22 Jul 2014

The Active Listener Sampler #22 Out Now

This month's best new music sampler is now available.

The cover art comes from Eric Adrian Lee - check out more of his amazing work here: http://ericadrianleedesign.tumblr.com/

This month's sampler features the following tracks:

1. Bozmo - Leather Umbrella 02:42
2. House of Fire - The Keeper of the Doors 04:16
3. The Oscillation - Corridor (Cable Street Sessions Version) 06:38
4. The Rainy Afternoons - Siren Song 05:29
5. Sam Asgari - Child Of The Autumn 01:30
6. Monta at Odds - Relentless Pursuit 02:09
7. Mark Alan Lofgren - A Pocketful of Bliss 02:02
 8. Seas, Starry - Faint Praise 03:19
9. Tara King Th. - Magnetic Bounds 04:36
10. Briars Frome - Black Carrion 05:01
11. Kingdom of the Holy Sun - Thirteen Eyes 03:17
12. Vintage Cucumber - Neuland (Ins Glück hinein...) 06:18
13. Brian Grainger - Crumbling White Oracle Of Sadness 09:13
14. Alpha Waves - Vampiric Vultures 05:32
15. Shadow Folk - Here At Home 04:29
16. Sleeping Orchard - The Whistle 03:38
17. Swimming in Bengal - Slow Burn 19:20

Download and stream here:

21 Jul 2014

"Keep Lookin' 80 More Mod, Soul & Freakbeat Nuggets"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

A sequel of sorts to RPM's 2011 collection "Looking Back: 80 Mod, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets", "Keep Lookin"is largely more of the same, which in this case is a very good thing indeed.

"Looking Back" was intended as a diverse hold-all of rare sixties Brit-Mod and raided many worthwhile archives to collate its treasures, but was to all intents and purposes a Brits only affair. "Keep Lookin" throws the net a little wider to allow rare gems from the Commonwealth as far afield as New Zealand and Canada to get a look in, and is all the better for it.

There are plenty of familiar names to be heard here (just check those emblazoned over the sleeve above), as well as worthy obscurities by names known only to collectors and early appearances by artists who would go onto much bigger things. A roster that includes Lemmy, Marc Bolan, Bon Scott, Jimmy Page and Arthur Brown among others deserves some sort of investigation surely?

As before the mix features a little bit of everything which epitomised London cool in the sixties - r&b, beat, femme pop and mod soul, saving the best for last; a monstrous third disc crammed with rarely compiled freakbeat, psychedelic and proto-prog gems that are worth the price of admission alone.

Available here.

Reviews In Brief - The Laughing Trees / The Brian Jonestown Massacre / Briars Frome / Opeth / Swimming In Bengal

In an attempt to make my everpresent pile of albums to review more manageable I'm going to compile a regular brief reviews section where I will direct you towards extremely worthwhile new releases that I wouldn't otherwise have the time to write about.

Click on the album title to listen or buy.

Geelong's The Laughing Trees are back with a new E.P "Off Our Tree", which goes a long way to proving something that we already kind of knew; Australia has a pretty great garage / freakbeat scene. "Off Our Tree" is as good as anything that their more well known colleagues The Frowning Clouds have released recently, an enjoyably shambolic take on freakbeat with more than a little motor city mayhem to spice things up.

There's no need for me to cover this in great detail because every other website you can imagine has already done so, but everything that you're hearing about the new Brian Jonestown Massacre album "Revelation" is true; it's a potential career bester up to this point and gets better on every listen. Great production too, all done in house in Anton Newcombe's Berlin studio. If this is where a total no interference policy is leading him, leave him the hell alone. Essential.

Briars Frome is an interesting new E.P by Mark Back with a similar concept to the Soulless Party's excellent "Tales From The Black Meadow". Where it differs substantially from its other hauntological brethren is in its dominant use of guitars to conjure its mood of chilly desolation. Back is to be congratulated for the exceptional sense of atmosphere he creates here without falling back onto the standard hauntology staple of vintage analogue synths. As much as I love a bit of synth wizardry, it's refreshing to hear a different approach taken like this and I'd guess that fans of Opeth's quieter moments would find much to enjoy here.

