterful blend of heavy and soft, and shows that the fellows of Arbouretum have quietly become masters of the genre.

Available here on Vinyl and here on CD.

27 Jan 2013

The Return of Active Listener Radio

Because you demanded it! (or because I had a bit of spare time), it's the return of Active Listener Radio!
Not quite sure why it's taken me so long to put together a new mix, but here it is - hope you think it was worth the wait!
Featuring Bill Cosby (sorry),  The No-Men, Hi Fiction Science, The Luck of Eden Hall, The See See, The Market Squares, John's Children, The Sunchymes, Cranium Pie, Dog Age and Baptism of Uzi.
Lots of covers on this one.
Stream it here:

Thomas McConnell's "Back Seat of My Car"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Last year I reviewed a set of Soundcloud tracks from young Liverpudlian Thomas McConnell (review here).
I made many noises of approval, pointing out how much he sounded like Paul McCartney, and generally implied that life would be much better all round if Macca were still producing tunes this good.
Since then he's released a single via Bandcamp (here), and gifted us a rather good Rutles style send up of "I Am The Walrus" for the most recent Active Listener Psychedelic Sampler (here).
McConnell has gone one step further with his latest release due out on Wednesday, covering Macca's "Back Seat of My Car", originally the epic finale of "Ram", which finally seems to be getting the love it deserves after last year's reissue.
While one might expect a fairly straight cover from so fervent a Paul fan, McConnell's reinterpretation offers a bunch of surprising detours, with layers of backing vocals and other bits and pieces reappropriated from other "Ram" tunes cropping up in a rather busy mix that may sound a bit overwhelming on first listen, but fits together rather snuggly and logically once you've got your head around it.
You'll be able to download it for FREE from http://thomasmcconnellmusic.bandcamp.com/ on Wednesday.

Sudden Death of Stars "Getting Up, Getting Down" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Another French psych outfit? You'll be starting to think that I've got a one-track mind. The Blondi's Salvation earned raves from me a week or so back (here), and now it's time for their buddies, Sudden Death of Stars to receive their dues.
Released towards the end of 2011, "Getting Up, Getting Down" is a very confident debut full lengther, which draws inspiration from all of the touchstones you'd expect from the sixties, but pays plenty of attention to what's happened since too.
Witness "Free & Easy" which effortlessly mixes the twelve string folk rock jangle of the Byrds with the quirky pop smarts of mid eighties Flying Nun.
Nun rears it's head again and again, in fact "Getting Up, Getting Down" often sounds like something The Bats would have come up with if they'd decided to add all the psychedelic trimmings - sitar, organs etc - to one of their earlier albums.
And like the best Flying Nun material, these songs are full of hooks which are outside the norm, yet sound entirely natural and get stuck in your head for days on end.
What have you got for me next, France?

Available on Vinyl here.

Touch "Street Suite" Review

Guerssen Records

Reviewed by Joseph Kyle

"Street Suite" is the sole album release of the St. Louis based Touch; released in 1969, this record splits the difference between psych rock, country, and blues rock. Vocal duties are split between Raymond Stone and Paulette Butts, two unique singers of two distinct styles. Butts' voice, a cross between Grace Slick and Bobbie Gentry, is husky yet gentle, and serves to temper the hokum style of Raymond Stone. While not technically a bad singer, Stone occasionally affects a forced Southern accent, which keeps the heavy blues jam of "Catfish" from reaching its full potential. He fares better on the Grateful Dead-like "Got to Be Traveling On," a funky country singalong, replete with kazoos. When he drops that affectation, he sounds less like Jerry Garcia and more like Jerry Reed or Dan Hicks. But Paulette is the real star here, and they know it. The opening medley may start off slightly cheesy anthem "Happy Face," but it turns into a rather serious political manifesto of "Beginnings/Get a Gun." She really shines on "Let's Keep the Children on the Streets,"  a protest song, and even though the band's style can generously be called a schizophrenic romp through blues, rock, and psychedelia, it's her powerful singing that keeps the song from falling apart. That ramshackle number gives away to the straightforward blues of "Motor City Burning," which then gives way to the funky and fine "Gettin' Off," with Stone finally showing himself to be the superb blues singer only hinted at in "Catfish." Shortly after this album was recorded, Butts left for California, a lineup change would shift the focus to Stone, and the band would split after releasing two singles. "Street Suite" is not a particularly spectacular album, but it still possesses that innocent charm that comes with a band's formative years.

26 Jan 2013

Nick Saloman Shares Details of the New Bevis Frond Album.

Yesterday Nick Saloman made mention on his Facebook page of how well the recordings for the new Bevis Frond album were going.
I prompted him for a little more info on the recording and this is what Nick had to say :

"We were booked in to Gold Dust Studios in Bromley to start work last Monday, but the weather meant we had to delay things by a day.
Over Tuesday & Wednesday we laid down 19 live backing tracks. That's with a line-up of me, Nick Saloman on guitar and guide vocals, Paul Simmons on guitar, Adrian Shaw on bass, and Dave Pearce on drums. We had Dave Palmer at the controls.
On Thursday Paul & I went in to do our guitar overdubs. Paul did all his stuff by the end of Thursday. I went off to play 5 a side football (as I do every Thursday night), stayed over in London with my mate, Mark Burgess who runs Flashback Records (the best 2nd hand record shop in London). It was a bit cramped at Mark's flat, as he's just bought a collection of 25,000 albums. Yes, 25,000, sadly for me, they're all soul (70s onwards), funk, dance, disco etc, not really my thing. Some nice rarities though. I imagine if you're into that stuff, you'd have a field day! Actually, what is a field day??
Anyway, Friday I wanted to complete all the guitar parts, but just as I was finishing up, I did a typical bit of guitar string bending and the string gut stuck between my fingertip and my nail, and managed to make a painful little cut under my fingernail, so I decided to call it a day.
I'm back in on Monday to finish off the guitar parts, do the keyboards and acoustic guitar stuff. Tuesday I aim to do the vocals, and then I'll try to mix it down by the end of the week.
I aim to have the album out by May. At the moment it's looking like it'll be a double CD and double vinyl (or maybe even a triple vinyl)...it depends how it sounds to me when I've finished it. So there you go. That's about all I can reveal at present.
Cheers, Nick"

The Amazing @ The Mercury Lounge Gig Review

Review & Photos by Chris Sherman

The Amazing
Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
January 25, 2013

The Amazing are one of my current musical fascinations; an all-star band of sorts (comprised of members of Dungen and Life on Earth), but not in the “super group” sort of way, and the name essentially says it all.  The band has two LP’s and an EP out via the Subliminal (Sweden) label, and they seem to slowly but surely be gaining steam in America, especially after an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman last week.  I was lucky enough to have caught them last night at Mercury Lounge in New York City, and it was a treat to say the least.

