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MIND DE-CODER 51
“Everybody go to hell with your fucking reality”
(Dieter Brinkmann, 1973)
LES BIG BYRD WHITE WEEK
Fantastic krautrock vibes from Swedish psychedelic popsters Les Big Byrd, who bring a pulsating motorik beat to the proceedings on this track from their debut album THEY WORSHIP CATS, released earlier this year – all tripped-out, baroque garage psych-pop and rolling spaceflight grooves.
TWINK & THE TECHNICOLOUR DREAM YOU REACHED FOR THE STARS
This is the title track from the 2013 release that saw psychedelic legend Pink team up with Italian psyche group The Technicolour Dream plus guest guitarist Brian Godding from cult underground 60’s act Blossom Toes. Although recorded in Rome it was remastered at the Abbey Road studios by Peter Mew who worked with two of Pink’s previous bands, Tomorrow and The Pretty Things back in the day. I mention this by way of reinforcing just exactly how marvellously mind-expanding this collaboration actually is – a tripped-out album, truly of itself.
THE GHOST OF A SABER TOOTH TIGER XANADU
Not the best name in the world, although in fairness, the band are named after a short story written by one half of the duo, Charlotte Kemp Muhl. The other half, of course, is Julian Lennon and on their album MIDNIGHT SUN, released earlier this year, they channel the ghost of his father circa his just-pre and just-post Sgt. Pepper’s period, with some Syd Barrett-esque whimsy and some Rolling Stones right in the middle of their THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST period thrown in for good measure – a record that’s every bit as good as that list suggests, with just enough of its own sound about it to be slightly more than the sum of its influences.
THE MOODY BLUES THE BEST WAY TO TRAVEL
This track is taken from the band’s second album IN SEARCH OF THE LOST CHORD, released in 1968, in which the band discover psychedelic mysticism in all its manifold glory. It’s a terrific album, featuring sitars, mellotrons, tamburas, tablas, oboes, cellos and flutes, all pretty much taken up by the band in the spirit of switched-on enquiry and more or less dedicated to Timothy Leary.
DOCTOR AND THE MEDICS THE MIRACLE OF THE AGE
At some point I had to include a track by Doctor and the Medics because in many ways my love of psychedelia goes hand in hand with a club I used to go to back in the early 80’s called Alice In Wonderland where the Doctor used to DJ. To this day they remain one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, and I must have seen them countless times (if not more), a melon-sized grin spread across my face. Sadly their live material never translated to the studio – their debut album was shockingly denuded of all the psychedelic elements that made their live shows so overwhelmingly joyful – but this single was produced by XTC’s Andy Partridge in 1985, just before fame and misfortune turned them in to a novelty act with their cover of Spirit In The Sky, and he nearly gets it just about right. I understand a version of the band is still doing the festival circuit but, really, you had to be there in 1984 to understand why they meant so much to me (and if you do, why not drop me a line and say hello).
COLORS OF LOVE TWENTY-TEN
Colors of Love are one of those bands that remain a footnote to a footnote of the sixties. Twenty-Ten is a cover of a track released by Tinkerbell’s Fairydust (themselves a band that hardly loom large in a recollection of the sixties) as their second single, a record that failed to dent the charts upon its release in 1968 (although I read somewhere that it was big in Japan). This version by Colors Of Love appears on the b-side to what looks like their only single, Just Another Fly, also released in 1968. Or, as is equally as likely I suppose, maybe it’s the other way round and Tinkerbell’s Fairydust covered this version - who knows? – information about either band has been lost to the fairie mysts of tyme. This version though was produced by Alan Moorehouse, a producer more at home with Beatles-Bach-Bacharach Go Bossa Music For Pleasure productions, which I believe gives the track that splendid woozy feel.
THE PRIMITIVES FREE THE SHADOW
I loved The Primitive’s debut album LOVELY (1988); I thought it was the perfect encapsulation of buzz pop loveliness in which the joy of pure noise thrill was effortlessly balanced by sugar melodies and Tracey Tracey’s ice-cool delivery. Free The Shadow, though, with its eastern influences and backwards guitars is by far the best thing they ever did on an album that includes Stop Killing Me and Ocean Blue amongst its treasures.