Speaking of Opeth, their new album "Pale 
Communion" has just found its way onto my stereo and judging by this first listen it's likely to spend a considerable amount of time there. Where 2012's "Heritage" sounded tentative, this is a much more confident statement from Akerfeltand co. Much more vocally driven and with Akerfelt's clean vocals sounding more confident than ever this is perhaps the most seamless tapestry of melody and heaviness that Opeth have woven so far. There are plenty of fluid guitar leads working their way into the busy prog riffery to make this a much heavier album than "Heritage" without Akerfelt having to revert to his cookie monster vocals for impact. Focused, rhythmically varied and very satisfying.

Californian psychedelic / improv voyagers Swimming in Bengal have an excellent new album out which those of you like having their mind expanded by killer exotic jams should investigate immediately. Middle Eastern/South Asian melodies, rhythms, and drones are navigated fluidly by this exceptional three piece who make extensive use of gourds, tablas and various wind instruments to conjure vivid and unpredictable soundscapes which are just as likely to ensnare fans of world music and jazz as they are the psychedelically minded like ourselves.

Last up for today is Buffalo, New York's Makaras Pen who's latest E.P "Journeys To The End" is one of the best slices of shoegazey dreampop I've heard this year. Finding a middle ground somewhere between the lush melodic dreampop sounds of the Cocteau Twins and the heavier, cavernous guitars of Serena Maneesh, Makaras Pen sound extremely confident, and with Jenna Willis's vocals at the forefront who can blame them?

20 Jul 2014

The Shanes "Let Them Show You: The Anthology 1964-67"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Shanes may have only been the fourth most popular band in Sweden in the sixties but they had the longest hair and were almost certainly the grittiest (in the earlier part of the decade anyway).

Named after the western (which starred Jack Palance), the Shanes quickly graduated from Shadows-influenced western instrumentals to vocal beat and r&b when, as with so many other bands worldwide, they heard the Beatles (whom they supported in 1964) for the first time.

Unusually, their earlier vocal material largely bypassed the cutesy mersey pop that those influenced by the Beatles early on usually succumbed to. The Shanes' Tommy Wahlberg attributes this to the band being big fans of the Animals and Manfred Mann, and the rough hewn r&b of those bands is often evoked here, along with a gritty early mod sensibility that often sounds like early recordings by the Who and the Kinks (although many of these recordings by the Shanes pre-date recorded work by both of these bands).

Also unusual was the high percentage of band originals (this collection is entirely cover-free as far as I can gather), and a knack for writing consistently convincing and memorable singles, culminating in early highlights like the perfect Bo Diddley beat of "The Shanegang" and the snotty proto punk of "I Don't Want Your Love".

"Let Them Show You" collects 22 flawless r&b / beat gems from 1964 to 1967, and perfectly illustrates the hit making power hat saw the Shanes consistently near the top of the Tio i topp - the Swedish chart compiled from votes from radio play rather than sales. The fact that none of these made much of an impact outside of Sweden is baffling, but this collection should go some way towards righting those wrongs and introducing this most deserving group to a growing number of discerning sixties collectors.

Let Them Show You: The Anthology 1964-1967 is available here.

White Candles Vinyl Release On The Way From Sunstone Records

We're very pleased to be able to announce that one of our Active Listener Records releases - White Candles "Flowers for Delia" - will be making a vinyl appearance soon on the fabulous Sunstone Records label.

Three of the five tracks from "Flowers For Delia" will be released as a limited edition white vinyl 7" on Sunstone in September.

"Think Lamb lies down on Broadway seguing into Ruth White, White Noise, Kinks, USA and you're somewhere there" the Sunstone folks tell us, and that description works fine for me too.

