31 May 2015

Ozric Tentacles "Technicians of the Sacred"

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

In listening to UK band Ozric Tentacles for the first time, I am hard pressed to find adequate words to describe their sound. Some might take the easy road and call them post rock, a genre that crosses ambient and electronic music with rock and freeform jazz, but that is only a starting point. "Technicians of the Sacred" is their first double album in 20 years, and its release is in conjunction with a European tour and a shorter tour of the US. Opening track "The High Pass" is a musical kitchen sink, tossing in the creepy caws of a murder of crows with mind-bending psychedelic and prog rock elements. The listener is tossed between planes of existence as the band continuously shifts improvisational gears on this 8 minute epic. I hear Asian musical tendrils meshed with hard metal guitar riffs, and somehow these guys make it work. This album has themes based on Mayan astrology; the album is a characteristic trait of the “tone“ in each member’s “dreamspell” (Mayan astrological symbol). The relatively short and contemplative "Butterfly Garden" is a balm to the senses, and the far distant birdsong as well as the song title allude to a strong tie to the natural elements. Each song morphs effortlessly into the next, and before you blink, "Far Memory" is upon you. You are not even aware of songs shifting, as they carry forward themes between each track. It is like watching the clouds drifting slowly by; you notice their size and shape, but it all merges together into a cohesive whole. The high degree of musicianship here is patently obvious, for one cannot play at this level without superb technical and creative ability. Pulsating, expanding and contracting, all these things happen, sometimes all at once.

On some level, this is also meditative music, for your mind will travel along with the music to far distant worlds and new experiences. There are many sonic shadings and moods evident here, but the most prevalent emotion is joy. For how can one play such expansive but wild music without totally blissing out? And "Changa Masala" has dub at its foundation, throbbing at the very center of chanting voices and jazzy synth lines. "Zingbong" starts off as pastoral electronica (listen and see if you agree) with strains of the Far East running through it. The jump to the second disk of this release is also smooth, starting with the intriguing "Epiphlioy". This ten minute excursion into the heart of space is accompanied by lush electronic textures, searing guitar work courtesy of Ed Wynne, and loping synthesizer. "The Unusual Village" has a discordant musical element working in counterpoint to chirping electronic tweets, and then it takes flight. Soaring musical passages carry the listener away, before it links hands with "Smiling Potion". Slippery music to be sure, with its funky electronic grooves and freaky sonic architecture. "Rubbing Shoulders With the Absolute" is more straightforward, with fairly standard bass, keys, and drums. Chiming notes draw you in, while the beat keeps your foot tapping. If singles existed for this genre, this could well be one of them! Expect the musical landscape to change, for it shifts often in this nearly 9 minute song. "Zenlike Creature" closes this 90 minute epic journey, with bucolic programmed flutters and beats. For this rock reviewer, trying to get my arms around this music was difficult, for I hang my hat on vocals and there aren't any here. Music like this is all about emotion, and this album stirred up a plethora of moods. This double album is a crowning achievement for this band after such a long hiatus, and fans of instrumental music, jazz fusion, prog rock, psychedelia, and post rock are sure to enjoy it.

Available on CD here (UK/EU), and here (US), and on vinyl here (UK/EU), and here (US).

Nine Questions with the Blue Giant Zeta Puppies

Photo by Bunz.
What was the first record you bought? "Fire Brigade" by The Move, a compilation LP on the extremely cool 'Music For Pleasure' label, a budget label you used to find in supermarkets, which is where my copy came from...I still have it and still play it!

What was the Last record you bought? 
"I Hear A New World" by Joe Meek and The Blue Men.....again.....this time on rather lovely vinyl....

What's one thing about you that very few people know? 
I once bought Noam Chomsky a drink.....I was taking photographs at a meeting he was speaking at, and he was in the bar afterwards, he seemed rather bemused at having this random stranger buy him a drink and thanked me a little warily...which I suppose anybody would...

If you could record with any one artist, who would it be and why?
Probably Joe Meek.....although I suspect I might well live to regret it! There are so many conflicting stories about him, I'd like to find out for myself what he was like to work with, and just how he did get all those sounds...I have done some electronics and can hold a soldering iron, I'm totally at home recording in sheds, front rooms, bedrooms and lean-tos......I think it could be an interesting....if maybe sometimes stormy...experience...

Who Should we be listening to right now? 
Hmmmm....OK in no particular order.....Link Wray, Topos Locos, Goat, The George Dorn Quintet, Dick Dale, Vince Taylor, The Phantom IV, Davie Allan and The Arrows, The Striped Bananas, Busy Wigs and The Shadows......and The Move, always....

Vinyl, CD or digital? 
They all have their place.....we are pretty lucky to live in a world where we can choose! Digital formats not only allow you to carry a whole collection around with you in a way you never could have done with a vinyl or cassette collection, they let you sequence your music as you want and (for me the most important thing) they allow no-budget outfits like The 'Zeta Puppies to release and distribute our music in a way that would have been completely impossible before..... CDs allow you some of the convenience of digital with some of the permanence and class of vinyl.... They have sleeve art, they have liner notes, you can hold them in your hand, you can play them in the car.....they are just a bit ....small..... There is something about vinyl, it's not just that the format allows the packaging to become an art form in itself, or that it is the format that so much great music was first issued in, I think you listen differently.....I guess vinyl makes you work a little, it's much harder to use music as wallpaper if you have to choose an album or single, put it on, drop the stylus....wait...it's like a ritual, you get a feeling that this music has a value, someone worked on this...they imagined it and struggled to make it real... There is an idea around that what we want is music coming at us like water from a tap....you wont have a collection, even a digital one, you will subscribe to a streaming service that will decide what you want to hear based on your profile.....you want music? hit "play"........wallpaper......

Tell us about your latest releases
We have a track on the new Fruits de Mer members only CD "Strange Fruit and Veg", which is out for review at the moment, rather pleased about this one, as it is the first time we have had an original track (Martians Don't Surf!) included on a Fruits de Mer release... We also self released a three track download EP in January "The Devil is in The Detail", currently a free download from our Bandcamp page. And most recently, we have brought out a limited edition CD of our Active Listener Records album "12 Theories of Time Travel" as an exclusive release for the goody bags at the Mega Dodo/Fruits de Mer "Games For May" festival....

What's next for you, musically? 
The next thing we have happening is the unveiling of our new EP "Semyorka". This is planned as a vinyl release, but we are having a limited run of a CD version pressed as an exclusive for the goody bags at the Fruits de Mer "13th Dream of Doctor Sardonicus" festival in August, with the vinyl version planned for early next year (...with the lead time on vinyl pressing being what it is...). We hope to fund the vinyl release via a Kickstarter campaign....so get ready to raid your piggy banks! (More seriously, we have some nice inducements planned for that one....so keep an eye on our Facebook!) Before that, we will be joining the mighty Topos Locos (who made their Fruits de Mer début on "Strange Fruit and Veg") in a vinyl only split single, releasing in late September early October. Again, look out for news of that one on our Facebook!

What's for dinner? 
A cheese roll.....


29 May 2015

Spring "Spring" Remastered & Expanded 2CD Edition

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Spring's sole self-titled album from 1970 is one of the holy grails for Mellotron lovers around the world, with original vinyl copies fetching huge sums, due to its poor sales first time round (not to mention it's fragile triple gatefold sleeve, courtesy of Vertigo photographer Keef).

Esoteric's new deluxe reissue is one of the best of its kind, doing an amazing job of radically upgrading several previous CD reissues (Repertoire's probably being the best of these). The original album is pretty highly regarded amongst progressive rock connoisseurs, and with good reason. Produced by Gus Dudgeon (around the same time that he was producing David Bowie and Elton John), "Spring" is the quintessential pastoral prog rock album. With three band members taking turns on the Mellotron (often two at a time, one on each keyboard), the 'tron has a constant presence here, and is used masterfully.