I attended the show with some first timers (this was the third time I have seen the Amazing) and we were all blown away at the sheer beauty and intensity of the performances.  Frontman Christoffer Gunrup warned us of a “throat condition” currently inflicting him, but it would not end up detracting from his vocals in any discernible way.  With that, the quintet launch into a surprising opener of “Head Beaches” from 2010’s “Wait For  A Light to Come EP” (I say surprising in the sense that this is the first time I was privileged to hear this live, and this would thankfully be a reoccurring theme over the course of the set).  The music enveloped the near capacity crowd with its echoes of psychedelic folk and gentle majesty.  Lead guitarist Reine Fiske was locked in and shredded as he normally does, but also played with the restraint required in quieter passages. 
The band also has one of the new digital Mellotrons (the M4000D) that was played by both Fredrik Swahn and Alexis Benson, who rotate between bass, acoustic and ‘tron.  The strings/ flutes/ choir sounds added tremendously to the overall soundscapes, creating a richness that rivaled the layering you’d expect on an LP.  Previously, I had seen the band with a flautist as well, who added a touch that might have been missing last night, but didn’t cause the music to suffer.  I’d also like to make mention of drummer Moussa Fadera.  The man was putting on a clinic, and as a former drummer, I always take pleasure in geeking out to elaborate and well placed fills.
The set was obviously heavy on material from the latest release “Gentle Stream”, all of which destroyed their respective studio counterparts.  Of particular note was current single “Gone”, which had the crowd grooving and “Flashlight”, where the flute Mellotron effects overtake everything and send you to a surreal atmosphere further heightened by Reine’s guitar licks.  My personal highlight was favorite Amazing song and set closer “When the Colours Change”.  Epic doesn’t even begin to describe this one.  One got the vibe they were feeling it and the play off of each other was mesmerizing.
I was able to chat with Reine after the performance and, music gear nerd talk aside, he said that the band was “particularly feeling it tonight, and played a super tight set.”  When asked when the band would be back, I was told “hopefully summer, but we’ll see.”  The tour appears to have been a successful one, and the guys are off to their homeland today.  And with that, one of the best bands today made a great Friday even better. This definitely takes the top spot for shows of theirs I have seen. If they hit your town at any point, I cannot speak highly enough about them.  (LP review coming soon).

Full setlist as follows:
Head Beaches
Deportation Day
The Fog
Gentle Stream
When the Colours Change

 Check out "Gentle Stream" from this show here:

25 Jan 2013

Jacco Gardner "Cabinet of Curiosities" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Dutch baroque pop revivalist Jacco Gardner was one of the big success stories of last year, with considerable coverage in mainstream music press like the NME, Shindig! and Pitchfork, as well as quickly establishing a voracious fanbase among the underground music press. Impressive stuff, especially considering the fact that his place near the forefront of the psychedelic renaissance was cemented with just four tracks spread over two excellent 45's. All four sides of those singles were fabulous, but I for one was curious how Jacco would approach a full album, which is a very different kettle of fish indeed.
Fortunately he's a scholar of all things baroque pop and psychedelic and realizes that you're not likely to create a classic just by sticking twelve prospective singles together and calling it an album.
So while first single and album opener "Clear The Air" is easily matched in the immediate pop stakes by the likes of "The Ballad of Little Jane" and "Where Did You Go?", there are also far more subtle pieces like the delicate pastoral acid pop of "The One Eyed King", the clockwork harpsichord magic of "The Riddle" and the Canterbury tinged prog pop of "Lullaby" that show sides of Jacco that we didn't get the chance to see on his single releases and offer an exciting indication of where his sound could head in the future.
And while he definitely continues to delve back into the late sixties for inspiration, there's an ageless grace that "Cabinet of Curiosities" shares with only the best of it's forefathers ("Odessey and Oracle" comes to mind), that ensures that Jacco has a bright future with an appeal that extends far beyond that of the majority of his peers - niche music with a mainstream appeal.

I interviewed Jacco last year. Check it out here.

Trouble in Mind will release this soon - keep an eye on their website here.

24 Jan 2013

King's Daughters & Sons "If Then Not When" Review

Reviewed By Jason Simpson ( Forestpunk )

Chemikal Underground, 2011

"we are watchful now,
we few and we take care,
and gather in the gloaming.
we are hopeful, not too hopeful
and we will sing,
just to spite you "

Lines from the gorgeously elegiac album opener, Sleeping Colony. It conjures images of furtive cloaked figures, gathering in disused abandoned lots, warehouses with dirty stained windows. Eyes bright, and flashing with misunderstood ancient light, that must be carefully concealed during the day.
During the ‘00s, there was a general feeling of decay; dancing in the nuclear embers of the 20th century. Like a line from the first track on the first Godspeed You! Black Emperor record, The Dead Flag Blues; “We are trapped in the belly of some horrible machine/and there’s no driver at the wheel/Kiss me, you’re beautiful, I said/for these are truly the end times.” It seemed like we were living in St. John’s apocalypse, we just didn’t know where it was coming from. ‘Destroy All Dreamers, With Debt And Depression’, they said. Its all been done before. Writers and philosophers ruminated endlessly on the endless facsimile and regurgitation of culture, like a uroboros swallowing it's own tail, we were all destined to eat shit. The psychedelic futurism of the late 90s (which was one of the heydays of rave culture, lest we forget) fell like a biblical prophecy with the twin towers. Hope went underground; gone but not forgotten. The faithful, the hopeful, burrowed down and waited for Spring.
Almost every journalist has been nihilistic about the music scene, about the effect that the internet is having on our attention spans, our ability to focus on and appreciate art. They claim that music is vanishing like an ephemeral steamcloud, nothing to hold on to, and foretelling a return to minstrelry or vaudeville. A nation of entertainers, begging for dollars on the streetcorners. And in a certain respect, and that’s all we’ve ever been doing. Humble buskers, we hold on to the hope that our art is valid and valuable. We believe our bands, and the bands that we love, are the greatest on the planet, and if people don’t like it than they’re stupid. If yr not striving to be the best, why not? The internet has levelled the playing field, acting as a crucible to wade out the dreck, ie. the insincere, and only the shining golden purity will remain.
It’s with this in mind that i’ve chosen to write about "If Then Not When" by Kings Daughters & Sons. They’re a quintet of Louisville, Kentucky’s finest, alumni from its esteemed post-rock scene. The most well-known of the bunch is Rachel Grimes, of the incredible Rachel’s chamber outfit, who lends her piano abilities and glorious glowing voice. There’s two members of under-appreciated group The Shipping News, Kyle Crabtree and Todd Cook, on bass and drums, respectively, and a couple of newcomers, Joe Manning and Michael Heineman, both adding vocals and guitar. Together, they make a powerful surging rock noise, primal pounding beats give a ritualistic air, while the two guitars play off each other like light on the water, delicate and sensitive, languid and rolling. They make whispery folk murder ballads, full of betrayal and retribution. Its a bit like if Colin Meloy were to front the Retribution Gospel Choir. Its classical, its traditional, its drug addled; the ancient and the modern, making something truly timeless. The general tone of the album is the most lush, haunting, codeine-induced reverie you could ever hope for, rich vocal harmonies and guitars like a velvet sea. Kings Daughters & Sons, have a raging heart.
Some of the members of KD&S have made some of the most beautiful and challenging and interesting music of the last 20+ years, and a lot of it remains underground and unknown. They keep on keeping on, they sound like wizened wizards at this point. There is no replacement for experience, and the Louisville/Chicago post-rock axis has consistently made excellent music, but you don’t hear a lot about it. It was popular in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, then people moved on to other things, while ‘Post-Rock’ became an increasingly dirty word, mired down in flabby imitations. The originators kept at it, however, under the radar, and it is for that reason i am writing about this record. Over at my main blog, Forestpunk, I write a series called the 66.6 series, which is a play on the 33 ⅓ books, which fanatically enthuses over an individual record. With the 66.6 series, I am trying to look at whole scenes, genres, discographies. Its an attempt to wade through the archives, what I call the akashic records, and find the grim grinning ghost of a particular album or artist.
The naysayers are skeptical that our attention span can hold up. We’re all doomed to become spineless jellyfish floating in an endless sea of possibilities, unable to pick our choose for ourselves. The way through this is through attention and appreciation; stopping the endless rush of progress and just chilling out and listening to stuff. We have every available resource, at our disposal, the curious mind could reach new expanses of brilliance, but we must resurrect classic virtues like patience, quality, empathy, to weather the transitional period.
King’s Daughters & Son have made a remarkable record with If Then Not When. Its subtle and often times heart-wrenching. Its full of longing and survivor’s guilt. The way it mashes up modern experimental music with traditional folk structures is particularly disorienting and psychedelic, its like a portal that drags you through time, to show you frozen moments, like stuck lightning. Its become a consistent companion in my daily life, as have several of the musicians, offering condolences on black days. We all keep on keeping on, we are still right here, giving blood, keeping the faith. Sweating and bleeding and crying for our cause, but with our faces turned up to the rain. We are unbowed and unbroken by the relentless phantom of Greed and Insecurity. Many of us have died, already, and we will hold a vigil, when the ground thaws. For now, we are surviving, and giving your love to the masterful is one way through the fog.

