31 Oct 2015

Radar Men From The Moon - Subversive 1

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Prolific Dutch space-rockers Radar Men From The Moon (they prefer RMFTM these days) maintain a busy album a year schedule - a difficult task for an instrumental band to set themselves without being in danger of flooding the market with a bunch of samey material. Fortunately RMFTM seem to be in a constant state of flux, and rather than repeating themselves, their albums act as a chronicle of their evolution from b-movie sampling riff monsters to the much more cerebral and textural outfit that you'll meet on their latest release "Subversive 1".

The idea behind the title is a simple one. There's no shortage of artists out there with a desire to grab attention by subverting the norm, but very few are willing to turn that ideal upon themselves. RMFTM are one of those few, continually turning what they think they know on its head in their desire to evolve. And the "1" in the title? This is the first in a trio of "Subversive" albums - this one featuring the core band line up alone, but with the intention of bringing in outside musicians for future volumes, to introduce new perspectives.

Over four lengthy tracks the band continue to expand upon their expansive, gritty space rock sound, setting up hypnotic rhythms with mathematical precision while layers of carefully controlled chaos erupt from the guitars. There's none of the spacey kosmische keyboards you'll find on many genre releases, RMFTM instead preferring to remain much more grounded, with the guitars and keys often taking on a textural, semi-industrial character.

It's an easy album to be drawn into, with its relentless hypnotic sway seeming to attach itself to the rhythms of the listener's own body, with new layers of melodic content introduced at just the right moments to ensure maximum impact. And there's a sense of resolution to each of these pieces which makes them strangely satisfying, best exemplified by "Neon", which shapeshifts from menacing metallic clang, to a joyous outpouring of wondrous energy.

Instrumental psychedelia which engages the mind, while working on a deeper, primal level as well. Excellent.

Limited vinyl pressing available here (the label has run out - so be quick!), or there's a name your price download direct from the band here:

30 Oct 2015

Videogram - Pre-Cert

Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan

I gotta tell you dear listener that I am an old man. I have lived, and I remember the early 80's well, living through it as a teenager. It truly was a different world back then and in little ol' England and I have to say for most of the decade it was grim. One of the few pleasures to be derived from the early 80's was the weekend pilgrimage to the video store. And the browsing of shelves to find the latest uncensored splatter fest to watch at home with your mates, when someone's parents were out. Or even more risqué material if you were brave or had a proper older brother to hassle. Maybe augment the viewing experience by smoking a few ciggies and raiding a parental drinks cabinet or two for good measure. That was my scene, friends.

Now I am guessing that Videogram (aka Magnus Sellergren) is also a time traveller from that distant dimension. My reason for this belief is their latest outing on all things VHS, the remarkable Cineploit record label. It is called 'Pre Cert' which itself is a direct reference to the 'video nasty' storm of the earlier 1980's and over its (unlucky) 13 tracks it resolutely sticks to its mission to transport the listener back to approximately 1982 by taking inspiration from the video soundtracks to those movies upon which so many schoolyard discussions were based. The selection of musical excursions are often dark, usually doom-laden, and stuffed to the gills with trademark 80's synth and drum/guitar work that somehow straddles a selection of genres that may broadly be termed rock. This really is a love letter to a bygone age. A love letter that is written in blood by someone in an asylum who has just murdered a dozen high school kids in a series of gratuitous, ingenious and perverted tableaux. Its Jan (Bloody) Hammer set loose in the chop shop with Jason for company. Way to go!!!

And so to the selections themselves, particular highlights for me include the drum 'n' synth stomper "Killer on Interstate 40" with its sickly synth washes and nods to the work of such luminaries as the legendary H.Tical (aka Blue Phantom) whose sole 1973 outing 'Distortions' remains the benchmark by which all other auteurs in this musical territory should be measured. "Camp Blood" which I presume is a tribute to the Friday the 13th film series, pulses along with nasty squalls of keyboard and occasional curdling screams. Nice. "Dawn of the Apocalypse" has me simultaneously digging a nuclear shelter in the garden and sharpening broom handles to stab zombies in the head with whilst being beholden to its slow whistles and chimes, all driven by that relentless 80's snare beat. I also just got a flashback to Crockett and Tubbs kicking back in the Florida Keys with a marguerite and a blonde lingerie model on Miami Vice. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

No matter my hallucinations, we are compelled by the quality of the music to proceed. A brief interlude into the world of 70's/80's 'sexy films' is visited upon us in the form of the soft focus sweeps of "Le Erotici Notti de Emanuelle" (RIP Sylvie Kristal) which actually is far sexier than most of the Emanuelle films ever were (so I have heard - we never rented them. Not ever.). I particularly love the way the downright filthy saxophone break strides into the room after a minute or so and the mental camera pans to the flickering fire and a quick glimpse of something naughty. Excellent.

The final track proper on this truly beautifully executed homage is the magnum opus called "Man is the Warmest Place to Hide", a near 13 minute psychic voyage through the mind of Videogram which allows him to stretch out and play the long game. It is apparently a tribute to everyone's favourite 80's special effects body horror movie, "John Carpenters: The Thing". Yeah that's right, the one with Kurt Russell looking like late era Jim Morrison, the one with the guy getting his arms bitten off, the one with the other guy's head turning into a giant spider. Yeah that's right, the one with the dog that has something dreadful happen to it which then kills all the other dogs. Yeah that's right, the one where everyone but Kurt and one of his pals is pulverised into human hamburger by some fiendish alien presence. The one where Kurt utters the immortal line, "I don't know what it is; but its weird and pissed off." YEAH THAT ONE.

And I have to say it is a great piece of music, morphing as it does over its five sections in varying dark moods, one part is a bit like a mash up of 'Another Green World' and the 'Knight Rider' theme tune. You know that's got to be good right? And it is. As well as a bit disturbing. The fade into air raid sirens and an approximation of leg-irons clashing together is a throwing the 'kitsch-en' sink moment par excellence. The 'Pre Cert' aural journey then ends as it began with the credits in the form of a 'Videogram Indent'. You can relax, it's only a movie, in fact it's only a soundtrack to a movie. A movie that is only in your sick and twisted mind.

So there you have it. A late night journey into the dark side with Videogram. He would love you to stay and have you for dinner. If you don't mind being on the menu of course. All fans of the genre should investigate, it's a huge amount of fun. Just don't let your mother hear it.

Available on vinyl/CD/download from the label and local stockists. First 250 of the vinyl with a CD. Check out the video for "Voorhees Stomp" here:

Ten Songs by Tucker Zimmerman - Extended Edition

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

When David Bowie put together a list of his top twenty five albums for Vanity Fair in the early 2000s, there were a few obscurities amongst the more familiar items, one of which, "Ten Songs by Tucker Zimmerman", has just seen rerelease by RPM International. Elaborating on his relationship with the album, Bowie said "I always found this album of stern, angry compositions enthralling", and that "Ten Songs" had a "particularly telling effect on how I would collect and listen to music in the years to come".

Zimmerman was an American based in the UK at the time of "Ten Songs..." recording in 1969, and it's no surprise that Bowie was aware of Zimmerman, with Tony Visconti producing "Ten Songs" as well as playing bass, along with an impressive band that also included Aynsley Dunbar, Shawn Phillips, and Rick Wakeman. For those hoping that the Bowie connection might produce a similar work, there may be an initial pang of disappointment, but for those interested in the crossover point between expansive folk-rock and the burgeoning singer-songwriter movement, this is a fascinating and surprisingly diverse listen.

