18 Dec 2014

Album Review: Jane Weaver "The Silver Globe"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This had been sitting in my 'haven't quite gotten around to listening' pile for quite some time before Piccadilly Records lit a fire under my arse by naming it their album of the year, and you've got to hand it to them - they sure can pick 'em, and judging by this, Jane Weaver sure can make 'em too.

Being signed to Finders Keepers Records is basically a guaranteed seal of quality, but it's rare for one of their releases to have the immediacy, and the hooks that Weaver displays here on her sixth(?) album. Recorded between an old vicarage and Vox Recording Studios in Los Angeles on 'experimental' analogue equipment by David Holmes and Andy Votel, "The Silver Globe" will make fans of Stereolab, Broadcast and the Soundcarriers absolutely ecstatic. Summoning a similarly timeless vintage vibe, Weaver exerts more than enough of her own touch to stave off cries of plagiarism. And I doubt that any of the bands just mentioned (as much as I love them all) have a single in them with as much cross-over potential as "The Electric Mountain", which is absolutely outstanding, and a chart topper in a fair and just world.

And then there's "Don't Take My Soul", which sounds inescapably like an escapee from "McCartney II" which has been hijacked by Kate Bush. I can't be the only one that appeals to - right? I could go on of course (and I normally would), but the best thing you could do right now is hit play on the youtube embed below, and then inevitably reach for your wallet. I don't have time to work out an albums of the year list this year, but if I were to do so, this would be very, very nearly top dog. Outstanding.

"The Silver Globe" is available here on CD, and here on vinyl.

16 Dec 2014

Album Review: Angeline Morrison and The Rowan Amber Mill "Silent Night Songs for a Cold Winter's Evening"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

From The Rowan Amber Mill, arguably one of the foremost and best proponents of wyrd folk currently active in the UK, comes a very welcome early festive present. With collaborator and Angeline Morrison adding winter warmth with her vocals (this paring were last heard together on the superb 'Songs From The Black Meadow' compilation), 'Silent Night Songs for a Cold Winter's Evening' is an essential companion for these dark, midwinter evenings when the shadows and cold are encroaching and a little Yule spirit is much needed.

First up is a haunting reading of 'Silent Night', which has always been one of the more eerie of the traditional carols. Appropriately, this take is candlelit, reflective and ethereal, evoking the icy ambient shimmer of Fovea Hex's work or Rose McDowall's winter solstice collaborations with Coil. Gently picked acoustic guitar is framed perfectly by xylophone and ghostly, reverbed keyboards with Morrison's vocals a revelation and utterly bewitching. Next, 'Cold Winter Morning'( a Rowan Amber Mill/ Morrison original and the highlight of the album for this listener) is a beautiful, spectral frost of a song. Glistening piano descends, dances and cascades around Morrison's gossamer vocals whilst a magical ambience curls around each note like breath on a frozen morning. This is a song that the likes of Vashti Bunyan would be proud to have written, indeed it does remind one of her 'Lookaftering' period. The traditional 'I Saw Three Ships' is a medieval procession, flute and the buzz of crumhorn providing a suitable woody backing for Angeline's intertwining vocal lines. It's at once both uplifting and otherworldly. Indeed, some of these tracks may be traditional songs or carols but they are not necessarily straightforward traditionally performed versions; with The Rowan Amber Mill there is always a delicious dose of wyrd or the more acidic variety of folk present to add a psychedelic sheen and shimmer to proceedings. 'Sleepy Woodyard' is another Stephen Stannard (the one man musical genius behind The Rowan Amber Mill) original, an instrumental of heartbreaking gorgeousness; piano, strings, choirs and slide guitar merge to form a perfect piece of pastoral prog pop. Enchanting and evocative of still, December nights there is a beautiful melancholy at play here. 'Wassail', another traditional tune arranged by the artists, is a stately evocation to the land for a plentiful harvest come the summertime. Morrison's vocals are perfection here, the backing track of guitar, harmonium and accordion fully sympathetic to the building and layering atmosphere of the song; it is yet another standout moment on an already accomplished album. To finish, an instrumental take of 'Silent Night' melts into the midnight air, winter winds beginning to howl before a distant, glistening keyboard provides a beacon of light to end.

Yuletide is a time of tradition, of ghosts and of ritual to survive the darkness until the sun returns. With this album Angeline Morrison and The Rowan Amber Mill provide all of these elements and more. Huddle closer to the fire, pull the blanket tighter and enjoy some silent night songs for a cold winter's evening.

