MIND DE-CODER 71
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“Have your own little revolution NOW!”
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE EXP
AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE was Hendrix’s second release of 1967 following his ground-breaking debut earlier that year. It shows a band stretching in all areas, not just musically but in terms of song-craft as well. It’s a fantastic listen, full of proper songs and therefore not quite as mind-bending as ARE YOU EXPERIENCED. It does however feature the highly avant garde EXP as its opening salvo showing the playful sense of experimentalism that defined the first album was merely bubbling under the surface for this one. Wouldn’t it be great if bands these days could knock out a couple of radically innovative albums a year (or any sort of album, really, let’s face it) instead of making us wait three or four years between releases? Of course, that’s when being in a band meant something.
THE LUCK OF EDEN HALL SLOW
For their most recent release, Chicago’s The Luck Of Eden Hall have produced a glorious technicolour journey through time that plays around with all of our perceptions of what that could actually mean on a psychedelic record. On THE ACCELERATION OF TIME, released in 2016, time is speeded up and slowed down; dreamscapes unfold and are put back together again; sound is distorted, stretched, and collapsed, ceaselessly shifting and yet, and this is the important thing, never at a cost to the tunes, which are fabulous and dizzying and, in the case of Slow, the album’s opening track, feature the mellotron, which is always a fine thing.
PINK FLOYD MATILDA MOTHER
Sometimes it physically pains me that I never got to visit UFO and see house bands Pink Floyd, Tomorrow and The Soft Machine play whilst tripping my balls off on a sugar cube of Sandoz’s finest. Really, it just stops me dead in my tracks sometime that I will never have got to see Tomorrow play live at UFO and just like that my day is ruined. I console myself that I got to see Doctor and The Medics play countless times at Alice In Wonderland in the 80s, but that’s all it is, a consolation. So, to console myself once more I put together the next three tracks just to remind myself of exactly how good it would have been.
This version of Matilda Mother seems to be an earlier recording of the track that graces 1967’s PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN, featuring lyrics Barrett more or less lifted from Belloc's ‘Cautionary Tales’, much to the evident displeasure of Hilaire Belloc’s estate, who promptly denied him permission to use them, resulting in a re-write and the version we are more familiar with. This version appears on their recent box set PINK FLOYD: THE EARLY YEARS 1965-1972 but I understand you can also find it on the considerably less expensive compilation, AN INTRODUCTION TO SYD BARRETT in 2010.
TOMORROW THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF TIMOTHY CHASE
My regard for Tomorrow is unbound – they were the band I most regret never having had the opportunity to see play (what with me being two at the time and all) and, if you could have stuck them on a bill with Jimi Hendrix, I would have considered that a good night out. (This actually happened.)
The Incredible Story Of Timothy Chase is from their only album proper, TOMORROW, released 1968. Despite being regulars at UFO (for UFOria, you understand) fame eluded them, partly because their album, recorded in the spring of 1967 was held back until February of the next year, during which time London’s brief love affair with psychedelia was beginning to wane, and partly because singer Keith West so busy promoting the hit single Excerpt From A Teen Opera, for which he provided the vocal, that he no longer had time for the band which, in the wake of his solo success, the record company was now calling ‘Keith West and Tomorrow’, much to the chagrin of the rest of the band. The album is as fine an artefact of psychedelic London as you could ever hope to hear featuring two of my favourite tracks from the 60s, but it’s not a great album, not in the way that PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN is a great album, if you see what I mean, but I feel they could have made an album that good if the psychedelic dice of destiny had just rolled another way.
SOFT MACHINE WE DID IT AGAIN
This is the track where Soft Machine also casually invent krautrock alongside the progressive jazz-rock they’re more noted for. Taken from their debut album THE SOFT MACHINE, also released in 1968, I understand they could stretch this track out for 15 minutes or more when playing live. Can you imagine? Far out.