Often compared to Donovan, the songs on here are much grittier, more politically charged, and angry than anything I can ever imagine flowing forth from the Don's pen, and often quite rollicking. Opener "Bird Lives" makes the most of its Bo Diddley beat (and slyly references the Trashmen), while "Running, Running from Moment to Moment" sounds an awful lot like what might have happened had Buddy Holly lived to see the baroque pop era.

Elsewhere, "Children of Fear" channels Zimmerman's dissatisfaction with the state of his country into a terse, brittle rocker, with some impressively fiery bursts of sitar from Shawn Phillips adding emphasis.

It's on the more pensive, folky tracks though that Zimmerman sounds most comfortable. "October Mornings" and "The Roadrunner" are slow burning gems with a moody quality which hint at early Tim Buckley, with sympathetic, and understated arrangements from Visconti which suit the material perfectly.

There's plenty of bonus material on this new extended edition from RPM as well, including a number of foreign language recordings (of different songs) originating within the same timeframe, and best of all, pre-album singles "The Red Wind" and "Moon Dog" which are delivered with even more certainty than the album material. These two lost classics are almost certainly the most convincing items waiting to be discovered here, and elevate this new version of "Ten Songs.." from 'very good' to 'lost classic' status.

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

29 Oct 2015

The Bevis Frond - Example 22

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Psych warlock The Bevis Frond (aka Nick Saloman) began his unique and enthralling lysergicaly tinged musical journey way back in 1986 with his stunning début ‘Miasma’, funded by compensation from a horrific motorbike crash. Countless masterful forays into psychedelic waters have emerged since (of which this is number 22), not least 1987’s truly tripped out ‘Inner Marshland’, 1990’s sprawlingly ambitious ‘New River Head’ (featuring Barry Dransfield on violin) and 1997’s more lo-fi and reflective ‘North Circular’. A quiet legend who seems to have constant ideas, concepts and melodies dripping and spilling out of him, Saloman is also a fiercely brilliant live performer whose incendiary shows are a must see. With new opus ‘Example 22’ The Bevis Frond continue on their singular yet celebratory path into the paisley patterned unknown and add to their legendary status by producing yet another essential and classic Saloman release. Some things clearly just get even better with age and time.

Opening track 'Are We Nearly There Yet?' launches on a howling, pulsating guitar hum before settling into the angular bursts of dark psych rock that The Bevis Frond do so well, Saloman's emotive and plaintive vocals spread over a guitar workout that recalls Black Sabbath at the song's fiercest and bleakest moments. It's an explosive and stall-setting beginning to an ambitious and consistently engaging recording. 'Waiting For Sinatra' accelerates Husker Du-style into a full on psychedelic melodic thrash, the ghost of Hendrix jamming with Bob Mould, whilst 'Longships' slips into a more reflective mode, its beguiling melancholy and gentle wistfulness a genuine delight. Saloman's guitar playing as always is a key propellant in the Frond; fluid yet pleasingly jagged and always in service and thrall to the melody, it is the band's signature sound along with his vulnerable yet reassuring and inclusive vocal style. 'I Blame The Rain's caustic guitar riffage explodes out of the speakers, coming on not unlike Six Organs Of Admittance (who surely have sought inspiration from Saloman's work), a sense of dread and of oncoming stormclouds in its tightly controlled mania.

Other highlights of this extensive work include 'Winter Breaks', a propane charged assault that somehow amalgamates punk fury, 80's hardcore mentality and classic 70's psych to furiously powerful effect. 'Pale Blue Blood' is a stately and processionary march of heavy distortion, weary heartbreak and folk sensibility. 'Come With Us' sprinkles a jangle of shimmering guitar arpeggios that recall early REM or the Replacements in a truly gorgeous piece of perfect psych pop melody that ably demonstrates the Frond's ability to shift gear, style and emotive punch with seeming ease (and all with their distinctive stamp still present). 'Second Son' returns to the massive, Iommi-esque riffs whilst 'Vital Signs' is a piano led lament that raises the hairs on the back of your neck and carefully aches at the heart. 'Down Here's acoustic intro leads into blistering lead guitar which in turn shifts into Saloman's plaintive plea to the song's protagonist, his world weary and melancholic voice crackling with emotion. To close, the apocalyptic blues of the album finale 'Well' leaves a trail of scorched earth and blackened grass in it's wake as monolithic slabs of distorted soloing and massed riffs permeate and repeat throughout, a suitably dramatic ending to an album that both warms and excites with its fury, sense of nostalgic sadness and genuine sense of human frailty and feeling. This album contains no posturing, this is for real.

Example 22 is now available on CD and double vinyl and is highly recommended. Don’t just stop here either, take a trip into The Bevis Frond’s mighty back catalogue, sample from their rich musical tapestry on their extensive Bandcamp page and become a part of their journey. You will not regret it.

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

The Wellgreen - Summer Rain

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Glaswegian band The Wellgreen have been hovering around the fringes of my awareness for quite some, but it wasn't until Spanish label Pretty Olivia Records released this vinyl collection that I actually got around to listening.

"Summer Rain" isn't an album as such, but a collection of the best material from their two self released albums, accompanied by some new and previously unreleased material. This proves to be a sensible decision, given the opportunity for a vinyl release with an already impressive digital back catalogue, and it ensures that you, the listener, have the very best Wellgreen album possible, rather than the band being sticklers who are unwilling to fiddle around with an established back catalogue. And the result is the best introduction one could possibly hope for.

This is classic, vintage pop at its best, steeped in the homespun, piano-centric tradition of Emitt Rhodes and early Todd Rundgren. And OK let's be honest: the early solo works of Paul McCartney and Wings too. For anyone who wished that Macca had coaxed one more "McCartney", "Ram", or "Wild Life" out before embracing the slicker sounds that the seventies studio had to offer, this one goes out to you. Let's be clear though, while "Summer Rain"s influences are worn openly on sleeve, they're far from derivative - let's call it affectionate homage shall we?

There's a casual and easygoing charm to these recordings, which are obviously the work of a bunch of friends doing what they love, and it's very easy to be swept up in that enthusiasm, especially when the songs are as strong as those you'll find here. The title track alone is worth the admission price, offering plenty of surprises and clever, unexpected embellishments, while adhering to the sort of record-collector / classic rock principles which will make lovers of the vintage swoon with delight. And then there's the infectious, tossed off charm of "Grin and Bear It", which, after several listens, had embedded itself so deeply that I felt like I've always known it.

And there's ten more where those came from, all delivered with a knowing wink, and an inescapable good humour. Fans of the artists mentioned, as well as more contemporary outfits like Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab and the Junipers owe it to themselves to check this out immediately.

Vinyl available here, and digital (with full stream) available here:

28 Oct 2015

The Sonic Dawn - Perception

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

The Sonic Dawn (formerly The Mind Flowers) is a Copenhagen-based psychedelic blues collective with occasional folk flourishes. They seem to be channeling that cool West Coast sound from the late 60s on their latest Nasoni Records release "Perception", combining obvious Hendrix and Love influences. At least, I am reminded of those groups as I comb through the ten tracks here. They are just shy of being a jam band, but the songs aren’t really long enough (thankfully) to merit that label. Can anyone tell I am not a big fan of jam bands? No matter, what we have here is a really nice example of this genre, with accomplished musicians playing their hearts out.

