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MIND DE-CODER 46
“…that’s the way love am.”
Serendipity were a little known psych-rock band that seem to have existed at that exact point in music history when the psychedelic experimentation of the late 1960's was just slipping into prog. In truth, I know next to nothing about them – I couldn’t even find a picture of them – but a version of this track Castles, was the b-side to their second, and for all I know final single, If I Could Tell, released in 1969. This version of Castles, is a longer, unreleased acetate from which that was edited, and recently appeared on the impressive compilation LOVE, POETRY AND REVOLUTION: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE BRITISH PSYCHEDELIC AND UNDERGROUND SCENES 1966-1972 (released 2013) which, over three CDs features outrageously rare oddities, misses and early takes of which this band are a very fine example. Once again, if you are a keen musicologist, this will excite you enormously, etc. …etc. … etc.
TAME IMPALA STRANGER IN MOSCOW
Tame Impala with a cover of your late-period Michael Jackson Stranger In Moscow – one of his ‘hits’ that seemed to pass me by, I must confess, but this is incredible, regardless of the original – released on their Facebook page earlier this year.
TEETH OF THE SEA YOUR MERCURY
Ravishing prog vibes from Teeth Of The Sea who, on this track, have a Miles Davies thing going on that eventually collapses into a full-on Goblin-inspired soundtrack combustion that’s every bit as good as it sounds. This taken from their 2010 release YOUR MERCURY which really ought to have garnered a lot more attention than it did.
BEAULIEU PORCH ANNO DOMINI
Gorgeous psychedelia from Beaulieu Porch whose second album, WE ARE BEAUTIFUL, released 2013, is a marvellous mix of harpsichords, trumpets, church organs and backwards electric guitars that displays a Wilson-esque delight in exactly how much fun you can have in the studio when you’ve got some really good tunes to play around with.
PETER HOWELL AND JOHN FERDINANDO THE JABBERWOCKY
The first release from the home studio of future Radiophonic Workshop composer Peter Howell (he wrote the second version of the Doctor Who theme tune) and his musical partner John Ferdinando was a private press recording produced as a musical backdrop for a stage version of “Alice through the Looking Glass” by local amateur dramatics group the Ditchling Players, who approached the two musicians, both living in Sussex village of Ditchling at the time, to provide a few musical incidentals for the production. The resulting album, ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, released in 1969, is one of my favourite albums, blending dialogue recorded straight from the play with Carroll’s surreal poetry and acid folk charm that makes it the pastoral equivalent of PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN. Limited at the time to less than a hundred copies freely given away to the cast as a souvenir of the show, it saw a welcome re-release on CD at some point in the 1990. Now, if you are a keen musicologist…etc., etc., etc.
HAWKWIND ZOO HURRY ON SUNDOWN
Another ridiculously rare recording to be found on the album LOVE POETRY AND REVOLUTION, this time from the pre-Hawkwind, Hawkwind Zoo, who recorded this previously unreleased demo version of the track Hurry On Sundown in 1969. It was one of the earliest tracks they ever recorded and eventually turned up on their debut album HAWKWIND, released in 1970. This is a lovely, if rather undeveloped affair, but not bad for a demo, I’m sure you agree. In fact, if you were a …etc., etc., etc.
PENTANGLE SO EARLY IN THE SPRING
I fear that I have done Pentangle’s Jacquie McShea a grave, grave mis-service here, and may I be struck down for it and all, but this is almost entirely the point of having your own radio show. This lovely track can be found on the band’s 1968 double album SWEET CHILD; the first album of which features the band in concert at the Royal Albert Hall, June 29th 1968. So Early In The Spring is a folk traditional, possibly made more famous by Judy Collins.
MARC WILKINSON RALPH CHOPS TREE
This is possibly the only lovely track on the soundtrack to Piers Haggard’s 1970 cult British horror film THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. The rest of the music has a sinister undertone to it, made all the more explicit by its descending chromatic scale which features throughout the music. This, of course (he says, knowledgably, reading from Wilkinson’s notes on the back of the sleeve, although I might as well be talking gibberish) omits the perfect fifth (the only true consonant in the chromatic scale) and therefore highlights the diminished fifth, which ever since the middle ages in Europe has been known as the Devil's Interval. Your musicologists go mad for this sort of thing.
MOON WIRING CLUB DISTANT GAZEBO
Ian Hodgson’s Moon Wiring Club have been all over this show. As is his wont these days, he’s released two versions of his latest album, 2013’s A FONDNESS FOR FANCY HATS – the CD version, on which you’ll find Distant Gazebo, is presented as the soundtrack for an imaginary old skool computer game, from which you might never emerge. It imagines a mind-palace consisting of a large number of scrolling mazes and areas of peculiar architecture, including the fabled Moontower and Mouldsmoth Hall, each containing countless rooms. Within the rooms the player may find items of Occult Haute Couture to add to an endless wardrobe. These must be collected and utilised to your best advantage. It advises the player to be wary of slamming doors and distant voices. There is a second version of the album, limited to 150 and released as a 45 minute tape cassette; A FONDNESS FOR FANCY HATS (SOFT CONFUSION) is an altogether dreamier affair that I’ve dipped into throughout the show - chases the original into a lower resolution world of fancy dressed role-playing memory dredge. Marvellous.
THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN NIGHTMARE
This was Arthur Brown’s first single, released in 1968 before finding short-lived fame and fortune with Fire. Nightmare sank without a trace.
