MIND DE-CODER 77
To listen to the show just scroll to the bottom of the page
To listen to the show just scroll to the bottom of the page
“When the light turns green, you go. When the light turns red, you stop. But what do you do when the light turns blue with orange and lavender spots?”
― Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic
FRANZ FERDINAND ALWAYS ASCENDING
Not strictly psychedelia per se but you’d have to be a hard-hearted soul not to enjoy Franz Ferdinand’s deployment of the Shepard tone on this cracking tune, which is pretty much the best thing they’ve done in years. Always Ascending is, of course, the title of the band’s fifth album, released earlier this year, and whilst the introduction of Julian Corrie, better known as Miaoux, the Glasgow-based electronic musician, on keyboards doesn’t alter their sound as much as some might have hoped (me, for example), this is undeniably a killer track.
MOBY GRAPE OMAHA
I’ve never been a great fan of Moby Grape. Despite enjoying no less than five singer-songwriters in the band I’ve never felt that they were really big on tunes. This puts me at odds with the rest of the critical community who lauded their debut album, released eponymously in 1967, as one of the great West Coast psychedelic masterpieces and every bit the equal to albums by The Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane, but I remain unconvinced. That being said, Omaha has an infectious Beatles-on-speed energy to it that makes it a riveting listen. Scuppered by bad management, a bizarre record company promotion that saw 10 of the album’s 13 tracks simultaneously released as singles, and a scandalous drugs bust, Moby Grape pretty much crashed on arrival. These days Moby Grape are remembered as contenders, a cult band whose story has taken on something of a mythic quality, and that’s before we even get to the story of Skip Spence, high on LSD, trying to kill his fellow bandmates Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson with a fire axe. On the whole, however, I prefer Jefferson Airplane.
BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING COMPANY BALL AND CHAIN
I’m no great fan of the blues, either, but Big Brother and the Holding Company’s take on Big Mama Thornton’s Ball and Chain is simply colossal and impossible to ignore. Janis Joplin’s vocal delivery left absolutely no stone unturned in squeezing every drop of emotion and nuance out of the tune, caressing lines during the verses, yet erupting into searing shouts, stutters, and moans during the choruses. It’s the closing track to 1968’s CHEAP THRILLS, the LP that made stars of Big Brother and Joplin, and the only live recording on the album, despite the rest of the album being produced to sound live. Big Brother and The Holding Company were a heavy blues band and Janis a psychedelic singer – or was it the other way round – but with CHEAP THRILLS (its original title was intended to be ‘Sex, Dope And Cheap Thrills’ but their record company were all over that like a rash) they created an album of far-reaching, soul-searching power that transcended either label.
CHILDREN GREAT RIVER
The title track from the album GREAT RIVER, by L.A. based five-piece Children, lasts less than 2 minutes but is nonetheless quite gorgeous. Released in 2015, and recorded in Mississippi (hence the title, I suppose), an analogue haze spills over everything filling a deep pool of lush sounds to dive into.
ARTHUR AHBEZ SLOW TRAIN COMIN’
Another blues track (with a proper blues title as well) but I’m but I’m giving myself a break because 1) this is very fine indeed, and 2) it’s NZ Music Month, and Arthur Ahbez, a lost soul in the spirit of song, is a New Zealand artist who does a very fine line in jazz, folk, psychedelia and Neil Young acoustic balladry. Slow Train Comin’ is taken from his debut album GOLD, released in 2013. Full of haunting ballads to vast, acid tempered instrumentals this is an album that channels 50 years of acid-folk loveliness in its grooves from Davey Graham to Devendra Banhart and is really quite an immersive listen.
PARTICLE KID THE OCEAN
Particle Kid, or J Micah Nelson to his mum (or probably just Micah, or possibly just J, I suppose), describes himself as an artist, musician, animator, cymatician (look it up) and explorer so he’s something of a polymath whose eponymous debut album, released last year, contains, as you might expect, the spirit of future folk, low rider funk, riff rock, power pop, lysergic Americana, flower punk, progressive jazz fusion, and Laurel Canyon psychedelia all somehow woven together with deep-rooted melodies, unique improvisational elements, and remarkably intricate arrangements. The Ocean is one of the most wistful and lovely songs I’ve heard in ages. It just makes me yearn right along with him. Have I mentioned that his dad is Willie Nelson?
BOO RADLEYS BLUES FOR GEORGE MICHAEL
Not blues at all, but an engagingly tripped out paean to the man himself, which you can find as one of the extra tracks on the bona fide hit single Wake Up, Boo!, released in 1995. I’ve been really getting into the Boo Radley’s lately. I was a massive fan of the epic GIANT STEPS, but recently I’ve been playing WAKE UP! And C’MON KIDS on repeat. Martin Carr has said that the thing he likes most about this track is that it’s more or less the weirdest thing they’ve ever made and more people own it than all of their other singles put together.
