8 Oct 2015

Pipe-Eye - Cosmic Blip

Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan

Australia historically has had an ambivalent relationship with psychedelia. One suspects that the larrikin spirit upon which it was founded may have meant that dropping LSD and becoming a pilot of inner/outer-space was never a viable cultural pursuit for much of the 20th Century. So despite well documented flares of dabbling in the late 60's, late 70's and yup, late 80's, the wave has never threatened to subsume the other musical genres beloved of the nation and its young folk. Until now. Australia is fast becoming the central point for great psychedelic music as a succession of bands take what had only really been hinted previously and are now wild in the streets and running amok with acided-out kaleidoscopic sonic architecture, the likes of which we have rarely seen before. The latest antipodean masked marauders to dive Into this day-glo maelstrom are Pipe-Eye, who may or may not have strong connections to countrymen King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, and who bestow upon us their majestically wasted debut mini lp "Cosmic Blip".

This is real deal psychedelia that takes the active listener on a journey out past the Kuiper Belt and the heliosphere into deep interstellar space. Cleverly in this writers opinion Pipe-Eye achieve this, not by cosmically heavy, motoric, droney 20 minute jams but with an intoxicating mixture of very short yet mind melting sound-scapes that tear at your sense of time and distance (the cosmic blips of the title) and some of the best short sloppy/ poppy psychedelic tunes I have heard this year. Or indeed in many. This is uniquely wobbly, happily twisted, garage psych madness and I find myself being repeatedly sucked up into their wonderland of sound. Pipe-Eye are pushing the envelope, and the envelope is stuffed to the gills with hallucinogenic drugs, and you dear listener, will find yourself raving and drooling as you gorge yourself on them. 'People Move Along' manages to be both incredibly jolly and hugely disconcerting at the same time, its Sesame Street lyrical outlook underpinned by the kind of simple psyched-out guitar lunacy that has you scrambling for a mirror to see whether you are still on planet earth or have actually been abducted by aliens from the planet ZONK. I am reminded of some of the more demented outings on Greg Shaw's masterful 'Pebbles' series, this song (and the others) certainly wouldn't sound out of place squeezed in between titanic 60's adventurers like The Calico Wall or Beautiful Daze. 'All That' is cosmic lounge music of the highest calibre, their inner-speakers turned to the max and their impalas well and truly tamed. Its real hall of mirrors stuff, with the sea-sickness of the vocals adding a lovely topping to the pitching back and forth of guitars. 'Tick Tock' retains the template with its insanely catchy and insistent two note riff and 'phasers set to stun' keyboard stabs. After some more sonic interludes, we arrive at our last stop on the ride, the utterly lunched out "The Way She Walks (on the Moon)". By this point you have lost all sense of time, of space and you are pathetically addicted to that wobbly guitar drone and stoned vocal delivery. Resistance is utterly futile. You have been commandeered by the Pipe-Eye Star Fleet. Relax and enjoy the trip.

Quite where Pipe-Eye go next is anyone's guess, they are already as far out as most would venture and can you really make a more stoned record than this? Will they ever come back from the world of LSD? Maybe, but the benchmark set here is high. Really high. 'Cosmic Blip' is a truly groovy record that soaks up the spirit of the first wave of psychedelic garage pioneers and mashes it up into a new plate of mind food. You really should get hip to this.

Available on limited vinyl or digital from the always reliable Flightless Records. Pipe-eye equals The Jetsons on acid. Ladies and gentlemen, they are floating in space.

The Pure Phase Ensemble 4 feat. Mark Gardener - Live at SpaceFest

Reviewed by Dedric Moore (KC Psych Fest)

From the press release:

Pure Phase Ensemble is an international music collective, created especially for the SpaceFest festival in Gdansk, which takes place annually in December and is organised by the Nasiono Association. The city of Gdansk plays host to this blossoming music festival each year in the first week of December, at which time numerous select musicians from Poland and abroad gather to take part in a special workshop series. They collectively compose a concert's worth of music, which they then present live to the festival-goers. Each year, this unique performance is recorded live and subsequently released as an LP.

The programme for each workshop is jointly curated by Ray Dickaty, a British saxophonist improviser and former member of Spiritualized (1997-2002), and Karol Schwarz (KSAS), who also manages Nasiono Records. Along with these two key figures, every festival involves a new musical director - a legendary, internationally recognised musician, who is invited to co-curate the workshop.

