Monday, June 14, 2010

RA #6: Kosmische Deep Space Exploration

At Left: The Great Galaxy Andromeda. The limitations of humanity and our technology are such that the only way we will ever reach this or any other grand cluster of solar systems is thru the massive use of drugs and listening to vast amounts of Krautrock. Radio Anthrocide is here to help. (The original, awesome picture is here. Be sure to click on the photo and see it full-sized for maximum mind-blowing value.)

Set List for the show originally broadcast on Radio23's Cascade Community Radio, June 12th 2010:

1) Hawkwind- "Black Corridor"
2) Pink Floyd- "Careful With That Axe Eugene" (live at Pompeii)
3) Popol Vuh- "Vuh"
4) Pharaoh Overlord- "Slow City"
5) Achim Reichel- "Vita: B) The Man in Kidleather"

6) Gonter Schiekert- "Arabische Nacht"
7) Hawkwind- "Sonic Attack"
8) Igra Staklineh Perli- "Warriors"
9) Mittelwinternacht- "Zodiak"
10) Hawkwind- "The Wizard Blew His Horn"

11) Seesselberg- "Synthetik #1" (Side "A")
12) Wendy Carlos- "Rocky Mountains" (from "The Shining")
13) Goblin- "Witch" (from "Suspiria")
14) Pulsar- "The Strands Of The Future"

What you heard:

Radio Anthrocide #6 was a shameless pean to the use of illegal mind-altering substances and the Germans who used them and turned their resulting psychosis into earth-shattering music. The early 1970's- where the majority of RA's cultural spelunking will occur- were a time of frenzied hedonism, inner-spatial trips and free-form sexuality for the first generation of Germans to come of age after the massive crimes of Nazism. Elements of the Baader-Meinhof gang hid out with Faust in the basement of their Wumme studios, sexual freedom found vent in the deliriously kitschy Schulmadchen series of "sex report" films, and in the spirit of free improvisation that dominated the age, an entire genre of music- Krautrock- was founded upon the belief that no jam could be too long, too fuzzed-out, too spacey or too weird. German Rock- heretofore a pale imitation of British and American music typified by bands like Achim Reichel's first band, the Rattles- had grown up and gone to the mushroom patch, coming back stoned, free-form and challenging. It remains some of the greatest music of an era overwhelmingly laden with personal expression and instrumental wizardry. And lots and lots of studio tricks and reverb.

"Kosmische" music is a branch of Krautrock that emphasizes electronics and epic-length languid and lucid tracks, and it might be helpful to note that bands like The Can are more readily referred to as "Kraut" while what I played on RA#6 was strictly Kosmische. And, of course, not all of this Space-exploration is German-based; I do feel the need to note the special debt all Heads have to those insane Germans and all of their bold sojourning to the limits of human consciousness.

We started with a psychedelic poem from Space Rock titans Hawkwind, the first of several of their bizarre meditations on the cosmos during the program, "Black Corridor", from the awe-inspiring 1973 release Space Ritual, which was named by this author as one of the 50 Greatest Prog Albums of all-time. The fact that the list in question eventually grew to 107 albums is merely proof of the limitless fecundity of Prog; in a genre where 15/8 is an accepted time signature, artificial constrictions like "Top 50" meaning actually fifty are spurious and unduly conservative. The list got a lot bigger and will probably continue to grow; one this is certain, and that is Space Ritual will always have a home there. Robert Calvert provided the poesy from lines drawn by Sci-Fi writer Michael Moorcock, and yes, this album features the delicious talents of a young Lemmy Killmister on bass. This was also the era of Stacia, which if you click on the link you can see why a Hawkwind show was an obligatory right of passage for all young Mod Brits who had interest in birds of a psychedelic feather.

