MIND DE-CODER 70
'Let's go down and blow our mind's in toyland'
THE ALAN BOWN! TOYLAND
If I’m ruthlessly honest I only started the show with this track because of its killer opening line: ‘Let’s go down and blow our mind’s in toyland’, an invitation that all but the most jaded cynic would find hard to refuse. There was a penchant for this sort of thing in English psychedelia at the time, largely inspired by Syd Barrett, Lewis Carroll and the spirit of Sgt. Peppers that manifested itself in a particular longing for a return to the nursery. There was a peculiarly Edwardian version of childhood that reflected the English psyche, where things were just simpler, magic flying chairs were stored away in the playroom, and pixies played at the bottom of the garden, skipping gaily around fairy circles of fly agaric mushrooms. Released in 1967, Toyland is a very good example of this sort of thing, but it failed to chart, probably because the Alan Bown were primarily known for their stomping R’n’B/Soul club sets and Toyland was perceived as a shameless attempt to cash-in on a short-lived sub-genre (toytown psychedelia) that possibly had more to do with the amount of LSD the band was gobbling and less to do with the musical tastes of the listening public. I’m all for it, me.
OS MUTANTES FUGA NO. 2
Psychedelic tropicalia from Brazil’s Os Mutantes, whose second album, simply called MUTANTES, released in 1969, is a playful mix of the experimental and the exotic. Some argue that it’s a bit too playful, others that it’s a bit too experimental – no one seems to mind its exoticness - but I think it’s exactly what good psychedelia should be: a piecing together of sounds that disorientate the senses, bewitches, bewilders and elevates, enabling the mind to float hither and tither to see what it can find. Fuga No. 2 does that very nicely, I think.
THE TRAPPIST AFTERLAND COME TO ME/THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Two segued tracks from Melbourne based psych-folk artists The Trappist Underland, whose third album, LIKE A BEEHIVE, THE HILL WAS ALIVE, was digitally released by the very fine Active Listener in 2014. The band take a ritualistic, tribal approach to recording which results in a recherché mix of traditional instruments from different cultures and a sound rich in arcane psychedelia. LIKE A BEEHIVE, THE HILL WAS ALIVE, for example, is very heavily influenced by the gnostic gospels and the New Testament; one look at the album cover will indicate a band very much at home to the esoteric.
THE SUFIS I DON’T KNOW
On their eponymously titled debut album, released in 2012, The Sufis channel the spirit of Syd-era Pink Floyd to Beatle-esque highs. In truth, they don’t get very far beyond that template, but if you’re a fan of paisley shirts and joss-sticks – a fan of Mind De-Coder, in fact – you’ll find much to enjoy.
ORIENTAL SUNSHINE ACROSS YOUR LIFE
Indo-prog loveliness from Norway that owes as much to Peter, Mary and Paul as it does Ravi Shankar. Released in 1970, sitars abound and pretty vocal melodies soar on the group’s debut release, DEDICATED TO THE BIRD WE LOVE, a long lost psych-folk album whose mellow charms reveal hippie navel gazing at its best.
NATHAN HALL AND THE SINISTER LOCALS EVERYBODY’S BURNING EFFIGIES
Nathan Hall, of course, is singer-songwriter with Mind De-Coder favourites the Soft Hearted Scientists, who are on something of a sabbatical to re-charge the old batteries. Nathan, meanwhile, appears to be emitting and has created the Sinister Locals, a shadowy musical organisation with a changing cast of characters, as a vehicle for exploring the darker side of psychedelia. That being said, the rather fine Everybody’s Burning Effigies wouldn’t actually be out of place on any of the Soft Hearted Scientists’ recent albums, but taken as a whole, THE VOLTA STURGEON FACE EP, released earlier this year and from which this track was taken, is a gorgeous addition to the canon, featuring a bucolic psych-folk charm with gentle baroque flourishes and neo-prog derring-do. As lovely as it sounds.
THE FOCAL POINT SYCAMORE SID
Named by Brian Epstein, who promptly died, The Focal Point released just the one single of precious toytown psychedelia, in 1967, which was typical of much of the burgeoning psychedelic scene of the time in its sketch of an eccentric character, very much in the tradition of the Edwardian music hall style that so enthralled British psychedelic also-rans of the time – I’m thinking of Koobas (‘Gypsy Fred’), Billy J. Kramer (‘Town of Tuxley Toymaker’), Keith West (‘Grocer Jack’), and Barnaby Rudge (‘Joe, Organ & Co.’) et al. at this point, but not in an unnecessarily bad way. As for the story of Sycamore Sid, the listening public couldn’t give two jots or, indeed, a tittle, and The Focal Point disbanded shortly thereafter, another foot-note in the world of swinging psychedelic music…
GERANIUM POND DOGS IN BASKETS
…but at least they got to release a single, which is more than can be said for Geranium Pond, who only got to record a single which their record company declined to release. Dogs In Baskets, recorded in 1968, is exactly the sort of acid-baked psychedelic lullaby that gives acid-baked psychedelic lullabies a bad name, and yet somewhere amidst the mellotron, the erratic string quartet splashes of colour and the harpsichord-led whimsy is a song I’m quite fond of. A foot-note to a foot-note, I’m afraid.
