Written by on March 16, 2009

                                             MIND DE-CODER 10





Syd Matters, otherwise known as French musician Jonathon Morali, released the debut album, a Whisper And A Sigh, from which this track is taken, in 2002. On it he creates elegiac, finger picked folk over etherial electronic rhythms that place him somewhere between Nick Drake and Radiohead. It provides the perfect introduction to this evening’s show, an altogether more gentle soundtrack to come down to.


The Pretty Things’ album SF Sorrow, recorded in 1967, has the dubious distinction of being considered the world’s first ‘Rock Opera’, pre-dating The Beatles and The Who by a year. In it, we follow the story of Sebastian F. Sorrow, from birth, through love, war, tragedy, madness and the disillusionment of old age. (It’s a comedy). It’s widely regarded as something of a psychedelic classic, and was recorded in the same EMI studios that Pink Floyd and The Beatles were using to create their own psychedelic classics, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and Sgt. Pepper’s. For one reason or another it failed to create the same impact as either of those two albums, and became one of the great lost albums of the sixties, which is where I found it. Bracelets Of Fingers seems to be about our hero’s job at The Misery Factory. Do you know, I think it’s narrative may have had something to do with that whole business concerning its popularity.

PAUL WELLER      111

Bit of a suprise this. For the past 20 years or so I’ve regarded Paul Weller as a trad-dad rockist who seemed to be turning into Eric Clapton with each album release. Then he comes along with 22 Dreams, an album alive with music’s possibilities, embracing electronica, krautrock, classical, folk and psychedelia (with the odd lumpen dad-rock filler, it must be said). 111 is a chaotic mix of Moog, mellotron and free-jazz experimentation, for example. I mean, who knew? I like the album so much I include another track from it later on.


For Many, it’s Surrealistic Pillow, for others, it’s After Bathing At Baxters. I’m an After Bathing At Baxters man, myself. Granted Surrealistic Pillow has got Somebody To Love and White Rabbit on it, as well as the lovely acoustic ballad Comin’ Back To Me, but After Bathing At Baxters, recorded and released in 1967, the same year is Surrealistic Pillow, is literally a trip. Released at the height of the west coast hippy vibe, this is an album soaked in LSD use, offering up a unique, experimental sound of the sixties waiting to implode; but for now, everyone is clearly having a whale of a time as is in evidence on this particular track. There’ll be a better one later on in the show.


From the album West, released last year in 2008, and a very good example of exacly what it is that Erol Alkan and Richard Norris do to other people’s psychedelic classics. Problem is, I don’t know who did this tune originally, so there’s not very much else I can say about it.


Colleen creates simple, fragile and instrumental tunes of child-like, folk-speckled psychedelic bliss (in a fuzzy-hearted, etherial sort of way, that you may or may not find captivating). The Golden Morning Breaks, released in 2005 and from which this track is taken, spins music as delicate as an early-morning dew-kissed web, and is as diaphanous and lovely. But I need to save some superlatives for the next track…



Something of a folk standard this – I have versions by Shirley Collins and Sandy Denny to name but two, but Anne Briggs breathes such life into it that this is possibly the definitive version of the song. (Any folkies want to come and argue this point with me?). Briggs’ voice was quite simply pure and breathtakingly beautiful – she, on the other hand, hated the sound of her recorded voice so much she stopped singing at the age of 27. As folk music became electrified and increasingly popular, with bands such as Fairport Convention and Pentangle reinventing the British folk tradition, more and more women were singing in a style started by Briggs, her legend flourished, and yet still she refused to sing. It’s now been 30 years or so since the woman touted as the greatest legend in English folk music retired from the scene and she’s still not singing. On the album Anne Briggs: A Collection, one of my favourite albums ever, you will find her singing, largely unaccompanied by instrumentation, and her crystalline voice is mesmerising and spellbinding. She only ever recorded 30 songs or so – but as somebody once wrote – these are not just songs, they are the key to a way of thinking. Anyway, I’m a big fan, me.


