30 Jun 2013

Rainbow Quartz, We Salute You.

Much loved neo-psychedelic label Rainbow Quartz appears to be no more.
With their web url now leading to a domain holder, and their remaining catalogue titles rapidly disappearing from catalogues worldwide it would appear that this most forward thinking of labels is another casualty in a changing, and challenging music industry.
Formed in the mid nineties, at a time when psychedelia was at a low commercial ebb, Jim McGarry's label did an impressive job specializing in a genre which was seemingly a hard sell at the time.
By the late nineties / early 2000s the label was performing strongly with great titles by the Pillbugs, the High Dials, Dog Age, the Grip Weeds, the Gurus and a whole host of other excellent artists dotted throughout a consistently strong catalogue, which still seemed to be going strong in 2011.
Running a small music label must be a hell of a lot of work, and with recent developments like Bandcamp making it easier for artists to deal directly with their audience, the role of the small label must be getting even tougher.
What happened to Rainbow Quartz in 2012 is a bit of a mystery, but I imagine it's probably been on the cards for a few years now. It's a great pity that a label that did so much to set the groundwork for what is now a commercially viable genre isn't around to reap the benefits of all it's hard work.
Rainbow Quartz and Jim McGarry - we salute you, you did a fantastic job and you will be much missed.

Who's got more information? Personal reminiscences? Share them in the comments section below.

You can still pick up a number of Rainbow Quartz titles through the likes of Amazon and eBay.

Rainbow Quartz essentials (click on titles for buying links, get them while you can) :

Dog Age "Reefy Seadragon"
The Pillbugs "Monclovia"
The High Dials "A New Devotion"

Cafe Kaput Applied Music Vol. 1 - Science & Nature Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Not content with one quality release this year (get out from under that stone and check out "Shapwick" here), Jon Brooks of Advisory Circle fame has fired up his modular synth and put together this low-key and totally charming release for his own Cafe Kaput label.
Where Brooks' has often used Cafe Kaput as an outlet for his more abstract works in the past, this sees him at his most direct, and is the first in hopefully many volumes where Brooks distills his love of classic library music.
"Concise, succinct and targeted material specially produced for the broadcast, refreshment and entertainment industries. Vol.1 - Science & Nature explores our relationship with environments, travel and industry, among other topics." So reads the press release, and the ghost of British documentary television of the seventies and early eighties is very much in evidence here - "The Ascent of Man", "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World" - you know the stuff.
In many ways this is closer in execution to the Advisory Circle's "As The Crow Flies" than anything else in Brook's catalogue so far (no bad thing!), with angular themes that never fall into the incidental music trap of setting mood without melody.
While anticipating wide-reaching appeal may be stretching the imagination a little, this is certainly a more direct and user friendly album than the majority of Library Music albums that it's influenced by, and an ideal gateway album for those keen to dabble in the genre a little. And if you're already a Brooks fan you can rest assured that the quality level hasn't dropped a notch.
Top, top stuff.

Buy through Bandcamp here :

28 Jun 2013

The Pixies Release New Song "Bagboy" - Listen / Download Here.

The newly Kim Del-less Pixies have finally got a new track out. "Bagboy" is their first new song in nine years.
Jeremy Dubs fills in for Deal on bass and backing vocals. The track was recorded in October and is produced by Gil Norton.
Frank Black on "Bagboy" : "The lyrics, coincidentally, were composed at a Starbucks Coffee in Harvard Square in Cambridge, about a hundred feet from where, 25 years ago, I composed some of the lyrics to an old Pixies song called ‘Break My Body.’ Twenty-five years later, some Starbucks in Harvard Square…I thought that was kind of interesting. The music for the song has been around for a few years. There are some demos I made with Joey and David a few years ago in Los Angeles, related to a film idea that still has yet to see the light of day, although work on the music continued. So a lot of the musical idea had been kicking around for awhile. It’s pretty simple, kind of a blues-based, two-note kind of thing, really."

Check out the video below, or download from here :

27 Jun 2013

Allah-Las Live at Best Kept Secret 2013 ( Includes New Songs)

Check out Allah-La's 50 minute set from the Best Kept Secret Festival in the Netherlands. June 22, 2013

Full set list:

1.Sacred Sands
2.Don't you forget it
3.I had it all
4.Tell me (what's on your mind)
8.Busman's Holiday
9.Treat me right
10.No VooDoo
11.Every Girl
13.Long Journey


Perhapst "Revise Your Maps" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

John Moen is a member of Portland royalty. The former frontman for the Maroons and current drummer for the Decemberists (as well as stints with Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus and Robert Pollard's Boston Spaceships), Moen is clearly a man that those with good taste wish to be around. One listen to his new album will make it fairly evident why this is.
Moen humbly claims inspiration from those he's worked with - fair enough, but he seems to have taken equal amounts of inspiration from his record collection too and has added plenty of his own voice to an album that makes a solid case for stepping out from behind the kit and doing his own thing a little more often.
"Revise Your Maps" has a sound steeped in classic rock. It's an album that sounds fresh and contemporary now, but could have been released at any point over the last 45 years and made the same impression.
Soaked through with tuneful melancholy, the label's press release suggests "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" and Squeeze as touchstones, to which I'd also add Tom Petty, Big Star, the Minus 5 and the less cerebral work of Wilco. A varied mixture of influences for an album that doesn't try to conform to any one genre's standards, but observes a wider picture that encapsulates powerpop, psychedelia, americana and a whole lot of jangle among other things.
Moen's songs all have a heart, and reach out to the listener unescapably, with the delicate wistfulness of the title track nudging only marginally ahead of a selection of songs that need to be experienced as a whole to fully appreciate.
"Revise Your Maps" is the sort of album one can imagine Uncut & Mojo gushing over relentlessly, and who could blame them if they were to do so? You can finally put to rest your beat up copy of "Sky Blue Sky", because there's a new boy in town.

Available here digitally, and here on vinyl.

Sample tracks here :



26 Jun 2013

What to Expect From Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series Vol. 10?

It seems that the next release in Bob Dylan's (official) Bootleg Series will consist of recordings from the sessions that yielded Self Portrait, New Morning and Dylan.
Not popular albums, but there's a lot of fun to be had here if you check your brain at the door.
A cursory glimpse through Glen Dundas's "Tangled - A Recording History of Bob Dylan" reveals that this could be a much more interesting release in the series than folks may expect.
Record Store Day saw a limited edition 7" single of a demo version of Wigwam, backed by a previously unheard take of Eric Andersen's Thirsty Boots from these sessions, and it appears this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Dundas' book reveals that a number of other cover versions were attempted during these sessions, although a number of these may be incomplete.
So as well as the two tracks featured on the 7", Volume 10 could potentially feature any of the following tracks:

Alligator Man
Oh Lonesome Me
(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay
The Universal Soldier
When a Fellow Is Out of a Job
These Hands
Annie's Going To Sing Her Song
Little Brown Dog
Railroad Bill
House Carpenter
Tell Old Bill
Little Moses
Come A Little Bit Closer
Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies
My Previous Life
Jamaica Farewell
Long Black Veil
Bring Me Little Water
I Forgot To Remember To Forget

There's bound to be others that I've missed too.

