MIND DE-CODER 99
To listen to the show just scroll to the bottom of the page
I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not from but myself
And there I found myself more truly and more strange
THE GUN TAKE-OFF
MAN AND IN THE BEGINNING…
...and speaking of your proto-prog/psychedelic rock crossovers, Man grew from the ashes of little-known Welsh pop group The Bystanders, before evolving into a fully-fledged psychedelic blues outfit poised to explore the giddy world of acid rock. Their debut album, REVELATION, released in 1969, is something of a psychedelic pop/rock concept album based upon nothing less than the evolution and development of man, which it does through the use of sound effects and Hammond-drenched guitar rock which, just occasionally, puts one in mind of Spinal Tap. I understand that their career took off in the 1970s and some permutation of the band appears to be releasing albums still (25 at last count) but it all began here.
TODD RUNDGREN INTERNATIONAL FEEL/NEVER NEVER LAND/TIC TIC TIC IT WEARS OFF
THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP TIMESELLER
THE BEATLES WILD HONEY PIE
Meanwhile, while the rest of the world was still playing catch-up with SGT. PEPPERS, The Beatles had calmly moved things on with THE BEATLES (or THE WHITE ALBUM, of course) released in 1968. Wild Honey Pie doesn’t sound like anything that had ever come before it, or, indeed, anything much that has followed it. Recorded entirely by McCartney, and generally regarded as filler on an album of over-ambitious self-indulgence, I’ve always had a soft spot for it. It’s certainly not one of the tracks I leave off when curating my own truncated version of the album, but that’s a conversation for another day. This is the 2018 Giles Martin remix, so it comes with added twang.
CHAD AND JEREMY PAINTED DAYGLOW SMILE
The Freeborne enjoyed a musical virtuosity that belied their years - aged between 17-19 they nevertheless had the musical chops to include pianos, harpsichords, cellos, trumpets, flutes and recorders on their only album, PEAK IMPRESSIONS, released in 1968. Visions Of My Own starts off life as a gentle affair; nocturnal, plaintive, swimming in a lysergic haze, and then, out of nowhere, a spectral civil war-era military band drifts by on the way to who knows where and takes your mind with it.
THE YARDBIRDS TURN INTO EARTH
The Yardbirds debut album proper (eponymously titled but often referred to as ROGER THE ENGINEER because of rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja’s cartoon rendition of studio technician Roger Cameron - but then, everyone knows that) showcases the band as they begin to explore bold new sonic territories, pushing their Clapton-era blues-rock sound into the realms of the avant-garde, psychedelia and Indian music, often the result of Clapton replacement Jeff Beck’s innovative guitar work. The meditative Turn Into Earth incorporates Gregorian chants alongside Beck’s use of reverb creating a track that shimmers with a lysergic elegance. Released in 1966, pre-REVOLVER, the album offers a snapshot of London just as it began to swing, The album’s weakest tracks are when the band remains beholden to the blues, but their psychedelic explorations point to a year just waiting to explode.
PINK FLOYD ARNOLD LAYNE
Try as I might I’ve never really cared for Pink Floyd’s debut single, Arnold Layne, released in those giddy days of 1967, a few weeks after The Beatles’ Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever paean to the psychedelic summer to end all psychedelic summers. Compared to its follow-up, the whimsical yet ravishing See Emily Play, Arnold Layne is strangely lacking - Syd’s voice is kind of flat, the harmonies are perfunctory, the rhythm section never fully establishes a groove, and Richard Wright’s trippy Farfisa solo halfway through seems imported from a song they hadn’t quite written yet. And yet, and yet, and yet it’s also an absolute triumph - spooky, atmospheric, innocent and dangerous, whimsical, odd and very psychedelic when British psychedelia was just finding its feet. So I have mixed feelings about it, but I was as surprised as you might think when I realised that I hadn’t yet actually played it on the show. Show 99 - I ask you!
