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MIND DE-CODER 17
For Juliet. . . who joined me in the garden
THE A. LORDS DAWN CHORUS
A pastoral introduction to the show, no doubt recorded spontaneously in some Dorsetshire meadow, such as was their wont whilst recording their debut EP, SAME, back in 2006. And, as you’ll have also noted, it has a touch of early Tuung about it, who were recording their debut EP at more or less the same time, and that guitar refrain sounds very similar to Lullaby from the soundtrack to The Wicker Man. So, all in all, a fine start to the show.
Welcome to Mind De-Coder17
NATURE AND ORGANISATION INTRODUCTION/WICKERMAN SONG
It should come as no surprise, then, that I have it drift into a lovely cover of Willow’s Song from The Wicker Man, which the band have elected to call Wickerman Song, instead (I’ve no problem with this – I still maintain it’s the loveliest song ever hummed). Nature and Organisation were the brainchild of Michael Cashmore, which existed as a sort of experimental folk collective who were as interested in classical and folk structures as they were abrasive electronic noise. Wickerman Song, alongside its Introduction, are to be found on their debut album BEAUTY REAPS THE BLOOD OF SOLITUDE, released in 1994, which is largely characterized by one lovely song (Wickerman Song) and a load of noisy electronic experimentation. Don’t be fooled by their getting in Rose McDowall (of 80’s pop duo Strawberry Switchblade) to sing the lovely one – the rest of the album is almost unlistenable. Cashmore went on to join that other experimental folk collective Current 93, and Rose McDowell performs under her own name.
ADRIAN CORKER BELLS AND TAPE 1
A charming little filler from the album, THE WAY OF THE MORRIS, soundtrack to a recently produced documentary about that much maligned form of expression and the drinking of real ale, Morris Dancing. Adrian Corker, of experimental folk duo Corker/Conboy creates an understated tapestry of Britishness, taking in the sounds of birds, church bells, delicate folk dances and deadpan vocal recitals that plays on memory, history and tradition in the best possible way. Gorgeous stuff.
SAND SNOWMAN STAINED GLASS MORNING
Sand Snowman (or just Sand to his mother, I imagine) offers up a labyrinth of mellow spaced-out songs of an ephemeral and dream-like quality on this, his first album, I’M NOT HERE, released in 2007. It’s a delicate, acoustic folky affair, of which Stained Glass Morning is very fine example, with mandolins, sitars, xylophones and angelic voiced maidens adding their voices to softly layered polyphonic arrangements. Quiet as lovely as it sounds.
RAINBOW FFOLLY MONTGOLFIER
Rainbow Ffolly were one of those bands that history has overlooked when collating the history of British psychedelia, which is a shame, because their debut, and only album, is up there with Revolver and Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in terms of sheer songwriting ability and inventiveness - their point of difference being the added touches of musical hall humour and sound effect interludes. In actual fact, the whole album was merely a demo of songs that the band put together in the hope of a record label giving them enough money to do a proper job on them. As it happens, Parlophone were so taken with the songs that they put the album out as is, much to the disappointment of the band who intended to add over-dubs and other psychedelic flourishes. The band never gathered the audience they needed to make another album, but RAINBOW FFOLLY …SALLIES FORTH, released 1968, is one of the great lost psychedelic artifacts of the late 60’s.
MARK FRY AND THE A. LORDS ALL DAY LONG
In 1972 Mark fry released DREAMING WTH ALICE, a psychedelic folk classic (and one of my top 10 trip albums), and then more or less retired from the recording business and devoted himself to his first love, painting. Over the years the album garnered a cult status, until in 2009 he was contacted by The A. Lords and asked to collaborate on a new album, with Fry supplying lyrics and vocal parts to music they’d composed. The resulting record I LIVED IN TREES, released in 2011, is, as you might expect, a gloriously drowsy, bucolic folk vision pulled into technicolour focus by Lemon Jelly’s Nick Franglen at the mixing desk, and etched with the A. Lords classical guitars, Mellotrons and deft chamber arrangements – all of it in service to Mark Fry’s magically timeless reveries. It’s really quite wonderful.
VASHTI BUNYAN AND MAX RICHTER MARTHA MY DEAR
Following her 35 years of musical hibernation, Vashti Bunyan looked to German composer Max Richter to produce her comeback album LOOKAFTERING, released in 2005. On it, Richter provides impeccable orchestrations of piano, strings and woodwinds, which translate into an ethereal dreamscape on this exquisite cover of McCartney’s muse-led lament that appears on one of those Mojo magazine free CDs, THE WHITE ALBUM RECOVERED, that accompanied an issue in 2008.