During the latest SpaceFest, Mark Gardener, the frontman of celebrated shoegaze pioneers RIDE who also recently released an LP with Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), occupied this seat of honour. Past participants include Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), Chris Olley (Six By Seven), Steve Hewitt (ex Placebo), and Jaime Harding (Marion).

"For me, this it interesting - it's perfect because it reminds me in some ways of how some of the early Ride songs came together... I didn't come in with a script, nor does Ray. There is no pre-work on this. It was just completely spontaneous," explains Mark Gardener. "Sometimes music like that is good before things get thought about too much and worked on too much. That can kill the energy sometimes. Of course some things have got to be worked and developed, but in this scenario, with such little time and to get an interesting set together, I think it's been good to keep it fresh and not over-worked." 

Albums are about building a mood. Live albums are usually a random set, designed to keep people watching. Pure Phase Ensemble 4's Live at Spacefest is about the former while achieving the latter. It's rare that I feel like I am actually at the concert while listening to a live album, but this mix takes me there and the changing moods of the tunes expertly guide me along with the band on this space journey.

Kicking off with a four minute intro, you can hear the crowd settle in for a cosmic journey. All of the pieces of the ensemble edge in on top of layers of pleasant drone. It envelopes you and reminded me of sitting on the hood of my car, watching the stars on a fall evening.

This then builds straight into "Morning Rise", as the horns build and the "song" emerges into a dreamy number that swings the beat just enough to keep you swaying. At eight minutes, there is plenty of room to patiently build up to the vocal line that comes in like a chant, which rolls in for a bit and then wanders off as the guitars stack peaceful melodies. The vocals return as the whole piece builds to a very satisfying end.

"Notaki" blends into the set, and a motorik drum pattern emerges to steady the song into a hypnotic mesh with one voice repeating a line while a second speak-sings. Out of the din comes a flute adding additional melodies and before you can focus they turn it off with a great breakdown that tricks you into thinking the song is over, but don't be fooled! We are only halfway through a fifteen plus minute jam. Turn up the guitars and soar into space as the band picks back up and continues the drive.

"Zostan na noc" is next and now that the band is warmed up we get some fuzz bass, distorted guitar and heavy sax, which comes across as a siren warning you to beware. But right when you think the song is going to go explosive it eases into another great, slow groove with female vocals, as the synths and sax take turns weaving in and out.

"Peter Song" has a captivating pizzicato bass line that makes the song from the first bar. It slows down the pace but doesn't lose momentum. "Doing My Head In" dreamily appears, with interlocking guitars and piano which add a nostalgic touch with a very catchy vocal melody on top. "Happy Dancing Woman" wraps up the set nicely as the pace picks up, and this is a great example of a feel good song which still feels emotionally deep and avoids any sappy sentiment. What a great way to send the crowd home fully satisfied.

Check it out here:

6 Oct 2015

The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies - Semyorka

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

We've been fans of UK psychedelic surfers the Blue Giant Zeta Puppies for a long time now (big enough fans to release a 'best of' collection of theirs), and their newest release is surely their very finest yet.

"Semyorka" is a much more ambitious piece than anything these puppies have attempted before, split into two seven minute suites of music that flow seamlessly, despite the fact that there are enough ideas encapsulated within to support an album, rather than a fourteen minute single.

And while their releases in the past have tended towards short, atmospheric surf pieces, tinged with psychedelia and sci-fi kookiness, "Semyorka" is something else entirely. Imagine a Joe Meek helmed Radiophonic Workshop, with Davie Allan roped in for guitar duties and you'll begin to get the idea.

It begins impressively. After some mood-setting, radiophonic atmospherics, the drums, bass and guitars join the party, and it becomes clear that surfing a pipeline and traversing a time corridor needn't be mutually exclusive (as hinted at by some of those vintage Doctor Who opening sequences). Before you've had a chance to catch a breath a big, reverb laden atmospheric guitar riff takes over, rerouting the song into a futuristic Wild West that would think twice about casting Will Smith. Add some twangy spy guitars, spooky theremin-sounding keyboards and plenty of kosmische keys and you've got a recipe with way too many ingredients, which somehow coallesces into an unlikely, but convincing triumph.

Available as a free download below, with a vinyl release to hopefully follow in the future.

