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MIND DE-CODER 58
After sampling the numbing nectar of certain orchids, bees drop to the ground in a temporary stupor, then weave back for more.
R.K. Siegel (Intoxication)
WORTHLESS PIZZA BREAK
They have a daft name that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but Worthless understand that psychedelia is supposed to be fun. Their debut album, ALL MY FRIENDS ARE STONE, opens with Pizza Break – a track that speeds up and slows down like a thrill ride on a psychedelic rollercoaster ride through time and space – and then goes so far out that you probably need a shaman to bring you back. This is undeniably one of the most tripped out releases of the year, but never forgets to include the kind of tunes that even Syd Barrett might have thought were perhaps just a bit too weird. An absolute delight of an album. Absolutely marvellous.
OOIOO BE SURE TO LOOP
What are you supposed to do with a band name like this? I’m not even sure how to spell it, let alone pronounce it. Is it binary or is it letters, and does it even matter one whit? (Hint: no). OOIOO are a Japanese psych-rock band that seem to consist of at least one of the drummers from the very fine Boredoms (in this case Yoshimi P-We), and possibly three other members of the band who help out on guitar, bass and drums, but this seems to be very much Yoshimi’s baby. Be Sure To Loop is the opening track from the band’s second album FEATHER FLOAT, released in 1999, a frankly awesome swirling mix of tribal rhythms and revelry, vocal layers and handclaps, that manages to be both joyful and menacing, trance inducing and hypnotic – all at the same time.
ROBERT ASHLEY SHE WAS A VISITOR
This curious piece (which recently had my daughter shouting at both the stereo and me: “Alright, she was a visitor – I get it! Now make it stop!”) was produced by Robert Ashley, an American composer better known for his highly experimental operas and theatrical works which, despite the somewhat foreboding nature of the oeuvre (can there be any body of work more likely to strike icy cold fear into even the most carefree of spirits than the term ‘experimental opera’?), are largely acknowledged as classics of language in a musical setting. You can find this track on a collection of Ashley’s more out there works called AUTOMATIC WRITING, released in 1n 1979. She Was A Visitor is an excerpt from an opera entitled That Morning Thing, composed in 1967, in which a small chorus was divided into groups, each headed by a leader. A lone speaker repeats the title sentence throughout wherein the separate phonemes of this sentence are picked up by the group leaders and are relayed to the group members, who sustain them softly and for the duration of one natural breath. The time lag between the leaders' utterances and their pickup by the group members produces a staggered, chanting effect, the subtleties of which are, for the most part, lost as I have the track float off into…
AMORPHOUS ANDROGYNOUS THE EMPTINESS OF NOTHINGNESS
Given that they seem more content to produce their fairly marvellous A MONSTROUS PSYCHEDELIC BUBBLE EXPLODING IN YOUR BRAIN compilations these days, and, of course, sprinkle their particular brand of tripped-out psychedelic pixie dust around as technicolour remixers, I thought I’d take the opportunity to play one of their own tracks to remind you just how very good they are in their own right. The Emptiness Of Nothing is taken from their 2005 release ALICE IN ULTRALAND, an album of sumptuous cosmic beats, bubbling organs, gorgeous psychedelic flourishes and a funky consciousness. Outstanding.
PAUL WELLER WHITE SKY
The opening track to Weller’s latest release SATURNS PATTERN seems him in thrall to Amorphous Androgynous production wizardry, full of heavy drum grooves, psyched-out guitar riffs, menacing synths and seemingly random overdubs. It’s the most sonically exciting track on an album that, despite all the talk regarding a new acid-spiked direction, lacks the other-worldly experimentation brought to the previous three albums by erstwhile collaborator Simon Dine, who fell out with Weller following a disagreement regarding the sordid subject of royalties. Which is not to say that the album is not without its moments, just that this is the one that caused me to prick up my ears, is all.
