MIND DE-CODER 69
‘God is alive in a sugar cube’
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OS MUTANTES DOM QUIXOTE
If anything, Os Mutantes second album, MUTANTES, released in 1969, is even more far out than their eponymous debut album. Full of inventive psychedelic arrangements it fuses traditional Brazilian tropicália with dizzying cut ‘n’ paste experimentation that owes less to the Sgt. Pepperism’s of their first album and more to The Mothers of Invention. Side two is generally regarded self-indulgent prog eclecticism that doesn’t bear much of a second listen, but side one, and especially album opener Dom Quixote, shows just how far ahead of the game they were.
RON GEESIN SPIKY DIVING BELLES
In your less avant-garde circles, Ron Geesin is primarily known for composing the orchestral arrangements for Pink Floyd’s ATOM HEART MOTHER. For those more at home to a certain outré experimentalism, however, Geesin is regarded as a pioneer of your musique concrète and other novel applications of sound. Spiky Diving Belles, recorded in 1971, is taken from a 1995 release, LAND OF MIST, a collection of musical ambiences recorded between the early 1970s and the mid-80s. It’s not an easy listen but remains a sonic curiosity; a gurgling sea of crisp electronics and playful melodies.
ARIANNE CHURCHMAN MIDSUMMER LEY LINE HOTLINE
Arianne Churchman is artist and folk enthusiast from East Anglia whose work investigates British folk traditions, celebrations and customs using the forms of performance, film, sound and sculpture to explore the themes of a common folk consciousness. A perfect fit, then, for the folks at Calendar Customs whose series of tape cassette releases similarly explore this world of symbolism and ritual and whose artistic reinterpretations are no stranger to this show. Midsummer Ley Line Hotline can be found on the release FOLKLORE TAPES CALENDAR CUSTOMS VOL. IV: CROWN OF LIGHT (MIDSUMMER AND FOLKLORE), released in 2016, the fourth instalment in a series that focuses on pre-Christian traditions and observances associated with midsummer, often marking key points in the agricultural year when planting began or harvesting was completed. Clearly, I’m fascinated with this stuff. You can find out more about Folklore Tapes here.
TEMPLES ALL JOIN IN
“We want more Mellotrons”, they said (I expect), and new album VOLCANO is certainly awash with synth waves and wooshes, replacing the guitars from their previous album – a bit like the leap Tame Impala made from LONERISM to CURRENTS. Nothing wrong with that, of course, although I seem to be the only person in the world who didn’t take to CURRENTS as much as I expected to. Temples have discarded their psychedelic heart for a sort of synth-pop sweetness, but it’s undeniable that singer James Bagshaw knows his way round a catchy melody. Does that sound like faint praise? It’s still growing on me.
JACCO GARDNER LAZY OLD SUN
Dutch musician Jacco Gardener gives this song a languid psychedelic touch denied it by The Kinks, who, famously, couldn’t be doing with that sort of thing at all. This a gorgeous, Mellotron-soaked, raga-inspired, sun-dappled interpretation of a song that was as near to psychedelic goings-on that The Kinks ever managed.
THE RIOT SQUAD TOY SOLDIER
The Riot Squad were one of those great lost bands of the sixties who went through so many line-up changes that by the time of their final split in 1969 there had been fifteen incarnations of the band. Drummer Mitch Mitchell was in an early line-up and in 1967 David Bowie was on lead vocals for at least nine weeks while he was recording material for his own solo debut release. They never managed to release anything at the time, but they did record at least four tracks that were eventually released in 2013 as THE TOY SOLDIER EP. On it, the band cover what was, at that point, an unreleased version of the Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting For My Man, making him the first person ever to cover a Velvet’s track, and on Toy Soldier they rip off the chorus of Venus In Furs wholesale. If not quite the Holy Grail of Bowie releases, it is at the very least and outstanding curio. Enjoy.
CLIFF WARD A PATH THROUGH THE FOREST
Cliff Ward is largely known as seventies singer-songwriter Clifford T. Ward who had a big hit in 1973 called Gaye these days, and his earlier work forgotten, despite recording a number of hook-laden pop nuggets with his band The Secrets throughout the 60s. A Path Through The Forest was turned into a blistering single by The Factory – one of the great psychedelic releases of 1968, and, indeed, ever – but his original version, demoed in 1967, but never released in its own right, is weirder still, managing to sound like it was recorded under water by someone on magic mushrooms on a day-trip from the moon.
MOON WIRING CLUB MASTER OF TICKETS
A hauntological offering from Ian Hodgson taken from the Moon Wiring Club’s 10th anniversary album EXIT PANTOMIME CONTROL, released last year alongside the epic 3 CD set WHEN A NEW TRICK COMES OUT I DO A NEW ONE. EXIT PANTOMIME CONTROL revisits key ideas and themes of the series so far; gathering the ghosts for an eldritch dramaturgy of anachronistic hip hop and ether dream atmospheres inspired by subversive, experimental ‘70s theatre, all taking the form of a good ol’ Panto held at The Clinksell Play House.
