MIND DE-CODER 66
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To fall in hell, or soar angelic, you need a pinch of psychedelic.
THE DANDELION SET PRISTINA STRAWBERRY GIRL
Well, you know where you are when you come across a track called Pristina Strawberry Girl – expect lush psychedelia awash with an acid folk vibe sung in a plaintive tone that is both a yearnful reminder of a lost love and an ode to the joys of being blissfully high on a summer’s day, possibly in a meadow of some sort. This is the opening track from The Dandelion Set’s debut album A THOUSAND STRANDS – 1975-2015, released earlier this year. The album travels back to the bands’ formative years in the mid-1970s, and passes through a cavalcade of musical landmarks taking in library sounds, Canterbury jazz-prog, futuristic urban film noir, whispered chanson sighs, woozy, flutey psychedelia, harpsichords, Moogs, dulcimers and all that sort of thing. It really is quite lovely. Cult writer Alan Moore adds sleeve notes and lyrics, as well as vocals to one track, but it’s not half as psychedelic as you might think so I don’t include it, tempted as I was.
LEGENDARY PINK DOTS WAVING AT THE AEROPLANES
The Legendary Pink Dots are an Anglo-Dutch experimental rock band who have released more than 40 albums or so, none of which appear to have deigned the charts with their presence. Their music touches on elements of neo-psychedelia, ambient music, electronic music, tape music, industrial, psychedelic folk, synthpop, post-punk, progressive, jazz, noise and pop with what you’d call a distinctly avant-garde bent, so you’d have thought someone would be interested (in actual fact, they have a small but devoted following). Waving At The Aeroplanes is taken from their1983 release, CURSE. It has a glazed Ballardian vibe that puts one in mind of a Meddle-period Pink Floyd, and that’s no bad thing, of course.
KIKAGAKU MOYO KOGARASHI
I am, in the parlance of your proper radio presenter, loving the album HOUSE IN THE TALL GRASS from Japan’s Kikagaku Moyo (which, I understand, means Geometric Patterns), a band very much at home 70s rock, acid-folk, krautrock and classical Indian vibes of a pulsing, hypnotic nature. HOUSE IN THE TALL GRASS, released earlier this year, is their third album and it’s a thing of understated beauty capable of taking you on a tripped-out journey to some place blissful and peaceful, magickal and whimsical - glade-like perhaps - where the warm air swarms with pollen and buzzes with insects, a pastoral idyll with just a touch of avocado green and vermillion to it.
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS ON A PATHWAY DARKLY
This lovely little track is taken from GOLDEN OMENS, the seventh album by The Soft Hearted Scientists, who, over two CDs, have created a whimsical soundtrack for a blissful psychedelic afternoon. Split into four parts, it’s chock-full of unique instrumentation, pastoral flourishes and off-kilter moments of sublime beauty. The songs explore weird psychic terrains, between which instrumental interludes take you along pathways of charmed bucolic simplicity, each tinged with a lysergic quality that makes this my favourite band amongst favourite bands. Sometimes I wish that that the instrumental soundscapes would turn into songs, but, really, this is an album of haunted folk music that exists in its own little self-contained bubble that welcomes me home whenever I hear it.
FAMILY SCENE THROUGH THE EYES OF A LENS
Alongside Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move and The Nice, Family were one of the premier attractions on the UK underground scene but somehow they never achieved the level of kudos of those aforementioned bands. These days they’re mostly famous for whipping the name MUSIC IN A DOLL'S HOUSE for their debut out from under The Beatles’ feet (and thus resulting in The White Album). Their debut single Scene Through The Eye of a Lens was released in 1967 and suggests a dose of healthy cynicism despite the Middle Eastern vibe they have going on.
THE MOVE BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER
Taken from their second album SHAZAM, released in 1970, Beautiful Daughter is the gorgeous string-laden one on an album that was otherwise experimenting with heavy-prog riffage and studio invention that would ultimately lead to Electric Light Orchestra.
GROUP 1850 I PUT MY HAND ON YOUR SHOULDER
Group 1850 (or Groep 1850, to give them their correct name) was a Dutch psychedelic rock band that was founded in 1964 in The Hague. They never achieved success outside the Netherlands but are now, on the whole, considered one of the most innovative acid rock bands from the era. I Put My Hand On Your Shoulder is taken from the band’s debut album AGEMO’S TRIP TO MOTHER EARTH, released in 1968. It owes a lot to the late-'60s school of Pink Floyd-influenced British psychedelia, with a hint or two of the onset of progressive rock-isms in the shape of plenty of melodic shifts, celestial organs, wiggling distorted guitars, harmonic vocals, Gregorian chant-like singing, phased drum soloing, solemnly intoned spoken female romantic exclamations, and multilingual murmuring. You know, that sort of thing.
TOI TOI TOI A HOLOGRAM BLOSSOMING
A delightful interlude from Sebastian Counts, an electronic musician based in Berlin, who releases music under the name Toi Toi Toi. A Hologram Blossoming is taken from his debut album HOLLOW EARTH HIPPIES, originally released in 2011 but picked-up by Ghost Box and released last year. It fits their aesthetic quite nicely, taking in a timeless melange of ethnography, TV music and psychonautical exploration all rendered by analogue electronics, tape and samples. I’m almost duty bound to mention that ‘Toi toi toi’, as German speakers and fans of your opera will know, is a traditional wish of good luck, equivalent to "break a leg".
