Tuesday, 29 October 2019

MIND DE-CODER HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2019


MIND DE-CODER HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (2019)
To listen the show just scroll to the bottom of the page

“In a sense, a record really is a ghost: it’s a trace of a musician’s body, the after-imprint of breath and exertion...like a spectre, a recorded musician is at once present and absent”
                                                                            Simon Reynolds

BLACK WIDOW     IN ANCIENT DAYS




For an album that deals exclusively with the occult, Satan, black magic, demons, secret spells and things of that nature in general, the most remarkable thing about SACRIFICE, released in 1970, is how nice it sounds; one would almost call it polite. Flutes and organs abound, in a 70s prog fashion, and they’re not afraid to inject some strings for a bit of symphonic atmosphere. Despite this, their early use of satanic imagery (which included the symbolic sacrifice of a nude virgin on stage), inevitably drew parallels with Black Sabbath, but I think Black Sabbath were a little less melodic and went at it a bit harder. In truth, there was a lot of this sort of thing going on as the 60s drew to a close. Occult bookshops were selling Crowley alongside Tolkein; the Tarot, I Ching, astrology, kabbala, yogis, UFOs, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and witchcraft became common currency as the counter-culture searched for alternative goings-on to mainstream society. It was a magical revolution. I wish I’d been there.


THE CORDS     GHOST POWER


You’ll no doubt be surprised to discover that the makers of this scorching garage work-out were, in fact, a band of Franciscan monks. I know that I was. They managed to release two singles until, I should think, the head Abbott found out about it and requested that they get back to doing whatever it is that monks actually do - I’ve always fondly imagined that it has something to do with tending a humble herb garden, or producing over-priced tonic wine. Ghost Power,  a whacked-out bit of spooky psych-rock, evokes the rawness of the garage band era of 1966 but was, in fact, released in 1970.


THE STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK     THE CURSE OF THE WITCHES


Something of a dirge in the otherwise pretty Strawberry Alarm Clock oeuvre, The Curse Of The Witches focuses upon the woeful tale of the narrator who relates the tragic tale of his life: a mother accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake; a young daughter who suffers a similar fate, and a wife who dies of a broken heart: all, essentially, attributable to the hands of a vengeful puritanical mob - you know, Christians (can’t live with ‘em - can’t throw them to the lions). The orchestration includes a xylophone which can usually be relied upon to cheer things up, but in this case, it simply adds to the discordant nature of the song. Things don’t get any more cheery from here on out either - having lost his last friend in the world, he finds that “the love I had for the town had completely turned to hate”, and turning his back on God and his religion, he awaits a blissful release from his travails, probably by suicide. Dense and repetitive, it’s not what you’d call a cheerful song, then. You can find it on the band’s second album, WAKE UP...IT’S TOMORROW, released in 1968, a record otherwise characterised by melodic vocal harmonies and gentle, sun-dappled psychedelia.



GUNDELLA     LOVE POTION (CORIANDER SEED)


Although Mind De-Coder takes no responsibility for the veracity of the spells included in the show, here’s a ‘harmless’ love spell (Buffy fans may well be reminded that your ‘harmless’ love spell may have unintended consequences) from Gundella, a green witch of Scottish descent, part of a Detroit area coven, and author of multiple books and a newspaper column which sought to solve everyday problems from a Wiccan perspective. On her ridiculously obscure album, THE HOUR OF THE WITCH, released in 1971, Gundella helps you test your psychic powers, make ritualistic candles, and mold wax dolls. She  also defines witchcraft and magic (it appears to help if you’re green-fingered and handy in the kitchen), and teaches you how to cast spells to not only make somebody love you, but also how to discourage an unwanted suitor, all accompanied by a perfectly atmospheric and esoteric soundscape created by her son, James Mulleague (on the recent re-release of the album her daughter provides copious notes - a family affair, then). Just remember what happened to Xander, that’s all I’m saying.

