MIND DE-CODER 18
“Perhaps we could make the middle darker and maybe the end a bit middle afternoonish.”
BEVIS AND TWINK SONG REMEMBERED
Twink, of course, is something of a legend in the English counter-culture, having played with Tomorrow, The Pretty Things and The Pink Fairies. Bevis is Nick Saloman of The Bevis Frond, who has managed to produce some 23 albums or so of a decidedly English psychedelic nature, none of which I’ve managed to like very much, much to my surprise. Bevis and Twink released the THE MAGIC EYE album in 1990, an album that neither of them particularly need to jump up and down about – Twink can certainly do better, bur Bevis is usually very good with his intro tracks and I think Song Remembered is a very good intro track indeed. I wouldn’t concern myself with the rest of the album if I were you.
PRIMAL SCREAM BURNING WHEEL
Another band very good with opening tracks, Burning Wheel is the opener from VANISHING POINT, of course, released in 1997, and featuring Mani, fresh from the Stone Roses débâcle on bass (more recently replaced by MBV’s Bilinda Butcher now that the Roses have reformed for a bit). Burning Wheel delivers everything Primal Scream promised – a genuinely disorientating psychedelic mix of heavily-echoed drum machines, sampled sitars and warped guitars anchored by a trip hop beat and a random layering of sounds. Absolutely mesmerizing; VANISHING POINT remains my favourite album by Primal Scream.
POSITION NORMAL CANISTEN
Position Normal is the work of the slightly eccentric ex-art students Chris Baillif and John Cushway, whose debut album was a hauntological assemblage of sampled children’s records, lo-fi guitars and random car boot artifacts that, at the time of its release in 1998, managed to sound like nothing heard before. Their second album, GOODLY TIME, was commissioned by artist Eli Kishimoto IN 1999 to be used for sale alongside his screen-print work, and features a haunting, endearing and nostalgic section of half-songs that will remind you of a childhood you almost probably never had.
THE YARDBIRDS HAPPENINGS TEN YEARS TIME AGO
Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, released 1966, was the first single by The Yardbirds to feature Jimmy Page in the band, and indeed John Paul Jones on bass, and is proper 60’s artifact for that alone. It has the dizzying feel of a miniature rock opera with searing guitar riffs (courtesy of Page), cockney voices and explosions crammed into its two minutes and fifty five seconds – it didn’t exactly soar to the top of the charts, but is rightly regarded as one of the top psychedelic records of all time.
RAMASES AND SELKET MIND’S EYE
Martin Raphael was Sheffield’s answer to Sun Ra. A former PT instructor for the British army turned central heating salesman, Martin claimed to be in contact with the Egyptian god Rameses, who informed him that it was his mission to teach the world the truth about the universe. Martin duly changed his name to Rameses and searched for a record deal, as obviously releasing a whacked-out psychedelic single was the best way to achieve this. In My Mind’s Eye is the B-side to his 1968 debut single Crazy One, recorded with his wife, Dorothy Frost, as Rameses and Selket. It’s orchestrated, wonky exotica, with Ram’s dulcet tones somehow reminding me of Genesis P.Orridge.
WAX AUDIO BENARES
A fabulous bit of filler from mash-up artist Wax Audio (Tom Compagnoni to his mum) with a track called Benares from his incredible sound-collage album 9 COUNTRIES, released in 2009, but five years in the making, as Tom traveled the world recording anything that sounded interesting – temple bells, chanting monks, the beating of drums of festival processions, insect, bird and animal noises, traffic noises and random conversations with people on the streets. Benares is the sound of the Ganges river festivities in Varanasi, India, and then the same river recorded at Rishikesh. A small Sony condenser microphone – never leave home without one.
THE HUMAN BEAST MAYBE SOMEDAY
The Human Beast were a short-lived Scottish psychedelic outfit whose heavy sound was described in 1969 as ‘electro-flagellation’ in an attempt to describe the band’s Eastern-inflected guitar stylings, pounding bass and pounding percussion. In fact, Maybe Someday has more of an acoustic feel which is perhaps untypical of the band’s only album, VOLUME ONE, taped in a single 12 hour stint and released in 1970, but its appeal lies in its hypnotic melody and its gentle eastern influences. One for the collectors, I think.
EXTRADITION SONG FOR SUNRISE
Extradition were the real deal, an Australian folk outfit that channeled the spirit of The Incredible String Band, Shirley Collins, crazy experimental field recordings, oriental acoustic instruments and droney analogue sounds into an album that was less a folk album and more a celebration of the very earth itself – speaking, screaming and singing herself into creation. The band only released the one album, HUSH, released in 1971, but when you’ve created something as complete, out-there and shamanic as this, then your work is done.
