Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Like the ghost, I come always as a coming-again

R. Dero, "Whirling" (Belgium?)

Not too much information on this'un: R. Dero (person? group?) appears to have been in the West European library record game and vaguely affiliated with a circle of fake-Latin-soul studio groups of Belgio-French extraction including El Chicles and the Chakachas, the sort of names which, one takes it with a certain amount of faith, incite gnarly tumescence among the netherzones of record collectors everywhere. Bit of a Rick Wright-Pink Floyd vs. Tangerine Dream vibe, with some crispy over-recorded synth and a Bonhamesque drum sound ... heet.

Roy Harper, "All You Need Is," Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith (UK, 1968)

Harper was a bit like the addled, scarily-eccentric backwoods cousin of Donovan, a bit like Nick Drake with a yet more brutal outlook and the decency to temper it with scabrous humor rather than self-pity (Drake traveled to France to hit on Françoise Hardy, only to lose his nerve when she opened her apartment door and return to London in silence; Roy'd likely have torn out a chunk of her hair and taken a photograph of her reaction). As the '70s wore on, he'd progress further and further into a sort of epic-prog-folk, often filling LPs (like his arguable peak, 1973's Stormcock) with fewer than five tracks, each of which tended to flirt with or surpass the ten-minute mark and pirouette dervish-style around a few central themes that came and went like banks of fog. This earlier track finds Roy not quite having given himself over to the allusive/elusive wordplay that would become a trademark, but the Joe Boyd/Mickie Most dark-baroque arrangement is top-shelf.

Focus 3, "10,000 Years Behind My Mind" (UK, 1968?)

Haven't got a great deal of knowledge to articulate upon this virginal body-without-organs either: I found the track on a comp of otherwise obscure stuff recorded at Abbey Road betwixt '65 and '69, and it's got the slightly John Barry/David Axelrod feel of a psych track by an ad-hoc "groovy young combo" that was the front for some anonymous staff producer/arranger (see: Electric Prunes, Mass in F Minor), but, these informations shorn from us like the back hair of a bet-losing short-order cook, we have only the hot drum break and string arrangement to light the path to our own graves ... yes.

The Gaytones, "Soul Makossa" (US?, 1972)

Pretty shameless Manu Dibango rip on every level (he wrote the track, fer chrissakes), but a really damn good one. Again, as per the Gaytones, I've got nothing: this could actually be African, but the fact of its release on Capitol combined with the brief interval between its release and Manu's version (who in Cameroon needs a "Soul Makossa" cover that quickly?) makes me suspect a failed Stateside makossa cash-in attempt, p'raps with an actual Camerounien on the mic. Fish-stink rhythm section, anyway.

Débile Menthol, "Crash que peut," Émile au jardin patrologique (Switzerland, 1981)

Some wonderful Continental post-prog pre-punk: the spiraling, web-weaving guitars are pure Brit symph-rock, the strings and woodwinds strictly from the Henry Cow/Aksak Maboul/Univers Zero playbook, but the vox and rhythm section smell un peu comme Père Ubu, via the venerable Cpt. Beefheart and perhaps Gang of Four. The entire LP (Émile in the Patrological Garden) is just as strangely combinatory and exciting: when all rock is art rock and all music musique de l'art, well, those categorical schematics seem a bit for the tossers, n'est-ce pas?

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