CAROLANNE PEGG     A WITCHES GUIDE TO THE UNDERGROUND


Carolanne Pegg learned her chops playing fiddle with dark acid-folksters Mr. Fox, but it is with her one solo album, 1973’s self-titled affair, that she really came into her own. The album is a sublime example of acid-tinged progressive folk-rock that manages to combine the edgy theatricality of Kate Bush with a warm bucolic sensibility that evokes a lost dark-folk world that never was. You’d have to be a  hard-hearted villain of almost Shakespearian qualities to not find A Witches Guide To The Underground charming, but the rest of the album is as equally alluring.

THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND     THE WITCHES HAT


Taken from their classic 1968 release, THE HANGMAN’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER, The Witches Hat presents The Incredible String Band in all their minstrel-like, unmelodic, but otherwise pastoral, glory.

EMILY JONES AND THE ROWAN AMBER MILL     BACK I COMMAND YOU



A vignette or interlude or, indeed, episode from the album THE BOOK OF THE LOST, released in 2014, the result of a year-long collaboration by Emily Jones and The Rowan Amber Mill, inspired by a love of 60s and 70s cheap British horror movies, and the folk horror genre in particular. The album is a complete soundtrack to a set of imaginary folk horror films and an accompanying TV series, THE BOOK OF THE LOST. With the likes of The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan's Claw and Psychomania
 as reference points, they constructed a number of their own cult horror movies, complete with synopsis, cast , crew and production companies, and then created a soundtrack with dialogue pieces of which Back I Command You, is but one example - based on these imaginary films. To tie up their dark gathering of lost movies they used the device of a decidedly low budget television series called 'The Book Of The Lost' which would play these films (fittingly) in the graveyard slot - the sort of film you would set the timer on your video for and watch the next day. The album took its name from this imaginary series.

COVEN     SATANIC MASS


You get the impression that Coven were the real thing, unlike Black Widow, say, who, by comparison, were merely dabbling. Coven, also, featured a bassist called “Oz” Osbourne and the opening track on their debut album, WITCHCRAFT DESTROYS MINDS AND STEALS SOULS, released in 1969, was called Black Sabbath a full year before Ozzy Osbourne’s Black Sabbath became a thing (although, in fairness, Black Sabbath’s monolithic title track is way better than anything Coven ever came up with) and were possibly the first band to feature occult and Satanic imagery on stage, including the introduction of that whole devil horns thing. Formed in 1968 around singer Jinx Dawson (cool name, which is why I mention it) their debut album spawned a diffuse mix of psychedelic prog rock and pop under a veritable catalogue of deeply occult lyrics which also contained a now-infamous poster depicting a Black Mass, where band members and associates dressed in monks' robes hoisted torches and upside-down crosses over a naked Dawson, who herself served as the object of their human sacrifice.The album was withdrawn by the record company following the Manson murders after which things of a hippie-occultish nature swiftly fell out of fashion. The band never really recovered from this set-back and split up shortly thereafter, but almost any band since then that trades on Satanic imagery has Coven to thank for instigating the whole thing. Satanic Mass, of course, isn’t a song so much as a performance piece, and you probably never need to hear it more than once, but here’s the thing...I’m not a betting man, but I’d be prepared to gamble $5 that this track is where Butthole Surfers found their “Satan! Satan! Satan!” sample at the beginning of Sweat Loaf.


(many thanks to my Auntie Shirley and her husband Ted for their unsolicited contribution)

ICARUS     THE DEVIL RIDES OUT



Icarus were pretty much a couple of session musicians who released this as a single in 1968 to cash in on the publicity surrounding Hammer’s production of Dennis Wheatley’s diabolic masterpiece ‘The Devil Rides Out’. Despite the publicity surrounding the film, the single wasn't a hit, but the track was blasted out over the PA at the film premiere, despite not actually featuring in the film.