ILONA V GOLDEN HAIR
Ilona Virostek is an American singer-songwriter who sings tender stripped-down songs which embody the charm and wonder of stepping into a secret garden where everything is serene and pure. This radiant version of Syd Barrett’s Golden Hair can be found on the Fruits De Mer release A MOMENTARY LAPSE OF VINYL, released in 2014 as an exclusive double CD made available to club members at the Fruits De Mer website. It features some 30 tracks of pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd/ Barrett covers, taking in nursery songs to deep space epics recorded by the artists on its frankly formidable roster and is quite as wonderful as it sounds.
TEMPLES IN MY POCKET
Having been playing Temple’s sophomore release, VOLCANO, pretty much none stop now I can safely say that this track, In My Pocket, is the album’s earworm. It’s an album of melodic pop dreaminess that is never less than lovely, but it only touches upon the psychedelic possibilities of their first. It often appears as if I damning the band with faint praise, when in fact I like them a lot, but sometimes they seem a little too cautious for me, a little restrained; but there’s no denying they know their way around a meticulously crafted pop song. A simple unhinged wig-out would solve everything, I think.
THE GREEN PAJAMAS FALLING THROUGH THE HOLE
Seattle’s Green Pajamas seem to have some 20-odd releases behind them since forming in 1984. The Alice-inspired Falling Through The Hole is taken from their second release, and first album proper, BOOK OF HOURS, released in 1986, although I appear to have stumbled across a 2010 re-issue called THE COMPLETE BOOK OF HOURS, that includes a load of extra tracks garnered from German, Greek and Australian versions of the album. It’s an album unabashedly in love with psychedelic pop in all its glory, mixing a 60s psych fixation with 80s new-wave innovations that manage to make it sound old and new at the same time. It’s generally regarded as a psych-pop masterpiece by those who have actually heard it, and the band itself is widely considered the best band from Seattle that you’ve never heard of, but sadly, despite the critical acclaim, popularity continues to elude them. A bit like a lot of the bands I like, come to think of it.
ERIC BURDON AND THE ANIMALS POEM BY THE SEA
WINDS OF CHANGE was the debut album by Eric Burdon & the Animals, released in 1967, following the break of the original Animals in 1966. With this new band Burdon began to move from the gritty blues sound of the original mid-1960s group into a new found love of psychedelic music – he even has a song on the album called Yes, I Am Experienced in homage to Jimi Hendrix whom he counted as a major inspiration, and The Beatles get a look in too; WINDS OF CHANGE is dedicated to George Harrison whose espousal of Hindu philosophy following a visit to India the previous year Burdon also cited as an inspiration. Clearly then, Burdon was on something of a psychedelic trip when recording this album, which is awash with conceptual psychedelic mood pieces. Poem By The Sea is an echo-drenched spoken word piece (one of three on the album!) which eventually leads into a cover of The Stones’ Paint It Black, which I couldn’t really be doing with, so instead I have it float away into…
I understand that Deuter went on to make quite the name for himself in your new-age circles with over 60 albums or so of the meditational/relaxation/Glastonbury gift-shop variety. His first album, however, D, released in 1971, whilst in many ways containing all of the elements of what he would come to refine later, is an avant-garde krautrock masterpiece that alternates between Indian classical music and abstract synth dreamscapes mixed with tribal, ritual percussions, reversed phasing and tape-recorder experimentation, hissing electronic drones, samples of doves and street noise, sonic explorations, explosions of guitar and, crucially, sweet tunes. Unequivocally recommended to anybody looking for something ‘a bit different’.
PLASTIC ONO BAND REMEMBER LOVE
This is really quite lovely – makes you wonder why she otherwise went in for all the caterwauling, really. Recorded in Room 1742 Hotel La Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, during John and Yoko’s 'Bed-In', after everyone had gone home following the recording of Give Peace A Chance in 1969, and was on the b-side of that very single.
SEDAYNE GENTLE SISTERHOOD
The bardic Sedayne (Sean Breadin to his mum) appears to be one half of husband and wife folk artists Rapunzel and Sedayne (Rapunzel’s mum calls her Rachel McCarron) but there’s not much more I can say about him, or why Rapunzel doesn’t appear on this song. Between them they record a mesmerising mixture of old folk ballads and newly penned songs, exquisite Arcadian instrumentals often involving field-recorded vagabondian components and obscure instruments, such as the kemence, the kaossilator, and, indeed, the cwrth. The ghostly Gentle Sisterhood, which pretty much illustrates just how far out and beautiful your psych-folk can be, appears on the Sproatly Smith curated WEIRDSHIRE: BEATING THE BOUNDS, released in 2015, an album that celebrates the weird and wonderful psych-folk groups that seem to inhabit that wyrdest of all counties, Herefordshire.
