MIND DE-CODER 80
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“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles”
Frances Hodgson Burnett
GANG GANG DANCE (INFIRMA TERRAE)
This is the opening track from the album KAZUASHITA, released earlier this year by Gang Gang Dance, who make odd global beats that fall somewhere between the sound of late period-Pink Floyd, The Orb, Sigur Rós and The Cocteau Twins, all of which makes for an album that seems to pursue beauty for its own sake, transcending genres with a focus on soft-core melodies and harmonic structures – it really is quite lovely, to say the least. Surprisingly, this melange of aural psychedelics is brought to you from New York and not downtown Jakarta, say, but their tribal rhythms channel sounds from across the globe without slipping into dreaded “world music” territory. I do the album no favours by simply playing this opening piece, and I may return to it one day for the show. In the meantime, I urge you to check it out.
THE ADVISORY CIRCLE TIME SHAPES THE LENS
I have it drift off into a track taken from WAYS OF SEEING, the most recent release from The Advisory Circle on which library music composer and mastering engineer Jon Brookes creates polished synth instrumentals which evoke a breezy modernism only slightly faded by age. Indeed, Brookes seems to have removed himself from the 70s, that era most beloved by your hauntologists, and planted himself in the 80s which gives him an entirely new palette to play with – New Romanticism awaits just around the corner.
KEITH SEATMAN SEEING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE
Seeing Through The Invisible is a track taken from the 2016 A Year In The Country release FRACTURES, a gathering of studies and explorations that take as their starting point the year 1973; a time when there appeared to be a schism in the fabric of things, a period of political, social, economic and industrial turmoil, when 1960s utopian ideals seemed to corrupt and turn inwards. As a reaction to such, this was a possible high water mark of the experimentations of psych/acid folk, expressions of eldritch undertones in the land via what has become known in part as folk horror and an accompanying yearning to return to an imagined pastoral idyll. Looking back, culture, television broadcasts and film from this time often seem imbued with a strange, otherly grittyness; to capture a sense of dissolution in relation to what was to become post-industrial Western culture and ways of living.
Such transmissions and signals viewed now can seem to belong to a time far removed and distant from our own; the past not just as a foreign country but almost as a parallel universe that is difficult to imagine as once being our own lands and world.
FRACTURES is a reflection on reverberations from those disquieted times, taking as its initial reference points a selected number of conspicuous junctures and signifiers: Delia Derbyshire leaving The BBC/The Radiophonic Workshop and reflecting later that around then “the world went out of time with itself”. Electricity blackouts in the UK and the three day week declared; The Wickerman released; The Changes recorded but remained unreleased; The Unofficial Countryside published, and the terrifying public information film The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water released. All of which is captured by Seatman, a former member of the band Psylons, musician, DJ owner of some synths, records and all manner of old tat and always a tad lost.
ANTON BARBEAU MAGIC SANDWICHES
Anton Barbeau plays "pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop." He's a Taurus, born in Sacramento and now living by a canal in Berlin. He's made something like 23 albums and has worked with members of XTC, The Soft Boys, the Bevis Frond, Cake, the Loud Family and Mystery Lawn label-mates, the Corner Laughers. Julian Cope got him stoned in Croydon once. His new album, NATURAL CAUSES, released earlier this year, is, by turns, quirky, melodic, whimsical and packed full of lysergic pop hits drenched in ancient Mellotrons, analog synths and 12-string guitars. If it had been made by anyone else he would no doubt be famous.
THE MIRAGE LAZY MAN
The title says it all, really. Rather than write a new tune, The Mirage simply rip off The Beatles’ Rain and stick some new words over it for this unreleased demo - which isn’t to imply that this isn’t a fantastic track because it is (in the same way that Rain is a fantastic track, I suppose). They weren’t allowed to get away with it, of course, and the track was re-arranged to sound more like The Who’s Happy Jack and placed on the b-side of their semi-bona fide pop hit The Wedding Of Ramona Blair in 1968. Doomed to be a foot-note in the London psych scene, The Mirage never got to release an album although their tracks can be found on TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS – THE POP SIKE WORLD OF THE MIRAGE: SINGLES AND LOST SESSIONS, released in 2006.
LUBOŜ FIŜER THE VISIT
A short, trifling piece - but nonetheless pleasant for all that - taken from the soundtrack to the Czechoslovakian surrealist horror film, VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS. Although the film was made in 1970, the soundtrack wasn’t released until 2006, following a decade of Eastern European phone calls and continental crate digging by the semi-legendary Andy Votel. Scored by Czech composer Luboŝ Fiŝer, the soundtrack is something of a Baroque folk masterpiece, providing a fragile blend of pastoral orchestral folk songs and clockwork harpsichords to compliment the film’s phantasmagorical imagery. This is the sort of thing that one imagines the late Trish Keenan would have been playing at dinner parties (I know I do).