1970 was a good year for prog rock. At this point, technical virtuosity and endless soloing hadn't taken the genre over, and "Spring" is one of the best examples of this early, song-based prog approach, and it'll be a revelation to those only familiar with the more show-boating style that was to come. There's an excellent balance struck between memorable vocal hooks and choruses, with Pat Moran's vocals exhibiting a more soulful approach than you'd perhaps expect, and explorative instrumental passages. Special mention to the inventive rhythm section, who keep these mostly relaxed, down-tempo numbers from getting bogged down - future Dire Straits drummer Pick Withers is particularly great here. Guitarist Ray Martinez is no slouch either, although he's always careful to remain in service of the song. Even when stretching out on an absolutely lovely guitar solo during the second half of "Gazing" (see YouTube link below) there's not a rushed note.

Esoteric's remastering job here is as good as we've come to expect, but as good as the remastering on the album is, the thing that really makes this the version of this classic to own- and one to add to the collection for those that own the original LP too - is the 12 track bonus disc. Made up of tracks intended for a follow up album, only three of these tracks have been officially released before (on previous reissues), with the rest previously only circulating in bootleg quality. Cleaned up and carefully sequenced, this second disc makes an extremely worthy addition, with the band's sound evolving significantly. The most obvious change is the stripping back of Mellotron usage, with keyboardist Kipps Brown favouring the Hammond organ instead, creating a leaner, heavier sound that works wonders, and meshes very well with some much more aggressive guitar work. There's also a greater emphasis on vocal harmonies, with acoustic based tracks like "Blackbird (Helping the Helpless)" mining CSNY / America territory surprisingly deftly.

A great collection then, that is unlikely to be surpassed, and one that even the smallest, most exclusive prog-rock collection needs to make room for.

Get it here (UK/EU), or here (US).

28 May 2015

Blown Out "Planetary Engineering"

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

Blown Out return – and just a few months after their last release, "Jet Black Hallucinations" – with "Planetary Engineering". This outing, consisting of (not surprisingly) two long cuts, is dedicated to the aye-aye: the world’s largest nocturnal primate whose local narrative includes – and if you’ve seen a picture of one you’ll understand why – being mistaken for a demon harbinger of death. (Seriously, take some time to research this animal; it’s a rich read.) More importantly however, the aye-aye is on the near-threatened species list, and Oaken Palace Records, a unique non-profit organization, dedicates itself to raising awareness and funds to support the protection of animals that have unfortunately made the endangered list. "Planetary Engineering" is Oaken Palace Records’ seventh release. Other albums – from the likes of Eternal Tapestry, Nadja and Parallel Lines – have successfully donated impressive amounts toward the preservation of Orca whales, New Zealand dolphins, European ground squirrels, polar bears and others. So, while you’re picking up Blown Out’s LP, explore a bit more; all are worth a listen and for a good cause.

If you’re familiar with Blown Out – or, for that matter, their related projects Bong, 11Paranoias, Haikai No Ku, Drunk In Hell, Khunnt, and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – then you know that "Planetary Engineering" is an apt banner; it implies careful scaffolding of immense and almost inconceivable parts as well as chemistry, evolution, and even godlike abilities – in other words, objects of massive size. And that’s what we’re given: slabs of pitch black bass riffs, pounding free form rhythms and hardworking cosmic leads. It’s a perfect recipe, one fans have come to expect from the three and one that never fails to leaven.

For a combined running of thirty six minutes, these two new tracks – "Descending Deep Infinity" and :Thousand Years in the Sunshine" – deliver on the implicit promise made with Blown Out’s first release in 2014: a maximalist trio mapping heavy sonic landscapes. As Oaken Palace Records states in their press, “It’s heavy. It’s psychedelic.” But it’s more than that too. It’s a great listen for anyone.

The "Planetary Engineering" LP is due out sometime in May – maybe June – and will include digital download. Keep an eye on the Oaken Palace website for the official release date and check out the promotional video below.

27 May 2015

The Able Tasmans "A Cuppa Tea & A Lie Down" Deluxe Reissue

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Hot on the heels of their reissue of The Apartments' "The Evening Visits ...And Stays For Years" which knocked my socks off a few weeks back, Captured Tracks have another Antipodean treat for us. In partnership with Flying Nun they're helping the fabulous, rare debut from the Able Tasmans find its way back into the public eye. Originally released on Flying Nun in 1986, "A Cuppa Tea & A Lie Down", like much of the label's output of the era, has quite the cult reputation. But despite its many idiosyncracies, it's one cult item which has the tunes necessary to capture the imagination of a far wider audience.

This isn't immediately obvious however, opting to open the album with a difficult, but intriguing avant garde piano and violin piece which has probably caused more than its fair share of furrowed brows in its time, shows just what an ornery bunch of critters we're contending with. "What Was That Thing" puts things to rights immediately thereafter however; a piece of Flying Nun history, and a track that many view as quintessentially Dunedin - despite the fact that the Able Tasmans actually came from the other end of the country. It's a great track, which would dwarf its peers on most albums, but the rest of "A Cuppa Tea...." stands up remarkably well, even under close scrutiny. Piano and violin are back in action, albeit in a much more melodic fashion, on the lovely baroque pop of "I See Now Where", but it's the jangly anthems like "New Sheriff", and particularly the flawless "Sour Queen" which really impress, and point towards the indie pop perfection of their later albums, while the production has a timeless air that points back to the late sixties, but still sounds strangely contemporary today. It certainly doesn't sound like 1986.

While it's true that better was to come from the Able Tasmans, "A Cuppa Tea & A Lie Down" is still a no-brainer purchase for eighties indie fans in any format. However, this reissue also includes a sizeable bounty of bonus tracks; the complete debut E.P "The Tired Sun" from 1985, a more rough-hewn diamond with less diversity than they'd later be known for but plenty of charm nonetheless, and three tracks from other sources, which are less distinguished, but still intriguingly odd. A very generous package indeed.

Get it here on CD (UK/EU), and here (US), or on vinyl here (UK/EU), and here (US).

And while you're at it, make sure you don't miss out on this new deluxe reissue of one of the very best early Flying Nun releases, Sneaky Feeling's "Send You".  Jangle Heaven awaits you.

26 May 2015

American Vodka "American Vodka"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

American Vodka were an Austin, Texas band who pursued their own distinctive brand of wistful, reflective and utterly addictive psych rock in the early noughties, the results of which finally see the light of day on the very splendid Reverb Worship label a full ten years after the band's demise. Their moniker speaks of their spiky independent and contrary streak, the notion of American distilled vodka being, as the band put it, 'a veritable oxymoron' at the time. Coming on like a paisley hued Replacements with shades of both Television and The Chameleons this is an unearthed treasure, a lost classic waiting for not just reappraisal but first listen.

'Walking Upright' mixes urgent 'In Between Days' Cure-style guitar with singer SL Telles' melancholic but driven vocals, the song exploding into life with some seriously psyched out riffage; imagine a punkier, Stateside Kinks. 'Violet' is equally as powerful though is hazier, more nostalgic and is carried on waves of flanged and chiming guitars. Heartbreakingly good, it ebbs and flows before crashing into tidal waves of viola, guitar drones and controlled feedback. ‘German Girls' changes the pace, a more hesitant and leftfield piece with corrosive bursts of guitar seeping through the verses, SL's Tom Verlaine-like vocals a perfect foil for the surreal and enigmatic lyrics. 'Falling Water Rising' reminds this listener of ‘New Day Rising’ era Husker Du; it is that good. Make no mistake however, American Vodka may elicit these reference points but they are their own unique proposition; a fascinating mix of new wave, psych, punk and paisley underground. 'Nantucket' is a shimmering, widescreen beauty that coasts on a motorik bassline and some glistening, reverbed guitar. Hugely inventive, American Vodka songs have odd angles and searing noise a plenty but there is also a curious, leftfield loveliness to their material. One can imagine it soundtracking a Hal Hartley film, offbeat but all the while ably tugging at the heartstrings. 'Beaten' is a moody, scorched earth, sinister, Six Organs of Admittance style epic, the calm before the storm of the verses leading into a maelstrom of fuzz and psych freakouts. Carefully layered and paced, the band are masters of dynamics, building and sweeping ever higher and to greater plains of sheer shiver inducing abandon and emotion. The album finishes with a live version of 'Houston', swirling grinding guitar and snarling vocals providing a blitzkrieg ending to a genuinely exciting and emotive release.