SPROATLY SMITH AFON GWY
Pastoral psychedelic loveliness from Hereford’s Sproatly Smith with a track from their album, the quintessentially acid-tinged PIXIELED, released 2010. Afon Gwy is the Welsh name for the River Wye, that mystic river that traverses the border between Wales and England. The Romantic poet William Wordsworth mentions the Wye, of course, in his famous poem "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" published 1798 in Lyrical Ballads:
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
But then you already knew that.
JON BROOKS POND I
This track is taken from the most recent album released by the hauntologically influenced Jon Brooks, he of the Advisory Circle. 52, released earlier this year on Ghostbox, is an album inspired by memories of his grandmother’s house and garden, comprising a collection of ghostly and desolate sonic pieces that pretty much evoke both hazy nostalgia and a sense of the otherworldliness that such shimmering memories contain. I sometimes think his grandmother’s house must have been next door to mine.
MATT BERRY MUSIC FOR INSOMNIACS (excerpt)
In our house Matt Berry is best known for playing the magnificently moustachioed Dixon Bainbridge from The Mighty Boosh, but it turns out he’s something of a musician too, not adverse to dabbling in a bit of acid-folk prog when the mood is upon him. For his most recent release, however, the titular MUSIC FOR INSOMNIACS, released earlier this year, he was drawn towards Mike Oldfield’s TUBULAR BELLS, inasmuch as he’s created two 20-odd minute pieces which finds him exploring the middle-ground between ambient music and music that’s too hectic to be restful, inspired by a bout of insomnia he was wrestling with last year. There are numerous synths, bells, pianos, woodwinds, malleted percussion and found-sound (horses hooves, creaking doors etc.) crafted into something both lush and full of subtle moments, the results of which give the listener the effect of slowing down, moving backwards or stopping and resuming the journey in slow motion. I was tempted to play all of one side or the other, but settled for the first 11 minutes or so of side 1.
LAETITIA SADIER QUANTUM SOUP
Lushly orchestrated retro-futurist exotica from Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier who brings a jazz fusion vibe to the proceedings on her third solo album, the recently released SOMETHING SHINES. Her solo work is often dismissed as Stereolab without the irony, but Quantum Soup will bring a smile to the face of any fan of that band’s late period lavishly sophisticated elevator music.
RECREATION MUSIC FOR YOUR DOG
THE NIGHT WAS CLEAN, THE MOON WAS YELLOW
WHERE IS THE BAR, CLAY?
CALIGULA SUITE IN HORROR MINOR
Four tracks from an album that pretty much has to be listened to as one continuous piece but which, nevertheless, I thought I’d give you at least a taste of (tracks 2,3,4,& 5, in fact). Recreation were something of a Belgian prog-rock fusion group who, in 1972, released the album MUSIC OR NOT MUSIC, an album that contains gigantic swirl of sounds and a schizophrenic mix of endless tempo changes and strange time signatures. Let’s just say that if I was ever invited to DJ at a psychedelic gathering of some sort or other, I’d want this album playing in the lobby. If I was ever asked, I mean.
FOXYGEN STAR POWER AIRLINES
Foxygen seem to have taken something of a critical kicking for their third album …AND STAR POWER, a sprawling double album of wigged-out psychedelic rock excess – it even comes with four sections, including a suite, in which their alter-egos Star Power take over the reins, and a paranoid side (from which Cold Winter/Freedom is taken). Without doubt the album is indulgent and unhinged, and the two tracks I’ve chosen from its 82 minutes offer just a hint of the sonic mish-mash of styles that takes in the Velvet Underground, Led Zeppelin, Philly soul, the Rolling Stones, garage rock and beach party vibes – often in the same track. It’s as if the critics don’t quite know what to make of such an ambitious, lo-fi and experimental record, when all you really need to do is skin up, hold on to your hats and enjoy the ride.
