MIND DE-CODER 84
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Open, oh coloured world, without weight, without shore
C.S Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet)
MOON WIRING CLUB SUMMON THE CONTESTANTS
You know that feeling you get when you lean back too far on your chair and you think that you’re going to tip over but you just manage to get your balance back and save yourself – that’s what Ian Hodgson’s Moon Wiring Club sounds like – and, incidentally, pretty much how I feel all the time, which is why I’m such a fan. Summon The Contestants is the opening track from last year’s PSYCHEDELIC SPIRIT SHOW, in which Hodgson’s (un)usual mix of urchronic phantasia (an entirely made-up term – your guess is as good as mine) is spooked out with new fangled “temporal mixing” for an extra musty smudge that only enhances the feeling that we’re entering a Sapphire & Steel-like world of arcane conundrum, with lots of sonic lens flare and melting celluloid textures.
THE EAST SIDE KIDS DANCING IN THE STREET
This is a completely lysergic re-imagining of Martha and The Vandellas’ classic by LA’s East Side Kids who, despite being an active part of the Sunset Strip, largely slipped under everyone's radar. This terrific track – eight minutes of backward effects and mind-bending stereo panning - closes their 1968 release THE TIGER AND THE LAMB.
FAT MATTRESS MAGIC CARPET
Fat Mattress, of course, was the band formed by Jimi Hendrix Experience bass guitarist Noel Redding shortly before his departure from that band. They were very much a band of their time, trading in a mix of light folk and early prog rock styles with psychedelic flourishes, not dissimilar to the sort of thing Traffic were doing at the time. Recorded in 1969 their eponymous debut album allowed Redding to flex his guitar playing chops and try his hand at singing, but they never caught on. Following the release of their second album, they split in 1970. Their single Magic Forest didn’t trouble the charts in England but I understand that it was a big hit in Holland.
THE CHOCOLATE WATCHBAND IT’S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE
On this - I feel moved to use the word tremendous here - cover of Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, singer Dave Aguillar channels his inner Mick Jagger while the band out-Them’s Van Morrison’s Them in what amounts to a garage classic. Originally released on the b-side to their debut single, this is the remixed and redubbed version that found its way onto side 2 of their 1968 release THE INNER MYSTIQUE, which is to say, the side of the album that the band actually play on. Producer Ed Robb adds some flutes to the original mix but, given what he did to side 1 of the album, this is a testament to just how great the Chocolate Watchband actually were.
NICK NICELY ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER
This is the track that got everyone excited - at least on the websites I spend my time on - the legendary nick nicely’s (he likes the lower case spelling of his name) lysergically subversive deconstruction of Dylan’s classic All Along The Watchtower. It says a lot about nicely’s irreverent take that it that it barely owes anything to either Dylan or Hendrix, but exists in its own self-contained bubble of disembodied vocals, found sounds, backward guitars and trippy psychedelic mellotrons. Released exclusively on the wonderful Fruits de Mer record label it is surely the most covetable piece of 7” vinyl that’s been released for a long time.
CURVED AIR MELINDA (MORE OR LESS)
Curved Air are best known for their classical-oriented, slightly overblown prog direction, but the gorgeous Melinda (More or Less) is a thing apart. Exquisitely sung by vocalist Sonja Kristina, this song appears on their 1972 release PHANTASMAGORIA, an album that fearlessly explored prog, jazz and the avant-garde, and which is generally considered the best thing they ever did - they split shortly after its release. I actually came across the lovely Melinda (more or Less) on the 3-disc compilation release COME JOIN MY ORCHESTRA: THE BRITISH BAROQUE POP SOUND 1967-1973, a fascinating overview of what was a major development in late Sixties pop music, recently released by the very fine Cherry Red records and well worth a couple of bob of your pocket money.
ARIEL PINK AND WEYES BLOOD TEARS ON FIRE
If the purpose of psychedelic music is to astound and confound the senses, then this new single release from Ariel Pink and Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering pretty much ticks those particular boxes. It starts out as the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard, all bucolic loveliness imbued with a childlike sense of wonder, until an unexpected stomp of operatic glam metal jolts the listener from whatever state of abandonment they’d given themselves over to like a psychedelic cattle prod up the psychic backside of whimsical reverie (a bit like a cross between Julian Cope’s S.P.A.C.E.R.O.C.K. With Me and the Butthole Surfer’s Sweat Loaf, if that’s any help). This is taken from their new EP MYTHS OO2, released last year, as a brief collection of strange acid-folk hybrids recorded in the middle of the desert. Curious and, indeed, confounding.