A previously hidden gem, this release comes in limited quantities so make haste! American Vodka may be long gone as an entity but this music is alive with possibility, verve and spirit. Raise a glass and seek out this album. Order the CD-R here, with streams and downloads available through the widget below.

Brian Jonestown Massacre "Musique de film Imaginé"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

There seems to have been a little criticism of this new Brian Jonestown Massacre release from some quarters, but for those willing to pay even the slightest bit of attention, it's all there in the title. That's right, it's the old "music for an imaginary film" schtick, and those willing to approach this as an entirely different beast to the rest of the BJM catalogue will find some of Anton Newcombe's most dramatic and lyrical melodies awaiting them.

Basically a Newcombe solo release (created on behalf of BJM as phrased on the press release), "Musique de film Imaginé" is a tribute to Parisian cinema of the fifties and sixties, toning down Newcombe's usual psychedelic leanings in favour of moody, sometimes epic prog rock with a tinge of the Gialloesque (not to mention a guest vocal from the daughter of Giallo king, Dario Argento). This also allows Newcombe to throw the conventions of verse/chorus/verse out the window and experiment with repetition and layered counter-melodies. This creates a thematic unity which sounds a little samey on the first few listens, but a little perseverance on the listener's behalf allows these subtle melodies the chance to blossom into things that are often quite wondrous.

Which is not to say that it's perfect; It's occasionally a little too ambient, with several shorter tracks falling a little flat without the benefit of onscreen shenanigans to retain interest, but more often than not "Musique de film Imaginé" is a success, at its best, tapping into the unsettling, sleepy atmosphere of Air's "Virgin Suicides" soundtrack, albeit with a substantially expanded palette. The vocal appearances by Asia Argento and Stéphanie 'Soko" Sokolinski are welcome detours too, but it's on two of the more representative instrumental tracks that Newcombe's star shines brightest here; "L'ennui", which is creepy as hell, with lovely synth bells that recall both "Suspiria" and "Tubular Bells", and "L'enfer", a bracing heavy rock piece, replete with flying cymbals and blasts of mellotron worthy of "Poseidon" era King Crimson.

"Musique de film Imaginé" turns out to be a very worthy experiment from Newcombe, who shows that he's learnt well from some of the masters. Sure, there's nothing particularly groundbreaking going on here, but that's not the point, is it?

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

25 May 2015

Delphine Dora "Près Du Coeur Sauvage"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & the Moon)

‘Près Du Coeur Sauvage’, the new album by Wild Silence label owner and experimental musician, improviser and pianist Delphine Dora, is as otherworldly an album as you will hear. Not unlike a still winter's day this album's icy beauty is filled with pockets of warmth and a smoky nostalgia that remains in the air long after the music itself has finished. Entirely the work of Dora herself this is the artist’s singular vision, a melancholic but graceful statement of intent.

Opener 'Souffle' offers a hazy dawn of delicate, tense piano, beautifully ethereal vocals and a cluster of wailing woodwind. The cover art features a single figure dwarfed by a snow covered mountain, vast and white; there is the same sense of nature and open space evident here, of being blown on the winter's wind and of wide, serene landscapes. 'Whisper Incantation' has shades of Kate Bush's '50 Words for Snow' with a hint of Faun Fables, its haunting piano lines and field recordings creating a spectral choir of voices and resonating notes; it is truly beautiful and utterly unique. 'Ce Que Je Suis Demeure En Realitie Inconnu' begins hesitantly, single piano notes merging with Dora's layered vocals to create a musical spiders web that is uncanny, delicate and graceful; there is no real precedence for this music; all comparisons fall short as there is not really anything else like this out there. 'Vision' is more strident and filled with dread, the ghostly harmonies and backing vocals suggesting something in the air that is both unsettled and filled with tension. Strings scrape and bow as the song lulls, a quiet howl into the wind, before Dora's spellbinding vocals return.

'La Lueur’ is a chilly lullaby, the xylophone chiming above the choral chants that remind slightly of early Sigur Ros. 'L'obscuritie Du Silence Sourd‘ is a gently doomed and apocalyptic icy sonata whilst 'Fuga Mundi' is more upbeat and playful, though still with the feel of the Sirens of the frozen wastes calling your name. It is both magical and unnerving. Nôtan' is bleak and filled with a snowstorm's beauty and power. Indeed there is something of Nico's 'Marble Index' about this album and the Velvet's chanteuse bleak opus is perhaps a useful reference point here. Both albums are blessed with being quite unlike anything else and both evoke their own strange yet lovely version of a new and unique kind of folk music. Both albums are also not necessarily easy listening but are demanding pieces of art that are filled with repeated riches for those who persevere.

'Le Tumulte S'evanouissant' is a case in point; a cold chill settles over the twinkling piano lines and choral vocals, the atmosphere building and layering until it reaches a crescendo that takes the breath away. 'Lingua Ignota' is a wraith like nursery rhyme, disturbing and compelling in equal measure until closer 'No Words' enters with its stately and sombre piano, Dora's expressionistic vocals creating a tapestry of sound that floats over the music. It is a memorable and entrancing ending to an album that is filled with many such moments of heartrending beauty, flitting shadows and unique, artic atmosphere.

As always with Wild Silence releases the CD comes in beautiful packaging with a fold out gatefold sleeve and is also available on download. Buy this album; keep it for the moments just before dawn or as dusk begins to fall. Then just close your eyes and listen.

Cathode Ray Eyes "Eyes in the Melancholy Palm"

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

From the always reliable labels Cardinal Fuzz and Captcha Records, the debut LP of Cathode Ray Eyes – solo project of Ryan from The Cult of Dom Keller – drops this June. Like The Cult of Dom Keller, Cathode Ray Eyes plays a brand of psych that is spiked with a healthy dose of gothic sensibilities, but Cathode Ray Eyes take a few turns from that shared source and mark new territories. Here, we’re served a careful balance of acoustic guitar tracks and amp-destroying electric ones. As a whole, "Eyes in the Melancholy Palm" seems much more focused on the space of its arrangements than the structure – as many of the songs take less traditional approaches. There are still fuzzy rock elements, but they take a back seat to many of the slower, ambient tracks that really stitch "Eyes in the Melancholy Palm" together to form a cohesive, impressive debut; it’s wonderfully lo-fi, eclectic, gritty, and at times very strange.

"And the Burial had Several Different Endings" – the auspiciously titled first track (which is available for preview on Cardinal Fuzz’s Bandcamp page, see below) – is an instrumental that sounds like the music you might find in an alien world's cathedral. It’s both baroque and futuristic, combining heavily reverbed guitar plucking with sci-fi sounds and sprawling drums. "Death Song No. 1" comes next and it’s the first time we hear Ryan’s voice. It comes in delayed then speaks from the left. It took several listens to realize this album is aesthetically similar to Slowdive’s "Pygmalion"; both albums seem to yearn for hypnosis through layered and repetitive tracks while filling a room with bouncing but still sparse takes. Cathode Ray Eyes is able to effortlessly mesh straightforward and driving guitar licks with those ethereal layers.