RON GEESIN IN ANTICIPATION OF OFFSPRING PART ‘W’
Ron Geesin has been distorting, reversing, chopping up, looping, and electronically treating every sound -- both musical and non-musical – he’s come across for the last 50 years or so in a career that has taken in painting, short stories, designing interactive sound and video-based art structures and installations, off-the-wall comedy, lecturing, and record production and creating charmingly quirky music for feature films, TV programs, commercials, and short promotional films. John Peel was a big fan (until he discovered punk) and this track appears on that JOHN PEEL PRESENTS TOP GEAR album, released in 1969, which I seem to have been playing a lot of recently. His other claim to fame is for his contribution to Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother Suite, on which he provided the elegiac cello melody that somehow tied it all together. One day that bit of information will be lost to the mists of time (I understand it’s something of a millstone round his neck) and perhaps he will be remembered instead as the composer for a Trebor Mints ad, back in 1965.
This lovely track is taken from Kraftwerk’s third album, RALF UND FLORIAN, released in 1973 and the one that was produced before they hit upon the familiar hypnotic pulse of 1974’s Autobahn. This would be the last time that the flute and guitar would appear on a Kraftwerk album, a bucolic hangover from their free-form experimental days – the rest of the album finds them introducing the use of synthesizers and vocoders into their sound, and the rest, as they say, is history.
MIKE RATLEDGE RIDDLES OF THE SPHINX SEQUENCE 5
Another album that insists on being listened to as one suite, former-Soft Machine member Mike Ratledge’s RIDDLES OF THE SPHINX is the soundtrack to a (frankly little known) film of the same name, released in 1977, in which the mysteries of ancient feminine matriarchal history are connected to what, at that time, was the current world of late 1970s Britain. The soundtrack is generally regarded as ground-breaking in its use of synth rhythms, synthetic melodies and 8-bit progressions. I’m assuming that the voice is from the film itself; whatever, the pieces have an endlessly inviting dreamlike quality to them that put me in mind of the likes of Delia Derbyshire’s own dream experiments. Of all the music on this evening’s show, this the album I recommend you track down.
BELBURY POLY …AND THE CUCKOO COMES TO BELBURY
2006 saw the release of the EP MIND HOW YOU GO by Jon Brooks’ Advisory Circle, an alchemical distillation of the sound of TV Public Information Films in which Brooks poignantly captured the conflicted cluster of emotions involved in nostalgic longing; it was, by turns, spooky, catchy and witty and the perfect distillation of the hauntological philosophy. In 2010 he re-released the album with four extra tracks, including this track by fellow Ghostbox collaborator Jim Jupp who, as The Belbury Poly, brings a perfectly realised hallucinogenic quality to the track And The Cuckoo Comes.
MARK FRY RIVER KINGS
Mark Fry will be forever associated with his 1972 legendary acid-folk classic DREAMING WITH ALICE, and if he’d never recorded another note that would have been enough to have ensured that his named lived on in hushed whispers amongst aficionados of that sort of thing. There was a gap of some 35 years between that and his next album, 2008’s Shooting the Moon, and this year sees the release of his fourth album, the sublime SOUTH WIND, CLEAR SKIES. It’s an album of bewitching, acoustic reverie at once both timeless and strange, full of wonder and sadness. River Kings is particularly lovely, exquisitely realised and sung with a dreamy, contemplative innocence, passingly reminiscent of the kind of English pastoralism associated with the likes of Kevin Ayers or Bill Fay. Gorgeous, in fact.
VASHTI BUNYAN MOTHER
…and then we come to (the lovely) Vashti Bunyan whose recent album HEARTLEAP is quite simply exquisite; breath-takingly poised between memories, dreams, and moments of quiet wonder. I had a moment with this album recently; alone, late at night, a single candle burning, when I felt a state of grace descend upon me and I was literally lifted out of what Walter Benjamin, a German thinker who experimented with hashish and mescalin in the 1920’s, called ‘that most terrible drug – ourselves – which we take in solitude’.
