Monday 26 October 2020



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

Hell is empty and the devils are here

                                                 William Shakespeare



This is Anton Szandor Lavey (Howard to his mum) - charismatic occultist and founder of the Church of Satan -  recorded live at the Church of Satan, from the album THE SATANIC MASS, on Friday the 13th of September in the Year III Anno Satanas (1968 to you and me). The recording contains the first ever authentic audio documentation of a satanic ceremony and features a recording of the baptism of LaVey’s daughter, Zeena. Prologue is one of several recitations from LaVey’s ‘Satanic Bible’, although this, like much of his work, was cribbed from Ragnar Redbeard’s rather unpleasant book ‘Might Is Right’, much beloved by white supremacists and black magicians. By contrast, I think LaVey was mostly into it for the sex and drugs.



Coven’s debut album, WITCHCRAFT DESTROYS MINDS AND REAPS SOULS remains a seminal if unrecognized influence on hard rock and heavy metal. Black Sabbath may have received all the plaudits but Coven’s 1969 release has the distinction of being the first album to fuse occult themes with rock music, featuring the sign of the horns, inverted crosses and the phrase ‘Hail Satan’. An album very much of its time, it was also a bit too much of its time: it got caught up in the hysteria surrounding the Manson Family murders when Manson was photographed holding a copy of the album outside of a record store in Los Angeles - shows were cancelled, the album was recalled and the band lost the support of their record label. They released a couple more albums but they were a bit half-hearted by comparison. I’m not entirely sure if they ever toured England, but they appear to have had some funny ideas about Charing Cross. In an interesting addendum to their tale, when Gene Simmons tried to take credit for, and even trademark the horns symbol, singer Jinx Dawson threatened to sue him if he tried - he never followed through.



Disturbance was the b-side to the equally compelling Night Of Fear, The Move’s debut single, released in 1966. It’s a deceptively jaunty affair about mental illness - a theme they would return to over the years - which boasts an insane freak-out for the closing minutes or two. I can’t imagine that there’d been very much like this back in 1966. I’m not entirely sure that here’s been anything like it since.



One of the weirder releases to emerge from the lesser-known corners of the counter-culture, LADY JUNE’S LINGUISTIC LEPROSY is an experimental music/spoken word album by poet/artist Lady June, and much loved here on Mind De-Coder where, over the years, I’ve more or less played every track on it. Released in 1975, it’s an intriguing kaleidoscope of music and words - it’s much more spoken poetry than singing - recorded and produced by Kevin Ayers with a little help from the likes of Brian Eno, Gong’s Pip Pyle and White Noise’s David Vorhaus. It’s a surreal, whimsical, psychedelic oddity, completely out of sync with the times which is probably why I love it so. Still, punk rock would be along shortly and put an end to this sort of indulgence. A nascent Virgin Records are to be commended for releasing it at all, although I understand that all 5000 copies of its short run sold out, so there was obviously a market for this sort of thing.



Not the West-Coast psych-folk outfit from the late 60s with the same name, but a collaboration between The Coral’s Ian Skelly and The Zutons’ Paul Molloy. Their eponymously titled debut album, released in 2015, is a darkly lysergic affair that unravels like a psychedelic comic horror book with twisted tales of alien brain abduction, phantom bogeymen, sirens, voodoo witch-doctors and waitresses-cum-serial killers full of creepy organ passages, backwards loops, hypnotic drumming, phased instrumentation and liberal doses of theremin culminating in a benign world of warped madness.



Founding member of pioneering space-rockers Hawkwind returns to his intergalactic roots on his 2013 release SPACE GYPSY. It’s pretty much what you’d expect (and, indeed, hope for) - spacey squiggle effects, chugging riffs, and tripped-out guitar freakouts augmented by Turner’s signature saxophone and flute embellishments. The dark, hypnotic Time Crypt sets the controls for  a cosmic journey to inner-space - Gong’s Steve Hillage comes along for the ride.



