Sunday, 11 September 2016

MIND DE-CODER 66

MIND DE-CODER 66


To fall in hell, or soar angelic, you need a pinch of psychedelic.
                                                                             -Humphrey Osmond


THE DANDELION SET     PRISTINA STRAWBERRY GIRL


Well, you know where you are when you come across a track called Pristina Strawberry Girl – expect lush psychedelia awash with an acid folk vibe sung in a plaintive tone that is both a yearnful reminder of a lost love and an ode to the joys of being blissfully high on a summer’s day, possibly in a meadow of some sort. This is the opening track from The Dandelion Set’s debut album A THOUSAND STRANDS – 1975-2015, released earlier this year. The album travels back to the bands’ formative years in the mid-1970s, and passes through a cavalcade of musical landmarks taking in library sounds, Canterbury jazz-prog, futuristic urban film noir, whispered chanson sighs, woozy, flutey psychedelia, harpsichords, Moogs, dulcimers and all that sort of thing. It really is quite lovely. Cult writer Alan Moore adds sleeve notes and lyrics, as well as vocals to one track, but it’s not half as psychedelic as you might think so I don’t include it, tempted as I was.

LEGENDARY PINK DOTS     WAVING AT THE AEROPLANES


The Legendary Pink Dots are an Anglo-Dutch experimental rock band who have released more than 40 albums or so, none of which appear to have deigned the charts with their presence. Their music touches on elements of neo-psychedelia, ambient music, electronic music, tape music, industrial, psychedelic folk, synthpop, post-punk, progressive, jazz, noise and pop with what you’d call a distinctly avant-garde bent, so you’d have thought someone would be interested (in actual fact, they have a small but devoted following). Waving At The Aeroplanes is taken from their1983 release, CURSE. It has a glazed Ballardian vibe that puts one in mind of a Meddle-period Pink Floyd, and that’s no bad thing, of course.

KIKAGAKU MOYO     KOGARASHI


I am, in the parlance of your proper radio presenter, loving the album HOUSE IN THE TALL GRASS from Japan’s Kikagaku Moyo (which, I understand, means Geometric Patterns), a band very much at home 70s rock, acid-folk, krautrock and classical Indian vibes of a pulsing, hypnotic nature. HOUSE IN THE TALL GRASS, released earlier this year, is their third album and it’s a thing of understated beauty capable of taking you on a tripped-out journey to some place blissful and peaceful; magickal and whimsical - glade-like perhaps - where the warm air swarms with pollen and buzzes with insects, a pastoral idyll with just a touch of avocado green and vermillion to it.


 SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS     ON A PATHWAY DARKLY


This lovely little track is taken from GOLDEN OMENS, the seventh album by The Soft Hearted Scientists, who, over two CDs, have created a whimsical soundtrack for a blissful psychedelic afternoon. Split into four parts, it’s chock-full of unique instrumentation, pastoral flourishes and off-kilter moments of sublime beauty. The songs explore weird psychic terrains, between which instrumental interludes take you along pathways of charmed bucolic simplicity, each tinged with a lysergic quality that makes this my favourite band amongst favourite bands. Sometimes I wish that that the instrumental soundscapes would turn into songs, but, really, this is an album of haunted folk music that exists in its own little self-contained bubble that welcomes me home whenever I hear it.

FAMILY     SCENE THROUGH THE EYES OF A LENS


Alongside Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move and The Nice, Family were one of the premier attractions on underground scene but somehow they never achieved the level of kudos of those aforementioned bands. These days they’re mostly famous for whipping the name MUSIC IN A DOLL'S HOUSE for their debut out from under The Beatles’ feet (and thus resulting in The White Album). Their debut single Scene Through The Eye of a Lens was released in 1967 and suggests a dose of healthy cynicism despite the Middle Eastern vibe they have going on.

THE MOVE     BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER


Taken from their second album SHAZAM, released in 1970, Beautiful Daughter is the gorgeous string-laden one on an album that was otherwise experimenting with heavy-prog riffage and studio invention that would ultimately lead to Electric Light Orchestra.

GROUP 1850     I PUT MY HAND ON YOUR SHOULDER


Group 1850 (or Groep 1850, to give them their correct name) was a Dutch psychedelic rock band that was founded in 1964 in The Hague. They never achieved success outside the Netherlands but are now, on the whole, considered one of the most innovative acid rock bands from the era. I Put My Hand On Your Shoulder is taken from the band’s debut album AGEMO’S TRIP TO MOTHER EARTH, released in 1968. It owes a lot to the late-'60s school of Pink Floyd-influenced British psychedelia, with a hint or two of the onset of progressive rock-isms in the shape of plenty of melodic shifts, celestial organs, wiggling distorted guitars, harmonic vocals, Gregorian chant-like singing, phased drum soloing, solemnly intoned spoken female romantic exclamations, and multilingual murmuring. You know, that sort of thing.