THE LAST WORD     SLEEPY HOLLOW



Sinister garage vibes featuring reverbed guitars, echoed vocals and a very eerie organ riff do justice to another track inspired by a spooky novel - in this case, Washington Irving’s “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow”. Released in 1966 by The Last Word, a band about which I know next to nothing (and, in fairness, neither does anyone else - unless YOU know better).

THE TROUBLED MIND     THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN



As is sadly the case with this band. The Troubled Mind originated in Napier before moving to Auckland in 1967 and released 3 singles, of which this isn’t one. I think The Devil Is A Woman was recorded for a radio spot round about this time and seems to owe a little something to cult UFO house band, and Mind De-Coder favourites, Tomorrow. You can find it on the revelatory compilation A DAY IN MY MIND’S MIND, a round-up of New Zealand’s psychedelic music scene between 1966 and 1971, released in 2005 and well worth five bob of your pocket money.

THE PULSELOVERS     BEAT HER DOWN



In 2018, the wonderful  A Year In The Country  website released THE CORN MOTHER, in which various artists of a hauntological/pastoral bent provide the soundtrack for an imaginary film of the same name, namely an early 1970s folk horror-esque screenplay which supposedly made the rounds of the film industry but remained unmade until 1982... In this alternate reality the film was completed but was never released and knowledge of the whereabouts of the footage became lost, though subsequent rumours suggest that it may even have been deliberately destroyed...

Or so the story goes.

The Pulselovers provide Beat her Down, a song which  revolves around the folklore of the “corn mother” - where the last row of the corn harvest is beaten to the ground by the reapers as they shout “There she is! Knock her into the ground, don’t let her get away!”, in an attempt to drive the spirit of the corn mother back into the earth for next year’s sowing. Spooky and foreboding, it sits somewhere between Paul Giovanni’s soundtrack for ‘The Wicker Man’ Marc Wilkinson’s OST for ‘the Blood On Satan’s Claw’, or, to bring it right up to date, Bobby Krlic’s score for Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’, more of which later.

(On an entirely incidental note - I spend my whole life worrying that one day I'll be innocently walking down the street only to be confronted by a mob of people shouting: "There he is! Quick! Get him! Don't let him get away!")

ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL     FROM THE GRAVE TO THE FRESHCOS LATE (TRAVELOGUE #4)



The Eccentronic Research Council are a self-styled collective of artists, sound designers, experimental pop performers, writers and poets, led primarily by Sheffield musicians Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer - formerly of The All Seeing I. For their 2016 release, 1612 OVERTURE, they conjured up a beguiling brew of elektronische, keyboard-led psych, synth-pop and analogue ambient to act as the musical accompaniment to a prose poem. The narration – mainly carried out by the brilliant Maxine Peake – is based around a (part fictional) account of a psychogeographical trip taken by a priest and a nun from Salford to Pendle to learn more about the town's most notorious daughters, murdered by the state exactly 400 years ago. This scaled back British road trip (undertaken in a Hillman Minx) also takes in a Visitor's Centre, complete with audio guide by Dr. Who and, in From The Grave To The Freshcoes Late, the graveyard in which Alice Nutter, one of the 12 women accused and hanged as a result of the Pendle witch hunt, is buried.

It all sounds a bit much but it is, in fact, a hugely enjoyable listen. The album finishes with a witch's curse on, what was at the time, Cameron's Britain which, what with one thing and another, seems to have come to fruition.


BARBARA, THE GRAY WITCH     WITCHES LOVE SONG



Another how-to album, this one from Barbara, The Gray Witch (‘Witchcraft has never looked better’) who shares the secrets of her craft over a double album, released in 1968. Featuring discussions on the history of modern witchcraft, incantations and a song or two accompanied by experimental electronica of a musique concrete nature, this album is a fascinating artifact from the period.  There’s not much more to be said about it as it is something of an obscurity in a show of obscurities, but Witches Love Song is as weird and a pretty as anything I’ve ever played on Mind De-Coder and I consider this album a bit of a find. A quick Google search reveals that Barbara is still practicing as a psychic in Portland.