Snarling garage-punk from The Lollipop Shoppe, whose 1967 single was one of the most ferocious releases of the sixties. In fact, you might wonder how a group so fierce ended up with such a deceptively toy-town moniker, and you would be right to do so. They originally started life as The Weeds but their manager wasn’t happy with the drugs reference and foisted the more chart-friendly name upon them (the 1910 Fruitgum Company, anybody?) but to no avail. You Must Be A Witch is taken from their only album, JUST COLOR, released in 1967, but sadly its winning combination of garage-rock energy, folk-rock melodies and psychedelic introspection failed to find an audience and within a year the band split.



A few short words from Babetta the Sexy Witch (©) taken from her privately pressed 1974 LP, THE ART OF WITCHCRAFT, on which she reveals the secrets of exorcism, divination, love spells, and things of that nature in general. The proprietor of The Sorceror’s Shop of Witchcraft and Magic in LA, her album is just one of many that were released in the 1970s when the occult reached a sort of mainstream respectability. Nobody is entirely sure why these records were so popular (given a certain definition of ‘popular’), but these days original copies exchange hands for hundreds of dollars. I understand that Babetta is still a practicing Wiccan and remains a leader of witches throughout the area.

Whilst Babetta provides a brief history of witchcraft I provide a suitably spooky background ambiance from...



Ghost Box Records co-founder Jim Jupp’s most recent release, THE GONE AWAY, is an evocative and eerie journey through the dark hinterlands of far-fetched faerie folklore. Banished are the Tinkerbells and the tiny winged fairies from 19th-century children’s stories - instead Jupp focuses on the malevolent woodland beings that can make being lost alone at night in the woods such a primevally unsettling experience.  Vintage electronics, music room instrumentation and folk-ish, kosmiche melodies provide a channel for ancient, rustic strangeness, passed through the filter of some long-forgotten children's TV series. In the chilling woodland dance of Copse, fallen twigs crack beneath advancing footsteps, whilst a grumbling medieval crumhorn stands firm in an onslaught of swooshing electronica. The message is clear — you are not safe here.



Sabbath Assembly, fronted by the marvellously monikered Jex Thoth, are an occult rock band who seem to have formed in order to play the hymns of the Process Church of the Final Judgment -  an Apocalyptic religious sect that operated as something of a shadow side to the flower-powered 60s and New Age 70s. (The Process Church opened Chapters in London, Europe and across the United States, dressing in black cloaks and, for some reason that I’ve never properly delved into, walked the streets with German Shepherds. They created their own heavily-designed magazines and promoted a controversial, quasi-Gnostic theology that reconciled Christ and Satan - the two would reconcile on Judgement Day - through awareness and love. Marianne Faithful, Mick Jagger and George Clinton were fans.) The mind-bending Judge Of Mankind is taken from their 2010 release RESTORED TO ONE, an album which re-charges the original hymns of The Process Church and works them into moving renditions that sit somewhere between the music of Coven and Amon Düül - earnestly-rendered doom-folk delivered with a psychedelically enthused proto-metal minor-key conviction. Marvellous.



Very much cut from the same cloth as Sabbath Assembly (some sort of dark Monkish cowl, one imagines) comes the French duo Moonrite, who play groovy music of the gothic-psychedelic variety. Their second album, LET ME BE YOUR GOD, released last year, plays like a soundtrack to a dubious as yet unreleased 1970s horror movie.



 I was hoping to fit some exotica into the show, and Pedro Santos’ Advertência fits the bill perfectly, sounding to these ears, at least, like the wails of lost souls being dragged, unwillingly, I suspect, down to the very bowels of hell itself, or a volcano exploding (which is more exotic, I suppose), or perhaps both. What Santos was trying to suggest is anyone’s guess, but you can find this track on his album KRISHNANDA, released in 1968. It’s something of a cornerstone of Brazilian psychedelia, bringing together elements of folk, afro-soul and samba, bound together by a lyrical depth that reflected Santos’ own reputation as something of a philosopher. There certainly can’t have been many records that grooved like this one while dealing with questions of morality, existence and ego. In some circles it’s considered one of the best albums ever made, regardless of origin or genre, but to put that into some kind of perspective, I’ve been encouraged to play it only when I’m quite certain that I have the house to myself. One for the curious, then.