TOI TOI TOI     A HOLOGRAM BLOSSOMING


A delightful interlude from Sebastian Counts, an electronic musician based in Berlin, who releases music under the name Toi Toi Toi. A Hologram Blossoming is taken from his debut album HOLLOW EARTH HIPPIES, originally released in 2011 but picked-up by Ghost Box and released last year. It fits their aesthetic quite nicely, taking in a timeless melange of ethnography, TV music and psychonautical exploration all rendered by analogue electronics, tape and samples. I’m almost duty bound to mention that ‘Toi toi toi’, as German speakers and fans of your opera will know, is a traditional wish of good luck, equivalent to "break a leg".

US 69     2069 A SPACE ODDITY



US 69 were psychedelic rock group from Connecticut with tripped-out jazz undercurrents and rough funky edges. Their debut album, YESTERDAY’S FOLKS, released in 1969, combines sitar-led Eastern influences with psychedelic, jazz, rock, soul, and funk, which all comes together in the epic 2069 A Space Oddity. I wonder who got there first with that whole 'Space Oddity’ thing?

JAMES FASSETT      STRANGE TO YOUR EARS



Just a snippet of the sort of musique concrete experiments carried out in 1953 by Jim Fassett, musical director for CBS Radio and the intermission announcer for the New York Philharmonic. This was back in the day when tape recorders were new technology, allowing Jim to make all kinds of experimentation of the ‘did you know you could record something - and then SPEED IT UP or SLOW IT DOWN - and make it sound WACKY??!!’ variety. He was especially enamoured with de-tuning birdsongs and punching out the long tones in order to program new melodies and harmonies, which he explored in greater detail on his 1960 LP SYMPHONY OF THE BIRDS. This track is an excerpt from his 1955 release STRANGE TO YOUR EARS.

BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE     CREATION



This is probably my favourite track on this evening’s show - the Stereolab referencing Brazilian Tropicália of Creation from Beyond The Wizards Sleeve’s debut album proper THE SOFT BOUNCE. Jane Weaver’s sultry, light and dusty vocals hypnotise the palette whilst the production itself is the trippiest thing you’ll hear this year. Absolutely gorgeous.

BROADCAST AND THE FOCUS GROUP     YOU MUST WAKE



A hauntological vignette taken from 2009’s BROADCAST AND THE FOCUS GROUP INVESTIGATE WITCH CULTS OF THE RADIO AGE, an album that’s the aural equivalent of opening a dusty wardrobe and having an entire childhood tumble down on your head.

PRAM     PICTUREBOX



Another vignette – this time by Pram, whose analogue doodlings and hopscotch rhythms put them broadly in the same hauntological environs as Broadcast in their courting of the actively uncanny. Picturebox is taken from their 5th album, THE MUSEUM OF IMAGINARY ANIMALS, released in 2000.

GOD HELP THE GIRL     PRETTY WHEN THE WIND BLOWS



Neither psychedelic, hauntologically inclined or imbued with acid folk whimsy, but quite lovely nevertheless. Pretty When The Wind Blows is taken from the soundtrack to Stuart Murdoch’s GOD HELP THE GIRL, the movie based around his Belle and Sebastian side project, also called God Help The Girl. Now, Emily Browning is a very fine actress but not so good as a singer, but this is what, I think, gives this particular track a fragile charm all of its own. Having watched the film again recently, I couldn’t help but wonder how very pretty the song would be under advantageous conditions (shall we say). I can’t wait to find out. I’m lucky – when I get as lost as this, I have someone who will always find me.

MARY ARCHES     WHITE BIRD OF THE OXENHAMS



Legend tells of the White Bird of the Oxenham’s, an ancient Devonshire family for whom, according to tradition, the visit of a white bird foretells of a death in the family. Some stories say it is a dove, others that the bird is a thrush or a ring ouzel, all seem to agree that the bird has a white breast, the mythical status of which makes it the perfect topic for Folklore Tapes to investigate. Folklore Tapes is an ongoing research and heritage project exploring the folkloric arcana of the farthest-flung recesses of Great Britain and beyond. Traversing the mysteries, myths, nature, magic, topography and strange phenomena of the old counties through abstracted musical reinterpretation and experimental visuals. White Bird Of The Oxenhams, then, presented by the mysterious Mary Arches, is not so much a piece of music as an experimental psycho-geographical interpretation of that myth, which appears on side 2 of the tape cassette only release: DEVON FOLKORE TAPES VOL. V – ORNITHOLOGY, which was made available in 2013. It will take you very far out, indeed, but won’t have you tapping your foot. I’ve recently become a big fan of Folklore Tapes. You can check them out here if you wish.