Here’s someone who agrees with me, although I’ve often thought that Milk White Sheets, the album from which this song is taken, released in 2005, owes more to the loveliness of Vashty Bunyan. Isobel Campbell, of course, used to be in Belle And Sebastian, where she was often accused of adding a certain twee-ness to the band’s proceedings. She put paid to that kind of criticism with her work with gravel-voiced bluesman Mark Lanegan and The Ballad Of The Broken Seas, which I never really cared for, myself, because I really can’t be doing with gravelly-voices. On this album, however, Campbell’s voice is almost weightless in its delicacy – the album is charming and simple, she even has a go at Willow’s Song – all in all, it’s lovely.


From the opera Lakme, by Leo Delibes, of course and, sadly, very popular amongst advertisers these days. I first heard it in the film The Hunger, Tony Scott’s seductive 1983 vampire movie, featuring David Bowie and the sexy lesbian scene between Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon for which it served as a very erotic accompaniment. Despite the fact you can hear it everywhere these days, from shopping malls to elevators to British Airways adverts to bloody cellphone ringtones, it still remains one of the sexiest, most exotic pieces of music you are ever likely to hear. It certainly had an effect on me, and I’m not going to not play it just because every bugger has heard it. I don’t know who is responsible for this particularly ravishing recording – but you can find it on The Hunger soundtrack.


On the other hand, when it came to Satie’s Gymnopèdies, I did think – hang on, every bugger really has heard these, but they fit the mood I was trying to create so perfectly that I had to use one of them, albeit a little reluctantly. But only a little. Anyway, I chose Gymnopèdies #3 because it’s the least well known of the series, but also because I’ve discovered that it has a hypnotic like quality that can lead to an almost out of body experience, if listened to properly. Which is perfect because it allows the next track to arrive almost unnoticed…


The numbed-out, narcotic bliss from Spacemen 3’s key recording, The Transparent Radiation EP, released in 1987. This record blew my mind the first time I heard it, and even now I still get a shiver when I hear vocalist Sonic Boom utter, "I was wide awake in a dream…" only to follow it some 7 minutes later with the immortal, "You know? It sounds like…ecstasy". A record that will wash all over you and take you somewhere very far away, a place of distant reverie, and very splendid too.


And back to earth with a bang. Returning to England in 1968 from a stint in Spain and just in time to catch the tail end of the psychedelic craze, The Tomcats hastily renamed themselves July and got out a quick album, called July, which has since become a much sought after psychedelic artefact. They were never as good as Pink Floyd, say, but the album does hold two genuinely weird psychedelic classics – Dandelion Seeds and My Clown. It also has this track, Hello Who’s There, a kind of chirpy cockney knees up in Small Faces stylee which I included because sometimes one doesn’t want to disappear up one’s own arse. And it makes me laugh, of course. Mind you, I edited about three verses out of it because it does get a bit much, and then I had it disappear into a bit of Faust I had left over from last week.


The second single that was released from After Bathing At Baxters and one on which Grace Slick’s vocal just soars in a way that always makes me soar too.

I have it disappear into a rather fine radio ad they seem to have made for Levi Jeans round about the same time as the album release in 1967 – the thing is, is it possible for a counter-cultural group to make an advert, no matter how ironic or trippy, without shredding any remains of their artistic dignity? However, I happen to own a collection of psychedelic promos and radio spots from the sixties (every home should own one) and they all do appear to be at it. It is a very good promo, though.


From The Tremelo EP, released in 1991, as an accompaniment for the Loveless LP. It’s a lovely tune, for a start, a strange collage of faintly Middle Eastern noise over which vocalist Bilinda Butcher’s voice floats like a giddy swoon. It gives me goosebumps.


The Legendary Revolution 1 (Take 20), that appeared on the internet for about 5 minutes last week before getting taken down by the powers of darkness. Fortunately, I just happened to be on line at the time. So here you are, a genuine curio for your listening pleasure…


From 22 Dreams, again, Paul Weller with more acid-folk charm. And that would be Terrence McKenna positing the theory that you and I might actually be the centre of the mandala. Or something.


And that was Mind De-Coder 10.

I thank you.

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