14 December, 2018

Ultima Thule web site updates

Many of the pages on our site are undergoing a revamp, with extra nivigation tools added to release pages, more info, revised history pages, etc. This is still ongoing, but here are some recently added history pages....

More info here: http://home.btconnect.com/ultimathule/tachyon/releasesindex.html

29 November, 2018

Now posting Cosmic Egg releases on Bandcamp

On the Cosmic Egg Bandcamp page you'll find all the releases we have with open license, all as full resolution wav. flac (or whatever you desire), plus original CDs. All with easy Bandcamp ordering.

Here's one example...

21 November, 2018

Kevin O'Neill

instrumental synthesizer music pioneer from South Wales

Primarily active during the 1980s. Kevin was one of the rare examples of a unique talent with a distinctive personal style. True, he did occasionally display his roots and influences in his music, but he never set out to copy or emulate anyone. So Kevin was not another Schulze or TD wannabe, and this was what made his music so invigorating and exciting - we'd never encountered the likes of it before! For this reason alone Kevin's music has remained fresh and vital.
     Initially we presented our favourite two, his first and third cassettes, cleaned-up for an authentic sound sans hiss or defects and remastered by Alan Freeman at Tachyon studio. Since negotiating those, Kevin gave his permission to reissue all his other cassettes and also two archive collections, adding up to the complete collection.

These are all now available as high quality self-made CDR releases, with easy ordering from the Ultima Thule site, and also as Bandcamp downloads...

Now also available, free sampler including two unreleased tracks!

23 October, 2018

from EMS to Andromeda
the early works of Ralphus Rex
by Alan Freeman.

Ralph Lundsten is one of those enigmatic characters in new-music, in that he's pushed-on with his unique avenue in music regardless of style, fashion, or even a logical progression in his own career. He's an explorer, an eccentric, an individual unique talent. The thing is, though, that when someone follows their own vision, that vision will change throughout their life based, not only on the advancements in technology, but also on their state of mind, emotional and social development. Thus, as with the music of Tangerine Dream, what Edgar Froese & Co. played in their early days is nothing like what they do now. This is also the case with Ralph, and (similarly) what we're interested in at Audion is the early works of Ralph Lundsten, the avant-gardist...
Ralph Lundsten was born 1936 in Ersnäs, Sweden. At a young age he started exploring the avant-garde, and was obviously fascinated with the new technology installed at the Stockholm Electronic Music Studios (aka EMS). He started electronic sound exploration in 1959, and found an aid in Leo Nilsson, with whom he collaborated for a number of years. These formative experiments involved use of oscillators, early studio-based synthesizers, along with extensive use of tape-collage and echo/delay techniques. Also, (quoting original LP cover notes) Ralph "became famous as a visually creative artist through his prize-winning motion pictures, his noted exhibitions at home and abroad, and his exciting experiments with electronic pictures and sound sculptures" - yes, Ralph proved to be a man of many talents!
It didn't take long for Ralph to discover unique techniques instantly recognisable as his, these involved clusters and patterns of notes/tones, seemingly sequenced or looped, all in a very odd, quirky style. Based on early studio photos all this was done with tape trickery using a hybrid of musique-concrete and Terry Riley type "feed-back" or "Frippertronic" techniques. Nowadays a similar effect can be achieved using a digital pitch-shift delay in tandem with other echo and delay devices, but to create the complexities of what Ralph Lundsten did in the 1960's is still not easy. And, to do it with his unique panache is nigh-on impossible! Back then digital effects didn't exist, and even solid-state echo devices were rare. So, the mind boggles as to how he did it. A clue is probably given on an LP cover, where he is holding two Stylophone type pens over (and connected to) some sort of metal transducing plate. I can imagine that many of the early works took weeks and weeks of intensive studio work, experimenting with and modelling waveforms, cutting and splicing tape, setting-up tape decks with extra record and play-back heads, passing the sounds back and forth through all sorts of filters reverb, and obscure processing devices, etc., etc. Actually, it seems he was spending too much time in the EMS (Stockholm was a prolific centre for new avant-garde talent), so Ralph set up the first independent electronic music studio in Sweden. He built his Andromeda Studio at his home (a fanciful painted wooden house) in Saltsjö-Boo near the coast, east of Stockholm. There he could spend as much time as he liked experimenting and recording, developing the unique Lundsten sound.

The majority of Ralph's early recordings (1964-73, plus a few later works) are now documented in the 4CD set ELEKTRONISK MUSIK. In this set we have what would amount to around seven vinyl LP's worth of material, and thus it's a great value introduction.
Each disc has a focus...
This explores most of the purely electronic creations (some with Leo Nilsson) from the period 1968-70. These are works with buzzing tones, rasping modulations, and stark non-melodic textures. The opening Through A Landscape Of Mirrors is one of Ralph's coldest, brutal works. It slices through the stereo fabric, and plays a surreal dance in the air. Sonically comparable to the early works of Morton Subotnick, this 1970 work is purely Ralph Lundsten in the bizarre use of tone and sound patterns. The TELLUS/FÅGEL BLÅ LP is documented next. In these works Leo's more conventional use of electronic sound counterpoints the underlying cheekiness of Ralph's "springy" looping effects. Whenever I listen to this, I'm reminded of Louis & Bebe Baron's "Forbidden Planet" soundtrack, but it has the form of progression closer to Conrad Schnitzler's ROT. For 1968-69 this is pretty remarkable and innovative stuff, bleak but vivid in sonic textures. Also aptly cold is the 4 part Vintermusik a mini-prelude to Ralph's later "Nature Symphonies", followed by the 1968 Lundsten & Nilsson single Feel/It which is pretty close to some Pierre Henry (from the same period), and Mizar a solo Lundsten work involving strange oscillator tones and sonic intermodulations.
Apart from the opening EMS Nr 1 this disc is made up of shorter works and suites. I'd long wanted to hear the "innovative" EMS Nr 1 from 1966, and I wasn't disappointed. It has to be the most extreme and intense of his creations. Five other collaborations with Leo follow this, and all are strange spooky stuff, ideal music for weird psychedelic or Science Fiction movies. The earliest work in the set Atomic Twilight (1964) is very "Forbidden Planet" with its gliding tonalities (at the opening) building into a cyclical montage of instrumental sounds and voices. In later times Ralph got involved in scoring ballets for various people, and purely for fun he did the little suite På Vigliga Tår "On Tottering Toes" the first piece in the set to really show the underlying humour in Ralph's music. Finally, the "Suite For Electronic Accordion" takes us closer to Pierre Henry's darker works of the era, but due to the unlikely instrumentation it remains bizarre and unique.
So, onto Ralph's ballet scores, the commissioned works that further stylised Ralph's musical development. These are the material that correlate more with those of Igor Wakhevitch (see Audion #40) notably as some are compositions for Carolyn Carlson, and she obviously knew exactly what sort of feel she wanted. This is a uniquely visionary style of Ralph's, in that he includes story elements of the works in the music, adding to the drama by sound association and mood. In "Erik XIV" Ralph's bizarre use of electronic looping is developed to great effect - a major development in the distinctive Lundsten sound - with the textural elements gaining in complexity. With "Gustav III" keyboards and other instruments feature much more extensively. I suppose this period can be seen as the transitional phase of Ralph the avant-garde experimentalist to Ralph the musician. It's still rather strange stuff, however! The lone track Ristingar "Rock Carvings" centres on cosmic flutes (and unfathomable instrumental textures), and counterpoints a strange rhythmic element, before it flutters off with serene voices. 1973's "Gunnar pa Linderände" works on elements of the previous ballet scores and also his other major work (not featured in this set) FADERVAR. It's a really creative and beautiful opus that can almost be experienced as a musical painting.
This is also, largely, commissioned works, but with the focus on Ralph's "Horror Music". This disc starts with the rather out-of-place 1979 track Horrorscope, a groovy kind of synth-funk number dosed with horror sound effects (in the vein of the tongue-in-cheek DISCOPHRENIA). The major works here are surreal spooky suite "Midnattstimmen" full of creaking doors, ghoulish voices and all sorts of weird electronic textures, one of my favourites, and the great opus Nattmara which ends the set with crazed electronic abandon. The other pieces here are oddments from various vinyl releases, largely strange stuff, excepting the "Heaven By Night" trilogy which is more
sci-fi/fantasy, and the cosmic synth Waves Of Darkness from 1983.
In all, an excellent set, but with one major omission: the classic Cosmic Love, which doesn't seem to be documented on CD presently.
Above I mentioned FADERVAR, a classic of Ralph's from 1972. Various CD reissues have appeared to date, but the only ones I've been able to get are unfortunately co-billed with another work of inferior calibre. A strange one really, in that it's subject matter (FADERVAR means "Our Father" and relates to the "Lord's Prayer") is not really of any interest to me. But, like many Pierre Henry works (for instance) the concept can be taken as superficial. Judging it as just music, it's a cosmic opus of breathtaking originality, featuring ethereal flutes, otherworldly chanting echoed voices, organ, and lots of those uniquely Lundsten trade-marks, like sonic/textural transmutations, and brilliant use of echo/delay and cyclical patterns.
Ralph Lundsten's "Nature Symphonies" started as two album-long suites made in 1972 and 1975. Based on mythological fantasy and a relation between Ralph's music and the sounds of nature, these are very complex, feature guest musicians, and are more "musical" than much of what I've described before. It all amounts to a fascinating cross-pollination of genres. The CD release JOHANNES & HULDRAN/STRÖMKARLEN unfortunately omits a few tracks from these (3 are included in the ELEKTRONISK MUSIK set). Later "Nature Symphonies" would seem to be a cash-in on this "franchise" but bear little relation to the 70's pioneering works.
As polyphonic keyboards came in and Ralph's Andromeda studio became more advanced, he increasingly worked with other musicians, played synthesizers, and gradually moved away from the bizarre studio techniques that made his early work so special. He established a supersession group: Ralph Lundsten's Universe, who were (in a way) his "Cosmic Jokers", stars of Swedish rock, jazz and pop, doing something more outlandish. The album RALPH LUNDSTEN'S UNIVERSE is still not bad, in it's mixture of electronic music, progressive rock and fusions, and (occasional) craziness. It's follow-up DISCOPHRENIA was much better than the title suggested, but proved (from my viewpoint, that is) that the classic era of Ralph Lundsten was over. The third "Universe" project ALPHA RALPHA BOULEVARD marked the end of the 70's, and a new phase.
Ralph has since become the purveyor of lush and atmospheric new-age musics, and has increasingly created a whole new genre of his own again, a kind of offbeat easy listening music, often very sweet and soundtrack-like. Apparently he's quite famous in his homeland now for these later works, and apart from still being prolific and highly active in music, he tends to turn-out rehashed samplers by the bucket-load!

edited from AUDION #43. Autumn 2000

21 September, 2018

Zeuhl on a limb, the innovative Orient-Express

Cocktail Molotov + 5 bonus tracks

by Orient-Express

Reissue of the 1980s cassette only release, plus 19 minutes of rare quality bonus material, by this groundbreaking French experimental RiO / Zeuhl type fusion duo. Issued in 2015 as a 50 copy CDR edition, and now on Bandcamp download.