A sinister little trifle, lasting no more than 61 seconds or so, which concludes the album BLACK MASS released by electronic music pioneer Mort Garson under the moniker Lucifer back in 1971. These songs are Garson's synthesizer interpretations of esoteric phenomena ranging from the Satanic black mass, to exorcism, to witchcraft, and other occult going’s on. Morton was the master at this sort of thing building up a cult reputation with such albums as  Mind De-Coder favourite THE ZODIAC: COSMIC SOUNDS - CELESTIAL COUNTERPOINT WITH WORDS AND MUSIC, on which he assigned each sign of the zodiac with its own highly psychedelic music. 



Should you be holidaying in the Cornish village of Boscastle and you have an hour or two to spare, you could do no better than pay a visit to The Museum Of Witchcraft And Magic - which strives to tell the tale of the European war against indigenous love and wisdom - where, amongst the cabinets of curiosities and tales of those who suffered under the religious persecutions of a patriarchal belief system which owes obeisance to a jealous sky-god, you’ll find, in ye olde gyft shoppe, the CD CHANTING, and, indeed, CHANTING II. Originally recorded as a soundtrack for the museum’s exhibition, they contain, as the title suggests, a collection of chants gathered by museum caretakers, Liz Crow and Heike Robertson, from various pagan camps and gatherings around the country. The origins of the chants are lost to the mists of time but their music, released in 1998, displays the trust in holding a strong mind with positive intent singing together. 

Beneath the chanting I included a track from...



THE NORTHERN LIGHTHOUSE BOARD is an album of soundscapes for Victorian séances and nocturnal forest gatherings; abandoned lighthouses; possessed goats; occulted moons and haunted dollhouses. Released pretty much anonymously (you try Googling The Northern Lighthouse Board and see what happens) last year, the eponymous album is an assemblage of spectral sound vignettes consisting of sinister synthesisers, found sounds and haunted samples.



Alison Cooper, the otherworldly voice and vision behind the fairytale folk of Magpahi, contributes the startlingly lovely Derwen Adwy’r Meirwon to the Folklore Tapes Calendar Customs release FORE HALLOWE’EN. Folklore Tapes is an open-ended online research project which explores the vernacular arcana of Great Britain and beyond; traversing the myths, mysteries, magic and strange phenomena of the old counties via abstracted musical reinterpretation and experimental visuals. FORE HALLOWE'EN, released in 2014, continues their journey into the darkest alcoves of Britain’s folkloric roots and journeys back to the origins of Halloween to find the Celtic festival of Samhain upon which Halloween and the All Saints and Souls days of the Christian period have been erected. Derwen Adwy’r Meirwon is the Welsh name for the oak at the gate of the dead - the Pass of Graves - which bore arboreal witness to the Battle of Crogen in 1165, a triumphant day in the annals of Welsh history in which Prince Owen Gwynedd ambushed the cocksure army of Henry II and massacred them. The ancient oak is now fantastically distended with age, its bole bloated with layers of fungal growth. Magpahi’s fragile vocals, whose melancholy beauty bring to mind the acid-folk loveliness of Vashti Bunyan, Marissa Nadler and Meg Baird, invokes the spirit of the oak in its dying days, taking on its voice and celebrating its longevity and the centuries of history which have passed around it.


I think that you have to admit by this point that the devil does, indeed, have all the best tunes. The Transpersonals’ Lucifer, taken from their 2018 release, ILLUMINATED BY THE LIGHT OF DREAMS, is a ravishingly gorgeous affair that shimmers tremulously within a lysergic haze.