COSMO SHELDRAKE EGGS AND SOLDIERS
Where to begin? That’s his given name, for a start, so kudos to his parents (a biologist and Mongolian overtone chanter, I understand) – and Eggs And Soldiers…can there be a better song title? Doesn’t it bring your childhood rushing back, inhabiting your memories in the tradition of Barrett-esque psychedelic whimsy, with perhaps just a smidgen of They Might Be Giants thrown in for good measure? Cosmo Is an English multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer with a penchant for crafting quirky, loop-driven sound collages, inspirational and often nonsensical lyrics, and recording found objects in unusual environments, operating with a kitchen sink-style musical arsenal that includes banjo, loop station, keyboards, double bass, drums, penny whistle, sousaphone, and accordion, to name just a few. His debut album, THE MUCH MUCH HOW HOW AND I owes as much to (musician, composer, theoretician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments) Moondog and, indeed, Stravinsky as it does The Beatles and The Kinks and as such exists in its own self-contained world of eccentric, off-beat compositions that simply fly in the face of anything else you’re currently listening to. Really quite marvellous.
JIRI JUST & JIRI SLITR GIRLIES GIRLIES
Another short, trifling piece – and, once again, nonetheless pleasant for all that – taken from the soundtrack to another surrealist Czechoslovakian film, this time the wonderful DAISIES, made in 1966. Rather like the soundtrack to VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS, the soundtrack to DAISIES (or to give it its correct name SEDMIKRÀSKY) was previously unprepared for public consumption and taken from the original reels, released in 2007 (I believe that we once again have Andy Votel to thank). Generally regarded as a milestone of the Nová Vlna movement, the film is a glorious example of experimental cinema, psychedelic cinematography, baroque costumes and scenery, music and graphic design. Released two years before the Prague Spring, the film was subsequently labeled as "depicting the wanton" by the Czech authorities and banned. The soundtrack features an erratic score which consists of the juxtaposition of various non-melodic elements and sound effects, laden with a broad palette of samples and snippets of choral and classical vintage recordings spliced with concrete effects, traditional brass band music, Disney style exotica, Charleston dance standards and token 60s beat tracks. It’s actually rather wonderful – one of the most psychedelic films ever made and certainly one of my favourite films ever.
GAVINO MORRETTI DAWN OF A NEW GENERATION
For their most recent release, A Year In The Country – a website dedicated to exploring/examining work that takes inspiration from the hidden and underlying tales of the land, the further reaches of folk music and culture and where such things meet and intertwine with the lost futures, spectral histories and parallel worlds of what has come to be known as hauntology – has focussed its attention on the semi-mythical, and most-likely entirely made-up SHILDHAM HALL TAPES – a series of recordings inspired by a lost cinematic project purported to have taken place at a country mansion in the late sixties. The fragments of footage and audio that still exist seem to show a film which was attempting to interweave and reflect the heady cultural mix of the times; of experiments and explorations in new ways of living, a burgeoning counter-culture, a growing interest in and reinterpretation of folk culture and music, early electronic music experimentation, high fashion, psychedelia and the crossing over of the worlds of the aristocracy with pop/counter-culture and elements of the underworld. Gavino Morretti also appears to be an entirely fictional, little known Italian film composer who produced soundtracks for many European and American low-budget films – almost exclusively in the horror and science fiction genres in the 1980s. In hauntological terms, this is almost a perfect match.
NATHAN HALL AND THE SINISTER LOCALS THE PHOENIX OF ALBANY ROAD
Another gorgeous track from Nathan Hall’s TUNGUSKA TYDFIL, an album awash with a gentle psychedelic numinosity. The baroque flourishes at the heart of The Phoenix Of Albany Road have something of George Harrison’s Piggies about them, but the wistful, bucolic charm of this track replaces the misanthropy at the heart of that song with a sweet sense of yearning for something not entirely lost. In many ways, this is the essence of TUNGUSKA TYDFIL – the album is imbued with a poignant sense of nostalgia; sometimes rueful, sometimes celebratory, almost hauntological in fact; the lyrics reflecting fractured memories offset by exquisite instrumentation and playful melodies. I didn’t quite get this album when I first heard it – I felt it lacked an underlying cohesiveness – but repeated listens reveal an album very much at home with itself and one of my favourite releases of the year.