THE MOVE FLOWERS IN THE RAIN
By contrast, The Move only ever played at UFO once, and by some accounts it didn’t go down too well with the audience of regulars. Never truly a psychedelic band, The Move were more likely to be under the influence of a pint or two of Newcastle Brown Ale than they were LSD, but that didn’t stop them flirting with the imagery of psychedelia and producing a number two hit with Flowers In The Rain in 1967. They had a pyrotechnic stage act the rivalled Hendrix and The Who, which resulted in the blissed-out flower children of UFO dodging exploding television sets and fireworks during their performance. They were never invited back.
Chaz Bundwick (Toro Y Moi to his fans) has been making idiosyncratic music since his debut in 2010. Musician and producer, his music has taken on many forms but he is often identified with the rise of the chillwave movement in 2010 and 2011. Earlier this year he teamed up with The Mattson 2, a jazz duo from California, and together they produced the album STAR STUFF, an album that takes as its starting point Serge Gainsbourg’s louche production, David Axelrod’s avant garde themes, library records, desert jams, acid-soul struts and neon-punk-jazz which results in the kind of spectacular celestial jazz-prog that is currently ticking all the right boxes for me.
I’ve always been grateful for this one collaboration between Saint Etienne and Broadcast and wish it could have led to more. Saint Etienne’s particular blend of retro pop classicism always shared something with Broadcast’s own hauntological retro stylings, and we can only imagine what we’re missing (well, I can; you, more reasonably, might have no interest in it whatsoever). This track was featured on their 1996 release CASINO CLASSICS, a round-up of remixes, B-sides and especially commissioned pieces; in this case, the remix was released long before the original saw the light of day some years later on a fans-only release NICE PRICE! in 2006.
Beck’s follow-up to the hugely successful ODELAY was the deceptively simple MUTATIONS, released in 1998. By comparison to the former, it’s a subdued collection of acoustic-based, stripped-down, spacey folk-songs that nevertheless reveals more psychedelic layers upon each listen. Cancelled Check appears to be an old-timey country tune pitched half-way between country blues and lo-fi folk that then scatters off into off-time drumming and random sound effects that sounds as if it were pulled from a spaghetti Western. Marvellous.
My love for The Byrds is unabashed (at least until they went hairy in 1969) and I See You is one of their great album tracks. Taken from their ground-breaking 1966 release THE 5TH DIMENSION, their first without principle song-writer Gene Clark, I See You simply soars through the premise of it bubble-gum pop restrictions by featuring two Coltrane-type/Ravi Shankar inspired 12-string guitar solos that Roger McGuinn perfected for the album’s lead single Eight Miles High. The Byrds invented so many genres – this is the album where they invented psychedelic rock.
As the cover suggests, this is very much an album of two halves. Peter Baumann was one of the founder members of Tangerine Dream and was still a member when he released this, ROMANCE ’76, his debut solo album in 1976. Virgin-era Tangerine Dream are all over side 1 of the album, which is very reminiscent of STRATOSFEAR and ENCORE, both of which were released either side of this album. Side 2, however, largely taken up with Meadow Of Infinity, is a very different affair, mixing orchestral instruments - cellos, human voices, percussion – with mellotron and flute-like sounds to create a semi-classical tone poem that places it firmly in the kosmische era of krautrock. There’s actually a bridge to the two parts that I’ve left out but this, nevertheless, is something of a trip.
The second outing from Jimi Hendrix and the boys because, really, EST was more along the lines of a ‘thing’ than a song, say, and If Six Was Nine is by far (the second) most tripped out track on AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE; it soars with studio trickery over a tidal wave of guitar and a cacophonous army of Moroccan flutes.