Couple this with some more sympathetically arranged mixes and alternate takes of tracks from these albums, and Volume 10 is looking like it could be a very interesting prospect indeed.
So, who else is excited?

Naked Maja "Take" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

What's the deal with all these brilliant Australian psychedelic bands at the moment? Whatever's in the water supply has made it to Brisbane now if Naked Maja's new E.P "Take" (available on limited edition cassette or bandcamp download) is anything to go by.
With influences including Slowdive, Brian Eno and Stereolab, Naked Maja have proven ambitious in the shoe-filling department, and they only come up one size short at most.
Dreamy psychedelic pop characterized by inventive synths, carefully layered sheets of guitars (run through an arsenal of pedals) and precise, supple drumwork, "Take" is very promising indeed.
The song itself is a multi-hued dreampop gem in it's original form, and also featured in a remix that sounds like early, 'not facing the crowd' era New Order taking on Visage's "Fade to Grey", only with a warm, approachable, psychedelic sheen.
B-side "VOID" is even better we reckon, with a mellow post-rock vibe, layers of lovely, chiming guitars channeled through extreme amounts of delay, burbling vintage synths, and vocals that sound like a haunted computer or the little girl trapped in the TV set from "Poltergeist". Beaut.
Then there's "Bicycle Thieves" moodily remixed from their debut E.P and starting off with a spooked hauntological vibe (complete with field recordings) before heading into more blatant electro territory.
While a number of the albums you discover on the Active Listener may sound like exotic artifacts of a bygone age, Naked Maja manage to channel the same influences into something thrillingly contemporary. It's a varied and inventive E.P that could literally lead anywhere. It'll be interesting to see exactly where their sound evolves to from here.

Available on cassette or digitally here :

25 Jun 2013

Bandcamp Review Roundup

Here's another batch of reviews for E.Ps that you can find on Bandcamp - all are available as either FREE or NAME YOUR PRICE downloads.

Felipe Arcazas - Nahuatl
Brazilian one man band Arcazas casts his psychotropic spell over this lovingly crafted piece of stoner / desert rock. Brant Bjork fans should check this out immediately, although Arcazas pieces are more texturally crafted and being more instrumentally focused, are a little more diverse with some nice jazz chops and rippling synthesizer washes on show. Desert grooves are the order of the day, but a hazy psychedelia permeates everything here with "Sinicuichi" in particular weaving a mind-befuddling, hypnotic spell that is near impossible to break free of.
Available here as a name your price download.

Ummagma / Virta -Split E.P
Ummagma have joined forces with similarly uncategorisable Finnish outfiit Virta for this immaculate free E.P.
Virta play delicately chiming post-rock with some seriously engaging and melodic trumpetwork from Antti Hevosmaa that maintains it's blissful, lyrical clarity even when the surrounding terrain is building to a crashing crescendo.
Husband / wife team Ummagma on the other hand impress with the moody, cinematic flow of  "Back to You" with Alexx Kretov's vocals suggesting an alternate universe where Thurston Moore followed Mike Patton's twisted path.
An excellent introduction to two bands that you'll hear a lot more about in the future.
Available here as a free download.

Kanoi : Basque For Barrel
Austrian Benjamin Kantschieder operates one man band Kanoi as "an outlet for his ongoing quest of combining ambient soundscapes and the experimental mind-set of 70s space rock"
"Basque For Barrel", his eleventh(!) release since early 2011, certainly plays both of those cards, and adds a dash of stoner rock into proceedings too with the riffy "The Heather Blazing".
The 2001 sampling "Insertion" is the most successful of the exploratory ambient pieces, while the moody  "Suspicions Aside" is the pick of the lengthier pieces, an aching space-rock infused blues, with gritty, tense slide guitar.
Available here as a name your price download.
Listen :

Diamond Incarnation : Refreshed Resurrection
Diamond Incarnation, also from Austria approach the sixties via the nineties with a sound reminiscent of the more psychedelically aware artists of the britpop era. There's a definite Beatlesque tinge to these songs with anthemic numbers like the riffy, single-worthy "Lovely Mystery" and "Down, I'm Going" producing some memorable neo-psychedelia, backwards guitars and all.
Best of all is "Cloud of Absence", a mystical sounding acoustic track with prominent sitar that ought to keep the Kula Shaker and George Harrison fans happy.
Available here as a name your price download.

Psychlops Eyepatch "Paranoise" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

It's interesting how the Coral have spawned such a following of late. After releasing one album to great critical and commercial success (although in this writer's opinion their best work was still ahead of them), the music press began putting the knife in with each subsequent release, mistaking a maturing approach to songwriting for a lack of invention.
Fortunately the youth of today are still capable of independent thought and are paying attention. After success for fellow Liverpudlians the Wicked Whispers, and a promising debut 7" from Scottish band the Merrylees (produced by ex-Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones no less), the next to follow in James Skelly and co's footsteps are Sydney's Psychlops Eyepatch, although they're far from being imitators. Using the Coral's scouse psychedelia as a platform, they add plenty of garage, surf and punk (all of the vintage variety, none of this new fangled b.s) to arrive at their final destination - which is a distinctive, and thoroughly entertaining debut.
Recorded in glorious analogue in Sydney's iconic Megaphon Studios under the watchful eye of producer Shane Fahey (uncle of Psychlops guitarist Nick), the six tracks on offer here showcase a confidence not often evidenced on a debut, with the "Janie Jones" meets B-52s surf punk of "Waves of Doubt", the moody, and occasionally flamboyant "Seven Seas" (check out the unexpected flamenco chord change), and the cinematic carnival of the marvelously titled "As Haunted As a Thousand Theremins" leading the pack in a tight race.

