Wednesday, 14 December 2016

MIND DE-CODER 67

 MIND DE-CODER 67


‘Let’s make a sound to lead us from the outside to the inside’
                                                                                             Florian Friche

OASIS     SHAKERMAKER (SLIDE UP MIX)


I know, I know, I know but who can deny that giddy rush of pop thrill when they heard Shakermaker for the first time? On DEFINITELY MAYBE, released in 1994, Oasis made no attempt to redefine rock ‘n’ roll, instead they inhabited it in all of its abandoned, sneering glory. This particular version of Shakermaker, put together by Oasis sound engineer Mark Coyle for the Japanese Deluxe Edition of the album’s 20th anniversary, states the bleedin' obvious and is all the more enjoyable because of it.

AMON DÜÜL     JAIL HOUSE FROG


Some very lovely Krautrock vibes from Amon Düül who, on their fifth album, WOLF CITY, released in 1972, recorded a somewhat conventional album (for them) on account of having an audience they were eager to keep. Despite this, it is not without its avant-garde moments – Jail House Frog, for example, dissolves into bubbles and space noises and manages to sound like the fauna from another planet competing with the spirit of the Weimar Republic with Sally Bowles momentarily backed by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention doing a Jefferson Airplane thing. Or something.

THE PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY    WHY DID I GET SO HIGH


What we’re choosing to call playful hippy vibes from The Peanut Butter Conspiracy who, on their debut album, THE PEATNUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY IS SPREADING, released in 1967, manage to sound like an authentic composite of the entire trippy West Coast scene – The Jefferson Airplane are clearly here, as are The Mamas and Papas, The Monkees, Spanky and The Gang as well as Mary, Peter and Paul (on mescaline) but they were pretty far out in their own way and to some extent may have been transmitting the as yet undiscovered spirit of prog in their work - but not on this track, the dippy Why Did I Get So High, which is best understood as something of a guilty pleasure I think.

EMILY AND ANGELINE     IN PURSUIT OF A SEED


According to the liner notes, 'once upon a time, long, long ago there were two dolls called Emily and Angeline...sometimes they pretended to be human, so that they could play strange, sweet music together...’, and so they did, accompanying their otherworldly tales with guitar, piano, glockenspiel, xylophone and autoharp to create dreamily hazy acid folk of a wistful and haunted nature. Or that might be Emily Jones and Angeline Morrison instead, two musician from Cornwall who seem to have some connection with those purveyors of woodland wyrd-folk The Rowan Amber Mill. The Pursuit Of A Seed, all  chiming guitars that puts one in mind of a stately Elizabethan procession, is taken from their debut recording EP1: THE BLUE ONE, released 2015, an exquisite collection of just six songs which enjoys hints of Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs, with some Sunforest and Trees thrown in for good measure. Lovely.

SWEETWATER     MOTHERLESS CHILD


An absolutely spell-binding interpretation of that ol’ Negro spiritual, Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child by Sweetwater, the band perhaps better known for being scheduled to open Woodstock in 1969 but who missed that coveted slot by being pulled over by the police on the way to the festival. Their eponymous debut album, released in 1968, was full of a wide variety of exotic instruments, largely unheard of at the time, a complete lack of electric guitar, tight vocal arrangements and intricate harmonies that equalled the Beach Boys at their best. Sadly, however, most of their songs didn’t and Motherless Child is about as good as they ever got. Tragically, vocalist Nansi Nevins was involved in a car accident after the recording of this album and she was never able to sing again.

THE DANDELION SET     MEMOIR OF A BLACK SPIDER/ IMOGEN’S PEOPLE


Not only have The Dandelion Set released the most psychedelic album of the year, they also got cult writer Alan Moore to provide sleevenotes, lyrics and occasional vocals to boot. As the title suggests, A THOUSAND STRANDS – 1975-2016, straddles the last thirty years or so, taking in lysergic dream pop, angular prog excursions, mesmerizing French jazz grooves and unclassifiable leftfield eclecticism that’s both familiar and hallucinatory. It really is that good. I like it so much I’ve included two tracks.