LIEVEN MARTENS MOANA GRONDEMENTS DU VOLCAN DE L’ILE
Lieven Martens Moana is a Belgian composer who, under the moniker Dolphins Into The Future, blended new age, early synthesizer music and exotic field recordings making one-of-a-kind soundscapes during the mid-2000s. His most recent recording, IDYLLS, combines an aria, two scherzos and a coda, a field recording based on the writings on Robert Louis Stevenson, and a closing track recorded on an actual 19th century wax cylinder. I, however, was drawn to Grondements Du Volcan De L’ile, a gentle thunderstorm that sounds as lush and ornate as ancient ruins.
ALICE COLTRANE JOURNEY IN SATCHIDANANDA
I’ve always kind of avoided Alice Coltrane, me, having previously found her a bit too uncompromising for my delicate tastes - but following a recommendation from Soft Hearted Scientist’s Nathan Hall I checked out her 1971 release JOURNEY IN SATCHIDANANDA and found it to be remarkably accessible for an album steeped in your modal and experimental jazz (a phrase designed to otherwise send a shiver of anxiety through my untutored soul). However, and quite unexpectedly, I found the album to be an intensely devotional listen with exotic flourishes and sublime harp playing which, if listened to under enhanced circumstances, say, has the power to draw one inward on a spiritual journey of radiant self-discovery. It really is that far out. A highly recommended album.
PINK FLOYD VEGETABLE MAN
Following the release of last years box set THE EARLY YEARS 1965-1972, fans finally got to hear the band-approved release of the semi-mythological Vegetable Man, recorded by Pink Floyd in 1967 as the b-side to their proposed 3rd single Scream Thy Last Scream. Essentially a description of what Syd was wearing at the time of the recording, it is generally regarded as one of the key tracks that document his breakdown as a recording artist and as a person. Consequently passed over for the considerably less dark Apples and Oranges, it would have made a terrible single but it is a compelling song, although, being a fan of his more whimsical side, I tend to prefer the Jesus and Mary Chain’s version which I heard first.
THE TROGGS MAYBE THE MADMAN
Tongue-in-cheek psychedelia (I should imagine) from The Troggs, a band not particularly known for their forays into the kaleidoscopic world of lysergic exploration. That being said, I’ve always had a soft spot for this particular track, which appeared as the b-side to their 1968 release Little Girl, for its lines:
Maybe the madman was right
The sun travels on round the world and keeps shining while we sleep at night
Maybe the sky doesn’t cry
Although the next line:
The rain drops are just condensation our tears cry for children that lie
… does slightly blow it a bit, and the rest of the lyrics aren’t much better either, but it’s a lovely enough tune and everso slightly trippier than the untied psychedelic shoelace of destiny.
RIDE MAKING JUDY SMILE
Making Judy Smile is a bit of a throwaway track on an album that features Dreams Burn Down, Cool Your Boots and OX4, but I’ve always thought it was kind of gorgeous. Taken from their second album GOING BLANK AGAIN, released in 1992 (25 years ago for heaven’s sake!) I see it as their Lovely Rita to Sgt. Pepper’s A Day In The Life (and I’m sure by now I must have mentioned somewhere about how much I love Lovely Rita, a song which never fails to put a smile on my face - a bit like Judy’s I imagine - so look how manifestly that all hangs together).
KING GIZZARD AND THE WIZARD LIZARD FLYING MICROTONAL BANANA
This is the title track from an album that, as suggested by the title (sort of), finds the band experimenting with Eastern microtones that double the amount of playable notes on their guitars. In fact, it’s not quite as trippy as previous efforts but with touches of Afro-funk and the brain-scrambling squawks of a Turkish horn-type instrument known as a zurna thrown in, this is an album, the first of five promised this year(!) that shows that this is a group chomping at the psychedelic bit.
ALULA DOWN HEREFORD GARDEN DREAMING
Alula Down is the home recording project of Kate Gathercole and Mark Waters, otherwise members of rural acid folk performers, and Mind De-Coder favourites, Sproatly Smith. Fittingly enough, therefore, the lovely Hereford Garden Dreaming can be found on the Sproatly Smith curated album WEIRDSHIRE: BEATING THE BOUNDS, a compilation of psych-folk rural-core (entirely made up word) from Herefordshire. Quite clearly there’s something in water around those parts – a land of mists and shifting borders where darkness is suffused with beauty and myths and legends define the landscape – that is instantly recognisable in the music. Hereford Garden Dreaming is a spell-binding, enchanting listen with Kate Gathercole's enthralling vocals taking the listener to another time completely. Quite ravishing.
