Tuesday, 7 May 2019


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There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory, and I forget the third.
  Timothy Leary


This is the opening track from their 1969 release TO OUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN’S CHILDREN, an album which pretty much sits at the end of their imperial psychedelic phase before they went off and did whatever it is they did in the 70s and it’s a classic: a rocket ship blasts off, swathes of guitar and mellotron provide a soundtrack for another of drummer Graeme Edge’s poems, and before you know it, the band are off with an album about space travel in the context of evolution - marvellous. I’m sure I read somewhere that NASA actually lent them tapes of real rockets taking off which the band found a bit underwhelming - instead they recorded their own sound of a rocket launch and sent it back to NASA with a note saying: “Now this is what a rocket taking off sounds like”, which is one of the many reasons I like them so much. People tend to disregard the Moody Blues, but listen to their late sixties albums under suitably euphemistic circumstances, say, and you’ll be blown away by the groups ambitious psychedelic experimentation - they were very much a band of the hmm-what-does-this-button-do variety who also knew their way around a good tune - just don’t call them a guilty pleasure. 


I understand that Les Clayppool, one half of the Claypool Lennon Delerium, is well known for his sinuous bass playing, and an example of which is all over this track, Little Fishes, like a hastily discarded simile. Multi-instrumentalist Sean Lennon brings a certain I-can’t-get-I-Am-The-Walrus-out-of-my-head sensibility to things, and between them, their album SOUTH OF REALITY, released earlier this year, grooves to a psychedelic charm all of its own. It’s a surreal mix of PEPPER-era production, prog workouts, metal swagger and dreamlike jams mixed with a knowing pop sense of playfulness. It’s good - I like it.


Rainbow FFolly were a band who were severely let down by record company cynicism. Recorded by a quartet of ex-art students from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, their first and only album, SALLIES FFORTH, released in 1968, was, in fact, a collection of quirky demo recordings that, without the band’s knowledge, found its way to Parlophone who released it as it was. Presumably, they couldn’t be bothered to spend any money on what was, to all intents and purposes, a perfectly adequate collection of diverse, humorous, clever pop songs recorded by a group of eccentrics who viewed psychedelia through a mocking, slightly surrealist art school prism rather than as unblinking zealots. It boggles the mind to think how great the album could have been, embellished with Beatle-esque studio production and a kind of Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band sense of the absurd, but it’s just one of those things we’ll never know. Sometimes, if I think about it too much, that really irritates me; the McCartney-esque She's Alright teases with possibilities - imagine what it (and, indeed, the rest of the album) could have sounded like with bells and whistles and psychedelic knobs on. Stupid Parlophone.


Apples and Oranges was Pink Floyd’s third single, recorded in 1967 and the last to be written by Syd Barrett but, alas, it was no See Emily Play, and it sank without a trace. Arguably this was down to some pretty muddy production - Roger Water’s certainly thinks so - but I think it’s a little too self-conscious for its own good. That being said, it’s Syd-era Floyd, cheerful and psychedelic in equal measure, so what’s not to like? Enjoy.


The Neighr’hood Childr’n were, sadly, one of the San Francisco psychedelic scene’s also-rans. They opened for The Who, Deep Purple and The Beau Brummels, released just the one eponymously titled album in 1968, developed a religious focus whilst on tour with The Turtles and disappeared without a trace. Actually, The Turtles are one of those bands with whom they often get compared, alongside Jefferson Airplane - mostly due to the vocal interplay between singers Dyan Hoffman and Rick Bolz - but I think they frequently transcend those reference points - when I first came across Long Years In Space I thought it had a timeless quality that made it quite distinct from we think of as that West Coast sound - with echoes of what could easily have been Red Krayola,  The Velvet Underground and the Spacemen 3 (just to be difficult, I also heard elements of the 1990’s experimental rock/post-rock band Moonshake in there as well - clearly I need to get out more). Anyway - I think you should check them out; I think you’ll be surprised.