TOY     I’M STILL BELIEVING (CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER REMIX)


The extraordinarily fine I’m Still Believing is taken from Toy’s third album CLEAR SHOT, released earlier this year. Cavern of Anti-Matter’s Tim Gane (previously of Stereolab, of course) extends the single’s gorgeous pop hooks and takes it somewhere else entirely while never losing sight what made the single so very good to begin with – a proper song with a proper tune.

KIKAGAKU MOYO     CAN YOU IMAGINE NOTHING?


Kikagaku Moyo (or Geometric Patterns, if you prefer) (or, indeed, 幾何学模様) are almost the perfect Mind De-Coder band, and their current album, HOUSE IN THE TALL GRASS, is possibly my favourite album of the year. They do a very fine line in psychedelic, acid folk, prog-tinged krautrock with classical Indian embellishments and ethereal, beautifully wasted vocals that’s both child-like and entirely transportative in its ability to free the mind and have your ass follow (as it were). Can You Imagine Nothing?, apparently written after a night spent jamming on a suspended footbridge in the remote mountains, is taken from their debut album, 2013’s eponymous release, in which they channel the spirit of the 1970’s Japanese psychedelic underground. Marvellous.

LA FEMME     LE VIDE EST TON NOUVEAU PRÉNOM


Ah, oui – The Vacuum Is Your New First Name – as we say in Google translate, and The Emptiness Is Your New First Name as we say elsewhere. This is the Francoise-Hardy-does-Ennio-Morricone one on an album that skips between 60’s surf to synth-pop while taking in Krautrock motorik beats, disco and post-punk with occasional choral vocals. MYSTÈRE is an alluring album brimming with ideas that never loses its sense of coherence amidst the melting pot of styles that make up its magical grooves.

SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS     ON A CLEAR DAY I CAN THINK FOR MILES


One of the lovely instrumental interludes that permeate GOLDEN OMENS, the Soft Hearted Scientists’ gift to 2016. It’s an album that swoons with an almost Edwardian pastoral psychedelic charm.

C DUNCAN     DO I HEAR


This sublime track is taken from the album THE MIDNIGHT SUN, the second release by the Scottish composer and musician C Duncan.  His classical background (he trained in composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) lends an unusual level of harmonic sophistication to his music which, as this track suggests, contains a universe of ambience and eerie euphoria. The music is thoughtful and intricate and sometimes sounds like ecstasy unfolding itself into a room.

THE HEARTWOOD INSTITUTE     AUNT MABEL’S COTTAGE


The Heartwood Institute is the moniker by which library musician and composer Jonathon Sharp releases hauntological vignettes inspired by The Lake District and the novels of children’s author Penelope Lively. Aunt Mabel’s Cottage is taken from his 2015 release, THE WILD HUNT OF HAGWORTHY, an imagined soundtrack to a tale written by Lively in the early 1970’s and set in the remote village of Hagworthy, in which an old pagan practice is unwisely revived for a summer fete, summoning dangerous old forces that focus on the young outsider, Lucy, as she visits her aunt in the countryside – a sort of ‘Wicker Man’ for kids, dealing with buried archetypes and teenage alienation. If you’re anything like me that description will have you running to the nearest library eager to track the book down, but while you’re at it, you should also check out his Bandcamp site here. Sharp’s music creates a soundtrack to the book as it might have sounded at the time of the original publication and therefore creates an ambience of eerie unease and dread that puts one in mind of other childhood tales, such as The Owl Service, or the soundtrack to The Children Of The Stones. It really is quite spooky, an approach he refers to quite aptly to as hauntronica.

THE STRAWBS     THE SHEPHERD’S SONG


Shepherd’s Song is taken from The Strawbs’ third album, WITCHWOOD, released in 1971 and the one on which they were straddling that tricky folk/prog divide. It has a slightly erotic charge to it, accentuated by that whole classical Spanish guitar thing towards the end. The album has many fine tracks on it, ranging from gorgeous folk to fully-fledged prog wig-outs with added medieval embellishments, sitars, harpsichords and Rick Wakeman’s melloton and moog flourishes, as if underscoring the fact that he was a prog musician in a folk band.