ÁINE O’DWYER THE FEAST OF FOOLS
This church organ wig-out is brought to you by Aine O’Dwyer, who, over the course of several months, was given access to the pipe organ in St Mark’s Church, Islington while the cleaners were at work. The resulting album was called, as you might expect, MUSIC FOR CHURCH CLEANERS VOL. 1 AND 2, released earlier this year. It sounds unpromising, I know, but the extra–musical sounds, the whoosh of the vacuum cleaner, a child's laughter, various echoed clatters and chatter become part of the music and give the recordings a unique character that very nearly takes on the quality of a field recording. What you get is a number of solo improvisations, rich in chance elements, that’s both immersive and ruminative; the deep drones of the organ’s bass notes on The Feast Of Fools providing a hazy bed of sound across which O’Dwyer casts exquisitely hazy melodic phrases. If you only buy one double-LP of improvised pipe organ compositions this year, make it this one.
KEMPER NORTON MONTOL
Kemper Norton makes music of a psycho-geographical nature which I‘ve heard refered to as ‘coastal slurtronica’, not a term I’ll willingly use again, even if it does appear to have been introduced by Kemper himself. What you get is the sound of acoustic folk miniatures swimming through pools of synthetic texture, while found sounds float to the surface, dredging up tiny hints of dance rhythms in their wake. In doing so, the music has a hauntological quality that's neither folk nor electronica, neither analogue nor digital, but something else; not quite inbetween. Montol, which appears on Norton’s LOWENDER EP, released in 2011, is the name of a Cornish festival based around the winter solstice. In fact, Lowender itself is Cornish for happiness, and the EP is a celebration and elegy for a range of community festivals – a very hauntological concern.
THE SILENCE TRIPTYCHON
Well, this is fairly wonderful – an 8-minute flute-led, acid-folk prog instrumental that’s part dreamy pop and part spaced-out rock, suggestive of dawn meadows and mists on mountains. The Silence is the new project from Masaki Batoh following the demise of his previous band of some 30 years, the Tokyo-based experimental rock group Ghost. He describes his new band as heavier than any sound pressure, adding the silence which thunders the ears can only be expressed by the silence in the subconscious mind of consciousness and unconsciousness. Which says it all, really.
GNOD CONTROL SYSTEMS
The very far out Control Systems, all seventeen modular sculpted minutes of it, opens INFINITY MACHINES, the new album by Gnod, the Salford-based music collective for whom psychedelia seems to be the starting point for an even deeper journey into something that's trippy, hazy, noisy, messy and occasionally beautiful, heading further and further down a rabbit hole towards indescribable parts of the collective unconscious. This track features rambling spoken word samples taken from residents and artists based in the group's Islington Mill stronghold in Salford, beginning with laughter from one Islington Miller, with another commenting, "notions of public and private are very mixed up...daydreaming is a kind of private space," all of which lends the track a dreamlike quality in which the notions of privacy and liberty are transcended by something even further out.
DEATH AND VANILLA FOLLOW THE LIGHT
Another example of a band name where everyone should have tried just that little bit harder to have come up with something “good”, in the same way that Stereolab, or Broadcast are “good” names for bands inspired by '60s/'70s soundtracks, library music and French Ye-Ye, like Sweden’s Death and Vanilla clearly are. Perhaps it sounds better in Swedish. Actually, it’s an unworthy gripe – the band’s particular take on vintage retro-futuristic psych-pop is gorgeously disembodied, and very much aligned to a hauntological aesthetic in all but name (when I first came across the album in a record shop I assumed I’d stumbled across a new Ghost Box release). Follow The Light is taken from the band’s second album, TO WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE - which, once again, doesn’t have the same resonance as HA HA SOUND, or TRANSIENT RANDOM-NOISE BURST WITH ANNOUNCEMENTS, say – an album enthralled with Delia Derbyshire, John Barry, Stereolab, Broadcast and The Focus group, yes, but which also brings a sensual, swaying dream pop to the mix which the others in the list could only ever somewhat allude to, and then ironically.
SYD ARTHUR BLACK PLANET EYES
This is an absolutely gorgeous track, remixed by Amorphous Androgynous (who appear to be all over this show) from Syd Arthur’s debut release, ON AND ON, and released on the album A MONSTROUS PSYCHEDELIC BUBBLE REMIXES BY THE AMORPHOUS ANDROGYNOUS, which came out last year. It brings out the best in both bands, with Amorphous Androgynous saturating the psychedelic dimensions within the Syd Arthur universe with flutes, drums, sitars, dulcimers, Hammond organ, piano, female vocals, further drums, strings and kitchen sinks. Marvellous, and life enhancing.
