Tuesday, 20 August 2013



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‘Under the influence of the accompanying music we were, as in a state of dreamy rapture, to be led imperceptibly along the trackless ways to the Castle of the Grail”
                                                                                                             Richard Wagner


Oh, yeah…


Following the demise of Japan’s Group Sounds* appeal in the late 60’s, as record company management forced the band’s into the kind of restrictive homogenized aesthetic that nowadays would make One Direction look edgy, several producers began to cherry pick the best players from each group to create a particularly Japanese outsider vision of music’s possibilities.  These albums became known as ‘Super Sessions’ and LOVE WILL MAKE A BETTER YOU, released in 1970, is a classic example of the genre. As Copey notes in his authoritative examination of post-war Japanese rock ‘n’ roll, JAPROCKSAMPLER, these sessions united so many seemingly disparate elements into their sonic stew, the result was a mind-bending experimental sound that sounded unlike anything the West was capable of producing at that time – an ironic state of affairs, as these artists were entirely influenced by the more forward-thinking Western artists (such as Sly and the Family Stone) but were ably to give them a uniquely Japanese delivery that made them sound familiar and alien at the same time. Love Live Life + One paired main stream pop star Akira Fuse (who used to make saccharine cover versions of The Carpenters, if you can imagine) with a bunch of avant-garde freaks who, between them, managed to create one of the greatest albums ever recorded in the Japanese psych-rock canon. 

(* ‘Group Sounds’ was the Japanese version of rock ‘n’ roll, heavily influenced by the British music invasion of America, spear-headed by The Beatles in the early 60’s. Being barely able to pronounce ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ caused hip movers and shakers to cast around for a new term and, thus, Group Sounds was born. Originally an exciting musical explosion, the bands became rigidly controlled by record companies who forbade experimentation for a familiar, bankable sound that sold, to the extent that over a period of 6 years or so there was no musical development at all, something that many members of these groups found artistically frustrating to say the least). 


One of the great lost psychedelic band’s from the 1960’s, The Misunderstood only managed to produce a handful of tracks before being forced to disband, but those singles are generally regarded as so far out, and so innovative , that no one can quite understand why they weren’t the success they were so clearly meant to be. Originally from California, they were brought to England by a young John Peel where, by all accounts, they played a series of blistering live sets around swinging London, and recorded a number of tracks that were released as (now, incredibly rare) singles that eventually found their way onto a posthumous album release, BEFORE THE DREAM FADED, on the semi-mythical Cherry Red record label in 1982. I Can Take You To The Sun was released in 1966, for example, and is way ahead of the psychedelic game. They were forced to split when one of the members was hounded into the army by the American authorities, thus bringing an end to a band that should have been huge. Peel always maintained they were one of the greatest bands he’d ever seen. Ah well, eh? 


Julian Cope at his most falling-apart - achingly fragile and all Syd Barrett vulnerability; naked and exposed. This song has no bass because he forgot to put one on there, but therein lays its damaged beauty. Laughing Boy is taken from the now semi-legendary FRIED (released 1984), the album that saw Copey written off by observers as a washed-up acid casualty, but on which I only saw the beauty.


Colours To Life is the second single from Northampton’s Temples (I know! Northampton!), all swooning mellotron strings and multi-coloured psychedelic loveliness. They’ve arrived just in time to reinvigorate Britain’s psych-pop yearnings for that now semi-mythical period set between 1967-1969, and I’m looking forward to the release of an album soon – but what they need to do is shy clear of recreating the past and, instead, find it within like, say, Tame Impala manage to do. Then there would be two great psychedelic bands in the world, which is also something to look forward to.


MESSAGE FROM THE COUNTRY, released in 1971, was the final album by The Move and recorded at the time they were turning into ELO. In fact, at some point they were recording this, their last album, and the first ELO album at the same time. It’s a cheerfully trippy album with some lovely psychedelic flourishes, but it’s born of a time when that particular brand of psychedelia (The Beatle’s Paperback Writer variety) had now pretty much been taken as far as it could go. Change was quite clearly in the air.  


