Monday, 25 September 2017



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

Naked she danced in the warm morning sun. Her hips swayed suggestively to the beat of the music. On her back was scrawled in ballpoint: “Got any Acid?”
                                                                       The Western Telegraph, 31st July, 1975


For his second album, 2016’s PHASE ZERO, West Coast psych-rock explorer Morgan Delt has produced an album of polished lysergic weirdness and sonic invention. Most of all it sounds baked, like tripping in the desert sun – colours and sound radiate within, creating a palette of textures that invite the mind to stay a while and lose itself in a landscape of dazed wonder.


A seemingly throw-away ditty from the band’s zeitgeist defining third album PARK LIFE, released in 1994, of course, but one I’ve always had a soft spot for. The Barrett-esque Far Out, that lasts less than two minutes, features bassist and fromager extraordinaire Alex James’ first ever vocal for the band and, for some reason, is disliked by the sort of people who create lists about songs which ruined otherwise perfect albums. Ironic, then, that the one song I never need to particularly hear ever again is the title track itself, which I find more irritating each time hear it.


Two tracks from exploratory musician and visual artist Paul Snowden who releases music under the name Time Attendant. I only use the first minute or two from The Dreaming Green, which you can find on the album THE FURTHEST SIGNALS, released by A Year In The Country earlier this year, on which they explore the idea that films, television and radio shows from the past may live on in space, possibly in a degraded form and otherwise mixed amongst other stellar noises and signals. For their most recent release, THE QUIETENED COSMOLOGIST, from which the track Adrift is taken, they continue to reflect on space, this time focusing on space exploration projects that have either been abandoned or were never realised in the first place, and the intrigue, and sometimes melancholia, of related derelict sites and technological remnants that lie scattered and forgotten about the country. 

The album takes as its initial starting point the shape of the future’s past via the discarded British space program of the 1950s to 1970s; the sometimes statuesque and startling derelict artefacts and infrastructure from the Soviet Union's once far reaching space projects, and the way in which manned spaceflight beyond Earth's orbit to the moon and the associated sense of a coming space age came to be largely put to aside after NASA’S initial Apollo flights ended in 1972.


The cinematic soundscapes of Rob Gould provide moments of haunting beauty, serenity, light, drama and unease, all of which can be found in this atmospheric cover of Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful Of Secrets, recorded for the Fruits De Mer album A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF VINYL, released in 2014. In actual fact, he does a very fine line in covers of psychedelic classics – you can find a lot more of them over at Soundcloud. I was particularly taken with his interpretation of The Purple Gang’s Granny Takes A Trip, which will undoubtedly appear in the next show.


Long before the ambitious excesses of TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS (shall we say), the 1969 version of Yes were an entirely different concern, pretty much featuring the entire line-up of the largely un-heard of Auntie Mabel’s Toyshop, just another band surfing the primordial prog-rock soup in the late 1960s. Their first album, the rather positively entitled YES, brings a cheerfully primitive jazz-prog-rock feel to the mix, featuring exploratory improvisations and jazz breakouts to a just-getting-used-to-the-studio-what-does-this-button-do sort of vibe. I played the blistering original recording of this track by The Byrds last week; this week I felt drawn to this surprisingly swinging version which, in its own way, runs circles around the original by Roger McGuinn and Co.


Jeff Wootton’s debut album, THE WAY THE LIGHT, released last year, sounds like (and I don’t mean this in a bad way) the sort of thing Paul Weller or Noel Gallagher might knock off in one of their more experimental moments, by which I (hope I) mean, it has a maturity about it that belies his youthful years – he’s 30 years old, whereas as Gallagher and Weller are 109 between them. That being said, he’s packed a lot into his life, having so far performed with Brian Eno, Massive Attack, both Gallagher’s, Nick Zinner, Mark Ronson, Damo Suzuki and as guitarist with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz. His debut album is a joyous barrage of dense atmospheric soundscapes, big-beat grooves and fuzzy experimental psychedelicness (made up word). Sonik Drips is a pleasing mix of all three.


Alice Coltrane’s 1990 release, INFINITE CHANTS, is an album of ecstatic, transcendental celebration. She says herself of it:

"In this Mandir, you are hearing chanting like no other chanting in the universe. I can say that with all clarity and verification by God that nobody chants like this...I see what is occurring on the inner-plane, and it is beyond ordinary, human experience."