DIANNE ENDICOTT ORANGE AND LEMON
This children’s rhyme, spoken by Devonshire schoolgirl Dianne Endicott, is taken from the album FIELD TRIP – ENGLAND, compiled by Jean Ritchie, iconic folk singer and dulcimer player from Kentucky, who, in 1952, received a Fulbright scholarship enabling her to travel to the British Isles to trace the origin of her Kentucky versions of songs and compare them with British versions. During the course of her travels, she and husband George Pickow, with the assistance of prominent British folk song authorities, made many field recordings, some of which appear on this album. The collection includes old British ballads, drinking songs, children’s songs and games, handbell ringing, dance tunes, lyrical love songs, and an excerpt from a Mummers’ Play. Released in 1960, it is now a fascinating document of a time long gone.
PAUL AND BARRY RYAN MADRIGAL
Earworm loveliness from twins Paul and Barry Ryan, who enjoyed some small success in the 60s as the clean-cut sons of their rather more famous mother Marion Ryan. This track is the b-side to their 1968 release Pictures Of Today which was, I believe the last single they released together. The split amicably shortly thereafter with Paul embarking on a songwriting career while Barry recorded as a solo act. If you’ve heard of them at all it’s probably because of their one hit record Eloise, penned for Barry by Paul, which was something of a worldwide hit (and covered by The Damned, of course).
JAY TAUSIG ELEVATED OBSERVATIONS
Jay Tausig is a multi-instrumentalist with a penchant for playing your space-prog-rock with jazz overtones, although recently he’s focus has moved from a love-affair with Gong and Hawkwind, say, into a more Krautrock / Psychedelic / Folk realms direction which, as you might imagine, sits very nicely with me. Elevated Observations is taken from a compilation album released by the wonderful Fruits de Mer record label, RE-EVOLUTION: FdM SINGS THE HOLLIES, released in 2012, on which they invited artists on their roster to imagine what The Hollies would have sounded like if they'd spent more time East of Darlington, Graham Nash hadn't packed his kaftan and left for the West Coast and EMI had given them all unlimited time in Abbey Road, unlimited quantities of drugs and unlimited access to Norman Smith. The Hollies, of course, were always slightly embarrassed about their flirtation with psychedelia (Graham Nash notwithstanding), preferring a pint of beer with the lads, but Elevated Observations, taken from their 1967 release BUTTERFLY, all backward cymbals, tape loops and primeval Moog noodling, is the perfect fit for Tausig’s sitar-laden odyssey.
BALDUIN LEAVE TO SEE THE LIGHT
Swiss multi-instrumentalist Balduin’s most recent album, BOHEMIAN GARDEN, released last year, is an absolute gem of kaleidoscopically arranged psych-pop loveliness, featuring baroque arrangements with SMILE-era Brian Wilson production wizardry. The result is an album tripped out wonder and dreamy introspection that puts one in mind of pretty ballerinas dancing atop rococo jewellery boxes hidden away in dusty attics lit by kaleidoscopic rays of light filtered through cobwebbed stain-glass windows.
THE DANDELION DADDY LONGLEGS
The enchantingly playful Daddy Longlegs is taken from album SEEDS, FLOWERS AND THE MAGICAL POWERS OF THE DANDELION, the second LP by whimsical Australian pagan folksters The Dandelion in 2015. It’s a collection of musical spells projecting images of galactic space travel, pagan witchcraft, love, ethereal energies and a blend of east meets west rhythms and melodies. It’s an enchanting mix, featuring lush textures of fuzzed out guitar, menacing circus organs, sitar flourishes and airy flute lines that are both familiar and incredibly foreign. It’s good – I like it.
ALICE COOPER BEAUTIFUL FLYAWAY
This is the dainty pretty one on an album that’s otherwise snarling proto-punk, proto-glam and proto-heavy rock. Alice Cooper’s second album was pretty much proto-everything. They could have gone in any direction (they’re still playing around with some psychedelic tropes) but, of course, they went heavy. Released in 1970 EASY ACTION was a critical and commercial failure but this was the album that laid the foundation for the rise of one of the most controversial and spectacular rock n’ roll bands of the 70’s, as well as one of the most recognised and acknowledged rock legends of all time. SCHOOL’S OUT was two years away.