Keep an eye on the Sunstone Records Facebook page for preorder details.

You can still stream or purchase the "Flowers for Delia" E.P here.

19 Jul 2014

The Rainy Afternoons "The Legendary Lost Rainy Afternoons E.P"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Rainy Afternoons is the solo project of a former guitarist from excellent Flying Nun band Garageland (who made a splash in the nineties with this great song, among others). I'm not being deliberately mysterious as to this gentleman's name - it's not mentioned on his Bandcamp page, and no one else who has written about the Rainy Afternoons has mentioned it either.

Now relocated from New Zealand to Dallas, Texas via a stint in London, our mystery protagonist has a considerable catalogue of material which has recently found its way onto Bandcamp (many on a free/name your price basis).

"The Legendary Lost Rainy Afternoons E.P" is as good a place to start as any.  "Siren Song" is the highlight - a Spacemen 3 influenced dronefest with a startling, lysergic guitar solo and chiming, Byrdsian electric twelve string. There's also a notable cover of "John Riley" to drive home the Byrds comparison further. It's got a harder edge than the original, with a crazed layer of "Eight Miles High" style twelve string exploration threatening to take the reins at any moment.

Excellent stuff, and downloadable here on a name your price/free basis:

17 Jul 2014

Eric Siday "The Ultra Sonic Perception" Don Harper "Cold Worlds"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Newish Australian reissue label Dual Planet gained a pretty big endorsement early on via their collaborations with supreme crate diggers Finders Keepers. Like Finders Keepers they focus on the painfully obscure but invariably brilliant. Unlike Finders Keepers however their focus is not on the global but on unearthing unknown Australian gems and presenting them to a global audience who are paying increasing levels of attention.

Their latest two releases couldn't come at a better time, and the fact that the masters of these tapes even still exist is astonishing.

It's surprising how much music used in the early years of Doctor Who came from Australian composers, including these two rare examples. Startling examples of early, pioneering electronica, they make for essential listening as enjoyable as it is influential.

First up is Eric Siday's "The Ultra Sonic Perception", a collection culled from a series of 78rpm 10" releases which showcases Siday's scientific study of sound, a concept he branded "The Ultra Sonic Perception". Combining electro-acoustic and early electronic music, Siday's atomic age sound vignettes were picked up by the BBC for use in early Doctor Who serials like The Space Museum, The Time Meddler, The Moonbase and more, helping to shape the show's eerie futuristic sounds - sounds which The BBC Radiophonic Workshop are generally given sole credit for devising, although artists like Siday were often not connected to the Beeb. By turns sinister and quirky there are lots of familiar pieces for the seasoned Doctor Who trainspotter here, and plenty for the rest of us to marvel at too.

Step forward a few years for our next release. Don Harper's "Cold Worlds" is built around a suite of music from late Patrick Troughton Cybermen invasion epic "The Invasion". Suitably enough for a story intended to portray the threat of an alien menace in a very familiar locale (contemporary London in this case), Harper's work is a more sophisticated and insidious combination of the alien and the everyday, effortlessly combining throbbing Radiophonic menace with unusual and off-kilter cinematic jazz like a paranoid, LSD addled John Barry.

Elsewhere there are moments that will seem eerily prescient to fans of the disturbing ambient side of David Bowie's "Heroes".  Also included on "Cold Worlds" is material from some of Harper's rare library releases, particularly those focusing on the sinister and otherworldly. This includes cues used memorably in George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" all of which makes this a bit of an essential treat too. Get them both.

Long may Dual Planet's archival pillaging continue.

Eric Siday's Ultra Sonic Perception is available on vinyl here, and here on CD.
Don Harper's Cold Worlds is available here on vinyl, and here on CD.

16 Jul 2014

Seas, Starry "Tyto Alba"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Way back on The Active Listener Sampler #9 I premiered "Cody", from the at the time upcoming album "Tyto Alba". Fast forward to July 2014 and that upcoming album has, um, come up.