From Audion #5, page 20, review by Alan Freeman...
Despite their name, Orient Express are typically French in every way. They play a music that has grown through French rock and jazz cultures since the late sixties, an explosive cocktail of diverse and exciting ideas, through which this exceptionally talented duo challenge the listener and succeed with impeccable virtuosity.
Pascale Jakubowski (seemingly the leader) plays piano and bass clarinet, she’s also an exceptionally talented vocalist capable of performing virtually every type of vocal utterance one can imagine. Erik Baron plays bass guitar and is indeed adept at making it sound like anything from a cello to a Chapman Stick. They are also aided by all manner of devices, drum-computer, etc. In the booklet that accompanies the cassette, the two musicians quote their influences - Pascale comments that the use of text on Eno & Byrne’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts inspired her vocal technique to a great extent, as well as ethnic chants, the experimental use of phonetics by the likes of Tamia, Meredith Monk, etc. Her bass clarinet playing reminiscent of Michel Berkmans (I know he pays bassoon and oboe, but the style is similar), though she doesn’t quote any such influence. Erik quotes people as diverse as Klaus Schulze, Stockhausen, Magma and Bela Bartok, as having influenced him over the years.
Requiem opens the tape with orchestral sounds, strange vocals and percussive bass, and moves through glissandi and abstract phases, with some fascinating vocal gibberish. Orient Express follows with some manic piano attacks, akin to Art Zoyd (or ultimately Stravinski), building up in a crazed rhythmic fashion, backed by cacophonous echoed drum- machine and glissando bass. On Inarticulomortis Pascale lets rip, with multiple tracks of her voice reciting nonsensical things like "a ning-nang-ning-na nong..." over Stick style bass, as they say - weird but wonderful! On the other tracks we are taken through many moods, both violent and spooky, with never a dull moment anywhere. Thoroughly inventive music that should appeal to all lovers of RIO and/or modern avant-garde rock.

Zeuhl part 3, from Audion magazine

As I am just about to upload the excellent Orient-Express "Cocktail Molotov" release on Bandcamp (the 50 copy CDR edition is now sold-out), I was also figuring out ways to include the CD-rom material I put on the disc so it can be added to the download. Basically, the reviews and articles had to be downgraded to text files, so I thought - how about including the Audion 43 Zeuhl article on here as well? So, here goes...

The French Zeuhl legacy

Important - as Zeuhl is such an abstract concept, and not the easiest of "categories" to define, we strongly recommend that before reading this article you should check out the previous Zeuhl articles in Audion #41 and #42! Then, hopefully, it should all make sense!

We usually associate a musical stylism with a fashion, and often with the history, musical heritage and culture of a country, or more obviously just by its language. But, none of that has never been the case with Zeuhl. It is a genre that is devoid of any definable cultural reference. It pretty much happened by accident, experimentation, and the drawing-in of unlikely musics (all together) to make something new. It may seem bizarre (and unlikely), but it is possible to create something new that is identifiable with a Country, though this is all the more bizarre with Zeuhl, where the language and influences behind the musical genre are actually alien to the national culture itself. Zeuhl, taking its pointers from the pioneering work of Magma and its offshoots, became a new musical idiom, identifiable as, but not typically, French. Of course, as is always the case, no one in France realised this scene existed, until some journalist gave it a name!

The results of opening the doors to a new form of expression, saw an onslaught of new bands intent on exploring the genre further. Some just copied their mentors, others took the initiative to explore further, swelling the concept of Zeuhl, encompassing a wider range of musics. The edges of the genre have blurred ever since, with more conventional rock and jazz, and also melded seemlessly into the (also almost indescribable) field of "neo-chamber" RIO musics as explored by bands like Art Zoyd or Univers Zero. But, that's another story. In this article I'll try to give you all a run-down on 33 of the many different French bands and artists that swelled the ranks of Zeuhl and related musics...

Abus Dangereux
On the borderline of Zeuhl, this jazz-rock band (later known as just: Abus) fronted by guitarist Pierre Jean Gaucher took the funky Magma sound of the late-70's and mixed it with more typical French jazz-fusion. Abus Dangereux's music will appeal to those into jazz more than experimental/progressive sounds.
LE QUATRIÈME MOUVEMENT (LP: AJ Records 3021) 12/79 © 1980
BIS (LP: Eleanore EL 31482) 2/82 © 1982
HAPPY FRENCH BAND (LP: Metro JB 105) 9-10/83 © 1983
LIVE (LP: Metro JB 106) © 1985
JAZZ 'N' ROLL (LP/CD: Metro JB 107) © 1986
Pierre Jean Gaucher (guitars), Eric Bono (pianos, synthesizers), Laurent Kzrewina (saxes), Alain Mourey (drums), Pascal Gaillard (bass), Sylvie Voise (voice), Caitriona Walsia (voice), Dan Ken (vibes), Armaud Jarlan (percussion), Nigel Warren Green (cello)

Amongst the later wave of Zeuhl acts these were one that caught much international attention at the time. This was obviously because their EP was wholly derivative of Magma, right down to the non-specific language male/female vocals, clunky drums and bass. Their main originality came from the dual synthesizers, stepping beyond Eskaton, and a hint of post-punk aggression. An amusing point is that some of the vocals (penned in their own make-believe language) can sound really funny to English ears!
Altaïs/Promenade.../Gravitation Zero (12" EP: Altaïs 1021) © 1986
Sandrine Fougère (vocals), Philippe Goudier (vocals, percussion), Patrick Joliot (drums, percussion), Isabelle Nuffer (vocals, piano, synthesizer), Michelle Puttland (synthesizer), Jean-Marie Sadot (bass)

Michel Altmeyer & Troll
Existing since the early-70's Troll remained pretty much a "second circuit" band throughout their history, although they could arguably be claimed as influential and seminal. Their original album is pretty obscure, but at that time they featured the Genesis inspired guitarist Jean-Pascal Boffo, so it may not have been Zeuhl at all. The only actual Troll recordings I've heard are by later incarnations of the band. Over the years numerous versions of Troll existed, many including musicians from the Magma family. Eventually though, only Michel remained from the original band, and so the album issued by Musea was put out under his name.
TROLL (LP) © 19??
TROLL, VOL. 2 (LP: Musea FGBG 2010) 11/86+12/87 © 1988
Michel Altmayer (drums, keyboards, vocals, bass), + Bernard Paganotti, Francis Moze, Stella Vander, Guy Khalifa, Klaus Blasquiz (all from Magma), Yvon and Alain Guillard (ex-Weidorje), and others.

Although really avid fans of Magma, Archaïa were surprisingly not always Zeuhl per-se, as they had a lot of other influences, and a great deal in the way of their own originality. They had the chants and rhythmic elements down to a tee (similar to a British band of that era: Metabolist), but mixed in all sorts of weird ideas. Their use of electronics lent comparisons to Heldon, Zed, Arachnoid or Eskaton. Their self produced album amounted to "a must" for fans of the more outlandish end of the Zeuhl genre.
ARCHAÏA (LP: Archaïa 77.976) 8/77 © 1977 (CD: Soleil Zeuhl 01) «3 bonus tracks» © 1998
Pierrick Le Bras (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Michel Munier (bass), Philippe Bersan (vocals, keyboards, percussion)

Bedjabetch played a lively jazzy instrumental rock with unique style, notably with hints of ZAO, and more typical French space-prog elements (i.e. Gong, Clearlight, Neo, etc.) comparable to Joël Dugrenot's solo work.

Serge Bringolf & Strave
Reputedly at one time involved in Magma (though I have no firm evidence to support it) drummer Bringolf was as much musically inspired by classic (late-60's/early-70's) Miles Davis. The brassy jazz feel of the debut double was obviously a dedication to Magma, though its focus and funky late-70's Zeuhl edge made it different. Increasingly, with each album, the Strave sound developed. This was in part down to guitarist Alain Eckert (also of Art Zoyd) and a more robust rocky sound. All their releases are pretty obscure.
STRAVE (2LP: Omega Studio OM 67016) © 1980
VISION (LP: Omega Studio OM 67028) 7/81 © 1981
AGBOVILLE (LP: Omega Studio OM 67044) © 1983
LIVE (LP: RBO R 1.383 D) 26/3/82 © 1983
Serge Bringolf (drums), Philippe Geiss (sax), D. Petithory (trumpet), B. Eck (tuba), Alain Eckert (guitar), Claude Boussard (bass), Mano Kuhn (vocals), Alain Lecointe (bass), Emmanuel Séjourné (vibes), Francis Bourrec (sax), Thierry Eckert (bass), etc.