MAX RICHTER     PATH 5 (DELTA)



This gorgeous piece is taken from Max Richter’s 2014 release FROM SLEEP, an hour long ambient post-minimalist piece that accompanied his epic concept album SLEEP – an 8 hour lullaby to be listened to while asleep. FROM SLEEP, on the other hand, was designed to be listened to while fast awake. Path 5 (Delta) features the ethereal voice of British soprano singer, and baroque specialist, Grace Davidson, whose wordless vocals magically connects her singing with the age-old tradition of the lullaby. It’s a warm, slow-moving daydream with no sharp edges and a self-consciously hazy sound, as if recorded next door or underwater. Spellbindingly beautiful.

MARK PRITCHARD     YOU WASH MY SOUL



Mark Pritchard has produced so much music under so many guises it’s almost impossible to follow a common thread within them. For his current album UNDER THE SUN, he’s adopted a deeply atmospheric and richly impressionistic approach that applies ambient, folk and cinematic tropes to a blippy analog palette, which suggests the influence of Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop on this particular project. On You Wash My Soul he records with the semi-legendary folk artist Linda Perhacs who brings an ageless, willowy psychedelia to the mix. Lovely.

BLACK MOUNTAIN     SPACE TO BAKERSFIELD


  
Canadian stoner-prog from Black Mountain who, on their fourth album, the aptly titled IV, create an astral sci-fi lullaby out of cosmic riffage for album closer Space To Bakersfield.

FLYING SAUCER ATTACK     FEEDBACK SONG



Flying Saucer Attack were, and possibly still are, an English experimental space-rock, drone-pop band that formed in 1992. They could be undeniably impenetrable, but they were equally capable of creating evocative instrumental miniatures, folky near-songs, and extended spatial explorations that were very much at home amid the white-noise din and the bassy pulse of analog noisemakers that evoked the spaciness of early '70s synth music. I think that sums up Feedback Song very nicely. It can be found on their 1995 album CHORUS, a collection of singles, compilation cuts, and the entirety of a John Peel radio session.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

MIND DE-CODER 65

MIND DE-CODER 65


‘It is safer to live in dreams, my friend. There we shall meet the lovers we never had. We can listen to the most wonderful music there, that which does not deserve to be played in the real world’.
                                      Anon.

BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE     THIRD MYND (BTU REWORK)


Following the release of Beyond The Wizards Sleeve debut album proper, THE SOFT BOUNCE, earlier this year, the second most exciting thing to happen was news that they’d given over a couple of tracks for the remix treatment from Daniel Avery, who takes on the title track, and producers Babe Terror and U, who take album closer Third Mynd and recast it as a mind-bending sixteen minute collage of found sound, drone and atmosphere; a 12” only vinyl release of expansive, psychedelic beats. In actual fact, it’s not quite as good as it sounds – it sort of peters out towards the end (it probably works better in a club) so I have it drift away and otherwise be consumed by…

THE MOON WIRING CLUB     FUNERAL CRITIQUE


…taken from the album PLAYCLOTHES FROM FAR AWAY PLACES, the 2015 release from Ian Hodgson, who, on this album, creates a sound that’s reminiscent of the music once heard in the half-remembered dream of a Jacobean fashion show in which the models wore on their faces the masks of woodland creatures.  

THE CHEMISTRY SET     ALBERT HOFFMAN


The Chemistry Set have been going for ages. Founded by Dave Mclean and Paul Lake in 1987, the band are veterans of the alternative Manchester scene in which they helped pioneer the late 1980’s neo-psychedelic boom. Albert Hoffman is taken from the album THE ENDLESS MORE AND MORE, released in 2015 on the semi-legendary Fruits De Mer record label. It features a combination of singles released by Fruits De Mer and new recordings which, overall, capture the spirit of Syd led Pink Floyd and Tomorrow Never Knows led Beatles quite nicely, thank you very much. Knowingly vintage, but that’s no bad thing when the songs are as good as this.

I enjoyed the short film LYSERGIC 2016 by J.L. Travis so much I plundered it shamelessly. He’s using this on the soundtrack…


POND     OUTSIDE IS THE RIGHT SIDE


This is taken from Pond’s 2015 release MAN, IT FEELS LIKE SPACE AGAIN, apparently named after an observation made by band member and sometimes Tame Impala drummer Jay Watson while coming down from a trip. Pond are, in fact, Tame Impala’s wilder cousins, taking their music off into deranged psych-bent territories and seem to have a lot more fun doing so than Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala, despite the fact that at least three members of Pond appear to be in Tame Impala, and that Kevon Parker has played drums in Pond on occasions.