Available here on green vinyl, or as a download:

24 Jun 2013

Children of Leir "Children of Leir" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Those approaching this self titled debut expecting another whispy folk retelling of the old Irish legend the Children of Lir, or at the very least something of a similarly inoffensive and acoustic bent are advised to locate their nearest exit with all haste as these Children of Leir (the Briton king perhaps?) are a very different prospect indeed.
A two-piece (Gregg Hunt and Stuart Gray) from Leicester who describe themselves as "motorik-driven, mystyical- horror infuenced, psychedelic folk pop", the Children of Leir instead inhabit the same sort of shadowy netherworld as a number of Austin's current dark psychedelic brood, although with a distinctly English vibe that suggests the tutelage of Joy Division rather than the Velvet Underground - more Factory, less garage.
Aside from the Martin Hannett-worthy vocal production there's reverb aplenty naturally, taut krautrock rhythms, heavily tremeloed guitars, creepy organs noodling away in a sinister fashion - all sorts of things that meet with our approval here at Active Listener Towers.
The repetitious motorik rhythms lend the whole affair a somewhat hypnotic quality and the songs themselves are growers, not showers, subtle earworms that take time to burrow through to the subconsious and graduate from "great sound" to "great song", but get there they certainly do. Think of the whole as an appeallingly wrapped package that you don't want to unwrap too quickly.
"Simulations" is the pick of the bunch, with it's fuzzy bass riff paving a solid groundfloor for it's snaky organ riff to slither over lazily, but the lengthier tracks are almost as good with opener "Oranj" in particular still seeming disappointingly short at over nine and a half minutes.

Listen / download here :

22 Jun 2013

Dead Leaf Echo "Thought & Language" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

"She was only the dead-leaf echo of the nymphet from long ago ..." - Vladimir Nabokov

An interesting and seemingly self-effacing quote to name yourself after if you're a band operating in a genre that a number would consider had peaked near it's creation in the late eighties and early nineties.
Of course those who dig a little deeper will be aware that there's a vibrant current shoegaze scene that certainly stands proudly with the original in terms of quality and invention, even if the wider music media tend to virtually ignore it, and retreading former glories is something that bands like Dead Leaf Echo should never be accused of.
Sure, Brooklyn based nu-gaze (or nouveau wave as this bunch refer to themselves) three piece Dead Leaf Echo don't mind wearing their influences on their sleeves, but with a full length debut as strong as "Thought & Language" they can consider themselves peers rather than imitators.
4AD producer John Fryer (Cocteau Twins, Lush, This Mortal Coil) is on hand to mix, and this certainly helps conjure an authentic shoegaze aesthetic that recalls variously, early Swervedriver, Lush, Chapterhouse and the Boo Radleys before they discovered the Beach Boys.
Tastefully bypassing the distortion laden squall that some of the more popular shoegazers exploited, Dead Leaf Echo instead rely on an expansive, broadly textured sound, with layers of gorgeously swelling guitars steeped in delay, and cavernously reverbed vocals that often operate more as another instrument in the mix, with the need to convey lyrics seemingly being given secondary importance.
It's just the sort of album that I'd recommend to my more psychedelically inclined readers, particularly those that still regard shoegaze with a whiff of suspicion - it's notably short of the sort of cheesy alternative rock tendencies that trickled into the works of some of the original practitioners of the scene fairly early on in proceedings, with a focus instead on the chilly, glacial beauty that lay at the heart of the very best early 'gaze LPs. And with songs like "Memorytraces" and "Kingmaker", they've got hooks that can compete with the best of them.

20 Jun 2013

Reissue Review Roundup

Rupert's People - Hold On
Guerssen Records
No stranger to U.K psychedelic collectors, "Hold On" sees Guerssen collecting the People's three singles, b-sides and other sundry bits and bobs. With a messy history involving three distinct lineups, it's no surprise that this is a bit of a jumble of styles from whimsical psych pop ("All So Long Ago"), Small Faces style psychedelic soul ("Flying High"), hard rock ("Hold On") and the moody "Whiter Shade of Pale" knock-off "Reflections of Charles Brown". The audio quality dips somewhat for the last few tracks, which show more progressive leanings and an interesting insight into what could have come next for the band. A mixed bag for sure, but some great stuff.
Available on Vinyl here.

Ginhouse - Ginhouse
Esoteric Records
A longtime favorite of mine, it's great to finally see an official rerelease for this underappreciated classic.
Originally released in 1971 on the tiny B&C label this three piece inhabit the same sort of moody English netherworld as Black Widow, Leafhound and particularly Steel Mill.Or for listeners of a more contemporary bent, calling them a sort of proto-Wolf People wouldn't be stretching the imagination too much.
Very strong, atmospheric originals with moody flute and some aggressive guitar work mix well with a complete reimagining of the Beatles' "And I Love Her" which alternates between jazzy octaves and pummelling drums. Best of all though are the creepy cadences of "The Tyne God". Oh, and the sound quality on this blows my original LP out of the water, which as a vinyl lover through and through, it pains me to admit.
A classic ripe for rediscovery here, can't recommend it enough.
Available on CD here.

Brian Hodgson & The BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Doctor Who "The Krotons"
Silva Screen Records
The BBC Radiophonic Workshop circa 1968 was one of the most adventurous musical breeding grounds of the era, and Hodgson's incidental music for this Patrick Troughton adventure demonstrates that admirably.
Apart from the familiar theme, this is cutting edge, avant garde electronic music that certainly won't be to everyone's taste but will provide a welcome bout of nostalgic escapism for fans, and will keep scholars of early electronic music on the edge of their seats.
The excruciatingly limited 10" vinyl version seems to have sold out pretty much on release date, but you can still get the CD here.

19 Jun 2013

Juke "Atom Experiment" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Not total strangers to anyone who's heard the most recent sampler (their "White Elephant" is one of the stand outs), this fine band from Tours, France have put together an impressive debut album with "Atom Experiment", full of complex, everchanging progressive song structures combined with rich, textural and deeply psychedelic sensibilities - a winner for prog and psych fans alike.
Opener "Sphere" emerges unhurriedly from it's initial swirl of ambience, with some lovely, relaxed guitar leads setting the mood, before the chorus finally arrive two thirds of the way in. Who needs verses?
"Wave" is a little more structured, opening with a moody keyboard and bass vamp, that conjures images of Pink Floyd's "Animals", but would be equally at home on an early Alan Parsons Project LP, before opening up spaciously with some luxurious slide guitar work that sounds like it's been beamed down from a distant star.
"White Elephant" sees Juke trying their hand at more conventional songcraft with impressive results, it's majestic, deliberate pacing giving it a sense of grandeur.
Final track "Black Magic" is something of an epic at 28 minutes.
Loooonnnng tracks always make me a little nervous. Perhaps as a record collector I've simply come across too many albums padded out with side long blues jams in my time.  Fortunately while "Black Magic" does occasionally step into jam territory, there's a surplus of ideas on this one track that most bands could make a whole album from. Several distinct nods to "The Dark Side of the Moon" make an immediate impression, but top points on this remarkable track go to keyboardist Quentin Rousseau, whose intricate acoustic piano work recalls the glory days of the early seventies as originally experienced through not only Rick Wright, but also Mike Garson. Fabulous stuff.
Treading a similar path to the likes of Astra, with the harder edges conspicuously buffed off in favor of a more open, spacious, and psychedelic approach this is a hugely promising debut from a band finding their own voice with confidence. I bet the follow up (due in October) will be a blinder.