The recording was made direct to 2 inch tape in 2008 and 2009 at The Funeral Home by Kevin Ratterman, engineer for California Guitar Trio, My Morning Jacket and Wax Fang. Mastering by Bob Weston, Chicago Mastering Service.

Kyle Crabtree - drums;
Todd Cook - bass;
Rachel Grimes - piano, voice;
Joe Manning - guitar, voice;
Michael Heineman - guitar, voice


Powder Blue "Dream in Black" Review

Four piece Saskatoon femme psychers Powder Blue aim to provide "the soundtrack to your dreams and nightmares" with their debut "A Dream in Black".
These aren't your run of the mill 'giving a speech in your jockeys' nightmares either. Anyone out there seen "Curse of the Crimson Altar"? Yup, that's the sort of dreams we're dealing in here - kinky, diabolical ceremonies, wreathed in multi hued smoke and presided over by an uncomfortable looking green skinned Barbara Steele. For those of a less obscure persuasion who might be getting a little lost and ready to jump ship, what I'm trying to get across here is that "A Dream in Black" is moody, hazy and deeply psychedelic. And way cooler than it has any right to be.
"Go On Forever" is the perfect opener with a lovely, lyrical guitar line emerging from the hazy layers of organ, topped by the dreamiest of vocals, as if your subconscious had been given voice.
The mood remains unspoilt throughout with vocalist / keyboardist Elsa Gebremichael's keyboards a particular treat - bold when they need to be but able to offer plenty of texture as required.
"Hot Fire" is a more playful proposition, with it's sinuous guitar riff suggesting an Americanised Stealing Sheep, while "Turn to Dust" displays their uncanny knack to mix the moody and the melodic with a killer hook.
More please. Now.

 Visit Powder Blue's official website.

Powder Blue on Facebook.

23 Jan 2013

The Electric Stars "Sonic Candy Soul" Review

Manchester's Electric Stars obviously have wide ranging tastes and don't feel the need to pigeonhole themselves musically. Anything from the sixties, seventies and nineties seems to be fair game to this lot, and they do a pretty good job of assimilating a bunch of varied influences into a whole, which at first sounded pretty schizophonic to me, but started to make a lot more sense once I settled down to the business of listening for pleasure's sake, rather than working out how all these diverse influences fit together.
The band's most dominant characteristics are demonstrated right out of the gates with "136"s glam pop swagger which owes as much to the mid nineties glam revival of the likes of Suede as it does to it's original seventies counterparts.
Elsewhere there's traces of the faux-gospel of early seventies Rolling Stones on "Blind" - Primal Scream's "Screamadelica" would have a far more solid rep now if it had featured a few more lighter wavers of this quality.
"Bedtime Stories" on the otherhand has so much of the over the top drama and intrigue of a Bond theme that I was checking the fine print for an "arranged by David Arnold" credit.
Very nice stuff but it doesn't sound like something that belongs on the Active Listener does it?
Well guess again. There's a distinct whiff of patchouli in the air on a great deal of these tracks. "Alison Williams" is a delicate wee sixties style ballad which suggests some sort of unholy alliance between the Small Faces and Kula Shaker (at their most subtle), while "Not Man Enough" ups the tambourine quotient and adds a filthy wah wah riff that screams power trio.
Goodo then.

Buy it here folks.

The Electric Stars on Facebook.

22 Jan 2013

The Blondi's Salvation "Songs of the New World Order" Review

There's been some pretty amazing psychedelia coming out of France over the last few years, and this debut from The Blondi's Salvation may well be the best of it that I've heard so far.
Their sound is familar - the chugging drone of the Velvet Underground married to the apocalyptic sound of The Doors at their most frenzied applied with massive layers of reverb.
What makes them a little different from their peers (apart from the strength of their material, which is impressive for a debut), is their level of commitment in presenting psychedelia as quasi-religion. Sample song titles; "Path of the New God", "Open Your Third Eye", "The Mother Cloud". They've also started The French Reverb Church - an association for European psychedelic artists to get together as a community. It's hard to not use the word "fellowship" when attempting to describe it.
Whatever they're up to it makes for some pretty great psychedelia.
Opener "Dereliction Song" has hooks from the get go with great sitar work, a big eastern scale riff and an epic build up towards the end with huge tribal drums.
"The Mother Cloud" is a more conventional piece of reverb psych with a great guitar riff that's never in any doubt that it runs the show.
"Open Your Third Eye" has some of the nicest sounding vintage organ work you'll hear in an album recorded after 1968.
There's a certain amount of schtick at work for sure, but the feverishly repeated chant of "Come with is and you'll never die" from "By Our Side" is delivered with such devotional fervor that all but the most stubborn are likely to get on board and worship alongside The Blondi's Salvation.
Top stuff.

