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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Review: Ramases - Space Hymns (Released 1971 on Vertigo)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2004

Ramases: Vocals
Sel: Vocals

Eric Stewart: Guitars, Moog Synthesizer
Lol Creme: Guitars, Moog Synthesizer, Piano
Graham Gouldman: Guitar, Bass Guitar
Kevin Godley: Drums, Percussion, Flutes
Martin Raphael: Sitar

First things first, anyone who likes the more 'folk' drenched albums associated with the former World Serpent related groups-e.g. Current 93, Orchis etc., or any people seduced by older albums by the likes of Dr.Strangely Strange, Incredible String Band, Comus etc., then you would probably take to this, although, it doesn't necessarily sound the same as any of those names mentioned, but you could maybe relate to it.

Housed in a lavish fold-out album sleeve with a remarkable Roger Dean painting depicting a rocket bursting up into the night sky, this would catch many a person's eye in the early 1970s, especially when you opened out the full package and see that the 'rocket' is in fact a church steeple which has launched upwards being disengaged from the building!

A friend of mine bought this album on the strength of the cover alone, a few years after it's initial release.
As you could imagine, our close throng of teenage ears were eager to hear what this was all about, a blistering onslaught of german progressive keyboard workouts maybe??

Wrong! that time I/we thought it was a load of daft folky-driven, non-descript nonesense and proceeded to give said friend a hard time when the usual bouts of playful group mocking sessions would unfold.....a simple mention of the name 'ramases' would always be a sure-fire retort when one such skit would fly my way (sorry Steve!).

For years later, I would often think about this's cover, it's odd songs and (in particular) the solarised photo on the inside cover of the album showing a shaven-headed Ramases and his wife Sel standing side by side with their right arms out-stretched, each holding aloft a frail shaft of corn. I then managed to 'secretly' obtain a copy of the LP myself.

The Ramases story is an odd but interesting one and yet not without a sad, unjust ending.

Martin Raphael aka Barrington Frost aka Ramases, was born in Sheffield, England in the late 1930s and after teaching physical education in the army, went on to make a living selling central-heating systems in Scotland.....until the Egyptian God Ramases appeared to him and told him the true meaning of the Universe.
With no time to lose, he adopted his new moniker and thought the best way to get the message across would be to inform the youth of the day.
In 1968 he secured a recording contract with CBS(!) and released the single- "Crazy One/Mind's Eye" by Ramases & Selket.
In 1970 he signed to Vertigo and entered Strawberry Studios in Stockport with the future members of 70s UK pop act- 10 CC.

"Life Child"-
Echoed, distant flutes resound down the valley as the music then fades in with wah-wah guitar, heavily strummed acoustic guitar and fairly solid drums. There's a very fitting psyche-guitar section in the middle, probably to hook the punters in on first spin.
Well, it was always the first track you would hear, if you asked the record shop staff to play an album out of the racks or if you were lucky enough to get a headphone booth.
It's also laced with some buzzing bass synth notes and builds up quite a pace after Ramases sings such lines as-

"I see the wreckage on the ground... Life Child!"

"Oh Mister"-
A song that I thought was daft years ago, sounds great fun now with it's- 'If you can't play along, bang on some percussion' commune feel.

"And The Whole World"- is a melancholy folk song that I can't listen to sometimes as it gives me an incredible rush of sadness.
The power of 'simplistic' music....from the other end of the spectrum.
There's a nice short vibes solo too.

This is where the oddness is though, as the next track-
"Quasar One"- has Ramases and Sel singing with strange nasal tones and puzzling lyrics.
Percussion, guitar and bass merge together with slightly feverish chanting that builds up (and out) twice, before dreamily drifting off before those nasal vocals come in again. An excellent, blissful track.

At a running time of just over two minutes and consisting of the line-"You're the only one Joe, the only one", the track, yeah, you guessed it! -
"You're The Only One" can be forgiven for scratching your head and thinking "what the....???"
I don't know, what IS the strange pull of all this...?, this track, over the years, often plays in a loop in my head...not suprising as the line is repeated over 30 times.