Stream / buy here :

17 Jun 2013

The Greek Theatre "Lost Out At Sea" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Swedish duo the Greek Theatre have a decidedly strange way of going about things.
Sven Fröberg explains : "Through the warm summer of 2009, just weeks after our formation, we managed to write what will become the complete Greek Theatre songbook. As none of us have written anything that comes close, in terms of quality, either before or after, we're stuck with those songs for better or worse. Our mission is to record and release our beloved tunes, in chronological order, spread over what will be four very different albums. When the mission is completed the band will cease to exist."
Now this is potentially very sad news indeed as "Lost Out At Sea" is one of the most effortlessly lovely records I've heard this year. While the prospect of four albums of this quality is certainly a pleasing one, I must admit that there's a greedy little corner of my psyche that wants more. Imagine if Dylan had called it a day after "Another Side of Bob Dylan". Crikey. Hopefully during the course of recording these four albums Fröberg and partner Fredrick Persson will rekindle the creative urge that led to these songs being written in the first place.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, you want to know about "Lost at Sea".
And well you should, because it's something of an understated masterpiece, a record with forebears in albums like Gene Clark's solo debut and David Crosby and Graham Nash's early solo albums - overshadowed albums that will never be as famous as they deserve to be but are nonetheless cherished by those with a more adventurous disposition.
Consequently it'd be a foolish man who forecast mainstream success for the Greek Theatre, but critical darlingship surely beckons and if they can follow up with albums of similar quality then some sort of cult is assured.
It's a record of two halves (both gorgeous) with the pacier material on the first side gradually giving way to a glacially slow, but achingly beautiful second half, which those with a shorter attention span may misinterpret as the album tapering off.
A few highlights then ; the steel guitars, delicate harmonies and punctuated brass of "Even You Will Find a Home My Son" captures the explosive rural psychedelia of "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" better than the Byrds themselves managed on subsequent albums, while the sublime "Frozen Highway" breaks into an unexpectedly epic instrumental passage with some fine, lyrical guitar work.
There's even room for a flute led psychedelic freakout in "Stupid Constapleton" - an unexpectedly heavy and heady interlude, in what is otherwise a very subtle album. “As I grow older I tend to gravitate towards music that sounds effortless, and not so eager to impress,” Froberg explains. “Help Yourself, Ernie Graham and Eggs Over Easy spring to mind."
An admirable approach, and an album that's destined for a cult following
Froberg promises that album number two will address the duo's love for folk-rock of the Albion variety with influences like Nick Drake and Fairport Convention being thrown around.

"Lost Out At Sea" will be released July 1st by Truce Records.

It'll be available at http://thegreektheatre1.bandcamp.com from that date. For now, you can stream it below :

Update (17 Sept. 2014) There is now a limited edition vinyl pressing available from Sugarbush Records. Get it here!

16 Jun 2013

Download The Active Listener Sampler # 9 Now!

I've  got a busy month lined up, so this month's sampler is ready to go early - lots of artists covered recently on the Active Listener, and a few new names too.

Thanks to Bob Tibbitts for supplying the sleeve art - enquiries and commissions to isetcdart@tiscali.co.uk

But what's on this month's sampler you may ask? Well, salivate over these goodies here :

1. Wheat Fields - Saturnalia
From the E.P "Saturnalia" available here.
2. The Greek Theatre - Frozen Highway
From the forthcoming album "Lost Out At Sea".
3. Juke - White Elephant
From the E.P "Atom Experiment" available here.
4. Seas, Starry - Cody
From the forthcoming album "Tyto Alba".
5. Michael Warren - Jungle Time
From the album "Brume & Nelipot" available here.
6. Jackie Paper - All is All
Hear more from Jackie Paper here.
7. Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel - Dreamer
From the 7" "Are You Hypnotized?" available here.
8. Heaven's Gateway Drugs - Radio
From the album "You Are Heaven's Gateway Drugs" available here.
9. The Vickers - She's Lost
From the 7" "She's Lost" available here.
10. Kikagaku Moyo - Dawn  
From the E.P "Kikagaku Moyo" available here.
11. Sproatly Smith - Blackthorn Winter (Sedayne Remix)
From the album "Remixed" available here.
12. Cliff Dweller (with Andrea Adolph) -  John Thomas Dye
From the album "Emerald City" available here.
13. His Name is Codeine - I'm Not In Love (With The Way Things Are)
From the album "The Only Truth is Music" available here.
14. Invisible Ships - Lucy Dream
From the E.P "Lucy Dream" available here.
15. Lamposts - Melodramatics
From the album "Adolt Cartoon" available here.
16. The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies - 40 Million Miles to Earth
From the E.P "40 Million Miles to Earth" available here.
17. Clockwork Orchestra - Paper Purse 
From the album "Friends Without Names" available here.

Download here :

15 Jun 2013

Forever Changing - A Tribute to Love's Forever Changes

The start of November sees the Active Listener reach the ripe old age of two, and to celebrate I'm putting together a tribute to Love's "Forever Changes".
"Forever Changing" will be available as a free download through the Active Listener's Bandcamp page.
Basically any track from the original album is up for grabs, as well as both sides of their 1968 single.
I put some feelers out through the Active Listener's Facebook page yesterday and had an overwhelmingly positive response both from people who want to be involved, and from readers who are keen to hear the results - some quality acts are already confirmed, but I still welcome more artists to feature.

Choose from these tracks :

"Alone Again Or" 
"A House Is Not a Motel"
"The Daily Planet"
"Old Man"
"The Red Telephone"
"Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale"
"Live and Let Live"
"The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This"
"Bummer in the Summer"
"You Set the Scene"
"Your Mind and We Belong Together"
"Laughing Stock"

Artists are encouraged to reinterpret the material in an adventurous fashion.