US 69 were psychedelic rock group from Connecticut with tripped-out jazz undercurrents and rough funky edges. Their debut album, YESTERDAY’S FOLKS, released in 1969, combines sitar-led Eastern influences with psychedelic, jazz, rock, soul, and funk, which all comes together in the epic 2069 A Space Oddity. I wonder who got there first with that whole 'Space Oddity’ thing?
Just a snippet of the sort of musique concrete experiments carried out in 1953 by Jim Fassett, musical director for CBS Radio and the intermission announcer for the New York Philharmonic. This was back in the day when tape recorders were new technology, allowing Jim to make all kinds of experimentation of the ‘did you know you could record something - and then SPEED IT UP or SLOW IT DOWN - and make it sound WACKY??!!’ variety. He was especially enamoured with de-tuning birdsongs and punching out the long tones in order to program new melodies and harmonies, which he explored in greater detail on his 1960 LP SYMPHONY OF THE BIRDS. This track is an excerpt from his 1955 release STRANGE TO YOUR EARS.
This is probably my favourite track on this evening’s show - the Stereolab referencing Brazilian Tropicália of Creation from Beyond The Wizards Sleeve’s debut album proper THE SOFT BOUNCE. Jane Weaver’s sultry, light and dusty vocals hypnotise the palette whilst the production itself is the trippiest thing you’ll hear this year. Absolutely gorgeous.
A hauntological vignette taken from 2009’s BROADCAST AND THE FOCUS GROUP INVESTIGATE WITCH CULTS OF THE RADIO AGE, an album that’s the aural equivalent of opening a dusty wardrobe and having an entire childhood tumble down on your head.
Another vignette – this time by Pram, whose analogue doodlings and hopscotch rhythms put them broadly in the same hauntological environs as Broadcast in their courting of the actively uncanny. Picturebox is taken from their 5th album, THE MUSEUM OF IMAGINARY ANIMALS, released in 2000.
Neither psychedelic, hauntologically inclined or imbued with acid folk whimsy, but quite lovely nevertheless. Pretty When The Wind Blows is taken from the soundtrack to Stuart Murdoch’s GOD HELP THE GIRL, the movie based around his Belle and Sebastian side project, also called God Help The Girl. Now, Emily Browning is a very fine actress but not so good as a singer, but this is what, I think, gives this particular track a fragile charm all of its own. Having watched the film again recently, I couldn’t help but wonder how very pretty the song would be under advantageous conditions (shall we say). I can’t wait to find out. I’m lucky – when I get as lost as this, I have someone who will always find me.
Legend tells of the White Bird of the Oxenham’s, an ancient Devonshire family for whom, according to tradition, the visit of a white bird foretells of a death in the family. Some stories say it is a dove, others that the bird is a thrush or a ring ouzel, all seem to agree that the bird has a white breast, the mythical status of which makes it the perfect topic for Folklore Tapes to investigate. Folklore Tapes is an ongoing research and heritage project exploring the folkloric arcana of the farthest-flung recesses of Great Britain and beyond. Traversing the mysteries, myths, nature, magic, topography and strange phenomena of the old counties through abstracted musical reinterpretation and experimental visuals. White Bird Of The Oxenhams, then, presented by the mysterious Mary Arches, is not so much a piece of music as an experimental psycho-geographical interpretation of that myth, which appears on side 2 of the tape cassette only release: DEVON FOLKORE TAPES VOL. V – ORNITHOLOGY, which was made available in 2013. It will take you very far out, indeed, but won’t have you tapping your foot. I’ve recently become a big fan of Folklore Tapes. You can check them out here if you wish.
This gorgeous piece is taken from Max Richter’s 2014 release FROM SLEEP, an hour long ambient post-minimalist piece that accompanied his epic concept album SLEEP – an 8 hour lullaby to be listened to while asleep. FROM SLEEP, on the other hand, was designed to be listened to while fast awake. Path 5 (Delta) features the ethereal voice of British soprano singer, and baroque specialist, Grace Davidson, whose wordless vocals magically connects her singing with the age-old tradition of the lullaby. It’s a warm, slow-moving daydream with no sharp edges and a self-consciously hazy sound, as if recorded next door or underwater. Spellbindingly beautiful.
Mark Pritchard has produced so much music under so many guises it’s almost impossible to follow a common thread within them. For his current album UNDER THE SUN, he’s adopted a deeply atmospheric and richly impressionistic approach that applies ambient, folk and cinematic tropes to a blippy analog palette, which suggests the influence of Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on this particular project. On You Wash My Soul he records with the semi-legendary folk artist Linda Perhacs who brings an ageless, willowy psychedelia to the mix. Lovely.
Canadian stoner-prog from Black Mountain who, on their fourth album, the aptly titled IV, create an astral sci-fi lullaby out of cosmic riffage for album closer Space To Bakersfield.
Flying Saucer Attack were, and possibly still are, an English experimental space-rock, drone-pop band that formed in 1992. They could be undeniably impenetrable, but they were equally capable of creating evocative instrumental miniatures, folky near-songs, and extended spatial explorations that were very much at home amid the white-noise din and the bassy pulse of analog noisemakers that evoked the spaciness of early '70s synth music. I think that sums up Feedback Song very nicely. It can be found on their 1995 album CHORUS, a collection of singles, compilation cuts, and the entirety of a John Peel radio session.