23 Apr 2014

New Giallo Vinyl From Finders Keepers

Amazing vinyl archaeologists Finders Keepers have three lovely looking Bruno Nicolai Giallo reissues just about to hit the shelves.

First up is a full soundtrack reissue of one of Nicolai's best works, "All The Colours Of The Dark" ("Tutti i colori del buio"). This is pretty essential in my book and knowing Finders Keepers track record for such things, will be sold out before you can blink.
Tracklisting: 1. Sabba 2. Magico Incontro 3. Propiziazione 4. Evocazione 5. Magico Incontro 6. Bambole 7. Insidia 8. Oppressione 9. Insidia 10. Espiazione 11. Medium 12. Sabba
Order here.
Also due is a 7" 4 track e.p of  "Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key" with a creepy new sleeve (pictured) and at a bargain price. Again, expect the sold out sign to appear very quickly.
Order here.

Last up in this Nicolai fest, and a little more elusive at this point is a 10" reissue of "The Case Of The Bloody Iris". Not currently pre-orderable, the Finders Keepers website lists it as 'available soon'. Keep an eye on it here.

New Krzysztof Komeda Vinyl Reissues

A mysterious outfit (by mysterious I mean no website and no information that I could dig up on them) called Active Distribution Ltd (no relation) have three very interesting looking Krzysztof Komeda reissues due out on the 28th of April.

Sure, these soundtracks have seen their fair share of reissues over the years, but what makes these interesting is that they're all 7" e.ps featuring 6 tracks rather than the full soundtracks (except for Cul De Sac which has only ever been released with 6 tracks). Nice looking picture sleeves too, and a pretty good price. I reckon these will be worth grabbing quickly before they disappear.

You can pre-order them here: Rosemary's Baby, Cul De Sac, Dance of the Vampires.

Sleeping Orchard "II"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This second E.P in less than six months from Canadian trio Sleeping Orchard is a nice little piece of rootsy psychedelia that combines vintage San Francisco-style guitar work (including plenty of tasteful instrumental breaks) with a hippyish, organic vibe that's quite different to the production-heavy psychedelia that dominates the current scene.

Best of an intriguing bunch is "I Hope I'm Going Somewhere" (which the band were perceptive enough to recommend if I only had the chance to listen to one track), which features some fabulous, sinuous lead guitar work that sounds like someone force-fed Tinariwen a bunch of weed, as well as a great, insistent keyboard refrain which has a distinctly Doorsy vibe. And there's some very tasty fuzz guitar buried low in the mix there that reaches out lovingly without ever getting too heavy and dominating.

Closer "Map of the World" deserves special mention too - a lovely, mellow, round the campfire singalong with dexterous Garcia-esque guitar leads flowing easily between the vocal lines, until its candle is snuffed well before time by an early and rapid fadeout.

Promising stuff, and I get the impression that lessons have probably been learned making this E.P that will ensure that the next one is even better.

Available as a name your price download here:

The Vickers "Ghosts"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Italian quartet The Vickers have been on my radar for a little while now (their single "She's Lost" featured back on Active Listener Sampler #9). Since then they've released another even better single (the moody "I Don't Know What It Is"), and now the follow up album "Ghosts" does a great job of consolidating the strengths of those two singles, as well as stretching out into new areas.

Frontloaded by those two singles, the rest of the album takes a little bit longer to reveal its true character, but after multiple listens shows itself to be an album of unexpected depth.

"Ghosts" is full of great songs, but it's the production that really grabs attention and brings these songs to life. I was very surprised to see that it was a self production job - good job those men! The Vickers have a panoramic approach to production that makes even the most intimate songs sound massive. Take the lovely, melancholy ballad "Senseless Life", an acoustic based song that would function perfectly adequately in a solo format, but is made substantially more than the sum of its parts by splashes of flanged/phased guitar chords and a hypnotic mantra-like psychedelic outro, a trick which they repeat several times over the album's playing length, helping to establish a sense of grandiosity and a uniformity that makes this feel like more than just a bunch of songs stuck together.

And that's part of the appeal of "Ghosts". There's a rightness about the way everything fits together so snugly, and a cohesiveness that makes this a statement that feels complete as an album experience in the grand tradition of all of those classic albums of the late sixties, but with a nice, new contemporary sheen to it that won't scare off the kids.

Available on CD or digitally through Bandcamp below:

22 Apr 2014

Active Listener Sampler #19 Out Now

This month's sampler features premieres of new tracks from Juke, The White Kites, and the Vaporettos, a sneak preview of the 2014 remaster of the Future Kings of England debut, as well as tracks from the best titles we've reviewed over the past month.

Thanks to Eric Adrian Lee for supplying the fabulous giallo/library inspired sleeve art for this month's sampler. Eric runs Wil-Ru Records, and we've featured a few of his releases on this sampler - check out the tracks from Ozarks, Panda Beach and Blind Slime.