SIDNEY SAGAR     CHILDREN OF THE STONES intro



Children Of The Stones, of course, is one of your classic cult children’s productions from the 1970s, a linchpin in your hauntological circles and arguably the scariest programme ever made for children. Much of this is due to composer Sidney Sagar’s eerie choral score performed so memorably by the Ambrosian Singers. This track is possibly the most haunting on the show.

JUSTIN HOPPER & SHARRON KRAUS WITH BELBURY POLY     BREATH



Justin Hopper, an American writer, is a wyrd anglophile with an esoteric fascination with Chanctonbury Ring, a prehistoric hillfort atop Chanctonbury Hill on the West Sussex Downs. His album, CHANCTONBURY RING, is a spoken word and music collaboration with folk musician Sharron Kraus, and Ghost Box’s Belbury Poly. Based on live performances of Hopper’s 2017 book The Old Weird Albion, it’s a poetical, autobiographical and psychogeographical account of his experiences at Chanctonbury Ring blending folk, electronic music, poetry, prose and environmental sound. Kraus’s electro-acoustic soundscapes and songs interweave with Hopper’s rich, intimate narration, ae evidenced on this eerie track, Breath, in which Hopper seems to suggest that ghosts are a lot more commonplace than you might think. One of my favourite albums of the year.

ROKUROKUBI     LITTLE LAMB



Named after Japanese vampire demons, Rokurokubi are a kaleidoscopic acid-folk group based in Brighton, gathered around singer-songwriter Rose Dutton. Their debut album, SATURN IN PISCES, is a mesmerising dark fairy-tale bound together by lush instrumentals, flute trills, and string melodies laced with references to the macabre. Little Lamb tells the tale of a soul led astray - elsewhere obsession, damnation, sex, death and dark magic set the imagination a-trembling.

DOM COOPER     WHAT’S BEEN UNCOVERED IS EVIL



Dom Cooper’s What’s Been Uncovered Is Evil is taken from the most recent release by A Year In The Country, ECHOES AND REVERBERATIONS, a field recording based mapping of real and imaginary film and television locations. It is in part an exploration of their fictional counterparts’ themes - from apocalyptic tales to never-were documentaries and phantasmagorical government-commissioned instructional films via stories of conflicting mystical forces of the past and present, scientific experiments gone wrong and unleashed on the world, the discovery of buried ancient objects and the reawakening of their malignant alien influence, progressive struggles in a world of hidebound rural tradition and the once optimism of post-war new town modernism.
Dom Cooper contribution is influenced by the classic broadcast ‘Quatermass and the Pit’, which appears to have made an indelible impression upon him (and many others in your hauntological circles). Inspired by Tristram Cary, who made electronic pieces for the series, Cooper visited the graveyard in Powells Walk, Chiswick (a Quatermass location) where he recorded ambient sounds and then manipulated them like tape; slowing them down and mixing in primitive electronics to create what can only be described as an eerie atmosphere.

BOBBY KRLIC     A LANGUAGE OF SEX/HÅRGA




So what’s the most nightmarish film you’ve seen this year? For me, Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’ has caused a few sleepless nights, and Bobby Krlic's ominous, transfixing score played some part in scaring off the sheep. Comparisons to The Wicker Man are not without foundation, and Midsommar certainly fits in with any definition of folk-horror you might wish to offer, but Krlic’s soundtrack is a thing apart, by turns gorgeous and terrifying, pastoral and deranged. Bobby Krlic is better known as The Haxan Cloak, an experimental electronic composer who, for Midsommar, has produced a foreboding score that groans and screeches, reflecting the film’s moments of panic, shock and surprise. Entirely immersive and overwhelmingly unnerving. Enjoy.