5 Oct 2015

Coke Weed - Mary Weaver

Reviewed by John Knoernschild

Coke Weed really takes you for a ride with their new album. “Mary Weaver” hits that spot in your brain that makes you crave more. It would seem that the band’s name fits very well with their habit-forming sound. They really cover a lot of ground with this album, all the while exhibiting the sound that makes them Coke Weed. Sometimes the chucking guitars flow into your ears and make you think of Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall. Other times, they throw a twangy, surf-rockin’ guitar in your face and the bass punches you in the gut. The drums never miss a beat and they really add to the full sound the band achieves.

The first half of the album starts off with a strong Indie Pop Rock vibe and reminds me of a cross between Belle and Sebastian and Goat. “The Chill” feels like water moving around, then rushes over you, building up again and splashing down all around you. Not to mention the super sexy “Awe” which echoes over and over during the song. Really turns your mind on…….ya, your mind…..that’s it.

“I Could Be So Real” begins with the classic “One, Two, Three, Four” sounds from the keyboard you had when you were 10 years old. I really dug what they did with that. A great intro for a really great song, with hints of Talking Heads influencing the overall sound.

Later in the album “Shortest Night” and “New Jive” kick things into a heavier drive. Dipping deeper into that grungy psychedelic sound. “Honky Tonk Man” takes this vibe further into the darkness, with a driving sound and slow, methodical, guitar riffs.

“Fleece” is the bridge between the heavy stuff and the fluffier end of the album. A beautiful instrumental that leads into the calming riffs of “Dandelion”. A great end to a groovin’ album. It leaves you wanting more, but satisfied with what you have.

If you haven’t tried Coke Weed before, give into the pier pressure and catch that rockin' buzz!

Vinyl, CD and digital available through the link below - shipping Oct. 9

4 Oct 2015

Haleiwa - Palm Trees of the Subarctic

Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan

Autumn time up here in jolly old England is one of my favourite times of year. The leaves are turning brown and the sunlight has a quality and beauty that you only get when summer gives way to fall. Into this splendid reverie strolls a peach of a record from Stockholm songwriter and composer Mikku Singh, the artist also known as Haleiwa, who has just released his second solo outing. "Palm Trees of the Subarctic" on Forte Records.

The timing of this record dropping is great for me as many of its moods really reflect the essence of this time of year, but its so good that it could drop anytime and make the same play for my affections (and win). The title of the record is informative with it's literal suggestion of contrast, transition, and a slightly more hidden but detectable subtext of love and a search for satori. Thankfully these lofty objectives are matched sonically with a collection of songs that exude warmth and optimism.

Opening track 'Setting Sails in Kae Na Point' is a perfect marriage of 'Bryter Layter' era Nick Drake and Hawaiian psych-folk mysteriosos These Trails (who's sole record is a must listen for any Active Listener) and sets the tone for many of the expertly performed and lovely instrumentals on this record. But don't get too comfortable as the next track "Wall of Blue Sky" (issued by arch tastemeisters Sunstone Records as a 45 a while back) veers off sharply into indie dream pop territory underpinned by a solid motorik beat - not a million miles away from fellow Swedish favourites of mine , The Radio Dept or even dare I say it echoing the early output of Orchestral Manoeveures in the Dark (Hey! They were cool!). Anyways, its beautiful and provide a lovely counterpoint to the opener. Back the pendulum swings into 'Epic Days' which features some tasteful acoustic guitar picking with a spectral synth providing wispy clouds of accompaniment. Needless to say, it's totally gorgeous. "Emergency Exit on Fire" moves back across the hall into floaty pop sensibilities driven by a rolling sparkly guitar motif that could easily have made the cut for the latest offering by Swedish compatriots, The Amazing. And so the pattern is set as the record continues on its restless, beautiful path, endlessly counterpointing itself with an assuredness and commitment to excellence that gives credence to the claim that the final selection of 10 songs for this release were hewn down from 40 potential candidates recorded over several years. For every contemplative and autumnal instrumental contained here there's a dazzling, breezy song around the corner. For every palm tree...

By the time journeys end arrives with the closing chimes of the delightful "Acai" (not accidentally titled you suspect given the little berry's well-known health enhancing properties) you are refreshed and ready to either get out there into the wider world and do a little good or get up and put the darn record on again (before eventually going out into the wider world and doing a little good). It's that type of inspiring record and you will probably want it in your life on a fairly regular basis.