COLLEEN THE HEART HARMONICOM
Colleen is the name under which composer Cècile Schott crafts abstract, elegant, barely-there compositions from bells, proto-cellos, cathedral ambiences and 19th century glass glockenspiels – you’ve really never heard anything like it. The secret-garden chime of The Heart Harmonicom can be found her 2005 album THE GOLDEN MORNING BREAKS, an album of beautiful pure-sound formlessness.
GREEN MISTLETOE INVOCATION TO GREEN ELOHIM
Beautiful forest folk from Brian Waters, an American bard whose album FOREST DWELLER, released in 2007, perfectly captures the spirit of folklore, nature mysticism and heathen/Christian thematics – it probably
kills him that he’s not Welsh. Played on acoustic guitars, percussion, lap harps, flutes and zithers, it never really rocks out, but Invocation To Green Elohim pretty much does what it says on the label.
JULIAN COPE HEY, HIGH CLASS BUTCHER
Julian Cope at his most Syd Barrett-est, falling apart-est, fragile, broken and holding it together-est, making these weird little tunes on his own following the demise of The Teardrop Explodes. This is from the B-side to his return to the world, THE SUNSHINE PLAYROOM EP, which he released about a week after I left home and moved into my first bed-sit, in 1983. I can’t quite tell you what sort of affect it had on me, but in its own way, it led to Mind De-Coder. Mind you, everything that happened in 1983 led to Mind De-Coder…
ASWAD ROCKER’S DELIGHT
Created by Aswad before their pop-reggae era, this is the sound of Aswad following a meeting with legendary producer Jah Shaka in his Addis Ababa Studio in London (and not Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, say), in which the band play a series of instrumentals composed, produced and mixed by Jah Shaka. Released in 1984, long after reggae had become digital, JAH SHAKA MEETS ASWAD IN ADDIS ABABA STUDIO, is a roots piece, much loved by fans of dub and roots reggae. Rocker’s Delight is one of my favouritest pieces of music ever. Is it dub enough for you?
SAM GOPAL YESTERLOVE
Possibly the most interesting thing about Sam Gopal and his band is that it featured Ian Willis, former Jimi Hendrix roadie, fuzz guitarist and future Hawkwind bass guitarist, Lemmy. He was singer-guitarist with Sam Gopal in 1968, a late-period psychedelic blues act with a fine line in Eastern-tinged stoned mysticism, courtesy of Gopal, an accomplished Malaysian tabla player. Yesterlove, written by Lemmy, is by far the loveliest track on the band’s 1968 ESCALATOR EP, a record otherwise characterized by heavy guitars and dark blues influences. Despite this, it’s possibly the poppiest album Motorhead never made.
23rd TURNOFF MICHAEL ANGELO
Liverpool’s 23rd Turnoff must have spent a bit of time in their tour bus, as their name comes from the 23rd turnoff on the M6, the junction leading to their hometown of Liverpool. This charmed, waltz-time, psychedelic folk epic, released in 1967, is a pop-psyche classic, beautifully covered recently by Johnny, the duo consisting of Euros Childs (of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) and Norman Blake (of Teenage Fanclub). This was the band’s only single, the group hampered by their refusal to move to London, where the swinging psychedelic scene was centered. In many ways, Jimmy Campbell, the band’s singer-songwriter, was one of the period’s great lost figures, whose songs were covered by Billy Fury, Cliff Richard, the Swinging Blue Jeans and even Rolf Harris. As is usual with many of the tracks I play on Mind De-Coder, Michael Angelo is now considered one of the greatest psychedelic records of the time.
THE DENTISTS STRAWBERRIES ARE GROWING IN MY GARDEN (AND IT’S WINTERTIME)
The very week of Live Aid, English teen (and yet somehow crucial) pop magazine Smash Hits voted The Dentists’ Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden (And It’s Wintertime) runner-up Single of the Week in it’s fortnightly review pages (I don’t recall what it’s coveted Single of the Week was). In the mild hysteria surrounding that giddy week people forgot to buy the single and it became lost in the mists of time – until I discovered that very copy of Smash Hits while rummaging around iin the loft of my wife’s parents recently and suddenly remembered how much I liked it. They were meant to be the sound of young Medway (a sort of nice place to live in Kent, England – better than Grays in Essex, say – although this will mean nothing to anyone on Waiheke Island), but nothing very much came of that scene, despite The Dentist’s album SOME PEOPLE ARE ON THE PITCH, THEY THINK IT’S ALL OVER, IT IS NOW. Strawberries… was their debut single, released in 1986 but sadly, despite a career spanning some 11 years no one really took to them – Strawberries… was, however, covered by Lida Husik on her album Joyride (as heard on Mind De-Coder 7). I’ve always liked it, me.