If you're interested in appearing on this compilation, private message me through the Active Listener facebook page here (preferably),  or e-mail me at theactivelistener@hotmail.com

I'll need to receive the final version of the track by mid September.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Svenska Kaputt "Self Titled" Review

Reviewed by Chris Sherman

Svenska Kaputt’s self-titled debut album is the type of record it seems like nobody is making anymore. A jazz fusion record that takes Soft Machine's "4" and Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew", mixes that with the vibes of the Subliminal Records catalog, and funnels it out into more accessible sounds (ie- no LP side long songs/ jams) in 2013? As soon as I heard about this release, I did anything possible to find a copy, and this does not disappoint.
For those not versed in this psychedelic jazz fusion hybrid yet, this is a great entry point because, as mentioned earlier, the “accessibility” of this is partly due to half of Dungen being present (Reine Fiske and Johan Holmegard). The collective also features jazz vets Jonas Kullhammar and Torbjörn Zetterberg. These are four highly skilled players on their own accord, but as they begin to gel here and things open up, the results of the unit are hypnotic. Interestingly enough, the first few minutes of the LP sound like something from Floyd’s Pompeii, with haunting piano melodies and ethereal guitar effects creating an oddly familiar landscape. Once the band kicks in, and the saxophone takes over, shades of Impulse era John Coltrane come to the fore.
Side two kicks off with “Over Surnadal”, featuring fuzzed out bass, light percussion, subtle guitar textures and a sax lead, and is more of something you’d expect from the early 70’s King Crimson songbook than from something in the jazz realm. Great stuff here! “Syster Per” is the standout, with the melody stuck in my head for a few days after each subsequent listening.
Seek this one out if you can (the LP is a beautiful brown colored pressing in a really nice gatefold , but the pressing is super limited so act immediately), and hope that they play near you, because, if their studio recordings are any indication, I am positive Svenska Kaputt live shows must kill.

Available on CD, and vinyl.

13 Jun 2013

Introducing the Greek Theatre - Full Album Stream

Let me introduce you to your new favorite band.
The Swedish duo of Sven Fröberg and Fredrick Persson, collectively known as the Greek Theatre have a debut album "Lost Out At Sea" due out on July 1st, which draws upon the spirit of late sixties / early seventies West Coast America in the same manner as the Kontiki Suite and Jonathan Wilson.
And a marvelous thing it is too.
"Frozen Highway" may be the most beautiful song I've heard this year.
Keep an eye out for a more in-depth review next week, but in the meantime enjoy this stream of the whole album here.

Follow the Greek Theatre on Facebook.

Dead Horse One Premiere "Wicker"

French psychedelic shoegazers Dead Horse One have premiered "Wicker", an advance track from their upcoming debut album "Without Love We Perish" produced by Ride's Mark Gardener with Dead Horse One.

"For as long as I can remember, RIDE have been the biggest live experience I have ever seen." says Dead Horse One's Olivier Debard "So imagine a few years later, the opportunity to work hand in hand with Mark..."

"Without Love We Perish" is scheduled for an early 2014 release.

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Death & Vanilla Obscure Classics Review

Reviewed by Jason Simpson

Editor's note : We loved Death & Vanilla's debut here at Active Listener Towers (it featured here in our top 40 of the year last year), but for some reason never got around to a full review. Occasional Active Listener scribe Jason Simpson takes up the reins for this "Obscure Classics" review.

On Death And Vanilla's bandcamp page, they are described as 'moonlighting music pop kraut-lullabies'. To that I would add 'kool kosmic motorik filmstock library music'. This guy and girl clearly relish sounds pre-'70s,
Death And Vanilla's self-titled album from March of 2012 sparks and glows with Kodachrome aura, gloriously burned and smeared around the edges, like a photo of a christmas tree through a vaseline coated lens. I had a bit of difficult unearthing biographical data on the creators, but I'm pretty sure Death & Vanilla are a Swedish duo. They use the traditional rock template; guitar, bass and drums, and adorn it with gothic filigree; electric harpsichords and lots and lots of vibes. All of the instrumentation seems hissy and tape-laden, making me wonder how much of this music is sample-based, or if it's just been lovingly processed and treated. The overall effect is like the '60s worship of The Elephant 6 Collective, or the cocktail library fetishization of Stereolab, The Magnetic Fields or Belle & Sebastian.
Death And Vanilla are performing an etheric, shoegaze rendition of this bossa nova chic, particularly smeary and impressionistic. You can hardly pick out what the vocals are saying, like the ghost of a cocktail singer whispering in your ear as you sip absinthe in a haunted night club. The word 'dream' appears from the haze, from time to time. Death And Vanilla emerge from moldering hauntological underpinnings, like a hallucinogenic fungal infestation in your basement.
They are the same sort of literary archive hackers as Broadcast, The Focus Group and the rest of the Ghost Box affiliates, Pye Corner Audio etc. They are audio revisionists, painstakingly re-creating the murky mystery of antiquated vinyl and strange television in the middle of the night, with or without the fever dreams. Like the rest of the truly great artificers, so much depends upon traditional virtues such as musicality, production, emotion and feel. In short, if you are going to make music that sounds like the incidental music to an episode of the first season of Hammer House Of Horror, your tinny cheap keyboards better sound damn good. Your melodies better be catchy and memorable, your counterpoint superb, if you are trying to sound like advertising music from 1964. And Death And Vanilla's are. The basslines are funky in an 80s plastic kind of way, and all the swirling ghost train keyboards really make for a mesmerizing atmosphere. The vibes are a nice touch, as well as the pulsing, metronomic machine drums, seemingly belched forth from a thrift store Hammond. It all combines to cast you under its spell, beginning with the opening 'Ritual' and never breaking, enveloping and breaking over you. It seems like the score to a French New Wave fairy tale, a pastoral sense of adventure, a colorful psychedelia. This cinematic feel is further emphasized by the inclusion of a couple of 'incidental tunes' , 'Somanbulists' and 'Library Goblin', that leave you aching to go find some oversized VHS video nasty you've never seen. It leaves you yearning for undiscovered treasures.
Death And Vanilla's self-titled opus is one such undiscovered hoard. It deserves to be heard by many. For those with curiosity about the future of nostalgia, take a gander in this direction.
Fall under its spell.

12 Jun 2013

The Blank Tapes "Vacation" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This one's been on high rotation here for the last month, partly as it's irresistibly sunny Summer vibes have been helping me deny that it's suddenly very Wintery over here in New Zealand, but more because it's full of tunes that I can't get out of my head, and I sound less crazy if they're actually playing in the foreground as I tunelessly hum them to myself.
The Blank Tapes have been operating for ten years now under Matt Adams leadership, but "Vacation" sees them hit a new level of refinement, as Adams and his current three piece line up (also featuring Pearl Charles and D.A Humphreys) leave the garage behind and step into the sunlight.
This newfound studio sheen, coupled with a surprisingly diverse cross section of songs, and some irresistible three part harmonies (four part when I'm on song) makes this the most accessible, charming set of feel good indie pop you're likely to hear this year.
A sunny Californian Kinks immediately comes to mind (check out "Holy Roller")  - Matt has a certain register that he hits every now and then that channels Ray Davies effortlessly, but there's also something in the construction of these songs that owes a debt to the Kinks. Like Davies, Adams writes songs that immediately bait the ear with massive, seemingly simple hooks that upon further investigation are full of subtle nuances - an unexpected McCartneyesque chord sequence here, a shambling bossa nova beat there.
Add some appealingly garagey Strokesisms ("Tamarind Seeds"), melancholy West Coast harmonies ("Coast to Coast") and a refreshingly anthemic spin on the never get old chestnut (er, "Don't Ever Get Old") and you've got a diverse gem with immediate appeal that reveals unexpected layers with repeated immersion.