Opening track “An Easy Heart to Break” has cool, vintage organ and tasty blues licks, while “Lonely Parade” is a blissed out sonic “mind flower”, unfurling as the song progresses, with some licks reminding one of Thievery Corporation. “All the Ghosts I Know” is your standard blues outing, while “The Mustang” is classic garage rock with handclaps, surf guitar, and even a sitar! The band somehow make all these seemingly disparate elements meld together effortlessly. Definitely a standout tune!

“Wild at Heart” starts off in fine spaghetti western form before it morphs into a bluesy stomp. What is cool is that the band dips back into Ennio Morricone territory a few times. “It’s Tomorrow” is a cool tune with a fast moving riff, and I can’t really put a finger on who it reminds me of. But I do appreciate the sonic heat shimmers thrown in, plus the 12-string guitar! “Howlin’ Moon” sounds like its title, and is a well-executed slice of bluesy rock. “Watching Dust Fall” has a special vibe, cool and mysterious and I just love the light cymbal work in the background. “Fading Soul” closes out the album, and this is the tune where the guitar seems influenced by Jimi! Maybe it’s just the feeling I get when I hear music like this more than an actual influence, but the band could do a lot worse than having Hendrix among their musical heroes. I enjoyed this record, and think fans of the genres mentioned herein will as well.

Out late October on lovely, yellow vinyl as well as digitally. Pre-order or stream here:

Recommended Halloween Listening - The Seventh Cyrkle / Songs For Swinging Ghosts / The Heartwood Institute / Polypores / The Delaware Road / Briars Frome / Ancient Cities

There's plenty of new psychedelic / hauntological / horror sounds out this month. Here's our recommendations of the pick of them for your Halloween listening.

First up is the soundtrack to the 1975 horror anthology TV series, "The Seventh Cyrkle" based on the book of the same name. Seven tales by seven different authors, tales of madness, the occult and the supernatural. Brought to you by the same folks who exhumed "The Goat Man", "The Children of Bow Abbey", and other similarly obscure folk-horror classics, this recently rediscovered collection of soundtrack recordings from the TV series is all creepy analogue synths, Carpenteresque spine-tinglers, ghostly accapella, and eerie "Children of the Stones" chanting. Check it out here.

"Songs For Swinging Ghosts" is an excellent new collection of excruciatingly rare British 45s from the fifties and sixties with a supernatural theme. There's some real gold here, and quite a variety on offer, with everything from Joe Meek style guitar instrumentals to big band to Screaming Lord Sutch. It's the perfect Halloween party album. Or as the original press release offers: "Here's a classy collection of sexy sirens and cool ghouls, a party friendly selection that could have been the soundtrack to Carry On Screaming! Think Elvira and 'Monster Mash' on a holiday at Ealing Studios. Most of these spooky tunes have never been on CD before, and are rare 45s from the collections of writer and musician (Saint Etienne) and renowned DJ Martin Green. Highlights include club hit ‘Fallout Shelter’ (banned by the BBC in case it worried "listeners of a nervous disposition”!), Lyn Cornell's saucy ‘Demon Lover,’ and Tony Hatch's super-rare TV theme for ‘Ghost Squad.’ Haunting stuff!"

The latest Heartwood Institute release is, in Jonathan Sharp's own words: "an imagined soundtrack to the novel "The Wild Hunt Of Hagworthy" by Penelope Lively, originally published in 1971. The aim being, to create a soundtrack as it might have sounded at the time of the original publication...", and it does just that, soaked in the same sinister ambience as the Institute's previous excellent release "Astercote". A more in depth review will follow, but for now follow this link for a free / name your price download, before a fixed price is set in the next few days.

Polypores' previous digital releases have been covered extensively in these pages, so it's exciting to see his latest full length getting a cassette release, as well as digital, thanks to the fledgling Concrete Tapes label. "A Shunned Place" (complete with Ghost Box-style cover layout) is a big step forward for Polypores. While previous releases have offered a distinct hint of what the soundtrack to "Berberian Sound Studio" may have sounded like had it been scored by Boards of Canada (no bad thing either), this new release is a much more ornate and layered affair. It's still a creepy piece of work for sure, but there's much more going on here than can easily be digested in a single sitting. Cassette and digital available here.

"The Delaware Road" is probably best described by this extract from its press-release: "London. 1968. Two pioneering electronic musicians discover an unusual recording that leads to a revelation about their employer. Fascinated by the seemingly occult nature of the tapes they conduct a studio ritual that will alter their lives forever. "The Delaware Road" is a psychological thriller & an audio-visual treat for fans of archived electronica, far out jazz & haunted folk grooves. Loosely based on the lives of influential, electronic musicians Delia Derbyshire & John Baker, it's a tale of obsession with sound, sex & occultism, exploring the highs & lows of the characters brilliant but troubled careers. Hot on the heels of the recent John Baker BBC Radiophonics album The Vendetta Tapes, writer & producer Alan Gubby realises a long-gestating project that offers a dark, disturbing & alternative vision of the evolution of electronic music." CD and digital stream or download available here.

You'll remember Briars Frome from our recent Acid Folk Sampler, where his "Black Shuck" was one of the highlights. He's back with another spooky offering for Halloween - an atmospheric new take on "Witches of Halloween". Those of a certain age may remember this popping up originally on the 70s UK Schools Programme "Words and Pictures", where it left an indelible impression on Briars Frome's Mark Back.  Free / name your price download here.

Onto something a little more rock n roll to finish, with Ancient Cities who like their spooky subject matter. Hot on the heels of their cover of "I'm Your Witchdoctor" for our Nuggets II tribute, comes "Haunted House", a raucous little number that reminds these ears of the sorts of treats that used to come out of the Black Keys' camp before they got too slick. Judge for yourself here.

And while you're at it, don't forget to check out the BBC's new radio adaptation of the classic "The Stone Tape", directed by Peter Strickland - should be great.

Have a great Halloween!

27 Oct 2015

This Week's Quick Links

Watch Kraftwerk's very first concert, from 1970, in this priceless footage.

The Legendary Pink Dots have released a free / name your price Halloween E.P on their Bandcamp page. It's going to be removed soon apparently so grab it while you can!

You may remember how our obsession with White Candles led us to track them down and rerelease their amazing EP on our own label. Mainman Timothy Meskers now has a new project called Garden Gate, featuring the same musicians. There will be an album through Sunstone Records next year, but you can stream three of the tracks here right now.

Sugarbush Records have just released a limited run of vinyl copies of the most recent album by Active Listener favourites The Green Pajamas. There are only 250 copies of Death by Misadventure on translucent green vinyl, and over 50% of them sold on release day, so get in quick. And Sugarbush Records prices now include free shipping to anywhere in the world, so pick up excellent back catalogue releases from the Greek Theatre, the Cosmic Rough Riders and the like while you're there.

Diane Coffee have recorded a couple of Dinosaur Jr and Berlin covers for Aquarium Drunkard's Lagniappe Sessions. Free download here.

There's a new Elephant Stone single out in the next few weeks featuring Alex Maas of The Black Angels on guest vocals. You can stream it here now.

Noisey / Vice are streaming the new remaster of Popol Vuh's soundtrack to Werner Herzog's Nosferatu here.

Jacco Gardner's rhythm section have their own project now, Eerie Wanda. They'll have an album out next year on Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Check out the video for their song Volcano Lagoon here.