NANCY SINATRA AND LEE HAZELWOOD SOME VELVET MORNING
The first time I heard Some Velvet Morning it stopped me dead in my tracks; I think I may have even swooned a little. I'd never heard such a weird, ethereal and breathtakingly sexy song before and I stood there entranced, unable to imagine how such a mesmerizingly trippy song could exist in the same world as me without my having heard it before. Fortunately, I’d just wandered into the Rough Trade shop down Portobello Road at the time so I was pretty much able to satisfy my curiosity straight away regarding who had produced something so mystifyingly lovely. I bought LIGHTNING’S GIRL: THE BEST OF NANCY SINATRA straight away and it remains one of my favourite CDs of all time. Some Velvet Morning was initially released on the album MOVIN’ WITH NANCY, the soundtrack to her 1967 television special of the same name, which featured the first performance of the song, and was later released as a single. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate that everyone who hears this song for the first time feels exactly the same way I did about it. It’s spell-bindingly gorgeous and has never been bettered – not by Slowdive, not by The Primitives, and certainly not by Kate Moss and Primal Scream (even though I got really excited by the potential of that version until I actually heard it).
Otherworldly krautrock vibes from Eroc (better known to his mum as Joachim Heinz Ehrig, although you can see why everyone might just prefer Eroc) who served time as drummer and band leader with the decidedly un-krautrock Grobschnitt (it doesn’t translate – I’ve already looked) who enjoyed too much of a sense of humour to be counted in the krautrock canon. His solo work, however, is, I understand, a thing apart. Horrorgoll is taken from his eponymous debut album, released in 1975, a very abstract affair, rich in electronic synthscapes and, in this instance, experimental sound manipulations that seem to have invented the Moon Wiring Club. I was going to save this track for a Halloween special, but actually like it so much I thought that I’d just get it out there.
E.E. CUMMINGS EXCEPT IN YOUR
You never quite know what you’re going to receive from the fabulous Trunk Records, but last week I found an invitation to download E.E. CUMMINGS READS HIS OWN POEMS VOL. 1 in my inbox that I found fairly irresistible. I’ve always been a fan, me (and I’m finding it quite stressful that I haven’t yet spelled his name in the proper way – e.e. cummings - there, I’ll be alright now).
DUNGEN WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE TOMORROW
…or, Det Du Tänker Idag Är Du I Morgon, to give it its correct title, is taken from the album TA DET LUGNT, released in 2004, the third album from Swedish psych-rockers Dungen, although Dungen exist in the same way that Tame Impala exists – they are, in fact, the creation of 24 year old Swedish multi-instrumentalist Gustav Ejstes, who takes on a band when he wishes to tour his material. This is an album very much at home to the spirit of 1967/68 but, crucially, the Swedish spirit of those revolutionary years, so what you get is a peculiarly Scandinavian mix of dew-drop strings, free jazz breakdowns, brief whiffs of AM radio tuning, flute minuets, lushly cascading pianos, prog time changes, florid medieval chimes, sky-melting freakouts, church organs, fuzz-guitar jousts, doubled mountain-top whistles, roaring six-string solos, and autumnal instrumental interludes, lifted, no doubt, from his parent’s record collection. It sounds fantastic.
BABA YAGA MOKSCHA
This is probably the most intriguing track on the show – a krautrock/middle-eastern hybrid named after a fictional hallucinogenic fungal extract from Aldous Huxley’s novel ‘Island’ that reveals to the user the inter-connectedness of all things. Comprised of Ingo Werner, former member of obscure krautrock act My Solid Ground, and the highly exotic skills of Iranian percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Nemat Darman, this track arguably attempts to do the same thing. It’s one of two tracks on the duo’s second album, COLLAGE, released in 1974, an epic cocktail of Eastern raga like textures, space voyager synth surfaces and occasional funk jazz moments (as opposed to jazz-funk moments) that provide a soundscape of mind bending trippery; a true example of blissful, far-out krautrock grandeur.
MOODSWINGS SPIRITUAL HIGH
This is the incredibly rare ‘lost’ Star Trek mix of Spiritual High, a track that otherwise features Chrissie Hynde on vocals and sampled Martin Luther’s ‘I have a dream’ speech to improving effect. Originally recorded by Jon and Vangelis as State of Independence, it was also covered by Donna Summer before Moodswings re-recorded it in three parts as Spiritual High (State of Independence) for their debut album MINDFOOD in 1992. That being said, this is the original 12” vinyl version, released in 1990, which also includes the spirit of The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows, and pretty much does what it says on label, producing a state of spaced out euphoria that is almost narcotic in the high it produces. All four versions of this track are fantastic, and on the internet you can find a mix of all the tracks that someone has kindly segued together – it lasts some 25 minutes or so and is life-affirming in its loveliness – but this is Star Trek version, the Star Trek version, ladies and gentlemen.
THE APPLES IN STEREO IV. FROM OUTSIDE, IN FLOATS A MUSIC BOX
A trifling little number with which to conclude the show, one of eight interludes from the album HER WALLPAPER REVERIE, released in 1999, and an album I shall return to more fully in my next show.