It's available as a name your price download through Bandcamp here :

20 Jan 2013

The Market Squares "Afternoon Tide" 7" Review & Interview

The days of the super group are not as far behind us as you may think.
A trip to Nashville last Summer by Paul Messis (solo/ The Higher State), led to a spontaneous weekend of recording activity with Calvin and Evan of The Sufis - the fruits of which are this superb 7", the first released on Paul's own Market Square label.
As you'd expect from artists of such a pedigree, they're gems, with the A-Side "Afternoon Tide" - a ramshackle folk rock number with tumbling drums and some lovely Syd Barret style (i.e eccentric) guitar leads.
"Inside My Mind" on the other hand mixes the best of U.S sixties garage with a Lennonesque verse melody and a big group harmony in the chorus.
Naturally you need this, it's fabulous and is destined to be a collectable.
It's a limited edition pressing and will sell out quick! You can buy directly from Paul through his bandcamp page here, or from the following stores / labels :  Burger Records, Kool Kat Musik, 13 O Clock Records, Get Hip (all U.S ),Soundflat in Germany, Clearspot in Holland and State Records. Get it quick - Paul's told me he's only got 63 copies left after sending out to these stores, so they're gonna go super fast.

You can stream it here :

Paul told us a little bit about how this collaboration came about :

How did you end up working with The Sufis for this Market Squares single??

Working with Calvin and Evan from The Sufis as The Market Squares happened by pure and remarkable chance. I had e-mailed Calvin a few months prior, purely because he was a kindred soul - he collected records and even enjoyed the weird stuff like La Monte Young like me. Plus The Sufis recorded in a similar fashion to myself. I was blown away by The Sufis' songs which at the time were 'music to my ears', cos it felt like someone else had the same goals in sight as myself, not too mention, in hanging out with the guys and getting to know them personally, they also share the same Punk ethic that I uphold and that more than anything else is great - more bands/musicians need to be totally true to themselves in this sorta way.
I basically had a trip planned to Tennessee and Georgia during the Summer of 2012 where I was visiting some old friends and I emailed Calvin about hanging out, maybe just to be taken to some record stores in the Nashville area, go to some bars, eat some good food etc. Calvin emailed back and said "hey why don't we try and record something?". Initially, I didn't think anything of it, in fact I had no real expectations to record anything. I'm a pretty difficult guy to work with musically - hence why I do all my own stuff myself, so if anything, I thought when I arrived at their house that I'd be just hanging out, listening to cool records and then heading into Nashville for fun. However, within an hour or so, we began to work on songs.
Before heading to Tennessee, I had emailed one of my demos 'Inside My Mind' simply in order for Calvin to hear it - had we not recorded it, I am sure I would have recorded it as a solo track. Regardless, over a couple of hours, we worked on a song I literally made up there and then. This became 'Afternoon Tide'. I pretty much wrote the thing on Calvin's couch. Evan returned to the house a couple of hours later and in the time span of about two hours we completely recorded and finished 'Afternoon Tide'.
Afterwards we ordered a pizza and were all kinda excited about how the recordings were going, especially considering we had never met before and it usually takes a lifetime for musicians to gel with one another - plus the track was sounding pretty cool and interesting.
During my time in Tennessee, I was developing a flu-like symptom and a chest infection, so had asked if The Sufis had any medication. Calvin gave me some medication for this, and well... I had a horrible allergic reaction to the medication and spent the night thinking and feeling like I was gonna die on their couch - it was intense!!! The next day, I felt totally ill. There was no way to describe it, I was not in a good shape. Evan went to work, Calvin visited some friends and ran some errands, whilst I lay comatose on their couch. The guys returned and we begun to work on 'Inside My Mind', my demo of this track is more Byrdsy and the day before, myself and Calvin were gonna try and make it a full-on-orchestration akin to something on Love's Da Capo LP. I guess due to being ill and not functioning correctly, the song became more punk in it's delivery.... During the recording of this, I was really feeling like death, I was exhausted and getting hot and cold sweats, so the delivery of my guitar playing was someone frustrated. I loved Calvin's bass and Evan's drumming. I couldn't speak so I was worried how I was gonna sing this track - that's why the vocal on 'Inside my Mind' is a little wayward. Evan gave me some magical elixir that I was able to chew on and like magic, I could briefly speak for an hour and so, we pushed record and even double tracked my vocal for that track, it took about an hour and a half to record 'Inside My Mind' and so, a two track session was complete It was one of the quickest recording sessions I've ever been involved in and in some way, I dig it. I certainly think the spontaneous nature of the recordings gives the tracks a really PUNK and DIY feel. When we were recording 'Inside My Mind' we all felt it had a Pere Ubu type of vibe more so than anything psychedelic or sixties influenced.

Where did the name The Market Squares come from???

Before heading to Nashville, I had decided on starting my own DIY record label, mainly to release my own stuff and some other bands I liked and was toying with the a bunch of names. The one which struck a chord with me was Market Square Records. This is due to living in a village between two market towns which both have a street called 'Market Square'... I kinda dig the vibe of the name, so chose it for the label. I wanted to create something totally new with my workings with The Sufis, and so called them 'The Market Squares', the choice for this is inspired by many 60s garage, doo-wop and soul 'private press' labels, labels which were simply vanity-labels (essentially the DIY-punk label of the 60s). An example would be a band called The Foamy Brine, who released records on their own 'Brine' label. In 60s underground music, this kinda label/band thing is found in abundance. I also liked the double-meaning of The Market Squares - on one hand it is regal and brings images of olde England towns selling goods and stock and on the other hand as it was intended in the US pop-culture lingo, The Market Squares being Village Idiots or the Squares of the town etc - not too mention there is cool pop-art imagery in the name too.... I dig it, so I chose it to be the name for the label and band.

Will there be more Market Squares releases??

Honestly, probably not. This release was a spur of the moment thing, it just happened!!! I'd love to work with Calvin and Evan again, as I am sure they'd like to work with me again, we had fun making music together.... but I think the distance plays a huge part in things such as this.

What other plans do you have for your label?

I've got so many plans for the label, it's just about weighing up the finances and then trying to make a little bit of money at the same time, to keep fire in the furnace. My next release on the label will be another side-project with myself and The State guys, hopefully to be released in Autumn.

Download the Fourth Active Listener Psychedelic Sampler Now.

Psych sampler #4 is here now folks, and it may well be the best one yet.

Thanks to Nina Theda Black for the amazing art!

Download it here : http://theactivelistener.bandcamp.com/album/the-active-listener-psychedelic-sampler-4

Features songs by the following artists. Click on the links to hear more from them.

