MIND DE-CODER 67
‘Let’s make a sound to lead us from the outside to the inside’
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.