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MIND DE-CODER 48
‘Turn on, tune in, folk out’
This curious track comes from the same BBC Radiophonic Workshop team that brought you the Doctor Who theme (and, indeed the sound of the Tardis – created by Hodgson by running the back door key to his mother's house along a bass string of a gutted piano, then electronically treating the recording, trivia fans!). I’m a big fan of Delia Derbyshire and thought I’d more or less collected everything she’s recorded, so I was delighted to come across this track on the suitably obscure album JOHN PEEL PRESENTS TOP GEAR, released in 1969, which features a compilation of performances from various artists broadcast by Peel on his influential radio show Top Gear at the BBC. It’s a strange album, presenting an uncomfortable mix of the avowedly avant-garde with a bit of folk and some prog rock thrown in for good measure – pretty much the template for any show hosted by Peel really. The how’s and wherefores of this track remain a mystery but it’s exactly this sort of playfulness that made me a fan in the first place (of both her and Peel).
Sound sculptor Alan Black has had a busy year; on the back of six mash-up albums inspired by the sea, he’s created a number of albums influenced by his own work. The Old Paper Cup comes from his recent release THE SEA: ALAN WATTS, in which he takes the words of Zen philosopher Alan Watts and mixes them with tracks from his own Sea Cycle. The track consists of Beck’s 000.000 (not one of his better known tracks – you can find it on the b-side to Devil’s Haircut, but don’t ask me how to pronounce it) and the lama karta Call To Lama From Afar, with Alan waxing lyrical on Nature of Consciousness. The whole album is this good and is available as a free download from Alan Black’s site here
I’ve been so taken with Alan Black’s work recently that I felt that a track from another of his Sea Cycle albums wouldn’t go amiss, so this is a reading of Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous sonnet to the inevitable decline of all leaders and of the empires they build, read over a bit of Peter Gabriel’s Bassbowl with accompaniment from various Tibetan monks with added singing bowls, cymbals and ghanta to marvellous effect. This is from the album THE SEA – VERSE, in which he takes poems by the likes of Walt Whitman, Coleridge, Yeats, Poe and Shakespeare and creates whole worlds for them to inhabit. Available for a free download here and check out the rest of his albums here.
SPROATLY SMITH FLOWERS MADE OF WINTER/SPRING STRATHSPEY
The two opening tracks from Sproatly Smith’s 2010 release PIXIELED, an absolutely enchanting vision of psychedelic folk that combines ethereal melodies with lysergic pagan charm. Spring Strathspey, originally recorded by Gwydion Pendderwen (from MD 45), is simply one of the loveliest songs I’ve ever heard; Sproatly Smiths’ interpretation brings a tripped out bucolic vibe to the affair that makes me want to go skipping through meadows at dawn.
Hapsash and the Coloured Coat were the psychedelic design duo Michael English and Nigel Waymouth who, in the 60’s, were responsible all those fantastically tripped-out posters advertising underground happenings, clubs and concerts that so brilliantly captured the London scene’s buoyant, mind-expanding vibe, and feature some of the psychedelic era’s most arresting imagery. In 1967 they released HAPSASH AND THE COLOURED COAT FEATURING HUMAN HOST AND THE HEAVY METAL KIDS, an extremely psychedelic album that, in its own way, also went on the influence the krautrock scene (particularly Amon Düül in their early communal days before they got rid of the ones who couldn’t actually play anything). It’s an album that could only have released in 1967 featuring pounding drums and bongos, bells and tambourines, plastic flutes, rolling pianos, whispered vocals, free-wheeling communal chants and chunky guitar parts that occupy the same sort of sonic territory the Velvet Underground were at home to. The Rolling Stones seem to have taken the album, and this track in particular, as the template for Their Satanic Majesties Request and got it almost entirely wrong.
This diaphanous affair is the title track from 2013 release by Chelsea Robb, otherwise known as Arrowwood, an album of luminous elemental beauty, in which Robb’s mystifyingly lovely voice floats within and without the enchanted acoustic landscape she creates that’s not, you’d think, dissimilar to fairy land. Lovely.