Available now from rowanambermill.bandcamp.com as a download or as a hand numbered, handcrafted digipak limited edition (choose between either a pure white glossy digipak or a folky, buff recycled card digipak). Both versions feature a beautiful front cover illustration by Angeline Morrison.

Album Review: "The Reverb Conspiracy 3"

Reviewed by Dedric Moore (KC Psych Fest, Monta At Odds, Gemini Revolution)

European label Fuzz Club Records and the American Reverb Appreciation Society (Austin Psych Fest) are set to co-release the third volume of their psych compilation series The Reverb Conspiracy.

So Vol. III kicks off with exactly what you would expect with The Oscillation and Holy Science bringing the southwest psych grooves and lots of guitars. The energy is up and the fuzz creeps in. One note to appreciate is the fact that the guitars are laying down some solos that actually solo (they spent some time learning their licks, man) and the one two punch is a great start. Deathcrush jumps in and you think you might have skipped to the next playlist in your itunes. Pounding drums and distorto bass post-punk it up and then walls of guitar storm in an push the mix to overload. Then the next track makes you get up again and see if you skipped to a different playlist with The History of Colour TV giving it to you with bits of dreampop, shoegaze and a heaping of tribal drums and watery bass. It's expertly done and you'll be web searching to see if they are a new band or a lost classic.

Singapore Sling pumps up the drum machine and then smacks it sideways with garage rock guitars and "I'm Bored of Singing to You" vocals. (There might be some typos as I bounce along while reviewing). Newcandys bring us back to more familiar territory with some vintage riffing and reverbed vocals that hint at the Paisley Underground era. Sound Sweet Sound add the twang and drop some flute in the mix with a great female vocal lead that rides the groove perfectly. Undisco Kidd turns a two and half minute "rock single" into an extended jam for the last half of the song. Guitar Effects! God, I love that. Not too much and not too little and just the right amount of fuzz on everything at the end.

Camera picks up the tempo and gets a West Coast boogie meets Krautrock jam going, and it's cool so calm down. Future blast out with reverb on the snare that blasts into outer space and they add it some wiggy guitar to match. Another one of those you'll have to look up to see if this was found on a cassette in a closet or just recorded. Either way it brings the stereo wall of sound that asks, keyboard? guitar? and is great stuff to lose track of time. Mugstar bring the tempo down but not the heavy. Organ guitar bass riffage! Fat beats! Epic vibe! One Unique Signal push the tempo back up and jam stereo guitars pounding on top of a post-punk bass drum groove. Feedback everywhere at times and the band is amped up and you can hear it.

GOAT and Anton Newcombe collaborate on an Indian-tinged dirge that has ragga drones and as usual compelling vocal chanting. The mix is great. You can hear layers of acoustic instruments and percussion that sound WARM and you'll want to close your eyes and let your imagination flow to this headtrip. Lola Colt bring us a slow burner that spends its first 3 minutes unloading guitars and then pulls it back for the vocals to ring in. Don't worry they bring it all back and then some. Francois Sky wind up the release with a perfect exit song. Dreamy drone and sitar with a feel good bass and drums groove that conjurer up kaleidoscope visuals and float along into the distance.

Pre-order available now.

15 Dec 2014

New Radiophonic Workshop Album Released

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop (or the Radiophonic Workshop as they are now known) reconvened in 2013 for live performances, which those of us who were unable to attend the shows can now experience via this brand new studio album.

Available here through Society of Sound.

Track by track description from Workshop members.

Press release:

"In 2013 the Radiophonic Workshop reconvened to play live and to rekindle that spirit of innovation in sound. Building on their legacy and with the benefit of another 16 years of what may loosely be referred to as “progress” since the Workshop closed in 1998 (there are, after all, times when only a tape loop, tobacco tin or malfunctioning sweep generator will do) they have once again taken up residence on the outer boundary of sound design.

The time spent at Real World Studios, where most of this work was conceived and recorded, was both invigorating and liberating for the group’s members. Like their old home at the BBC’s Maida Vale (minus the many layers of cheap green industrial emulsion) Real World studios proved to be a creative playground for these lovers of sound. The space in which the work is created has always been important and has a profound impact on the kind of work composers are able to produce. The group took over the studio, filling the iconic Big Room with synthesisers (ancient and modern), gadgets, lampshades, knobs, dials, found objects and children’s toys. It became a Workshop-away-from-home. A stairwell provided both an additional instrument and a wonderful acoustic space in which a Big Idea evolved. In a tiny back room, reminiscent of a BBC broom cupboard, Dr Dick Mills set up Studer and TASCAM tape machines to create loops and labyrinths of feedback into which were fed analogue bleeps and concrête clanks from 8 bit samplers and the objects and sounds found about the building.