BILLY NICHOLLS     LONDON SOCIAL DEGREE


This is probably my favourite track on this evening’s show. Billy Nicholls was originally hired by Andrew Loog Oldham as a staff writer for Oldham's Immediate Records at the tender age of 16. Oldham was so entranced by the Beach Boys' 1966 album, Pet Sounds that he enlisted songwriter Nicholls to record a British response. Oldham wanted this to be the British Pet Sounds but Nicholls was no Brian Wilson and despite studio sessions utilizing the likes of The Small Faces, Nicky Hopkins and John Paul Jones, the project lacked the depth and emotional resonance of The Beach Boys record, which is not to say that the resulting album, WOULD YOU BELIEVE, is without its own pleasures, not least Oldham’s baroque arrangements and airy multi-part harmonies. Unfortunately financial difficulties with the label caused it to be shelved after an initial promotional run of 100 copies were sent off to local radio stations in 1968, causing it to become one of the great lost artefacts of the sixties. It finally saw full release in 1998 on Nicholl’s own label and it’s well worth tracking this pop gem down for London Social Degree alone.

THE PRETTY THINGS     WALKING THROUGH MY DREAMS


A rather fine single, released in 1967, as a double A-side with Talking About The Good Times, by a band operating at the height of their psychedelic arc. Goodness me, though, could they have picked a more ironic name?

MICHAEL WARREN AND GREY MALKIN     JUGBAND BLUES


This lovely track comes courtesy of a collaboration between hauntologically inspired folk collective The Hare and The Moon’s Grey Malkin and multi-instrumentalist Michael Warren, who have released a free download called THE OTHER ROOM: A TRIBUTE TO SYD BARRETT in which they take three of his best known songs somewhere altogether farther out and darker, like the darkness you find in the middle of the Wild Wood. Jugband Blues, is a particularly dreamy, hallucinogenic trip through Syd’s fractured psyche – they manage to make it a surprisingly pleasant place to visit, the Wild Wood, but you probably wouldn’t want to live there.

HOWARD MENGER     AUTHENTIC MUSIC FROM ANOTHER PLANET


… and then there’s Howard Menger, an individual who, at the age of ten was playing in the woods near his home in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, when he claims that he encountered a beautiful blonde from Venus wearing a “ski-type outfit.” It was the first in a series of alleged contacts with extra-terrestrials that culminated in the alleged landing of an interplanetary spacecraft at Menger’s house in High Bridge, New Jersey in 1956, a trip to the moon and a musical transmission from Saturn that Menger was instructed to deliver to the human race. He later recounted his experiences in books and on the lecture circuit, and in 1955 self-released the album Authentic Music from Another Planet, which combines Menger's voice-over narration with his interpretation of the melodies he discovered during his interplanetary exploration. If there are aliens out there then they are fans of the accordion, that’s all I’m saying…
While he recounts his adventures, I play a couple of tracks behind him. They are…

JAMES ASHER     COSMIC DUST


James Asher was a composer and producer who, in 1981, released an album called ABSTRACTS on the semi-legendary Studio G record label who specialize in quirky, electronic music with a Heath Robinson production-vibe. It was a library record of progressive electronic sounds combined with huge cold and funky saturated phased-out drum-breaks which went on to become the source of many a break-beat sample some years later. I came across it while researching the superb Cosmic Dust, which appeared on the album G-SPOTS, a retrospective of the spacey folk electro-horror sounds of the Studio G, released by the ‘quirky’ and ever reliable Trunk Records in 2009.

LUSTMORD   DARK MATTER MEDLEY


Lustmord is the name by which dark ambient pioneer Brian Williams, a Welsh industrial musician, sound designer and film score composer releases his recordings – a genre I believe he created. Dark Matter Medley is a taster for his first album in 15 years or so, DARK MATTER, a project derived from an audio library of cosmological activity recorded between 1993 and 2003, It was gathered from various sources including NASA (Cape Canaveral, Ames, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Arecibo), The Very Large Array, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and various educational institutions and private contributors throughout the USA. It is, essentially, a recording of electromagnetic vibrations, radio galaxies, pulsars masers and quasars, charged particle interactions and emissions, radiation, exotic astrophysical objects, cosmic jets and flares from magnetars – music of the stars, in fact.


PAPER DOLLHOUSE     RITUALS AND PRACTICES (excerpt)


In 2014, Folklore Tapes, an open-ended research project exploring the vernacular arcana of Great Britain and beyond, launched their periodic folk tradition series ‘Calendar Customs’, in which they trace ancestral roots much further back than 1846, when the term ‘folklore’ was said to be first coined by W.J Thomas. Originally a tape-cassette only release, but recently remastered for 10” vinyl, DEVON FOLKLORE TAPES VOL. IV, is part of an ever-unfurling series of forays into the rites and customs of our ancient forbears. On Side 1, Paper Dollhouse, the name by which Astrud Steehouder, a singer, composer and producer whose work veers between folk-ish acoustica and longer pieces of haunting acoustica, responds to the general idea and definition of the term ritual by conducting a ceremony within a circle of trees and stone. It really is quite lovely but I only play an excerpt, hoping to return to it another day.