I think Mellow come from the same pool of vintage mellotrons, moogs, old organs and drum machines that Air paddled in - in fact, I’m pretty certain that founder member Patrick Woodcock even played on Air’s debut PREMIERS SYMPTÔMES before taking off in an entirely more proggy direction. Sun Dance has just a touch of Strawberry Fields Forever about it (enough to stop my son in his tracks and have him ask whether we were listening to a hitherto unheard of recording by The Beatles) and can be found on their 2004 release ANOTHER MELLOW SUMMER, which pretty much does what it says on the label. Everyone seems to have forgotten about them now but at the time I was enjoying a retro-futurist-lounge-y sort of phase and Mellow fit it very well, throwing in some groovy 70s influenced Gallic psych-prog vibes for good measure. Possibly just a tad too much use of the vocoder - that’s all I’m saying.


This is intriguing and I half hope it's true. For years now fans of your krautrock have all been (more or less) secretly hoping that there might be some krautrock classic album out there that somehow slipped under the radar and has managed to remain undiscovered until now because, largely, and on the whole, the scene has been pretty comprehensively mined by now and really, what you got is all you gonna get, so enjoy; but given the way krautrock as a genre has been pretty much under the microscope since Julian Cope’s trusty KRAUTROCKSAMPLER was published back in 1995, the chances of a previously unknown yet amazingly classic addition to the oeuvre turning up are about as rare as a bum’s teeth. You can imagine, then, how excited everyone got when, in 2013, a tape cassette mysteriously appeared called KOSMISCHER LÄUFER: THE SECRET COSMIC MUSIC OF THE EAST GERMAN OLYMPIC PROGRAM 1972-83 VOL. 1 (of what is now four releases) turned up, containing a near-flawless mix of tracks that pretty much connected the dots between Neu!, Kraftwerk and Cluster. Produced by an unlikely individual going by the name of Martin Zeichnete (probably a pseudonym), the tapes purport to be music specially composed by Zeichnete to help East German athletes train for the Olympics during the 1970s. Over the course of eleven years and taking advantage of the newly invented proto-Walkman the Stereobelt, he composed music for runners, gymnasts and even ice dancers, before the plug was pulled unexpectedly ahead of the boycotted Los Angeles Olympics. This all sounds just plausible enough to be true, but word on the street is that the whole thing may be a scam, put together by Edinburgh-based musician Drew McFadyen, using the persona of Zeichnete as an alias. The best thing about it is is that it doesn’t matter - the music more than establishes itself as the Kosmische Musik it purports to be, and because it’s such a good story, with enough clues dropped throughout to bring you in on the joke (Zeichnete is past tense of “to draw – i.e. “drew” in German) you don’t so much mind as admire McFadyen for the brilliance of his pastiches. Der Traum Des Madchens (The Dream of the Girl) is taken from the second release VOL. 2 which appeared in 2014. Read an interview with McFyden here and you decide.


This, on the other hand, is undeniably the very real thing - Harmonia was something of a krautrock supergroup featuring Neu!’s Michael Rother on guitar, Cluster’s Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius doing their ethereal beauty thing, with production by the legendary krautrock producer Conny Plank and including Guru Guru’s Mani Neumeeier on drums - the pedigree involved in the making of DELUXE, released in 1976, simply pulsates alongside the music. Quite simply this is the sound of open-minded, free-thinking musical masterminds losing themselves to something that’s even greater than the sum of its parts. Effortlessly interweaving shimmering keyboards, soft mechanical beats, and a melodic flow, the album channels the very essence of krautrock and, incidentally, sounds as sweet as a summer’s day. Just 40 minutes in length, but endless in depth and beauty, DELUXE is a timeless piece of music meant for eternity. Walky-Talky is propelled along by an understated motorik riff, but it inhabits a pastoral dub beauty all of its own.


