Foundations: Babe Rainbow

Digging into their psychedelic bedrock...

Babe Rainbow are part of a new wave of lysergic wanderers who are establishing Australia's reputation as a psychedelic citadel.

Yet theirs is a universe seldom explored. Fuelled by endless daydreams, friendship, and long hours surfing, the band's approach grapples with a hedonistic form of freedom.

Take new album 'Changing Colours'. A warped alt-pop template that feels as though it's been distorted by ferocious sunshine, the song cycle moves from all out guitar frenzy to an actual, bona fide Jaden Smith collaboration.

A wild ride, it could well be the finest thing Babe Rainbow have yet put their name against – which, given the strength of their catalogue, is a strong compliment.

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'Surfers Mood Vol. 3' (The Bob Simmons Memorial Album) (As picked by Angus, vox)

This is an important moment because the Bob Simmons album took me out from Grade 11 Physics and Earth Sciences all the way to out the back at Fingal Point on a shimmering wing. It was the backing track to our original explorations in anti-hero counter culture at our buddy Isaac’s parents farm in Upper Duroby near Tumbulgum and the original bookshop score in Murwillumbah where old Bruce taught us how to paint and Jack got us all started in playing music ourselves.

Surfing is a clean connection to the Earth and something that probably brought us all together more than anything. The songs are all just full moods and the singing sections are deeply enchanting I reckon this and the JJ. Handkerchief NZ / H.O. Nimrod stuff all deserves a little kiss for keeping us in line while we were still deciding what direction we were off in.

We still surf together every day and I play this record religiously at our dinner parties with all the wives and babies. One of the most exiting things I can imagine is sharing the magic of peaches and surfing with our children in a couple years when they can dig it legit at midnight on Pier 13… see you at Malibu!

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Sun Ra and His Arkestra – 'The Antique Blacks' (As picked by Miles, drums)

Sun Ra’s output, whether it be music, poetry, performance or a political idea / discussion, questioned, dismantled, and shed new light on boundaries in music and the world they were surrounded by.

Sun Ra often mobilised ideas and energies of people from a surrounding political climate, in combination with a deep knowledge of history and religion which spanned all continents and cultures, as well as Sun Ra’s own thoughts and understandings, to offer truths and new light to an audience who may have lacked access to such knowledge and information or felt politically aligned. Often showing the imperial lens and Euro-centric way of viewing the world to be false and damaging in a way and using their music as a safe and nourishing space for an audience to experience the world of truths, where they are accepted and welcome and celebrated. 

This record, for me, sums up a lot of sounds Sun Ra and band explored. Songs such as ‘Song No. 1’ and ‘Space Is The Place’ offer a strong groove and linear percussive backing to elevate and audience to a place of joy, these songs are arguably more accessible to a modern audience.

This album contains also many tracks that highlight the group’s interest in electronics and what some would call ‘noise’ music or ‘free jazz’, music that I feel is of great importance and deeply interested in.

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Herbie Hancock – 'Head Hunters' (As picked by Elliot, bass)

This 70s album bought the high flying birds down from the sky. The head hunters were back on earth. Forging out of the ground the molten of jazz and blues. When I heard this album everything after seemed easier. My mind and spine realigned.

When the groove is in the bag you are cruising. And this album has riches and treasures that will supply the necessities for centuries of reinventions. For bass players devoted to the groove you will find in this album the holy groove of ancient ecstasy. For party people you will find the songs that keep the spirit awake all night.

And for anyone who hasn’t heard this album yet be prepared to feel the rush of lusty vibes we come to think of when we think of the sexy 70s.

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The Incredible String Band – '5000 Spirits or Layers Of The Onion' (As picked by Jack, guitar)

Robin and Mike are a beautiful inspiration. Their poems, and the melodies and music they use to deliver them, are magic.

This – their second album – was them transitioning from traditional folk to psychedelic folk and got me pretty good in the depths of my psyche. Encouraging awe of the natural world, playfulness and whimsy amongst very good instrumentation. Utterly beautiful love songs to cool blues ditties and thought provoking long-winding stuff.

From what I’ve read and YouTube'd they seemed like musicians-musicians in the late 60s scene. Not at all pop-oriented but probably managing to describe, through their music, where everyone’s imagination wanted to go.

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The Zombies – 'Odessey And Oracle' (As picked by Wayne Connolly, producer)

With the CD re-issue trend in the mid-‘90s, records from the past started appearing as if they’d been buried in a time capsule. 'Odessey and Oracle was hailed as one of the great lost albums and it was. Every luminous track is as brilliant as the last.  

There were lots of discussions about it with artists I was recording at the time – you can hear its influence on You Am I’s 'Hourly Daily' with the addition of mellotrons and strings. Elsewhere, Elliott Smith covered ‘Care of Cell 44’, and you’d have to imagine artists like The Shins were taking a little inspiration from it, too.

In an era when pummelling a drop-tuned guitar was still pretty on point, 'Odessey And Oracle' was refreshingly full of rich melodies, wondrous vocals and harmonies, and complex chord structures.

The cover design suggests psychedelia, but it’s really gorgeous orchestral pop, recorded at Abbey Road in the weeks after the Beatles finished 'Sgt Pepper'. The Zombies broke up before it was released and despite an international hit with ‘Time Of The Season’, it never really received ‘classic album’ status until its reissue in the ‘90s.

‘This Will Be Our Year’ and ‘Friends Of Mine’ are standouts but ‘Maybe After He’s Gone’ is the high water mark for sunny baroque pop with a deeply sad lyric.

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Babe Rainbow's new album 'Changing Colours' is out now.

Photo Credit: Marclay Heriot

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