I would imagine those who hear "Palm Trees of the Subarctic" will be compiling it in their end of year lists for best record of 2015, it really is that good. Only 250 people will have the pleasure of hearing a vinyl copy so move quickly if you want to be one of them. I just pulled the trigger myself, sometimes only physical media will do and this is one of those times. Mikku Singh in whatever guise he chooses is clearly one to follow.

Haleiwa by the way is an actual place. In Hawaii. I found that out on the internet. Like I found out about this record on the internet. Open your windows, let the light flood into your living room and get acquainted with Haleiwa. It's the time of the season for it.

Digital and vinyl available here:

3 Oct 2015

The City – Now That Everything’s Been Said

Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub (Hop On Pop)

The beautiful thing about recorded music is that it’s a permanent record (no pun intended) of an artist’s place at a specific moment in time. Especially wonderful are those recordings that showcase a lesser-known side of a well-known artist. Such is the case with the 1969 album from Carole King’s band, The City, recently given a loving reissue by Light In the Attic Records.

King was already an established Brill Building hitmaker by the late 60s, having written hits for The Monkees, The Shirelles, Aretha Franklin, and many more. But, in 1969, she relocated from New York to California, where she met guitarist Danny Kortchmar and bassist Charles Larkey, with whom she formed this psych-pop band.

Well, to call The City “psychedelic” is a little misleading, as they were really a pop band with a touch of psychedelic decoration here and there. The sound is undeniably Carole King, only the trappings are different: an organ or harpsichord might appear where there would be electric piano a few years later. Or maybe there’s a slightly different guitar tone that sounds more like The Association than "Tapestry".

“Snow Queen” opens the record with a sprightly psych/prog jazz-waltz atypical of the Carole King that most of us know; however, King’s piano playing is instantly recognizable. And then, when she begins to sing, there is no question as to whom we are hearing. The next song, “I Wasn’t Born To Follow,” even has bits and pieces of the melody from her classic hit “So Far Away.”

Despite the fact that King is the obvious front woman, there is a sense that The City is still trying to be an actual band. To that end they give Danny Kortchmar several lead vocals, starting with “Man Without a Dream.” While the male vocal does bring a slight shift in tone, the guitar player adopts King’s phrasing, almost to a “t” and you are, once again, reminded that this is King’s show.

It’s not until near the end of the album, with “My Sweet Home” that The Carole King Sound is somewhat obscured, and it has nothing to do with the Kortchmar lead vocal. It’s that the band is adopting the nascent country rock sound that bands like The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Byrds were spearheading at the time. A couple tunes later, “That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho)” provides another welcome departure, touching on light soul and gospel. It’s a song that Dusty Springfield recorded a few years later for her classic album "Dusty In Memphis".

While The City had only this single album to their name, it was an important one. This is the project that put Carole King out front for the first time, helping to pave the way for one of the best and most-influential pop artists of the 1970s to make her mark. The songs are not the best of King’s career, but the pure pop melodies and the honesty and soul in her voice are still engaging.

This is not an album for the hardcore psych crowd, per se. For the bulk of you, searching for a purely psychedelic record, it’ll be a mere curio, and ultimately unsatisfying. But for those of you who enjoy 1970s singer/songwriter material, it’s a fascinating glimpse at one of the best songwriters of her generation, at a moment in time where psychedelia was huge and she couldn’t escape its shadow. Nor did she try to.

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

2 Oct 2015

The Active Listener Acid Folk Sampler Volume Two

In 2012 we published our first Acid Folk Sampler (which you can still stream or download here), with the intention of revisiting the idea and regularly releasing further volumes. Over things captured my attention and that never ended up happening, but better late than never, we're now compiling a second volume, which is shaping up even better than the first in the series.

We are now accepting submissions for Volume Two.

If you'd like to submit a track, please e-mail me at the active listener at hotmail dot com with
a streaming link for the submitted track
a download link for a lossless version. 

No need for a new or exclusive track (although they are welcome too). Mostly, we're just looking for you to choose one of the best (and most lysergic or spooky) tracks from your most recent release to help draw some new listeners your way.

Deadline for submissions is October 10 (although I may reassess this).

I'm anticipating a big response for this sampler, so this does mean that I'll only be able to feature a fraction of the tracks that are submitted.

Looking forward to hearing your submissions. There's been some great stuff sent through already.

Pearl Charles - Self Titled EP

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

A couple of years back I reviewed the Blank Tapes excellent album "Vacation". While all of the material on "Vacation" was written by chief Blank Tape Matt Adams, there was another presence on the album that threatened to steal the show; Pearl Charles, who supplied the albums quirky percussion and provided lead and co-lead vocals on a number of the album's standout tracks.