For its latest release, the very fine A Year In The Country website brings you a number of recordings which reflect upon the ancient trees residing over growing layers of history and their stately, still form of time travel - watching and observing over the passing of the years, centuries and even millennia. Some of them have lived through invasions of their island home undertaken by wooden ships, sword and arrow, the final days and passing of the old ways and the times of magic and witchcraft, the coming of the industrial revolution and the dawning of the digital era.

Fittingly, then, the album is called THE WATCHERS and will be made available in June, featuring music by the likes of Mind De-Coder favourites Sproatly Smith, Pulselovers, Vic Mars, Field Line Cartographer and London-based sound artist Howlround, whose contribution, The Winter Dream of Novel’s Oak, is created from field recordings made at an ancient oak in Tilford said to be more than eight hundred years old. Once one of Surrey’s most famous landmarks, today it almost appears forgotten, overrun with weeds, festooned with litter and seemingly groaning under the weight of the rusted metal plates that were hammered into the trunk in a well-meaning attempt to help it stand up, all of which is somehow conveyed with tape loops and things of that nature..


Guru Guru were the loosest, most experimental and most out there of all power trios of the early seventies. For my money (which, in fairness, mostly amounts to what I’ve got put aside in the piggy bank in readiness for the next Soft Hearted Scientists album) they even blow Blue Cheer off the stage, and you know how much people go on about their VINCEBUS ERUPTUM album as a pretty definitive orgy of heaviosity -  well Guru Guru’s UFO, released in 1971, is heavier and more fucked up. In fact, it’s very nearly relentless, but therein lies its considerable magic. Next Time See You At The Dalai Lhama has a hammering two-note bass riff ratcheted up to soar above the chaos of slammed cymbals, tom-tom rolls and fuzz/wah-wah guitar patterns and just as it mainlines out at yo-yo speed, the notes suddenly reassemble themselves into noisy unison and then it crossfades into a field recording of the band freaking out and vibing up the countryside with whistles, shakers, congas and tambourines until a young lady innocently asks: “Guru Guru?”, to which one can only reply: “Yes, yes it is”.


From the ridiculous to the sublime - I struggle to find the words when it comes to Anne Briggs, because her voice is so flawlessly lovely I simply don’t have it in me to make what words I have at my command do justice to exactly how lovely it is - so...just...listen. For a start, we’re lucky to hear it at all, because she was no fan of the recording process, or performing on stage. I understand her thing was to simply break into song, having knocked back a drink or two in the pub, and one can only imagine how grand an experience that would have been. She travelled the Irish countryside in horse and cart, but the folk clubs were her home - her voice was untutored, unselfconscious and powerfully affecting...just listen. Standing On The Shore, recorded for her second album THE TIME HAS COME, released in 1969, was written by her then boyfriend Johnny Moynihan of Sweeny’s Men, based upon a traditional folk tune. Her voice is peerless...just..listen - it will make your heart yearn for a lost love never to return. She commented in the sleevenotes: This song was Johnny Moynihan's vision. He expresses what he saw so beautifully and sadly and seems to convey this feeling of endless whiteness. Bottom E string is dropped to D. I love that last bit.


Shide and Acorn possibly had more names than songs - they were originally known as (the rather ghastly) Foehammer and later Peppermint Snuff of Wight (and then later again simply as Wight) before settling on Shide and Acorn, and all of this within two years, in which time they recorded one album, UNDER THE TREE, in 1971, which they pretty much gave away to their friends, before promptly splitting up. They were never highly regarded, their innocuous songs thought to add nothing to the acid folk canon, which is not to say they weren’t capable of some wistful pretty melodies, a mixture of male and female lead and harmony vocals, and some rose-colored minstrelsy, because they were. Girl Of The Cosmos seems to be describing a nice day out in the countryside tripping balls and I contend that you’d have to have the heart of a Shakespearean villain not to enjoy it.