André Ceccarelli
A jazz-funk artist who flirted with Zeuhl stylisms in the late-70's, he also guested with other fringe Zeuhl inspired bands. He's also well-known as a session musician.
CECCARELLI (LP: Carla CAR 500.002) © 1977

Not strictly Zeuhl, but related, Clystere were a free-form guitar and bass duo stepping beyond the weirder creations of Jannick Top, and were related to Shub Niggurath and Sleaze Art.
Frank W. Fromy (guitar), Kaspar T. Toeplitz (bass)

As much a mixture of other fusions as Zeuhl, Dün will however please many into the genre. A full review of the CD reissue will be found elsewhere in this issue.
EROS (LP: Sabathé SAB 001) © 1981 (CD: Soleil Atreides 03) «4 bonus tracks» © 2000
Laurent Bertaud (drums), Jean Geeraerts (guitars), Bruno Sabathé (piano, synthesizer), Pascal Vandenbulke (flutes), Alain Termol (percussion), Thierry Tranchant (bass)

Eider Stellaire
Originally known as "Astarte" in the 1970's, these started as an avant-garde form of Zeuhl, becoming Eider Stellaire when drummer Michel Le Bars took over the band. He obviously modelled himself on Christian Vander, taking over the band, and conceived a new twist on the Zeuhl model.
Expanding to seven piece, and in parallel to Shub Niggurath (some members worked in both bands) they achieved a debut that was hailed as "the Magma album that Magma never quite made". Magma did hint at this with Mekanik Zain or De Futura, but Eider Stellaire had a real mean guitarist with the precision and fire of John McLaughlin. Furiously creative, thunderous (i.e. with brilliant high-power riffing) and with dual female vocals (wordless), it's all a mixture of dazzling solos and mad frenzy! For one brilliant album at least, Eider Stellaire were the monsters of Zeuhl. It' a shame that the album remains so obscure.
As we know from experience, nearly all bands that burn so brightly on their debut dwindle afterwards, and their untitled second LP was extremely mellow and languorous in comparison. More original and more avant-garde, maybe, but less cohesive or gripping. With their third album, a step back to the rocky Zeuhl sound, fronted again by Delchat's guitar, they were getting there, but (so I gather) the band split-up before the album was finished.
EIDER STELLAIRE (LP: K001) 5/81 © 1981
EIDER STELLAIRE 3 (LP: Musea FGBG 2009) © 1988
Jean-Claude Delachat (guitar), Patrick Singery (bass), Pierre Gerard-Hirne (piano, organ), Michel Le Bars (drums), Véreonique Perrault (electric piano), Franck Coullaud (percussion), Isabelle Nuffer (electric piano), TRX5 (bugle), etc., and guests.

One of the first non Magma related Zeuhl acts to make a big impression, Eskaton genuinely struck out with a new angle on the genre on their debut EP, crossing the Magma KÖHNTARKÖSZ sound with a fiery almost ritualistic music. The dual female vocals, multi-keyboards and sizzling guitar, all made for a complex and distinctive sound. Especially evident was the fact that Eskaton kept pushing on in their own direction, becoming more electronic and less Zeuhl on 1982's FICTION. The band kept on well into the late-80's, recording a further album in 1985 called I CARE. This remains unreleased!
Le Chant De Terre/If (7": MPA E 01) 4/79 © 1979
ARDEUR (LP: MPA E 38001) 8/80 © 1980
4 VISIONS (MC: Eurock EDC 05) 1979 © 1981 (CD: APM 9511) «1 bonus track» © 1995
FICTION (LP: MPA E 38301) 9/82 © 1983
André Bernardi (bass), Gérard Konig (drums), Alain Blésing (guitar), Gilles Rozenberg (guitar, organ, synthesizer), Eric Guillaume (electric piano), Marc Rozenberg (vocals, piano, synthesizer), Paule Kleynaert (vocals), Amara Tahir (vocals), plus guests.

Frank W. Fromy
The bassist from Shub Niggurath, Frank attempted to push Zeuhl elements into the classical avant-garde, coming up with something quite austere and strange, and totally unclassifiable.
QUATRE AXES MUTANTS (LP: Musea Parallèle MP 5002) © 1989
Lucie Ferrandon (voice), Marie Faure (piano), Marie-Pascale Jallot (viola), Danièle Dumas (soprano sax), Sylvie Jerusalem (tuba), Pierre Quesnay (bass), Pierre G. Monteil (bass), Alain Ballaud (bass), Alain Mouray (drums, percussion), Laurence Kopelovitch (voice), Frank W. Fromy (voice, effects), Claire Dixmier (alto sax), Bernard Guerin (baritone sax), Guillaume Wapoel (viola), Françoise Sachse (viola), Sylvain Dupasquier (cello)

One of those strange hybrids between experimental jazz and more progressive rock-fusions, their LP was later reissued by Cryonic (home to Art Zoyd and others at the time) and fits-in quite well, though it is much jazzier and only has marginal Zeuhl elements.
AVANT-DEMAIN (LP: HI 5893) © 1984
Stéphane Deschamps (keyboards), Abdoulaye Fall (tenor sax), Pascal Gutman (bass), Franck Marsicano (guitar), Jean-François Riviere (drums)

Right down to mock "Kobian" vocals, Honeyelk were adept explorers of the Kobaia to Wurdah Ïtah era Magma sound, with good clunky bass, multi-winds and keyboards, a nice jazzy concoction (but not jazz-rock) with strange use of rhythm and form. They made the one low-budget self-produced album that has a unique charm and style.
By 1979, however, they'd had plenty of time to get it together, with their history stretching back to pop bands in the 60's, and having attempted to make a break in England on numerous occasions, their music also drew in Canterbury/British prog-rock influences (notable on the CD bonus material), amounting to a unique mix of styles that go a lot wider ranging than Zeuhl per-se.
STOYZ VI DOZÉVÉLOY (LP:Oxygene OXY 047) 9/79 © 1980 - reissued as: EN QUÊTE D'UN MONDE MEILLEUR... (CD: Musea FGBG 4153.AR) «4 bonus tracks» © 1995
William Grandordy (pianos, synthesizers), Gérard Blanc (bass, vocals), Pierre Yves Maury (clarinet, tenor sax), Christian Blanc (drums, percussion, vocals), Frank Louisolo (guitars)

Not so much Zeuhl, although that's where their roots were, earlier spelling their name in "Kobian" style Mozaïk. These were one of the really creative underground bands, that by the time they managed to release an LP had changed and developed their own unique style of music. All the Zeuhl elements were in their music, but totally transformed into something new. They had that weirdo proto new-wave edge (akin to Archaïa) with Jannick Top (cum Hugh Hopper) type fuzz bass work, and an intensive almost Henry Cow like radical invention, so much so that many tracks ventured to yet other unexpected genres. A unique and rare classic.
ULTIMATUM (LP: Ekimoz 441 5278) © 1978
Jye Esko (guitars, synthesizers, voice), P.L.M.G. (basses, cello, synthesizers, percussion, acoustic guitar, voice), Hubert de Nampcel (drums, percussion), Yves Brebion (piano, acoustic guitar)

Musique Noise
It is said that "plagiarism is the greatest form of flattery" - or something like that, and Musique Noise went out-and-out to plagiarise the Magma sound so much that they really over-did it. They played on the complex jazzy elements and operatic vocals notably, and put it all into a churning rhythmic structure with strong changes and mood-swings, adding modern late-80's production, bringing the early-70's sound up-to-date.
FULMINES REGULARIS (LP: Musea FGBG 2028) 7+10/88 © 1989
Isabelle Bruston (vocals), Jean-Philippe Gallet (vocals, sax), Frédéric Huynh (bass), Denis Levasseur (piano, synthesizers), Cornélia Schmid (vocals), Philippe Zarka (drums, percussion, voice)

Neo Museum
Alan Terrill (who often writes in Audion) said that Neo Museum "play an intelligent low-key jazz-rock, not unlike Hellebore" which is partly true, except that they were far less radical, and also drew-in Zeuhl and RIO stylisms, the bass and drums relating to raunchy Magma and the sax more in that early instrumental Zappa vein.
Alain Casari (alto sax), Antoine Gindt (guitar, bass, piano), Daniel Koskowitz (drums), + Jacques Veille (trombone), Pascal Sieger (sopranino sax), Jérôme Bourdellon (bass clarinet, flute), Raoul Binot (tenor sax)

On the uncharted far borderland of Zeuhl, this experimental duo (featuring Pascale Jakubowski, also of Delta 4) played a music that ran from new-wave through to Zeuhlian textures, largely down to Erik Baron's superb bass guitar work acting as a base to Pascale's multi-instrumental talents.
COCKTAIL MOLOTOV (MC: Musique en Chantier MC 002) © 1987
Erik Baron (bass), Pascale Jakubowski (piano, voice, bass clarinet), plus guests.

Named after the Russian battleship (I wonder why?), Potemkine were unique innovators themselves in French explorative jazz-rock, though almost certainly originally inspired by Soft Machine. Formed by the Goubin brothers (Philippe and Charles) and Doudou Dubiusson, the band were pretty stable (adding a third Goubin on keyboards), taking Zeuhl-isms and twisting them into a music of their own creation.
As to what their debut single was like - I've no idea. (It may not even exist! - ED.) Their debut LP, aptly titled FOETUS, saw a gelling of moody jazz forms, like a sedate ZAO, with many of the characteristics we normally associate with the Canterbury scene. It would seem that working with Vertø after this (see write-up below) rubbed-off on them greatly, and as a precise trio they came up with the Zeuhl masterwork TRITON, a condensing of those ideas Jannick Top was all too rarely given ample room for in Magma, recomposed into fiery rock and jazz forms, all complex jigsaw-puzzles of riffs, motifs/refrains and solos, linked in a way unexplored except in more recent Univers Zero and Present. Other recordings from this era are featured on the CRAC! festival album (a bootleg I believe) proving them capable of playing such complex music live.
Barely 6 months on though (they'd probably grown weary of being labelled "copyist" by the media) it was all-change, moving to a more typically French lightweight jazz-rock with a funky edge. The third Goubin brother was involved full-time with this one, and I guess it is his jazz roots that took over. 1978's NICOLAS II is a fine album for fans of French jazz-rock.
I don't know if any further albums exist, though I know of concert dates, and that they were touring in January 1989 largely performing works from TRITON.
Rictus/Mystère (7") © 1974
FOETUS (LP: Pôle 0010) © 1976
TRITON (LP: Voxigrave V30/ST7162) 3/77 © 1977
NICOLAS II (LP: Phaeton 7801) 1/78 © 1978
Philippe Goubin (percussion, piano, vocals), Charles Goubin (guitars, piano, bells, vocals), Michel Goubin (pianos, synthesizers, vocals), Doudou Dubiusson (bass, flexatone, claves, vocals), plus guests.