Seas, Starry are an Aberdeen based six piece who are by and large unclassifiable. The term post-rock would almost certainly have been used a few years back, but we live in more enlightened times now, times in which Seas, Starry's evocative instrumental rock can exist solely on its own merits, without the need for a parent scene to attach it to.

Pulling from all sorts of influences - shoegaze, psychedelia, drone, krautrock, oh, all right, post-rock too then - "Tyto Alba" is a lovely piece of work. Characterised by gorgeous, soaring waves of guitars which feedback and squall deleriously with fluid and organic rhythms that lack the rigid, mathematical precision of their predecessors these are songs that build to massive, glacial crescendos in a slightly out of focus fashion which only enhances its otherwordly beauty.

Album centrepiece "Silfur" does have more than an air of Mogwai to it (which is welcome), but it's the more upbeat and riffy spacerockers like "Space Boat" that best set out their own stall.

The band are already at work on a second album which we've been told will see a change of direction, making "Tyto Alba" an essential snapshot of a young band at their most fertile and creative.


"Tyto Alba" is available digitally here, and on vinyl here.

"крыла обречени" - a complimentary album of early tracks and demos is available free here.

Full stream here:

15 Jul 2014

Nick Nicely "Headwindaheadwind"

Back in March I received an excitable (and exciting) e-mail from Nick Nicely, introducing himself (as if we wouldn't know who is - sheesh) and telling us enthusiastically about his newly recorded album. Naturally we were very keen to let you know about it immediately, but Nick and his label requested that we keep it under our hat for the time being. I've always looked rubbish in hats, so I was very pleased to see an official announcement starting to work its way around various sites, leaving me free to do my bit to spread the good word.

"Space of a Second" is the name of the album and it's due for release in September on Lo Recordings.

Preceding that (and out right now) is "Headwindaheadwind", a master class that shows that little has changed since the release of "Hilly Fields" in the early eighties. Nick is still the master when it comes to the unlikely fusing of psychedelic pop and electronica, with an implicit understanding that no matter how good something sounds (and the production here is impeccable as you'd expect), it's nothing without a killer tune, and the melody here is Nick at his wistful, pastoral best.

The fact that Nick is recording and releasing new material is reason enough in and of itself for celebration, the fact that it is this good is almost too much to believe.

Download it here.

White Fence "For The Recently Found Innocent"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

While the string of collaborations we expected after "Hair" may not have eventuated yet (hardly surprising given both artist's prolific and varied output), Ty Segall was impressed enough with the songs Tim Presley had lined up for the next White Fence project that he insisted on jumping into the producer's chair.

A follow up of sorts then but this is much more "Cloud Nine" than "The Traveling Wilburys", with both artist's roles clearly defined, and it would be entirely fair to say that both can claim equal shares in the success of "For The Recently Found Innocent". While the songs and performances are more or less all Presley's own (and rank among his best in both regards) Segall's production and guidance provide a perfect vehicle for getting Presley's infectious melodies into your ears with the minimum of fuss but maximum impact.

The hissy lofi aesthetic that White Fence albums have been previously cloaked in is noticeably absent, replaced by a suitably vintage analogue warmth that allows the melodic charms within the perfect environment in which to shine while looking knowingly and affectionately back to the contents of what must be a pretty fine record collection.

First single "Like that" is an irresistible, falsettoed Who homage that sounds like the very best Pete Townshend demo that you can imagine. "Sandra (When The Earth Dies)" goes all "Village Green Preservation Society" ("Arrow Man is pretty Kinky too). Other tracks touch on everything from liquid San Francisco psychedelia to crystalline folk-rock to late seventies U.K punk, all forged into exciting new/old shapes that make "For The Recently Found Innocent" not so much a homage to, but a peer of so many of those classic artists.

Hugely recommended.

Available here on vinyl, and here on CD.