11 Jun 2013

7" Singles Review Roundup

Some more great 7" records for your delectation today:

Largely ignored so far in these pages (but only because everyone else has done such a good job championing them) Sweden's Goat were one of the bands of 2012. 2013 is looking pretty flash for them too, with these two sides effortlessly matching the terrifying yet danceable voodoo groove of last year's debut.
Banshee wails, guitars with indecent levels of wah wah pedal usage, and on "Dreambuilding" afro beats that sound like the paganistic rattle of cloven hooves - you know what to expect really.
Another five inches and a few more tracks wouldn't go amiss, but otherwise faultless.
Get it here.

I present to you proof positive (if any was still needed) that you don't need a guitar to reach the outer limits. These two infectious sides of playful but unerringly sinister organ fuelled psychedelia come from Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel, an L.A based three-piece with a nightmarish tinge that recalls Clinic at their most carnivalesque. Which is not to say they don't have cracking pop smarts, as the irresistible harmony vocals on "Dreamer" will attest to nicely. "Are You Hypnotized" on the other hand is something of a multi faceted epic with a delicate, crystalline outro to help ease the paranoia accumulated over the previous three minutes.
A new favorite.
Get it here.
Listen :

Continuing with the exciting new discoveries, this four piece from Florence, Italy have been on the scene since 2009, but this is the first (but hopefully not last) I've heard of them. It was love at first listen as soon as "She's Lost"s propulsive bassline emerged from it's cradle of backwards loopery. Coupled with a strict motorik beat, heavily reverbed vocals and a killer chorus with just the right amount of  psychedelic haze this is some pretty marvelous stuff.  B-side "All I Need" is similarly splendid, upping the garage quotient without losing sight of the subtleties that make "She's Lost" such a winning prospect.
One to watch.
Get it here.
Listen :

Japanese Nuggets worshippers the Routes are back with another short, sharp one two of sixties style garage punk. Lo-fi, fuzzy and anthemic, they stamp their own personality all over these lost sixties gems. The A-side sees them recasting the Mondels "I Got a Feelin'" with just the right amount of "gabba gabba hey", while the flip does it's best to contain a raucous run through of the Reasons Why's "All I Really Need is Love" complete with demented guitar break, and some unexpected freakbeat vocal mannerisms.
Get it here.
Listen :

10 Jun 2013

Brujas del Sol "Moonliner" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Columbus, OH based quartet Brujas del Sol have made an impression already on anyone who has heard the most recent sampler, with their heady blend of (mostly) instrumental space rock being a highlight for many.
"Moonliner" is their first full length, and is made up re-worked versions of tunes from their early e.ps, with contributions from newest member, keyboardist Ryan Stivers adding extra textural depth.
There's a spontaneous spark at work here that betrays the band's working aesthetic - rather than write songs in the conventional sense, they record all of their jam sessions and pick out the best bits on playback. The results are much more melodic than you might reasonably expect from such an approach -this is no Grateful Dead style jam-fest, although there's an adventurous sense of exploration Jerry and co. would certainly approve of.
Opener "Ships in the Distance" is a good introduction to their huge, cavernous sound as well as their diversity, progressing as it does from moody electronic dissonance, to sprawling space rock, to tight kraut groove with lysergic vocals in place.
There are moments of heaviness too but even these are steeped firmly in psychedelia - thanks mainly to guitarist Adrian Zambrano's effects laden guitar, and Stivers' keyboard work.
Zambrano's effective vocals are used sparingly to help keep attention, but the band shine brightest when they're projecting their tense, spiralling space-rock into the stratosphere with Zambrano's muscular lead guitar work reverberating back off the hills.

9 Jun 2013

The Focus Group "The Elektrik Karousel" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Julian House wears many hats - co-owner and co-founder of Ghost Box Records, graphic designer (all Ghost Box releases so far feature his classic Penguin paperback influenced art), Broadcast collaborator, and musician in his own right under the pseudonym The Focus Group.
While Ghost Box artists all share a similar aesthetic ("united by a design identity, fragments of real or imagined books, collections of images, films, links... Something people can become lost in ..." explains House) the end product is markedly different in each case, with the Focus Group providing the most surreal, and certainly the most psychedelic material released on the label.
"Elektrik Karousel" is his first album in six years, and uses the same cut and paste scrapbook approach that we've come to expect from him, although the resulting album is somewhat moodier than we've heard in the past. There's still a sense of playfulness underlying even the moodiest themes here, but there's also a sense of melancholy, that coupled with the deeply nostalgic euphoria his music evokes leaves a bittersweet aftertaste.
House seems to have a short attention span with 29 tracks scattered over "The Elektrik Karousel" - many of them around a minute long. It's certainly not music for everyone - those who like to see an idea investigated to it's fullest should move on immediately, but others with a suitably hyperactive mind will be fully drawn in by House's varied and imaginative vignettes - musique concrete, harpsichords, jazz, music boxes and more coalesce into a giddy rush that sounds like it's been retrieved straight from the rabbit hole.
Sure, it'd be nice to see House realize some of his more interesting ideas a little more fully (although "The Magic Pendulum" breaks the six minute mark - something of a mammoth effort in Focus Group terms), but there's no denying "The Elektrik Karousel"s creativity.
Essential listening for those of a suitably adjusted mindset.

Available digitally here, or directly from the label in physical formats here.

6 Jun 2013

Levek "Look A Little Closer" Review

Reviewed by Jason Simpson

At the time of its release, some critics (http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/17194-look-a-little-closer/) were unduly harsh, condemning David Levesque as a chillwave knock-off, a Bibio clone, a copy of a copy, forever losing fidelity. A lot of critics seem to think that something has to be brand new and unheard of for it to be valid. It is this endless march of progress that is drowning our rivers and valleys in toxic sludge and McDonald's wrappers. Perhaps we should pause the progress, and consider where we're coming from.

Davis Levesque's, the driving force behind Levek, goal creating his debut release for Lefse Records, was to "make an album that I've always wanted someone to make. Something that I would enjoy listening to." This purity of purpose irradiates every moment of Look A Little Closer; Levek use every sound imaginable from the last 50 years to make a dense, masterful, personal statement. Mainly drawing from sounds mostly outside of the rock vernacular; Bossa Nova, British Folk, Spy Music, Look A Little Closer is an alternate reality frozen at sunset, an essential reprieve from the post-modern clamor, where you can just hang and swing in a hammock for an hour. 