And lastly for this week, Adam Leonard's Invaderband has a new single out in December. There's a wee preview of Attack of the Pod People here.

Here We Go Magic - Be Small

Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub (Hop On Pop)

When the latest batch of Active Listener promotional review offerings arrived, this new one from Here We Go Magic grabbed my attention before I even listened to a single song. All it took was this statement at their Bandcamp page: “Inspired by the massively under-appreciated Eno/Cale tune ‘Spinning Away.’”

Which, as I very well know, comes from one of my favorite albums of the early 90s, the equally underappreciated, "Wrong Way Up".

With my expectations appropriately high, I downloaded my copy of the album and clicked Play. A smile crept across my face as the sound effects of “Intro” faded out and into the synth-art-pop of “Stella.”

With subtly layered vocals that float over pulsating electronic rhythms, intertwining staccato synthesizer parts that weave through the background, and a constant undulating electronic hum keeping it all anchored, “Stella” could almost be a Wrong Way Up outtake.

The title track follows, with a slightly more-organic arrangement. The electric piano, early synth sounds, and slow simmering grooves sound like nothing so much as "Abandoned Luncheonette"-era Hall and Oates, with soulful vocals to match. A little Fripp-esque guitar in the middle of the song reminds you of the album’s primary source of inspiration.

My smile grew larger.

“Falling” features some outstanding guitar playing, as well, and a great hook. “Tokyo London US Korea” has mantra-like vocal chanting, as a synth arpeggiates the same chord for the entire song—a neat little trick borrowed from another track on "Wrong Way Up" (“Lay My Love”). And, just as with that other song, a sense of movement is created by slowly and subtly building the arrangement—piling new voices and sounds on top of one another to build the song’s intensity, even as it remains, technically, stagnant.

“Girls In the Early Morning” offers something of a departure. Here, the band appropriates some of the romantic late-period Roxy Music sound, circa "Avalon", with swelling synth strings and a crooning vocal that beckons the listener closer. A beautiful guitar solo outro hints at something even sexier about to happen.

Influences aside, the album’s overall vibe is akin to the sound of a human soul trapped inside a machine. Yes, there is the obvious mechanical/synthetic nature of a lot of it, but it is always warm and somehow inviting.

So, did "Be Small" meet the high expectations that I'd set for it? That would be a near-impossible task. The album is obviously derivative, but derivative by design. To its credit, it plays as an homage to, and exploration of the band’s influences, rather than mere aping. And by that measure, listening was an absolute pleasure.

Those of you who are fans of the new Tame Impala album will find a lot to love here, too. But for you fans of the poppier side of Brian Eno, you all but owe it to yourselves to check this one out.

Physical copies available here (US), and here (UK/EU).

Digital version available here:

26 Oct 2015

Ride - Nowhere 25th Anniversary Edition Interview / Preview

Matt Levin interviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Much loved Oxford shoegaze band Ride has been hitting a lot of high marks lately with extensive touring in the US and Europe. They have definitely improved with age over 25 years, though they’ve always been a great live band, as evidenced by the soon to be released "Nowhere" 25th Anniversary Box Set. A never before seen concert DVD is included in this special edition of "Nowhere", set for release on November 6th. Shot back in 1991 by James Deegan at The Town and Country Club, the footage sat in film cans and remained unseen until it was converted to digital this past summer. The audio was mixed by Mark Gardener at OX4sound Studios and the film footage was edited by Matt Levin in Washington, DC. Matt kindly agreed to a Q&A about the project.

How and when did you first meet Ride?

MATT: I first met Ride in April of 1991. I was going to college in Eugene, Oregon, and I was a huge fan of the band when they first came onto the scene in the UK in 1989. I was friends with this woman there named Gina Harp. Gina was a music journalist and like me, she was a massive fan of Ride and all the big shoegaze bands of the time, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Loop, etc. She went over to England and became the first American journalist to interview Ride. There was no Internet back then, she did this all with reaching out by snail mail and telephone. So Gina made this connection with them and their manager, Dave Newton, who’s the greatest guy, and she hooked me up to film them on their first U.S. Tour. I remember the first time I actually saw them, I walked into the Cattle Club in Sacramento, CA while they were soundchecking, and I think they were doing Seagull from the Nowhere LP and it gave me chills. All in all, I filmed 5 shows back then. Sacramento, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and two shows in LA. We also filmed an interview with Andy and Loz in SF that Gina conducted. In LA, where I grew up, I drove Andy and Loz around town, took them shopping for jeans for their girlfriends at the time, and really had a blast hanging out. Tragically, about 5 years ago, Gina passed away from ovarian cancer. She was an amazing woman, and without her, I never would’ve met Ride, so I dedicate the concert film to her memory. It makes me sad that she’s not around to see Ride’s reunion. I think she would’ve been thrilled that they were back together again. By the way, if you were wondering what happened to my footage, it was all shot on Hi-8 and over the years I moved around, and those tapes weren’t labeled correctly(the stupidity of youth). The good news is, I have all of the tapes, and I have found a tiny bit of the footage. It’s all there in a box of hundreds of tapes, so I just need to find it all! It’s a time consuming task, but obviously that footage is precious, so I will continue to look for it! I know it’s a cliché, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day!

How many Ride shows have you had the privilege of seeing over the years?

MATT: I saw 6 shows in 1991, the ones I filmed, plus a show at the Roxy in LA where they wouldn’t let me film. Then I saw them once in Seattle in 1992 on the Going Blank Again tour with Slowdive, which was amazing. Then cut to this year, I saw them in Brooklyn where I reconnected with them. Then I saw them here in DC (where I live) last month, and also saw the Philadelphia show, so I guess that makes the grand total 10!

How special do you think the show at Town and Country Club is compared to others you've seen?

MATT: Well, I wasn’t there in person, but I think the T&C show was/is very special indeed. Ride are from Oxford, and this was a London show which is always a big deal, kind of like a New York show is in the States. Nowhere had come out only a few months earlier in October of ‘90. So they were on top of the world at this point, in their prime and full of youthful energy. They played their hearts out for this show and the proof is in the pudding as they say. It sounds amazing! Even though I wasn’t there in person, working with the film footage, it feels like I was! And that’s how I want people who see it to feel about it.

The band was impressive live back then, just as they're amazing now. The only differences are the haircuts and the number of guitars they use now. Even the crowd back then reminds me of the crowd I saw back in June. What differences have you observed?

Andy and Matt.
MATT: Haha, yeah the hair is a bit different now, isn’t it? Well that happens to all of us when we get older, right? You’re right, Ride have always been an incredible band live, and I think they still are. It’s amazing that they still have the energy to do what they do live. I noticed as well that they seemed to play many more different guitars back then, but I think with modern technology, they can get the sounds they want from fewer guitars. That’s just a guess. But in general I would say they’re probably technically better musicians now, but you cannot replace the exuberance of youth! I think part of it for me is that I’m about the same age as Ride (mid 40’s), so when I saw them in 91, I was a kid as well, and I could just relate to them. Similarly, now they’re all fathers, and I became a father last year as well! So we have that in common.

When did you first become aware of this concert footage? Did the band tell you about it, or were you a friend of James Deegan?