1. Ozarks - Diamonds, Objects of Desire 03:19
2. Neils Children - Theme 2 (Variation 1) 01:03
3. Jeffertitti's Nile - No One 03:36
4. Barry Uhl - Admiral Orofino, Or, 'The Deliv'ryman Of Much Secrets And Death' 04:15
5. Sudden Death of Stars - Magical Mirror 03:47
6. Francois Sky Feat. Jeff Levitz on Sitar - As We've Been As One 09:52
7. Panda Beach - Boom (Featuring Chariots of Night) 01:33
8. Sproatly Smith - The Vision 02:34
9. Ursula - Into the Morning Sun 02:58
10. Blind Slime - Withy Well 03:35
11. Black Springs - Silver Ship 04:49
12. Bed Rugs - Be A Little Strange 04:18
13. The White Kites - The Christening 02:12
14. The Future Kings of England - 1066 (2014 Remaster) 07:55
15. Juke - On The Edge 07:59
16. The Dandelion Set - Bottom Rung (Psych Version) 04:11
17. E Gone - You Will Sing 04:52
18. The Vaporettos - Fortress of Ultimate Darkness 04:16

Stream or download here:

The Spacelords "Synapse"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

I don't care what the old adage says, sometimes you can tell a book by its cover, and the new album from German trio The Spacelords sounds exactly like you would both hope, and expect from its cover.

Album number four for the trio (and their first to appear on vinyl - thanks Sulatron Records!), "Synapse" is good, old fashioned spacerock of the highest order possible, the sort of album that is required to justify lofty claims of space lordship.

As such, it's regal, majestic and grand enough to inspire the respect and devotion of its subjects, but also self aware enough to know that the best spacerock isn't all about bludgeoning riffery, but also about the spaces between the notes, and that's where The Spacelords really shine. Over four long tracks that build to generally thunderous crescendos, it's the melodic bedrock that these three set for themselves via Klaus's warm, vintage synths and the expertly manipulated array of invariably melodic themes that Hazi coaxes from his guitars that add the human element that makes these tracks so easy to engage with.

I found the heavily treated guitar work during the introductory phase of "Sitarguitar" to be particularly effective with its gently ebbing and flowing theme striking a melancholy chord that evoked something enormous and cosmic, without having to even resort to distortion, let alone the big, dumb riffs that most bands of the genre rely on.

And while there are certainly some pretty big riffs to be heard here, they're used sparingly and always in service to the song, providing emotional peaks and resolution, rather than being the be all and end all.

So, old fashioned in the best possible way, "Synapse" is an extremely well crafted album that paces itself effectively and displays subtlety and restraint at all the right moments. There are plenty of young spacerock bands out there that could, and should use this as their bible.

Available on CD and blue vinyl directly from Sulatron Records here.

21 Apr 2014

Klaus Johann Grobe "Im Sinne der Ziet"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The folks at Trouble In Mind Records have one key skill that the major labels haven't had for years: they know good music when they hear it. How else to explain the run of recent acts they've picked up who've been championed by the blogosphere (not to mention some of the more adventurous proponents of the popular music press). Jacco Gardner, Morgan Delt, The Liminanas, Doug Tuttle, the list goes on, and boils down to one thing: good taste.

Now you can add Swiss duo Klaus Johann Grobe to that list. Fresh from a sellout single on Sunstone Records (which Trouble In Mind repressed for the U.S market) comes what promises to be their breakout album "Im Sinne der Zeit" which is, and I won't make too fine a point of it, a rollicking good time.

Combining the rhythmic and experimental tendencies of krautrock with the most irresistible of pop smarts seems like a pretty obvious idea, but few have actually achieved results worth mentioning in this field until now and as such "Im Sinne der Zeit" is in the rather unique position of being the ideal entry point for the more pop-focused dabbler into what can be quite a baffling and intimidating genre to find your feet in (that would be krautrock, just in case I'd lost you). The fact that Klaus Johann Grobe are not actually German is a minor detail.

There's little that I can tell you about the music that your feet won't immediately tell you on first listen; imagine a German Stereolab, or a slightly less English sounding Soundcarriers and you've pretty much got there by yourself. Good isn't it? Except the real thing is way better than what is happening in your head right now.

Form an orderly queue.

Available April 29th from Trouble in Mind Records.

Free download of "Between The Buttons" from "Im Sinne der Zeit" here:

Triptides / Frankie & The Witch Fingers / The See See / The Young Sinclairs Four Way Split 7"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Stroll On Records have pulled together a pretty stellar lineup of up and coming psychedelic stars for this four way split 7" with all four groups bringing a new song to the table.

First up is "Shaman", a new song from Stroll On's very own Triptides, a band whom according to the accompanying press release have received much attention for last year's second album "Predictions". Somehow I missed all of that but now that I know what I'm looking for, backtracking and googling is indeed leading to a number of reviews, all glowing. No wonder either, "Shaman" is a treat, and the definite highlight here with a big jangly riff, creepy underwater vocals, huge harmonies and a great bridge section which gets super trippy. This is kind of what I was hoping the Temples album would sound like. I'll definitely be checking out "Predictions" ASAP.

