Psychedelia isn't so much a sound, as an impulse.
It's what happens when two wires are crossed, when the conscious mind interacts with the complete unknown. It's a tradition, a lineage, one that harks back to prehistoric ritual while embracing cutting edge technology.
Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve are all these things and more. Richard Norris and Erol Alkan formed the production team some time ago, taking part in expansive, lysergic re-work projects when the mood suited.
Gradually gathering material in a dense, ritualistic fashion, the pair released debut album 'The Soft Bounce' a few days ago.
Out now on Phantasy, it's already warping minds, gently shifting the boundaries of imagination, and opening the gateways of perception.
Clash invited Richard Norris and Erol Alkan to pick out some genuine lost classics, each reflecting a different facet of the psychedelic experience.
– – –
RD Laing – 'Life Before Death'
Richard: As befits an album from a leading, controversial frontier psychiatrist, this record is absolutely mental. In 1978 Ronnie Laing somehow persuaded Charisma Records to let him record this marriage of music and psychotherapy. His son Adrian remembers it thus – "Ronnie, being imbued with implantation and birth, suggested a sort of ballet involving a dance of the spermatozoa raving and fighting to fertilise the egg."
Sounds like Bill Drummond ranting at Gainsbourg's discotheque. All wrapped up in a cover so disturbing, it looks like it was designed by the doctor who invented the human centipede. An absolutely lost, and very unlikely to be found again, classic. Splendid.
– – –
Gandalf The Grey – 'The Grey Wizards Am I'
Erol: The work of one Chris Wilson, who made this all on a Sony reel to reel and released it via a private press on 1972. I found a limited re-issue around 10 years ago and fell in love with ‘An Elven Love Song’ immediately. This record can be seen as a pioneering example of home recording, and despite it sounding incredibly lo-fi, it manages to be clear and concise enough to still stand up today. Not all the songs on here could be described as ‘psyche’ as there is a very heavy folk influence which runs throughout, but it’s well worth seeking out solely for ‘An Elven Love Song’.
– – –
Skip Spence – 'Oar'
Richard: Former Jefferson Airplane drummer and Moby Grape recorded this epic art of falling apart after being released from Bellevue, having been committed after attacking his band mates with a fire axe. It is a beautiful, beautiful record. Delicate folk and country figures twist and dance around the precipice of sanity, vocals echo and fade, the whole thing kept together by the flimsiest of margins. Which is it's great strength and most enduring quality. The path of human frailty, writ large. The songs 'Little Hands' and 'War and Peace' are amongst my most favourite things.
– – –
Lee Hazlewood – 'Requiem For An Almost Lady'
Erol: His rarest album, and it’s fair to say this is his only psychedelic record. Initially only released in Sweden after moving there in the early 70s, this is regarded amongst few as one of the greatest break up albums of all time.
‘Come On Home To Me’ is my personal favourite here, I tried to license it for the first Bugged In compilation but it was declined, even after writing to Lee personally we couldn’t clear it. I imagine the last thing he’d have wanted was anything from this devastating album to be used on a dance music compilation of any type. The record is a catalogue of failure in relationships, it’s not easy listening. Anyway, I’d say go listen on Spotify but it’s not up there.
– – –
Bill Holt – 'Dreamies'
Richard: Bill Holt put together this experimental collage after quitting his job in 1972 to concentrate on recording sound and music via a four track reel to reel recorder featuring Ovation guitar, vocal, spliced in snatches of TV and found sound and a Moog Sonic Six.
The result is somewhere between 'Revolution Number 9' and John Cage, and is as arrestingly futuristic as it is charming and melodic. A wonderful sonic trip well worth checking out.
– – –
The Freak Scene – 'Psychedelic Soul'
Erol: One of the first albums I was introduced, and perhaps not the rarest in this list, but a great example of a part of psychedelia we love. Off kilter rhythms, studio trickery and memorable moments. ‘A Million Grains Of Sand’ is a big part of our DJ sets, as is ‘Mind Bender’ which sounds like nothing else.
I’ve yet to hear any other album from The Freak Scene, and I’m not even sure if there is one, but this album should be in every discerning record collection.
– – –
Fifty Foot Hose – 'Cauldron'
Richard: Excellent early synthesiser noise meets San Fransisco freakbeat, somewhere in the same ball park as Joseph Byrd's United States of America. Marries the US avant garde of Cage, Terry Riley et al with theremins, fuzz and various home made instruments.
The writer Ralph Gleeson describes the Hose thus – "I don't know if they are immature or premature." Exactly the kind of confusion a proper psych album will stir up. Viva Hose!
– – –
'The Soft Bounce' is out now – for aural consumption click HERE.