In the early 70's Kennelmus was Arizona's only psych/surf band. Their only album, FOLKSTONE PRISM, released in 1971, is an aural trip coloured with dreamy acoustic strumming, mutated surf guitar, a percussion line lifted from Tomorrow Never Knows, trippy segues, backward instrumentals, found sounds, vocal gibberish, low-tech electronics and a fake radio newsreel. Side one is mostly instrumental, side 2 has the songs, although the album appears to be conceived as one long piece. Originally released as a vanity run of a thousand copies, the band had trouble even giving these away and their unique take on blistering psychedelia was lost to the baked desert sands – although you did get the impression that a nascent Butthole Surfers must have owned a copy.
PHIL CORNELL RED LADY
This is an absolute cracking b-side to the otherwise largely forgettable single Pumping The Water, released in 1969. He was one of those artists who couldn’t get arrested in England but who found success in the likes of Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands (where he appears to have been better known as Dan the Banjo Man).
ME AND MY KITES DULL SKY (FOR CM ON A PERFECT DAY)
Swedish psych-folk project ME AND MY KITES was born in the spring of 2012, and from what I understand some 20 musicians from a number of different bands contributed to what would be Me and My Kites debut album, LIKE A DREAM BACK THEN, which was released in 2013. NATT O DAG, released earlier this year, is their third album and one very much at home to their influences – Caravan, Fuchsia, Kevin Ayres and The Soft Machine, to name just a few, are all present and this is no bad thing, of course. As is often the case with your Nordic acid-folk, the songs have an autumnal warmth to them - keyboard instruments like the Mellotron, piano and electric harpsichord are allowed space to breathe, the arrangements are elegant, the production lush, and at some points on the album you have up to 10 people harmonizing and the effect is dazzling. Lovely album.
JON HOPKINS FEEL FIRST LIFE
Jon Hopkins can do squelching techno, but on his most recent release, SINGULARITY, released earlier this year, he takes us, instead, on an altogether different journey – a spellbinding psychedelic trip that takes in highly intricate, glitchy beats and combines them with an organic, and even classical sensibility. It’s a gorgeous trip, and a deeply introspective one – at points along the way you will lose yourself in moments of transcendent beauty, like on the mesmerizing Feel First Life which comes close to a religious experience by working with the London Voices choir.
TULUUM SHIMMERING THE ONE THAT TOUCHED THE SKY PT. 2
Tuluum Shimmering (Jake Webster to his mum) is something of a one-man transcendental-ambient-drone band whose loop-driven music enjoys a timeless ethnic quality, but not one you’d be able to assign to any region of tradition. His most recent release, THE ONE THAT TOUCHED THE SKY is essentially one long piece divided into two parts, although one of those parts comes in at slightly over an hour or so. Recorded onto a 4-track cassette recorder for an added hauntological feel, The One That Touched The Sky Pt. 2 is the shorter of the two pieces (it comes in at a lean 30 minutes) and features homemade tamboura, various flutes, Roland digital piano, hand drums, vocals, Tibetan singing bowl, snake charmer, rattle and saxophone run, via a mixer, through a multi-FX pedal into a 30-second looper, and out to an amp. It’s an extraordinary sound – almost entirely meditative, so enjoy losing yourself in this one.
MODERN STUDIES THE HOUSE
The House is taken from album WELCOME STRANGERS, released earlier this year, the second album by Scottish band Modern Studies, and a curiously compelling affair it is too, presenting modern pop music as something that 60s chamber-pop may have evolved into had it made its way to Perthshire. Classicism meets experimentalism - the band used a Creative Scotland grant to hire a chamber orchestra and a remote village hall to record them in, and contributors include sisters, wives, toddlers, freeform saxophonists and The Pumpkinseeds, an ensemble featuring violins, violas, cellos, trombones and vocals, brought together to play the band’s collaborative string, brass and vocal arrangements. The songs are unconventional, sometimes anthemic, sometimes exotic; trippy Mellotron and eastern percussion give way to flashes of gypsy violin, deeply resonant cello and booming sousaphone, jangling guitar to quietly stirring orchestral arrangements – it’s an album equally at home to Kate Bush as it is Broadcast, awash with moments of askew pastoral pop grandeur.
KEITH CHRISTMAS FOREST AND SHORE
Back in the day, of course, no one knew they were recording ‘acid folk’, it’s an appellation that was attached retrospectively to describe folk that had passed through the blender of the 60s and come out the other side with some psychedelic adornments attached – but it may have been invented to describe the music of Keith Christmas. Christmas recorded five albums in the 70s – Forest and Shore is taken from his 1971 release, PIGMY – but he was doomed to remain in the shadows. Orchestrated by the great Robert Kirby it has a deep, wooded sound that places it somewhere between a Ligeti choral piece arranged by Vaughan Williams (or perhaps the other way round) and is as sublime a piece of pastoral-psych that you are ever likely to hear.