Audio was moulded and sculpted. Compositions evolved, dissolved and recrystalised over time, with thestudio itself employed as a compositional tool - every part of that experience is integrated into the work. At one point the engineers were persuaded (they didn’t need much persuading, to be honest!) to run cables out to the weir in the studio grounds, recording its gurgles and glugs on a Soundfieldmicrophone. Binaural microphones were set into a pair of spectacles worn by Peter Howell who then sound-mapped his physical journey through the workspace. And, yes, Delia Derbyshire’s infamous greenRadiophonic lampshade (used to make many of the tones and sounds the Workshop became famous for in the early 1960s) makes a guest appearance too.

Out of this joyous experimentation emerged the motifs and ideas that became this album. It marks a very creative and special time in the Radiophonic Workshop’s continuing story and may even hint at some of what is to follow. Welcome to our Radiophonic world."

Album Review: Del Shannon "The Further Adventures of Charles Westover"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Del Shannon's late sixties renaissance went largely unnoticed at the time, but the work he produced in 1967 and 1968 is not only among his best, but among the best baroque pop of the era. After signing with Liberty Records in 1966 he cut an excellent album in London with producer Andrew Loog Oldham having high hopes for the sort of critical acclaim that "Pet Sounds" had recently achieved. Liberty quickly dashed those hopes by shelving the album, after several singles stalled, eventually releasing it many years later (to much deserved critical adulation) as "Home & Away".

Andrew Loog Oldham and Shannon's brief partnership ended there, but an artistically reinvigorated Shannon was back in the studio at home in America before too long with producers Dugg Brown & Dan Bourgoise, putting together 1968's "The Further Adventures of Charles Westover" (Shannon's birth-name in case you were interested). Where "Home & Away" had apparently seen Andrew Loog Oldham provide the impetus, "The Further Adventures of Charles Westover" saw Shannon take charge, writing or co-writing almost all of the material. It also broadened Shannon's horizons exponentially beyond the baroque pop trappings of "Home & Away" to incorporate psychedelia, gospel, and the hard, funky, swamp blues of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tony Joe White.

Far from the bandwagon-jumping shenanigans of other rock 'n' roll era artists struggling to remain relevant, Shannon's material here has the scope and range to incorporate these influences without being buried by them. Del's wonderful tenor sounds impeccable in these lush surrounds, and his songwriting is at its strongest and most consistent. The baroque pop stylings of "Home & Away" are taken to new levels of excellence on the stunning single "Gemini" and stretched into new realms of swirling psychedelia on "Magical Musical Box" and "Silver Birch". But it doesn't end there. The earthy swamp funk of "Be My Friend" seems like a blueprint for what could have been a very successful next step in his evolution. And best of all are several moodier pieces which revel in their kaleidoscopic colours without sacrificing their sense of drama or grandeur; "I Think I Love You" with its minor-key sitar accompaniment, and the closing "New Orleans (Mardi Gras)" which builds to epic proportions. Unfortunately, despite a surfeit of great songs, "The Further Adventures of Charles Westover" failed to sell in quantities even remotely measurable against its obvious quality.

For an artist who is most well known for his 1961 hit "Runaway", it will be surprising for many to discover that his definitive artistic statements come via two later albums - one that his label didn't even deem worthy of release in 1967, and particularly, this commercially underperforming gem with a cult reputation. Chicago's Trouble in Mind have just released "The Further Adventures of Charles Westover" on vinyl - its first legitimate vinyl reissue ever, and an absolutely essential purchase for anyone with even a passing interest in psychedelic pop or baroque pop.

Available directly from Trouble in Mind Records here.

14 Dec 2014

E.P Review: Jorge Arana Trio "OSO"

Reviewed by Dedric Moore (KC Psych Fest / Monta at Odds / Gemini Revolution)

Math-rock meets psych? Precise time signatures and perfectly timed ups and downs with frenetic playing comes to mind. How do you psych that out without it becoming a dreadful mess? You should ask Jorge Arana Trio because they did the math and came up with the right formula (couldn't resist the pun) Add in a secret element of free-jazz and I'd call it Fuzzy Math Rock.