MATT: So here’s what happened. You now have the backstory of how I originally met them in ‘91. I wasn’t in touch with them for over 20 years. A couple of years ago I became Facebook friends with Loz, and when I saw that they were reforming and playing a show in New York, I inquired about filming with them again. He got back to me and said that he wasn’t sure about filming at the venue, but he said Andy had an idea he wanted to film in Brooklyn, and would I be interested? I had no clue what they wanted to do, but I didn’t care, I hopped in my car and drove to New York, knowing it would be a Ride adventure at the very least. The crazy thing is they had two flights cancelled out of Barcelona, and they almost didn’t make it to the venue at all! I was all set up in New York, and thought it all might be for naught. But they finally made it to the venue and were still up for filming! I learned then that their idea was for Andy to drag an old Vox Phantom guitar by a long guitar cord, sort of like he was walking a dog. It really turned out well. We had two cameras on Andy, as well as a GoPro on the guitar itself for Guitar Cam! My friend Bryan, also a filmmaker, happened to be in town, and he helped with the shoot. I put together an edit, and the band liked it a lot! About a month later, Loz got in touch and told me about the T&C show, and asked me if I would consider editing it. I jumped at the chance! I worked closely from that point on with Dave Newton. I did an initial edit for the track “Dreams Burn Down”, and they liked it a lot, and then we agreed that I would take on the whole project.

Please describe how the film was shot, both the medium used and the equipment James used.

MATT: I’ve never met James Deegan, but from what Dave told me, they hired James to film the show, and he shot it with 5-6 cameras. Two 16mm color, and 3-4 Super 8 black and white. I’m not sure of the specific types or brands of cameras they used. The 16mm had a close-up and wide shot, and the Super 8 was a little bit of everything, cameramen running around trying to capture different shots.

What was required to clean up the footage?

MATT: It was a very challenging edit. I faced many obstacles in putting the footage together. First and foremost, there was no sync sound, or sync track to work with. Just silent film footage that had been transferred to video. Today with timecode and a sync track, it’s a breeze to sync audio, but I basically had to lip read the songs silently, figure out which songs they were, and then manually sync them up. It was very time consuming, but worth it in the end! My assistant editor, Kevin Fetta was a huge help and did a terrific job sifting through and helping me catalogs all of the footage.

The other obstacles I faced were that on many of the songs, at least one of the main cameras would be zooming in and out for the duration of the song! Maybe that was popular in 1991, but it’s super annoying to try to edit with! So I basically used other shots where I could, and then I used some effects, like slow motion, to make those zooms not as jarring. Sometimes the zooms worked as they were, but it's always better to add that in post-production rather than be forced to use it on an edit. Lastly, some of the camera shots simply weren’t present for some songs. Either the reel had ended and they missed part of the song, or they just didn’t have coverage, so it made piecing the whole thing together a bit of a puzzle, but it all came together in the end!

What was the band's first reaction to seeing this footage?

MATT: I think when they finally got the film transferred to video and saw the footage, they loved it! They just needed someone that was an editor and also familiar with their work, and they thought of me!

What are your own impressions of the quality of James Deegan’s work?

MATT: I think that he did some great work on the initial shoot. I think that film is much warmer and richer than video. I think the tactile quality of film really draws you into the show, as opposed to video which is often so clinical and cold looking. I did have some great shots to work with, at the same time, I could’ve done without all the incessant zooming in and out, and the lack of some angles, but I made it work, and ultimately was able to turn it into a cohesive concert film.

Might you collaborate with Ride again in the future?

MATT: I’m very excited to say that in a just a few weeks time, we’re going to be filming Ride in Portland, Oregon. It’s going to be a massive high tech shoot with multiple cameras and gear.

The 25th Anniversary edition of "Nowhere" will be released November 6. You can pre-order it here (UK/EU), or here (US).

Here's a preview track from the DVD: 

Wand – 1000 Days

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Three albums in 13 months is impressive by anyone’s standards, but Wand aren’t satisfied merely with quantity. While they’re in danger of swamping the casual listener with a proliferation of music, those who’ve been paying closer attention will have noted the swift evolution that the band’s output has undergone. They’re releasing new music at this alarming rate not simply to have units to shift, but to document the band’s ever evolving aesthetic, and “1000 Days” is certainly the most immediately appealing of their statements to this point, and after multiple listens also proves to have surprising depths.

“1000 Days” is the most song orientated release in the band’s catalogue for now, with several of the albums highlights – “Morning Rainbow” and the exquisite title track in particular – relying almost solely on acoustic guitar and Cory Hanson’s increasingly engaging vocals. There’s plenty of noise here too, for those who like to be slapped around a bit, with the instantly recognisable “Dungeon Dropper” built upon a riff that sounds like it’s been around for centuries, while “Sleepy Dog” adds wailing, cosmic guitar leads, and huge washes of spacey synthesizer, a trend capitalised on fully on the absolutely wonderful “Passage of the Dream” with its ever-growing layers of instrumentation building into an overwhelmingly grand crescendo, but never obscuring the wistfully melodic song at its heart, not to mention that enormous, anthemic chorus.

And for those who are concerned that all of these ‘songs’ might be hampering the band’s explorative tendencies, look no further than “Dovetail”, an odd tribal experiment that sounds something like a UFO landing during a voodoo ceremony. It’s an appealing detour, but a little out of place on an album as chock full of tunes as this.

The influence of Ty Segal is still present in the jagged guitars and Hanson’s falsetto vocals, but after several albums that firmly established them as Segal’s peers, this is the first to suggest that the sons may soon overshadow the father.

My highest recommendation.

Available here for US readers, or here on CD, vinyl, and cassette for UK / EU readers.

24 Oct 2015

Ozarks - One Thing / Claudine

Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan

The Ozark Mountains are in the central US and run through the borders of Missouri and Arkansas. There is your geography lesson for today, active listener. The Ozarks, the band, are apparently residents of Portland Oregon which is a thousand miles west nestling as it does on the Pacific Coast and they are back with a new digital 45 of baroque psych pop wonderment. Yeah you heard right. Wonderment.

'A' side "One Thing" comes over like an abridged history of West Coast psychedelic chamber-pop. It's slow driven with a fundamentally sinister harpsichord riff that burrows its way into your head and some very nice slide guitar that rolls around inside your brain like a ball-bearing made of LSD. Vocals are pure 'Smile' era Brian Wilson with nods to The Millenium, Sagittarius, The Moon and other 60's californian luminaries who made it their mission to ingest acid, gaze out at the ocean and then repair to the studio to divest themselves of the wonder they had just experienced (and you know that's no bad thing). The whole caboose is the kind of brain cinema that has you punching repeat on your sound machine. It may have induced some hypnophobia in me but I can't be sure. Short and sweet flipside 'Claudine' may be even better with its waltzy, slow-mo piano driven 70's pedigree melody soothing you out in the most delightful way. It certainly provided balm to my ear with its rather pretty aching minor-key instrumental purring. Like a cat. On your lap. While you sit in a wikka chair and gaze out of the window. I dug it and so will you. Investigate.

There's a new full length album not too far away, but for now, the single is available here as a name your own price download:

23 Oct 2015

The Chills - Silver Bullets

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

It’s been nearly two decades since Martin Phillips and his band have released any new music on an international scale, and I am happy to report that the wait was worth it. This is their best album since 1987’s "Brave Words", one of my favorite albums of the past few decades. The album starts off oddly, with the symphonic “Father Time”, which quickly jumps into classic Chills with “Warm Waveform”. I love its almost casual air, with swirling keys and warm guitar lines, paired with Martin’s wonderfully familiar voice. The title track hearkens back to the "Kaleidoscope World" era, with moody organ washes and Martin’s penchant for great lyrical content. “Underwater Wasteland” is the album’s masterpiece, pensive and full of messages about how humans are ruining the planet. As with classics like “Pink Frost”, Martin manages to evoke the same emotional feel as that long ago song, sounding sad and angry all at once. It is easily my favorite track here, with its warm waves of organ, and sentiments I agree with entirely.