Jean-Paul Prat's "Masal"
Another Christian Vander modelled drummer: Jean-Paul Prat was the brains behind Masal, who in 1975 tried their best to latch-on to the success of Magma. After a number of reformations Jean-Paul eventually got together a solo project which he named MASAL and released an LP. It's one of those oddities of Zeuhl, in that it sometimes sounds like a German prog-rock album from the late-70's mixed with American jazz-rock, whilst it is also very Magma inspired (partly down to the bass and drums, the fiery riffing and dense textures), and as such it remains unique.
MASAL (LP: Stand-By SB 83121) 7/82 © 1984 (CD: Musea FGBG 4155.AR) «4 bonus tracks» © 1995
Jean-Paul Prat (drums, piano, voice), Hervé Gourru (bass), Jean-Jacques Willig (piano, synthesizers), Viviane Galo (piano, voice), Norbert Galo (guitar), Alain Escure (guitar), Carlo Grassi (guitar), Eric Duval (percussion), Gérard Geoffrey (flutes), Richard Heritier (saxes, flute), Georges Rolland (saxes), Richard Negro (trumpet), Gilles Morard (trombone), Bernard Morard (choir)

In many ways Rahmann fit as much into the typical French progressive jazz-rock scene of the 1970's as they do Zeuhl, despite the fact that they were formed by an Algerian! Interestingly, the band's history involves them playing support to Magma on many occasions, with numerous members attempting to join Magma's ranks over the years. Eventually they did become related to the Magma family, when Gérard Prevost (ex-ZAO) joined for a short while in May 1979, and stylistically they were similar whilst also blending in symphonic progressive elements akin to Asia Minor or Camel.
RAHMANN (LP: Polydor 2393 252) 2/77-5/78 © 1980 (CD: Musea FGBG 4261.AR) «4 bonus tracks» © 1998
Mahamad Hadi (guitars, oud, bouzouki, snitra), Amar Mecharaf (drums, percussion), Michel Rutigliano (pianos, ARP), Gérard Prévost (basses), Louis-César Ewande (percussion), plus guests.

Resonance II
An obscure band with hints of Zappa in a Zeuhl spiced instrumental fusion, mixed with folk and offbeat arrangements. Their album aptly lived up to its title "All Directions"..
TOUTES DIRECTIONS (LP: Cabana CA 94272) 9-15/4/84 © 1985
Jean Wittmann (drums, percussion), Yannick Dungler (bass), Alain Fabre (guitar, synthesizer), Richard Chapoy (saxes, synthesizer)

Shub Niggurath
Amongst the most innovative and original bands to emerge as Zeuhl, Shub Niggurath, who took their name from the writings of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, also sought the darkness of his literature as inspiration for their lyrics and bizarre musical invention.
The thing is, how many bands do you know of with a Scottish soprano and a trombone player? In Shub Niggurath's music, the bizarre is melded seemlessly into a music that one hand recalls ÜDÜ WÜDÜ era Magma, yet on the other sounds like a weird mixing of Stravinsky and King Crimson's Fracture, along with all sorts of other elements. Their debut cassette (only ever intended as a demo) so impressed everyone, that the fledgling Musea label were eager to release an album. LES MORTS VONT VITE was a breath of fresh air at a time when such innovative music was becoming rare, signalling the birth of a new wave of Zeuhl that sent shock-waves around the world.
Sadly, as soon as their reputation began to spread, the band began to fall apart, first the drummer left, then the guitarist, followed by Ann Stewart. A new drummer with Franck Coulaud's fiery intensity eluded them, and thus a change in their style was inevitable. They decided to go more avant-garde, which I guess surprised everyone, especially as their new vocalist Sylvette Claudet had a jazzier style. Still Zeuhl in character, but without many of the usual rock or jazz structures the later Shub Niggurath is quite challenging, and an island unto itself.
SHUB NIGGURATH (MC: SN 6153) © 198?
LES MORTS VONT VITE (LP: Musea FGBG 2002) 3/86 © 1986 (CD: Gazul GA 8613.AR) «2 bonus tracks» © 1997
LIVE (MC: Auricle AMC 035) 13/1/89 © 1989
C' ÉTAIENT DE TRÈS GRANDS VENTS (CD: Musea FGBG 4042.AR) 11/90-1/91 © 1991
Alain Ballaud (bass), Franck Coulaud (drums), Franck W. Fromy (guitar, percussion, electronics), Jean-Luc Hervé (pianos, organ, harmonium), Ann Stewart (vocals), Véronique Verdier (trombone, percussion), Sylvette Claudet (voice), Michel Kervinio (drums), Jean-Pierre Lourdeau (voice), Edward Perraud (drums)

Sleaze Art
Originally a meeting of five bassists, notably Alain Ballaud (Shub Niggurath) and Kaspar T. Toeplitz (Clystere) playing the most free-form Zeuhl related music on the planet. The roots of it all go back to the experimental bass works of Jannick Top and Bernard Paganotti, though in Sleaze Art the musical element is pretty minimal.
SLEAZE ART (MC) © 1987
A DEMI-MORT/HALF ALIVE (MC: Underground SUB 15) 1988 © 1989
Alain Ballaud (bass), Christos Carras (bass), Pierre Quesnay (bass), Pierre-Gédéon Monteil (bass), Kaspar T. Toeplitz (bass)

Much more typically French prog-fusion than most bands here, these had notable hints of Magma and a smooth spacey style.
PAPRIKA (LP: Omega Studio OM 67020) 11/80 © 1981
Philippe Geiss (tenor/alto/soprano saxes, marracas), Emmanuel Sejourné (vibes, marimba, piano, bells), Claude Boussard (bass), Gilles Fontan (drums, bells, triangle, vibra-slap), plus guests.

Bernard Szajner
A synthesist, best-known these days as the designer of the laser-harp (used at Jarre concerts), he originally recorded an album as "Zed" fusing complex synth-sequencer music with Zeuhl characteristics and coming up with a highly original genre cross-over. It was quite a success, so hereafter he went on to release albums under his own name. Changing the subject matter from sci-fi to an Amnesty International anti-imprisonment concept had mixed results, with the A-side still impressing. Former Magma singer Klaus Blasquiz adds weird growled/processed vocals on both of these albums.
Not at all Zeuhl in any way, Szajner's next album SUPERFICIAL MUSIC was an extraordinary remix/deconstruction of VISIONS OF DUNE involving loops, tapes at wrong speed, etc. After that, another career change saw him attempting to be a French Gary Numan!
Zed - VISIONS OF DUNE (LP: Initial Recording Co. IRC 003) © 1979 (CD: Spalax 14547) © 1999
SOME DEATHS TAKE FOREVER (LP: Pathé 2C 070-14863) © 1980 (Initial Recording Co. IRC 005) © 1980 (CD: Spalax 14545) © 1999
SUPERFICIAL MUSIC (LP: Initial Recording Co. IRC 008) © 1981
Bernard Szajner (synthesizers, vocoder, sequencer), Colin Swinburne (guitar), Clement Bailly (drums), Hanny Rowe (bass), Klaus Blasquiz (voice), Annanka Raghel (voice) + Pierre Chavez (guitars), Marc Geoffroy (pianos, synthesizer), Bernard Paganotti (bass), Michael Quartermain (vocals), Alain Aguis (sax), Michael Rabinowitz (bassoon)

Transit Express
An obscure jazz-rock and progressive band that often flirted with Zeuhl styled arrangements. Their complex blend of progressive styles was always typically French, but they were at their most Zeuhl and jazzy (in a ZAO, Potemkine way) when joined by violinist David Rose on their third album.
Of related interest: In return, members of Transit Express also played in David Rose's band (very much in the Didier Lockwood vein) and there was another interconnected band called Blue Rose (which I haven't heard) that could be of note.
PRIGLACIT (LP: RCA Balance FPL1 0089) 7/75 © 1975
OPUS PROGRESSIF (LP: RCA Balance FPL1 0130) © 1976
COULEURS NATURELLES (LP: RCA Balance PL 37020) © 1977
Dominique Bouvier (drums, percussion), Jean-Claude Guselli (bass), Christian Leroux (guitars), Serge Perathoner (keyboards, synthesizer), David Rose (violin)

Ulan Bator
Formed as the extreme noise combo Miss Marvel ca. 1993, Ulan Bator developed via post-wave/new-wave grunge hybrids. They then went on to fuse Zeuhl stylisms, creating a fiery blend full of surprising twists on the genre. After involvement with a 90's version of Heldon, more recent Ulan Bator releases have surprisingly gone in a completely different direction!
ULAN BATOR (CD: DSA CDSA54038) © 1995
EP (CDEP: DSA CDSA54043) © 1996
Amaury Cambuzat, Olivier Manchon, Franck Lantignac.

Like so many French experimental bands, Vertø was actually the vehicle for one man, in this case guitarist and electronics dabbler Jean-Pierre Grasset. As a soloist, he largely explored use of echo/delay systems with the guitar, folding-back sound using two reel-to-reel machines. On side 1 of his debut KRIG/VOLUBILIS he sought the aid of musicians from Potemkine, for a Heldon-esque version of the heavy Magma ÜDÜ WÜDÜ type sound, characterised by lots of fuzzed bass and guitars, and lots of studio trickery. With REEL 19·36 he explored other avenues, largely aided by Magma's Benoit Widemann.
KRIG/VOLUBILIS (LP: Pôle 0009) © 1976
REEL 19·36 (LP: Fléau 7004) 2-3/78 © 1978
Jean-Pierre Grasset (guitars, drums, electronics), + Gilles Goubin, Michel Goubin, Dominique Dubuisson and Charles Goubin (of Potemkine), Benoit Widemann (synthesizers, bass), Jean-Pierre Fouquey (bass), Cyrille Lefebvre (dobro), etc.