"Foredoom" starts off with a build and then unloads guitar, bass and drums in a heavy perfectly locked speedy rhythm. But the second half slows down to glacial speed and things get dreamy and weird as Jorge's guitar strums as effects pile on and you can feel a hypnotic sway take over your body. Once you are settled then "Kallisto" kicks in with squelchy guitar stabs and heavy syncopated bass and drums. When the Trio could have gone heavy or even metal, they choose to add a softer touch with some jazzy chords and excellently timed stutters that keep you perked up waiting to hear what is coming next.

"Crime of Passion Fruit" kicks it up to the "heavy" realm without getting into doom and gloom. The bass and drums bring on the indie rock vibe ala Tortoise or Trans Am and the guitar is pitch bent and determined to melt the strings with a twisted solo (again not metal) that gets the band going wild.

"Old Bamboo" kicks off side two of the EP with a marching groove that sounds like the Trio watched fight scenes from "Flash Gordon" and channeled Queen's bombastic soundtrack into a modern indie rock song. Josh Enyart shows off his drumming skills with complicated drum fills but matches it with dynamics to build up the song from medium to scorching. Then the songs dials it back to show off Jason Nash's bass virtuosity as he adds runs and grooves in the empty spaces.

"Banished to Siberia" finishes off the EP with a bouncing post-rock tune that punches yet has a lot of swing in the groove. I wish the TV on the Radio LP had a track with this energy. And then at the end the song crashes down to a guitar stab and ride cymbal as the Trio add in an ominous vocal chant that carries on through to the end.

It's a short EP at 15 minutes or so but you feel like you got a heavy dose of listening in. It comes in translucent purple or black with a silk-screened cover. The package is impressive inside and out.

Available here:

12 Dec 2014

Album Review: MANGABROS "Soulcoalblack"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

By all accounts this, the debut album from Sheffield’s 'ballardian psycho bluesmen' mangabros (essentially a one man band of Craig Manga with collaborators), has been percolating for several years before exposure into the sunlight. Which is apt as this is a dark beast indeed, a mixture of prog intention and storyline (there is a concept at work here), Coil style glitches and electronic squelches, a Floydian sense of the epic and ultimately, some very fine songwriting indeed. The band have been described by Bill Nelson as "brave and uncompromising"; indeed this is an album that needs close attention and is designed to be heard as a whole, a suite of both sorrowful and sinister beauty.

Not unlike a darker hued Radiohead, manga bros meld fractured Warp style beats with haunted piano and soaring, anguished vocals. Opener 'Musical Chairs' is a prime example, Craig Manga's voice towers over mournful minor piano keys, propelled by electronic percussion. It is both hugely accomplished and deeply affecting; there is a genuine quality to Manga's vocals that evokes a similar connection with the listener heard in the work of such luminaries as Peter Hammill, Thom Yorke or Gavin Friday. 'Z-The Nada Song' picks up the post-apocalyptic storyline, a survivor reminiscing over glistening strings, bowed guitar and quite the most beautiful piano melody you will hear of late. It's a sombre but stand out moment, reminding this listener of Peter Hammill's break up opus 'Over' as well as some of Jeff Buckley's more tear stained moments. The heartbreak and isolation is all too tangible. 'Weissmuller' appropriately starts with a Tarzan call (in honour of the title's namesake Johnny, as this track describes his lonesome death) which returns throughout the song, whilst Twin Peaks reverbed guitar and shimmering piano accentuate the spooked nature of the narrative. Another sonnet from the shadows; Johnny Greenwood would give his right arm to come up with something as squelchy, haunted and downright atmospheric as this. 'Bunny Girl' is a towering, analogue waltz, a fairground ride to hell. Keyboards emulate a Stranglers 'Waltz In Black' mood, a sinister and doomed carousel that carries Manga's voice towards the coda with its waterfall of piano notes and vintage style synths washing over the grief inherent in the song. This is a hugely emotive album, clearly inspired by events in the artist’s life as well as the aforementioned post-apocalyptic narrative. Fans of Steven Wilson's solo work and Porcupine Tree will find much to love here; a multitude of musical twists and turns and a real, broken heart beating at the source of these songs.