Amen to that. Recorded on her ashram in California, this is music of the highest, devotional order featuring Vedic chants repeating the names of deities, cosmic, swirling mantras sometimes sung solo with serene fragility, at other times rising in magnificent, gospel-like form courtesy of the Ashram Singers. THE ECSTATIC MUSIC OF TURIYASANGITANANDA, released earlier this year on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label is a collection of her four ashram releases, previously available on cassette-only for the faithful, and is pretty much my album of the year.


The Beatles’ first acid-influenced track, Rain is a pop-art explosion of dense guitars, pulsating bass and sound that emulates the distorting effects LSD can bring to the listening experience. Lennon’s sneering vocals draw a line between those who have been switched on to the drug and the straight society who go about their lives unaware that whether it rains and shines it's just a state of mind, and that heightened consciousness can be found within the self (albeit, with the aid of some of Sandoz finest). Released as the flipside to Paperback Writer, in 1966, this is probably their finest B-side, and also the track where backwards vocals are used for the first time, a psychedelic trope that the band appear to have invented. I thought it would be ‘kinda neat’ (as our American cousins might have it) to play that last bit backwards, thus revealing that it is the song’s first line that has been reversed. Lennon wouldn’t mind. He was so excited by the initial effect he wanted the whole song recorded that way.


Cheerful, yet slightly sinister, psych-pop from Nathan Hall, he of the Soft Hearted Scientists, and the lead single from the soon to be released debut album EFFIGIES. It’s the sort of song that puts one in mind of SKYLARKING-period XTC, possibly channelling the spirit of a lost Victorian sea shanty. It wears its psychedelic embellishments lightly, with swirling organs, some heavily accentuated buzzing and some vaguely unsettling electronics that all bodes well for the forthcoming album.


A new album from Julian House’s Focus Group is always cause for cheer here at MD Mansions and STOP-MOTION HAPPENING WITH THE FOCUS GROOP, released earlier this year, ticks all sort of hauntological boxes of the lysergic whimsical variety. With tracks lasting between 15 seconds at their shortest to nearly 7 minutes at longest, this owes more to the hazily fragmented recollections of an ageing ’60s dreamer whose memory disintegrated somewhat in the throes of the psychedelic age than a cohesive album in and of itself and, of course, is all the better for it.


…and what to make of this? A Curious, experimental long-form, voice-only, ultra-looping echo-delay piece that takes textual fragments and reduces them to distorted speech. Just another day at the office for the Moon Wiring Club’s Ian Hodgson, then, and a little something he prepared for the cassette-only label Illuminated Paths . It goes on like this for 20 minutes or so, but I give just the first ten. As Hodgson himself puts it… "the end result sounds somewhere between a female HAL9000 having her memory chips removed and the thought processes of an Edwardian UK Stepford Wives" which tells you everything you need to know about it.


Simon Dupree and the Big Sound were scuppered by their only hit, Kites.  They were never able to repeat that magic formula, and, in truth, didn’t want to. Kites was something of an embarrassment to them, a psychedelic ballad when, in fact, the band were more into sweaty Motown covers and rock and roll. In an attempt to escape the artistic cul-de-sac they found themselves in as Simon Dupree et al., they released a single We Are The Moles (Parts 1 and 2) under the moniker The Moles in an effort to invoke the psychedelia they couldn’t be doing with whilst at the same time parodying it. Released in late 1968, the single did not give any hint towards the identity of the artists, claiming that both songs were written, performed and produced by The Moles. Rumours began to spread that it was an obscure output by The Beatles with Ringo Starr on lead vocals. When interest began to rise concerning the release, Syd Barrett, of all people, stated that Simon Dupree & The Big Sound were the faces behind The Moles. Confronted with this, the band admitted it and everyone lost interest in the band and their single.


This sublimely gorgeous track by Joachim Heinz Ehrig (Eroc to his mates) can be found on his debut solo album, simply called EROC, released in 1975. More commonly known as the drummer and band leader with prog-rock outfit Grobschnitt, a band known for their ‘quirky’ (think German) sense of humour, fantastical themes and epic concept albums, Eroc’s solo work, by contrast, is an altogether different affair, influenced by the innovative electronic krautrock vibe of groups such as Cluster, Harmonia, Tangerine Dream and, of course, Kraftwerk, featuring slowly-evolving and carefully-layered electronic compositions and avant-garde experimentation. I’m a big fan.