The skill and care with which this record was assembled becomes obvious, when you really stop and listen. Every track teems with percussion, flutes, vintage keyboards, and vocal harmonies. Lefse Records described Look A Little Closer as "the amalgamation of the tenderness of Bridge Over Troubled Water and the funky 70s Blaxploitation attitude." If you like sweet, soulful pop music, you will drool over this gem, and if you're only interested in the next, best thing, you will most likely miss the point. 

The two folkiest numbers on here, 'Canterbury Bells' and 'Girl In The Fog', are the aces in the hole, showing what Levesque and cohorts are capable of, drawing you in, forcing you to pay attention and to care. Delicate finger-picked guitars waltz and swoon with cooing vocal harmonies; clearly there is amazing songwriting and musicianship at work here, and that's what we're looking for, right? Once you're invested, the record unfolds like a Morning Glory at dawn, revealing its intricacies, its warm beating heart. 

There is not a note out of place on here, nothing to break the psychotropical reverie. Look A Little Closer is a modern pop masterpiece, perfect for those that miss Broadcast or Stereolab. It will leave you gasping for Astrud Gilberto and Getachew Mekuria LPs, as well as pulling out those High Llamas records you forgot about. 

This record was originally released in the Autumn, so the time is right for you to re-discover this obscure gem. 

Absolutely, stunningly essential. 

Available here on CD, and here on vinyl.

The Climax Blues Band "Tightly Knit" "Rich Man" "FM Live" Reviews

Reissued by Esoteric Records

Reviewed by Joseph Kyle

When last we left Climax Blues Band, they had followed up the near-perfect Plays On with an album that found them regressing from that album's progressive sounds. The next three albums in Esoteric's catalog reissue documents a band on the verge of greatness.

Album number four, Tightly Knit, released in 1971, found the quintet honing their sound. Once again joined by Chris Thomas, the band pulled back the uncomfortable hard-rock tendencies of A Lot of Bottle, blending their long-running blues style with a more accessible sound, as heard on the jaunty, FM-radio friendly "Toward the Sun" and the catchy singalong chant of "That's All." Thankfully, on "Who Killed McSwiggin" and "Bide My Time," they bring back some of the psych-rock playfulness of Plays On that was sorely lacking on their previous record. Still, the blues runs through their sound, and the one-two punch of "Hey Mama" and "Shoot Her If She Runs" made for a rewarding combination. While a definite improvement on its predecessor, one wonders if Tightly Knit's lack of commercial success was due to what is easily one of the worst album covers of the 1970s. It doesn't really matter that it was made by legendary design team  Hipgnosis either; it's bizarre imagery is quite unappealing.

Rich Man, released in 1972, was an amazing stylistic leap forward for the veteran band. Rich Man was a transitional album in two important ways. First, the band had whittled down to a four-piece, losing keyboard player Arthur Wood and drummer George Newsome. Rich Man also marked first time the band did not work with Chris Thomas, instead opting to work with American producer Richard Gottehrer, The change is instantly notable. "Rich Man" is a slick, harmony-laden number that deftly blends the best elements of the band's different stylistic talents into a style that is taut, hard, different enough to be a distinctive maturation in sound, whilst possessing a sound that would be instantly familiar to old fans. It's a very American-sounding record, a hard rock record that feels fresh and new. Gottehrer prodded the band out of its creative rut, inspiring arrangements focusing on harmonies over funky rhythms ("Standing By A River") with a blues-and-country-rock hybrid that would soon come into fashion ("All The Time In The World," "You Make Me Sick"). It feels very much like the work of a band on the cusp of something great, one that would bear much fruit in follow-up records. In its own way, this is as exciting an album as Plays On, even if it lacks the sonic innovation of that album.

FM Live, the band's sixth album, shows that they too knew they were on the cusp of greatness. The show (presented here on disc in its entirety for the first time) was recorded in New York on their Rich Man tour. It's a tight set that's packed with great material--drawn mainly from Rich Man--a handful of covers, and "I Am Constant," a straight-up pop song that would be a highlight of their next album. It's a catchy tune that hinted at greatness to come. One also senses their awareness of their success in the US; "Rich Man" had placed on the Top 200 in the charts, and FM--released as a double album in the USA well before release in their homeland--is not only a great set, but a wonderful introduction to the band. One wonders if it was designed to serve that purpose for an American audience; considering it was stripped to a single disc for the rest of the world. It's not hard to imagine that the band's sights were set on America.
At the beginning of the show, the emcee states that Climax Blues Band is "a group you will know a year from now is super" [sic], and he was right. FM Live is an enjoyable live show of a band that definitely was about to break big.

4 Jun 2013


Ivory - Ivory
Guerssen Records
Guerssen have a knack for digging up quality psychedelic records that I've never heard, or in this case even heard of. Which is a wonder in Ivory's case as this was a major label (Polydor) release back in 1968, and Ivory's blend of Jefferson Airplane style psychedelia, with some evil sounding fuzz guitar leads, heavy use of organ and strong dual male/female vocals with an impressive Grace Slick soundalike certainly seems to tick all the right boxes. Maybe the absence of an obvious standout track for a single scuppered things, but as an album this is a very consistent artifact with great period flavor. Well worth investigating.
Available here.

Hawkwind - Warrior on the Edge of Time
Atomhenge Records
I admit reviewing this in these pages is akin to recommending the Bible to a Christian, but Atomhenge have done a great job here with Hawkwind's 1975 opus. Obviously you need to own this album in some format, and this is the best reissue you're likely to ever come across so quit holding out! There are three versions to choose from
- single disc with a fresh 2013 remaster and b-side "Motorhead"
- 2CD + DVD edition with the 2013 remaster, unreleased and rare tracks, a Steven Wilson stereo mix, and a Steven Wilson surround mix,
- and super deluxe box set featuring vinyl, Steven Wilson remixes, new mixes, flat master transfer, unreleased and rare tracks
Great quality control all around.
Single disc available here.
2CD + DVD available here.
Super Deluxe Box Set available here.

Amber - Pearls of Amber
Merlins Nose Records
Long bootlegged with dodgyish sound quality, Merlins Nose have rescued this classic E.P from obscurity and the new found fidelity reveals it to be something of an acid folk classic. Originally released as a 10" in 1971 by the duo of Julian McAllister and Keith MacLead (the original Hurdy Gurdy Man) , "Pearls of Amber" is a short (24 minutes) but essential psych folk holy grail. Acoustic based with plentiful use of tabla and sitar, this compares very favorably to Donovan's albums of a few years earlier, and will also please Quintessence fans. McAllister's vocal delivery has a pleasing folk twang that recalls Bert Jansch, while the songwriting is uniformly top notch, especially on "Sea Shell Rock Me" and "Sing on the Sunlight".
Available here.