MOON WIRING CLUB LANGUID TELEPATHY
The title says it all. Ian Hodgson’s CATEARED CHOCOLATIERS, released last year, is a conceptual album that unfolds as part of snakes & ladders-like board game based on a dream by Hodgson involving decaying discount carpet shops and missed trains. Enter a world of sinister whimsy and oneiric eccentricity.
SAVATH Y SAVALAS RÁDIO LLOCS ESPACIALS
Savath & Savalas is one of the many monikers employed by Guillermo Scott Herren, perhaps best known as Prefuse 73, first adopted following a move to Barcelona where he met and recorded with Catalan singer Eva Puyuelo Muns. This track is taken from their album APROPA’T, released in 2004. It’s a spectral collaboration of sparse, acid folk songs written in Spanish and Catalan, with Muns’ detached vocals giving the recording a cool, bittersweet feel that places them somewhere between DOTS AND LOOPS-era Stereolab and the hauntologically-inspired pastoral albums of Portugal’s Beautify Junkyards. The songs are insubstantial and nearly weightless, but nonetheless beautiful for all that, recorded using guitar, concertina, bajo sexto and harmonium – think Brasil ’66 under a cloudy sky and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
JESSICA RISKER CUT MY HAIR
An absolutely gorgeous track, this. I first came across it on YouTube recently and a little research led me to her album I SEE YOU AMONG THE STARS, released a week or two ago. Comprised of eight aural vignettes, the album is a wood-grained, amber-hued world respectfully orbiting influences like Nick Drake, Sibylle Baier, and the softest moments of Broadcast. Paisley fabrics fade beneath an uncovered window, while dust and smoke billow gently through the sunbeams that never fully reach the dark half of the room. Risker, from Chicago, counts herself as a musician, sound designer, and licensed counselor. If the through-line of all psychedelic music is that it casts an inward eye on the subconscious-- and the symbols and emotions therein-- then certainly a mental health care professional is equipped to convey what can be glimpsed in that space. Cut My Hair has a reflective, bruised feel to it, her vocals float ethereally over softly plucked guitar that charms with spectral glamour. Quite lovely.
BEAUTIFY JUNKYARDS GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN
With a title straight out of the Devendra Banhart weird-folk songbook, Beautify Junkyards are joined by Helena Espvall, previously of pastoral-psych collective Espers, who adds the cello to the band’s rich palette of sounds to create a futuristic medieval tapestry, sprinkled with echoes of the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Stereolab, Os Mutantes and strange pagan gatherings attended by cosmic-acid entities. THE INVISIBLE WORLD OF BEAUTIFY JUNKYARDS, released in March, entrances with delicate acoustic guitars evoking an autumnal England suffused with Iberian heat by other-worldly voices; the ethereal lilt of João Branco Kyron and the warm languor of Rita Vian, and a production tempered with a haunted electronic palette that anchors the band squarely in the world of their new label, Ghost Box. I simply love this band.
FAIRFIELD PARLOUR BY YOUR BEDSIDE
You’ve got to love Kaleidoscope – after three or so years of trying to get arrested by the record-buying public, they simply changed their name to Fairfield Parlour and carried on releasing the same whimsical, fairy tale-ish blend of Pink Floyd-inspired psychedelic pop as before which, for them, sadly meant that the record-buying public continued to ignore them, pretty much as before. By Your Bedside is taken from their debut album as Fairfield Parlour, FROM HOME TO HOME, released in 1970 – long after the fickle record-buying public had lost any interest in whimsical, fairy tale-ish blend of Pink Floyd-inspired psychedelic pop and hence, perhaps, one reason for their lack of success (despite opening the Isle of Wight Festival that year). A shame, really, as the album contained much to enjoy, including tasteful early synthesizer that’s heard from time to time, 1969-era Beatles inspired Leslie amplification effects, and acoustic folk-psych passages with added flute, so, as I say –much to enjoy. Fickle buying bastards, I call ‘em.
MGMT WHEN YOU’RE SMALL
I think the fact that MGMT were able to sing this ode to childhood with a straight face demonstrates that they’re still agreeably strange. Their most recent release, LITTLE DARK AGE, has garnered mix reviews – for some it’s too weird, for others it’s not weird enough, but with this Barrett-esque track they manage to hit the whimsical nail of psychedelia right on the head, despite managing to sound like a song the Mighty Boosh would write as an homage to drug music.
OCS THE BARON SLEEPS AND DREAMS
OCS seems to be something of side-project for the otherwise concussion-inducing Oh Sees, but given the 20-year history of that band, it may just be them returning to their roots. Either way, OCS presents the ultra-quiet and altogether more interesting version of that band in which numbing garage rock gives way to their earlier, folkier incarnation. With its prim, string-cushioned arrangements and nods to the English acid folk of the late ‘60s, MEMORY OF A CUT OFF HEAD, released last year, is a lovely affair, lush and almost uncannily graceful.