I use only an excerpt, but this is Ram Dass, formerly Dr. Richard Alpert, prominent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr. Timothy Leary - until a fateful Eastern trip in 1967 - recorded on March 30 and 31, 1969 at a New York City sculpture studio, discussing the nature of enlightenment and self-determination. These are the original talks that became basis for his seminal book, Be Here Now which, to this day, still stands as the highly readable centerpiece of Western articulation of Eastern philosophy and continues to be the instruction manual of choice for generations of spiritual seekers (and the name of a wildly disappointing album by Oasis - seldom have albums been so quickly gifted to charity shops). 


Hölderlin were a German progressive rock band that was formed in 1970 by brothers Joachim and Christian von Grumbkow with Christian’s wife, the adorably monikered Nanny de Ruig, on vocals. Despite being at home to a trippy cosmic style of progressive folk, full of rich textures with psychedelic, medieval and classical touches, they always rejected the kosmische label associated with many krautrock acts - they were inspired by the 18th century German philosopher and poet Friedrich Hölderlin, after who they were named, and NanNy, despite being Dutch, sang resolutely in German. Their debut album, HÖLDERLIN’S TRAUM, released in 1972, is almost the definition of acid folk. Waren Wir is all flute, keyboards and mellotrons, and comes over somewhere in between Sandy Denny’s Milk And Honey and IN-SEARCH-OF-THE-LOST-CHORD-era Moody Blues - really quite magical, really…


What do you do with a song title like this? You hold your breath and hope it’s respectful, I guess, and then it turns out that you needn’t have worried because what you get is a poem that might be about someone called Anne, and a fantastical, gorgeous recording that owes much to Mark Fry and Donovan at his most GIFT-FROM-A-FLOWER-TO-A-GARDEN-est. Walker Phillips’ spellbinding blend of new-psych wyrd-folk is both familiar and yet cosmically far-out, intimate and yet wildly experimental, deeply psychedelic and yet...well, you get the idea. His album MY LOVE SUNDAY, released last year, is all acoustic guitars, flutes, recorders, dulcimers, sitars, autoharps, mandolins, tin whistles and harpsichords and is every bit as lovely as that combination sounds. This is pastoral psychedelia at its very best.


...and then there’s Nilson, whose third album, NEWS FROM NOWHERE, released earlier this year, is an enchanting listen, in which tablas, cymbals and dulcimers accompany choral flourishes and pastoral dreamscapes which sometimes manage to resolve themselves in 50s surf exotica, like in this track And From His Blood, The Crops Would Spring - it shouldn’t work, but it does, and feels revelatory and celebratory too. I recently came across it in an overwhelmingly enticing review by Grey Malkin for the wonderful MOOF  magazine, bought it on the strength of that review alone, and have yet to tire of listening to it each and every day (each day of which is a little bit brighter for having this gorgeous album in it). I understand Nilson hails from Hamburg, which surprised me no end, given I’d assumed he lived happily on Summerisle, surrounded by bountiful apple trees and nubile maidens prancing around stone circles in the nud, and things of that nature in general


...and speaking of The Wickerman, Rowan : Morrison are, of course, named after the missing schoolgirl in that cult movie which casts such a long shadow over the cultural landscape I choose to inhabit. Rowan : Morrison are the musical twixting of The Rowan Amber Mill and Angeline Morrison who keeps herself busy with a number of projects, the most recent of which, We Are Muffy, is making the Autumnal evenings just a little bit less dark. At The Circle’s End is taken from the new album IN THE SUNSHINE WE RODE THE HORSES, a recording which takes a snapshot of an imagined history of the English countryside. It explores the conflict taking place at the same area (The Ridgeway) through time periods between the land and man with their developing technologies. These events take place throughout time, from pre-history through to the near-future. In a very 1970s "Play for Today" sort of way, they start to bleed into each other as over time, the earth begins to enter a period of hibernation to heal itself from the destruction wrought upon it - fracking, HS2, retail parks, and so on, don’t come out of it particularly well. All of this would have the air of a worthy collaboration if the music wasn’t so good - once again, dulcimers, flutes and acoustic guitars abide with the occasional orchestral flourish; it really is astonishingly lovely. This is an album that could have existed in the late 60s/early 70s, but it has its eye on the rising up of nature against modern life which, as Blur once reminded us, is rubbish.