Just when you think you are going further towards going round THAT bend...

"Earth-People"- comes in via something that sounds like backward tape church-organ before acoustic guitar strumming and backwards flute gives Ramases the cue to sing-

"After I've travelled the deserts of Zeus
After I've heard the birth of a planet
After I've journeyed the oceans of silence
After I've found how true they are............"

The sound is so becalmed, especially by Sel's marvellous vocals and more flutes weaving through the voices.

"Molecular Delusions"-
Buzzes of sitar (credited to his former-self!), Ramases sings distant megaphone lines alternating with multi-tracked vocals that chant the title in slow repetition.
Trivial but bizarre and I'll mention it anyway, you can also hear the word "fuck" spoken very clearly, coming out of the left speaker just a minute or so into the song, which makes you think- Was it a mistake? Did he spill some tea in the studio? We'll never know.
There's a pleasant overall 'eastern touch' to this, which again is great in that it creates a very relaxed mood.

Is a more straight-ahead sing-a-long song, with later washes of background synth as the song is relayed with loaded statements-

".....don't burst your bubble....the air's your bubble.....don't burst your bubble or you're in trouble....."

To drive the point home the song leads to a reverberated moog blast which bursts it all to a sudden close.
A single version was recorded and released in 1971 with the synth effects more pronounced.

"Dying Swan Year 2000"-
Solo voices sing about 'beautiful things dying' while people look away.
Not a minute in length and yet it's got quite a chill to it.

"Jesus"- is another very melancholy song. It gives me a shudder when I hear it, similar to the feel of the previous 'And The Whole World' in it's
ability to make you feel helpless with sadness, but also like hearing some kind of strange eerie christian cult record.
Goosebumps never fail, especially with Sel's frail "aah aah" backing vocals at the end of certain lines.

"Journey To The Inside"- closes the album and begins with some strange low thudding synth noise and sounds like the needle has stuck on the run-out groove.
It loses the 'traditional' instrumentation in favour of rapid breathing backward tape-loops and curving low moogs and high pitched jittering synth twitters...
"Oh...what are you going to do with me..." -he intones as the moogs become on the verge of going out of control as they fade to bring the track to a close, but not before a conversation captured in the studio between Ramases and the players and studio hands, ending with cosmic words from the man himself....

"....but I think it goes further than that...I go into a molecular thing as well....the comparative distances between electrons and nuclei in molecules in every very comparative to the distances in our own solar system...if you took a pill to get smaller and you...vanished... get smaller and smaller and vanished inside that chair that you're sitting....."

One of the strangest albums I've ever heard, in the way the melancholy nature surrounds you but doesn't drag you down.

It's also very addictive, although you CERTAINLY won't believe it on the first few listens.
It has now been issued on CD by Repertoire Records.

Another album was released in 1975 named "Glass Top Coffin" (also on Vertigo).
Then nothing else was heard until reports surfaced with the news of his death (by suicide) in the early 1990s.

The book "England's Hidden Reverse" by David Keenan, detailing the stories of the groups Nurse With Wound, Current 93 and Coil, features a small photo of the Ramases & Selket debut 45 picture-sleeve on the front cover photo-collage, Current 93's David Tibet being a fan of Ramases for many years.

In 1970, just before 10CC found pop success, they had recorded a simplistic but excellent single -"Neanderthal Man"- under the name 'Hotlegs'.
This bizarre chant-driven song, got to number 2 in the UK charts, number 22 in the US and a number One slot in Italy.
It sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
Elton John, who was an unknown session player at this time, also recorded a version for a budget-priced LP collection of sound-alike hits.

It was revealed years later, that this song, in lyrics, style and content, had been 'lifted' from the Ramases/Sel repertoire.

Written by Tim Jones october 2004

Monday, 21 February 2011

It's in the trees #1

No. 1 in an occasional series of interesting looking trees. This grand looking specimen with some great twists and shapes in it's trunk, was located at Gwysaney Hall near Mold, Flintshire, North Wales.  

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Tears of joy time: Something for the weekend.