For his fifth release, A SPARE TABBY AT THE CAT’S WEDDING, (2010), The Moon Wiring Club’s Ian Hodgson created two versions of the same album, one on CD, the other vinyl, both occasionally employing the same titles as the other but, crucially, with entirely different content. It turns out that A Spare Tabby At The Cat’s Wedding may have bee the name for an old fashioned card game, for which there may have been a musical accompaniment – Hodgson sees these albums as that accompaniment with the vinyl version being the dream version of the CD. It’s a fine idea; the vinyl version is the dream-mix of the CD version, so by the end of listening to the CD version, you’ve fallen asleep and in your sleep you’re trapped inside the vinyl version and, certainly, the vinyl version has a slightly more lysergic feel to it than the CD release – although if I understand the idea correctly, the dream version in this case refers to the idea the buyer holds of the album before they actually hear it, rather than any phantasmagoric quality inherent in the vinyl version itself. That being said, both version are imbued with endless quantities of decay reverberation, dislocated vocals and a spooky, hauntological ambience that will trip out the most demanding listener.  …And For My Next Trick is from the vinyl version, by the way.


nick nicely (always spelt lower-case, apparently) is a semi-legendary figure in your psychedelic circles who, in 1982, released one of the greatest psychedelic singles ever made – namely Hilly Fields (1892), which, according to the myth surrounding it, took a year to make; was the first non- hip hop record to include scratching in the mix; and even had Kate Bush providing a word or two in the middle eight, and at least two of these facts are true (it might not have been Kate Bush after all). And that was pretty much it for his career. The single, its b-side (both big Mind De-Coder favourites) and a few under-produced demo tracks were rounded up and released on his only album PSYCHOTROPICA in 2004 and until recently, at least, the story ended there. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that not only has he recently released an updated version of Hilly Fields on the very fine Fruits de Mer record label, but that back in 2011, he released a new album called LYSERGIA on, get this, cassette only, and that he appears to be back in the psychedelic game. Not only that, but LYSERGIA lives up to its name – it’s one of the most tripped out albums I’ve heard in years, crammed with hallucinatory guitar pop and the kind of mind-bending production that is exemplified by Whirlpool – music that exists beyond time and space, in fact. An all out essential psychedelic classic for your next trip that took 29 years to arrive – incredibly, it was worth hanging around for.


The Hollies released two albums in 1967 in which they joined the giddy world of psychedelia. I played a track from the first one, the much over-rated EVOLUTION recently (exceptional cover, though) but it was really the second album, BUTTERFLY, in which they demonstrated that, Graham Nash at least, really did get it, even if the rest of the band weren’t quite as convinced (or, indeed, convincing). They still did that high harmonies thing, and the playful melodies, but it was never going to be REVOLVER, say. However, the album has a handful of trippy tracks on it that would stand up well on any psychedelic radio show, this title track being one of them.  


I’d always assumed that FIRST UTTERANCE, the cult 1971 album by Comus, was the band’s only album – after all, I thought, surely there was nowhere else to go after producing such a malevolent, and at times, positively malignant celebration of acid folk’s dark bacchanalian side, and with that album made, surely their work here was done. So I was intrigued, recently, to discover that they had, in fact, produced a second album – TO KEEP FROM CRYING, released in 1974 – a far proggier and less wyrd affair than its predecessor and one that contained the captivating Touch Down, by far one of the loveliest songs I’ve ever heard. It was, more or less, a different band; the first version having disbanded (as I suspected) following the release of that, by now, legendary first album, but they were brought back together at the insistence of a record company executive who wanted a sequel. It’s a more conventional sounding album which doesn’t plum the nightmarish depths of FIRST UTTERANCE, but I’m glad I discovered it – my world is better for this song being in it. 


Jim Jupp’s Belbury Poly operate at the more proggy end of the hauntological spectrum – that is to say, less of the disembodied voices and more of the tunes (albeit tunes that sound like they could have been found on an old BBC 2 recording of an early morning Open University science show from 1974) – he’s even got some guest players on his most recent album, BELBURY TALES, playing drums, guitar and bass, no less – so it was with some delight I found this track, The Green Grass Grows, with its ever so spooky, off-kilter child sing-a-long, which makes it sound like the soundtrack to a primary school production of cult hammer horror film The Wicker Man played out at the local village fete.


A satisfying bit of filler from ex-Beta Band-er Steve Mason’s most recent album MONKEY MIND’ IN THE DEVIL’S TIME, (2013), one of many such satisfying i-tunes defying moments to be found thereon. 