HERMITESS BLACK LAKE
The almost overwhelmingly lovely Black Lake is brought to you by the Hermitess, the solo project of Canadian songwriter and harpist Jennifer Crighton, who comes by way of various other musical incarnations, including the Consonant C and Devonian Gardens. Stripping back the performance to a harp and a circle of women’s voices, the Hermitess is an inquisitive, contrary, wounded, wise and ever dreaming incantation. I first came across Black Lake on an excellent Active Listener sampler a couple of years back, but you can also find it on her eponymous debut album, released in 2017. Appropriately written in a cabin in northern Michigan in the depths of winter, given her nom de plume and all) this is an album that both enchants and entrances, whilst embracing the wonder of solitude.
TOY CHARLIE’S HOUSE
Brighton’s Toy return with their fourth album and this time around they’ve expanded their nominally krautrock- infused palette to include a pastoral dimension that sits very nicely alongside their motorik beats and dark swirling psychedelia. As a result, the album, HAPPY IN THE HOLLOW, released earlier this year, has a lighter tone that, it turns out, was obviously missing from their previous releases and I, for one, am celebrating their new melodic sound. The positively bucolic Charlie’s House enjoys a sylvan acid-folk charm that puts me in mind of Berkshire folkies Heron (who recorded both their albums in a field, of course). Elsewhere krautrock rhythms collide with the sort of psychedelic tunefulness that would be at home on A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS.
MICK SOFTLEY LOVE COLOURS
Mick Softley was something of a bohemian troubadour (apparently he is Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man) who ended the 60s living in the back of the van featured on the cover of his 1970 release SUNRISE. It’s a mixed bag of traditional folk songs and folk rock, with added Moog, but concludes with the absolutely spellbinding psych-folk masterpiece Love Colours, a piece drenched in sitars and tablas. I’ve never been a huge fan of Softley, but I came across this track following an article in the splendid MOOF magazine that intrigued me enough to check this album out. I’m still not entirely convinced, but Love Colours is stellar.
FAMILY FACE IN THE CLOUD
Family really ought to have been a lot bigger than they were - discussed, at least, in the same breath as Caravan and The Soft Machine, say - but I suspect that, despite a visceral stage presence and a handful of excellent albums, their failure to conquer the world may be, in part, down to singer Roger Chapman who, with the best will in the world, had a voice that belonged to an old wino who’s spent the morning shouting at people queueing at the bus stop. The lovely Face In The Cloud, however, taken from their second album FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT, is sung by multi-instrumentalist Rich Grech, who shortly after jumped ship for Blind Faith. The album, released in 1969, isn’t as sonically adventurous as their debut album, MUSIC FROM A DOLLS HOUSE, but this may be due to their manager John Gilbert, who hastily mixed and released the album without their approval while the band were touring America. Suffice it to say the band and manager parted company thereafter.
JACCO GARDNER PRIVOLA
For his third album SOMNIUM - named after the book written in 1604 by Johannes Kepler, and very most likely, the world’s first science fiction novel - Dutch multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner has produced an instrumental album inspired by a move to Lisbon and, musically at least, by the vintage electronics by the likes of Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno. There are touches of space rock, krautrock, prog, and ambient but overall there’s a hauntological feel at work as the album explores possible futures using vintage synths. Privola is pure pastoral krautrock but wouldn’t be out of place on an album by the Belbury Poly, making it the perfect soundtrack for inner flights and 70s themed sci-fi dinner parties the likes of which only seem to happen round my house these days.
GREEN PAJAMAS WE’RE FLYING
This is the one that sounds like it could have included on the soundtrack to The Magical Mystery Tour on an album that unashamedly celebrates 60s folk and psychedelia with a middle-Eastern, Middle-earth vibe. Originally released in 1997, STRUNG BEHIND THE SUN has just been given a shiny vinyl release that expands the original CD to a 2 LP set that’s well worth cracking open your piggy bank for.
THE FALL BONKERS IN PHOENIX
The Fall have always been so uniquely ‘The Fall’ that they transcend influences and genres, so it’s always a pleasure when I come across something by them that is distinctly psychedelic in sound if not necessarily in intent. Bonkers In Phoenix is taken from the album CEREBRAL CAUSTIC, the one that saw Brix Smith return to the fold in 1995 and Mark E Smith up his drinking, so that was never going to end well. It is one of the band’s least loved albums, although I’ve always had a soft spot for it simply because Brix is on it and I've always liked what she brings to the band. MES gleefully deconstructs what I understand started life as a Brix ballad by speeding up her vocals, cutting in some asides of his own, and lovingly screwing with it, but the overall effect is largely mind-bending. Rubbish album cover, though.