"And It Came (Barrel of Skeletons)" just creeps eerily along, glistening around low in the mix background percussion and ghostly vocals, clearing the palette for the soaring guitars of the following track, "Harry Houdini". Then there’s "Will You Catch Me When I Fall from on High": a sort of folk song with eclectic percussion, ringing guitars and warbling vocals; and all that might almost seem normal save its carefully plotted rests that make it something else entirely.

Available June 1st, "Eyes in the Melancholy Palm" is available for pre-order on Cardinal Fuzz’s web store here. Get it on limited white vinyl or CD. This is an essential item for fans of Ryan’s work, but it also marks the beginning of a very promising project in its own right too. Pick this one up.

23 May 2015

Free Download Roundup - Citradels / Shadow Folk / Jane Weaver / Damien Youth

Here's another batch of excellent new releases, offered by the artists behind them as free or name your price downloads.

First is Melbourne band the Citradels, whom we've covered in the past (and featured an interview with recently too).  "A Night of Contemporary Feedback Music" is a step away from this extremely prolific band's usual heavy psych-gaze output, focussing more on acoustic based psychedelia,  including loads of sitar, tabla, mellotron, flutes, harmonium - all the good stuff really. Stripping back the layers of drone and feedback really helps to hammer home the fact that these guys are writing top songs, and the atmosphere here is terrific too. The thematic thread that holds these tracks together is of a poorly executed meditation session gone astray, but a few bad trips aside, it's mostly very melodic, gentle material, with hints of "Rubber Soul" nestled alongside much trippier moments, mostly delivered at their trademark 65bpm. You're definitely gonna need some joss sticks for this one. Quite possibly my favourite of their releases so far.
Free / name your price download here:

Our favourite Canadian psych-poppers Shadow Folk are almost as prolific, and back with another E.P "Mystery Park", on which they continue to diversify their ever expanding palette. This one's a little less cohesive because of the varied nature of its contents, but there's not a weak moment among them. Highlights here include "Red Shirt" which is some sort of bastard offspring of Ray Davies and Mississippi John Hurt, "Chaos" which is decidedly unchaotic, and built around a finger style guitar part which sounds like something that John Lennon brought back from India, and "Harold's Letter", which is a quirky psych-folk gem. And just to show they're still masters of wistful psych-pop, there's the fab "Chopper" too. #embarrassment of riches#
Name your price / free download below - available on cassette too!

Finders Keepers have a treat for us too. For those who have only become aware of Jane Weaver via her most recent (and admittedly most fabulous) album "The Silver Globe", this four track sampler of highlights from her previous releases will be just the trick to make you dig in to her back catalogue, and all it will cost you is your e-mail address. Seemingly compiled to show her at not only her best, but also most diverse, it shows that there's much more in her bag of tricks than the krauty synth pop of "The Silver Globe". Split half and half between spooky, music-box wyrd-folk, and aggressive PJ Harvey style rockers this will do very nicely indeed, thank you. Admittedly "The Silver Globe" was a step to the next level, but these early works are still treasures that other mere mortals would kill to have to their name.
Visit http://www.janeweavermusic.com/ and look for the "Silver Chords" box on the right hand side of the page to download.

And last but certainly not least is a new offering from legendary New Orleans' psych-folk artist Damien Youth, who has a recording history that dates back to the eighties, and is frequently (and deservedly) compared to Donovan, Robyn Hitchcock and Paul Roland. Youth's output has slowed to a trickle these days, making releases like the "The Woodlock Demos" all the more precious. No idea whether these two tracks are a teaser for something else that he's working on, but they're lovely acoustic gems, which sound complete in their fragile, unadorned states.  "Quest to Succumb" in particular, burns with a quiet intensity, which will get right under your skin. Gripping stuff! The master still has his hand in.
Free / name your price download available here:

22 May 2015

Nine Questions with Dodson & Fogg

Nine Questions is a regular feature on the Active Listener, where we ask our favourite artists nine simple questions and get all sorts of answers....

Today.... Dodson & Fogg's Chris Wade.

What was the first record you bought?
With my pocket money I remember buying Master of Reality by Black Sabbath when I was about 9. Relics in Leeds had vinyl for 3 quid and I got 3 quid pocket money a week, so it was perfect when building up my Sabbath collection.

What was the last record you bought?
An embarrassing one: Madonna - Rebel Heart on CD ..... (cough cough) But before that I got Anthology 2 by The Beatles on vinyl and Big Huge by The Incredible String Band, so I've redeemed myself there.

What's one thing about you that very few people know?
That I'm a Haemophiliac. It's a blood clotting disorder. The Russian Royals had it and so did Richard Burton so I'm in good, yet dead, company.

If you could record with any one artist who would it be and why?
Hmmm.... Lemme think. I didn't mean Lemmy just then. There's a few ridiculous ones that won't ever happen. I would love Ian Anderson to play on at least one Dodson and Fogg song, and I'd love to record with Chrissie Hynde, Neil Young or Paul McCartney. But then again I've recorded with a few of my very favourite people already like Celia Humphris, Scarlet Rivera, and the sitar player Ricky Romain, so I'm quite happy with the ones so far. There are loads of great musicians out there.

Who should we be listening to right now?
God don't ask me, I'm still getting used to Bob Dylan's 80s albums. I really don't have "hip" music taste at all, as you can guess by the fact I just bought Madonna's new album. I like the really obvious stuff, mostly classic rock and pop; Nirvana, Dylan, Beatles, Neil Young, Incredible String Band, Tom petty, Sabbath, Kinks. I love Incredible String Band and Trees, people like that. Only current artists I like seem to be underground, like Hare and the Moon and Sand Snowman, those types of chaps doing interesting and unusual stuff. But I wouldn't have heard of them if not for this website. (God I sounded like a real brown nose then)

Vinyl, CD, digital or cassette?
Vinyl! Then CD, followed closely by digital and then lagging behind sweating and flapping about the place, cassette. No I quite liked cassettes actually, used to love taping stuff off the radio when I was a kid and doing compilation tapes. Switch cassette and make digital last then. God I hate digital.

Tell us about your latest release.
I just released a Dodson and Fogg album on CDR and download called Warning Signs. I recorded it between Feb and April this year, and it features Ricky again on sitar and couple of other players, some trumpet and sax. It's a bit more rocked up than my last stuff, with more of a fuller sound, but I really enjoyed recording it.

What's next for you, musically?
I'm recording with Sand Snowman himself and we've nearly got an album together and I've been recording with Nigel Planer and his brother, some of Nigel's lyrics and we're setting them to music but that won't be finished for a while. Hoping to collaborate with others on some projects, and release the first Dodson and Fogg album on vinyl, which is looking definitely more possible now, so that's exciting. On top of that I have some books and stories I'm working on, so a pretty busy few months methinketh...

What's for dinner?
I was gonna have crumpets but I've run out of them, so I'll probably just go for the predictable sandwich option... tuna I think.


Dodson and Fogg "Warning Signs"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

On this, the 8th Dodson and Fogg release for the prolific and hugely creative singer songwriter Chris Wade, a strong argument is made for this quiet, self-effacing artist to be viewed as the UK's primary and most important exponent of modern psych rock. Over previous Dodson albums Wade has developed a distinctive style that harks back to classic rock genres such as acid folk, Kinks style English psych and Syd Barrett whimsy (hear his collaborations with Nigel Planer, from TV’s The Young Ones, for a distinctly surreal trip into an alternate Britain). He also displays a standard of classic yet leftfield song writing last seen this consistently from the likes of Kevin Ayers, mid 70’s Eno and Island era John Cale. 'Warning Signs' consolidates all these alluring aspects and more. If you haven't yet discovered Dodson then their back catalogue is so strong that any album is a useful starting point; however 'Warning Signs' provides a useful distillation of everything that makes this one man band so essential and captivating. This time round there is more instrumentation and a fuller sound than on the previous, more acoustic based 'And When The Light Ran Out' but the mainstays of the Dodson sound, Wade's distinctive vocals and fluid and inventive arrangements, remain central to their modus operandi.