Dzyan are one of the lesser-known Krautrock bands but their third and final album, ELECTRIC SILENCE, released in 1974, is life-affirmingly bold, taking in that exotic far-Eastern sound that other bands at the time were flirting with and taking it into the far-out realms of opium-den weirdness. Khali features two mellotrons, creating a swirling universe of sound for the sitars to float, trance-like, within, and is very beautiful and very strange. This is truly one of the lost gems from the Krautrock era
A splendid tripped-out interlude from The Sufis, whose eponymously titled debut album, released in 2012, is steeped in lysergic Rick Wright style organ work, vocals run through oscillators and all manner of vintage sounding studio trickery. This is what I want the light at the end of the tunnel to sound like.
This haunted offering of psych-folk wyrdness can be found on the recent release from the A Year In The Country Project, FROM THE FURTHEST SIGNALS, released earlier this year, which takes as its initial reference points films, television and radio programs that have been in part or completely lost or wiped during a period in history before archiving and replication of such work had gained today’s technological and practical ease. Curiously, such television and radio broadcasts may not be fully lost to the wider universe as they can travel or leak out into space and so may actually still exist far from their original points of transmission and places of creation, possibly in degraded, fractured form and/or mixed amongst other stellar noises and signals. The explorations of FROM THE FURTHEST SIGNALS are soundtracks imagined and filtered through the white noise of space and time; reflections on those lost tales and the way they can become reimagined via hazy memories and history, of the myths that begin to surround such discarded, lost to view or vanished cultural artefacts.
From The Furthest Signals is released as part of the A Year In The Country project, which via the posts on its website and music releases has carried out a set of year long explorations of an otherly pastoralism; the undercurrents and flipside of bucolic dreams, the further reaches of folk music and culture, work that takes inspiration from the hidden and underlying tales of the land and where such things meet and intertwine with the lost futures, spectral histories and parallel worlds of hauntological dimensions. You can check them out here.
Barely recognised at the time of its release in 1968, The Zombies’ second and final album, ODESSEY AND ORACLE, has since garnered a reputation as one of the great lost psychedelic masterpieces of its times. In actual fact, it’s not particularly psychedelic at all, but like The Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S, it is an album entirely informed by the spirit of psychedelia. Rather than employ the psychedelic tropes of, say, backwards guitars and astral exploration, ODESSEY AND ORACLE is an album of ornate, baroque arrangements, intricate song-writing craftsmanship and radiant harmonies, which expanded the limits of pop. Even the Emily of the title has less to do with Syd Barret’s muse and is based instead upon a short story by William Faulkner published in 1930. The misspelling of “Odyssey”, by the way, is due to the fact that they were too nice to correct their mate who painted the cover just for them.
This enchantingly decorous song is taken from the 2015 release SHIRLEY INSPIRED, a 3-cd homage to Shirley Collins, one of the iconic figures of the folk revival movement from the end of the fifties right to the end of the seventies. Sharron Kraus, a British artist very much in the school of subdued yet haunting folk herself, interprets Gilderoy (Heart’s Delight), a piece of music inspired by Shirley and Dolly's version of Gilderoy, a Scottish folk song that can be traced back to before the 17th Century, recorded by Shirley and her sister Dolly on their final album, FOR AS MANY AS WILL, in 1978. I believe all of the artists on this album, which include Graham Coxon, Belbury Poly, Will Oldham, Meg Baird, Angel Olson and lee Renaldo to name just six, gave their songs freely as part of a Kickstarter campaign that funded 'The Ballad of Shirley Collins' - a film that is currently being made about the Collin’s life.
Autumnal, brumous, candlelit folk from Alula Down, two members of Sproatly Smith (although I don’t know which members; if you were to show me a photograph of the band, I wouldn’t be able to pick them out or anything) but I get the impression that this is more than a side-project. Southampton Song has an air about it that puts one in mind of Nick Drake in all of his beautiful melancholy (or, indeed, melancholic beauty, but they all say that). It’s taken from the album FLOTSAM, recorded in 2013 at home with flotsam, voices, acoustic & electric guitars, a xylophone, double bass, frame drums, saucepans, spades, wine glasses, ambient sounds from outside the backdoor, a piano (that needs tuning), a banjo, shruti box, and melodica, so you can see why I might like them. I think at one time they may have been called Loud Flowers. Anyway, quite spectral and lovely.