'The Blue Scrawl', this listener’s stand out track on the album, is a string drenched perfectly formed piece of tension, grandiose ambition, prog textures and epic vocals. Echoes of Nick Grey's seminal 'Thieves Among Thorns' abound here; there is a similar late night air of dread and anguish and equally perfect paring of musical electronics and organics. 'King Of Tarts' heads further into Coil/twisted ‘Kid A’ glitch territory with backwards tapes and sound effects accentuating the collapse of a relationship whilst 'His Side', with its percussive guitar and Mike Garson style discordant piano is truly disturbing. 'Black Pop Caucasian Vampire Blues' is sky-scraping, Manga's voice resplendent over the tension of the piano and the treated strings. It is a hold your breath moment. 'Celebration of Wounds' follows in the same vein, more dread filled perhaps but just as beautifully wrought. These are songs for the darkest part of the night on the coldest day of the year. Beats enter, heightening the drama that fuels the song and adding an urgency; this music should really be scoring some post-apocalyptic widescreen cinematic experience, World War Z if it had been more arthouse and less Brad Pitt blockbuster. In fact, consider this an alternate soundtrack to Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later'. 'Fag Trucker' is a Floydian 'Welcome To The Machine' style stomp; percussive machinery and metallic but fluid guitar stalking the track. Indeed there is something of Water's Floyd in Manga Bros; nakedly tormented and emotionally bare, backed by a symphony of massively inventive music designed to create an atmosphere and mood as much as hit the right notes. Returning to the apocalyptic storyline 'Z -The Shiva Palimpsest' offers a glimmer of light and hope, albeit amongst those persistent shadows. The most incredible guitar lines burst between the verses; Gilmouresque and hugely affecting. Next up, 'Black Guitar's spectral piano, orchestral sweep of electronica and psych guitar explosions remind one of Ulver's recent ‘Messes I.X-VI.X’, a requiem mass of dramatics and sinister manipulation of sound and inner torment.

'Dead Riff’s haunted choir is a gnarled gospel; Manga's broken vocals here reminiscent of grunge bluesman Mark Lanegan. The ambition present in this music is immediately obvious; this is not lo-fi but is music that yearns for the epic, the momentous and for the emotional and heartfelt connection with the listener. 'Z- The Last Ghost Story', its melancholy piano glistening and cascading across the fallout drenched burnt, grey landscape, is a charred autumnal lament. The album closes with 'Black Midi, Black Rain', a downpour of electronics thundering upon the speakers before a scratching sound suddenly enters and ends. A ghostly end to a haunted house of an album. The listener is left dazed; the scope and breadth of the story arc and the creative overwhelm of Manga Bros is not your average listen.

This album is not like anything else you will hear. Indeed, how to describe this music leaves all descriptions both relevant and redundant. Prog, electronica, rock, psych, conceptual; all feature but fall short of describing the sheer experience of this music. And 'Soalcoalblack' is an experience; a shattering, affecting, uplifting and haunting one at that. This is a headphones on, lights dimmed kind of album. What are you waiting for?

CD, download and stream available here:

Sacred Shrines / Arcesia / Kentin Jivek With The Hare & The Moon / Holögrama / Ultimate Painting

Brisbane based psychedelic rockers Sacred Shrines released their debut double a-side "Apollo" / "Hung Up On Your Wall" earlier on this year, with the heavy rocking "Apollo" getting the cover credit and presumably the lion's share of the attention. Much more interesting to these ears, is "Hung Up On Your Wall", a melancholy slice of melodic, jangly folk-rock, with a distinctly lysergic tinge. Sacred Shrines have just released an excellent, kaleidoscopic video clip to accompany "Hung Up On Your Wall", with its paisley visuals proving a perfect match for the tune. It'll be interesting to see which of these two extremes the band pursue now. I'm hoping that the band's decision to invest in this video can be viewed as a signpost for future efforts.

It's a bit of a mystery why obscure 1950's big band crooner Johnny Arcesia decided to have a crack at the psychedelic market during its dying days, but he did just that with his 1972 album "Reachin". Urban legend has it that Arcesia had become obsessed with L.S.D and that this album was recorded under its influence, although that theory has been largely debunked. Upon listening it becomes clear why folks would presume this to be true however. It's a pretty bizarre experience. His faceless band shine, but are largely overshadowed by one of the most individual vocal performances I've ever heard. Fans of Scott Walker's more abrasive vocal gymnastics will feel right at home here, but the squeamish need not apply. I'm still unsure as to whether it's a work of near-genius or one of the worst things I've ever heard, but it is certain to elicit an extremely strong reaction one way or the other. Guerssen have just released a vinyl reissue for those who wish to add it to their 'Incredibly Strange Music' collection.