Offa Rex is a collaboration between English folk singer Olivia Chaney and Oregon alt-rockers The Decemberists, who offered to be the Albion Dance Band to her Shirley Collins. The resulting album, THE QUEEN OF HEARTS, released earlier this year, is nothing less than luminescent, an interpolation of vintage folk music filtered through electric guitars and a sinewy rock backbeat, with Chaney’s voice channelling the spirit of Maddy Pryor and Anne Briggs. Their cover of Ewan MacColl’s The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, written for Peggy Seeger in 1957, is lifted by a shimmering, echoing ambience and harmonium drone which places the focus on Chaney's forlorn, pristine vocal. Even MacColl, who famously hated every cover of the song he ever heard (there was a special place reserved in Hell for Elvis’ version) would have been hard-put to find fault in such a flawless interpretation, that sends shivers up the spine each time I hear it.


A very short excerpt from side two of THE WEDDING ALBUM, released in 1969, and recorded, largely, in a hotel room at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam, Holland, in March 1969. The piece consists of interviews explaining their campaign for peace, conversations and captured sounds during the couple's ‘Bed-In’ honeymoon, but I focus on the piece where John is pointing out that the best way to deal with violence is with humour, because the authorities don’t know how to deal with humour, an observation that I feel has more resonance now than it had even then.


I’ve never had much time for The Fugs on account of my preferring the English take on psychedelia over the American version, which, broadly speaking, I’ve always found a bit too strident for me, but despite looking like the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers personified, The Fugs were the real deal – a heavily politicized, avant-rock band formed by poets and anti-war protesters. The lovely Life is Strange is taken from their fifth album, 1968’s IT CRAWLED INTO MY HAND, HONEST, an album otherwise noted for its surreal humour, avant-garde weirdness and disorientating eclecticism.


This poignant track is made all the more affecting by its inclusion on the album THE CRY OF LOVE, an album of unreleased tracks Hendrix was working on at the time of his death. Compiled by Eddie Kramer and Mitch Mitchell, and released in 1971, this would have been the first studio release since the breakup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Drifting is something of an unfinished masterpiece, a ghostly song, a fitting a tribute to a performer who went too far out and never came back. ‘Driftin’ on a sea of forgotten teardrops’ indeed.


While I was putting this show together Can’s Holger Czukay died, so here is some music from a solo album he recorded in 1969 called CANAXIS. Recorded with producer Rolf Dammers Boat Woman Song, which features the traditional singing of two Vietnamese peasants, lasts some twenty-odd minutes and is hybrid of ambient soundspaces, musicological sampling, and a sort of goings on that could only have come out of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Electronic Music Studios at the time and which demonstrates just how far ahead of the game Czukay was. It’s either quite beautiful, or not, dependent upon how taken you are with your avant-garde experimentalism. Mellow Out is an old recording from 1960 that's actually the first Holger captured on acetate, playing a little jazzy thing along with a few other players. Title says it all, and it's a nice little curiosity that's actually musically satisfying to boot.


Shirley Collins last released an album in 1978, which, in its own way, is as foreign and distant a place as when she released her first album in 1959. Shirley Collins is now 82 but you wouldn’t know that from listening to LODESTAR, released earlier this year. The one sop to her age is that the album was recorded in the front room of her cottage in Lewes in rural Sussex – you can hear the birds sing through the open back window into her garden. Other than that, Collins doesn’t seem interested in making it easy for new listeners, or old fans who might have imagined that age would have mellowed her. In many ways, Collins is the embodiment of the rural England of which she sings; her voice, like the English countryside before dawn, is stark and austere and captures something of the grit otherwise lost to acid-folk whimsy. Instead, she paints a picture of a brutal, bleak world, where forgiveness is thin on the ground, but violence and death are ever-present. Washed Ashore tells the story of a drowned sailor, found by a lost love who, heartbroken, dies by his side. Despite extensive liner notes, and the fact that Shirley herself tells that it was her sister Dolly that created the melody for this tale, I appear to be the only one who has noticed it’s similarity to the ballad Rosemary Lane, and how this song could actually be the epilogue to the sad story of the maid seduced by a sailor some time during the Napoleonic wars (probably – there’s loads of folk songs set during the Napoleonic era, I don’t see any reason why this one shouldn’t be one of them). Or maybe it’s so obvious it doesn’t bear re-stating. I wouldn’t want you to think I was an authority or anything, but I think I’m right in this instance.


It all makes a bit more sense when you realise that they’re singing about nights in white satin, and not knights, which, in my ignorance, I always assumed was the case. This version, of course, is the original version that appears on their album DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED, released in 1968, featuring The London Festival Orchestra and Late Lament, the poem included in the closing moments of the song. I think that they were initially asked to record an adaptation of Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 for Decca's newly formed Deram Records division in order to demonstrate their latest recording techniques, which were named ‘Deramic Sound’, but they recorded this instead. There was a lot of that sort of thing going on in the late 60s (I imagine).


No comments:

Post a Comment