Also on offer here is "Revival" by Frankie & The Witch Fingers which is a pretty accomplished piece of reverbed, jangle-heavy garage / psych with a great vintage guitar/organ combo sound from a band who's debut album can be download free from their Bandcamp page.

On the flipside The See See continue their run of extremely consistent singles / e.ps / albums with "Evil Clutch of Dawn" displaying their trademark melodic gifts and a nice, timeless production sound that reminds me a little of The Las which can only be a very good thing.

Last up is our old friends The Young Sinclairs whom I've waxed lyrical about several times in the past, particularly about their ability to flawlessly recreate an authentic mid sixties Kinks/Who/ Beatles hybrid with songwriting chops to match. Curiously, here they seem to have abandoned those particular ambitions in favour of recreating the sound of 1985 New Order on "In This Room". Very unexpected, and it'll be interesting to see whether it's a detour or a reinvention come next album.

Limited run of 250, and pretty top stuff. Better get in quick.

Available straight from the label here.

19 Apr 2014

Octopus Syng "Reverberating Garden Number 7"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Despite their having been around in one form or another since 1999, "Reverberating Garden Number 7" is my first real dalliance with Octopus Syng (aside from the occasional Fruits de Mer tidbit), and it makes me wonder why I've taken this long to get on board their long, weird trip.

This Finnish band, based around the talents of Jaire Pätäri, have been working on this particular long player since 2007, and the amount of time taken hasn't in any way smothered the spontaneity of this addictive long player.

On the evidence of "Reverberating Garden Number 7" I'd have to say that Octopus Syng are one of only a very few bands that have really learned the lessons that Syd Barrett had to teach. Certainly there are more bands out there than you can shake a joss stick at that show open worship for Syd (and quite rightly so), but Pätäri and co. show here that they have a firm understanding of the extremely fine balance between the experimental and the memorable pop moments that plenty of Syd disciples have managed to evoke separately, but very rarely together.

"Reverberating Garden Number 7" walks that fine tightrope between sanity and the beyond in a way few bands have managed since "Piper at the Gates of Dawn", and their can be no higher compliment.
I should point out very quickly too, that while "Piper" is really the only precedent that I can point to here, Octopus Syng are much, much more than an impressive imitator.

Filtering their love of vintage English psychedelia through a weird, occasionally sinister haze that seems very alien to those of us more accustomed to taking their U.K style psych pop in lysergic cup of tea form, Octopus Syng are at first quite a disorientating proposition - all cavernous, underwater explorations with unpredictable bursts of spidery guitar breaks. Several listens in however, the unfailingly melodic songs that offer a home to these bouts of spookiness begin to dominate, and before too long the tightrope is pulled taut and it becomes hard to imagine one functioning without the other.

It's very much an album that works best as a whole, but that doesn't mean that there aren't individual highlights. "You Are Every Poem" is a gorgeous psychedelic ballad, "Thought Collector" and "It's Not a Coincidence" are twisted, propulsive psych-rockers and I still have to keep checking which vintage horror soundtrack is playing whenever "Reflections of Time" pops up on random on my iPod.

Beautiful, alien, reverential, irreverent, contradictory on so many levels, but brilliantly so.

I shall be ordering a copy of this on vinyl as soon as possible and wearing a groove in it almost as quickly I imagine.

Full album stream and pre-orders available through the Bandcamp link below. CD pre-orders ship around 5 May, Vinyl pre-orders ship around 30 June.

17 Apr 2014

Rob Clarke & The Wooltones "The World Of The Wooltones"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Liverpudlian Rob Clarke and his Wooltones caught my ear a few months back when they sent me through "Peas" to feature on the sampler.

Whereas most of the current Liverpool based artists that I've been connecting with have a very solid connection to their Beatles / Las / The Coral heritage (good thing too), Clarke and co. inject a whole bunch of mod inflections and Bo Diddley into proceedings as well.

Although they're obviously scholars of U.K sixties mod/psych and influences are worn openly on sleeve, they never fall into the trap of slavish impersonation that a number of their peers fall into - "Peas" is obviously a storming Who meets Diddley stomper, but there's plenty of Clarke's own invention on hand, not least of all a surprising instrumental, almost prog style bridge.

Soundwise as well this avoids obvious pitfalls that others less wise would succumb to. Although reaching back to the sixties for inspiration there's never any indication of the Wooltones trying to capture a vintage sound strictly for the sake of authenticity. Neither is there that overclean studio sheen that mars too many independent releases with similar influences.

There's plenty of fun to be had - "Mystic Room" is a rhytmic powerhouse while "Monkey Man" can happily join the pantheon of classic goodtime animal songs ("Apeman" etc.), but Clarke and friends are at their best when things take a jangly, minor key turn; "End of the End" is classic, subtle jangle, like a pastoral, unmistakeably English Gene Clark with sighing backing vocals and impeccable twelve string, while "Colours of the Sun" has the steady building anthemic nature of Paul Weller's mid nineties masterworks.

Bet these guys are great live too.

Available late April from http://www.robclarkeandthewooltones.co.uk/