NEIL YOUNG     AFTER THE GOLDRUSH


Absolutely exquisite. Neil Young, of course, with the title track from his 1970 release AFTER THE GOLDRUSH. The song itself was inspired by a screenplay for an unmade film ‘After the Gold Rush' for which Young had read the screenplay and asked if he could produce the soundtrack. In a career that’s produced nearly 50 albums, this remains my favourite, and the mystical title track one of my favourite songs ever.

BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE     TOMORROW, FOREVER


Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve’s debut album proper THE SOFT BOUNCE delivered lysergic grooves, Krautrock rhythms, Moroder-esque synthesiser throb, luscious sunshine-pop harmonies and baroque string arrangement over hip-hop breakbeats, Brazilian Tropicália and Eno-like ambient washes all mixed up with a 1960s psych sensibility, so I’m quite the fan – Tomorrow, Forever is the  eight minute cinematic drone piece on an album that successfully defies categorization but hops between genres so easily you don’t even notice that they’re there.

LA! NEU?    COMME NUAGES DANS LE CIEL


La! Neu? were, as you might expect, a band put together by Neu!’s Klaus Dinger, who despite garnering  much critical success with the seminal krautrock band Neu! and later with La Düsseldorf, couldn’t get arrested in 1985 and pretty much remained a semi-mythical figure in post-Krautrock Germany (he invented that definitive motorik krautrock beat, y’all) until a Japanese record label specifically set him up with his own Dingerland sub-label for future projects. La! Neu? existed as a loose collective of Dinger and (mostly) younger musicians, plus his mother Renate, who recorded and released a number of albums quickly and spontaneously. The lovely Comme Nuages Dans Le Ciel (‘As Clouds In The Sky’) is taken from the album GOLD REGEN, released in 1998, a mellow and largely improvised album, more or less recorded in a day, and as close to an ambient release that Dinger ever got (what with him being a drummer and all).

THE HILLIARD ENSEMBLE     MA FIN EST MON COMMENCEMENT


I’ve been reading a lot about time lately, a tricky concept to grapple with. St. Augustine of Hippo sums it up quite nicely when he wrote: “If I am not asked I know what time is, but if I am asked, I do not.” In my research I came across this piece of music, written by Guillaume de Marchant in the mid-14th century. Written in the style of a rondeau, it repeats the phrase Ma fin est mon commencement, Et mon commencement ma fin over and over again, or: ‘My end is my beginning, And my beginning is my end’, a rather profound observation that Nietzsche would re-discover some 400 years later with his theory of the Eternal Return. I’m fascinated by this stuff and particularly enjoy pondering upon such things under enhanced circumstances so I found this version of the piece recorded by The Hilliard Ensemble,  a male vocal quartet devoted to the performance of early music, because it’s one thing to read about an esoteric spiritual concept, but quite another to hear it. It’s a fascinating example of how the concept of the Eternal Return can be conveyed in musical terms. To educate and entertain – that’s Mind De-Coder all over, that is.

THE SÉANCE WITH LUTINE    TREES GREW ALL AROUND HER


The Séance are St. Etienne’s Pete Wiggs and James Papademetrie, who may be writer of some sort. Between them, co-host a radio show called The Séance, named after an overlooked 1964 Bryan Forbes kitchen sink thriller called 'Séance On A Wet Afternoon', in which they pay homage to oddball pop, buried soundtrack treasure, new and old electronic finery, mutant disco, experimental misshapes, modern composition, folk music both psych and trad, covetable new releases and whatever else interests them at the time (you can check out some of their shows here). Lutine are a folk band from Brighton (where The Séance live) who do a fine line in airy, gossamer-like songs that put one in mind of village greens and freshly furrowed fields (possibly revealing the half-rotten skull of an all but forgotten demon). They recently came together to record  a track for an album called THE FOREST/THE WALD, a study and collection of work that reflects on fragments and echoes of tales from the woodland and its folklore, released by the ever intriguing A Year In The Country project, which you can read about here. I expect The Séance added the weird hauntological bits and Lutine did the rest. Anyway, it’s quite lovely and I, for one, will be finding out a lot more about both of them.