After All - After All
Guerssen Records
Originally released in 1969, this is a very accomplished and forward thinking piece of progressive rock, that was well ahead of it's time. With it's creepy baby doll sleeve art and distinctly English blend of prog rock and jazz, it's hard to believe that this isn't from the first wave of Vertigo releases, but actually the work of a Florida based group. Geographical unlikeliness aside, this is complex organ heavy proto prog with vocals that sound alot like David Clayton Thomas. Not particularly distinguished on the songwriting side, but definitely something that should be investigated by those who enjoy the instrumental prowess of early proto proggers like Cressida and Beggars Opera.
Available here.

3 Jun 2013

Bandcamp Reviews Roundup

We've got a nice selection of new discoveries for you to check out today - all available through Bandcamp (some in hard formats too of course).

Wheat Fields - Saturnalia
There's a prosperous new psychedelic scene happening in Australia right now, with new bands popping up on what seems like a daily basis. Wheat Fields may well be the best of these that I've heard lately, and their debut "name your price" E.P should be hopped upon immediately by all of you.
Opener "Let's Play" is reminiscent of more well known exports ( Tame Impala & Pond specifically) - woozily hallucinogenic with a killer melody that's immediately familiar. There's a nice ebb and flow evident throughout, lovely textures, and the strong melodic content is nicely balanced by some quite delectable jamming (check out the lovely "Riders on the Storm" style intro on "Let's Play Some More").
Massively promising. Big things beckon.
Available here.
Listen here:

Buried Feather - Buried Feather
Another piece of prime Australian psychedelia, this time from Melbourne four piece Buried Feather.
The Feather (if I may be so familiar) are a rather exciting prospect, mixing the strict Motorik tempos of Neu with droning Spiritualized style space rock, huge, sludgy guitar breaks and plenty of moody proggish keyboard work. And while the more insistent Kraut style numbers may be those that grab the attention to start with, the slower numbers - "Weekends" in particular - have a slowburning intensity that's every bit as hypnotic, and awash with a beautiful dreamy psychedelia.
Available here.
Listen here:

Invisible Ships - Lucy Dream / Acid Tide
We head to the UK now, and this very promising debut single from Kent based outfit Invisible Ships who offer psychedelic rock with muscular production and some nice subtle surf touches in the guitar work.
A-side "Lucy Dream" is an anthemic rocker with a melodic pop heart and some nice cascading guitars while B-side "Acid Tide" is a boisterous piece of instrumental spy movie raucousness with enough garage muscle to ensure that it doesn't sound like a sixties retread.
It'll be interesting to hear where they go from here.
Available here.
Listen here:

Kikagaku Moyo - Kikagaku Moyo
Go Kurosawa of popular Japanese psychedelic space rockers Deigen has a new side project with Kikagaku Moyo (Geometric Patterns), although he plays drums for this outfit rather than guitar.
Tribal psychedelia which takes it's cues from German bands like Amon Duul and Can as much as the more recent Japanese psychedelic scene, Kikagaku Moyo's origins as a sort of free-psychedelia experiment would perhaps lead  you to expect something a little more chaotic than the well structured fare on display here. The combination of inventive improvisation and effortless melody instead brings to mind the Amazing and Dungen, who also share a similar vintage mindset. "Zo No Senaka" is the early stand out with it's loping stoner rhythm (think Flower Travelin' Band covering Captain Beyond), while the more exploratory nature at show on the likes of  "Tree Smoke" and "Lazy Stoned Monk" offers plenty of welcome diversions too. There's even room for a big "Gish" style riff rocker with "Dawn". Nice.
Available here.
Listen here:

2 Jun 2013

Strange Fish 1-4 Reviewed

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface, yet more than 95 percent of this underwater kingdom remains unexplored. 
It requires no stretch of the imagination, to assume that there are some strange, beautiful creatures out there waiting to be discovered, and Fruits de Mer Records in the interests of scientific and musical discovery have put together this four part expedition, charting unexplored depths and discovering some very strange fish indeed.
A little history first. Fruits de Mer, as you will know if you peruse these pages regularly, are a specialist vinyl only label dedicated to often groundbreaking contemporary covers of classic psychedelic era material. As all good labels grow and diversify, the next step in their evolution was Regal Crabomophone, an offshoot label that gave a number of these artists an opportunity to showcase their own psychedelic material.
Strange Fish is the next step into a much more specific, niche world - a label dedicated to the more experimental, often electronic based sounds that sprang forth from the seed that psychedelia planted in the late sixties. Fruits de Mer have covered this territory before on their 'Roqueting Through Space' and 'Head Music' compilations, but never with new material.  So, spread here over four instrumental LPs (two of which are doubles), various Fruits de Mer artists and a bunch of new discoveries set their metronomes, plug in their wonky analogue synths and head for the horizon and beyond.
As you'd expect from the number of different acts involved (29!), there are a variety of approaches employed here, and it's remarkable how well everything slots together.
Strange Fish 1 is a single LP affair with an ambient sequencer / guitar flavor featuring Fruits regulars Sendelica, as well as Craig Padilla whose two pieces here remind this listener of the more accessible end of the Tangerine Dream spectrum, circa 76-78. A very nice start.
Strange Fish 2 focuses more on the Krautrock side of things with a distinct prog rock tinge on a number of tracks, highlighted for me by the Grand Astoria's appropriately titled "Space Orchid Vs. Giant Drumkit".
Moving on to Strange Fish 3 now, which is my favorite of this first bunch of releases. For the most part kosmische music with motorik rhythms and some lovely vintage sequencer work, this features a more concise selection of material than the first few volumes with numerous highlights. Zenith:Unto The Stars balances the epic and the playful perfectly on "Gemini", a track that could have been lifted from one of Jean Michel Jarre's better LPs, while Hi-Fiction Science offshoot Dead Pylons explore their inner Neu impressively over three tracks.
Strange Fish 4 explores a more contemporary approach to ambient, with synthesizers and acoustic guitars given equal billing, with some particularly nice tracks from James McKeown standing out - all pastoral loveliness. If you loved "Life Aboard the International Space Station" from his album "English Dream", then you'll want to hear these tracks. The Bordellos also impress.
So four volumes of instrumental kosmiche music to take in at once is obviously not something that everyone has the inclination for, but I imagine you've already decided whether you need to hear this stuff or not and don't give a damn what I say about it, but here's my ten cents worth anyway. If this is your niche, grab them all - you won't be disappointed (and you'll get a free CD with more tracks in a similar vein). If you're more curious and want a bit of a sampling of what the range has to offer then certain pick up Strange Fish 3 or 4, which are slightly more listener friendly and less inclined to wander but don't dawdle because as you know with Fruits de Mer related releases they sell out very quickly indeed and that's got to tell you something doesn't it?

UK people can order directly from the label here, while customers outside of the UK are directed towards the always excellent Norman Records, who will no doubt be offering these for pre-sale very soon.