Opener 'See the Warning Signs' is a warm, acoustic yet slightly off kilter ballad. Wade's delivery is dry and slightly sinister, evoking thoughts of the afore mentioned Barret and fellow psych master Paul Roland in a sense of 'this sounds like it should be a normal slice of psych but something is just not quite as it should be', giving the track an extra layer and edge. Wade is a master of this; everything can be listened to as an extremely strong set of classic and instantly memorable songs, however there are corners and shadows that add an additional shade giving the tracks an unsettling curious nature. 'You Got To Move On' is a mandolin inflected, perfect piece of folk pop whilst 'Following The Man' is a garage band stomp, a Hammond and fuzz guitar epic that decries the easy sycophancy and trend following of certain individuals. The guitar solo has to be heard; it passes from Sonic Youth type scorched earth runs to Thin Lizzy licks with seeming ease. Next 'Can You See' reminds this listener of Bolan, a delicate acoustic paean that sprinkles lysergic drops of piano throughout to come up with an album highlight. Evocative, beautiful and timeless this is music that needs no fixed settings in any age or place; it is one man's singular vision and could have been or could be released at any point in either the last or next thirty years. It would still sound just as fresh and accomplished.

'Maybe When You Come Back' adds sympathetic strings to the growling guitar and handclaps, the song itself a slow burner that builds and layers before inserting itself fully into your conscious in a manner that means you will be humming this for days afterwards. Ricky Romain's sitar adorns 'Everything Changes’; tabla adding a further hazy Eastern feel as Wade's vocal floats above the music like wisps of smoke. Truly trance like and a candidate for any future (decent!) adaptations of Alice In Wonderland this is psych of the calibre that deserves a much wider and more acclaimed attention than Dodson have been getting; this may well change with this album as they further their (well deserved) rise to prominence. ‘Just Stumbling Around' is a blues hued nugget of paisley loveliness that reminds this listener of George Harrison's solo work, with The Door’s Robbie Krieger perhaps helping out on guitar. This is followed by 'The Woman That Roamed', a classic late evening piano ballad that adds lazy trumpet to further suggest a melancholic Sunday sunset. This is the type of song Rufus Wainwright has been trying to write for most of his career.

'Oh What A Day’ is a Beatles-esque wonder with flute and mandolin creating a tapestry filled gem with a very English sense of whimsy and warm nostalgia, an absolute triumph. 'Give It A Little More Time' is a side step again, a blues stomp with brass and saxophone and wild guitar riffs the like of which probably haven't been heard since Denmark Street in the mid 60’s. 'You Can Make It' pulls the tempo back to a more reflective space, the track a rustic shimmering beauty that summons up the light of summer evenings and the sounds of a nearby river. Finally, 'Your Work Is Through' begins with an ominous keyboard motif, harpsichord entering along with some vintage sounding synths. Quite unlike anything else on the album it still ably settles among its fellow tracks as variety is always key and present in any Dodson album. The analogue keyboards fade as guitar enters, the pace quickens and Wade's echoed and flanged vocals take the song to yet another part of the Dodson universe; a more prog based corner that there will hopefully be more future exploration of. It is a fitting end to a diverse yet coherent, ambitious yet easily memorable, melancholic yet uplifting set of songs.

This album is yet another incredible Dodson release in a back catalogue already filled with countless treasures and jewels. With this level of mastery of their craft, Dodson should be a household name. Help make it so.

Available now on CD and as a download from Wade's own Wisdom Twins imprint below.

21 May 2015

Truls Mörck "Truls Mörck"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Sometimes it's the albums that take the longest to grow on you that keep on giving. So, I suspect, is the case with this debut album from Sweden's Truls Mörck. Not to be confused with cellist Truls Mörk (which google's search parameters constantly were), Mörck was lead guitarist for popular seventies style hard rockers Graveyard on their debut, before leaving, forming another band (who's name escapes me) and eventually rejoining Graveyard on bass. Somehow these comings and goings have left space for Mörck to whip up this eyebrow raising debut, which is about as far removed from Graveyard's output as you can imagine. There's not a trace of Pentagram or Sabbath to be found here; instead what we have is something which quite miraculously sounds like Midlake's "Trials of Van Occupanther", had it been raised on a diet of mid seventies Floyd, rather than Fleetwood Mac. And much like that opus, this is an ashamed, and perfectly observed homage to seventies conventions, which transcends its (presumably unintentional) self-imposed limitations.

I mentioned this was a grower, and for that reason it's likely to pass many listeners by. It certainly sounds unassuming on its first few passes, but the subtleties of Mörck's songcraft provide exponentially increasing returns for patient listeners.

Regular readers will find much to draw them in here; the carefully layered guitar solo on propulsive first single "Blizzard", or the "Riders on the Storm" keys of "Hanging" For starters, and those who allow themselves to be patiently drawn in will find themselves in the company of some of the finest songs of the year, bypassing big, obvious choruses, for intelligent builds with a pervasive charm.

One of the best of the year for me so far.

"Truls Mörck" is available digitally here (UK/EU), or here (US), with vinyl available here.

20 May 2015

The Active Listener Sampler 32

This month's sampler is a bit of a change of pace after last month's psych-folk dominated entry in the series. This month we seem to have a lot of jangly psychedelia which I'm sure you're all gonna love. This is one of my favorite samplers for a wee while now.


1. The Hanging Stars - Golden Vanity 02:49 2. Mystery Flavors - Land Of The King 03:31 3. Wesley Fuller - Melvista 03:54 4. The Noble Krell - Never Ever 03:06 5. Surfing Arcanis - Tenbrosa Silhouetta 02:24 6. Tangerine Love Puppies - Sleep Walker 02:58 7. Dynammo - Hologramas 03:43 8. Pretty Lightning - The Rainbow Machine 04:03 9. Crown Larks - Gambian Blue Wave 05:53 10. MYRESKÆR - Forgiftet Blod 04:15 11. The Hare & The Moon - Reynardine 08:34 12. Polypores - Strange Phenomena 04:22 13. Mr Pine - Deus Fax Machina 03:25 14. High Mountain Bluebirds - You Can See The Light 05:24

Please visit the bandcamp page here to download (free/name your own price), and check out the links on the same page to find out more about the featured artists - like them on Facebook and download their albums/E.Ps/singles.

Jackie Donner has once again supplied the sleeve art - check out her fantastic music blog here: http://archivalshift.com/. If you enjoy the stuff we cover, you're gonna LOVE her site.

19 May 2015

Larry's Rebels "I Feel Good - The Essential Purple Flashes of Larry's Rebels 1965-1969"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Larry's Rebels were one of New Zealand's most popular bands of the sixties, but this new collection on RPM International is the first chance for most listeners outside the Antipodes to get in on the action.

Common practice in New Zealand at the time was to split your repertoire between covers and originals, relying more on the former than the latter for singles. It was no different for Larry's Rebels who made an early impression with a gritty version of the Who's "It's Not True", before having big hits with the groovy guitar crunch of "I Feel Good" (likely cribbed from the Artwoods), and the Creation's "Painter Man" (which most New Zealanders of the time wouldn't have realised wasn't a Rebels original.

That string of hits will likely give you a pretty good idea of the Larry's Rebels sound - mod pop/rock dripping with delicious sixties flavour, heaps of organ, and some searing guitar work from John Williams. There's little in the way of filler outside of those hits either, with "Let's Think of Something", written for them by Roger Skinner from the Pleazers, trumping all of the previously mentioned singles in this listener's opinion. And then there's "Flying Scotsman"; while Larry's Rebels were on tour as the local act in a New Zealand package tour featuring the Yardbirds, The Walker Brothers and Roy Orbison, Rebels guitarist John Williams would jam at the back of the tour bus with Jimmy Page. One riff that they kept returning eventually found fame as "Train Kept A Rollin", but John used it as the framework for the equally laudable "Flying Scotsman". Yardbirds fans owe it to themselves to check this out.