This is just the first two or three minutes of a track in which the song that follows isn’t nearly half as good as the intro which precedes it. Andwella’s Dream were an Irish psychedelic rock band, formed in 1968, who remain largely unknown, I think, because despite using a number of psychedelic tropes - heavy progressive rock-tinged psychedelia with keyboards and folk-pop psych with strings and away with the fairies-type lyrics – they were never able to transcend them, and thus ended up sounding like a lot of other bands at that time. This track is taken from their only album under that name, LOVE AND POETRY, released in 1968.
Another track chosen from a never less than prolific A YEAR IN THE COUNTRYSIDE project, this one entitled THE RESTLESS FIELD, released earlier this year, and one on which the land as a place of conflict and protest as well as beauty and escape is studied. It’s a study filled with ancient-sounding folk, eerie reels, drones, found sounds, and electronica. Along the way it takes in an exploration and acknowledgment of places that are spectrally imprinted with past conflicts and struggles in the landscape and rural areas of the British countryside, in contrast with more often referred to urban events. References and starting points include The British Miners’ Strike of 1984 and the Battle Of Orgreave; Gerrard Winstanley & the Diggers/True Levellers in the 17th century; the first battle of the English Civil War in 1642; the burying of The Rotherwas Ribbon; the Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932; Graveney Marsh - the last battle fought on English soil; the Congested Districts Board- the 19th century land war in Ireland; and The Battle Of The Beanfield in 1985, none of which would count for anything if the music wasn’t up to much, but I always find these albums enormously enjoyable. I’ve no idea who Endurance are/is at all, though.
Like Willow’s Song, I think Spring Strathspey is one of the most sublime pieces of music ever written, and like Willow’s Song, it invites those musicians who have been spell-bound by its wondrous charms to have a go themselves, if they think they’re fey enough. The Owl Service are an Essex-based alternative folk collective who took their name from a slice of English cult culture, Alan Garner’s spellbinding novel of pre-Christian ritual set in a remote corner of Wales, which in turn became a late 1960s TV series that’s often considered a touchstone for hauntological musings. This gorgeous interpretation can be found on their album THE PATTERN BENEATH THE PLOUGH PARTS 1 AND 2, released back in 2011 as a collection of all their music released in that year, and it really is as ravishing as you could wish for.
A charming little piece from Euros Childs, whose new album, REFRESH!, released earlier this year, is full of such doodling’s. In fact, it’s made up in its entirety of them and very nice it is too. Some might even say charming.
A lovely little track taken from their 2014 release THE BEAST SHOUTED LOVE (I’m sure we must be due a new one any day now), an album of exquisite hauntologically-inspired acid-folk that would suit any room that possesses a working lava lamp. Magical.
This is the ambient one on their new album WEATHER DIARIES, released some 21 years after their previous album TARANTULA (the one which no one bought). It’s all very nice and good, and all, but it doesn’t entirely satisfy the palette jaded by all those years. I was really looking forward to it, especially when I heard Mind De-Coder favourite Erol Alkan was on board as producer, but despite that, it doesn’t have anything as remotely transcendent as Dreams Burn Down on it. Maybe we’re all a bit older now. That being said, and I don’t wish to damn it with faint praise, there’s nothing bad on it either; it's full of lovely little flourishes; it just doesn’t make me fall in love with the girl in the trouser shop, and at their best, Ride were always able to do that.
Tangerine Dream always pushed at the boundaries of exactly what psychedelic music could be, even if that wasn’t their explicit aim, but with PHAEDRA, released in 1974, they discover new dimensions as the title track weaves its way through a soundscape full of exquisite texture and rhythms, thanks to the addition of the newly invented analogue sequencer, which takes the music off into psychically ravishing directions. Enjoy this music and slip away into a dreamscape of ever changing colour.