THE HONEY POT RAINY DAY MUSHROOM PILLOW
For their 100th vinyl release, the brilliant FruitsDe Mer record label approached Devon based purveyors of very English sweet, surreal and strange psychedelic sounds, The Melting Pot, to come up with something special to mark the occasion. Arguably they’d have done a fine enough job on their own, but the band invited fellow Fruits De Mer travellers and friends to join them so what you get is a double album called ASCENDING SCALES - a mix of new songs along with classic and obscure tracks from the 60s/early 70s featuring performances from The Bevis Frond, Dick Taylor from The Pretty Things, Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention/Trader Horne), James Lowe (The Electric Prunes), the guys from July, Ilona V, Anton Barbeau, Us and Them, and even Bruce Woodley from Buggles! The rather fine cover of The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s superlative Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow eschews the wistful melancholy of the original for acid jiggery and pokery, and very fine it is too.
EUROS CHILDS LAZY BRAIN
Everything you hear on Euros Childs’ new album REFRESH!, released late last year, is essentially his voice fed through a sampler, so there are no instruments used as such, although I do notice that a toy piano and xylophone are listed at some point. Very few of the tracks (I’d hesitate to call them songs) stick around for much longer than a minute or so, they all more or less sound like Lazy Brain, and you’d probably only want to ever listen to it once, but, nevertheless, Euros Childs has delivered another album of impish, oddball charm, wistfully at odds with the world and all the better for it.
OUR SOLAR SYSTEM AT THE EDGE OF TIME
This is cosmic music of the highest order. At The Edge Of Time is taken from the album IN TIME, released in 2016, by what appears to be a loosely collaborative affair featuring the work of some 30 musicians or so who between them have created an album that consists of just two mind-blowing tracks. Largely the brainchild of Swedish musician Mattias Gustavsson, who may be a member of Dungen, a band firmly rooted in 70s progressive and psychedelic rock, IN TIME is in thrall to the likes of Amon Duul II, Can, Pink Floyd, Gram Parsons, and even jazz musicians like Alice Coltrane, Ornette Coleman or Sun Ra, but it remains a remarkable thing in and of itself. Side 1 has the whirlwind style of a free jazz, darkwave ambient drone about it which, in truth, first time I heard it put me in mind of Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey, but At the Edge of Time exists truly in a place outside of time’s confines, floating in space, surrounded by infinite stars and sounds, projecting an indefinable sound that’s boundless and beautiful. It really is far fucking out. Marvellous.
THE HARDY TREE BALTIC WHARF
The Hardy Tree is the musical project of the fairly wonderful Clay Pipe Music record label’s founder Frances Castle. Her album THROUGH THE PASSAGES OF TIME is a haunting, psycho-geographical exploration of buildings and areas of London that no longer exist - small places stumbled upon by accident, traced on maps, and illustrated in Georgian prints; frequently visited pubs that have been rebuilt and renamed; the ship breakers yard decorated with wooden figureheads at Baltic Wharf, or the Thames Watermen living in the shadow of the Hawksmoor designed church at Horselydown; lost places re-imagined and brought to life using clusters of sequenced Moogs, off Kilter electronics, vibes, and Mellotron to create an enchanting wistful paean to an England long forgotten. It’s both nostalgic and modern, alluring and enigmatic, and altogether quite gorgeous.
SPROATLY SMITH RIBBONS
The latest release from the very fine A Year In The Country project is called THE RESTLESS FIELD - a study of the land as a place of conflict and protest as well as beauty and escape; an exploration and acknowledgment of the history and possibility of protest, resistance and struggle in the landscape/rural areas, in contrast with more often referred to urban events. It takes inspiration from flashpoints in history while also interweaving personal and societal myth, memory, the lost and hidden tales of the land. It is, therefore, a perfect vehicle for Sproatly Smith who have contributed the bucolic and lovely Ribbons to the project. For those of you who may be interested in this sort of thing, the A Year In The Country project is conceived as a set of year long journeys; cyclical explorations of an otherly pastoralism, a wandering amongst subculture that draws from the undergrowth of the land – the patterns beneath the plough, pylons and amongst the edgelands. Those wanderings take in the beauty and escape of rural pastures, intertwined with a search for expressions of an underlying unsettledness to the bucolic countryside dream.
FE-FI-FOUR PLUS TWO I WANNA COME BACK (FROM THE WORLD OF LSD)
The marvellously monikered Fe-Fi-Four plus Two released the fuzz-drenched I want To Come Back (From The World Of LSD) in 1967 – and it’s generally regarded by music historians as the first psychedelic single by a native New Mexican group (make of that what you will). Although it’s something of an anti-LSD song, the inventive vocal arrangements, distorted guitars and snarling vocals make this a classic of the psych-garage genre and an absolute fitting end to the show.