VIRGINIA ASTLEY SUMMER OF THEIR DREAMS
Another gorgeous track from Virginia Astley’s magical FROM GARDENS WHERE WE FEEL SECURE, released 1983, my current go-to album for all things lovely. Melodically rich and varied, the album is an evocative 35- minute meditation built around field recordings Astley made of ambient sounds of the rural English countryside around her home, and is a dreamy escape into the moods of a summer’s day.
BREAD LOVE AND DREAMS BROTHER JOHN
AMARYLLIS was the third and final album by the very fine but under-rated Bread Love and Dreams, an under-achieving Scottish psychedelic folk act who were pretty much treated as a tax write-off by their record company who, despite critical acclaim, failed to promote, or indeed, print up enough copies of the album at all. Nevertheless, AMARYLLIS, released in 1971, from which the haunting Brother John is taken, is a charming period piece, that features Pentangle’s Danny Thompson and Terry Cox as the band’s rythmn section and much sought after by collectors of your acid folk.
GRUFF RHYS SHARK RIDDEN WATERS
Gruff Rhys is hard to pin down, but if you were forced to describe his third solo album, HOTEL SHAMPOO, released 2011, you’d say something like he has a roving eye for left-field electronics, playful psyche-rock, freaky folk and, as is the case with Shark Ridden Waters, breezy Tropicalia – and you wouldn’t be far wrong. And just to show his psychedelic credentials are spot on, he also samples 60’s psyche-folk band the Cyrkle. On the other hand, this is the best track on the album.
MOON WIRING CLUB GHOST HOTEL
More weird goings on from Moon Wiring Club and the avowedly spooky Ghost Hotel, taken from the debut album, AN AUDIENCE OF ART DECO EYES, released 2007. Familiar sounds sourced from television, film and dialogue exhumed from 1970s public service broadcasts submerged amongst odd percussion and bleeping Radiophonic tinkerings. What is it about the repetition of de-contextualised phrases such as "key too small" and "the picture in the house" that summon up all kinds of Armchair Thriller uneasiness?
THE ORANGE ALABASTER MUSHROOM SYDNEY’S ELECTRIC HEADCHEESE SUNDIAL
Sometimes it’s all in the name – if I were to tell you that Canadian one-man band The Orange Alabaster Mushroom released the track Sydney’s Electric Headcheese Sundial on the album SPACE AND TIME in 2001, you’d expect it to be almost lysergically mind-bending, wouldn’t you?
DONOVAN THREE KINGFISHERS
Donovan was so ahead of the game with tracks like this, but because of a contractual dispute with his record company, his landmark album, SUNSHINE SUPERMAN, from which this track is taken, was released in 1967, nearly 18 months after he recorded it, so it looked like he was merely copying his peers instead of leading the way - but there’s a definite case for this being one of the first psychedelic albums. Oh, well, eh?
TRAFFIC HOLE IN MY SHOE
Yes, well, I was feeling playful and I was tempted, I admit, into playing Neil from The Young One’s version but thankfully, some kind of sense, I wouldn’t call it common, prevailed (irony can be a bit too ironic sometimes). The band themselves were never keen on this track, thinking it was unrepresentative of their style – typically it became their biggest hit, but despite their objections, it suits the times (1967) very nicely, and is not very different from House For Everyone, from their debut album MR FANTASY, or the single Paper Sun. Playful psychedelia – you can’t beat it.
THE OUTSIDERS DOCTOR
Another excellent track from CQ, the 3rd album from Holland’s The Outsiders, released in 1968. Last week I played one of the more experimental tracks from the album; this week I was drawn to one of the more garage-psyche punk affairs – Doctor is a snarling head-rush of a tune, featuring distorted vocals and an explosive fuzz-guitar freakout. Possibly what the Rolling Stones wanted to sound like on THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST and what The Pretty Things managed on SF SORROW…
SANDY DENNY AND THE STRAWBS TWO WEEKS LAST SUMMER
I found this magical song amongst the bonus tracks that accompanied the welcome re-release of the much over-looked ALL OUR OWN WORK, recorded in 1967 but not actually released until 1973 to cash in on The Strawbs sudden success in the charts with, of all things, Part of the Union. Denny went on the record a more fully realised version of the song some years later with Fotheringay. I love both versions, but this particular version is one of my favourite recordings by Sandy Denny.