MOON WIRING CLUB HIGH TEA ON THE EDGE OF NOWHERE
The second outing from Ian Hodgson’s Moon Wiring Club on this evening’s show, the slightly wonky and otherwise hallucinatory High Tea On The Edge Of Nowhere sounds something like a surreptitious recording of a clandestine Victorian steam-punks who’ve just discovered a form of Moggadon from licking specially bred tabby cats. As before, it’s taken from his most recent release, the winningly entitled PSYCHEDELIC SPIRIT SHOW, released just before Christmas as a vinyl only release and therefore too big for all but the most generously-sized Christmas stockings.
THE BEATLES MOTHER NATURE’S SON
Speaking of which, I was lucky enough to find this new mix of THE BEATLES in my Christmas stocking, which instigated a debate between myself and sundry friends regarding which songs might have been better left of it (I find my heart always sinks a little when The Ballad Of Rocky Racoon comes round). I think my friend Colin who’s a lot cleverer than me when it comes to this sort of thing summed it up best when he noted that “the point about the White Album is that it's not an album. It's 30 possible futures, 30 templates for careers that other bands could deploy, free of charge, 30 stars on the horizon. Some of them shit, obvs. In those four sides, the Beatles invented heavy metal, invented the Butthole Surfers, invented pretty much everything that didn't involve a synthesizer. From a listening point of view, it was 50 years early, but clearly designed for an iPod on shuffle mode.” Or as Paul McCartney more succinctly put it: “Fuck off, it’s The Beatles White Album”. Having played it pretty much non-stop in the car since I now finally count myself as a fan.
WOOB AMBIENT DISASTER MOVIE
Woob is the name by which ambient musician Paul Frankland releases his downtempo, spacey recordings. This is the 21-minute title track from his 2014 release, a cinematic journey through deep space, or possibly your own brain, featuring heavenly vocals, sample cut-ups, field recordings and retro-futuristic effects that are very much at home to the same universe The Orb's ever pulsating brain finds itself floating - that's not a criticism so much as signpost to point you in the right direction. It is, as they say, far out.
SPROATLY SMITH THE LOST VILLAGES OF HOLDERNESS
The welcome return of Sproatly Smith to the show sees them once again contributing to a new release from the A Year In The Country website, who begin the new year with a re-release of their 2016 compilation THE QUIETENED VILLAGE, an evocative score for crumbled communities, abandoned villages and sunken spires.
The album is a study of, and reflection on, lost, disappeared and once were villages and hamlets that have wandered off the maps, or that have become shells of their former lives and times, inspired in part by images of sections of abandoned, submerged villages and the spires of their places of worship reappearing from the surfaces of reservoirs and lakes, alongside explorations of places that have succumbed to the natural erosion of the coastline and have slowly tumbled into the sea or been buried by encroaching sands.
Some of the lost places which inspired THE QUIETENED VILLAGE still exist but only as stripped down shadowlike settlements; their inhabitants having long since left, evicted at short notice so that their homes and hearths could be used as training grounds to prepare for operations during times of large scale conflict. These points of reference have been intertwined with the spectres of fictional tales; thoughts of Midwich Cuckoo-esque fictions or dystopic tales told and transmitted in times gone by and reimagined by the artists therein.
Sproatly Smith’s contribution addresses the strange lands lying east of Hull to the North Sea known as Holderness. This area has the fastest eroding coastline in Europe, losing 2 metres every year. The soft cliffs had supported villages and communities that have been swallowed by the tides. Elegiac, but never less than lovely, the track inhabits the slightly mournful quality of the shipping forecast alongside the wyrdfolk otherlysness of all their music. I remain, as ever, devoted.
COSMIC NEIGHBOURHOOD BUNK BEDS
I’m so taken with the QUIETENED VILLAGE release I thought I’d include another track in the show. Cosmic Neighbourhood is the brainchild of Bristol-based illustrator and musician Adam Higton, who, a few years ago began the task of making songs and sound recordings to give some of his collage work some extra depth. The collages and subsequent recordings are all about a mythical and leafy suburb called The Cosmic Neighbourhood where trees talk, elves play and witches wave from windows. By all accounts, Bunk Beds is the musical accompaniment to a collage of two elves in bunk beds, and the hushed sleepy drones and snoring sounds appear like a good fit somewhere within a quietened village. And so it goes…
That was Mind De-Coder 84.
I thank you.