Decamping to Australia saw the band delving into a more psychedelic sound, as if the tracks titles themselves "Coloured Flowers" didn't give that away. Largely self composed, these sides saw the Rebels really come into their own, without the need for the earlier hodge podge of soul and r&b covers.

"I Feel Good" does a fine job of compiling hard to find early single sides, and selecting the best material from their occasionally patchy output, including a fine selection of tracks from "Madrigal", credited solely to the Rebels, and recorded after Larry decided to go solo. It's an excellent, entertaining chronological journey, with a higher than expected allocation of stand out tracks, and one which does an excellent job of paralleling, and portraying the evolution of many Australasian bands of the sixties. Highly recommended.

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

Crown Larks "Blood Dancer"

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

Chicago’s noisemakers, Crown Larks – imbued with their head quarter’s diverse musical history – manage to wrangle punk, avant-garde jazz and improvisation into a searing swath of tumultuous free rock. It’s all very balanced, interweaving languid interlude with chaotic upswings. Following their auspicious 2013 EP, “Catalytic Conversion,” new album “Blood Dancer” – their first full length release which came out earlier this year – expands on the band’s already eclectic repertoire. Noisy, unpredictable and sometimes very strange, “Blood Dancer” won’t be leaving my rotation for a long time.

When an album’s instrumentation includes – besides the typical piano, drums, guitar, bass – synth, pedals, flugelhorn, flute, trumpet clarinet, and saxophone (and many more, as well as “sleep machine” and “party favor”), you can’t really be sure what you’re getting into with it. But, for Crown Larks, the tone is set immediately with “Gambian Blue Wave,” a tightly played polyrhythmic take that switches from snappy groove to lugubrious, feedback drenched exploration – where those slow moving horns feel at home – very easily. This is a band that knows its sound incredibly well; nothing is overdone, nothing is flashy. Each song, though, is arranged perfectly, and each instrument given its place in the complex mesh of sound. Following track, “The Timebound Bloos,” showcases another side of Crown Larks: saxophone freak out over noisy punk chords.

Crown Larks’ closing track, “Overgrown,” falls into that wonderful trend: a slow burning, somewhat mellow end. It’s a highlight that revisits many of the album’s best moments, swinging from highs and lows over its full eight minutes. To end a great album, “Overgrown” is the final word and certainly a promise.

There’s a lot to love about these seven songs, especially if, like me, you still play Come’s “11:11” or Sonic Youth’s “Sister” fairly regularly. Jack Bouboushian’s vocal quality is commanding while recalling the unpolished and unaffected delivery of noise(y) rock’s legends and DIY aficionados. Beyond that, as a whole, the album shares arrangement and stylistic qualities with the hey-day of art rock’s best records. Perhaps it’s simply the band’s dedication to the scene, their recording processes, or their politics (see their recent interview in Impose, link below) that recall, too, for me those fine days.

Both Crown Larks records are available to stream or buy on their Bandcamp page for a “name your price” cost as well as on cassette and CD. “Blood Dancer” is available on vinyl too. There are a few dates left to their extensive tour. Check them out live if you can.

My highest recommendation on this one.

18 May 2015

A Year In The Country "In Every Mind"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

The splendid and consistently fascinating hauntological blog and music imprint A Year In The Country releases their first self-recorded album, following a series of excellent and unique recordings by the likes of Michael Tanner (United Bible Studies), She Rocola and Howlround (all reviewed here at The Active Listener). Described aptly as an 'audiological research and pathways case study' and taking inspiration from the sense that modern day folklore is not so much told around the fire in the heart of the woods but via the television set in the corner of the room, this first outing (there is a series planned) takes its cue from the TV adaptation of Alan Garner's 'The Owl Service'. This show is revered as a folk horror and hauntology blueprint, featuring as it does aspects of the supernatural, of folklore and 1970’s adolescence set in the rustic Welsh countryside. According to A Year In The Country the plan is for these volumes to wander through their own particular journey, pushing aside the brambles and travelling the pathways that they will; to consider the stories of the patterns beneath the plough and the pylons across the land'. Given the level of creativity, of detail and the power and of mood that this first volume achieves, this listener is very much looking forward to wandering those pathways with future endeavours.

The album opens with 'Eternal Strigiformes', a lone stringed instrument (not unlike a dulcimer) picks out an ominous and eerie refrain as looped dialogue is uttered beneath. The notes bend and shapeshift, twisting before slowing to a processionary pace to be joined by the sound of a distant drumbeat. It is at once tense and strange yet also curiously beautiful and emotive. A soundtrack for the walk through the woods at dusk, the ritualistic chiming notes evokes a quiet rural dread. In contrast, the following track 'Escapees' frantic vintage keyboard notes add an urgency and panic, merging with a clipped and repeated female voice stating 'it's time to get up'. Next, 'It Doth Blow's insistent percussion and howling wind hints at something untoward and hidden approaching, flanged analogue keyboards squirming and wriggling below the surface. These come to the fore in synthesised drips and electronic swarms, creating an air of deep unease and tangible drama. If you enjoy the work of Hand Of Stabs, of Coil and of Nurse With Wound's more spectral and unsettling moments (such as Who Can I Turn To Stereo) then this is a must. 'Scrabble and Abrade' drifts on lone piano notes and a distorted choir, as if we have entered a disorientating time slip. It reminds this listener of the atmosphere conjured by the Welsh weird tales author Arthur Machen whose works also revealed a mystical, supernatural hidden world set alongside ours. Otherworldly and off kilter, the track sounds half remembered, the ghost of a faded memory.

Next, 'In Every Mind' is a series of beautiful and heartrending string pieces that echo over the sound of birdsong and the countryside, a collective unconscious carrying tradition and folk belief through the ages. Dialogue from 'The Owl Service' opens 'Tick Tock' as backwards tapes mix together with the sound of clockwork to create a disturbed and yet curiously meditative symphony. Next, 'Light Catching' is both dramatic and intense, pounding percussion and layers of keyboards providing an almost anthemic air; think of the music to 80's children's TV shows such as ‘Chocky’ or ‘The Tripods’ or perhaps the 70s's series 'The Changes'. 'The Journey' begins with sampled walking across gravel, a spooked drone underpinning this ongoing perambulation, the keyboard hum increasing in volume and threat before fading to return once again. 'Perceive' increases the haunted electronica to genuinely (and pleasingly) unsettling levels, synth feedback creating an electric storm over the descending piano notes. Aficionados of The Ghost Box label and the work of The Caretaker will find much to love here, yet this music is very much pursuing its own muse and following its own dark heart. 'The Need to Live's analogue stomp, interwoven with sampled dialogue, is truly thrilling; a synthetic scream into the countryside at night. The pace settles back to a more spectral and wraith like atmosphere with 'Music Box', a repeating melody playing over backwards sounds and strings that you would not wish to hear drifting through the trees when on your own at night. The finale, 'An Idyll', is a gorgeous piece of instrumental and experimental electronica, reminding this listener a little of the works of composer Richard Skelton. The birdsong returns under the melancholic warmth of the refrain, suggesting a conclusion or resolution.

This album is a mood piece made up of several other effective mood pieces and it is utterly successful in evoking a beautiful unease. As a concept it is hugely interesting and evocative; as a piece of music it is immersive and entrancing. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Volume Two is eagerly awaited but until then, night is falling and there is something moving in the trees...

Available now in the handmade and high quality packaging that has become the trademark of A Year In The Country releases. The Night Edition boxset contains the album on all black CDr, a 10 page string bound booklet, a 25mm badge pack and 2 stickers whilst the Dawn Edition features a hand-finished white/black CDr album in a textured, recycled, fold out sleeve with an insert and badge. Click on the buy link below to investigate these options further.