Next up is a new release from Active Listener contributor Grey Malkin, with a collaborative effort between the Hare & The Moon, and dark French neo-folk songwriter Kentin Jivek. "The Haunted Cabaret" sounds every bit like that title would lead you to believe, starting out with a spooked carnival instrumental before Jivek's moody vocals take centre stage. Hare & The Moon fans might be a little surprised by what they hear here. There's little in the way of neo-folk to be found, but those with a penchant for undead cabaret will certainly enjoy this. Keep an eye on their facebook pages (linked above) for an imminent release.

Trouble in Mind are one of our favourite labels, and they've got a couple of things that I don't have time to cover in a lengthy fashion which you will, nonetheless, want to spend a great deal of time with. First up is Spanish artist Fancisco Borjra who records under the name of Holögrama. His debut "Waves" has just been released and it certainly doesn't sound like the work of just one man, unless that man were to have a few extra pairs of arms. It's trippy, electronic based psychedelia with insistent Krauty rhythms that allow him to open his third eye and explore uncharted realms in a face melting fashion which also manage to incorporate extremely catchy OMD style electro-pop.  Try this on for size.

Also new on Trouble in Mind is the self titled album from Ultimate Painting. Made up of Jack Cooper of Mazes & James Hoare of Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting kick off their debut with a self titled track (remember when bands used to do that?) which does the Velvet Underground's "Loaded" better than the Velvet Underground did. It's a master class of spontaneous sounding vintage indie guitar pop from there with flashes of Television and Flying Nun, extremely likeable songs, and hints of an excellent record collection. Pretty great. As evidenced below.

11 Dec 2014

Angeline Morrison and The Rowan Amber Mill "Silent Night Songs for a Cold Winter's Evening"

For those looking for something festive to listen to over your holiday season, our pastoral folkadelic friends Angeline Morrison and The Rowan Amber Mill have just released "Silent Night Songs for a Cold Winter's Evening".

It's a six song Christmas collection (with four bonus tracks on the CD version), which can be purchased or streamed through the Bandcamp widget below:

"Silent Night Songs for a Cold Winter's Evening is the result of collaboration between West Country woodland folksters The Rowan Amber Mill and Cornish singer / songwriter/ producer Angeline Morrison (Freestyle Records, The Mighty Sceptres, The Ambassadors of Sorrow) . It's a six track ep and our attempt, in song, to capture the spirit of a woodland idyll placed in a winter landscape, infused by song. We think it’s pastoral folk, but we are never too sure on technical terms. The album combines arrangements of traditional carols, and wassail, alongside newly-penned songs. It's a fair bit less dark than our recent work - the pastoral evocation won out this time."

Album Review: My Drunken Haze "My Drunken Haze"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I first became aware of Athens based quintet My Drunken Haze by sharing a mutual obsession for the music of Broadcast with MDH guitarist Spir Frelini. Their debut E.P "Pleasing Illusions"  (great as it was) was very much in thrall to this influence, but this debut full length is a much more wide ranging and sprawling affair. Fully assimilating, rather than shrugging off their influences, it's fitting that this release is self titled as it represents the first time that they sound fully confident in their own identity, making this something of a definitive statement.

It's a concept album of sorts, a coming of age story about a woman ‘in search of love, longing, separation and redemption, (set) against a backdrop of daydreaming, drugs and the hot sand of a summer beach.’ Matina Sous Peau provides this character's voice, and her pipes sound even better than they did on the "Pleasing Illusions" E.P, conjuring up a hazy, dream-pop vibe that more often than not takes centre stage. This, in itself, is an impressive feat, because her bandmates are pulling some pretty attention-grabbing moves of their own. There are still plentiful hints of that Broadcast vibe, but the band here stretch out into areas that get downright proggy in places, as well as instrumental parts that bring to mind the retro-indie of the War on Drugs and Real Estate, and more esoteric sections that recall The United States of America. And they do this while ensuring that each song has at least one inescapable hook - and often many more.

After a slow start, things build up a really great head of steam by the third track "Yellow Balloon", never dropping the ball from that point onwards. The band seem to realize that this is a strong starting point too, as their Bandcamp stream starts at this point, rather than the beginning. The concept album approach is given just the right weighting too. If you want to follow the storyline it's there, but it never dominates. It's an album that works superbly as a singular entity, but functions excellently on a track by track basis as well.

A very strong dream-pop / psychedelic pop release that manages to pull a bunch of vintage strings, without losing the contemporary edge that will make it appeal to a modern alternative audience.

LP with free CD, digital download, and full stream available here.