TYRANNOSAURUS REX DEBORAAROBED
In these modern cynical times it’s easy to mock Tyrannosaurus Rex for their faux-naïf fondness for Middle Earth and the little faerie folk that dwell therein, (quite rightly, in my opinion; look at what percussionist Steve Peregrine Took plays on their second album, 1969’s PROPHET’S SEERS AND SAGES, THE ANGELS OF THE AGES – bongos, African drums, kazoo, pixiephone and Chinese gong) but there’s no doubting that Deboraarobed, a fairly radical re-working of their debut single, Debora, in which the song segues into the same version played backwards, is an absolute thrilling introduction to the album.
TEMPLES MOVE WITH THE SEASON
A lovely track from Temples debut album, SUN STRUCTURES, released earlier this year and perhaps just a bit too polite when it could have done with a little more attitude; other than that its reference points are spot on. This track enjoys a sun-kissed bucolic charm that will have you humming in post office queues.
MARY-ANNE PATERSON LOVE HAS GONE
Gorgeous acid-folk of the slightly medieval kind (I’m a fan of the slightly medieval kind, me) from Scottish folk singer Mary-Anne Paterson who recorded her one album in 1970 as a means of raising funds for a children’s arts centre she wished to open. It’s surprisingly magical - all acoustic guitars, flutes and Paterson’s gentle voice – given that, according to the legend, it was recorded with some street buskers she found on the London Underground with whom she barely rehearsed and who she never saw again; and along with its wispy loveliness there’s also one or two free-folk freak-outs making it, all in all, a bucolic, witchy affair. Sadly she had no desire to promote or tour the album so it sank without trace, leaving some commentators to suggest that this is one of the rarest records of all time. I’m not sure what happened to the arts centre.
JAMES McKEOWN ENGLISH DREAM
ENGLISH DREAM is the second solo album from Hi Fiction Science guitarist James McKeown. It’s a lovely work – sparse, experimental acoustic songs that have a gentle pastoral feel to them that puts one in mind Echoes-era Pink Floyd. Wistful, dream-laden and steeped in 70’s acid-folk the songs have an autumnal feel to them – like wisps of smoke on a trusty wood burner, they drift away.
JULIA HOLTER SO LILLIES
Julia Holter works on the far reaches of, what we’ll optimistically call, the avant-folk spectrum and we’ll see how far that gets us. Her debut album, TRAGEDY, released in 2011, is an exquisitely poised work based on a 2,439-year-old Greek play by Euripedes (and if anything spells avant it’s a 2,439-year-old Greek play by Euripedes). It’s by turns dreamy and intense, filled with sounds you can’t recognise, and tunes that fade in and out of consciousness. In fact, now I come to think of it, there’s not very much folk about her at all; her work owing more to an experimental, art pop ambience than anything else, but recently she’s been playing with acid-folk goddess Linda Perhacs and they both share that sense of wonder that informs their music, so that must be where I got it from.
GWYDION SPRING STRATHSPEY
On a show featuring a great deal of rarities, Gwydion Pendderwen can justly hold his head up high and proclaim that he, too, is rare, and that no one outside of the pagan tradition has heard of his records either. Born Thomas deLong to his mum, Gwydion was an American folk-musician, writer, poet and witch whose first album, a privately-pressed affair called SONGS FOR THE OLD RELIGION, was released in 1975. Featuring the music of the California Wicca Blues Band, it includes songs for the Sabbats and love songs to the God and Goddess that brought Gwydion fame and high standing in the Pagan community in which he served as an initiate of the Feri witchcraft tradition. One only has to check out the album cover to learn much, but by no means all, of what you need to know about him. This absolutely lovely song (a strathspey is a Scottish dance, slower than a reel, for two people) is sung by Dana Corby, happily still with us and a practioner of the craft. Gwydion sadly died in a car crash in 1982.
JULIAN COPE THE-WAY-LUV-IS
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Julian Cope fan who would rate the drude’s 2003 release ROME WASN’T BURNED IN A DAY as one of his more essential releases. Originally conceived as an accompaniment to a three-day event organized by him at the London Hammersmith's Lyric Theatre (described by Cope as ‘Three Dementianal Nights of Barbarian Rock ‘n’Roll’), the album was inspired by his research for THE MEGALITHIC EUROPEAN, his epic and masterful guide to Europe’s Neolithic pagan temples in which something clearly illuminating occurred because he’s never been quite the same since, and marks the beginning of his more overtly-shamanistic, proto-metal prog trip in which his way with a tune was often lost to wilful primitivism – a position he’s more or less sustained ever since. That being said, the album also contains the sweetly plaintive The-Way-Luv-Is, possibly the last song by Cope that I unconditionally love, so it’s worth the price of admission for that alone (plus I also got the special edition featuring acts like Sunburned Hand of the Man, Sunn0))) and Vibracathedral Orchestra on a second CD, which is not without interest in itself).
SALAKO MORE THAN SPARROW’S TEAR
This track is taken from the band’s final album, the knowingly named STORY OF OUR LIFE SO FAR, released in 2004. It’s a lovely little album containing sad, beautiful songs made to feel slightly weird by sympathetic studio production that’s full of interesting sounds running in to each other. Sadly they split up when no one was looking (or perhaps because no one was looking) which is a great pity because they were one of those band’s I truly loved in world that has less of them every day.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND THE MURDER MYSTERY
By the time the Velvet Underground released their third album in 1969, Lou Reed had seen off John Cale and in doing so arguably turned the rest of the group into his backing musicians – which is not to say the eponymous VELVET UNDERGROUND doesn’t contain some of the best material the band ever produced. It enjoys a mellower, folk-rock pastoral vibe to the group’s previous two albums, but lacks Cale’s avant-garde experiments – except in this, the album’s closing track The Murder Mystery which, really, could be about anything, anything at all.