39 & The Nortons : evilhoodoo.bandcamp.com/album/on-trial
Maston : troubleinmindrecs.com/bands/maston.html
The Marble Vanity : themarblevanity.bandcamp.com
Heaven's Gateway Drugs : heavensgatewaydrugs.bandcamp.com
Balduin : balduin.bandcamp.com
Haunted Leather : hauntedleather.bandcamp.com/releases
The Citradels : thecitradels.bandcamp.com
Dennis Olsen : dennisolsen.bandcamp.com
Kiki Pau : beyondbeyondisbeyond.com/artists/kiki-pau
Spider 72 - tillsammansrecords.bandcamp.com
Thomas McConnell : thomasmcconnellmusic.bandcamp.com
Moth Effect : soundcloud.com/moth-effect
Permanent Clear Light : www.facebook.com/pages/Permanent-Clear-Light/132187360184288
Energy Gown : energygown.bandcamp.com
Go!Zilla : gozilla.bandcamp.com
Cheshire Plane : cheshireplane.bandcamp.com

17 Jan 2013

Temple of the Smoke "The Lost Art of Twilight" Review

Eclectic doesn't even begin to describe Serbian four piece instrumental psychedelic space rockers Temple of the Smoke. Sample track "Moth of Time" as an example, begins as a moody and quite beautiful piece of post rock ala Godspeed You Black Emperor with a rare textural vocal that wouldn't sound out of place on a Mogwai album. Within another couple of minutes a bludgeoning metal riff has taken it's place, and less than a minute later it's turned into "Tubular Bells".
Elsewhere there's trippy space rock, Robert Fripp styled guitar riffery, keyboards that flit between Tangerine Dream and new romanticism, galloping Maiden-esque rhythms and on "Street of Shifting Signs" proof that white man can indeed dub.
I'll say it before you do - on paper this sounds like something a bunch of jazz school graduates would chuck together to show off how well read they are musically. I mean, surely there are way too many ingredients in this particular stew to make anything even remotely palatable?
This supposition would certainly be the case in the hands of lesser mortals, but Temple of the Smoke are impeccably versed in their field, and these tracks are so tightly and carefully constructed that the constant genre-shifting feels totally natural and unforced.
This is very clever progressive rock that can be enjoyed equally on an academic or visceral level.
And it's beautifully recorded.
Why aren't these guys huge?

Download or stream here. Vinyl coming soon.

Listen to "Moth of Time" below:

15 Jan 2013


Octopus Pi

So what is psych? That's a question I get asked often - and it's a surprisingly difficult question to formulate a concise and definitive answer to. And that perhaps is part of it's appeal in a nutshell. It's not something you can quantify or define by formula and it's ever evolving.
So when Octopus Pi (an umbrella curation group that focuses on music, arts and performance) asked eleven Sydney based bands that very same question, it's not surprising that they were presented with eleven very different answers.
In fact the only things that all present here seem to agree on is that psychedelia should be trippy as hell, and gritty rather than pretty. Those looking for whimsical toytown psychedelia need not apply, that's not how they roll in Australia. There's an attitude and atmosphere on display here that doesn't let up for a second.
Highlights? Active Listener favourites Dead Radio start the ball rolling with the unpromisingly titled "Hit Jam #2". Not the early-practice, warm-up blues jam that the title would perhaps make you expect, this easily out-psychs anything on their excellent "Crystal Moth" E.P by playing to their strengths - namely spooky treated vocals, and massive instrumental crescendos. There are some huge funereal sounding organ parts on here that I'm pretty sure were actually created with guitar somehow. Go figure.
Making lock into a pretty tight groove with their track "Bubble" which ups the prog factor, without losing touch with their fine funky rhythm section.
No Art's "Rhombus" is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing track present here with some beautiful cascading guitar parts creating a surreal and slightly sinister atmosphere.
Dead China Doll beat all other contenders though with the juggernaut that is "Hallelujah" - a Mogwai-esque epic that's all crashing cymbals and horn infused freakouts with a relentless organ accompaniment that conjures images of a tousle haired, white labcoated professsor that just wants to be loved despite his hideous deformities. Bless.
Uneasy listening perhaps, but it gets to the root of the question with aplomb.

Stream the rest of the album here, where you can also download or order the vinyl.

14 Jan 2013

Jason Steel "The Weight of Care" Review

Rif Mountain

I'm a little late picking up on "The Weight of Care", but suspect I'm probably not the only one.
My interest was first piqued when I recognized that Jason Steel had been a member of one of my favorite modern folk outfits, the now sadly defunct Owl Service.
While The Owl Service generally concerned themselves with following in the tradition of folk rock pioneers Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the like, Steel is a much more diverse character who manages to combine the traditions of old with a contemporary singer-songwriter's knack for intimate and often desolately melancholy songs - an English alternative to Hank Williams high lonesome sound if you will, which is accentuated by Steel's fragile and emotive vocal delivery.
His press-kit begs comparison to Leonard Cohen, and while there's certainly a kinship with Cohen's early bedsit material, the Fleet Foxes Robin Pecknold is probably a more accurate comparison aesthetically. Like Pecknold, Steel's songs have an ancient air to them. he may present his material in a much less grandiose fashion, bur he has the same ability to capture the listener's attention and devastate them with the simplest of phrases.
Steel's intricate guitar playing provides the majority of the accompaniment with a little double bass and violin added here and there for colour, but never overpowering Steel's attention grabbing vocals, which often rely on unusual cadences, and accentuating unexpected words.
"Glass Case" is a deceptively simple sounding highlight with intricate guitar and vocal interplay and suitably morose violin touches swelling in the mix just when they're needed.
"The Feast" proves he's just as adept on the banjo, but it's on sole instrumental "Jessica's Fingertip" that his instrumental prowess is best displayed - a beautifully melodic and tasteful fingerstyle guitar showcase that reaches for the likes of "Angi" and almost gets there.

Available on CD & Vinyl here.

Sample a few tracks here :

12 Jan 2013

Orgasmo Sonare "Revisiting Obscure Film Music Volume 2" Review

Cineploit Records

Montreal's Frank Rideau a.k.a Orgasmo Sonore does exactly what it says on the cover - revisits great pieces of mostly 70s/80s obscuro Euro film music and recasts them with his own steady hand. He's dug even deeper here than he did with the first excellent outing in this series. I was familiar with most of the source material on Volume One, but the titles he's chosen on Volume Two are generally more obscure and mostly unknown to me.
Whether it's the fact that most of these tracks are fresh to me, or whether Rideau has just become more confident in the studio, this stands head and shoulders above Volume One - no mean feat as that was pretty flash in it's own right.
Now admittedly, covering incidental music from obscure (but often wonderful) Euro horror films does have a whiff of the anorak about it (not a bad thing - I'm certainly one), so I'll understand if this isn't for everyone, but for those of a particular bent (me for instance), this is pretty much perfect.
Rideau's done an excellent job of adding a contemporary slant to these pieces when necessary, without compromising the oh so important period feel - not an easy task.
Apart from the marvelous analogue synthesizer sounds the most impressive and instantly noticeable ingredient is Rideau's exceptional guitar playing. Restrained when necessary, with a distinct Zappa-esque edge - indeed some of the more involved instrumental interplay here would sound right at home on one of Zappa's mid seventies albums.
If you're a fan of the likes of Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai or Fabio Frizzi then this is a total no-brainer - you need to hear this!
Also well worth checking out for analogue synth buffs with a penchant for the funky and sinister.

