Tuesday, 17 November 2015


To listen to the show just scroll to the bottom of the page

Music that contains space for the listener to occupy as thinker, creator and dreamer; music that envelops, dislocates and bewilders; music which is trance inducing through repetition but essentially forward facing and unconcerned with historical accuracy, authenticity, fashion or tradition and music that rewards deep listening is still the root of the sonic psychedelic experience, and long may it remain so.
                                                           John Doran, Sept 2014,The Quietus


This extraordinary track, which is all over the show, was created in 1969 by Alvin Lucier, a composer of experimental music and sound installations that explore acoustic phenomena and auditory perception. Much of his work is influenced by science, exploring the physical properties of sound itself: the resonance of spaces, phase interference between closely tuned pitches, and the transmission of sound through physical media. It sounds mostly unlistenable to, I know, but, really, it fits the show like a velour glove. On this piece, I AM SITTING IN A ROOM, several sentences of recorded speech are simultaneously played back into a room and re-recorded there many times. Since all rooms have characteristic resonance or formant frequencies (e.g. different between a large hall and a small room), the effect is that certain frequencies are emphasized as they resonate in the room, until eventually the words become unintelligible, replaced by the pure resonant harmonies and tones of the room itself. The space acts as a filter; the speech is transformed into pure sound. All the recorded segments are spliced together in the order in which they were made and constitute the work. He’s actually performed this piece numerous times, if perform is the right word, several of which have been recorded. This particular version was made on October 29th and 31st, 1980, in his own living room and consists of thirty-two generations of speech. It lasts 40 minutes and you’ll be pleased to know I don’t play it all, but it pops up throughout the show creating something of an ambiance, I’m sure you’ll agree.


This is track four from the Gizzard’s (as I’m choosing to call them in this instance) marvellous QUARTERS! LP, which has rarely left the household phonogram since I came across it a few months back. Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer worms its way irresistibly into your head and hangs around long after its 10 minutes and 10 seconds have taken off into cosmos – this is gorgeous, warped psychedelia that unspools like a lazy summer afternoon. A bit like I do, really.


Rainbow Room is taken from the soundtrack to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surreal, audacious and dazzling psychedelic masterpiece, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, which caused something of a scandal at the 1973 Cannes Festival. Entirely financed by John and Yoko, the film is a kaleidoscopic dissertation on the nature of enlightenment that’s all but impossible to describe, given its emphasis on surreal visuals over narrative, but which might be usefully summed up as “trippy as nobody’s business”. The soundtrack itself is less so, but manages to take in psychedelic rock and esoteric folk music, subtle tone poems to grand-scale orchestral themes, vintage dance music and a little Tuvan throat singing along the way. For 40 odd years or so this was the holy grail for collectors of your psychedelic soundtracks, remaining unreleased following a dispute between Jodorowsky and the film’s producer Allan Klein (that Allan Klein who saw off The Beatles). This year, however, saw its release on both CD and a rather handsome vinyl edition – it should be an absolutely crucial addition any psychedelic going’s on you have going on.


This stunning piece is constructed entirely of Gately’s own snipped, processed and layered vocals (and effects), a process so complex that it took six painstaking months to assemble. Released as a cassette-only release in 2013, Pipes is seemingly influenced by the spirit of Arthur Russell and Gregorian chant but remains sonically unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. At times it can be unbelievably tense both in the varying moods and tones, but Gately’s mixture of ambient vocal pulsing and complex rhythmic textures are never less than mind-blowing. Apparently if you slow the track way down you’ll find a pop song in there somewhere.


This is the title track from THE GOLDEN COMMUNION, the latest transgressive release from former Julian Cope collaborator and sonic explorer, Thighpaulsandra (Tim Lewis to his mum, I hope). In a show not shy of sonic experimentation this is nevertheless an astonishing piece of music which, over its 24 minutes, takes the listener on a journey through orchestral and experimental soundscapes that trip dramatically through balletic chamber music, wayward electronic forces, synth slipstreams, dense drones and psychedelic soul. It’s a captivating listen and one which is sustained throughout the whole album which reveals and revels in the dizzying and often overwhelming psychedelic highs dancing hither and tither from its grooves.