 
BOBBY BEAUSOLEIL      MOVEMENT THE THIRD



Now this comes with a story.
Movement The Third comes from Beausoleil’s soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s occult classic ‘Lucifer Rising’ and was recorded by Beausoleil and his band, The Freedom Orchestra, which consisted of fellow inmates from Deuel Vocational Institution (also known as Tracy Prison), where Beausoleil was serving life for the murder of his friend Gary Hinman. Beausoleil was one of Manson’s Family and it is thought that Hinman’s murder was the first committed by the Family that set in motion the Helter Skelter scenario that Manson envisioned and preached would happen in the near future in America.
The film follows the story of Lucifer awakening in his pit of despair, rekindling his torch, and rising like a phoenix from the ashes of his own unmaking to begin his long journey from the dark recesses of the underworld — shedding his pride along the way in his uncompromising desire to regain the Beloved. Beausoleil drew on his own life experiences to  create  dark and sinister sounding music that gradually evolves to a brighter and more uplifting finale, demonstrated, I think, in the mystical beauty of this Movement which sits somewhere between Pink Floyd and Debussy. Although the film was released in 1972, Beausoleil’s soundtrack didn’t actually emerge until 1980 and is a whole other story in itself.
Sentenced in 1970, I believe he was up for parole earlier this year but, just like the other 18 times in the past 49 years, the recommendation was denied by the Governor of California. This may have had something to do with Beausoleil’s declaration in court whereupon he said: I'm at war with everybody in this courtroom. It's nothing personal but... you better pray I never get out”, which is possibly scarier than anything else in the show.

HEN OGLEDD     TINY WITCH HUNTER



Hen Ogledd (which is the Welsh name for 'The Old North', the region covering southern Scotland and northern England in the early Middle Ages, fact fans!) have produced in MOGIC, released earlier this year, an album that pretty much does what it says on the label - the label being, in this instance, a mixture of ‘magic’ and ‘logic’. The playfully funky Tiny Witch Hunter is a discombobulating pop prayer on an album which experiments with sonic collage and curious effects, exploring artificial intelligence, witches, nanotechnology, pre-medieval history, robots, romance, computer games and waterfalls.

THE HEARTWOOD INSTITUTE     WITCHCRAFT ‘70



The Heartwood Institute is Jonathan Sharp, a sound designer and composer of library music, whose third album, SECRET RITES, released last year,  combines kosmische krautrock grooves with a series of 70’s folk horror soundtracks, trailers and occult documentaries from the late sixties and early seventies. I think Witchcraft ‘70 samples the trailer of the film ‘Witchcraft 70’, an exploitation B-movie which claims to show black magic rites across the globe in such satanic hot-spots as New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, California and, of course, Southampton. This is the sound of hauntronica from the heart of the English Lake District.


SHE ROCOLA     BURN THE WITCH



She Rocola’s Burn The Witch, a hallucinatory and haunting piece of folk noir, exists as a sort of aural equivalent  to a Hammer Horror film condensed into two minutes and twenty seconds. Released by the A Year In The Country website as part of its occasional audiological case studies series in 2014, it’s a track inspired by childhood memories of late-night folk-horror films from in front of and behind the sofa.


COMUS     SONG OF COMUS



Comus represented the other side of the hippie pastoral idyll - while other acid-folk artists were getting high in sun-dappled meadows and skipping through fields of (Berkshire) poppies, Comus released
one of the most potentially disturbing and terrifying albums ever recorded.  Unleashed upon an unsuspecting London that was still swinging like a pendulum do in 1971, FIRST UTTERANCE featured a particularly singular vision of bacchanalian excess, one which celebrated tales of woodland murder, rape, paganism, violence, madness, and the macabre. The sales, as you might imagine, were quite weak, but over the years the album has garnered a cult like following and is now rightly considered the dark classic that lies at the hidden heart of your acid-folk genre. One to put on when you want everyone to leave.