Available on vinyl here.

Visit Orgasmo Sonore on Facebook.

You can Stream most of it through this Soundcloud widget:

Active Listener Interview & Playlist on Popcast Radio Show

Flat Ed has been kind enough to include me on his Popcast show which is broadcast through www.radio-zenith.com.
There's an interview, and I put together a playlist for him too.
The interview was originally conducted in English, but has been translated into French for his listeners - there's plenty of music to keep the non French speakers entertained too.

Enjoy :

10 Jan 2013

The Sunchymes "Let Your Free Flag Fly" Review

There were a whole raft of albums recorded in the late sixties with a reputation for being lost classics of Beatles / Beach Boys style psychedelic pop. While some of these - The Moon, Colors and Family Tree to name a few - do live up to the hype, there are also a substantial amount whose reputations seem to have been tweaked by unscrupulous traders wanting to make some serious coin on disappointingly naff harmony pop albums with little to recommend them other than magnificent period sleeves. Sleeves a whole lot like that of "Let Your Freak Flag Fly". This admittedly made me a little nervous to begin with - I've been a psychedelic record collector for long enough now to be burnt a few times by albums that look significant and deeply psychedelic, but sound like cast offs by the Seekers.
My trepidation was quickly dispersed however. Aaron Hemington's Sunchymes have clearly made one of the better album of 1967 with "Let Your Free Flag Fly" - the fact that they're running a little late (it's a late 2012 recording) doesn't bother me a jot.
I kind of picture Hemington as a moustachioed Saturday afternoon serial villain. He's managed to trick all of 1967's top musical geniuses into gathering in a secluded location, but instead of blowing them all up and causing chaos for the nation's youth, he's had a last minute change of heart and they've all collaborated on a musical experiment to try and work out what a rainbow sounds like.
Said rainbow would probably sound a whole lot like "Let Your Freak Flag Fly", a kaleidoscopic pop masterwork which recalls "Sgt Peppers", "Pet Sounds" and early period Harry Nilsson, all tied together with magnificent choruses and Hemington's ornate multitracked harmonies.
Check out "Your Disguise" if you don't believe me.
It's not all sixties worship though - "Uncle Alfred's Slide Show" proves that Hemington hasn't just stepped out of a time machine, being reminiscent of prime period XTC, only without the overwrought eighties production that makes those albums less of a pleasure to listen to now that we know better.
Highly recommended.

Download or stream here.

Stream or Download "Your Disguise" below:

9 Jan 2013

God's Little Eskimo "Dives of Lazarus" Review

Self released CD

Long term readers of this site will be aware that although my main obsession is psychedelia, I also have another side that appreciates the subtleties and nuances of folk music in it's various forms.
And it's this side that is very much taken by the third and apparently final album by an unassuming gentleman who likes to be known as God's Little Eskimo.
John Eskimo (we're getting closer to his real name) is a rather talented freelance illustrator who records (or should I say recorded, as he now speaks of his musical alter ego in the past tense) music on the side, seemingly for his own satisfaction rather than any monetary gain.
While this description may conjure pictures of a self absorbed hack with the voice of a strangled cat, the reality couldn't be further removed. The truth of the matter is that if God's Little Eskimo had been heard by the right people and signed to a label like 4AD, critics and discerning punters alike would be lapping this up.
If he's chosen to end his musical dalliance because he's said what he needs to say, then this is a very fine swansong indeed. And if it's a lack of recognition that's caused him to call it a day, then there's certainly a case to be made here for there being no correlation at all between the quality of a record and the amount of people who've heard it, because "Dives of Lazarus" is a wondrous thing.
A song cycle that tells six nautical stories with an amusing origin (which you can read about on Eskimo's own blog here), it's the sort of album that initially sounds difficult but intriguing and then flowers into something you never expected within a couple of listens.
It's a fairly sparse album dominated by Eskimo's intricate piano work which often evokes the gentle rolling of waves, as well as his own voice which is used in a number of imaginative ways, often multi tracked (check out opener "Scapa Flow").
While the songs are often long, the narratives are gripping and the instrumental passages are so lyrical that vocals would seem like an intrusion. Textures are provided by a number of unusual instruments - wine glasses, musical saw and some lovely autoharp work (which sounds like it's being played backwards psych-lovers!).
It's hard to pick highlights, but "Sea Mist" is the most immediately striking track with it's uncharacteristic prog rock chug, while the chorus of the title track is likely to effect all but the most stone hearted.
It's a unique and marvelous album.
E-mail John at godslittleeskimo@yahoo.com to order on CD. They're not likely to be repressed at any point, and it would be a total travesty for music as fine as this to remain undiscovered.

8 Jan 2013

The Solar System "Red Air : A Retrospective" Review

Longtime readers will have encountered The Solar System in these pages before - a prolific home recording one man juggernaut who can release three albums a year without breaking a sweat.
He's equal parts R. Stevie Moore, The Beatles and Radiohead - although where a band like Radiohead started with a couple of entertaining but fairly straightforward alternative rock albums to build an audience before diving off the deep end into the more challenging, experimental waters of "Kid A" and it's followers, Chris Oliver  has never shied away from mixing the hooky with the quirkily experimental.
This coupled with his prolific work rate may potentially have caused problems in the past for first time listeners looking for an in. Indeed where does one start in a catalogue this massive, and with an artist who's just as likely to hit you with a noise experiment or sound collage as he is with a hooky sixties psych pop anthem?
Fortunately for all you discerning listeners, Chris Oliver has put together this thoroughly enlightening twenty track collection of his most tuneful, and psychedelic pop tracks culled from what is quite frankly a daunting back catalogue.
Focusing purely on Chris's pop smarts, this is a perfect primer which reveals an artist with an exceptional ear for melody. His experimental tendencies are given plenty of room to shine too, with these tracks never presented in quite as straightforward a fashion as you'd expect - backwards guitars, treated vocals and distorted drums are only the start of it.
Fans of the afore-mentioned artists, as well as early Brian Eno, Syd Barrett and the likes are advised to make a bee-line for this immediately.
This is one of those perfectly compiled collections that can completely change your perspective on an artist and still function impressively as an album in it's own right.
"Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy" move on over and make room for "Red Air".

Download for a ridiculously cheap price or stream here.