NICHOLAS ALLBROOK     GOODE (WHEN WE WERE AWAKE)


Nicholas Allbrook sings with Pond, plays with Tame Impala and occasionally releases blistering, fucked-up psychedelic explorations in his own right. Goode (When We Were Young) is taken from his 2015 release, the unapologetically anarchic WALRUS EP, on which he crafts tunes that are often impenetrable but never less than summery, intergalactic fun (in a distorted, melancholic sort of way).

THE MONOCHROME SET     WISTERIA


Earlier this year The Monochrome Set finally released their companion piece to 1983’s round up radio sessions and singles VOLUME, CONTRAST, BRILLIANCE… VOL 1, with the enticingly entitled VOLUME, CONTRAST, BRILLIANCE… VOL. 2 - a set of demos recorded between 1978 and 1991, some of which became songs and some of which remained unconsidered dainties. Even by their standards, Wisteria, recorded in 1987, is an oddity; less surf guitar twang and more the full-on Tomorrow Never Knows psychedelic assault, all Indian instrumentation and backwards tapes – and it stills manages to sound ironic and arch.

BIFF BANG POW!    A DAY OUT WITH JEREMY CHESTER


Biff Bang Pow! were Creation Records founder Alan McGee’s music making endeavour, of course, and while never climbing the giddy heights of many of the acts in his roster, they made music between 1983 and 1991 releasing some 7 albums or so. A Day Out With Jeremy Chester is taken from their debut album PASS THE PAINTBRUSH, HONEY, released in 1985, a glorious mix of mod, psychedelia and new wave influences that combined reckless nostalgia with spiky neo-garage pop charm.


BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE     THIRD MYND


After re-animating obscure psychedelia and krautrock to play at dj sessions, Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve finally release a debut album proper and it’s not at all what I was expecting. What I was expecting, I guess, was something along the lines of that remix they made of Temples’ SUN STRUCTURES album – warped psychedelic sounds with bucolic flourishes, laden down with phased special effects and backwards guitars, but it turns out the album is an impressively eclectic affair that goes far beyond such genre limitations and is a trip in the wildest sense. However, all that other stuff, the warped psychedelic sounds, bucolic flourishes, phased special effects and backwards guitars all coalesce together into the closing track, where all that promise is fulfilled – the deeply hallucinogenic Third Mynd, in which author Jon Savage mixes it all together with an extended spoken word narrative that plays with the basic tenants of perception. It’s pretty far out stuff.

KIM FOWLEY     UP, CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE, DOWN


…as is this – three tracks from Kim Fowley’s 1968 release OUTRAGEOUS, on which he rants, raves, seethes, spits, burps, curses, declaims, screams and hollers his way across a heavily psychedelic set of knuckle-scraping rock-outs that recall a post-lobotomy Doors attempting an MC5 b-side while piled in the back of a inexpertly driven truck. On ice. And drugs. On the moon. Recorded in one single six hour session, Fowley improvised every snarling, proto-punk word. Generally sounding either on the point of orgasm or vomiting his guts up, there are few - if any - records that sound like this.

KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD     MR. BEAT


For their latest release King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard piece together 9 discretely recorded, separately titled songs, and loop them together as its final notes connect perfectly with the album’s opening. Constructed as an infinite loop, it’s a heavier, more feral affair than recent releases although Mr Beat takes its foot off the gas somewhat, instead choosing to fuse motorik beats with Seventies prog rock tropes that romp along with psychedelic gay abandon that also seems to point towards the dancefloor.

THE AVALANCHES     COLOURS


Colours is the sound of sun-dappled sunlight on an enchanted (or, indeed, enchanting) woodland glade. Taken from WILDFLOWER, their sophomore release that took some 16 years in the making, it’s a lysergic mix of backward beats, warbly guitar, and wide-eyed vocals awed by the overpowering beauty of the world. Gorgeous.


HINTERMASS     FROM LEAVING IN MEANING


This lovely track is taken from THE APPLE TREE, the first LP from Hintermass –a collaboration between Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle and Tim Felton, formerly of Broadcast - following their Study Series single for Ghost Box in 2011. It’s a hauntologically-inspired acid folk album, or possibly an acid-folk inspired hauntological album, but most of all it’s a pop album; mannered and serene, blurry and warm-vibed, very much at home to the Ghost Box aesthetic and really quite delightful.

CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM     CRICKET AND THE GENIE MOVEMENT II 
– ORATORIO DI CRICKET    
                                                                                                                                                 
             

The Claypool Lennon Delirium is Primus’ vocalist and bassist Les Claypool and Julian Lennon, collaborating on an album which, like the title MONOLITH OF PHOBOS suggests, is an old-school psychedelic-space-rock prog record. Based loosely on Buzz Aldrin's assertion that there is a rock purposely placed on Mars' "tater-shaped" moon, the album is a giddy trip into the galactic reaches of outer space. With meandering guitar, elastic bass, trippy flourishes, clever flights of fancy and some of the tightest musicianship this side of the galaxy, MONOLITH OF PHOBOS reveals a new dimension of sound that has room for devilish tunes about monkeys, outer space and sexual deviancy.

LET’S EAT GRANDMA     DEEP SIX TEXTBOOK


Let’s Eat Grandma are Jenny Hollingsworth and best friend Rosa Wilton who started writing together at the age of 13. Now 16 and 17, they’ve just released their debut album, I, GEMENI, that’s both surreal and dense, with guitar, synthesiser, saxophone, glockenspiel, recorder and vocals that lurch from sugary to shouty in a way they’ve referred to as experimental sludge pop. I fell in love with them the moment I heard Deep Six Textbook, a deep, brooding affair that puts me in mind of FAITH-era Cure and Lorde, although in truth they inhabit a world of the own making that taps into the same collective unconscious of nursery rhymes and folktales that defines English psychedelia.

9BACH     SWI HWI HWI



Ethereal weird-folk loveliness from Bach9, whose latest album, ANIAN, is dominated by the exquisite vocals of Lisa Jên who brings a sense of transcendental wonder and endless forgiveness to Swi Hwi Hwi, an old Welsh folk song written in 1850s as a response to the slave trade, sung from the perspective of a black woman who is singing to her child on their last night together before the baby will be killed and she will be bound in chains. The whole album is this good and is pretty much my album of the year thus far.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

MIND DE-CODER 64


I wish there was some hip way of telling you this, baby, but, ah... you're one with and part of an ever-expanding, loving, joyful, glorious, and harmonious universe.
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                             The Trip


@PEACE     WEIGHTLESS


This is the opening track from the album @PEACE AND THE PLUTONIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA that was recommended to me by the owner of Marbecks, Auckland’s premier record store after I mentioned to him that I was planning a psychedelic hip hop edition of Mind De-Coder. @PEACE were an NZ hip hop collective who, on this, their third and final album, released in 2014, come across as something like The Clangers meets the Sun Ra Arkestra somewhere over the rainbow in la-la land, by which, of course, I mean that it’s an intriguing sound that they’ve conjured up – it takes all the tropes of hip hop and then plays around with them, sending them off into unexpected directions, and otherwise defying all expectations so that you’re never entirely sure what’s going to happen next; almost like a wet-dream definition of Mind De-Coder, in fact.

RAYMOND SCOTT     A BIGGER, MORE IMPORTANT SOUND


Raymond Scott was one of the great unheralded pioneers of contemporary experimental music, a figure whose genius and influence seems to have seeped almost subliminally into the mass cultural consciousness. These days he’s mostly known for the use of his music in Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons (although I use the words ‘mostly known’ in some rather vague sense of the term) but in less celebrated circles was known for his avant-garde concepts and his experimentation with electronic music and musique concrète. Anyway, many of his pioneering ideas regarding exactly what you could do to recorded music were adopted by your trip hop and mash-up artists, resulting in this album, RAYMOND SCOTT REWIRED, released in 2014 and featuring a selection of 19 Scott tunes remixed, edited, looped, flipped, stretched, tweaked with equalization, pitch-shifted, compressed, and subjected to all manner of digital cosmetology by The Bran Flakes, The Evolution Control Committee and Go Home Productions. It’s not quite as god as it sounds, but this opening track, A Bigger, More Important Sound, mixed by the ECC, gives an indication of how good the rest of the album was, no doubt, supposed to have sounded.

ST. ETIENNE     FILTHY (PLANET L REMIX)


Filthy is an early recording by St. Etienne that they enjoyed so much they returned to it a couple of times, even making a it a double-A side when they re-released their debut single Only Love Can Break Your Heart in 1991. Made before (the lovely) Sarah Cracknell joined the band, it features 15 year old schoolgirl Q-Tee on vocals, rapping over some dubby, spacious sounds that include a nicely realised glockenspiel and a wah-wah guitar, sampled from House Of The Rising Funk by Afrique, a studio band formed in Los Angeles whose only album, SOUL MAKOSSA, is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect the boys from St. Etienne to be familiar with.