I took the next track from the audio of Pink Floyd's 1972 concert film Live At Pompeii, a typically Floydian undertaking in that the band traveled all the way to Italy to play an entire concert to a ruined amphitheater with no crowd. Very psychedelic, you'll agree, and this particular version of "Careful With That Axe Eugene" is ghostly, spectral and deeply frightening- fitting for such a haunted venue as this. The concert film itself is masterful; this is the Floyd at their best, in my opinion, and is a hypnotic spectacle to behold; especially as the day turns to night and the band goes into a funked-up version of "One of these Days" (Waters' bass is far, far more prominent in the mix of all of these songs, to most laudable effect on "Echoes", which completely blows away the album version) and the wind erupts across the ruins sending especially Nick Mason's hair flying...well, it's pretty spectacular, if you ask me. Hard to believe they were just a few years away from the complete destructive narcissism of Waters' titanic ego, least they left us stuff like this.

The first segment closed with one of my favorite Space pieces of them all, the second side of Popol Vuh's 1971 masterpiece In Den Garten Pharaos, the track simply called "Vuh". Any attempt to "describe" this music is doomed to utter failure; along with Tangerine Dream (who you'll hear the next time I do one of these shows, promise) this is the absolute pinnacle of German avant and Electronic music. Among other accomplishments, Florian Fricke (spiritual leader of PV, in more ways than one) produced with IDGP one of the greatest album sleeve designs ever- it's simply stunningly beautiful, and captures the mood of the glories within. I have always hated "reviews" where the writer just tries to pile adjective upon adjective to try and capture the aural magnificence of some great piece of musical genius; it's one of the reasons I so strongly believe music writers in general to be some of the worst practitioners of prose in the world today (tour "classic" Rolling Stone tripe and you'll see why I only swear by Lester Bangs when it comes to Rock critics; the rest are complete pompous buffoons). So all I can do is tell you to download this episode and just give this 20-minute trip your undivided attention. Fricke abandoned electronics after this album to explore Hinduism and (sigh) Christianity; the rest of the albums just simply cannot compare to the first two. The dead "savior" on his cross claims another victim, and this is yet another reason why I am not a Christian.

Pharaoh Overlord was next on the show, a band Dr. Micah Moses of Brooklyn, NYC turned me on to about a year and a half ago. From Finland and practitioners of what has come to be known (unfortunately) as "Stoner Rock", PO takes drone to multi-layered extremes and actually at times reminds me of Interface-era Heldon, the varieties of electronic texture, feedback, buzz and straight-on crunch guitar forming an impenetrable fugue of forbidding character. Since "guitar" had now been introduced into the Spacey proceedings, I thought it was only natural to transition into one of my favorite guitarists of them all, the delightfully hippie-fied sounds of Achim Reichel. From the album IV, this is not nearly as famous as Die Grune Reise but arguably more dense and echo-laden, and this track- "The Man in Kidleather", the second part of the album-side long opus "Vita"- has all of the flute, reverb and whimsy any fan of AR could want. The following cut- from another crazed German reverb guitarist, Gonter Schiekert- is taken from a 1995 compilation I found a while back called Somnambul. As far as I can tell, the material is all taken from Schiekert's post-GAM career, approximately 1978-80, and certainly sounds that way. While Uberfallig remains his classic work (another Top 50 album according to this writer), this particular track fits most serenely in this mix as somewhat more taught than Reichel and a lot less sanguine as well. Somnambul is a meditation on trepidation; the whole album is dense and deep, though "Arabische Nacht" is the most hypnotic and best suited to the whole "Deep Space" concept of this week's program.

More Hawkwind followed, the deliriously fucked-up "Sonic Attack", by far my favorite psych-poem of all time and perhaps the most egregious exploration of the vaunted Hawkwind "I am the center of the Universe" philosophical motif; what they're talking about, heaven only knows, but it is clear: should you be a victim of Sonic Attack...think only of yourself (your-self). Following this grandly ridiculous indulgence, it was back to the obscurity pile with a remarkable monochromatic exegesis from the former Yugoslavia, one of the finest "Iron Curtain Prog" bands, Igra Staklenih Perli- Serbo-Croatian for "The Glass Bead Game", in reference to the novel by Hermann Hesse. This is one of many Eastern European finds I garnered from the excellent Russian blog Orexis of Death, which alas no longer updates but is loaded with over one thousand albums in the archives. Moody in the extreme, ISP attempted a kind-of "stream of consciousness" in their music and also grew some great moustaches, which can be seen here in the only Yugoslavian TV clip of the band I'm aware of on the Internets. I really like this band and strongly encourage listeners to further explore their outer-limits sensibilities; since the old Yugoslavia was a slightly-less repressive regime than their neighbors, the band was relatively free to pursue their endeavors. They even were allowed to release records with such blatantly drug-addled imagery as this. That's fucking freaky, man.