A great clip of The Small Faces playing live on German TV in 1966. I love the opening bars where the late great Ronnie Lane is thumping hell out of his semi-acoustic bass which leads into a cracking performance from all four concerned.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Mag Blag: A date with Fate

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Lady Gaga - Is she still a puppet of sinister dark forces and the New World Order?

Baphomet's Girl

Whilst sorting out and clearing out a few bookmarks as you do, I came across an article from a while back that I'd saved from the Vigilant Citizen site. It concerns that marvellous and talented young gun, Lady Gaga. Now even if you think said article is maybe going off on quite a wild tangent, regarding the occult connections between our world famous shining star and the dark forces of our sinister world rulers, it still makes for amusing reading to say the least. 
Plus, reading the comments after the article reveals quite a few people whose heads have been popped by the article. But, nothing throws all the conspiracy ranting out of the window, like the fervour and devotion of the Lady Gaga fan which is distilled by the likes of 'Isabella', the last to comment.


Review: Various Artists - Perspectives And Distortion (Released 1981 on Cherry Red)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2003

One of the great lost compilation albums from the 'post-punk' twilight years.

Side One:
*Claire Thomas and Susan Vezey - "Bright Waves"
A fade in of some drifting solo female voices, multi-tracked and with no other instruments other than the 'treatments' credited to one Philip Sanderson.
In fact, as was revealed years after, Ms.Thomas and Ms.Vezey did not even exist.
Sanderson had hawked his way onto the album saying he had contact with these two angel-voiced ladies and was helping them out in the studio.

*Matt Johnson - "What Stanley Saw"
Like his work with The Gadgets, he manages to provide a kind of psychedelic sounding music at times via the use of drum machines, synths and guitars and pin-pointed by his distinctive vocals, sounding like an upper register Ian Anderson at times- 
" a murder in disguise...I'll never get over you..." 
-he chimes in whilst stabbed electric piano and strident electric guitar edge up for the finishing line, the track then ending with some sort of lightening bolt strike that leads into....

*Virgin Prunes - "Third Secret"
.....and it's that strike that runs into mournful piano chords and takes you into a kind of scaffold-as-gamelan nocturne as the Prunes use silence to good effect in between their metal clanks to achieve the track's unusual and eerie atmosphere...

*Lol Coxhill - "The Calm..."
The Calm is made up of some smoothly overlaid phrases and what I like about Coxhill's reed playing is that he always has the ability to sound melodic, even when using various techniques like different tape speeds put to great use on the album "Slow Music" which was a collaboration with Morgan Fisher.

*Lemon Kittens - "...In Wooden Brackets"
This piece was recorded at different times and locations but is spliced together by the deft fingers of Karl Blake and Dannielle Dax.
After the uncertain beginning, a drum machine comes driving in with some extraordinary vocals from Dax, while the electro-percussion turns to glass beads. Cymbals provide a crash mat as Dax's vocals become more settled, a tremolo organ holds up, but then more splinter percussion enters the fray with some clump string plucks (?) from the guitars only to desolve to the breathing backward reeds and the storm is over.

*Eyeless In Gaza - "You Frighten"
Another duo here, that of Bates and Becker.
Martyn Bates really is one unsung artist, along with the late Billy Mackenzie, they both had a great style of voice.
Bates lays a spreading vocal sound over Becker's Keyboards making you think of a sound akin to a youthful Terry Riley and a youthful Peter Hammill ducking and diving through the stratospheres.

*Kevin Coyne - "Hello Judas"
This track, from one of the U.K.'s most unsung songwriters, was quite a suprise with it's theatrical, almost Noel Coward type feel, jaunting along until the track breaks with a couple of truly inspired lines-
 "I was snooping in the sour cold day...peering through the a lion before prey..."

*Mark Perry - "Dear, Dear"
Beginning with a peel of a tiny ritual bell, except that it's not recorded in a temple but what sounds like the TV room of a south london working men's club! Perry narrates a short tale of a man named "Tony".

Side Two:
*Ben Watt - "Departure"
I never did venture much into Ben Watt's material, so I won't pretend to appear that I did! Well, honesty is the best policy after all, but what I can say is that during this track of 1 minute 36 seconds and utilising guitar harmonics and solo voice, it sticks in your head for a long time and you always think that the track is at least twice as long as it actually is.......and nice it is too.