Well, this is really quite marvellous. Russell Morris is an Australian singer-songwriter who’s enjoyed several Number1 singles throughout the late ‘60s and early ‘70s on his own turf, but The Real Thing, released in 1969 is a thing apart. Originally conceived as a simple acoustic ballad it somehow morphed into a swirling psychedelic barrage of music and sound effects, taking in an ominous spoken-word "buyer beware" message which was, in fact, producer Ian Meldrum's heavily filtered voice reading aloud from the product disclaimer on an Ampex recording tape box, heavily flanged production techniques, and a children’s choir sourced from an archive recording of a WWII Hitler Youth choir singing Die Jugend Marschiert (Youth on the March) before concluding dramatically with the children's choir shouting "Sieg Heil!" immediately followed by the cataclysmic sound of an atomic bomb explosion. The overall effect is quite overwhelming and it became, quite rightly in my opinion, the biggest selling Australian single of 1969 and is considered such a significant part of the late 1960s Australian rock story that it was recently made a new exhibit at the National Film & Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia. I don’t think it’s about drinking a coke.
BLACK SABBATH PLANET CARAVAN
The surprisingly lovely Planet Caravan makes for a mystical listening experience - not something one usually associates with Black Sabbath. Taken from PARANOID, the band’s 1970 release, it comprises some unusually tender lyrics about floating through the universe with one’s lover, gentle psychedelic embellishments, sparse percussion, flutes, and subtle jazz guitar giving this ethereal, otherworldly, recording a rather unique place in the Black Sabbath songbook. I understand that Planet Caravan was selected as the wake-up music for the crew of a SpaceX launch last year making it the first time astronauts have received a musical wake-up since the final shuttle mission in 2011. Good call.
NIK TURNER GALAXY RISE
Nik Turner - founding member of pioneering space-rock band Hawkwind - returned to his intergalactic roots on his 2013 release SPACE GYPSY. Featuring special guest appearances by fellow Hawkwind alumnus Simon House and Gong’s Steve Hillage this was always going to be a cosmic trip and the album doesn’t disappoint. The spacey squiggle effects are there, as are the spacey lead guitar workouts, drowsy vocals, chugging space jams, swooshing special effects, saxophone solos and, in the case of the blissful Galaxy Rise, some celestial flute playing from the great man himself.
SONIC BOOM ON A SUMMER’S DAY
ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL is Pete Kember’s first album as Sonic Boom since 1990’s SPECTRUM, released shortly after the demise of Spacemen 3. Now, I was always a big fan of your Spacemen 3; less so your Spiritualised (apart from my unequivocal adoration of LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE ARE FLOATING IN SPACE, obvs.), but at least Jason Pierce could carry a tune - Pete Kember’s post-Spacemen 3 projects: EAR, Spectrum, and whatever he was getting up to with My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields or Stereolab’s Tim Gane, were all about the ‘sound’ and almost always devoid of a good tune or melody you could hum on the way to the trouser shop - so I was pleased almost beyond measure to discover that his latest release is big on tunes. They’re accompanied behind whooshing, squelching, echoing vintage synths which oscillate, phase, drone and flange in minimalist, electronic ways, but the tunes are there, nevertheless. On A Summer’s Day, all gentle descending scales and soft drones, is first and foremost a beautiful ballad, drenched by waves of melodic, pastoral electronica. The whole thing is rather enchanting - Kember is clearly entranced and so are we.
ANDY BELL GHOST TONES
Andy Bell - he of Ride, not Erasure - channels the spirit of Spacemen 3 on his first solo release, last year’s THE VIEW FROM HALFWAY DOWN. Elsewhere the album combines misty psychedelic dream-pop, uptempo shoegaze, trippy beats, woozy synths and, in the case of the enchanting finger-picked Ghost Tones, layered acoustic pastoralism. Most of the album’s track ebb and flow in propulsive, hypnotic swells that puts one in mind of The Beta Band’s sonic experimentation, but in this case, tempered by a refined sense of 60s classicism. A pleasant melange of psych-pop and electronica.
BEAUTIFY JUNKYARDS A GARDEN BY THE SEA
COSMORAMA, the most recent release from Portuguese collective Beautify Junkyards is, quite simply, a ravishment for the senses - flutes, mellotrons, and acoustic loveliness blend with tropical birdsong, sampled voices, library sounds, electronic noises and beautiful vocal harmonies rich with a whimsical melancholy that places the album somewhere between Broadcast and Os Mutantes. A Garden By The Sea is a gorgeous track, lost in time and space - woodwind and harp combine with haunted electronics and a tropicalia-tinged pastoralism to create a sanctuary for the mind. It’s only February and already this is my album of the year.