7 Jan 2013


It's not very often I post news on the Active Listener, but it's not everyday something like this happens either.
The Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie, whom the mass media had led us to believe had secreted himself away in retirement without actually bothering to tell anyone after a series of health scares, has just gone and announced that not only has he not retired but that he has a new album due out in March!
The album, "The Next Day" is produced by longtime collaborator Tony Visconti and features the following tracks:
01. “The Next Day”
02. “Dirty Boys”
03. “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”
04. “Love Is Lost”
05. “Where Are We Now?”
06. “Valentine’s Day”
07. “If You Can See Me”
08. “I’d Rather Be High”
09. “Boss Of Me”
10. “Dancing Out In Space”
11. “How Does The Grass Grow”
12. “(You Will) Set The World On Fire”
13. “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die”
14. “Heat”
Bonus tracks:
15. “So She”
16. “I’ll Take You There”
17. “Plan”
 A statement released to the media reads : "In recent years radio silence has been broken only by endless speculation, rumor and wishful thinking ….a new record…who would have ever thought it, who’d have ever dreamed it! After all David is the kind of artist who writes and performs what he wants when he wants…when he has something to say as opposed to something to sell. Today he definitely has something to say."
Longtime fans will remember Bowie stating during the live in studio DVD performance from the Reality bonus DVD that he had another album recorded and pretty much ready to release. No mention so far as to whether this is a more evolved version of that project or something different entirely. It's great news either way!
 Australasian audiences will have the first chance to hear  "The Next Day" on March 8th, with a U.S release date of March 12th, and March 11th everywhere else.

In the meantime, here's the video for first single "Where Are We Now?"

2012's Best Albums As Selected by People With Better Taste Than Me

You've heard enough from me about what albums I loved in 2012. Time for someone else to put their oars in. I asked a few of my fabulous and sometimes infamous friends what their favourite albums of the year were.


Not content with being drummer for the best band from Liverpool since the Beatles, Ian Skelly has now released a particularly accomplished solo album "Cut From a Star"  that is just brilliant. His favourites of 2012 were :

1. Bob Dylan - Tempest
2. Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Spirit
3. Father John Misty - Fear Fun
4. By The Sea - S/T
5.Tame Impala – Lonerism
6. Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man
7. Paul Weller - Sonik Kicks
8. Neil Young - Psychedelic Pill
9. Lana Del Rey - Born To Die
10. Richard Hawley - Standing at the Sky's Edge


Matt Rendon of the Resonars has been responsible for a few classics himself in 2012 with the excellent Thoughts E.P on Trouble In Mind Records and his best album yet "Crummy Desert Sound" due out very soon on Burger Records. He's been digging these puppies lately:

Agent Ribbons - Let Them Talk / Family Haircut 45
The Audacity - Mellow Cruisers
Feeding People - S/T
Sam Flax - Age Waves
Grass Widow - Internal Logic
Infinity People - In Love With The Light
La Sera - Sees The Light
Spanish Moss - Kelp
Summer Twins - S/T
The Tough Shits - S/T


Thomas Madden had a pretty good year with the release of Spanish Moss's excellent debut "Kelp". Here's his carefully considered top ten of the year:

10. Gap Dream - S/T
9. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Aufheben
8. Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse
7. Natural Child - For the love of the game
6. White Fence - Family Perfume Vol 1
5. Feeding People - Island Universe 7 inch
4.(Tied) Fresh & Only's- Long Slow Dance /
    Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light 
3. The Resonars - Crummy Desert Sound
2. MMOSS - Only Children
1. Ty Segall - Twins


The man responsible for number two on my top ten of the year is James McKeown - his "English Dream" is magnificent and you should also check out his psych / kraut / prog / alternative band Hi-Fiction Science. This is what he's been checking out in 2012 :

1. Django Django - S/T
2. The Eccentronic Research Council - 1612 Underture
3. Bill Fay - Life is People
4. Storm Corrosion -S/T
5. Trailer Trash Tracys - Ester
6. The Shins - Port of Morrow
7. No-Man - Love & Endings
8. Ariel Pink - Mature Themes.
9. Grizzly Bear - Shields
10. X-TG - Desertshore/The Final Report


Sky Picnic made it to number five in my own best of the year list with their excellent second album "Paint Me a Dream" so it's only fair that their frontman Chris Sherman should weigh in here with a few favourites of his own:

The Amazing - Gentle Stream- (technically, it's a 2011 release, but it didn't get it's official US proper release until October this year)
Melody's Echo Chamber - S/T
Tame Impala - Lonerism
Rush - Clockwork Angels


I'm predicting that Maston will be one of THE big psychedelic acts of 2013. After two excellent self released E.Ps (which are now out of print), Trouble In Mind have signed Maston and will release debut album "Shadows" in February. At the risk of sounding like I'm showing off, I've heard it and it's brilliant. What's been floating Frank Maston's boat in 2012 then you may well ask? A mixture of new and old:

10. Apache Dropout - Bubblegum Graveyard
9. Ty Segall - Twins
8. Bat for Lashes - The Haunted Man
7. Tame Impala - Lonerism
6. Prince - Purple Rain
5. Electric Light Orchestra - Into the Blue
4. Mac DeMarco - 2
3. Ennio Morricone - Diabolik
2. Beach House - Bloom
1. Paul McCartney - Ram (Reissue)


2012 was a bumper year for Martin Nunez with the release of not one, but two great albums "The Popsike World of Sir Psych" and the Smoking Trees "Acetates". As his top ten of the year proves his good taste stretches to his listening habits too. Says Martin : "These are the albums that I listened to the most. Obviously The Smoking Trees and Sir Psych albums are first & second,  mainly because I know those two albums inside and out & what it took to create them from scratch. I listened to a bunch of good new music this year but these albums never got put away & I still play them regularly today.

10. Ian Skelly - Cut from a Star
9. Ty Segal & White Fence - Hair
8. Jessica Pratt - S/T
7. Mmoss - Only Children
6. White Fence - Family Perfume Vol. 1&2
5. Prince Rupert's Drops - Run Slow
4. Opossom - Electric Hawaii
3. The Sufis - The Sufis
2. Sir Psych - The Popsike World of Sir Psych
1. The Smoking Trees - Acetates


Kontiki Suite are responsible for my very favourite album of the year "On Sunset Lake". And they've almost got a second album ready too. Bring it on. Craig's faves of the year make good listening and reading:
"Here's my top 10, which is kind of in order, but would change tomorrow."