NEOTROPIC     MR BRUBAKER’S STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK


With a title like that you’d expect Neotropic to be the sort of drug-addled communal West Coast hippies who’d knock out this sort of thing while sharing an incense befuddled pad next door to Jefferson Airplane or something. In fact, Neotropic is one Ms. Riz Maslen, who’s second LP, MR BRUBAKER’S STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK, released in 1998, is a sampledelic confection of psychedelic techno-inspired beats that, in the title track at least, does seem to have one foot very much in the 60s and the other in the 90s. Very trippy.

DJ SPOOKY     JUBA


…and speaking of trippy, it doesn’t get better than DJ Spooky - That Subliminal Kid (Paul Miller to his mum), turntablist, producer, philosopher, author and Professor of Music Mediated Art, who’s illbient beats (don’t ask) merge avant-garde theories of musique concrète with the kind of un-easy hip hop rhythms inspired by the likes of Sun Ra and Kool Herc. His debut album, SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER, released in 1996, is a total exploration of sound and atmosphere, urban meditation grooves, which showcase his dexterity with samplers, decks, keyboards and the odd bit of bass guitar.

FUNKI PORCINI     KING ASHABANAPAL PT. 1


Funki Porcini (James Braddell to his mum) released his debut album in 1995 after returning to England from Italy, where he’d spent ten years penning film and TV music. HED PHONE SEX was the result of a committed trawl through local charity shops in a search of strange, records and flexi-discs, all of which were fed into a sampler and spat out as swirling, reverb-drenched snippets, woozy BPM’s, dubby textures, opium-inspired slow-breaks and dusty hip-hop rhythms. It’s also a little bit sleazy. It’s good; I like it.

HYDROGEN VS. BOOST     FREESTYLE RAP BATTLE (TRANSLATED)




Makes me laugh. All I did was add a hip hop beat.

DJ SHADOW AND CUT CHEMIST     PRODUCT PLACEMENT, PART 2 (excerpt)



This terrific little mix, taking in some killer scratching and cutting, Union, The New Seekers and The Ivor Raymonde Orchestra, can be found on PRODUCT PLACEMENT, the brilliant and highly regarded release from DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. The CD was on sale only at gig venues on DJ Shadows tours between about 2001–2003 and only 6000 were printed up, so owning a copy bestows a certain cachet. It comprises 2 long tracks, 30 minutes each (you get only an excerpt here), and a set-list involving the sort of rare funk, soul and other neglected classics one usually finds in dusty cardboard boxes in abandoned warehouses. One of the coolest CDs I own.

THE WOODSHED     BRAINCLAG



I don’t know much about this band at all, but Brainclag appears on their album, HIGHBURY FIELDS FOREVER: COLLECTED TALES, released in 1997 as a round-up of their dub heavy club releases. That sample: ‘Turn the machines back on, turn the machines back on!’ is from that 1983 classic Trading Places, of course.

DELTRON 3030     3030



Deltron 3030 is a collaboration between Dan the Automator, Del the Funky Homosapien and Kid Koala who between them created that rarest of things, a hip-hop concept album (hip hopera, anyone?) set in the year 3030 that tells of the fight by Deltron Zero (Del's alter ego) against huge corporations that rule the universe. Actually, I don’t know whether concept albums are a rare thing or not in the hip hop community. For all I know, all hip hop albums are concept albums about something or other – urban angst, or gardening perhaps. They seem to do a lot of gardening.  On this album, DELTRON 3030, released in 2000, there’s not many references to gardening, but it’s filled with sumptuous, densely layered soundscapes that often resemble a film score and also features cameo appearances by Damon Albarn, Prince Paul and Sean Lennon.

UNKLE     I NEED SOMETHING STRONGER



According to The Bumper Book of Hip Hop Myths and Legends, Mo’Wax founder James Lavelle's debut album as UNKLE, the long-simmering pet project PSYENCE FICTION, helmed by his then-UNKLE co-conspirator DJ Shadow and released in 1998, still ranks as one of the most anti-climactic and jaw-dropping disappointments released unto the public. I’m no fan of the album myself, so I approached Lavelle’s follow-up, NEVER NEVER LAND, released in 2006, with some trepidation.  It’s not entirely different to the first album - he still trades in texture and atmosphere, favouring sweeping strings, cinematic grandeur, a mix of pop sensibilities with downtempo music, and an obsession with science fiction, but it does contain the ethereal electronica of I need Something Stronger, which includes a collaboration with Brian Eno and Jarvis Cocker, which I think is quite lovely.

NINA SIMONE    NOBODY’S FAULT BUT MINE



Not hip hop at all, of course, but tell me this record didn’t influence Portishead in some way or other and I’d happily spend 10 minutes arguing the contrary, especially if I was in a pub, mildly interested in having a conversation and had recently enjoyed four or five pints of bitter. Sadly, none of those conditions seem to happen very much anymore so can I just say that Nobody’s Fault But Mine, from Simone’s 1969 release NINA SIMONE AND PIANO, is one of the three tracks I want played at my funeral and I’ve been looking for a way to get it on the show for ages.