WOLVES OF THE SUN     LAST NIGHT



Wolves Of The Sun exist as one of the various artists invented by Psychic TV for their album JACK THE TAB/TEKNO ACID BEAT back in 1990. It was possibly Britain’s first acid house album, but one filled with interesting interludes of which Last Night is one.

PRINCESS RAMONA     THEN I START TO YODEL



And just to prove that the devil really does have all the best tunes, here’s Princess Ramona, The Cherokee Princess, incapable of not yodeling when it comes to praising the Lord and what have you. Daughter of Chief Standing Horse, Princess Ramona has traveled the globe singing, yodeling and spreading the Gospel to enthusiastic audiences, from paupers to kings, around the globe for more than 50 years. Just imagine that for a moment. Her album YODELING PRAISES UNTO THE LORD is so obscure no one actually knows when it was recorded...it remains a timeless curiosity.

Then I start To Yodel is sadly cut short by a quick evisceration. It’s a good word, isn’t it? Evisceration….


Saturday, 21 September 2019

MIND DE-CODER 89


MIND DE-CODER 89

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


“I’ve never seen such infinite beauty in all my life - I wish I could talk in technicolour”
                                                                                                 Woman takes LSD in 1956


THE PORCUPINE TREE     THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS (PHASE 1)


I think The Porcupine Tree started out as a private joke between multi-instrumentalist Steve Taylor and collaborator Malcolm Stocks who, entirely for their own amusement, fabricated a fictional band with a detailed back-story which included information on alleged band members and album titles, as well as a ‘colourful’ history which purportedly included events such as a meeting at a 1970s rock festival and several trips in and out of prison. Wilson even went on to create several hours worth of music to provide evidence of the bands existence and then, at some point, in the early 90s, the band became a real thing, with real members, and real albums and, indeed, real fans. Initially inspired by Pink Floyd the early albums were highly psychedelic but I understand that they became a lot heavier with later albums exploring something of a progressive metal direction (words to strike fear into the heart, I fear). The Sky Moves Sideways, however, from their 1995 release of the same name, more or less melts from the speakers, creating a lysergic ambiance that is almost overwhelming. Epic.


JANE WEAVER      ELEMENT (LOOPS VARIATION)/MILK LOOP/ARROWS (LOOP VARIATION)/FOUND BIRDS


Four tracks from the new release by swirling psychedelicist Jane Weaver, the fairly wonderful LOOPS IN THE SECRET SOCIETY, a re-imagined journey through parts of 2014’s THE SILVER GLOBE and 2017’s MODERN KOSMOLOGY, with new ambient pieces primed and polished, and new tangents explored. By turns propulsive, cosmic, exotic and highly transcendent, the album is segued as a seamless whole, taking the listener on an immersive journey through brain-melting, luminous, cosmological soundscapes that take in proggy spacerock explorations, motorik loops, electronic experimentation and ambient sketches which combine to capture the sounds and colours of a particularly glorious sunrise. Marvellous.

MANFRED MANN     RAINBOW EYES


 Striving for some kind of cultural relevancy, the Manfred’s dabbled in psychedelia but their hearts were never really in it. That being said, the dreamy Rainbow Eyes, recorded in 1967 but never released (it hardly got beyond this demo stage) hints at what could have been.

NATHAN HALL AND THE SINISTER LOCALS     SCATTERSPARKS


The title track to the most recent release from Nathan Hall And The Sinister Locals is a trifling fancy, a hazy interlude, a quirky vignette, but one which employs that most favoured of all the psychedelic tropes - the backwards guitar, so there’ll be no complaints from me, then. Elsewhere, off-kilter delights, bucolic whimsy, clever wordplay and psychedelic loveliness abound.