Next was a very long track from the greatest of all Kosmische forgeries. Spacefreak of Mutant Sounds- perhaps the very finest of all the freak music blogs on the entirety of the Internets- corrected me a while back when I placed the album Mittelwinternacht 71 on the list of 50 Best Prog Albums Ever. I had heard rumors the thing was actually made not in the middle of the Winter in Friesland, 1971 (as was claimed) but actually a few years ago by some English guys in a home studio. The latter, alas, is the true story- though the sheer poetic romanticism of the original tale is not diminished in the least by this forgery, if you ask me. What really counts is the music; sparse, minimal, ghostly, drenched in echo and reverb and about as slam dunk a recreation of stuff like Trip-Flip Out Meditation as you're likely to hear (and a better record, in my view). I played the track "Zodiak" and thoroughly enjoyed it; if anyone has any idea who the real culprits are behind this record, I'd love to know.

The final Hawkwind psych-poem of the night, "The Wizard Blew His Horn" from Warrior on the Edge of Time followed, and then things got weird. I almost played the Seesselberg brothers' magnum opus Synthetik #1 right after Mittelwinternacht, but at the last second thought- No, that would be far too much to ask of a listening audience. So I broke up the Kraut-mayhem with a poem, and then into this, perhaps the most outrageously bizarre record in the entire history of Kosmische music. Again, it is rather pointless to "describe" what these two guys accomplished with their home-made synthesizers (put together much in the same way that enthusiasts like Steve Wozniak assembled the first Apple computers) containing a reputed 16 fucking miles of electrical wiring and cables. You've simply got to see these guys in action here, from an incredibly trippy West German TV appearance in 1975. This is very similar to what I played on the show, music which occasionally sounds like a broken pinball machine but cannot be lightly dismissed once the punishing array of sounds start blending into each other half way thru the track. After a bit- if you just give it a chance- you realize that what you're really hearing is the sound of abstract mathematics of the most abstruse and daunting kind; here is the equation for Time Travel set to "music", so abstract as to almost vanish unto the ether. Not for everybody, but then again what of any value is. Seesselberg was, to me, the highlight of the show; the only thing I can think of that is even remotely as weird as this record is something like the aforementioned Zweistein Trip-Flip Out Meditation or Harmonia and Cluster's early work, especially the latter's Zwei Osterei. Worth the investigative time of any truly serious space tripper who doesn't mind drifting alone thru the monstrous nothingness of the Cosmos.

Which naturally led to a couple of tracks from Horror movies. First was Wendy Carlos' synthesizer "Rocky Mountains" piece from The Shining, because Earth is, after all, merely something flying thru space, and therefore not immune to the maelstrom of the Cosmos. After that was Goblin, doing what Goblin does best- scoring music for a Dario Argento film, in this case the track "Witch" from the scariest Italian movie ever made, Suspiria.

After all of that horror and bleakness and the vast empty of Dark Matter, it made a certain amount of sense to close with something beautiful- in this case, the entirety of French Space Rock kings Pulsar and "The Strands of the Future", from the same-titled 1976 masterpiece album. I'd love to be able to link to the video of the band playing live on French television in 1977- featuring Gilbert is a truly bad-ass white suit with matching white SG, and an intimidating bank of synthesizers plus, but of course, a Mellotron- but it would appear that video has been deleted. Which makes no sense, but whatever; Radio Anthrocide will continue to play this band and try to popularize their music, starting with next week's program dedicated to French Progressive and Psychedelic music (not a bad segue/plug, eh?). So, until after next week's broadcast...cheers, and stay spacey. - TKR