This spellbindingly gorgeous track is taken from the album REMEMBERING MOUNTAINS: UNHEARD SONGS BY KAREN DALTON, on which Holter is one of many contemporary female artists (Josephine Foster, Marissa Nadler and Isobell Campbell shine) given a sample of Dalton’s unrecorded song lyrics (verses, snippets, poems) to put to music. Dalton herself never recorded her own songs; her two albums, released in the late 60s early 70s and now generally lionized as lost folk classics, contained no original compositions, so chances are she never intended to record these songs at all – it is left to the artist to find their own way into the lyrics and channel Dalton’s broken heart through their own melodies. Holter’s sparse minimalist take on My Love, My Love perfectly captures her own avant-garde experimentation and gets it exactly right, honouring the spirit of Dalton’s own captivating aesthetic; full of memory, love and loss the song turns the pain of loneliness into something almost transcendentally lovely.  


And speaking of transcendental loveliness, Max Richter’s Path 5 (Delta) is almost indescribably sublime. Richter is known as an influential voice in your post-minimalist circles, commissioning and performing works by minimalist musicians such as Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, and Steve Reich, but I’ve always kept an eye on him because of his work with Amorphous Androgynous, Keli Ali and Vashti Bunyan. His latest release, SLEEP, is an 8 hour therapeutic project designed to reinforce and reflect, well, natural sleep patterns. In essence, the listener is required to press play as they ready themselves for bed, nod off to sleep somewhere between the patient piano chords of track 1 (Dream 1) and the vocal-and-organ ululations of track 4 (Path 3), and re-emerge after eight hours of music to a gentle crescendo of stretching strings, wordless harmonies, and long-tone bass near the close of its final track (Dream 0). In the meantime, Richter’s slow-motion electronics-and-chamber-ensemble hybrid shifts between and slowly recycles parts of the whole, unfolding like a mix between Arvő Part and the glacial slow-motion of Sigur Rós, say, that not only reflects but embodies the process of sleep’s half-remembered patterns. Given that nobody has the time to listen to the whole piece, Richter has also released an accompanying album, FROM SLEEP, which lasts a mere hour, from which this dream-like recording is taken.  


Harumi is one of the great lost psychedelic artists of the 1960s – a Japanese ex-pat (with a woman’s name, apparently) he managed to convince the legendary Tom Wilson (of the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Mothers of Invention, Sun Ra, Nico fame – you know the one) to produce his only album, simply called HARUMI, in 1968. In many ways it’s simply a product of its times, offering up a respectable mix of blue-eyed soul and psychedelic pop with all the attendant phasing, occasional baroque orchestration, Japanese folk stylings, vibraphone and wacked out instrumentation you could hope for. Sides three and four however take the listener somewhere completely different. You may never want to listen to it twice, but listened to under the right conditions, you could lose yourself in the strangely meditative, late-night, tripped-out stream-of-consciousness minimalism of Twice Told Tales Of The Pomegranate Forest, and you may need to leave a trail of psychedelic breadcrumbs in order to find your way back.  No one ever heard from Harumi again. He never made his way back.


It’s easy to forget from a distance of, oh, 25 years or so, just how revelatory The Orb were back in 1989-90. Their debut album, ADVENTURES BEYOND THE ULTRA-WORLD, blew my mind and opened up whole new vistas of music to explore. Into The Fourth Dimension: Essenes In Starlight is taken from their second John Peel session, recorded October 13th, 1989, and was released on vinyl a year later, simply as THE ORB: PEEL SESSIONS, a welcome relief to those of us who were wearing out their taped-from-the-radio copies from over-use (in these digital days it all seems so delightfully vintage, I know). The improvisational genius of the performances is boggling, with Alex Patterson and Thrash manipulating enormous blobs of tripped out samples, effects and hallucinatory mood changes to create what was to become ambient dub, I suppose - don't blame them if subsequent acts were unable to produce anything quite as good as this, I've never been entirely convinced that The Orb have either.


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