Although I've never encountered their debut, I can assure you that Vortex were a fascinating band working at the darker end of Zeuhl. Their second album evokes just the spooky atmosphere you'd expect with such a title, pre-empting later Shub Niggurath, mixing classical elements with all sorts of Magma stylisms and jazzy edges (elements of Art Zoyd, early instrumental Zappa/Mothers, etc.), it amounts to a stunning album.
VORTEX (LP: JBP 463) © 1975
LES CYCLES DE THANATOS (LP: FLVM 3008) 7/77+7/78 © 1979
Jean-Michel Belaich (drums, percussion), Christian Boisel (oboe, cor anglais, electric piano, synthesizers), Alain Chaleard (percussion), Jacques Gugot (saxes), Gerard Jolivet (saxes, clarinet), Maurice Sonjon (percussion), Jacques Vivante (bass), Jean-Pierre Vivante (pianos, organ), + Sunny James (violin), Michel Boisel (bassoon)

Debuting with a really stunning eponymous cassette, Xaal proved to be one of the few bands to successfully fuse Zeuhl into an instrumental progressive rock. This was largely down to the unique dual guitars (one also guitar-synth) acting as the musical focus, and a rhythm section with almost psychic interplay. Cementing the Zeuhl edge further, the ex-Weidorje (much travelled session jazzers) Guillard brothers guested on their debut CD, a superb album of complex instrumental music, full of fiery riffs and dozens of solos.
A pretty consistent band, the only line-up change was the departure of Laurent Imperato, so the aptly titled SECONDE ERE also moved focus to a style that was both jazzier (a lot of guest brass-work is featured) and more symphonic-prog, thus less notably Zeuhl.
XAAL (MC: Xaal 001) © 1990
EN CHEMIN (CD: MSI 1163) © 1991 - aka: ON THE WAY (CD: Progressive International PRO 004) © 1991
SECONDE ERE (CD: Musea FGBG 4149.AR) 7/93 © 1995
Patrick Boileau (drums, percussion), Laurent Imperato (guitars), Nicolas Neimer (bass), Jad Ayache (guitar synthesizer, guitar), plus guests.

An obscure band, existing since the mid-1970's, Xalph history later became entwined with that of Uppsala leader Philippe Cauvin. Keyboard player Serge Korjanevski worked with Cauvin (and vice versa) on solo album projects. The only documentation of Xalph we know of is on an obscure cassette sampler and Musea's ENNEADE where they sound similar to Xaal, but with vocals.
Patrick Briand (guitars), Jean-Michel Cursan (synthesizer, electric piano), Maurice Fari (drums), Serge Korjanevski (pianos, synthesizer), Jack Tocah (bass), Francoise Georges (vocals), Claire Laborde (vocals)

Yog Sothoth
Taking their name from the H.P. Lovecraft fictional demon, Yog Sothoth (also the name of a Shub Niggurath track) are unlikely to be what anyone would expect. They took Zeuhl characteristics and fused them garishly with British styled experimental jazz. The results are challenging, and certainly an acquired taste!
YOG SOTHOTH (LP: Cryonic MAD 3010) © 1984
Pascal Morrow (violin), Philippe Guillot (saxes, flute), Jean-Yves Joron (keyboards), Pierre-Gédéon Monteil (bass), Olivier Lechien (drums)


Various Artists
There are not many sampler albums that concentrate on Zeuhl type music, making it a tough venture for anyone wanting to explore the genre. That's one reason I decided to do this article! Thankfully, for the uninitiated, Musea issued two records that explore aspects of this field...

This correlates works by the late-80's Zeuhl underground, involving Shub Niggurath and related acts: Ann Stewart, Sleaze Art and Kasper T. Toeplitz. This is the world of the weird, Gothic and the purely avant-garde end of Zeuhl musics.
DITHYRAMBE (LP: Musea FGBG 2015) © 1988

A celebration of Zeuhl and related musics, with a new work from Magma (totally unrepresentative!), recordings by Magma members, and works by (then) current Zeuhl bands: Troll, Xalph, Eskaton, Shub Niggurath, Eider Stellaire, plus on the CD: Musique Noise, Farben (only recording known), Altaïs (from the EP) and Univers Zero (off "Crawling Wind").
ENNEADE (LP: Musea FGBG 2005) © 1987 (CD: Musea FGBG 4005) «4 bonus tracks» © 1989

So, there you have some 60 odd other releases to investigate! In the next Audion I'll scour the rest of the planet, and show how influential this French phenomenon has been with acts from England, Germany, Canada, Japan, and even the USA!


Note: I will come back to this article and add pictures and YouTube links later.
So, watch this space!

Auricle 2005 Sampler online as name your price download

Auricle 2005 Sampler

2005 was a very busy / prolific time of releases on the Auricle label. A total of 16 home-grown releases are documented on this sampler, all but one involving the brothers Alan & Steve Freeman (in Endgame, Extremities, The Scanner Game, Triax and Zircon & The Burning Brains), the other being a Jim Tetlow solo (also of Endgame, Extremities and The Scanner Game). Would have been more if Alto Stratus had done some sessions!

A unique sampler this, as the tracks are not merely selections from the albums, but are all remixws, many of them total reconstruction done by myself (Alan Freeman) in a Pierre Henry or Nurse With Wound like fashion, so that each piece represents the album yet is a new work in itself.

If you've never heard any of our music before, and are feeling adventurous, then give it a try!

The complex world of Italian prog and new music

An entry you may be surprised to see in our forthcoming Italian music book "A Fistful Of Spaghetti"

Luis Enríquez Bacalov
Composer (born 1933, Buenos Aires, Argentina) who worked mostly doing film soundtracks. He did a lot of excellent scores before he discovered rock music, including some Spaghetti Westerns and a few Giallos. Some films with Bacalov music in our video collection: Django (1966), La Vittima Designata (The Designated Victim, 1971), Milano Calibro 9 (1972), Il Boss (Murder Inferno, 1973), Un Hombre Llamado Noon (The Man Called Noon, 1973), Shoot First... Die Later (1974), Colpo In Canna (Loaded Guns, 1975), La Città Sconvolta (Kidnap Syndicate, 1975), Gli Esecutori (Street People, 1976), and Vacanze Per Un Massacro (Madness, 1980).

Bacalov's complete discography is at least 60 albums, of which the majority are soundtracks or used in films. Aside from initally trying to imitate Ennio Morricone (with whom he also collaborated), Bacalov's range was wide, from pastoral orchestral through to weird avant-garde (of which PITTURAMUSICA is a good example) and experimental jazz (album DESBANDES featuring Gato Barbieri). He also did funky psychedelic soul (some pieces in the "La Seduzione" soundrack) and all sorts of rock and pop styles (of which "The Summertime Killer" showcases, including two pieces that sound like New Trolls). His trademarks in the 70s became rich symphonic strings and Bach inspired melodies mixed with dramatic themes and rock rhythms.

For prog fans, his best material is these three collaboration albums he did with rock groups: New Trolls CONCERTO GROSSO (1971), Osanna PRELUDIO TEMA VARIAZIONI CANZONA (1972) and Il Rovescio Della Medaglia CONTAMINAZIONE (1973), all Italian prog classics. The Osanna collaboration he was particularly fond of, and he re-used a lot of the Osanna sessions over and over, in at least four more films after Milano Calibro 9. The second New Trolls collaboration CONCERTO GROSSO Nº 2 (1976) wasn't up to the standard of the first, but has its moments. There is now also a third CONCERTO GROSSO and abridged newly re-recorded versions of the trilogy.

Different arrangements of Concerto Grosso material in the film La Vittima Designata with Tomas Milian on vocals

p.s. Of course the book version won't include the video links, but this will no doubt give a clue as to the range of music we intend to include, sewing up the 60s/70s scene and beyond. And, yes, there's a similar article on Ennio Morricone too, plus all the usual suspects of Italian prog, the Nuova Futurista and all related genres. It's still work in progress. No doubt I'll post some more tasters here too!

20 September, 2018

A taster from the next edition of The Cosmic Egg CD-Rom

Nine Days' Wonder

Eccentric and unique vocalist Walter Seyffer had fronted numerous bands during the 1960s. He claims to have established the Mannheim based Nine Days Wonder in 1966, then known as The Graves, who gradually transformed into Nine Days' Wonder. A 1969 line-up is documented as: Rolf Henning (guitar), Walter Seyffer (vocals, drums), Winfried Schmidt (bass) and Bernd "Ravi" Unger (guitar). But Nine Days' Wonder proper (or, as we know them) gelled as a new line-up in February 1970, with an Austrian (Karl Mutschlechner), an Irishman (John Earle) and an Englishman (Martin Roscoe), to create a bizarre and fascinating rock fusion showing distinct Zappa and British underground rock influences.

Their debut LP, originally issued in a green foam rubber cover, but more widely known with the British Hipgnosis design, saw them present a music roughly in the same field as Supersister or Moving Gelatine Plates, sans the Canterbury references. Nine Days' Wonder were a distinctly Krautrock twist on the genre, radical, innovative and unpredictable. Featuring what was really only four tracks (two of them lengthy segued extravaganzas, full of bizarre unlikely diversions) NINE DAYS WONDER presented an exceptionally complex music featuring highly powered instrumentals, diversions into jazz fusion, high experimentation, and above all some of the most fascinating and eccentric songs on record. The vocal piece "Morning Spirit" has to be heard to be believed! This band also worked incognito as Maternal Joy releasing a single in 1971. Rare live recordings of the 1970/71 Nine Days' Wonder exist documenting them with some excellent material that never gained release on LP.

It's hardly surprising that the original Nine Days' Wonder didn't last long, apparently falling apart during their first British tour. Thus, searching for a new band, Walter met up with Michael Bundt's group Medusa, who he joined replacing Geff Harrison who'd gone on to Twenty Sixty Six. Anyway, as the legend goes, Bacillus quite liked what Medusa were doing but didn't want to sign up a new band as Nine Days' Wonder still had an open contract, so Medusa became Nine Days' Wonder. Paradoxically WE NEVER LOST CONTROL was very tame compared to the previous album, without the jazzy elements and instead being more richly textured progressive rock with hard-rock touches. It is still an excellent album though, when judged on its own merits.