Well, this is quite frankly terrifying, a malevolent whisper from across the aeons, an ancient outer-god hungry (the exact right word) for revenge. It was recorded in 1989 by English musician and producer Steven Wilson under the pseudonym of Porcupine Tree - part of a compilation of experimental music recorded on to cassette for a joke band he’d formed with his friend Malcolm Stocks. Named QUENTIN’S SEAWEED FARM it was only sent to a handful of people but it gave the band a cult following that eventually led to the release of the band’s first album proper, ON THE SUNDAY OF LIFE…, in 1992, which pretty much consisted of TARQUIN’S SEAWEED FARM and its follow-up cassette-only release THE NOSTALGIA FACTORY. None of this dry recitation should distract from the overall creepiness of Space Transmission, which puts one in mind of Hastor the Unspeakable, yearning for release.



This track, by the A Year In The Country blog curator Stephen Prince, aches with the passing of time, perhaps the greatest horror of all (don’t you sometimes wish you could capture a perfect moment in time and experience that moment forever?). Inspired by the realisation that the limestone hills he looks out over have been sliced in half, and that they are cross-sections which reveal the layering of millions of years, Prince’s Cross Sections Of Time opens THE LAYERING, the most recent release from A Year in the Country, a project which charts year-long journeys through spectral fields, exploring an otherly pastoralism, the outer reaches of folk culture and the spectres of hauntology. The album explores the way that places are literally layered with history, and is an audio slicing through the layers of time. It journeys amongst the stories and characters of these layers, including, amongst other aspects, the structures built, events which took place and different era's technologies and belief systems, reflecting  upon how these, and other varied strata, are layered on top of one another, and/or sit side-by-side, with some being recorded, while others are forgotten or unknown, becoming part of a hidden or semi-hidden history.



Who wouldn’t want Vincent Price to read them a ghostly tale on All Hallow’s Eve, so here he is doing just that on the album A GRAVEYARD OF GHOST TALES, released in 1973. On it he recounts spine-chilling tales of a ghastly nature, many of them written by masters of their craft. The Tale Of The White Dove can be found in the 1956 collection ‘The Screaming Ghost and Other Stories’, by Carl Carmer, apparently one of America’s most popular writers in the 1940s and1950s (how quickly our names fall from time’s embrace). Price reads these stories with the sort of eerie panache you’d expect but they come unaccompanied by music, so during the telling of this tale I have the Northern Lighthouse Board’s The Occulted Moon playing behind it.



The theatrical epic The Raven: I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night/Rosemary’s Baby was pretty much just that - a late 1960s psychsploitation release produced and arranged by Allan ‘Big Al’ Pavlow - legendary record producer and author - who took blue-eyed soul band The Ascots and gave them a psych makeover for the album I HAD TOO MUCH TO DREAM LAST NIGHT. Musically the album, released in 1968, featured a series of covers given psychedelic production touches, culminating in the side-long suite that seems to have bizarrely cobbled together a histrionic cover of The Electric Prunes’ classic with a deranged, entirely overwrought recitation of Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven (that, frankly, goes on a bit) and an instrumental interpretation of the theme from Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. There was minimal advertising and little or no promotion so the record sank without a trace. these days, of course, it’s a much sought after psychedelic classic but I think you only ever need to hear this track the once - it does go on a bit.



                                                        B) 2 POEMS FOR H.P. LOVECRAFT

 The Liverpool Scene grew out of the seminal 1967 poetry anthology of the same name featuring the semi-legendary poets Adrian Henry, Brian Patten, and Roger McGough. As a result of the book’s popularity a band sort of coalesced around poet and painter Adrian Henri resulting in the 1968 release THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE LIVERPOOL SCENE, produced by John Peel, no less, which combined poetry with a range of musical styles but which largely incorporated folk, rock and jazz elements. They never reached the same level of fame as their Liverpudlian counterparts, The Scaffold, which included Roger McGough, of course, and despite a 1969 tour with Led Zeppelin, they were more at home on the Uk University circuit. Henri’s reading of 2 Poems For H.P. Lovecraft and the equally bleak Galactic Love Poem provides a suitably macabre ending to the show. 



Don’t ask. Suffice it to say that there's another 9 verses.


No comments:

Post a Comment