*Two Daughters - "Return Call/We Are"
Using clarinet and percussion and a good spray of tape hiss, this track is by the people that have been lost in the mists of time.
Two Daughters took part in the legendary debate that was headlined 'Forgive Us Our Synths' which was in the good ole Sounds weekly UK music newspaper. They even got the thumbs up from then Nurse With Wound member, the enigmatic John Fothergill.
They did have a great cassette release out that I remember hearing at one time, they may have had another out at some time, such was the difficulty of keeping up with the 'Wild Planet'/Cassette underground scene in the UK at that time..

*Kevin Harrison - "People In Space"
This is a snappy little gem consisting of a multitude of echoed guitars and drum machines and some summer season strummed guitar, fading back to a place from whence it came.

*Thomas Leer - "Kings Of Sham"
Having recorded the brilliant album- "The Bridge" with the late great Robert Rental for Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records label, Leer comes up with a great electro-plod stomper which has a very hypnotic middle eastern melody line running throughout......think Kraftwerk in the 'Bush of Ghosts'.
Again, like a lot of people featured here, he's seemed to have sadly vanished from the music underground.

*Five Or Six - "Folded"
An odd track, but again fitting into the jigsaw.
Spoken and half-sung ghost voices simmer over David Knight's tape sound collage which is clustered in the background and which sounds like some of the stuff that Brian 'Lustmord' Williams would concoct.
I don't know what happened to members Cassie, Harper and Whittock (solicitors maybe?) but David Knight was later in Shock Headed Peters with Karl Blake and now records under the moniker Arkkon where he makes very interesting electronic pieces, utilising guest vocals from the likes of Blake and Lydia Lunch.

*Morgan Fisher - "Foreign Correspondent"
From the days when he provided hammond organ (at the age of 16 years) for the sixties hit "Everlasting Love" by Love Affair to his dabblings in experimental netherworlds in the early seventies and then more chart success as part of Mott The Hoople, going on to his Residents influenced Hybrid Kids project and not forgetting the classic 'Miniatures' album comprising 51 one minute tracks by all and sundry in the avant-garde, outsider and post-punk world, it can be said that this man has been there and done it - twice!
This track is from 1973 and kicks off a great start point which sounds like an outtake from Throbbing Gristle's 'Journey Through A Body' album- eventhough this track was recorded a good eight years before. I just love that squish-panned synth sound.
The track then kicks up a sprightly european feel, with keyboard crossings which sound like cantebury cad- Dave Stewart in his Egg / Hatfield days.
Morgan now lives and records in japan.
A great track from a crackin' chap... snappy dresser too!

*Robert Fripp - "Remorse Of Conscience"
A slice of Bob's frippertronic pie here, with a sinewy keyboard and guitar line.
The process being developed from Eno's observed / Terry Riley patented tape loop systems- yeah, bring out the jam jars indeed.

*A Tent - "No Way Of Knowing"
A tape delay festival in this track of shape-shifting melodies and very controlled tape delay at that, sometimes it's easy just to let go and send the needles into the red but it takes studied hands to keep control.
Again, don't know where the individual members went.

*David Jackman - "Untitled"
Here we are for the last track, and the album bookended by the 'Snatch Tapes' henchman.
This track is before Jackman founded his Organum project, but you can see where a lot of that later work had sown the seeds and consists of a smidgen of his experiments with bowed cymbals, recorded at different speeds and bolstered with real time bowing..... a journey's end.