 GRATEFUL DEAD     MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON


Considered by many to be the very apex of the band’s experimental phase (bless them an’ all, but I could never be doing with that whole bluegrass thing that followed) AOXOMOXOA, released in 1969, features many of the Grateful Dead’s most wilfully out-there tracks. Mountains Of The Moon has a gorgeous folk feel with the simple guitar picking and harpsichord accompaniment giving it a lysergic renaissance feel - they even go so far as to throw in some folderol-de-riddle’s for that authentic bucolic effect. This version is taken from the original recording - in 1971 the band suffered something of a crisis of confidence and remixed much of the album, removing many of the embellishments that must have seemed like a good idea at the time but were no doubt suggested by their prodigious acid use - for myself, I prefer to keep the choir that accompanied the original version of this song, which remains, to my mind, one of the prettiest they recorded.

BRAINTICKET     (THERE’S A SHADOW) WATCHIN’ YOU


Brainticket’s debut album, the potently hallucinogenic  COTTONWOODHILL, actually came with a health warning: "Listen only once a day to this album. Your brain might be destroyed", but their second release, PSYCHONAUT, released in 1972, is an altogether more relaxed affair - more trippy than overwhelmingly lysergic - but (There’s A Shadow) Watchin’ You is probably the most hard-rocking track the band ever recorded. Elsewhere, sitars, tablas, and various other ethnic instruments sit alongside more traditional instruments and draw a line between psychedelia and European prog.

COIL     STRANGE BIRDS


Formed in London in 1983 by John Balance as a solo side project to Psychic TV, Coil developed into a full-scale musical group in 1984, when Balance cemented a partnership with Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson, founder member of Psychic TV and formerly of Throbbing Gristle. Archly experimental, their vision encapsulated a potent trinity of chemically-altered states, occult arcana and technological transmutation which explored, as the cover of their debut release puts it: “How sound can affect the physical and mental state of the serious listener”. The vaguely tropical sound piece Strange Birds is taken from their 1999 release MUSICK TO PLAY IN THE DARK VOL. 1, one of two albums that marked the band’s migration from solar to lunar expressionism - it’s an extraordinary, immersive listen, and possibly not for the faint of heart. Julian Cope is a fan…

JULIAN COPE     POSITIVE DRUG TEST


...so much so that his newest release, JOHN BALANCE ENTERS VALHALLA, is dedicated explicitly to the memory of John Balance, who died of an alcohol-related fall in 2004. Across five rhythm-laden tracks, Cope brings a funky, upbeat tribute to Balance, in which hefty, largely instrumental, grooves shimmer and shake, guiding the listener through the various stages of the artist’s journey into legendary Valhalla. The massive motorik groove of the 15-minute title track depicts John’s journey out of the Earthly Realm, its final musical moments enacting a conversation between two air-force pilots mistaking John’s Shamanic Spectral Body for a distant UFO - if this was ever the case, the mighty Positive Drugs Test suggests that the UFO in question may well have been Funkadelic’s cosmic mothership. Whilst not the psychedelic album Cope’s been promising for some time, this is as far-out that Archdrude has been for ages, a cause for some celebration in these here parts. I found myself mesmerised.

WEST COAST POP ART EXPERIMENTAL BAND     AS KIND AS SUMMER


The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s music was often as unwieldy as their name - haphazard and pretentious but, on those occasions when it all came together, the band could produce music that was undeniably exquisite and very much at home to off-the-wall psychedelic excursions. As Kind As Summer is taken from their fourth (and arguably their best) album, A CHILD’S GUIDE TO GOOD AND EVIL, released in 1968, pretty much at the height of west hippie excess. The band comes with quite a back-story - rich-kid playboy buys himself into the band and bank-rolls their first album in return for being allowed to front them and write all their songs - but as this song only lasts less than two minutes, you’ll just have to read about it elsewhere - MD 73 is a good place to start.