Fast-forward to 2015 and Pearl has served her apprenticeship with the Blank Tapes and moved on, and now confidently steps into the spotlight with her solo debut. Recorded over a number of different sessions, with help from Matt Adams and Active Listener favourite Joel Jerome (among others), Pearl's sef-titled debut is - I'm sorry, but there's no other word for it - a pearl.

On hearing this material, the NME said "Think of Pearl Charles as a stoner Lana Del Rey or a Jenny Lewis with grit", and it's not an enormous stretch of the imagination to imagine Pearl reaching the heights of popularity shared by those artists. The impressive thing about this EP, is that Pearl hasn't had to abandon her love of classic sixties / seventies rock to make this happen.

This is immediately apparent on opener "Night & Day", opening with a chiming Rickenbacker - pure Byrds style - with lashings of sitar finding their way unobtrusively into the mix a bit later on. Nothing unusual there of course, frequent visitors to the Active Listener will be used to hearing these sorts of arrangements, but where Pearl trumps the revivalists is on the strength, and style of her songwriting. The hooks here are huge and much more universal than the majority of her peers - the sorts of hooks that are likely to land fans of Jenny Lewis, Ryan Adams and the likes. And having that voice certainly won't do her any harm either.

There's plenty of variety on show here too -  a diverse melting pot that takes in vintage psychedelic / folk-rock, Americana, Laurel Canyon and unabashed Fleetwood Mac style seventies pop-rock. In fact, the only complaint I can furnish is that with four more tracks of the same quality this could have been a really great debut album, which would have perhaps given her a better chance of reaching a much wider audience. But it's good to be left wanting more, right? And I want a whole lot more of this. Really great.

Available digitally below (with full stream), although Burger's cassette release seems to be sold out already. Boo.

Creation Artifact: The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-1985 Box Set

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

Cherry Red has just released this amazing five CD box set of early Creation Records singles. How does one review such a massive and excellent collection of singles and rarities? It’s hard to be objective with so much greatness for the ears to feast on. I guess my approach will be mentioning the highlights here, and there are many! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Creation Records was one of the greatest independent labels in the 80s and 90s, started in the post-punk era and evolving to define the Britpop generation. Formed in 1983 by Alan McGee along with Dick Green and Joe Foster, the label’s name was lifted from 60s band The Creation. The three were also in the psych pop band Biff Bang Pow! (featured here, of course), which is also the title of a Creation song. The label’s history is long and important, as was all the great music that emerged during this time period. Who among us doesn’t remember early singles from bands as varied as The Pastels and The Revolving Paint Dream all the way out to The Jesus and Mary Chain and Ride (who first appeared after the time period covered on this box)? So, on to the music! Disc one and two are all singles from this period, Disc three includes rarities and album tracks, Disc four is all demos, and Disc five is all BBC sessions. All told, there are 124 tracks here, and it will take quite a long while to sort through all this excellence.

So where to start? Disc one brings us a wealth of tracks from the likes of The Legend!, The Revolving Paint Dream, The Jasmine Minks, The Pastels, The Loft, and Biff Bang Pow! I was previously familiar with everyone here except The Legend! The Legend!, aka Jerry Thackray, emotes in a sing song voice which makes it sound like poetry set to music. The songs (‘73 in ‘83, for example) are odd and startling, and definitely hold your interest on repeated listens. And what about The Revolving Paint Dream? The band’s name aptly describes the flowery, Carnaby-flavored psychedelia they delved in. Witness the pretty, “Flowers in the Sky” or the classic, “In the Afternoon” for prime examples of their work.The fantastic Biff Bang Pow! offers up the Byrdsian flavored “Fifty Years of Fun”, which practically steals the riff from “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, but mixes it up with an almost punky edge. In fact, they remind me quite a bit of Medway band The Dentists! “Then When I Scream” also is fraught with Rickenbackers, but includes some groovy organ that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Doors album. And oh, The Jasmine Minks are a fun group. Their single “Think!” is cool and retro and has that neat guitar to jazz things up. “Work For Nothing” is cool jangle pop with a vocal that resembles Translator. I guess all these bands were mining the same musical influences! Scottish band The Pastels are awesome in all their lo fi tweeness and slightly out of tune but charming vocals from Stephen Pastel, such as the cute “Something Going On”. They are akin to equally enchanting groups like Television Personalities, though they are far more serious. “Stay With Me Till Morning” wears an obvious Velvets influence on its musical sleeve, and this is just fine with this listener. The X-Men channel The Cramps in all their swampy, psychobilly splendor. “Do the Ghost” and the other songs on here are all trashy fun. “Talk” sounds like something The Feelies might have recorded, if you could imagine The Feelies with a surf punk influence. And then we’re back to Biff Bang Pow! and their classic, “There Must Be a Better Life”. I hear Television in the mix of influences and this is quite possibly their best song. “The Chocolate Elephant Man” is also great ear candy. Other highlights include “Where The Traffic Goes” and “Mr Magic” from The Jasmine Minks, and the Go Betweens inspired jangle classic “Why Does the Rain” from The Loft. Whew, those are a lot of highlights and we have four more disks to explore. Hope you’ll stay with me as I listen through from end to end, which may well take my entire weekend.