NATHAN HALL AND THE SINISTER LOCALS EVERY GARDEN
ON THE BLINK, the new album from Nathan Hall and The Sinister Locals, features songs about serpents, solar swans, bumbling bees, country houses, modern-day highwaymen, tin robots, avenging angels, orange elephants and, in the case of Every Garden, an earworm of a song that reminds me of Keats’ quintessential observation that a thing of beauty is a joy forever, a humble flower, perhaps of the variety that a Romantic poet might choose to rhapsodise or otherwise swoon over. I very much feel the same way about this track, and the rest of the album is a charming delight; by turns pastoral, psychedelic, whimsical, melodic, buoyant, and lyrically playful yet tinged throughout with a sense of melancholic wonder. Lovely.
EL GOODO THE GREY TOWER
ZOMBIE, the new album from Welsh psychedelicists El Goodo, is an album steeped in 60’s psychedelia, made using an array of vintage gear. It references the likes of Elephant 6, Gene Clark, The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Scott Walker and yet still manages to sound fresh no matter how close they occasionally sail to pastiche. But what are we to make of a track like The Grey Tower, which gives a jaunty, carefree take on existential despair while shapeshifting in and out of different styles of music, at one point sounding like a Hassidic wedding band with a fondness for instrumental surf music, before descending into one of the most mind-bending and trippiest fade-outs I’ve experienced in some time? At this point, the band clearly transcends its influences and becomes greater than the sum of its parts as they follow their own idiosyncratic path through the sun-dappled meadows of psychedelia.
CAM’S JAMS RASPBERRY SPARKLING SUNSHINE DRIPS (IN YOUR MIND)
A song that pretty much well does what it says on the label, really. Cam’s Jams is Cameron Cowes who, on his debut album, simply called VOL. 1, released in 2019, plays around with many of the late ’60s psychedelic tropes and comes up with something uniquely trippy. This is the heaviest track on the album, mixing Eastern-influenced pop with something that wouldn’t have been out of place on Status Quo’s debut - the overall effect is experimental, immersive and deeply lysergic.
MOON WIRING CLUB POSTHUMOUS SELF-PORTRAIT
It always generates feelings of intoxicated bonhomie when Ian Hodgson’s Moon Wiring Club releases a new album. Having toyed with Jacobean breakbeat, he returns on his latest release, THE MOST UNUSUAL CAT IN THE VILLAGE, with something altogether more opiated and, indeed, with the beatless Posthumous Self-Portrait, hypnotic. This is one of four hallucinatory tracks on the album, each one coming in at 10 minutes or so, allowing the visitor the time to lose oneself in a deftly collaged hypnagogic dreamscape that is shonky, eerie and beautifully confusing.
GARCIA PEOPLES (SOUND CONTROLS TIME)/A RECKONING/(LITMUS)
Acid-folk jamming from Garcia Peoples and three sections from the elongated song suite that takes up Side 2 of their recent release NIGHTCAP AT WIT’S END, released last year. Guitars intertwine and themes appear and blur into one another in the style of The Grateful Dead, of course, but another reference point might well be The Moody Blues - Garcia Peoples inhabit that era where psychedelia was morphing into prog. The effect is both pastoral and cosmic, accompanied with Krautrock interludes which fully encapsulate the band's penchant for alchemic experimentation.
ANTON BARBEAU FLYING ON THE GROUND IS ALRIGHT
On his most recent album, the epic MANBIRD, Anton Barbeau charts a course across the psycho-geography of his influences from 1980s Sacramento to present-day Berlin . Best seen as something of a Jungian travelogue, he takes in psychedelia, prog, pop, wyrd-folk, the avant-garde, and krautrock, and still leaves room for ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, DEVO, Bowie, and Aphrodite’s Child to emerge as reference points. It’s a sprawling affair but works because of his mastery of melody, in-jokes and playful enthusiasm. Flying On The Ground Is Alright is celebratory, forgiving and weird in equal measure.
THE AVALANCHES WEIGHTLESS