SYD BARRETT BOB DYLAN BLUES (PSYCHEDELIC MIX #1)
Bob Dylan Blues was always the great unreleased track by Syd Barrett, recorded during the Barrett sessions in 1970, and not heard until Dave Gilmour discovered the tape in his personal collection and included it on the album THE BEST OF SYD BARRETT – WOULDN’T YOU MISS ME, released in 2001. I found this version on the internet by someone who clearly wished to remain anonymous but who had otherwise pulled it apart and put it back together again in a pleasingly psychedelic manner. Whoever you are – I really like what you did with it – call me.
THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND PAINTING BOX
I really don’t get The Incredible string Band. I can’t tell you how much I really want to like A Very cellular Song and play it on Mind De-coder, or, indeed, anything on The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, but sadly, what others hear as unique, exotic, multi-dimensional creative openness and unrestrained hippie-folk creativity, I just hear as a tuneless racket. Painting Box, however, can be found on their second album THE 5000 SPIRITS OR LAYERS OF THE ONION, released in 1967, and Paul McCartney’s album of the year. It’s the only song on it I like, though.
On this track you can more or less hear the exact moment that acid folk turned its head towards prog – is that somewhere over the rainbow mixed in there, or the chatanooga choo choo played in a medieval stylee? I believe it is. Gryphon grew from the meeting of two fellows from the Royal College of Music in the early 70’s who began the group as an all-acoustic ensemble that mixed traditional English folk music with medieval and Renaissance influences. With their velvet capes, their mighty krumhorns and insane medieval wig-outs they produced three highly regarded albums that sounded as much like rural English folk or renaissance chansons as it did rock. Esampie is taken from their debut album, GRYPHON, released in 1973, in which the band come on like Santana’s percussion section whisked back to the Middle Ages with a group of merry woodfolk.
CLARK HUTCHINSON FREE TO BE STONED
Outrageously heavy acid-blues from Clark Hutchinson, who produced four semi-leg
enday LPs between 1969 and 1971. Mick Hutchinson learnt his guitar skills playing with Sam Gopal while Andy Clark was a shockingly talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist – it is his crazed voice declaring “I just want to be stoned for the rest of my natural life”, like a man who really knows what he wants. Free To Be Stoned is from their third album RETRIBUTION, released 1970. This song has been described as emphasizing an IQ-reducing bluntage of blues guitar destruction. Enjoy.
COSMIC TRIP MACHINE LORD SPACE DEVIL
You know where you are with a band that call themselves Cosmic Trip Machine; no messing about – you’re going to get an experimental psychedelic folk album with songs that release themselves from any constraints and explore differing sonic boundaries. Their debut album, LORD SPACE DEVIL, released in 2008, contains odd instruments, studio effects, rock passages inspired by Indian music and B-movies, an orgy of lysergic guitar, backwards tapes and percussion. Marvelous.
RUTH WHITE EVENING HARMONY
Avant-garde electronics from self-taught synth pioneer Ruth White, whose album, THE FLOWERS OF EVIL, released in 1969, is an eerie recording of Baudelaire’s volume of poetry Les Fleur Du Mal over White’s ‘electroacoustic’ music which at times in nightmarishly disassociatative in the noises she produces. Evening Harmony is probably the lightest track from an album that also has a lot of darkness.
THE CARETAKER LIBET’S DELAY
Inspired by a report that states Alzheimer patients have an easier time remembering information when it is placed in the context of music, The Caretaker is a musical project by hauntologist James Kirby, who, on his album AN EMPTY BLISS BEYOND THIS WORLD, released in 2011, has taken a collection of pre-war parlour room 78’s and albums and edited them together in a style that mimics the fragmented and inconclusive ways our memories work. Several of the tracks here take pretty, anodyne phrases and loop them mindlessly; several stop in what feels like mid-thought; several reach back and then jump forward; the hiss, crackles and jumps from the needle in the groove are palpable. They never feel filled-in from start to finish, and they tend to linger on moments that feel especially comforting or conclusive: the last flourishes of a song, maybe, the pat on the shoulder, the part when we’re assured everything is drawing to a close. It’s an eerie yet beautiful album, but also strangely comforting, that the music locked away inside our heads will remain with us forever.
And on that note, that was mind De-Coder 18.