“America Says Hello” is another great psych pop song, somewhat political but also filled with the wonders of the world. I really enjoy the ability Martin has to lay down scathing words that are tempered by sumptuous melodies. The band really rocks out on this one as well, revealing themselves to be a tight knit unit. “Liquid Situation” is a short tune, drawing you in just when it ends, leaving the listener wanting for more. “Pyramid Moon” starts off with ominous bass that is softened by chiming keyboards and Martin’s whimsical lyrics. It almost reminds me of a lullabye gone dark! Again, this one is strongly reminiscent of Martin’s very early material, and the band strings it out to an epic eight minutes. I love the subtle way that the drums were recorded here, and also the way the song shifts gears at the five minute mark. “Aurora Corona” follows on in splendid fashion, once again reprising the theme of nature rebelling against mankind. “I Can’t Help You” is pretty and catchy and moves through swiftly, while “Tomboy” swells with lush harmonics. “Molten Gold” is reworked here from their earlier single, and this version is just as swell as the original. Martin’s charmingly accented singing works well throughout this new release, and the entire album is a musical triumph for one of New Zealand’s favorite songsmiths. Look for the band to tour following the album’s release in late October.

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

22 Oct 2015

The Active Listener Sampler 37

With all of the other bits and pieces going on at the moment (the Acid Folk Sampler and the Great British Psychedelic Trip tribute), it's taken a little longer than normal to put together this month's sampler, but for those whose anticipation has been welling, here we go.

Download or stream the new sampler here. Donations are welcome (we have some costs to cover), but free downloads are fine too.

This month's cover art comes courtesy of Eric Adrian Lee, who we haven't seen since Sampler # 24. He's been plenty busy in the meantime with commissions from Death Waltz Recording Company, Blitzen Trapper, and all sorts of other things, so we are extremely lucky to have him. Check out his work here: http://ericadrianleedesign.tumblr.com/

As for the contents of this month's sampler, within you can find the following delights:

1. Haleiwa - Wall Of Blue Sky 05:46 2. Beautify Junkyards - Lake 04:13 3. The Hanging Stars - The House On The Hill 03:04 4. The Magnetic Mind - A Lot Of Getting Used To 03:26 5. Butterscotch Cathedral - Flood Of Mendoza (Edit) 02:44 6. Heaters - Dune Ripper 03:38 7. Halasan Bazar and Tara King TH. - Tk 16 Pt. 1 (Instrumental) 03:23 8. Flavor Crystals - Bridge of Noise 05:03 9. Coke Weed - New Jive 03:22 10. Madame De C*** - It's Been Here Before 03:33 11. Shinkiro - Secondary Effect 04:41 12. Pulselovers - Autumn Arrives 06:24 13. Us and Them - State Of Mind 02:55 14. Keith Seatman - I Wish I Wish I Wish 02:13 15. The Torn Circus - Turning Spring 02:02 16. Pulco - Song 37 02:50 17. The Tailbreakers - Lead You Down 02:19 18. The Sunchymes - Centuria 05:29 19. Midday Veil - I Am the War 06:13

Hear more from these artists here:

Haleiwa: http://haleiwamusic.com/
Beautify Junkyards: https://megadodo.bandcamp.com/album/the-beast-shouted-love
The Hanging Stars: https://www.facebook.com/thehangingstars
The Magnetic Mind: https://heavysoulrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-magnetic-mind-is-thinking-about-it-vinyl-lp
Butterscotch Cathedral: http://www.troubleinmindrecs.com/artists/butterscotch-cathedral/
Heaters: https://beyondbeyondisbeyondrecords.bandcamp.com/album/holy-water-pool
Halasan Bazar & Tara King TH: https://melotronrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/unreleased-from-8-e-p
Flavor Crystals: https://flavorcrystals.bandcamp.com/
Coke Weed: https://beyondbeyondisbeyondrecords.bandcamp.com/album/mary-weaver
Madame De C***: https://madamedec.bandcamp.com/
Shinkiro: https://shinkiro.bandcamp.com/
Pulselovers: https://pulselovers.bandcamp.com/
Us & Them: https://megadodo.bandcamp.com/album/summer-green-and-autumn-brown
Keith Seatman: https://keithseatman.bandcamp.com/
The Torn Circus : https://thetorncircus.bandcamp.com/releases
Pulco: https://pulco.bandcamp.com/
The Tailbreakers: https://ongakubakarecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-tailbreakers
The Sunchymes: https://thesunchymes.bandcamp.com/
Midday Veil: https://beyondbeyondisbeyondrecords.bandcamp.com/album/this-wilderness

The Zombies – Still Got That Hunger

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

It's important to ponder expectations before checking out this new album by the Zombies. After all, this is the band responsible for "Odessey & Oracle", the 1968 classic that made number 100 in the Rolling Stone's best albums of all time, and many would think it deserved a higher placing than that. There are a lot of fans out there clamouring for another "Odyssey & Oracle" but is that a realistic expectation? "Odyssey" was without precedent in the Zombies catalogue, a departure from their earlier R&B and beat material, and completely different to the solo and splinter group material members were responsible for afterwards. So, let's get something straight: this is no "Odessey and Oracle Part 2", nor does it attempt to be, although using a piece of cover art by the same artist responsible for "Odyssey & Oracle" may lead you to expect otherwise. Rather than attempt to rehash a former glory, “Still Got That Hunger” is a more honest representation of what the band are about nowadays.

“Still Got That Hunger” is not by any stretch of the imagination a psychedelic album. Nor is it a baroque pop album. Like its predecessor, 2011’s “Breathe Out, Breathe In“, “Still Got That Hunger” is a classic rock album, with committed performances, and the glossy production sheen that seems to be favoured by rockers of a certain age.

Bluesy rockers with an emphasis on Colin Blunstone’s still impressive pipes and Rod Argent’s keys are the order of the day, with immaculate arrangements that often recall the likes of Steely Dan, especially when the backing chorus enters on “And We Were Young Again”.

The lyrics are a mixture of nostalgic reminiscing (“New York”), and ruminations on aging, a natural extension of a bunch of old friends getting back together, revisiting their pasts, and pondering what a future together will bring. It’s perfect fodder for what the unkind would call dad-rock, but the Zombies sound thoroughly at ease operating within this spectrum, and it seems likely that they had a ball recording this.

So, adjust your expectations and you’ll likely find this to be an easy going, good humoured collection, most likely to be enjoyed by those with a few flecks of grey in their beards.

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

Flavor Crystals - The Shiver of the Flavor Crystals

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

I can’t figure out why Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Flavor Crystals is a relatively new name to me, especially after several great releases and an opening slot for the Brian Jonestown Massacre in 2009. This month’s “The Shiver of the Flavor Crystals” is the band’s fourth album – and a double LP at that. Adding to my disbelief, they’re currently (at least, at the time of my writing this) among the top selling records for three of their Bandcamp tags – krautrock, psych, and space rock; I sincerely wish I could say I’ve been a fan for years. At least now I can say that I am firmly planted in their flock; I suppose it’s never too late.

