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Simon Finn's wacky '70s Brit-folk gets a second chance; the Album Leaf soaks the Independent in psychedelic ambience

Even by the standards of its time, Simon Finn's 1970 album Pass the Distance was wholly unusual. In a voice that moved from soft croon to freaky howl, the British singer/songwriter discussed failing erections, crying walruses, Chinese communists, and a fig-eating, recrucified Jesus. At the same time, his fellow musicians laid down first-take organ/guitar/tabla backing tracks inspired by Ornette Coleman, free jazz, Indian music, and humpback whale calls. Not surprisingly, the resulting disc wasn't much of a commercial success, although it didn't help that it was soon removed from stores because of legal hassles. Finn dropped out of music soon after, moving to Canada in 1974. Over the years, Pass the Distance gained renown amongst collectors, leading to David Tibet of British experimental act Current 93 coming across a copy in 2001. After searching out Finn and the master tapes, Tibet rereleased the record last year. Adding to his rejuvenated career, Finn will bring his peculiar poetry and heartfelt voice to the Make-Out Room on Wednesday, Jan. 12; call 647-2888 or go to www.makeoutroom.com.
-- Dan Strachota

Attention span-challenged fans who got turned on to San Diego's the Album Leaf (aka Jimmy LaValle) upon hearing "The Eastern Glow" on The OC may be disappointed by the mostly instrumental, experimental one-man-band's live show, which, with lots of sitting enlivened only by tripped-out visual effects, can be a staid affair. LaValle's music requires concentration and a fair amount of zoning out in order to lock into the ambient grooves, a weave of orchestral sounds (the guy's a classically trained pianist) and jazzy improv, with found sound from outer space salted in for good measure (think OK Computerera Radiohead or Album Leaf tour buddies/ studiomates Sigur Rós). It's a postmodern aesthetic LaValle perfected during stints in formidable S.D. acts Tristeza, Black Heart Procession, GoGoGo Airheart, and the Locust (of all bands). Sharing the Album Leaf's love of visual projections is opening local group the Rum Diary. Swiping its name from an early Hunter S. Thompson novel, this North Bay foursome, better known to some as the Cotati Sound Machine, blends delicate, Elliott Smithish vocals with blissed-out, moody space-rock. Roots of Orchis opens on Friday, Jan. 14, at the Independent; call 771-1421 or visit www.theindependentsf.com for more info.
-- Maya Kroth

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