THE FOURMYULA     BANG ON HARRY


This week’s kiwi band (I’m thinking of turning it into a short-lived thing) are The Fourmyula who, between 1968 and 1971 when they disbanded, enjoyed a string of hits unmatched by any other New Zealand group. In fact, their No. 1 hit Nature was voted New Zealand’s best song in 75 years in a 2001 poll. The cheerfully Barrett-esque Bang On Harry is taken from their 1969 album, GREEN B HOLIDAY, considered something of a milestone in your New Zealand pop circles; an ambitious concept album themed around a summer tour and immortalising the small towns and local characters encountered of which, I expect, Harry was one.

THE STAINED GLASS     A SCENE INBETWEEN


The Stained Glass are considered one of the great lost bands of the West Coast psychedelic era, of which, it must be said, there are quite a few. A Scene Inbetween, tucked away on the b-side of a 1967 release, is a terrific track that show-cases their distinctive take on psychedelia at their very best, but for some reason the fickle record-buying public ignored them and they split in 1969.

NICK NICELY      SOUVENIR


nick nicely, of course (he prefers the lower case spelling), is no stranger to the whims and vicissitudes of the record-buying public himself but has, nevertheless, been able to grow quite the cult following since the release of his debut single Hilly Fields (1892), back in 1982. The mighty Souvenir is taken from his 2017 release SLEEP SAFARI, an homage to unconsciousness, lyrically exploring sleep’s mysteries through a surrealist eye. On it, he eschews his earlier mix of backwards guitars and lysergic ambience for swirling, distorted electronic rhythms that owe as much to the dance floor as they do somnambulist reverie, but the overall effect is, as usual, profoundly psychedelic, full of tuneful inventions and deep euphoria. Gorgeous.


THE HARE AND THE HOOFE     DID I DREAM PARTS 1-4


The Hare And The Hoofe are rapidly becoming a band to cherish - their marvellously entertaining and deliciously weird debut album seldom off the phonogram. Bursting with fuzzed-up psychedelia and deranged invention, THE HARE AND THE HOOFE, a double album no less, has garnered praise from all quarters - my favourite comparing it to a Blake’s 7 re-imagining of The Pretty Things’ SF SORROW, which sums things up very nicely, I think. The deliriously catchy Did I Dream Parts 1-4 sees something very similar to The Psychedelic Furs’ Sister Europe reconceived as a mad rock opera performed by IN SEARCH OF THE LOST CHORD-era Moody Blues, and I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of the album yet. A mind-bending listen.

THE FENWEH     WHERE DID THE SEA GO?


Absolutely gorgeous - The Fenweh’s knack of dreaming up sublime melodies makes them the band I go to when I want to wander around the house humming a pretty tune and feeling good about myself and more or less everything else too. Their eponymous debut album, released last year, is simply a superb distillation of gather-in-the-mushrooms-era British folk acts such as Heron, Trees and the Judy Dyble-led Fairport Convention when they were still trying to be Jefferson Airplane but, and get this, with better tunes. There are other reference points: Where Did The Sea Go? Could be taken from Michael Head’s THE MAGICAL WORLD OF THE STRANDS. They really are that good.

SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS     MOTHS MISTOOK US FOR THE MOON


Plaintive loveliness from Soft Hearted Scientists who returned earlier this year with a cover of The Bee Gees’ Please Read Me for an as-yet-unreleased album for the wonderful Fruits De Mer record label and, from the b-side, the first new music from  SHS in some years, Moths Mistook Us For The Moon, which ought remind anyone who needs reminding why we need a new album from the psychedelic troubadours as quickly as possible. A thing of quiet beauty.

PURPLE OVERDOSE     HER ARMS EMBRACED THE SUN


I think you know what to expect when a group calls itself Purple Overdose, and the Greek band Purple Overdose don’t disappoint, producing a cosmic blend of hard rock and jazz combined with distinct oriental influences and whatever it is the Greek equivalent of acid folk is called. It is, as you might imagine, a sound heavily indebted to the 60s, but you’ll receive no complaints here. Her Arms Embraced The Sun is taken from their 1999 release, REBORN, an unabashed celestial voyage of lysergic grooviness and arch progginess.

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