This short piece by Timothy Leary is taken from the spoken-word album TURN ON, TUNE IN, DROP OUT, released in 1966, on which he presents his ideas on drugs, current events and cultural phenomena, with recollections of earlier experiences and experiments; all delivered in a straight ahead, quiet manner even though the content is almost entirely subversive and confrontational. This album is not to be confused with the 1967 recording of the same name, which is more of a guided meditation with some groovy music (you should try it sometime) - this unadorned spoken word album was recorded at the famous Millbrook, New York estate just before his famous residency was ended by repeated raids and arrests by G. Gordon Liddy. I’ve had excerpts from the recording popping up all over the show – it’s well worth a listen for an insight into the goings on of the counter-culture (a lot of acid appears to have been enjoyed). Beneath him I play an excerpt from the album YOGA, released in 1976 by Popol Vuh - although, in essence, it’s a Florian Flicke solo album, and even then it’s just him experimenting with classical Indian music in the studio and I don’t believe it was ever meant to be released at all.

I have it disappear into some backwards classical music and then the lovely Haley Jay,  voice artist and island resident, reads a poem I was very much taken with, by someone who goes by the name of Rose O’Kane, called Psychedelic Beauty, from the most recent edition of MOOF magazine (with which I am also very much taken - so much so that I also enjoy the poetry section). Anyway, thank you to both Haley, for recording it for me, and Rose for letting me use it in my show - much appreciated.


I have those goings-on disappear into a track that’s so ethereal it’s hardly there at all, taken from Neu!’s second album NEU! 2, released in 1973. By the time they recorded NEU! 75, duo Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger were so artistically estranged, and so different in outlook that they decided that side A would feature the conventional Neu! line-up but side B would be effectively a Dinger solo project. It was Dinger who conceived the motorik beat, so beloved by Stereolab, – no verse, no chorus, just drive on. However, Rother’s bittersweet atmospheres hang significantly in the Neu! air, not least on track three, Leb’ Wohl (Farewell), which follows the trajectory established on the previous two Neu! albums – the opening track bowling out in sanguine, motorik style, before a profound wistfulness slowly settles. Leb’ Wohl sounds like an illustration of the maxim that it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive; it seems to be located at some distant beach at dead of night, the end of the road, suffused with the sad beauty of having gone as far as there is to go. Neu! had reached that point; from here, Rother would put out onto calmer waters.


Utopia was a band Todd Rundgren put together to support him on his 1973 release, A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR, which then became his band. In 1980 they recorded DEFACE THE MUSIC, an album of Beatles pastiches designed to take you through the different stages of their musical trajectory in a parallel universe - I Just Want To Touch You is almost more like I Wanna Hold Your Hand than I Wanna Hold Your Hand - but unlike The Rutles’ good-natured parodies, Rundgren’s songs are a bit more reverent. Everybody Else Is Wrong channels the spirit of Strawberry Fields and I Am The Walrus and pulls it off so well it sounds just as good as you imagine it might (but it falls down on the fade-out so I supply my own…)


Back in days of yore, when I was young and fair to behold, I used to live in olde Exeter towne, and there, on a Thursday evening, there was a club called Cheesy, where they played a very fine line in funky trip hop beats, jazzed-up grooves, disco rhythms, psychedelic novelties and the sort of obscure Italian loungecore vibes that would feel quite at home on David Holmes’ soundtrack to Ocean’s 12 - and it was there that I heard this track by Ride. It was released as a DJ only promo for their album CARNIVAL OF LIGHT, released in 1994, and at the time I always hoped that this was a direction they’d choose to explore, but instead they made the difficult TARANTULA album and split up, only to reform some 20 odd years later - they have a new album, THIS IS NOT A SAFE PLACE, out later this year, and it’s still a direction I hope they choose to explore, although it’s not very likely. I’ve always wondered about that Apollo 11 mission ever since, though. 

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