In one sense, the third album ONLY THE DANCERS rectified some of the former album's shortcomings, with a return to Seyffer's eccentric and bizarre lyrics in some of the more dramatic longer tracks, and a wider instrumentation, but also featured a lot in the way of "bubblegum" pop, which was deemed catchy and fresh when I first heard it in the 1970s, but has now worn thin. A couple of luminary guests featured: Dave Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator) and Steve Robinson (ex-Twenty Sixty Six And Then).

The CD only archive collection THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIFE? has material spanning all this era, from an early aborted single, via an excellent early concert broadcast onto demos and rehearsal tapes, documenting the history and development of Nine Days' Wonder during their classic days.

As with most good rock bands, Nine Days' Wonder caused their own fateful end by attempting to go commercial - a tactic that generally backfires - and SONNET TO BILLY FROST was a disaster! Michael Bundt went on to form mainstream rock bands Nerve and Marilyn, and later established a solo career as a synthesist. Walter went on to the pop duo Wintergarden.

Still some copies of the old Rom available here
CDs at the UT Discogs shop

07 September, 2018

New release from Triax

TRIAX - unique live electroacoustic music

Born out of the expanded Endgame "Extremities" project, in a sense, this sideline couples Alto Stratus with the strangely processed hurdy-gurdy of Dave Powell, for a unique new hybrid.

Dave Powell - Alan Freeman - Steve Freeman

Auricle AMCDR 284 66'55"

Document of two performances at The Church Of Sound events held in Nottingham in 2016 and 2017. The first performance here was on a humid July evening with the tiny Rosy Lee's Tea basement full to the brim, featuring sets from Triax, Mooch and Concept Devices. This was a more typical Triax set with Dave Powell on hurdy gurdy and an improvisation roughly modelled on some themes from INTEGRATED CIRCUITS. Writhing and almost industrial on occasions, in roughly three movements that were intended to fit with the projected video. The second performance was on a dank October night with sets by Triax, Meson and Plyci. Here Dave was on flute, and a work that went through many more phases, feeling much brighter than the previous set, and with a vaguely avant-garde classical feel. It was intended to showcase a work on the new PETRIFIED, but it didn't really resemble it at all!

£8.00 + p&p worldwide PayPal mail-order

Loads more to investigate here

outer space electronics - new release!

Auricle AMCDR 285 68'05" 

Remastered duo works from Quadelectronic by Alan Freeman & Jim Tetlow, all recorded live with no overdubs. These impromptu live sessions reveal the unique chemistry of Alan and Jim at work, an intuitive way of interacting that goes all the way back to improvised sessions in Shapeshifter over 20 years ago, and further developed in Endgame and other projects since. Approaching Infinity is as much an attitude as a band name, which may be played out even more aptly in future live gigs. Cryptically titled En Passant - another chess move reference like Endgame - this debut sets the scene for further albums to come.

£8.00 + p&p worldwide PayPal mail-order

Trippy rock by ex Quarkspace super-group

(Salad Farm Studio SFS003) CD 60m

The American supergroup space-rockers are back with a third instalment, and one that revisits old ground whilst venturing on to new territory, particularly in its diversity.
For starters, the opener Night Encounter is just four musicians on synthesizers, evoking both the Teutonic cosmic masters and the ethereal moment of mid-1970's Gong. But we can't take the instrumentation literally, as A Sublime Metaphore which follows lists no electric pianos, but they are there. Sublime though it isn't, majestic it is, as the drums, bass and guitar add to the ride. Now we a have a break from Secret Saucer tradition, whereas the previous two albums flowed throughout non-stop, here we have a pause before we launch into the instrumental Hawkwind and/or Djam Karet styled Protoplasmic Accelerator which tangles around itself, with synth wash entwining around guitars ever more hypnotically, surging with energy but also holding back creating great tension, ever threatening to explode. Another synth respite is the vaguely Cluster meets Klaus Schulze and Tim Blake ooze/froth of Approaching Hunab Ku (whatever that is - ah, the wonders of the web, Wikipedia says: Hunab Ku is a name invented by Catholic missionaries sent to the Maya peoples of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico) which means that it's a very odd title. Light Years Away takes us back into high flying Quarkspace "Spacefolds" territory, and then we wind up with the more lethargic (but still heavy) trip Mind Mechanic which has a feel that reminds me of the legendary Mythos, as if they'd had Steve Hillage on guitar! I'm trying to use my imagination here, as describing such music is no easy task.
It's an interesting album also musician wise, especially in that no one is on the whole album. Steve Hayes (synthesizer, guitar), Dave Hess (synthesizer), and Greg Kozlowski (synthesizer, ebow guitar), each feature on all but one track. Ted Bobuka (drums) and Billy Spear (bass) appear on the four rock tracks. And various others feature here and there. No doubt this variety is what makes it more interesting, with a steady succession of ideas from different people at work, and not at all the hotchpotch jigsaw that such a way of working could result in. In that way I'm reminded of the Cosmic Jokers albums, which would have been similarly put together.
In all, it's another great one, and it's good to see that they decided to break their own mould, and surprise us all.

From Audion #57, page 32 (Autumn 2012)

A web p.s. Unfortunately all the three classics by Secret Saucer are sold out (although you can still find some on Discogs). At Ultima Thule we do still have in stock the excellent cosmic synth album by Greg Kozlowski under the name Antrilon.

This is my last web post from Audion #57. These have been all my articles from the issue, plus selected reviews. There's much more in the actual magazine, including a load of reviews by Andy G. (including his second Agitation Free reissues feature) and an article on world music fusion by Jules Conway, and a page about Djam Karet & related releases by myself, etc., etc...

Hills - Swedish underground meets Krautrocky sounds

(Sulatron 1002) CD 52m

This is the CD reissue of the debut LP by one of Sweden's top up-and-coming space-rock acts, the uninspiringly named Hills. But, despite such a name, the music found here is anything but uninspired.
The opening track Death 1 is paradoxically lively, with breathy echoed flute over an early Ozric Tentacles type groove, it is sadly all over too soon. With Istikial Street we descend into wonderful echo guitar sludge territory as first explored by Pink Floyd (Dave Gilmour), close to some early Ash Ra Tempel or Günter Schickert in improv mode, growing almost mid-70's Popol Vuh like, yet not - this is quite an original concoction, with the flute and twisted guitar. Totally unexpected though You Talk The Talk! takes us back to early Kraftwerk and Neu! territory with the best Florian Schneider flute impersonation I've heard. Rainship finds the band clapping along with solo guitar whist being drenched with water, and again goes Neu! like, but with other elements at play, like it's the best Stereolab I've heard as interpreted by Electric Orange!?. The mood tones-down a little with Ex Oblivione which is kind of moody Hendrix with an air of Fleetwood Mac's Albatros. But they can't keep the Neu! groove away it seems, and again we trundle along with Schlaraffenland this time more in the Mushroom vein, or Kollektiv sans the jazzy edge, adding odd vocal expressions, dub echo effects and some slight phasing (a sonic art largely lost since the 1970's). And finally, we have a different Neu! type mood to end it all, Messias with drawn-out fuzzy echo guitars over a light metronomic rhythm. Really the guitar reminds me mostly of Chrome on their READ ONLY MEMORY, but few of you will know what I mean by that.
In all then - highly derivative - but very good with it, and with enough ideas of their own to make it worth having!

from Audion #57, page 28 (Autumn 2012)

A web p.s. Hills have issued at least to more classics since, before changing style when breaking the international market. Unfortunately this one is o/p at the moment.

06 September, 2018

An obscurity of the 2011 Krautrock underground

(Fünfundvierzig 167) CD 67m

Around since the very early days of Krautrock, I was surprised to learn recently that M.T. Wizzard were formed way back in 1969! They hailed from Limburg and have featured Amon Düül II and Xhol members. They started as free-rock/fusion underground, and then got more conventional. It wasn't until the advent of the new-wave in Germany that they got to release an album. Then they flourished much like the UK bands Here & Now or Magic Muscle. Of course, as primarily a festival band, M.T. Wizzard have always been a bit hit and miss, although many of their releases contain excellent Krautrock moments.
So, what of this new album? Well, first off, I would never have known about it hadn't band leader Edgar Turk sent us a review copy. You see, shortly after its release the label Fünfundvierzig folded. But, even with Tim Belbe sadly passed away and no longer in the band, they seem to have refound their old 1969 spirit and done their best ever album!
Yes, now, over 40 years on they've moved back to doing free-rock/fusion underground! 9 of the 10 tracks here are acid fuelled, psychedelic, ethnic mega-trips that really sizzle, flow and do all the right things. The spirit of such bands as Amon Düül II, Embryo, Missus Beastly, Guru Guru - all present, but with added Turkish / Middle Eastern flavour. That's obviously down to Edgar's unusual tuning, sometimes giving it a buzz akin to the live recordings of Turkish legend Erkin Koray. Although all basically jams, we have moves towards Ozric Tentacles on some tracks, Can gone jazzy on others, and elsewhere. Never a dull moment...
Well, ahem, that's if you forget the last track, a really crappy rock/blues song that's totally out of character with all that's gone before! I wish they hadn't done that!

unfortunately there are no audio samples online

A blog p.s. - This review was in Audion 57, from 2012. However, the label went bust and it disappeared, never to appear on a distributor list since. Just got a second-hand copy though which I listed on Discogs.

Canterbury Scene Pioneers 4

Phil Miller / Pip Pyle

Matching Mole, Hatfield And The North, National Health

Canterbury Scene Pioneers 4
written by Alan Freeman

This feature is the story of two of the most prolific and widely travelled of musicians on the Canterbury Scene: guitarist Phil Miller and drummer Pip Pyle. These musicians were key to the development and sound of a number of groups that are some of the most important in British 1970s prog-rock/fusion.
As with many such musicians in the "Canterbury Scene", neither were from Canterbury at all: Philip Adam Miller (b. 22 January 1949, Barnet, Hertfordshire) and Philip "Pip" Pyle (b. 4 April 1950, Sawbridgeworth) first met pre-school in the town of Sawbridgeworth (halfway between Harlow and Bishop's Stortford, NNE from London) and became best friends so we're told. That's the simple story. But life's always more complex than that, and moving on over a decade or so, both became involved in music. Phil was self-taught on guitar from the age of 8, "playing seriously since 15" to quote Phil himself. Pip apparently took a few lessons from jazz drummer Buzz Greene, but is also largely self-taught. It seems that both had been playing together in various bands/projects until they joined Bruno's Blues Band, led by Phil's older brother Steve Miller (no, not the...) in 1966 when everything came together, and so the actual story begins...