17 May 2015

Polypores "The Investigation"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

"Polypores makes lo-fi sci-fi soundtracks to films that never existed. Advertising music for strange and curious products. Songs from distant radios." That's right kids, Polypore is another of those Hauntology types that we write about here with increasing frequency. There's a lot of it about, but even if you're nearly reaching critical mass with this sort of stuff, I'd advise you to listen to this with a fresh set of ears, because this is one hell of an album.

Practitioners of this sort of Radiophonic stuff never seem to have any problem getting the mood or the vintage synth tones right, but an alarmingly large number seem to believe that alone should be enough to satisfy us. Not Polypores, AKA Stephen James Buckley though. While Buckley certainly has a mastery over this particular sound (despite using what he himself refers to as "some of the cheapest synthesizers known to man..."), he's also careful to ensure that each of these very carefully composed tracks is built upon memorable melodies, often layered upon each other to create wondrous new counter-melodies that stick in your head, instead of merely building a mood that dissipates as soon as it's finished playing.

It's a well sequenced album too, with lighter material early on, to draw in the listener and form a rapport, before getting more thematic, dark, and downright sinister in the second half. Of the former, "Orientation Film" is delightfully chipper, and reminiscent of the Advisory Circle's early output, while "Rare Fruitbodies" is infectiously odd - IDM for androids to Morris dance to. And while the suite of material that makes up the second side is much more dense, and less immediate, repeated plays reveal this to be the more interesting side of Buckley's character. Syncopated with dusty beats ala Boards of Canada, and a peppering of "Arthur C.Clarke's Mysterious World" samples, Buckley ensures that the brooding quality found here never suffocates the material, leaving room for the listener to nestle into his strangely compelling world.

"The Investigation" is available for a mere £2 from the Polypores Bandcamp page below, and keep an eye on his Facebook page here, for the impending release of a follow-up E.P (later this week I'm told). 

Nine Questions with The Citradels

Nine Questions is a regular feature on the Active Listener, where we ask our favourite artists nine simple questions and get all sorts of answers....

Today.... The Citradels.

What was the first record you bought?
The first record I bought as in vinyl would have to be Rubber soul by The Beatles. I hadn't really listened to any of this album before I bought it. I was just starting to get into music and I knew who they were and just bought the cheapest vinyl. Ended up being my favorite album (still is) and I played it every single day I got home from school for about a month. First cd was Best of The Yardbirds with Eric Clapton.

What was the last record you bought?
The last records I bought were Doug Tuttle's debut album and Kaleidoscope's (uk) 2nd album Faintly Blowing. I bought those online so i'm yet to get them but I love Doug Tuttle's album and I'm yet to hear Kaleidoscopes album. Although I can find it online I like to leave some records so that when I get the vinyl and so when I put it on for the first time I can take it in as a whole. Also a dear friend of mine bought me The Jesus and Mary Chain box set for recording him.

What's one thing about you that very few people know?
I don't really rate Pink Floyd. I mean Syd's era is cool but never understood much more then Piper. (However most members who have been/are in the band dig them)

If you could record with any one artist who would it be and why?
I think if us, as a band, could record with anyone we would choose John Cale. The Velvet Underground is consonantly influencing our work and I love his whole history, like where he came from and all the albums after the velvet's he has worked on and made. I mean he has been involved in so many great records that he would defiantly make it a special experience. Hopefully one day. Also Spectrum would be great.

Who should we be listening to right now?
Zig Zag are a new band, which are really interesting. They only have one ep but its fucking killer. The Grease Arrestor's new album is still something I listen to. I've had that for a while but still love it and listen to it all the time. Also a lot of Jesus and Mary Chain.

Vinyl, CD or digital?
As a band we believe if we don’t pay to make it your should have to pay to listen to it. I mean we do it because its what we love, so digital is perfect for that. But vinyl just sounds so much better and we we released out last album on vinyl it felt real to me. I mean we work hard on all our release the vinyl just belittles cds.

Tell us about your latest release.
Nepenthe was our 4th album, which we self released on vinyl came out late last year. We recorded it at Curt's parents house out in the country. We pretty much worked 16 Hours a day for 5 days straight to get it done. It was a struggle but we made it work.

What's next for you, musically?
Our next album "A Night of Contemporay Feedback Music" will be out by the time you read this. We have been working on "A Night of Contemporay Feedback Music" in the background for the last year but it is finally feeling done. It's quiet, conceptual and is extremely different from any other of our albums. If we have any loyal fans i'm pretty sure they may not be fans after this, its not bad, just different. I still love it and I've been listening to the songs for about a year. We have also been rehearsing heaps so that in late march we can record or 6th album. We are going to record it over the space of a week in a old butter factory in country victoria. So I'm really looking forward to getting back into doing a band sort of album, because ANCFM is something that has been slowly put together for about a year in the background while we did other things. The 6th album is something special, I think I say that every time but the songs have been fully shaped as a band and we have been rehearsing them so much more then we have done for any other album. Also the space looks dark and dull it's just a few huge rooms, so large natural reverb, sleeping on the dirty floor and chickpea's from a can for dinner. It's going to be a real experience, Captain Beefheart style.

What's for dinner?
Chilli con carne.

God Bless.


16 May 2015

Lasers from Atlantis "S/T"

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

London’s psych rockers Lasers from Atlantis have released their long awaited album this past April, following up, at long last, their 2010 split cassette with Dreamcolour from Bumtapes. So, for fans of their epic B side track, “Psych Bazaar,” the wait is over. With a side of bass heavy synth leads, alien drones, and spacey vocals and a side of more or less straight doom rock, “Lasers from Atlantis” was worth the patience.

Side A is a well executed foray into cosmic Krautrock-inspired landscapes, full of searing synths and alien vocals. There’s an underpinning of prog, which informs the more elaborate flourishes of opening track, “Oscillation Bomb.” “Illuminated Trail” is a highlight: a slow build of ambient guitar and synth interplay that disperses cleanly and tightly over its full eight minutes. If you know the earlier split cassette, these tracks are much more in line with that release.

Then there’s the B side: a whole other animal. “Hopi Lore” leads with a minor arpeggio and warbles around it for nearly three minutes before unleashing what really sounds like a whole other act for a while. It’s instrumental doom at its finest, yet there’s still something lingering from the A side – and not just the synth work. “Protectress” simplifies it a bit – but certainly is a highlight of the second side. Final track, “Slaves,” brings it all together, and we hear those same strange vocals from side A give doom a try. It all works very well – consistent while capably exploring two genres.

Press material names Hawkwind, Neu! and Zombi – among others – for touchstones; and it’s all there, for sure, along with a bit of Sleep and Acid Mothers Temple. So, for listeners – like this one – who can easily switch from Electric Wizard to Cream or Pallbearer to Cluster, Lasers from Atlantis’ cassette is a treat. For those that can appreciate the relationship between the two genres, the cassette offers some interesting crossovers, as one can’t help hearing one in the other.

Released this past April from record label and zine maker Extreme Ultimate, Laser from Atlantis’ S/T release is available on very limited – only 75 in total – black or white cassettes or digitally from the label’s Bandcamp page (below). You can also bundle Issue 2 of their zine with your purchase. Stream / purchase here:

15 May 2015

The Karovas Milkshake "In The Shade of the Purple Sun"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Russian psychedelic revivalists tell the following fable on their website (blame any inconsistencies on Google translate):

"In distant times, Ancient Masters knew the secret recipe of a fizzy cocktail called Le Karovas Milkshake. It was a concoction that made people happier. Alas, that recipe is now long lost. Passing through the mirror of time, a handful of adrenaline mods emerged one day. Come what may, they were determined to resurrect that magic culinary tradition. After they had come together under the ominous name of... The Karovas Milkshake, they went in search of modernity's Holy Grail. Today these performers mix - in equal proportions - brilliant rock songs with drawn-out psychedelia. 'Milky' jams are mixed with marmalade rhythms. A forgotten past comes together with a future present..."

"In The Shade of the Purple Sun" is exactly the sort of fairytale concoction you'd expect to emerge from the same minds as that introduction, with its attractively lurid sleeve hinting further at the delights within, with little in the way of subtlety, but plenty of finesse.

The Karovas Milkshake aren't new to this game - their debut E.P was released in 2010 - and their experience shows with this fine release. It's one for the revivalists who savour vintage production techniques, over new innovations, and approached from this angle, there's plenty to savour here.

An obvious love for vintage U.K psychedelia of the mid to late sixties is used as a starting point, with many other period appropriate appropriations helping to diversify "In The Shade of the Purple Sun" beyond the ambitions of many like-minded artists.

"Purple Sun of Glastonbury" is probably the most overtly psychedelic track here, and almost certainly the best. Led by a Brian Jones worthy sitar riff, and a tribal vocal chant, it exerts a hypnotic charm that could last all day as far as I'm concerned. The backwards guitar section in the middle is an expertly manipulated, "Revolver"esque treat, and the catchy 'ba ba ba' pop outro digs its hooks in irresistibly. So much has happened on the journey from point a to b that it's hard to believe we're still listening to the same song.

The highest recommendation I can give is that picking that particular highlight was not an easy task. There's much more to love here, from the bluesy "Howl" (check out the Robbie Krieger guitars!), to the flawless freakbeat of "When The Night Falls", to the sublimely ridiculous, Syd Barret-on-speed "Apple Pie".

Highly recommended, and available through the Bandcamp link below:

14 May 2015

King Pelican "Matador Surfer"

Reviewed by Hills Snyder

I love the way King Pelican's original music hangs in front of sixties Surf like a sign that points the way, but suggests you stop right here, in the present, where they are. Even these twin signals, pointer and stop sign, call to mind Walk, Don't Run.

They played last Saturday night at The Brick in San Antonio, a huge, empty, minimally appointed space with white couches scattered here and there. Ernest Hernandez III, principal songwriter and one of three accomplished guitar players in the band, mimicked the scatter with a few copies of their latest album, Matador Surfer, by casually leaving them on the floor --- "just pick one up if you want and leave a ten." He and Dennis Fallon switched off on lead and rhythm all night, with Lloyd Walsh on electric bass and Darren Kuper on drums. The Fender guitars and amps; the red sparkle drums with cymbals mounted horizontally as if straight out of a 1964 Ludwig catalog; all this was just more levels of completion to a very well thought-out setup, which each member contributed to, including the one choreographed moment when all the guitar players had to bow-crouch together to get the stuff they wanted to give.

The space was lit such that the four players appeared as silhouettes against a massive white wall, with the rest of the room shrouded in darkness, the cool kind. These shadow selves appeared as ghosts of Surf past, portals to another time and place, access to the back story behind the music. Half way through the set I sauntered over, folded a bill in the shape of a hut roof, left it on the floor and picked up a CD which I promptly stashed without looking at it. Only the next morning did I get it out to play --- and to view as it turns out, the package being a perfect work of art. Robert Tatum's matador hanging ten on the front cover signals that the tide is perfect for surfing, medium, but the production values of the album are high. The figure is even a silhouette -- how could anyone have known how that aspect would play out with Saturday night's performance? Just unconscious and out there!--- as is the intelligently nuanced music inside the package.

The back cover, once again with a spot on set of references, points to a few Venture's albums in particular --- Let's Go, Knock Me Out, Wild Things and Hawaii Five-O, while Kim Hubbeling's band logo design seals the deal in Tatum's art direction. Even Walsh's photo of the band on the inside cover says Don, Mel, Nokie, and Bob, but without the pre-psychedelic what's-shakin'-daddio factor, and the guitar strap in Hernandez' hand could just as well be a camera strap. But, make no mistake, this band is building on all Surf precedents, not just The Ventures --- think Fender, not Mosrite, a wider and wiser point of view. And if I have not already made it clear, they have a contribution that is theirs alone.

It was the song El Gallo that spurred me to get the album. It looks out to the southwestern spaces of Apache, but contributes its own significant variations on the chord structure and then stands confidently beside it. You can stand with it on a cliff and hear it, but you might also hear somewhere down below a few strains that take you to Lonely Bull, unless there is a high wind. Other song titles and musical twists are chosen with the same wit and contextual awareness --- Cricket raves with Buddy Holly; Western Satellite doesn't really sound like Telstar, but offers that same feeling of open-eyed optimism that abounded in the very early sixties, even though the sound is hipper, more like '66, but even more modern given the accumulated lickdom of guitar these guys have absorbed; In With The Out Crowd begins with laughter, perhaps that of the swingin' chick on the back cover and is perfect music for shuffle skipping your way to the bar for a fresh drink, even with a little Berryism thrown into the middle. Fresh asides abound --- listen for The Marketts riffs in Morocco, then hang on and be grateful for the lead break that is all garage.

I could go on --- this is detailed, thoughtfully constructed music. The CD and the performance dovetail into each other so well that it could not have happened in two places at once --- but it did!

I'll shut up now, just get the album.

Available digitally here (US), or here (UK), or on CD at their live shows.


13 May 2015

Free Download Roundup - Mystery Flavors / Californian Folk-Rock / Surfing Arcanis / High Mountain Bluebirds

It's been a while since I ran one of these Free Download Roundups, so I've got an excess of exciting freebies to tell you about.

First up this month is one for the Byrd-watchers. San Francisco band Mystery Flavors have a demo single "Land of the King" / "Found It" up on their Bandcamp site as a free download. Far from demo quality, it's a very nicely recorded piece of jangly folk-rock along the lines of the Byrds in their slightlydelic phase. "Land of the King" is particularly impressive; a big catchy chorus, so many electric twelve strings and some nice "Blonde on Blonde" drum-fills to propel it along. Heaps of potential here.

And while we're on the subject of jangly folk-rock, I'd like to point you towards "Blue Byrds Over The Canyon: Southern California’s Folk-Rock UnScene (1965-71)", a carefully curated collection of folk-rock gems put together by Michelle at Lady Plays The Fuzz. There are some familiar faces (The Dovers, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band), but plenty of rarities amongst its 25 tracks too, including Peter Fonda's version of "Catch The Wind". This is an ideal primer for those wanting to dig into the genre a little further without paying big bucks for collectable singles and albums - although I'd encourage you to seek out and purchase reissues of anything you hear here that you particularly like of course. Full tracklisting and download link can be found here.

Next up is Chilean surf band Surfing Arcanis, who have a new two track single which has been on endless repeat here. The A-side is an original, which sounds like something from Tarantino's jukebox, with exquisite attention to vintage surf detail, and a spooky bewitching melody. The flip on the other hand is an extremely unlikely, but thoroughly successful reinterpretation of the 1977 French hit "Magic Fly" by Space. If you didn't know the original, you'd swear it had always been a surf song. And while you're at it, check out Surfing Arcanis' amazing surf version of the Doctor Who theme (also a free download!), for more of their excellence, and don't stop there.
"Tenbrosa Silhouetta" / "Magic Fly" is a name your own price / free download here:

Last one for this slot is Italian band High Mountain Bluebirds, who have their second release out, the four track E.P "Floral Tapestry". I've been listening to this one for well over a month, and it's taken its time to grow on me, but has its hooks well in now. It's reverb-laden psychedelia / shoegaze / indie jangle with nu-surf aspirations ala Allah Las. Arrangements are dynamic, building to a dramatic crescendo on opener "You Can See The Light", with a deftness which suggests that no matter how good they are in the studio (and make no mistake, this is very good indeed), their real forte is on stage.
Free download or CD purchase here:

I've got my eye on a bunch of other freebies for you folks, so keep an eye out for another one of these very soon.