MAGPAHI SHEPSTERS IN THE YESSINS
Alison Cooper, a native of Lancashire, is the otherworldly voice and vision behind the fairytale folk of Magpahi. This track - all starling song and sepia vocals – can be found on the first of this years’ releases (I hope) from the very fine A Year In The Country, titled AUDIO ALBION, a music and field recording map of Britain, which focuses on rural and edgeland areas. Each track contains field recordings from locations throughout the land, found and heard when wandering down pathways, over fields, through marshes, alongside rivers, down into caves and caverns, climbing hills, along coastlands, through remote mountain forestland, amongst the signs of industry and infrastructure and its discarded debris. In this instance, Cooper helpfully adds the following definitions - Shepsters: Lancashire dialect word for starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).Yessins: Lancashire dialect word for the eaves in the roof of a building.
GRUPPO DI IMPROVVISAZIONE NUOVA CONSONANZA HASCHICH #2
So, Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, was an avant-garde free improvisation group considered the first experimental composers collective, and if that sounds like your definition of hell then, in the spirit of transparency, I should tell you that my children think that this is the worst record they’ve ever heard, with my daughter demanding to know why anyone would record such a horrible sounding noise. I explained to them the collective was formed in Rome in 1964 and that by drawing on jazz, serialism, musique concrète, and other avant-garde techniques the group was dedicated to the development of new music techniques by improvisation, noise-techniques, and anti-musical systems, and that it’s most famous member was the great Ennio Morricone; but they’d got stuck on the term anti-musical systems, which, they thought, was self-evident. But if we can leave the opinions of my children aside, the lovely Haschich #2 is also to be found on the album EROINA, released in 1971, and is one of the less anti-musical tracks on an album that is best understood as a concept album that features a series of haunting improvisations - each one inspired by the effects of a different drug. I’m assuming that Haschich #2 (for there is a #1 and #3) is the one about hashish. Tune in for the next show where you can find out what LSD sounds like to these crazy free-jazz innovators.
GWENNO DAROMRES Y’N HOWL
It’s only May but Gwenno Saunder’s Cornish language album LE KOV (place of memory) is already my album of the year. From songs that explore Cornish identity in the wake of post-Brexit-vote isolation to the status of minority languages (she could be singing a phonebook for all I know) Saunder’s way with a tune takes in elements of Broadcast's glitchy retro-grooves, Stereolab's detached easy-listening-period-vibe, krautrock beats, and hauntological ambiance and turns them into psych-pop gold. Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys joins her on vocals for the rather fine Daromres Y’n Howl (traffic in the sun).
LINDA PERHACS I’M A HARMONY
Like Shirley Collins, Linda Perhacs has been re-born by collaborations with a number of younger musicians, most of which are undoubtedly influenced by her own music: Julia Holter, Fernando Perdomo, and Wilco’s Pat Sansone feature prominently on I’M A HARMONY, released last year, her 3rd album in some 40 years. As a result, Perhacs has expanded her sound with a vast array of psychedelic accoutrements, while still pinning everything down with her graceful and powerfully atmospheric melodies. The aforementioned Holter, best known for her forward-thinking chamber pop, provides some of the album’s most thrilling moments. “I’m a harmony / And I am singing through your laptop,” repeat Holter and Perhacs on the album’s title track over ethereal electronics and a picked acoustic drone. A steady kick drum soon takes hold over a mess of saxophones, upright bass and drum rolls before everything drops into a wash of echoing vocals.
if the craft here feels more 21st century, the heart and soul are very much the same, and Perhacs has remained loyal to the musical vision she first documented in 1970.
SMELL OF INCENSE CHRISTOPHER’S JOURNEY
An album of pure, whimsical psychedelia in which to immerse yourself. ALL MIMSY WHERE THE BOROGOVES, released in 1994, ticks all the right boxes – Alice in Wonderland, Winnie The Pooh, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, sitars, flutes and mellotrons – all present and correct. Is it pastiche, a homage, a love letter to classic ‘60s psychedelia? I expect it’s all those things but played with such joy that you can’t help but go along for the ride. Gather unto ye your joss-sticks, patchouli oil, lava lamps, paisley bed-sheets and tie-dye wall-hangings for this is the album that will take you there. Whether you wish to come back again is entirely up to you.
TREMBLING BELLS REBECCA, DRESSED AS A WATERFALL
Well, you can’t go wrong with a title like that. Rebecca, Dressed As A Waterfall, the closing track on their most recent release, DUNGENESS, brings a stark pastoral quality to an album that sees the Trembling Bells draw back from the highly heady psych-folk and medievalist antiquary of their earlier recordings and a forward-prog shift onto equally heady but altogether more rock-guitar-based tapestries – I’m thinking less Gryphon and more Steeleye Span, or maybe Jethro Tull, here, neither of which are evident on this track which owes more to David Munrow’s early Music Consort and the British freak scene (if you know what I mean).
HERMAN’S HERMITS SLEEPY JOE
This song reached #4 in the New Zealand charts when it was released back in 1967. I believe that covers everything.