THE ALIENS BOATS (ROMAN NOISE MIX)
Now that The Aliens seem to have been whisked away by some passing spaceship and don’t appear to be with us anymore (or, as is more likely, it just all became a bit too much for guitarist and song-writer Gordon Anderson) we’re left with a small body of work to remind ourselves why we miss them so much. Of course, when I say ‘we’, I suspect I mean ‘I’, but I was playing their SUNLAMP SHOW EP (2009) in the car the other day for the first time in ages and I thought it was fantastic, and that seemed like as good as reason as any to play this Roman Noise mix of Boats from that very EP. Get well soon, Gordon.
CHARLES MINGUS PASSIONS OF A MAN
I came across this on a recent Mojo CD compiled by Paul Weller, who I’ve since learnt pretty much worships at the altar of Charles Mingus. In your jazz circles, Mingus is generally regarded as one of the giants of the genre, while others have argued that Mingus should be ranked among the most important of all American composers, jazz or otherwise. He was a highly influential American jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader, his compositions drawing heavily from black gospel music blues while also drawing on elements of Third Stream, free jazz, and avant-garde, producing music that fused tradition with unique and unexplored realms of jazz. Sounds awful, I know, but then you hear something unhinged like the Passions Of A Man from 1962’s OH YEAH, and it all kind of makes sense. OH YEAH was actually a hard bop album as much as anything, and Passions Of A Man is by no means typical of the rest of the album, but on this track Mingus has created something that owes as much to music concrète as it does classical music or jazz stylings, that conveys some very abstract, complex emotions (that would be the chanting, mumbling, screams and whistles), and it would also have given any budding psychedelic rock musicians in the audience a hint of music’s possibilities for further down the road.
KING CRIMSON IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING
I don’t think anyone quite knew what to make of this in 1969 (and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it now). King Crimson’s IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING – AN OBSERVATION BY KING CRIMSON (to give it its full title) was an audacious debut, mixing elegant classical influences with Hendrix-like rock going’s-on and mellotron drenched jazz noodlings in a mix that more or less invented prog rock, the efforts of the likes of The Moody Blues and The Nice notwithstanding. The Who’s Pete Townshend called the album “an uncanny masterpiece”, and even now it’s considered one of the most influential progressive rock albums of all time.
SKY PICNIC HER DAWN WARDROBE
The title track from the new album by Sky Picnic has a languid, pastoral charm to it that recalls the dreamy, hypnotic undertow of early King Crimson's more relaxed moments. This lovely album enjoys a calm, restful pace, full of wide open spaces and serene textures, gently filled with walls of lush mellotron. Really quite lovely.
STEPHEN JOHN KALLINICH IF YOU KNEW
Something of a lost gem, this. Stephen John Kallinich was a poet, performer, student and gas station attendant (as our American cousins would have it) who befriended the Beach Boys, or at least the Wilson brothers part of them, and, over the years, became a regular visitor to Brian Wilson’s Bel Air home. Over the course of a single night in 1969, Kalinich and Wilson co-produced A WORLD OF PEACE MUST COME, an album of Kallinich’s psych-poetry backed by sparse harmonies and ethereal wisps of instrumentation played by Brian and his then-wife Marilyn Wilson. It was due to be released on the Beach Boys’ own label, Brother Records, but for some reason or another it never saw the light of day, and then the tapes got lost until, over the years, it became something of a legend, a myth attached to the Beach Boys, but which no one really believed in until, out of the blue, the album finally saw release earlier this year. Despite the positive message the album presents, there’s a weird aura about this album, and if you’re listening to it while trying to concentrate on something else like, I don’t know, where you left your car keys when you’re in a hurry to get out, it can become a bit wearing, say. Kallinich and Wilson have managed to capture a moment just before the hippy dream turned sour – Love, The Doors, The Beach Boys themselves were all in the charts, but Manson and Altmont were just around the corner waiting to finish off the promise of the sixties with some crazy fucked-up shit (as it were). If You Knew was recorded right at the psychic centre of nearly all that, but the sentiment of this track is spot on - the desperate cries of a prophet, howling in the wilderness as the darkness closed in around him (in a manner of speaking).