MASSIVE ATTACK VS THE MAD PROFESSOR     RADIATION RULING THE NATION



…or Protection (Radiation For The Nation) as it’s also sometimes called. What is there to say about Protection? It’s one of the most sublime recordings ever; Tracy Thorn’s vocals are so forlorn they make loneliness intoxicating, and I had a very agreeable experience listening to it one afternoon while cat sitting in a cottage in deepest Devon. This is the version that opens the Mad Professor’s hypnotic dub remix of 1995’s PROTECTION album. Called NO PROTECTION it’s an extended detour into a slow, pulsating beats, extensive reverb and the occasional vocal which fade in-and-out in typical dub stylee. Transcendentally lovely.

TRICKY     ABBAON FAT TRACKS



First time listened to Tricky’s debut album MAXINQUAYE I thought it sounded like something beamed in from another planet – or somewhere in Bristol, whatever’s nearest – I’d never heard anything like it before. It sounds resolutely haunting, disturbing, and surprising even after countless spins. It's an album that exists outside of time and outside of trends, a record whose clanking rhythms, tape haze, murmured vocals, shards of noise, reversed gender roles, alt-rock asides, and soul samplings create a ghostly netherworld fused with seductive menace and paranoia. Abbaon Fat Tracks – I don’t even know what the title means, or how to pronounce ‘Abbaon’ – is without precedent; stops me dead in my tracks whenever I hear it. The way Martina Topley-Bird, then 19, sings is pure sleaze. It’s brilliant, an artefact. MAXINQUAYE was an album of its time, but outside of its time; it belongs to a category beyond that of mere genre. The other album I listened to a lot in 1995 was Oasis’s DEFINITELY MAYBE, released a year earlier, but it’s MAXINQUAYE I return to, time and time again over the years, just trying to figure out what it is I’m listening to.

TRANQUILITY BASS     THEY CAME IN PEACE



They Came in Peace (Sea of Tranquillity) is, in many ways, your definitive Trip Hop track, mixing down-tempo hip hop beats with a chilled, jazz- haunted vibe, combined with a suitably enigmatic spoken word sample. Tranquillity Bass was the stage name of Michael Kandel, who died in 2015. By all accounts he was a forward-thinking, well-intentioned kind of guy, and They Came in Peace, released in 1993, is generally regarded as something of an ambient-house classic which can otherwise be found on the EP BROADCAST STANDARD ISSUE No. 1, released 1994.

KID KOALA     VACATION ISLAND/BAR HOPPER 2
















Kid Koala is something of a renaissance man among your hip hop artists - DJ, turntablist, musician and an author of graphic novels (although perhaps not quite as renaissance-y as DJ Spooky, now I come to think of it). I’ve included two tracks from two different superb albums because I didn’t want to choose one over the other. Vacation Island, which I’ve tampered a little with myself (in the spirit of things, you understand), is taken from his 2003 release SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE DJ’S, a brief, jazz-tinged inebriated album, filled with strange samples of eccentric characters pontificating on their record collections and audio systems, whilst Bar Hopper 2 can be found on his playful, debut release, the aptly named CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME from 2000, which makes heavy use of dialogue snippets from movies and TV shows, instructional records, and other obscure sources that took some four years to assemble.

LAUREL AND HARDY     THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE




Not Hip Hop at all, but the sort of thing that fits the show like a glove – I’m sure Kid Koala could have some fun with this, but I play it straight (on account of not actually having any turntables myself, if I’m honest). Originally written by Barry MacDonald and Harry Carroll in 1913, it featured, of course, in Laurel and Hardy’s classic motion picture (they were called motion pictures in them days) WAY OUT WEST in 1937. It was released as a single in 1975, and reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart, thanks largely to being championed by John Peel on his evening show. Who knew?

LUKE VIBERT     SO LONG (OUTRO)



Luke Vibert has operated under various pseudonyms, each of which operate within different spectrums of hip hop culture. In 1997 he made his debut release under his own name. Called BIG SOUP, it lies closer to straight-ahead hip-hop than any of his previous projects, with great production and vocal samples that offer a slew of devious and sometimes subliminal pranks throughout, creating a soundscape all of their own.

PORTISHEAD     AIRBUS RECONSTRUCTION




I couldn’t complete the show without Portishead, the band that did most to define the Trip Hop aesthetic, but I was reluctant to play Sour Times (arguably their own most definitive track) because it would have been, well, a little too predictable – step forward Airbus Reconstruction, a storming cover of the track by fellow Bristol band Airbus, featuring Beth Gibbons on vocals. You could find this as one of the extra tracks on the b-side of the single, Sour Times, released in 1994.