In recent years, psych acts’ releases have become shorter on tracks, favoring longer songs. However, Flavor Crystals has taken a different tack, a sort of maxmimalism that only the strongest of bands could pull off. 2009’s “Three” was pressed on triple white vinyl and included bonus material, clocking in at just under 100 minutes. While “The Shiver of the Flavor Crystals” is only a mere thirteen tracks, the band’s sentiments remain the same; even the short “Rich Drunk’s Stereo System” provides a necessary slice of atmosphere before the noisy, frantic closer, “Wednesday Bloody Wednesday.”

Album opener, “Eyes Go White” stands among the strongest tracks on the release. Sprawling, dissonant, and lush, the guitar bleeds its riff over a commanding bass line and snare-based rhythm. Vocally, we’re dealt an airy, shoegaze-styled bit that, while buried of course, still adds a strong presence. “Bridge of Noise” takes up a motorik beat and swirling synths while the guitar wends every which way. After the experimental structure of “Medicine in the End,” the pop sensibilities of “Diamond Mine” (a David Kilgour cover) rise in stark contrast. While still possessing moments of experimentation, the heart of the song rests in the steady acoustic chord progression and almost – in the best way – sing-a-long chorus. While maintaining a strong grip on their sound, this time around Flavor Crystals have compiled a varied stretch of dreamy shoegaze and experimentation. One that comes in, for me, among the best this year – and it’s been a very good year.

“The Shiver of the Flavor Crystals” is available digitally or on double colored vinyl on their Bandcamp page.

21 Oct 2015

Quick Links For The Week 22/10/15

Have a listen to the first track to surface from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard's forthcoming album.

Gazing With Tranquility is a new Donovan tribute album, featuring Sharon Van Etten, the Flaming Lips and others, with proceeds going to help families coping with Huntington's Disease.

Earth Recordings are reissuing Judy Dyble and Jackie McAuley's 1969 album as Trader Horne on CD, vinyl and digital, with a live performance or two lined up too. You can stream and buy the reissue here. There's also a vinyl version of part one of Judy's Anthology (focusing on 1964-1982) up for pre-order, with streams of several tracks, including a very rare demo of Fairport Convention tackling Both Sides Now.

Anton Newcombe reveals "plans to record an acid-folk record in every Nordic tongue" in the Guardian.

Beaulieu Porch has been meddling with his back catalogue, which you can find in a severely rejigged form here.

The next in the BBC's excellent Britannia series (Prog Britannia, Jazz Britannia etc.) is the one we've all been waiting for - Psychedelic Britannia.

Have a listen to the Beatles' Here Comes The Sun with its lost guitar solo reinstated here.

Canadian/ Ukrainian shoegazers Ummagma have a new EP up for preorder with a number of new tracks, as well as remixes from the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie, and OMD's Malcolm Holmes.

Stuart Braithwaite ranks Mogwai's albums for Noisey.

Aquarium Drunkard has an excellent collection of live Neil Young material dating from 1973-78 up as a free download.

The Owl Service's entire back catalogue is now available on a pay want you want (so potentially free) basis through their Bandcamp page.

Gear Fab Records are reissuing this mad Robbie the Werewolf record, by the husband of the Peanut Butter Conspiracy's Barbara "Sandi" Robison.

NYC Taper has a Heaters show from September 26 up for free download.

Deep Distance are releasing a new album from amazing Liverpool based Krautrock legend Melodien on November 2nd. His last album is a big favourite here. Keep an eye on the Deep Distance / Great Pop Supplement Facebook page for order details (titles from this label sell out in a matter of weeks usually). The Melodien Bandcamp page has a couple of the tracks available as a free download as a taster. And a tasty taster it is.

Keith Seatman - A Rest Before the Walk

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Hampshire’s Keith Seatman is a name that will be familiar to many from his previous albums such as ‘Around The Folly And Down Hill’ and ‘Consistently Mediocre And Daydreams’, both modern classics of spooked electronica and shadowy synthesised vignettes. If you have not already do take a journey through his back catalogue, there are many evocative and unsettling treasures to be found. Seatman is also known for his superb ‘Test Transmission Archive Reels', extensive mixes featuring vintage recordings, electronic and hauntological tracks and choice musical offerings. His new album ‘A Rest Before the Walk’ continues his unbroken run of highly impressive solo releases and also ups the ante, adding extra layers of eerie and disquieting sound as well as a whole raft of instantly memorable harmonies.

Album opener 'We All Had Our Dreams' begins proceedings in a suitably haunted fashion, the crackle of an old phonograph leading to a backwards vintage recording that fades into the ether before 'Strange Tales And Lost Paper Trails' enters and takes us into another realm entirely. Frantic and tense piano underpins a gorgeous spectral melody with the sound of echoing bells and a bowed saw/ theremin which drifts across the track like mist down a moonlit street. It's a hugely effective opening to the album and immediately lets the listener know that this is something special, something out of the ordinary and something inspired. 'There's Something Outside' mixes BBC Radiophonic Workshop style effects with ominous whispering and an electronic harmony that glides across the speakers in an icy but utterly addictive sweep whilst following track 'Once More with the Whirligig' blends Twin Peaks-esque xylophone and chimes, harpsichord and increasingly off kilter hums and whirrs to create a curious electronic folk dance. A sampled archive recording of an old folk rhyme adds just the right amount of unearthliness and a genuine sense of times past floating ghost like into the present.

'Broken Folk' is a perfect slice of electronica, Douglas E. Powell’s layered and plaintive vocals merging with vintage keyboard washes in a truly heart-breaking and haunting manner as glitched and stuttering drum breaks provide an effective aural framework. 'Made by Sun and Ice' slips into view with synthesised percussion and sinister bass notes, not unlike something John Carpenter might conceive of, particularly if he should happen to bump into John Foxx in the studio. Other reference points are Coil's 'Horse Rotovator' and 'Musick To Play In The Dark' series; indeed fans of Coil and other electronic acts with a penchant for the darker slipstreams such as Broadcast, Belbury Poly (whose Jim Jupp provides additional production on the album), Concretism, The Unseen and Klaus Morlock will find much to adore here. 'Race You To The Top' is a glistening, prog/ electronica gem; washes of glacial synths appear into view, sliding over dramatic drum rolls and building ever more towards a dystopian but beautiful finale. This could easily have been the soundtrack to 'Stalker', ‘Artemis 81’ or a similar film or TV show portraying a bleak and alien landscape, something that is both of this world and also not. For this is not electronic music that speaks of a utopian future or any kind of shiny science fiction notions of the coming world; this instead speaks of the recent past and of the Edgelands; the all too real dark urban corners where town meets the rural countryside and where time seems to rift and split apart, evoking shadows and archetypes.

'Thinking, Doing And Moving's abrasive keyboard motifs are perfectly matched by the symphonic and icy beauty of the central melody to create something that manages to be both lovely and disturbing. 'My Morning Ritual' introduces vocals again to superb effect, the song becomes a doomed electronic torch song with significant emotional power. Next, instrumental 'I Wish I Wish I Wish' sees drums echo over swirling, synthesised choral banks of keyboards; the impact is truly shiver inducing, almost melancholically anthemic and reminds this listener of Foxx-era Ultravox, Architecture And Morality period OMD and some of The Advisory Service's recent work. 'Waiting for Mr Fieldpole' is an unnerving traverse through darkly rendered keyboard basslines and melodies, suggesting something unsaid and awful about the song’s protagonist and what will happen when he arrives. An album standout (and the standard is extremely high) this track seems to encapsulate the entirety of what Seatman has conjured up. Indeed, the album has an air of quiet dread, a very English sense of coming terror and a feel of something wicked this way comes to a small, unprepared, sleepy village.