So, what does Disc two feature? Well, the Mary Chain and Primal Scream for starters, along with The Bodines, The Weather Prophets, and The Moodists, along with some of the aforementioned bands. “Upside Down” from JAMC is surf punk infused with a ton of feedback and attitude. It brings you back to just how important a band these guys were and still are. And oh, their cover of Syd Barrett’s “Vegetable Man” is bristling with menace. While The Soft Boys’ version of this is the definitive one, this cover is still cool. And then wow, four tunes from the boss band The Loft, and I swear I hear Forster and McLennan and maybe even Felt swirling through, especially on “Up the Hill and Down the Slope”. Following this is the piano driven “Your Door Shines Like Gold”, the slightly dour “Lonely Street”, and the jangly “Time”. Primal Scream’s “All Fall Down” is far removed from the noisy psych they came out with later on albums such as “XTRMNTR”. It is mannered pop psych, not really what I remember about this band. “It Happens” reminds me of The Smiths for some reason. And then we have another pair of tunes from The Jasmine Minks, the energetic punky “What’s Happening” and “Black and Blue.” Australia’s The Moodists seem to have channeled The Doors along with some blues influences. Their song “Justice and Money Too” is fun indeed, as is “You’ve Got Your Story”. The Pastels kick out the jams (slightly) with “I’m Alright With You” and offer up the Velvets influenced “For What It’s Worth” as a counterpoint. The Weather Prophets (Pete Astor from The Loft) close out this disk with their classic “Worm In My Brain”, with some tasty slide guitar served up special for fans.

Disc three is all about the rarities and live tunes, including Alan McGee’s band The Laughing Apple.”Wouldn’t You?” has the same vibe that some of the Flying Nuns did back in the day. I believe they all have the same influences! We are also treated to an early version of “In the Afternoon” from The Revolving Paint Dream. The official version is better, but this is interesting from an historic perspective. “The Thirty Second Set Up” from The Jasmine Minks is swinging fun, and far too short at just over a minute. They also bring us the groovy “Somers Town” with some neat slide guitar. Biff Bang Pow!’s muffled “Waterbomb!” sounds like it was recorded with The Stones at the bottom of a well, which makes it uber fun. And JAMC drop their demo of “Upside Down” which joins the other musicians in the well, but one ups them with black clad, backs turned coolness. There is also an acoustic version of their classic “Just Like Honey”, where their Beach Boys influence is rather obvious. The noisy, experimental punks The Membranes give us “I Am Fish Eye” and “Gift of Life”, with all the requisite din and mayhem you’d expect from this genre. And woohoo, we have a cover of Love’s “Seven and Seven Is” from The Jasmine Minks. The trashy garage aesthetic is well played out here. And there is a really lo fi song from The June Brides (Phil Wilson) called “I Fall”. Then we have Jon Langford (Mekons) and his noisy group The Three Johns with “A.W.O.L”. Don’t expect Mekons smoothness, this is more like a swamp rock vibe more than anything. Later in the disk, Alternative TV sings the odd “Lonely Lenny”, followed by Dan Treacy and the Television Personalities with a live version of “A Picture of Dorian Gray”. They sound positively polished compared to the raw tunes that precede it. The TVPs also offer up the live tracks “The Dream Inspires” and “Family Affair”.