MOON WIRING CLUB DRESSING UP BOX
Composed entirely on a PlayStation 2, Moon Wiring Club’s SOMEWHERE A FOX IS GETTING MARRIED, (released 2011) was Ian Hodgson’s musical tribute to the recent royal wedding in which he refracts the already odd pomp and ceremony into a parallel dimension where "greedy, wryly unwholesome, non-paying animal-faced entities" attend a phantom wedding on 31 April 1911. Hodgson's sample-heavy music is set in Clinkskell, a fictional village full of sinister spirits, beautiful women and quaint sweet shops. His last album , A SPARE TABBY AT THE CAT'S WEDDING, focused on a card game in which the winner would get to marry into royalty; on this album, the fox-faced spirit who won is claiming his prize, a dotty feline called Princess Jackie. The resulting imagery and music is rich with references to English folklore and aristocratic idiosyncrasies, from phantom weddings in the Lake District to links between the ruling class and the lowly fox. In doing so he has created something that the hauntological genre excels at: amid the bland patriotism and kneejerk republicanism, he has managed to capture some of the gilt-edged, inbred weirdness of this rare national event.
THE BEACH BOYS WORKSHOP/VEGE-TABLES
…with Paul McCartney on backing carrot, or so the story goes. Taken from what is now generally regarded as the definitive version of SMILE, which saw release in 2011, and was actually worth the wait. It’s a lot cleverer than the Brian Wilson Presents… version that came out a few years back which, in retrospect, was far too much in thrall of the legend. This version is playful and light, as the Workshop intro demonstrates, and gives the impression that people were having a lot more fun during the making of this album than the stories suggest.
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS MOUNTAIN DELIGHT
Another whimsical piece of pastoral psychedelia from the Soft Hearted Scientists, and a track from their fourth album, WONDERMOON, released 2011, dedicated to making music with a sense of wonder akin to “the stars flying off the end of a wand’’, which they do quite nicely with opener Mountain Delight, which sees them gazing into infinity over a bed of glockenspiel, acoustic and slide guitar. Still not the equal to their debut album, but this is something that makes sense at dusk, when the afternoon gathers itself up for an evening in by the fire.
NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS SHOOT A HOLE IN THE SUN
(AMORPHOUS ANDROGYNOUS REMIX)
This was meant to be the first tantalizing glimpse of what the next album by Noel Gallagher would have sounded like, as produced by Amorphous Androgynous with the psychedelic button turned up to 11. Sadly, he couldn’t be arsed with it and shelved the whole project leaving just this, and perhaps one or two completed tracks, to suggest just how great that album would actually have been. I expect that they’ll turn up on the B-side of whatever plodding piece of dad-rock he releases next as a single, but I can’t help thinking that this is a missed opportunity to shine. This mind-bending remix of Shoot A Hole In The Sun can be found on the B-Side to Dream On, released earlier in 2012, but I can’t imagine he’ll ever be this good again.
CASHIER No. 9 GOOD HUMAN
This lovely little track comes from the debut album by Belfast band Cashier No. 9, whose album TO THE DEATH OF FUN was produced hip producer David Holmes. It’s a lushly psychedelic affair that sits somewhere between the baggy sounds of 1989 with the sun-dappled harmonies of the Laurel Canyon set circa the early 70’s. Me and the critics seem to disagree over Good Human. They seem to think it’s the weakest track on the album of otherwise shimmering promise, whereas I think it’s one of the best tracks I’ve heard in years, but I can’t be doing too much with the rest of the album. Make of that what you will.
THE FOCUS GROUP STARRY WISDOM/
JIM FASSET 3rd MOVEMENT
The closing track from The Focus Group’s debut album, the sampledelic SKETCHES AND SPELLS, released in 2004, but over it I’ve played something really quite special – the 3rd Movement from SYMPHONY FOR THE BIRDS, released in 1960 by Bob Fassett. On this remarkable album, Fassett, a radio broadcaster, painstakingly pieced together fragments from recordings of bird calls originally made in the field by Jerry and Norma Stilwell.
By re-recording some of them faster or slower, and then superimposing multiple playbacks onto one tape, Fassett wove together the results like an arrangement for symphony orchestra. Even if you don't appreciate the art of the work, Symphony for the Birds earns the kind of fascination and admiration one holds for achievements like toothpick models of the Eiffel Tower or the world's biggest ball of string, and eagle-eared listeners will note I’ve been dipping into the album throughout the show.
SIMON AND GARFUNKEL OLD FRIENDS/BOOKENDS THEME
…and this is for Juliet; it always reminds me of her, and that one day it will be we two sitting on that park bench (like bookends) and how much I'm looking forward to it. It’s from their album BOOKENDS, released 1968.
And that was Mind De-Coder 17. I Hope you enjoyed your trip.
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