Written by Tim Jones august 2003

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Videodrome(d): 'Let's do a film for the record'

It's the late 1970s, well 1977 to be exact, later some would refer to that year with that cringeful term- 'year zero'- hmmm....okay, anyway on the disco front there were lots of tacky yet strange things going down.
Not least the promotional films to accompany chart songs, soon to be termed 'video' i.e. "have you seen the video?"
Which brings me to "Supernature" by Cerrone.
Having watched the 'vid' after not seeing it since it was in the charts (same goes for "Automatic Lover"), I am wondering whether or not they were serious and not realising it would look tacky in years to come i.e. 'let's make this look really weird and strange' with a budget that would suit a late 70s episode of Doctor Who, or whether they were being 'tongue in cheek'; Either way, it's certainly got it's charm and viewing it now it becomes a mixture of tacky and strange and certainly a 'period piece'. Enjoy!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Review: Richard Thomas - Shoes And Radios Attract Paint (Released 1997 on Lo Recordings)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2004

"When I was 11/12, I became very reclusive. I felt uncomfortable in the school environment, it was very cold and unloving. I spent a lot of time experimenting with tape machines, radios, records (78s), natural+domestic sounds and toy keyboards......"
-Richard Thomas (from CD sleevenotes)

There is such a personal touch to this incredible music that seeps emotion and tells a mental story with each track.
Richard Thomas was born and raised in South Wales and took up residence in London in 1997.
Gaining a reputation as a contending improviser and abstract composer, he has (since this first album) gone on to work with an impressive amount of luminaries such as the Wormholes and Squarepusher to name just two (the list would fill this page), and is also a member of the fantastic Bohman Brothers' 'Extended Family'.

Utilising almost everything he can lay his hands on- you name it, it's probably been used in some form or other- drumkit, melodica, assorted toysoys, clocks, transducers, self-made instruments - the list is, in a word, endless.
What is even more alarming, is that this recorded work, although labelled with the 'experimental' tag, is VERY accessable throughout.

The discs opener- "The Horla/Occupying The Distance Shredder"- begins with gurning and twisting office equipment sounds, a stringed instrument loop, which moves around with trumpet phrases subject to oxide speeds whilst all manner of muted voices and photocopiers (!) build a healthy scaffolding to frame this heartwarming welcome.

There seems to be a natural air for melody within each track and Thomas seems to be able to pluck music from everything he touches.
"Echo-Locator 2"- uses sparse percussion and a bass guitar phrase, repeated, but not insistent as the familiar 'stoner trumpet' floats above.
analogue synthesizer shots also enter the picture, but are used sparingly to great results.
It's like the occupants have gone out shopping, leaving the house empty, whilst ALL inanimate objects come to life, free of their oppressors!

"Darbytuff (Tempered)"- is a mournful track which again uses the brass instrument to good effect and evokes the image of that Thomas loneliness, whilst the stirring South Wales landscape hovers in the background before his sojourn to the big city over the border.

"Sumo Groupies/Antelope Valley High"- has kissing synth oscillations, bass, harmonica and the omnipresent office equipment chuffing out light rhythmic shunts.
"Stanton Ductile Warrior"- is solo low speed brass with flecks of flute or flageolet, which themselves have not escaped the oxide treatments. This is dreamy sunshine catnapping caught on tape.

"Valley Of The Interlocking Spurs"- utilises a music box style melody while computer squiggles mesh with clicks, bangs and all manner of 'found' percussives, oh and the omnipresent (but not overpresent) trumpet blows a tipsy refrain while dissapearing over the brow with the music box.

"Return To Pow-7"- commences with lo-fi shudders, recorder squeaks and whistle squawks before a formidable groove moves in with drumkit and double bass.
Next is "Gurl Trivia", one of my favourite moments.
A young girl's Taped voice wanders amongst all manner of enchanted sounds which are reverbed together to make this a very otherworldly experience.

"Ordure Rechauffe" -has Thomas giving the drums a good (but lo-fi) thwack, more tape manipulated voices join the un-rhythm before it dissappears back into the speakers.

"Waxy Flexibility" -closes this fascinating debut, the trumpet now gets locked into a strange loop pool of liquid percussives, a moaning baby (or is it a slowed down brass instrument ?) and treated guitar and low note synth before is collapses with all the sounds fading out, at the same time elbowing for space before a similar 'Darbytuff' theme brings it to a close.

These sounds are already all around us, we sometimes need someone else to re-arrange them to relax us.
Richard Thomas does this as second nature.

Written by Tim Jones march 2004

Poster Fix: The art of Kazumasa Nagai

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