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE AND THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.    PLEASURE MANTRA OF SORROWS


Acid Mothers Temple releases always present something of a challenge to the unwary. Usually amidst the loveliness the band will erupt into the sort of rock n roll white noise wig-out which results in the musical equivalent of Dr. Strange’s etheric body being ejected from his physical body by Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One. Or they do something so beautiful and ethereal it’s like a lucid dream. Pleasure Mantra Of Sorrows falls into this category. It’s taken from the double album ASTRORGASM FROM THE INNER SPACE, released in 2014, a collection of four mighty tracks, taking a side each and featuring the welcome return, for us AMT fans, of original vocalist Cotton Casino. This is truly music to lose yourself in so I let it take up the remainder of the show. Enjoy the trip.

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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

MIND DE-CODER HALLOWEEN SPECIAL2016

MIND DE-CODER HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2016


“Quick, Jimmy, put down your sandwich – something is amiss!”

VINCENT PRICE     PROLOGUE (excerpt)


What better way to begin than the show than with the florid tones of Vincent Price who, on this 1969 release, WITCHCRAFT-MAGIC: AN ADVENTURE IN DEMONOLOGY, a double-album no less, gives a 105-minute crash-course in the occult taking in the history of witchcraft through the bible, the middle-ages, the Spanish Inquisition and through to Nazi Germany before turning to practical instruction in ye dark arts with handy hints on how ‘How to invoke spirits, demons, unseen forces’, ‘how to make a pact with the Devil’ and ‘Curses, Spells, Charms’. Not for the faint of heart. 

BAUHAUS     BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD


Probably the band that invented Goth, but you shouldn’t hold that against them. I was quite the fan in the day. Think of it more as Gothick-Romantick pseudo-decadence if it makes you feel better. Bela Lugosi’s Dead, all 9 minutes of it, was released in 1979 as the group’s debut single and managed to sound like nothing I’d ever heard before, and this was at a time when Public Image, Gang of Four and Joy Division were pushing the post-punk landscape into ever more expansive directions. In fact, you might argue that it was so astonishingly original, what with its dubbed up, tripped out soundscape that a scene had to build up around it just to make sense of it, which is not say that Bauhaus were in any way responsible for the likes of Alien Sex Fiend.

C.A. QUINTET     A TRIP THRU HELL (PART 1)


The C.A. Quintet, from Minnesota, USA, were a psychedelic rock band active in the late 196os who failed to gain national interest during their heyday on account of their records being locally produced in Minneapolis and having no national distribution at all. Their only LP, TRIP THRU HELL, released in 1969, sold fewer than 500 copies and was virtually unheard of outside of their home town but, as is often the way of things, the record slowly gained popularity over the next twenty years among collectors and musicians. These days it’s considered something of a psych-garage-punk classic, rising above its humble roots into something truly monolithic.

ARROWWOOD     GOBLIN MARKET (reversed)


Now here’s a thing – I’ve played this track on the show before, but sticking to my overall conceptual desire of never repeating the same track twice (but also, nevertheless, really wanting to play this track in this particular show) I thought I’d play it backwards, and what do I get but a proper song about cherry trees or something! It seems that Arrowwood singer Chelsea Robb had the same idea in reverse and what was once a spooky foray into woodland goings has transformed itself into acid folk loveliness. The album from which it is taken, 2013’s BEAUTIFUL GRAVE, is a call to aesthetic paganism; a tranquil, ethereal recording shrouded in atmospheric grace.


A short piece read by writer and poet Chris lambert, one part of multi-media folk horror project The Soulless Party, an ever changing collective of collaborations and ideas led by musician K.Oyston, reading from “Tales From The Black Meadow” (published 2013).

SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS     THE CREEPS


The Creeps skirts the boundaries of folk horror with a song about dread, premonitions, armchair time travelling and "Cretaceous childhood memories", inspired by the realisation that as soon as a day is finished it is as over as the Roman Empire, or the dinosaurs that used to roam around Bethnal Green. It has a touch of MOON SAFARI-era Air about it, with added Greek chorus choir, and BBC Radiophonic workshop sound effects and is taken from their most recent release GOLDEN OMENS, a glorious mix of psychedelia, haunted midnight ghost folk, baroque pop, gallows humour and wonky show tunes.

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND     THE GIFT


The Gift is a lurid little tale written by Lou Reed and intoned by John Cale, in his best BBC English, in which we hear the story of Waldo Jeffers, who posts himself to his girlfriend with darkly comic results. It is, in effect, two things going on at once: you can listen to Cale in one stereo channel and the band’s funky instrumental in the other. You can find this track on the Velvet Underground’s second album, WHITE LIGHT, WHITE HEAT, released in 1968 to an unreceptive world who wouldn’t have been ready for it had they managed to hear it, which sadly they mostly didn’t, but this remains my favourite Velvet’s album. Possible well known fact: Cale’s reading was a first take.

DEAD VOICES ON AIR     SOUL CATCHER


Dead Voices On Air are an experimental/industrial project who orchestrate hissing sheets of electronics, awkward machine-generated non-techno beats, looped sounds, percussive hits, growls, grunts, and ambient, industrial noises repeated through a seemingly endless delay effects into music that sounds like lost radio transmissions finally arriving from another planet, disfigured and largely unrecognizable. Soul Catcher - long stretches of heavily echoed reverbed noise drawn into slow pulses, with ancient melodies and what definitely sounds like a song trapped just below the surface - is taken from their 1995 release NEW WORDS MACHINE, an album whose sound seems to provide the missing link between 1980s industrial and 1990s ambient. While that’s playing, I add a bit more Vincent price who includes a few tips on making your own magic wand and things of that nature.

MELMOTH THE WANDERER     A TALE OF WITCHES, WOODLAND AND HALF-REMEMBERED MELODIES


This is, in fact, and entire 20 minute mix by the hugely talented Melmoth the Wanderer which I found on Mixcloud. It’s an spectral mix of hauntological wyrdness, taking in music by Broadcast, The Focus Group, The Hare and The Moon, Kemper Norton, Paper Dollhouse and Pye Audio Corner, very often mixing it up into new forms that invoke the ancient magic from the stories of Lord Dunsany and the sense of unease, dread and excitement of a moonlit walk through the woods that leaves the wanderer with a feeling of being watched. I urge you to check out his mixes, all of which are as good as this one.

JULIAN COPE     JULIAN IN THE UNDERWORLD


A few years back in 2009, while researching his novel ONE THREE ONE, Cope overdosed salvia in an attempt to find the right psychedelic word-scape to correctly evoke the book’s transcendental narrative. For the next four months he was barely able to function. Of the experience he says: "This drug picked me up and threw me into the bushes. Really awful bramble bushes. I went in and disappeared from the world to such an extent that I just became salad with attitude.” The song Julian In The Underworld is his attempt to make sense of what happened. This version appears on the TRIP ADVIZER EP, a 14-minute download only affair which accompanied his last release, TRIP ADVIZER, in 2015. It’s spare and haunting mellotron ballad, with a plaintive, broken refrain ( "And I can't begin to know what's going on") that could easily have sat on FRIED, and which finds Julian once more lost and doubting in burnt-out psychic purgatory.

SCARFOLK COUNCIL     DEMONS COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES


Have you visited Scarfolk yet? It’s a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. Demons Come In All Shapes And Sizes is the theme tune from ‘Clay Stool’, a popular 1970s children's daytime TV programme for 4 to 7 year olds, which was released as a single in 1973. ‘Clay Stool’ acquired its name from a form of medieval punishment for witchcraft. Originally, alleged witches were strapped to a wooden chair - a ducking stool - then plunged into a river. If they sank they were innocent, if they floated they were in league with the devil and summarily executed.