10. The Junipers - Paint The Ground
9. Old Crow Medicine Show - Carry Me Home
8. The Sufis - The Sufis
7. Tame Impala - Lonerism
6. I Was A King - You Love It Here
5. Sugarfoot - The Love That We Outwore
4. Lightships - Electric Cables
3. Dr John - Locked Down
2. Beachwood Sparks - Tarnished Gold
1. Allah-Las - Allah-Las

"And because I'm such a completist, I can't not provide you with a list of the other folk whose albums I love but which either didn't quite make it or might make it tomorrow: Ty Segall and White Fence, Yeti Lane, Ian Skelly, Dexys, Pond, Melody's Echo Chamber, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Hiss Golden Messenger, Beaulieu Porch, Calexico, The Liminanas, Donald Fagen, Mayer Hawthorne, Richard Hawley, Hot Chip, Bill Fay, Woods, Thee Oh Sees, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mmos, Hot Chip and Ty Segall."


Beyond Beyond is Beyond co-owner  / operator Mike Newman is a chap who's taste I trust implicitly, after all, his label's first release was the excellent Prince Rupert's Drops debut. Oh and this year's first releases are a Mmoss / Quilt split and an album by Kiki Pau. 'Nuff said. Here's his favourites of 2012:

UFO Club – S/T
Sleepy Sun – Spine Hits
Eternal Tapestry – A World Out of Time
Prince Rupert’s Drops – Run Slow
Sky Picnic – Paint Me A Dream
Allah Las – S/T
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Foxygen – Take the Kids Off Broadway
Goat – World Music
MMOSS – Only Children
Ty Segall and White Fence - Hair


Sean Bohrman's no stranger to good music with his label Burger Records responsible for all sorts of great releases from the likes of Mmoss, The Resonars, The Freezing Hands and a ridiculous amount of other great stuff. His favourites of the year in no particular order were :

The Memories - S/T
The Memories - Love Is The Law
Taylor Swift - Red
The Sufis - S/T
Gap Dream - S/T
Natural Child - Hard In Heaven
Natural Child - For The Love Of The Game
Sam Flax - S/T
The Go - Fiesta
The Memories - Live At Burger


Everyone's favourite musical maverick, Damien Youth has an enormous back catalogue of psychedelic power pop acid glam folk to trawl through which you should start investigating immediately. In 2012 he's been loving :

Belbury Poly- The Belbury Tales
Pepe Deluxe - Queen Of The Wave
22 20's - Got It If You Want It
Django Django - Self Titled
Tame Impala- Lonerism
Swans - The Seer
Bill Fay - Life Is People
Calibro 35 - "Ogni riferimento a persone esistite o a fatti realmente accaduti è puramente casuale"
Dr. Dog - Be The Void
Death And Vanilla - Self Titled


Phil Moore is one of the men responsible for the magazine Shindig and it's sister web blog, both of which should be on your reading lists (right after the Active Listener of course!). Top taste that man!

The Sufis -S/T
Tame Impala - Lonerism
Night Beats - S/T
Cowbell - Beat Stampede
Toy - S/T
Suzi Chunk - Girl From The Neck Down
The See See - Fountayne Mountain
Smoke Fairies - Blood Speaks
The Allah-las - S/T
Sleepy Sun - Spine Hits


Scott Magee is a kindred soul who puts together one of my favourite blogs / radio shows "Shake Hands With Danger Radio".

10. Black Tambourine - Onetwothreefour EP
9. Lilacs & Champagne - S/T
8. Phedre - S/T
7. The Band In Heaven - S/T EP
6. The Janitors - Head Honcho EP
5. The UFO Club - S/T
4. The People's Temple - More For The Masses
3. Dead Horse One - Heavenly Choir Of Jet Engines
2. Vinyl Williams - Lemniscate
1. Shacklock Meth Party - This

Some of our readers sent in their top ten's too - here's a few of them:

Franco Marchetti :
Hookworms - Live Volume 2
The People's Temple - More for the Masses
Pontiacs - Bursting
Black Bombaim - Titans
Dead Horse One - Heavenly Choir of Jet Engines
Ty Segall - Twins
The Machine - Calmer Than You Are
The Sufis - S/T
Ufesas - S/T
Night Beats / Ufo Club - Split

Mark Fowkes :
01) Aqua Nebula Oscillator - Third
02) Eternal Tapestry - A World Out of Time
03) Beak> - >>
04) Cate Le Bon - Cyrk
05) Dirty Three - Toward The Low Sun
06) The Sufis - The Sufis
07) Pepe Deluxé - Queen of the Wave
08) The Lost Rivers - Sin And Lostness
09) DJ Food - The Search Engine
10) The Limiñanas - Crystal Anis

Ryan Barry :
The Laurels - Plains
Tame Impala - Lonerism
Guided By Voices - The Bears For Lunch
Black Market Karma - Easy Listening / Semper Fi
Chris Cohen - Overgrown Path
Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse
The Hedgehogs - Our Minds Dyed Today
The People's Temple - More For The Masses
Radar Men From The Moon - Echo Forever
Cate Le Bon - Cyrk

Carl Griffin:
Julia Holter - Ekstasis
Woodbine & Ivy Band
Sproatly Smith
Tame Impala -Lonerism
Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends
Woods' - Sun & Shade
Real Estate - Days
Belbury Poly - Belbury Tales
Advisory Circle - As The Crow Flies
Alexander Tucker - Third Mouth.

4 Jan 2013

The White E.P Review

Fruits de Mer Records Double 7" E.P

While the increasingly patchy series of Beatles tribute albums released by Mojo magazine over the last few years may suggest that interpreting Beatles tunes is a passtime for either the brave or the foolish exclusively, the folks at Fruits de Mer haven't let that stop them giving The White Album a go here, albeit in truncated form.
George Martin is of the opinion that The White Album should have been cut down to a more concise format, but even he would probably rub his head in puzzlement at the eight tunes chosen to represent this eclectic and often ramshackle classic.
Fortunately some of Fruits de Mers most high profile contributors are on hand to make this an unlikely triumph.
Predictably, Cranium Pie offer the most radical reworking - their version of "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" ups the creep factor considerably during the verses, and in the fantastically perverse manner that we've come to expect from them, they pretty much bypass the chorus altogether in favor of some lovely Canterbury style progressive jazz breaks. I'm sure John would approve.
On a more surprising note, The Pretty Things, surely a band who've earned the right to rest on their laurels should they choose to do so, have chosen probably the most obvious tune here, "Helter Skelter" and given it a moody neo-psychedelic makeover that sounds more like Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" at times than Paul's original primal rocker.
Elsewhere the arrangements tend to be more faithful, with added psychedelic embellishments that give you an idea of what some of these songs could have sounded like if they'd originally been recorded a year or two earlier. Anton Barbeau's new outfit Three Minute Tease make "Cry Baby Cry" sound like a "Magical Mystery Tour" outtake, while Jack Ellister has correctly come to the conclusion that everything sounds better with bells and backwards tapes.
An unparallelled success then. Why can't the more celebrated artists who contribute to the Mojo compilation show this level of invention?

As always with Fruits de Mer releases you can expect this limited edition double 7" to sell out very quickly. Order it here while you still can, or try the nice folks at Norman Records.

Check out an excerpt from The Pretty Things "Helter Skelter" :