I don't know if there was ever any Bruno in Bruno's Blues Band, but by 1968 they decided to move on from blues after being joined by jazz saxophonist Lol Coxhill, becoming Steve Miller's Delivery with Carol Grimes (vocals) and Roy Babbington (bass).
The only document of the original Delivery is the one album FOOLS MEETING, released in 1970, when Lol had already left the band. It's an odd album though, and one that I've never really been able to appreciate. You can tell that what we have here is a really hot fusion band full of fresh ideas, about half the album is such creative stuff, involving unusual time signatures, intricate jigsaw like arrangements, and dazzling interplay/solos. But the problem for me is Carol Grimes, not that I dislike her vocals, it's just that when she's present she's just too much, with lyrics that are more like a rant and not that interesting either to my ears. It amounts to an album that sounds like two different bands, 1) an excellent fusion outfit, and 2) a British answer to Jefferson Airplane?
You can tell though the roots of what was to come. It is also obvious that they'd heard Soft Machine, and we're told that they became friends after meeting at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London. But, as in many bands, tensions set-in, and Pip quit the group. So Pip became a bit of a wandering drummer for a while, playing on one tour with Chicken Shack, and then briefly in an early incarnation of Steve Hillage's Khan. Apparently Robert Wyatt recommended Pip to Daevid Allen who needed a drummer to finish his Banana Moon album, which in turn led to Pip joining Gong from May 1971 to early spring 1972 (featuring on the albums CAMEMBERT ELECTRIQUE and CONTINENTAL CIRCUS). Meanwhile Laurie Allen stepped-in as Delivery's drummer, who also then went on to Gong!

Here we have the start of the tangled "Canterbury Scene" web! It all gets so complex, especially with a number of bands that came and went without recording anything, like when Delivery fell apart, the Miller brothers formed the short-lived band: DC & The MBs (that's Dyble/Coxhill & The Miller Brothers) with Judy Dyble from Fairport Convention (although I know her best from a few tracks with proto King Crimson). They were apparently a more improv jazz based outfit who did a tour of Holland and a few domestic gigs before splitting up. It seems that no recordings exist at all.

Matching Mole
Now we have a major kink in the story, the formation of the first Canterbury supergroup in October 1971: Matching Mole so-named, according to Robert Wyatt, Soft Machine in French is Machine Molle which sounds like Matching Mole! You can check-out the Audion Soft Machine article for more on the roots of this. Robert's new choice band was himself (drums, vocals), with David Sinclair (keyboards) from Caravan, Phil Miller (guitar) from Delivery and Bill MacCormick (bass) from Quiet Sun.
Matching Mole were incredibly productive for a band that existed for less than a year, issuing 2 studio albums at the time, a number of radio sessions/appearances, tours of the UK, France, Holland, etc., now documented by 6 CD's worth of officially released material! Yet, even before the completion of the eponymous debut LP, David Sinclair had ceased to be a full time member, and was replaced by Dave McRae of Nucleus.
From my own experience, although I now deem MATCHING MOLE a fascinating record, it is flawed. Starting with the lamentful love song O Caroline it totally threw me when I first asked to listen to some of it in a local record shop. Thus I was convinced for years (backed up by his Yesterday Man on Virgin's "V" sampler) that I didn't like Robert Wyatt as a singer! I still think it's a weak start, but after that it's never less than magic. What we have is a virtual suite of interlocked themes and diversions, all with great titles like Instant Pussy, Dedicated To Hugh, But You Weren't Listening or Beer As A Braindeer amongst them. A Soft Machine meets Caravan and Egg mixture it mostly is, but with that added pazazz of Phil Miller's uniquely sizzly guitar, and the added surprise of Robert playing lots of highly processed Mellotron! David Sinclair's patent fuzz/distorted organ also features a lot. Yet we also have a lot of intricate mellow sections with electric piano and guitar weaving patterns against occasionally explosive flurries of percussion. There's obviously some Quiet Sun influence in there too, but that band was always a hard one to quantify! It's all the start of a brand new sound taking form.
The more documented line-up is that which recorded the second album: LITTLE RED RECORD. Whereas the debut was largely penned by Robert Wyatt, here much of the material is penned by the other members, which explains why it is quite different. The sound is tighter, much more episodic, and with a good few memorable tunes that worm their way into the brain. More humour too, like the prostitute tale Nan True's Hole and the deliberately dour but poignant God Song - islands in a complex tapestry of innovation.
If I go on much more here I'll be repeating my past Audion reviews. But it's safe to say that the Cuneiform releases SMOKE SIGNALS (sessions and live) and MARCH (live, March 1972) add up to yet more essential listening, and there's the various radio sessions, demos, etc. I've also encountered some well-dodgy bootlegs that, whilst musically excellent, prove that Robert wasn't the most reliable of vocalists! An amusing thought, in that it is said that Robert left Soft Machine to be more than just a drummer, he ended up with a new band that his role in concert was mostly as the drummer!

Quite why Matching Mole broke up in September 1972 we don't know. It could have something to do with Phil Miller leading a double life in the reformed Delivery (more about that below). Based on the BBC session of Robert Wyatt & Francis Monkman from December 1972, Robert indeed wanted to be more vocal. Another project: WMWM (Wyatt, McRae, Windo, Matthewson) said to be free jazz, also almost led to a new Matching Mole incarnation, however that idea was cut short in June 1973 after Robert fell from a third floor window during a party in London, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. But I digress, back to the Delivery story....

Delivery #2
To give this article some logic we now have to step back a bit, and retrace what had also been happening whilst Matching Mole were around. Steve Miller had joined Caravan, and features on their WATERLOO LILY album, where Delivery members: Lol Coxhill and Phil Miller also featured as guests. You can certainly hear the Delivery influence in Caravan at this time and hear that something new was cooking. That was obviously the interaction between Steve Miller and Richard Sinclair, which led to them splitting off and creating a new project under the Delivery name. Completing this line-up was Pip Pyle (back again after extensive work with Gong, and short stays in Paul Jones Group and All Wet And Dripping - both undocumented) and Phil Miller (in between gigs and sessions with Matching Mole).
The only official document of Delivery #2 that I know of is One For You included as a bonus on the Cuneiform CD reissue, which feels more like Caravan than Delivery really. Two live documents are known to me (others exist), the first being an outdoor gig at the Tower Of London Moat (21 July 1972) which includes a mixture of Delivery material, two Matching Mole numbers, and other new numbers in their embryonic state, like the Pip Pyle penned Shaving Is Boring and the vibrant Finesse Is For Fairies. The final Delivery gig, at the Brighton Dome (29 September) featured a similar set including a version of Waterloo Lily and is notable for Gong's Didier Malherbe as guest winds player.
Delivery reformed briefly for a booked session with the BBC in November 1972 with the line-up: Steve Miller, Phil Miller, Lol Coxhill, Roy Babbington, Pip Pyle, and Richard Sinclair After this Steve Miller became more of a musical nomad. He did two odd split albums with Lol Coxhill which I heard back in the late 1970s and never revisited, and also attempted yet another Delivery reformation, with Roy Babbington and Laurie Allan in 1973, but that fell apart when Babbington joined Soft Machine.

Delivery #2 on stage at The Tower of London Moat festival

Hatfield And The North
To Joe Public, the transition of Delivery into Hatfield And The North would have been seamless. In fact many Delivery bootleg recordings are incorrectly labelled as Hatfield And The North on the web. And scarcely a month had gone by with the new band, sans Steve Miller, with Dave Sinclair on keyboards instead. But why Hatfield And The North? Many reasons are given. Some ridiculous, all hearsay, so I won't repeat them here. It was a road sign often seen on the A1 out of London. I just think it fitted their wry sense of humour. Did they ever get any promoters asking to speak to Mr. Hatfield I wonder?
Hatfield And The North from late 1972 are an unknown quantity. I could not find any recorded documentation at all. A logical transition? Maybe. Though the "Hatfields" we know weren't born until Egg's Dave Stewart took over the keyboard role, debuting live with them on 19 January 1973. Combining his eclectic Egg style organ (with electronics, and also a newfound nimble style of electric piano) with the jazzy twisted Caravan meets Matching Mole hybrid, all made for a distinctive new style that (in retrospect) was unmistakable. Many early sessions and archive recordings can now be found on the two excellent anthologies: HATWISE CHOICE and HATTITUDE, giving an insight into how the sound developed and gelled.
As with many such British bands at the time, the only label interested enough to sign them up was Virgin Records. And, with Tom Newman as producer they had all the resources they needed to go the whole hog, and let their imaginations run riot. With 14 tracks in just over 46 minutes HATFIELD AND THE NORTH is a heady complex trip, with tracks ranging from 30 second bridges through to a huge 10 power-drive, and most of it segued together (extensive use of the studio as an instrument too), it's clever, witty and totally engaging. Richard Sinclair here came really into his own as a songwriter too, with lots of clever word-play, and wry witticism the order of the day, I still hear the odd joke hidden in there that I never realised before some 30 odd years on! True, it's like a continuation from songs in Caravan, but here the feel isn't normal songs, but poetry wound around the music, and sometime breaking the rules of the song format altogether. There was also a new twist "The Northettes" namely Amanda Parsons, Barbara Gaskin and Ann Rosenthal, adding extra vocal harmonies in a manner unheard anywhere else. One could say that Phil Miller was so in his element with such a creative brew his guitar so underpins it all, that he occasionally becomes transparent, only rarely startling us with a solo. Well he did have some serious competition with Dave Stewart. And holding it all together was the ever reliable Pip Pyle, also given freedom to be more than just a drummer. And, let's not forget the wonderful track titles like Going Up To People And Tinkling or Lobster In Cleavage Probe to name but two! A stunning album from start to end. Not forgetting the Robert Wyatt guest appearance too.
Many bands would burn-out after such a debut, but their second album THE ROTTERS CLUB was probably even more creative than its predecessor. Well, they hadn't been rushing it, as well over year had passed, which gave them plenty of time to come up with lots of new ideas. A big difference, at least in format, was one side of shorter tracks, contrasting with the second side largely taken up with the 20 minute opus Mumps. But, that said, what is a track on a Hatfields album? Listened to on CD, the whole album tends to feel like a single cleverly compiled opus. A good few guests on this one too including: Jimmy Hastings from Caravan, Lindsay Cooper & Tim Hodgkinson from Henry Cow, and as usual The Northettes!