Disc four features demos from band such as The Jasmine Minks, Biff Bang Pow!, and The Moodists. Starting up with “All Fall Down”, the psych pop of “Work”, and the jangly “Second Post”, and moving along to the amusing “Boredom (Is)” from The Legend!, this disk covers a wide variety of styles. Meat Whiplash’s awesome “Losing Your Grip” sounds like a radio station flickering in and out before it settles into a heavy garage groove. “Always Sunday” carries a heavy Velvets influence, and “Walk Away” is neat surf rock. I also like The X-Men’s peppy “Home”, which almost sounds like a Monkees outtake. And back to the Minks for “Mr. Magic” (excellent), “Friends”, “Choice”, and the laid back vibe (with trumpet) of “Everybody’s Got To Grow Up Sometime”. We also are treated to some rough sketches from Biff Bang Pow! of “Lost Your Dreams” and the trippy “I’m Okay Me”.

Disc five is a combination of John Peel and Janice Long BBC sessions featuring The X-Men, The Loft, and The Bodines, among others. The X-Men throw down the garage psych tune “The Witch” and the Syndicate of Sound cover “Little Girl”. Both are fun and very cool. The Loft once again reminds me of the Go Bees with their sessions with Janice Long that include “On a Tuesday”, “Skeleton Staircase”, “The Canal And The Big Red Town”, and “Lonely Street”. This session dates back to 1984 but sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. The Peel Session with The Moodists has vocals on “Other Man” that sound like Greg Sage, and “Justice and Money Too” has some nice chunky bass lines. The Bodines have fun in a Janice Long session with “William Shatner”, who’s been the subject of numerous songs. And rounding out this disk are a quartet of live tunes from The Loft, including my favorite “Worm in My Brain” and the closing track “Up the Hill and Down The Slope”.

This box set is an exhaustive treatise of the ‘83-’85 era of a classic British label. Given the sonic treats here, this release will provide many happy listening hours for completists or people interested in this awesome time period of British rock.

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

1 Oct 2015

Pulco - Dip in the Ocean – An Introduction to Pulco

Reviewed by Mark Barton (The Sunday Experience)

Once upon a time (well 1998 to be more precise) a track by the name of ‘Radar Intruder’ ushered from the house radio one night, and into our lives and long-held affection. By Derrero, it made the lower end of that years Peel Festive 50. Three and a half minutes of blissfully perfect pop possessed of an unerring knack for shimmying beneath your well guarded defences, and with it – around our gaff at least – always considered a bit of a memorable gem.

Now, any right minded person at this point might just be scratching their head thinking where is he going with this, and thanks for the trip down memory lane. Well much to our embarrassment, Pulco was in said band Derrero and has been for the last decade or more been hatching little nuggets and releasing them beneath our usually astute and watchful radar on the Folkwit imprint. ‘Dip in the Ocean’ is, as the full title hints, a kind of bringing-you-up-to-speed compilation, gathering together various previously released EP’s all of which, to stunned and humbled horror, we’ve managed to miss.

‘Dip in the Ocean’ reveals a creative artistry ever watchful, wandering and withdrawn from the maddening crowd that is pop. Many who’ve stumbled across, for example, Lux Harmonium via the esteemed Static Caravan will be alerted to the trace elemental similarities in so far as the crystalline toning. None more so is this the case than on the soft undulating lilt of the carefree and dreamy ‘Tudor Grains’, which arrives possessed of a demurely dinked lineage that draws close to Magnet’s ‘Wicker Man’ pastoral lilts. The same airily rustic devices are utilised on the shyly bittersweet soft psych shimmering of ‘Place Lid on Me’, which A B Leonard enthusiasts may do well to investigate, not to mention those whose hearts skip a beat at the mere appearance of a youthful Kevin Tihista looming on their turntable player. Then there’s the homely, sighing, porchlit creak of the blissfully cast adrift and drifting ‘Wearing Down the Well’, which had us in mind of an optimistically thoughtful June Panic, sparring with the Panda Gang (nee BDI’s, nee the Lancashire Hustlers), while those fancying of something totally off the wall and done with an impish grin might warm to the crookedly playful ‘Whoops’ which features (or so it appears) some junior members of the Pulco family not to mention some Radiophonic meets Raymond Scott wackiness . Best moment of the set for us though is the opening salvo ‘Song 37’, a lolloping gem rippled in hiccupping lock-grooved motifs, all kissed with a smoky sea sawing sleepy headed 70’s vintage – quite fetching if you ask me.

Available digitally here: