Sunday, 29 October 2017



To listen to the show scroll to the bottom of the page

“Toy soldiers put funny little knick-knacks in your brain”
                                                           Drusilla (Buffy the Vampire slayer)


As you might expect, Herman’s Hermits were never able to make the leap from the loveable popsters of the Something-Tells-Me-I’m-Into-Something-Good/No-Milk-Today-variety to compete with the likes of Cream, Hendrix or The Beatles, and in truth, I don’t think they even tried. Their focus was on the North American market, and their 1967 release, BLAZE, wasn’t even released in England, as if their record company were too embarrassed about it, but it’s actually not that bad. At the very least there's a discernible whiff of marijuana-inspired pop about it - the opener, a cover of Donovan’s Museum comes with sitar and conjures up multi-coloured clothes, Indian drones and London when the swinging stopped and the stoning got going, and the rest of the album, produced by Mickie Most, is full of trippy, catchy little songs and is something of an underappreciated psych-pop gem.


The Radiophonic Tuckshop (great name, by the way) are a Glasgow based band who do a fine line in melodic, psychedelic fancies that unashamedly channel the spirit of 1967, leaving no trope unexplored. This is not a bad thing. Kensington Garden Pie is a glorious pastiche (one hopes) of the tripped-out psychedelic underground of the Summer of Love and is all the better for it. The brain-child of Joe Kane, of Dr Cosmos Tape Lab fame, as a sort of side-project, Radiophonic Tuckshop are at home to lysergic pop, wonky tunes and merry melodies, and they have an album out next year. You can find this track, however, on the most welcome release from the Active Listener blogsite, which went on a sort of self-imposed sabbatical earlier this year, but which nevertheless seems to have returned with the rather fine THE NEW AND IMPROVED ACTIVE LISTENER SAMPLER, which you can download from here.


The Apples In Stereo are a band very much at home to psychedelic experimentation, usually drawing something or other from the REVOLVER/MADCAP LAUGHS songbook for inspiration. For their 1999 release, HER WALLPAPER REVERIE, they filled their album with so many lysergic interludes that they ended up with more interludes than actual songs, although the playfully kaleidoscopic Strawberry Fire shows that they know how to craft a tune full of sugary, head-spinning goodness when they put their minds to it.


The debut album, ELEGIES, by Nathan Hall and the Sinister Locals, pretty much sounds like the cover looks. I was thinking of new ways to include the words bucolic, affectionate and Barrett-esque into a sentence to underline just how much I enjoy this album, when I realised that the cover perfectly captures its essence– a gorgeous palette of sound that playfully ravishes the senses with synaesthetic washes of shimmering colour and dazzling light. Have a good look at the cover – that is what the album sounds like. Did I mention how much I enjoy it? Available now from bandcamp.


For his second album, BOHEMIAN GARDEN, Swiss multi-instrumentalist Balduin has gone all harpsichord-tastic, or at the very least has found a button on his new-fangled synthesiser with the word harpsichord writ large upon it. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, and on it he creates a soundscape that sits very nicely between shimmering 60s pop and kaleidoscopically arranged psychedelia. If you buy only one baroque psych-pop-analogue -synth album this year make sure it’s this one.


Julian House’s stop starts melodies and woozy fragments of eccentric aged audio memorabilia mine British psychedelia, Italian horror movies and eastern European animation for inspiration, creating an exotic collage of sound that lingers in the past. His new album STOP-MOTION HAPPENING WITH THE FOCUS GROOP gives a sly nod to Stereolab in the title but otherwise takes their loops and grooves and places them in the blender with a variety of Summerisle sounds that range from natural landscape folk passages to fizzing electronic blips and bloops through sampled jazz echoes to create a dreamlike web of ghostly echoes. Marvellous.


Up until 1967 The Seeds were known for pioneering a raw proto-punk garage rock sound that produced a couple of classic hit singles, but for their third album they added orchestrations and classical instrumentation to the mix, resulting in the trashy psychedelia of FUTURE. Critics at the time dismissed it as an attempt to surf the wave of baroque/psychedelic/orchestral magic that followed in the wake of the Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S, but, in fact, that album wasn’t released until after The Seeds had finished recording the presciently entitled FUTURE. If anything, Sky Saxon’s sneering howls owed more to Mick Jagger, and the album’s sound to a particularly messed-up Rolling Stones. Flower Lady and her Assistant is as fine a piece of flower power music you’ll ever hear, but it still manages to sound menacing; sneering garage-rock disguised as psychedelic whimsy.


There’s a gentle psychedelic wooziness to the title track of Wootton’s debut album. Better known for his collaborations, his solo release showcases Wootton’s ability to create his own sound utilizing dense atmospheric soundscapes and sonic experimentation. He also has a deft way with melody - The Way The Light Bends Around You combines acid folk loveliness with an ambient Eno-esque soundscape to produce something quite tender and exquisite.


Moons (Part 1) is Sproatly Smith’s contribution to the latest A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY release, ALL THE MERRY YEAR ROUND, an exploration of an alternative or otherly calendar that considers how traditional folklore and its tales now sit alongside and sometimes intertwine with cultural or media based folklore now transmitted and passed down via television, film and technology rather than through local history and the ritual celebrations of the more longstanding folkloric calendar, giving the stories new layers of meaning and myth. Sproatly Smith go quite dark with this one, eschewing ethereal vocals for darkened synths which throb with unexpected menace.


The Chocolate Watch Band’s debut album, NO WAY OUT, released in 1967, had a difficult gestation which saw many of the lead vocals replaced with those of a session musician, producers tinkering with overdubs, and on two tracks, session musicians replacing the band entirely. Despite this, the album is now lauded as something of an essential garage band classic, featuring a raw urgent heaviness combined with distorted guitar instrumentals that were early examples of protopunk. Gossamer Wings is, in fact, something of an anomaly on the album, a psychedelic digression that used the band's basic track from the 1966 single b-side Loose Lip Sync Ship as its jumping-off point, but it’s a pleasant digression, nonetheless.


This is the second track taken from the album ALL THE MERRY YEAR ROUND, and finds The Séance steeped in the same eerie hauntological territory that’s not very far removed from the sort of sonic wormholes explored by The Children of Alice. This, of course, is a good thing and moreover, the Byzantine structures and sparse melodies they create perfectly match the A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY aesthetic, which finds the label wanderings down the same interwoven pathways of phantom musings and oddball electronic finery, travelling alongside straw bear and cathode ray summonings alike.


I can’t quite bring myself to like the album AS YOU WERE, as it sounds pretty much like everything else he’s put his voice to this last 20 years or so, but that being said, producer Andrew Wyatt brings a stark swirl to the second single, Chinatown, which, despite boasting lyrics so bad they just have to be parody, has some gorgeous, gently finger-picked guitar to it, buttressed with slight rhythmic loops and digital manipulations which combine to make it one of the absolute stand-out tracks of his career.


Dantalian’s Chariot never got to release the album they recorded in 1967, because their record company couldn’t be doing with band’s new psychedelic direction. Previously known for his legendary Big Roll Band, a band known on the live circuit for playing an electrifying mixture of soul, jazz, and R&B, band leader Zoot Money caught the psychedelic bug and renamed the band Dantalian’s Chariot and, by all accounts, they rocked the London psychedelic scene with a spectacular light show that made them the envy of Pink Floyd -  to heighten the effect of the spectacular light show being projected onto them, the band would all dress in white robes, with their instruments and equipment also painted white. Despite releasing A Madman Running Through The Fields, now regarded as a psychedelic classic, the record company rejected their album and released instead an album of previously recorded tracks, which they released in 1968 as TRANSITION, crediting the album to Zoot Money as a solo artist, rather than Dantalian's Chariot.  In 1995 David Wells' Tenth Planet label pieced together an album of ten tracks recorded in 1967 and released them as a facsimile of what that rejected album may have sounded like and called it CHARIOT RISING. The instrumental This Island resembles a Morricone spaghetti-western outtake lugubriously decorated with Somers’s electric sitar show a band embracing the Summer of Love in all its hempen glory.


The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band also come with a story. Originally The Laughing Wind, the band were ‘acquired’ by aspiring musician and wealthy, thirty-something attorney Bob Markley who promised to finance and secure a recording contract for the band in exchange for his inclusion into the group. Markley envisioned the group as a West Coast counterpart to the Velvet Underground, edgy and experimental, and accordingly renamed the band – as well as securing rights to the band’s name and publishing, a move that caused something of a fracture within the band, what with Markley not being much of a musician or lyricist and all. Will You Walk With Me is taken from their third, and more or less final album (and thereby hangs another tale) A CHILD’S GUIDE TO GOOD AND EVIL in 1967. This album is considered their most overtly psychedelic work but it’s a bizarre fusion of innocence and malice heavily affected by the spirit of the Summer of Love being swept away on a tide of bad drugs, paranoia, and protest.


A rather fine cover of The Purple Gang’s Granny Take’s A Trip, originally released, as you might expect, in 1967. As the title suggests, Gould takes his version off into an extended detour through time and space that imbues the track with a lysergic ambiance that the original, in truth, didn’t have (despite getting itself banned by the BBC for intending to corrupt the nation’s youth). You can find this on his soundcloud page. 


Temples’ second album, VOLCANO, saw them expand their sonic palette to include pulsing, prog, motorik beats and baroque chamber-psych. In 2016 they gave the lead single, the squelchy, synth-driven Certainty up for a good remix and psychedelic experimentalists Grumbling Fur took that, stripped it down, and gave it a pastoral, hallucinatory make-over reminiscent of Brian Eno’s post-glam, cinematic albums from the mid-’70s. It sounds great.


Earlier this year the Radiophonic Workshop unveiled an unreleased highlight from their most famous member, the late Delia Derbyshire. Titled Future Ghosts, the piece was made of various elements from Derbyshire’s seemingly lost tape archive. The collection, containing over 300 tape reels, was found in the artist’s attic after her death and used to construct the new piece. The dark, atmospheric piece has been composed from original elements of music by Derbyshire that the Radiophonic Workshop have worked together into a new piece. The elements are from tapes that Derbyshire made beyond the BBC on some of her later film and theatre projects - the exact details of which are lost to time. Check out this clip below, worked into a promo for a recent panel discussion in which members of the Radiophonic Workshop discussed their extraordinary history and working methods. Delia, bless her, passed away in 2001.


It’s been 11 years since the last release by Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada, to his mother) and 20 years since the release of the brilliant FANTASMA. His latest release finds him eschewing the neon-psychedelia of that album for something entirely more meditative. As the title suggests, MELLOW WAVES is a different affair entirely which finds Cornelius in a meditative state, the music representing a world that constantly changes, with no structure, where various things just occur and continue endlessly - it’s a soft and lovely collection of songs. Surfing on Mind Wave Pt. 2, something of a minimalist interlude, was suggested by a piece he wrote for the soundtrack to GHOST IN THE SHELL: ARISE (the original Anime movie, not the recent ravishing but largely pointless remake), and owes much to the work of Terry Riley: a buzzing and sun-drenched drone that surfs on ecstatic ambient waves.


…and speaking of ambient, Brian Eno’s APOLLO: ATMOSPHERE’S AND SOUNDTRACKS, is a near perfect example of the genre (at least the bits that don’t feature slide guitar). There’s two versions of the album to choose from, and dark and mysterious Matta, appears on the first version originally recorded in 1983 for a feature-length documentary movie called ‘Apollo’ later retitled ‘For All Mankind’, directed by Al Reinert. The original version of the film had no narration, and simply featured 35mm footage of the Apollo moon missions set to Eno's music as it appears on the album – there’s a second version to accompany the 1989 re-release of the film with a largely different soundtrack. Matta has a dark, complicated texture, appropriately spacey and slow moving but empty and disconnected – and surely that’s whale song? This could well be the piece of music that invented The Orb.


This gorgeous track can be found on the album AUSTRALASIE, a lucky find from last year and currently one of my favourite albums. Astrobal is a project by Emmanuel Mario, who I came across because of his work as producer and drummer with Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, who guests on this album. The thing I like about it most is that it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before – Mario has created an aqueous universe of his own to swim around in, with each track an ethereal ambient wash married to a wave of buzzing synths and symphonic strings that build to a crescendo of sound and crashing drums. The hymnal warmth of Trois Beaux Oiseaux du Paradis, sung by French actress Nina Savary, is actually a cover, if that’s the right word in this instance, of a rare foray into choral writing by Ravel, written in 1915 whilst waiting to be enlisted in the army.


This ambient soundscape is just the first 12 minutes of an otherwise 25 minute piece called Some Hope Of Land taken from the album BURIALS IN SEVERAL EARTHS, a brand new work by the legendary Radiophonic Workshop. Nearly two decades after the Workshop was decommissioned by the BBC (who don’t do weird stuff anymore), original members Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Dr Dick Mills, Paddy Kingsland and long-time associate composer Mark Ayres returned to the studio to create evocative and improvised bouts of musique concrete loosely based upon Francis Bacon’s incomplete 1627 literary work New Atlantis, which was used by the Radiophonic Workshop founder, Daphne Oram, as a manifesto for the original sound sorcery they famously produced in room 13 of the BBC Maida Vale studio complex in London. Some Hope of Land is a set of experimental sounds that take the listener on bizarre and unsettling adventures. The effects ebb and flow with the playful analog sounds and the devastating electronica. Just beautifully weird, but you wouldn’t want 25 minutes of it.


Vanilla Fudge were the covers band for the counter culture in the late 60s. Their eponymous debut release in 1967 featured no less than seven Hammond-heavy covers, each one a stoned-out, slowed-down version of such then-recent classics as The Beatles’ Ticket To Ride, The Zombies’ She’s Not There and The Supremes’ classic You Keep Me Hanging On, blown up to epic proportions and bathed in a trippy, distorted haze. The band has been cited as one of the few American links between psychedelia and what soon became heavy metal, and they certainly seem to have invented Deep Purple, but each song still works as a time capsule of American psychedelia. I particularly like their take on Eleanor Rigby, which is verily a trip unto itself.

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