Twink, of course, or Mohammed Abdullah as he apparently prefers these day, was the semi-legendary drummer in Tomorrow, The Pretty Things (in their SF Sorrow period) and psychedelic proto-punks The Pink Fairies. Most recently he released an album called YOU REACHED FOR THE STARS in 2013 on which he collaborated with highly-regarded Italian psychedelic outfit the Technicolour Dream. Recorded in Rome and mastered at Abbey Road it’s about as far out as his 1970 solo album THINK PINK, a big favourite of ours here at Mind De-Coder mansions. You can imagine my delight, then, when I learnt that there’s a THINK PINK 2 on the way featuring more tracks recorded with the Technicolour Dream.
I think you know where you are with a track called Moons Of Jupiter from an outfit called Sky Picnic, but just to make it even clearer, you may be unsurprised to learn that this track is taken from an album called SYNETHESIA, released in 2009. The band do a very specific take on the retro psychedelic garage-punk thing and with Moons Of Jupiter pretty much hit the nail on the lysergic head on this, their debut release.
Dodson and Fogg is an psychedelic folk project led by writer and musician Chris Wade that includes collaborations with the likes of Hawkwind’s Nik Turner, Celia Humphris from Trees, Judy Dyble, from the original Fairport Convention line-up and one part of the the semi-legendary Trader Horne, who on their second album DERRING-DO, released 2013, from which this track is taken, even features a contribution from Mellow Candle’s Alison O’Donnell; so this is a band that comes with an impressive pedigree. As you can imagine, this results in a sound that owes something to Nick Drake, Forest and a floating-down-a-river-to-an-empty-churchyard-ness of a MORE-era Pink Floyd, and, if you’re a fan of vintage acid-folk, is as lovely as you would think.
Helena Espvall is possibly best known for her work with the sublime psych-folk band Espers, where her cello work added a beautiful layer to their delicate, intricate sounds. She’s also known for her collaborations with Vashti Bunyan, Marissa Nadler and Bert Jansch amongst others, but on her first solo album, NIMIS AND ARX, released 2006, she’s defiantly avant-garde, exploring challenging new tonal interactions on the cello combined with layers of more sound explorations and harmonies, produced by manipulated sounds (from the cello mostly) and tiny bits of electronica. It’s not an entirely easy listen, and was limited to a release of 500 copies (probably for the best, what with one thing or another) but this piece, Multiplication Broken And Restored II, fits in with the show perfectly, don’t you think?
There’s a good argument to be made that The Deviants were Britain’s first punk group, releasing their debut album PTOOFF! At the height of the Summer of Love in 1967, some nine years before Johnny Rotten walked into Malcolm McClaren’s Sex boutique sporting a ‘I hate’ Pink Floyd tee-shirt. The Deviants, led by journalist and cultural agent-provocateur Mick Farren were the real deal, taking shots at the establishment and flower power wielding hippies, both of whom he regarded as equally dangerous to the counter-culture. PTOOFF! Is an incendiary mix of garage punk, agitprop poetry, comic book cosmology and avant-garde tape loops (with one very lovely nod to acid folk) all of which feature in the album’s closing track Deviation Street (minus the loveliness of the acid folk track which I played last week). Psychedelic whimsy and addled introspection this is not, but it is, nevertheless, a crucial artefact from London’s freak underground and nowadays considered something of a flawed underground masterpiece.
Syd Arthur – don’t you just love that name, drawing in inferences from Pink Floyd, The Kinks and, of course, Herman Hesse’s classic allegory to spiritual enlightenment, Siddhartha? It’s a name to live up to, and fortunately they do, although their sound owes less the dreamy water meadows of Cambridge, and the semi-mythical village greens of North London and more to the idyllic environs of the Canterbury scene, where they create a psychedelic, improvisational vibe with touches of folk, jazz, and world music thrown into the pot like their Canterbury based predecessors The Soft Machine, Caravan and Gong (there must be something in the water there, or, as is more likely, growing in the fields). Secrets Of The Planet Soul seems to include a bit of everything with even a touch of funk thrown into the mix along with the psychedelic kitchen sink and just sounds enormous. It’s taken from their debut EP KINGDOMS OF EXPERIENCE, released in 2008, but there’s been two albums since then, the first as nearly deranged as this track suggests – expect to hear more from them on the show shortly.