'Sun in Her Hand' is more urgent, analogue keyboard lines racing underneath reverberated effects, scrapes and whistles; this listener found himself unconsciously holding his breath whilst listening, waiting tensely for the outcome. 'Along The Corridor, 1st On the Left Room 2882' adds an edgy Tangerine Dream ambience to the sound of electronic solar winds and a doomed but inspirational melody line that surely should be soundtracking the forthcoming Ben Wheatley adaptation of J.G Ballard’s' High Rise'. The track pauses as electronic percussion pulsates and then the massed banks of keyboards return before fading to the sound of a ringing telephone and sudden crashing noise; the overall effect is jaw dropping and hugely affecting. The title track then ends the album with a sinister waltz, the march of the autumn people slowly but surely creeping into the quiet, unsuspecting streets. Harpsichord picks out a whimsical but terrifying melody, overhead voices chatter and an eerie drone increases in volume as the walk continues (forever?). A man’s voice utters 'We are going in circles' and the pleasingly disorientating and unearthly harmonies echo and reverberate around us before the album closes.

‘A Rest Before the Walk’ is an essential listen, its tracks not only standouts on their own merits but also expertly interwoven into a coherent, effective overarching mood as a whole. Seatman has produced perhaps his best album to date and, given his earlier work is also indispensable and a must have, this is significant. Some might call this music hauntology, others electronica; what it is is a damn fine album that you need to hear.

Available now from Keith Seatman’s Bandcamp page (below) and also from the Ghost Box shop.

20 Oct 2015

The Hanging Stars – The House on the Hill 7”

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I had lots of nice things to say about the Hanging Stars debut 7” earlier on this year, largely because it did very nice things to my ears. Such nice things, that I was hoping for a full length release this time around, but that’s more of a reflection of my not-being-able-to-put-half-a-packet-of-crisps-back-in-the-cupboard greed levels, than any lethargy on the band’s behalf.

So here we are only five months later with a second 7” on the Great Pop Supplement, a label renowned for its relentlessly impeccable taste, as well as its ability to sell out a pressing before I’ve even realised that something’s out – so hopefully I’m not too late telling you about this.

There are three tracks of impeccable country psych here from the London based band, with a pronounced U.S west coast psych influence rubbing shoulders in a surprisingly matey way with a very particular type of eighties indie jangle pop that only ever sounded right coming out of the UK.

A-Side “The House on the Hill” is a dramatic murder ballad, adapted from a text collected by Alan Lomax, which deftly balances the band’s ever present jangle, with wistful pedal steel swells and staccato “Ghost Riders in the Sky” guitar blasts.

The two tracks on the flip segregate the two opposing sides of the band’s psyche somewhat, with “Endlessly Aimless”, a delicate indie-pop ballad creating a lovely pastoral air, while “Mother of Earth” is a grittier country affair, with impeccable pedal steel, and Richard Olson’s vocal delivered with an air of gravitas that suggests Johnny Cash or at the very least David Berman.

Another fine entry from this band, which escalates my anticipation for 2016’s debut album.

You can order the single from Norman Records, or direct from the label here. Also check out the band’s Soundcloud page, and the video for “The House on the Hill” here:

19 Oct 2015

The Johnny Almond Music Machine - Patent Pending

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Originally released on Deram in 1969, this first release by Johnny Almond's Music Machine is now startlingly rare in its original form, and surprisingly, this new Esoteric reissue seems to be only its second reissue since 1969.

This is surprising given Almond's pedigree. By 1969 Almond had already been a member of Zoot Money's Big Roll Band (he only left when Zoot folded the band in order to join Eric Burdon's recently psychedelicised Animals), the Alan Price Set, and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. And after the two Music Machine albums, he formed Mark Almond with Jon Mark (whom he'd played with in the Bluesbreakers). All bands with a certain amount of collector's cache, so this must be absolute garbage to have been left untouched until now, right? Guess again.

"The Johnny Almond Music Machine" is an excellent, diverse album that epitomises the adventurous spirit of the 1969 underground, featuring a crack young band, with a teenaged (future Yes) Alan White tearing it up on drums. Almond himself plays a ridiculous numbre of different instruments on here - Sax (Tenor, Alto & Baritone), Flute, Alto Flute, Organ, Vibraphone, Mellotron and Bass Clarinet.

Almond's R&B, jazz, and blues roots aren't forgotten, but the funk levels are amped up considerably on the numbers that vamp on this theme. Check out "Solar Level" and Junior Parker tribute "Tales of Junior", which are particularly beaty and brassy.

In keeping with the spirit of the times though (not to mention the label), there's a strong progressive and post-psychedelic element to a number of these tracks too, and these are the tracks that are most likely to capture the imagination of readers of this rag. "Voodoo Forest" will be familiar to many readers from its appearance on Decca's bargain-bin staple "World of Progressive Rock" compilation, and its moody atmospherics are indeed one of the highlights here for those of an adventurous mindset, but it's not alone. "Reversed for Two Horns" is a startling, explorative duet between Almond and trumpeter Geoff Condon, who was apparently flu-ridden during this session. If so it certainly explains the feverish, hallucinatory levels this track often reaches. And opener, "Ensign" is a beaty jazz funker which would have been ideal for soundtracking a UK crime film of the time, were it not for it's face-melting psychedelic conclusion.

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

The Roaring 420s - You Can't Get Out Alive

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

From the newly formed It's a Gas Records, "You Can't Get Out Alive" is the latest from Dresden, Germany's The Roaring 420s. Like all their previous releases, this one provides evidence that by some cosmic mishap the whole band ended up displaced in time and place. As most press regarding this band does, my review will confirm it too: The Roaring 420s sound much more like a California garage band; they embody the hazy vibes of the late 60s - with some admitted updates to the sound and recordings, of course - to a tee, whether in lyrical content or their unending enthusiasm for weirdness and experimentation. The Roaring 420s offer a particularly fun loving and upbeat style of rock 'n roll that's not without its peculiarities and love for off kilter sounds. They channel the best of the genres, blending psych, garage and surf - among others. And then there are the wonderful electric sitar flourishes.

At heart, curators of laid back grooves, The Roaring 420s possess a prowess for making the moments of experimentation fit well. "Whatever Palace" puts its best red herring forward, almost clearing the aural stage mid album before returning to form and the coolly put intro and second act of "Anything You Want (to Be)." With clever turns of phrase (think of Lou Reed, David Berman, both of whom share timbre here too), The Roaring 420s can transform a familiar riff into something much more. Their sense of humor translates well too, particularly with the amalgam of post-punk and early rock tones in "Tax-Deductible Suicide."

"You Can't Get Out Alive" is a continuation of what the band began in 2013 with their self-titled release and sustained through 2014's full album, "What is Psych?" Still, this latest marks a change a bit too, particularly in the band's overall sound, which here is more compact, precise, and demonstrates a greater concern for their brand, in a way. From here on, I suspect The Roaring 420s will only become better at what they do, polishing their songwriting into strong, witty gems.

You can order this one from It's a Gas Records directly - and possibly get it signed on the way.