National Health
The formation of National Health is a weird story. To make sense of it you really need to know about another band, called Gilgamesh. They were another "Canterbury scene" fusion outfit, led by keyboard player Alan Gowen. They existed in various line-ups from 1972-75 (and again in 1977-78) playing a lighter more reflective jazzy music. I was never enamoured with them really, deeming them as a pleasant also ran. Anyway, so the story goes: Hatfield And The North and Gilgamesh played some gigs together as one Octet back in November 1973, and always intended to record together.
In July 1975 Alan Gowen and Dave Stewart re-hatched the idea, causing both the demise of Gilgamesh and Hatfield And The North and the birth of National Health. The actual fusion of the two bands however never lasted for long, with both drummers going awol and Gilgamesh guitarist Phil Lee dropping out a little later. In stepped Bill Bruford, who'd been playing with Gong after leaving King Crimson, with Steve Hillage taking over second guitar role for a while, and Egg's Mont Campbell playing bass for a while before being replaced by Neil Murray from Gilgamesh. For early gigs they also had Amanda Parsons as occasional lead singer.
As time went on National Health whittled down to the quartet of: Dave Stewart, Phil Miller, Neil Murray and Pip Pyle, basically three quarters of Hatfield And The North with a different bassist playing a largely instrumental concoction, sometimes sounding like Egg topped by Phil Miller's guitar, or like a more accessible melodic Henry Cow. Really there were more elements at play in National Health than you could easily identify, lots of weird time signatures, seamless fused elements of classical and jazz musics, avant-rock improv and devilishly complex composition. The debut album didn't appear until well over a year after the bands inception. It's interesting to note that NATIONAL HEALTH is largely penned by Dave Stewart, which explains the many Egg references in the music. Of the four tracks, one Brujo is written by Alan Gowen. He's credited as a guest on the record, and is also co-writer of the closing opus Elephants.
By the time of recording a second album, Neil Murray had been replaced by Henry Cow stalwart John Greaves, taking the band in a more experimental direction. 1978's OF QUEUES AND CURES was much more of a band compositional effort, 6 big tracks (and a little one) 3 by Dave Stewart, and one each by Greaves, Miller and Pyle. Many class it as the last great album of the Canterbury scene, and I wouldn't argue with that! The musicians were all in their element, allowed to be a free thinking and creative as they desired.
In January 1979 we had the surprise of National Health appearing on BBC's The Old Grey Whistle Test, introduced by Anne Nightingale as "From their second album OF QUEUES & CURES, from National Health a soft dreamy ballad called Collapso which was anything but soft or dreamy, it inspired me to re-investigate the Canterbury scene after several disappointing purchases.
But that wasn't the end of the National Health story, even with the departure of Dave Stewart, back came Alan Gowen, with further new material developed for a third album that never happened. Extracts from two such gigs exist on the CD release PLAYTIME, a gig in France with a unique line-up featuring French jazz guitarist (and one time Art Zoyd member) Alain Eckert, adding a whole new twist to the sound, and an American tour gig where they kind of feel like a more melodic Henry Cow. If you can track down unreleased gigs in the USA and Canada from Autumn 1979, they are well worth the effort, thoroughly creative and quite experimental too. In March 1980 the band split up after failing to get a record deal.
Another CD worth investigating is MISSING PIECES, which mops up a few sessions, rarities and live bits. The early live/session material, mostly from October 1975 and Spring/Summer 1976, includes a lot of compositions that never made it onto actual National Health albums, and with various incarnations/line-ups otherwise also unknown. All this documents a much rocky road of changing line-ups than the LP's would suggest. Also there are some bits from 1979 and a later Stewart/Gaskin 1995 re-recording of the otherwise unpublished Mont Campbell work Starlight On Seaweed. So, although just a taster MISSING PIECES is an apt title for a CD that adds up to an alternative history of the band.
After Alan Gowen died of leukaemia in May 1981, Phil Miller got together a reformed National Health as a tribute to Alan. The album they recorded: D.S. AL CODA was a bit of a damp squib if you ask me, lacking any of the special chemistry that made National Health so good. It also reinforced why I didn't really think so much of Gilgamesh I guess. An oddity, it's a pity they released it under the name National Health marring a Phil Miller / Pip Pyle joint track record of 4 classic albums.

other projects
Well that may seem like the end of the story. It is the end of the tale of how four bands seemed to transmute one into the other, all with Phil Miller there, and with Pip Pyle most of the time. But there are many more bands in the tangled Canterbury web that have continued through to the present, and here are a few of them...

Soft Heap
Alongside National Health, Alan Gowen and Pip Pyle were also involved in another group in 1979, namely this hybrid super-group with ex Soft Machine members Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper. They made just the one album at the time, which basically sounded like Gilgamesh with saxophone lead instead of guitar. Incidentally, "Heap" was the acronym of Hugh Elton Alan Pip, and the band kept that name even with reformations and changes in personnel.

Rapid Eye Movement
Dave Stewart and Pip Pyle got together again in this oddly named outfit (not to be confused with a similarly named band), who existed 1980-81 mostly gigging in France, with Jakko Jakzyck: guitar, vocals and Rick Biddulph: bass. They played a mixture of what I'd call
left-field pop, mixed with prog and fusion elements. Very varied/patchy based on the live recordings I've encountered, which include versions of Hatfield And The North's Fitter Stoke Has A Bath and odd National Health references.

Gowen, Miller, Sinclair, Tomkins
Phil Miller also had another band with Alan Gowen (prior to his death) who never gained a proper name. Released as by: Alan Gowen, Phil Miller, Richard Sinclair, Trevor Tomkins, BEFORE A WORD IS SAID is a much better epitaph to Gowen than the National Health one, partly revising the spirit of the original National Health idea.

Phil Miller / In Cahoots
After various ad-hoc projects in the 1980s Phil eventually got together his own band, which later became known as In Cahoots. They mostly played modern jazz more than fusion, with at least ten albums involving Hugh Hopper, Fred Baker, Pip Pyle, Pete Lemer, Elton Dean, and others. It seems that Phil has been forever on tour, and in fact a lot of his own releases are live recordings.

Short Wave
This 1992 project saw Phil Miller and Pip Pyle working together again with Didier Malherbe, 20 years on from that last Delivery gig. Completing the line-up is Hugh Hopper on bass. The music feels very modern, unusually so for a live recording, with Phil's guitar playing being the only real clue to who it is, notably a nice instrumental version of Nan's True Hole. Apparently this project led to the formation of Brainville, with Pip and Hugh joined by Daevid Allen and Kramer (also the Hopper Kramer project and other offshoots).

Pip Pyle / Equip Out / Bash
Like Phil Miller, Pip Pyle also had an ongoing band that eventually gained a name. His 7 YEAR ITCH documented various projects from 1981-87, involving a huge cast of talent. His Equip Out project, debuting in 1987 had a more regular line-up, with Pip joined by Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean, and one Sophia Domancich on keyboards. Basically Soft Heap again then with a different person in control! Pip Pyle's Bash was an international band featuring French guitarist Patrice Meyer (best-known with Hugh Hopper) whose BELLE ILLUSION documents gigs circa 2002-3. Pip has also played in various reformed versions of Gong over the years, and done lots of session work.

Pyle - Iung - Greaves
A surprisingly offbeat trio, here we have Pip Pyle and John Greaves back together again a couple of decades after National Health, together with one Philippe-Marcel Iung (not Pung, as it looks like) a French eccentric multi-instrumentalist. I was quite enthusiastic about the album THE PIG PART when I reviewed it in Audion, but I think the novelty wore off!

Absolute Zero
Another bizarre short-lived Pip Pyle project, a multi-national, Belgian based trio if I remember right. Their CRASHING ICONS was very much at the weird end of Rock In Opposition.

Of all the four main bands discussed here, the only one to reform since the 1980s is Hatfield And The North. The 1990 version saw three of the key members together again: Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Richard Sinclair. Apparently Dave Stewart wasn't interested, so Pip drafted in Sophia Domancich from his Equip Out project. The only document of that incarnation is the rather disappointing gig filmed for TV at Central Studios in Nottingham. To me Sophia's keyboards just didn't fit at all. And Richard seemed uncomfortable (very different to his involvement in the reformed Caravan at the same time). The highlights of the gig were nearly all down to Phil Miller, fascinating to watch in spite of all the weird faces he pulls!
Not until a couple of weeks ago did I know that they reformed again in 2004, this time with Alex Maguire, from Pip Pyle's Bash on keyboards, to coincide with the historical archive CD release HATWISE CHOICE. Apparently they did gigs in the UK, Europe and around the world, but no audio or video documents are to be found at all. It seems that the band called it a day when Pip Pyle was found dead in his hotel room in Paris in 2006, as no way could they draft in anyone else to take over his well-honed role.

from Audion #57, with some slight corrections
The original article also includes album pictures and a discography


a few examples of Hatfield And The North advertising, lyrics & humour...

Mumps (The Alphabet Song)
I have minded my P's and Q's

Tried not to damage any W's

And if I tread upon a B

I'll pick it up and tell it earnestly "I'm sorry!"

Which of course I am

You mustn't upset them, Or badly neglect them

Or else they'll refuse to work for you

I have minded my V's and U's

Tried to prevent them being badly used

And if I tread upon the C

I tend to sink beneath the surface gracefully

As for the task of keeping O's and K's apart

You'd be right to suppose that this is quite an art

I've trod with caution round the J's and Z's

I remain a man of letters to the end

Balancing syllables upon my knees

I've flown through the air with the greatest of E's

I did what you told me to, Now I only have I's for U