Samuel Revile, a local priest and freelance misogynist, wondered if ducking stools, which were traditionally festooned with dozens of inflated pigs' bladders, colourful helium balloons, and tethered albatrosses had something to do with the high numbers of people being found guilty. He set about inventing the heavier "clay stool". A year after its introduction 100% of accused witches, mostly women, had plummeted to the riverbed where they drowned, proving their innocence.

Revile's work also alerted communities to the dangers of balloons. It was they, he maintained, not the women, that floated and were therefore in league with Satan. To this day, people who make balloon animals are considered unholy and are barred from church jumble sales.

Though Revile revolutionalised the justice system by inventing compassionate torture, he inadvertently caused widespread redundancies in the execution sector.

THE MONOCHROME SET    LOVE ZOMBIES


The Monochrome Set are one of the great un-sung bands – too clever by half and always out of step with their post-punk peers, they were an idiosyncratic blend of punk aggression and new wave suavity, a Dada string of surrealist imagery set to irregular bursts of surf -guitar jangle and wry lyrics. Love Zombies is the title track from their second album, released in 1980, an intoxicating combination of eloquence and arch humour, manicured and ironic, the house band for freaks too bizarre for punk, but also explosively chaotic.

H.P. LOVECRAFT     AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS


At The Mountains Of Madness, is taken from H.P. Lovecraft’s second album, H.P. LOVECRAFT II, released in 1968, and based, of course, on the 1931 novella of the same name by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, after whom the band named themselves. It  features some chaotically acrobatic vocal interplay and makes ample use of swirling, echoed reverse tape effects introduced by studio engineer Chris Huston, who allowed the band to further explore  many of the kaleidoscopic influences touched upon on their first more folk driven album. It’s a genuinely disturbing sound and not one I play too often, just in case Cthulhu and the rest of the old gods use it as an opportunity to break through the membranes of reality, or something. It was also, legendarily, the first major label album to be recorded by a band on acid, a very admirable achievement given that I can barely boil a kettle in that state. 

DELIA DERBYSHIRE AND BRIAN HODGSON     A CHURCH IN HELL


This particular track, which may or may not be named A Church In Hell, is taken from the unreleased soundtrack to the 1973 British horror movie THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE .The only version of the soundtrack that actually exists was ripped from the video release of the film and released online a few years back for fans of Delia Derbyshire (of which there are many) and Brian Hodgson, her creative partner at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and later at their own Kaleidophon and Electrophon studios. Being a fan myself, I’ve read that this particular project was more Hodgson’s baby, with Delia only adding a few sound effects here and there, but that is to suggest that there is a meaningful distinction between music and sound effects in the film. The soundtrack pulses and throbs with menace, combining a haunting minimalistic ambient-like atmosphere, with minor amounts of stabbing organ chords with atonal electronic tones which conspire to create a rather unsettling effect. Good film, too.

THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN     I PUT A SPELL ON YOU


This was the band’s fourth and final single release, the second after their major hit Fire, but the band were never to regain the giddy heights attained by that single. It’s taken from their eponymous 1968 album THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN and to be honest, I don’t think that this is best version of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic that I’ve heard (in fact Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ version of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic isn’t the best version I’ve ever heard – that would be by The Druids of Stonehenge, and the only reason I’m not playing that version is because I’ve already played it in Mind De-Coder 13) because it never reaches the exhilaratingly recklessness of much the rest of the album. I believe it was added as a sup to manager Kit Lambert who wanted a much poppier affair, whereas the band were aiming at a rock opera from hell.

BROADCAST     ANIMA DI CRISTO/OUR DARKEST MASS

     
To finish, two tracks from the soundtrack to BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO, the twisted horror film by British director Peter Strickland which is right up there with ‘A Field in England’, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing, and the last album that Trish Keenan worked on before her untimely death in 2011. It’s an eerily beautiful piece that has an intense, creepy style that perfectly accompanies a film that examines the nature of fear and sound's part in it. Not enough Trish, of course, who died during the recording process but her presence is, fittingly, all over these tracks.

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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 the UK 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.