PARK LANE PRIMARY SCHOOL, WEMBLEY THE REMARKABLE EARTH MAKING
A recording about which remarkably little is known. It seems to have been released in 1974 by the children of Park Lane Primary School, Wembley, and it may have been written for them by a Mr. Iwo Zaluski, who may or may not have been the music teacher there at the time. It seems to be a folk cantata about the northern lights but other than that the internet is strangely quiet. It gets under your skin, though, doesn’t it?
If the story is to believed, the current version of Goat stems from a loose and long-running collective of townspeople in Korpilombolo, a village with a population of a few hundred in the northwest of Sweden. The band claim that their elders have performed under that name for many generations; this lot are just the latest kids of a tribe that were apparently deeply influenced by the arrival of a voodoo-practising witch doctor to the town many moons ago. Their debut album, WORLD MUSIC, released in 2012, certainly has a shamanistic quality to it – the band describe their lifestyle as "invocations, prayers, and total rejoice!" – and it’s aptly named too. Within its grooves you’ll hear a kaleidoscopic mix of far-flung sources including Fela Kuti, Funkadelic and the Spacemen 3 – all wah-wah fuzz and chanted vocals - not to mention home-grown folk pluckings of a communal nature. Celebratory and mind-bending, in equal measure.
SCARFOLK COUNCIL THE GHOST OF MRS PAYNE (FIELD RECORDING)
On my most recent visit to Scarfield I was lucky enough to come across the following recording, as a kind of sequel to last week’s record by the children of Scarfolk Primary School to commemorate their music teacher, Mrs Payne, who disappeared in 1972, but whose body was found encased inside one of the thirteen ancient standing stones just outside Scarfolk. Forensic examination of the stone revealed that it had originated more than 300 miles away and historians could not ascertain how prehistoric man had transported it to Scarfolk, much less how Mrs Payne had found her way into a 300 million year old rock. The police reported it as a chance accident.
When the stone was broken into chunks and sold as 'Payne's Pain' souvenirs in the Scarfolk gift shop, purchasers began hearing ghostly music in their homes. Additionally, the music was heard at the stone circle where Mrs. Payne's body was found, as well as at the geological site of the stone's origin.
The souvenirs were recalled and buried at the centre of the stone circle in Scarfolk fields, now the only location where the music can still be heard, but only on the anniversary of the death of Payne's husband who found himself unexpectedly dismembered during a pagan ritual competition for the under 10s.
This is a field recording made from the stone circle.
Check out Scarfold yourselves here
MATT KIVEL KES
A gorgeous track from Matt Kivel’s DOUBLE EXPOSURE album, released last year, and one which channels the spirit of John Cameron’s magical soundtrack to the classic 1969 film of the same name. Kivel’s shimmering guitars are both pristine and spell-binding, threatening to dissipate at any moment. Elegiac, quite lovely and autumnal.
DELIA DERBYSHIRE AND ANTHONY NEWLEY I DE-CODED YOU
As soon as I heard of the existence of this record I knew I had to hear it, and having tracked it down, I wasn’t disappointed; but then, with Delia Derbyshire involved, I pretty much knew that it would never be anything less that interesting. And it comes with a story, too. This rare and until now, unissued recording started life way back in 1966. It was written by the multi-talented Anthony Newley, maybe for a pop release, but possibly for an experimental British TV show he was working on at the time. Unusually he wanted some electronic backgrounds for his words, and so called in the help of Delia Derbyshire, moonlighting a little from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. However, this doesn’t appear to be your classic Delia Derbyshire sound - what you get instead is Delia Derbyshire more or less inventing sampling in 1966 by utilizing a number of samples from other sources, standard BBC Radiophonic tape loops for SFX or white noise generation, and a fascinating edit of Evolutionen 5: Walt by Dutch electronic pioneer Henk Badings. And it fitted the show like a glove. This is my definition of what ‘never less than interesting’ means.
TOMMY STEELE CRASH, BANG, WALLOP!
In her review in the New York Times, Renata Adler said the 1967 film Half A Sixpence, starring a energetically grinning Tommy Steele, "should be visually fascinating to anyone in a state that I think is best described as stoned”. And I thought: We-e-e-ll...