Michael In The Garden is the sort of fey, whimsical, drug-addled nonsense that gives fey, whimsical, drug addled nonsense a bad name. Ralph McTell, he of wanting to take you by the hand and show you round the streets of London fame, is plainly mistaking a child clearly born with a learning difficulty with the child-like sense of wonder one obtains with a good acid trip. I should imagine that McTell himself was no stranger to this state of mind when he wrote this very song, which can be found on his 1969 album, THE OTHER SIDE OF YOUR WINDOW. Despite this, the song has a dated pastoral charm that I can’t help but like but, really, Ralph, the doctors are right - the boy needs medication, and so do you.


Gently rambling Brazilian vibes of a progressive hairy acid-folk nature with added eastern sonorities and otherwise peaceful ambiences from this duo who released their only album as a private pressing in 1973 at the very height of Brazil’s oppressive military dictatorship, when the newspapers carried cake recipes on their front pages to replace stories the state censors considered too subversive – which probably explains why the album is largely instrumental; either that, or because they were too stoned to think of anything to say. Either way, I took the opportunity to include one of my favourite pieces from the legendary Bill Hicks – Miniature Golf on Acid. It’s all legendary this and semi-legendary that, this week, isn’t it?

CAN     AUGM (excerpt)

A few minutes from the otherwise 17-minute long Augm, a near rhythmless flow of sounds floating from speaker to speaker in an ever-evolving wash. TAGO MAGO, released in 1971, is not just Can's best album, he says authoritatively, it's possibly one of the best album's ever made.


I don’t think that it’s only Apples and Oranges that were high in a tree when Richard Dawson, actor and television presenter, half-sang, half-spoke this neo-psychedelic anti-war song back in 1967, the b-side to his only single His Children’s Parade, but with its harpsichord flourishes and minor-key melodrama it has a certain dippy charm that I can’t help but enjoy.


A deranged cover version of Arzachel’s Queen Street Gang by The Baking Research Station, the, if anything, even more unhinged side-project of Mind De-Coder favourites Cranium Pie, who released this track in 2012 as the b-side to a typically limited edition single A Visit To Newport Hospital, itself a cover of a track by psychedelic prog-sters Egg (who were a slightly different incarnation of Arzachel – or more correctly, Arzachel were a slightly different incarnation of Egg) from the wonderful Fruits De Mer record label. The single only had a run of 250 and included a sticker on the bag which reads: PROPERTY OF CRANIUM PIE - OFFICIAL PROP USED IN THE MAKING OF QUEEN ST. GANG, which is just one of the many reasons Fruits De Mer is a wonderful record label.


Shomyo is taken from our second Japanese super sessions album in this evening’s show, People’s CEREMONY – BUDDHA MEETS ROCK, released in 1973. As Copey notes in Japrocksampler, the purpose of the album was to turn hip  young Japanese rock kids back on to Japan’s own version of Zen Buddhism, by making great play of its being similar to Western rockers’ then current obsession with anything of a faintly exotic far eastern nature.  The results were entirely beautiful, very trippy, and have an undeniable touch of holiness about them. Lovely.

I followed it with a few minutes from a mix by The Moon Wiring Club created for The Solid Steel Radio Show back in 2010. You can listen to the whole mix here 


Three tracks from Gong’s 1973 album ANGEL’S EGG – the second of their Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, and generally regarded as their masterpiece. The lyrics are idiosyncratically surreal, the music a mixture of Canterbury sound jazz-rock psychedelic fusion and the overall feel is entirely trippy. The lyrics to Love Is How U Make It go some way to explaining the bizarre compositions that make up all three albums of the trilogy.

Look everyone – it’s Rolf Harris! Did anyone actually own a Stylophone? In
many ways, it’s the classic hauntological sound – it’s a wonder that they’re not all over it. 


Birth is taken from possibly the sixth solo album by Brian Ellis, guitarist for the West Coast psychedelic rock band Astra, for whom extensive keyboard inspired jams are not unknown. On his album QUIPU (don’t ask), released 2011, Ellis takes the early Genesis, Yes, King Crimson vibe of his day-job band and throws some jazz-fusion into the mix and then, as on album opener Birth, some heavy metal freak-outs which, of course, should not work at all, but happily does. Incredibly, Ellis makes this fantastic noise himself, leading one reviewer to note that, were this 1973, he’d be challenging Mike Oldfield for best Multi-Instrumentalist in Melody Maker’s end of year reader’s poll.


From THE ELEKTRIK KAROUSEL, Jon Brooks’ most recent release as The Focus Group, Fruminous Numinous sounds as if the cat has jumped on your record player while you were happily listening to George Harrison’s soundtrack to Wonderwall.


The backwards, trippy one from their album BE – the Japanese edition. Mum said if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.

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