This 11minute masterpiece of psychedelic soul was recorded in 1966 and was a hit when released in a heavily abbreviated form in 1967. It’s actually more rock than soul from a group who were originally a folk group singing back-up for Bob Dylan. Taken from their 1968 album of the same name this is the sound of an acid-laced odyssey complete with the little known use of psychedelic cow bells.
THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD MORNING GLORY/LIFE AND DEATH PT. 1/
An absolutely stunning suite of songs from Chairman of the Board whose 1974 album THE SKIN I’M IN was more or less hijacked by their producer, who brought in Funkadelic as the backing band and layered the finished result with funky synthesisers, electronic hooks, Radiophonic Workshop-style bloops and symphonic flourishes to produce an album of far-out, heavily psychedelicised soul. Primal Scream, in their Screamadelica period, were said to be big fans, but the band themselves were outraged, calling the album a trampled flower. Little did they know it, they were 20 years ahead of their time.
UNDISPUTED TRUTH BALL OF CONFUSION (THAT’S WHAT THE WORLD IS TODAY)
A mind-bending cover of The Temptations’ Ball Of Confusion by the Undisputed Truth, a Motown act assembled by in-house producer Norman Whitfield to allow him to experiment more fully with his psychedelic soul production techniques. The result is a mind-expanding classic, taking the psychedelic soul into another dimension.
I came to this magical piece of music fairly recently and was quite captured by its yearning delicacy, but according to a review of the piece I just read, I may have been the only person left in the world who hadn’t actually heard it (apparently it features in just about every film made in the last 10 years or so). Composed by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt in 1978, Spiegel Im Spiegel (or ‘mirror in the mirror’) is written in a tintinnabular style, a compositional style invented by Pärt, in which the music is characterized by two types of voices, the first of which (dubbed the tintinnabular voice) arpeggiates the tonic triad, and the second of which moves diatonically in stepwise motion, but I expect you already knew that. It has a sacred quality to it that I find very affecting. This particular version was recorded in 1995 with the participation of Pärt himself and is almost unbearably lovely.
A little avant-garde instrumental piece from Pink Floyd’s third album MORE, released in 1969 as the soundtrack to the seldom seen continental hippie movie of the same name. It’s actually one of my favourite Pink Floyd albums featuring some lovely dreamlike folk ballads as well as some of the aforementioned avant-garde noodlings (not to mention two of their heaviest recordings which I tend to skip when I’m looking for something a little more contemplative).
Bois-Tu De La Bière is the gentle acid-folky bonus track from the bands’ 2001 release, La Nòvia, an album otherwise characterised by two long tracks that, whilst enjoying extended forays into deep space, also bludgeon the listener with what can only be described as a trainwreck of mind-bending heavy riffage.
WOODBINES AND SPIDERS GASP!
This was a pleasant surprise (as opposed to the other kind which, in my experience, often involve a crowd of people unexpectedly calling to each other: “There he is! Quick, get him - before he gets away!”, whilst you’re walking in what you’d otherwise call a blissfully unaware, some might even say dreamlike, manner to the shops, say, that time). Ian Hodgson’s Moon Wiring Club and Jon Brooks’ The Advisory Circle have teamed up as Woodbines and Spiders to produce an album that may be low on tunes but is immersed in hauntological going’s-on. It’s a rather bleak affair of spectral ambient suites, pulsing slow techno arpeggios found sound and snatches of dialogue. This track appears to be a taster for the album but doesn't actually appear on it. I found it on You Tube whilst dawdling my way through an empty hour.
Last year Amorphous Androgynous released a two volume affair called THE CARTEL, an album that set about re-creating the sound of psychesploitation wherein psychedelia meets those blaxploitation soundtracks by the likes of Lalo Schifrin and then set about drawing a line from there through to David Holmes’ soundtrack to Oceans 11, taking in Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, John Barry and Ennio Morricone along the way. For this year’s Record Store day they released a third volume of remixes featuring, amongst others, three tracks by Baking Research Station, Mind De-Coder favourite Cranium Pie’s deranged side project. Cosmic.