I made some music purchases in June and August and they arrived within the past two weeks; two CDs and two LPs. The LPs were pre-orders from June. The CDs were more recent purchases. Let me start with the CDs. Before I begin, please note that these are solely my opinions regarding similarities to various other artists - only to give an approximation of what they are like. We all have unique impressions of how one artist sounds like another artist. So I caution to sample for yourself before taking my word for what an artist sounds like and plunking down some bills for the album.
Baby Grandmothers was one of the early Swedish psychedelic experimental bands performing in 1967. They never recorded an LP but left behind a single and enough live recordings to provide a complete compilation of their recorded work on CD by Swedish label, Subliminal Sounds, in 2007. The band was a trio consisting of Kenny Hakansson on guitar, Bengt "Bella" Linnarsson on bass, and Pelle Ekman on drums. The band evolved out of the blues-psych band, T-Boones, and I figured they would be similar. Man, was I wrong! Baby Grandmothers were truly several steps beyond the typical blues band, similar to early Ashra Tempel, with a modal style based primarily on improvisation with hypnotic rhythms, although there are a few songs, or parts of songs, that have a more conventional pop sound. The 20 minute composition "Being Is More than Life (2)", an extended version of their single, has become one of my favorites on the disc. And keep in mind this was 1967. The only other European artists with this type of sound at that time, besides the German group Ashra Tempel mentioned above, would be Pink Floyd (with Syd Barrett) and Hapshash & The Coloured Coat in the UK and another Swedish band, Parson Sound. I really like this CD and it will take several more spins in my player, over time.
The other CD purchased with Baby Grandmothers was the double CD (complete works) of the Swedish group, Parson Sound. Parson Sound later evolved into International Harvester, and then Trad, Gras Och Stenar (Trees, Grass and Stones). Believe it or not, Baby Grandmothers is considered to be "more pop" than Parson Sound. That should give you an idea of how much further out their sound was. Disc 1 is really out there, sounding more like the early Steppenwolf and Velvet Underground live improvs (think "Melody Laughter" or "The Nothing Song" by the Velvets or the 20 minute live intro to "The Pusher" by Steppenwolf). Disc 2 is a bit more "accessible". I can actually imagine listening to Disc 2 repeatedly while Disc 1 can try one's patience about halfway through the 70 minutes. The band claims to have been inspired by American minimalist composer, Terry Riley, from his visit to Stockholm in 1967 and performances of his "In C" and "Olson III". Parson Sound's sound can best be described as being similar to Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" but less melodic, less structured, and slower, more like the more contemporary group, Sleep. Perhaps closer to AMM's "Ammusic" in lack of tonality and trance-like drones; almost tribal as in Hapshash & The Coloured Coat or Alan Watt's "This is IT!" from 1962. The closest in sound to describe Disc 2 would be another Swedish underground psych band, Algarnas Tradgard (Garden of the Elks), who were contemporaries of Trad, Gras Och Stenar. Members of Parson Sound included: BoAnders Persson on guitar, organ, vocals, flute, and tape recorder; Thomas Mera Gartz on drums and seance; Bengt Berger on drums and seance; Thomas Tidholm on vocals, flute, cow bell, tape recorder, and soprano sax; Torbjorn Abelli on bass; Arne Ericsson on electric cello; and Uran Yman on double bass. The double CD contains all the recordings of Parson Sound and again was issued by Subliminal Sounds in Sweden. I have to admit, Disc 2 will probably get more play than Disc 1 here in my pub.
Two LPs were issued on Subliminal Sounds/Lysergia with assistance of the late great Patrick Lundborg; Madrigal and LSD Underground 12. In fact, the reissue of these LPs was the last project Patrick would work on. Madrigal was a duo from Morristown, New Jersey. The LP is not dated but assumed to be recorded around 1969 or 1970. It is very low-tech in sound, with Bill Horn and Bill Bonkowski playing guitar, bass, oscillators, theremins, and other unknown electronics. They also use a drum machine and occasional found sounds. This was a one-off vanity press with few copies known to exist. Very little is known about the two artists and how this music came about. Efforts to contact the two members in the 90s were greeted with distrust and dismissal, and since then both members have passed away. This means the only things we have to go on here are the liner notes on the original album's back cover and the music itself. There is a good chance these guys were familiar with Velvet Underground's eponymous third album, and perhaps John Cale's pre-Velvets experiments with LaMonte Young, Tony Conrad, and Angus MacLise. There are some vocals but these guys were no singers. The 13 minute "Stoned Freakout" sounds like it comes from the Cale/Young/MacLise experiments: an archetype for what is known today as industrial music, with harsh nightmarish machine sounds and indecipherable screams drowned-out by the industrial clattering. Think Big City Orchestra's "Animal Religion" from the 90s. Following "Stoned Freakout" on the LP comes a complete shift to lo-fi bossa nova sounds on "The Ballad (Dreams)" followed by a folky guitar composition, "Places". Side two begins with a drone-like subtle and dark "Tambula". All of side two sounds like it could fit nicely on the Velvet Underground's third LP, which was released one or two years before Madrigal. Despite the lo-fi quality of this LP, it grows on you (if you are rather twisted, like me). The reissue was limited to 500 copies and is already OOP.
LSD Underground 12
Now for the holy grail of psychedelic music. Or, at least that is what it is touted to be. This is the rarest of the rare. Only 1 or 2 copies of the LP are known to exist, and for a time it was thought that it was never really released. We have even less information about this album than we have with Madrigal. At least with Madrigal, we know the players, producer, engineer, etc. With LSD Underground 12, we don't even know who they are or what is their band name versus the album title and label. Most of our information comes from ads in various underground newspapers, such as the LA Free Press, in the fall of 1966. An LA address was given both on the record label and the ads. Could they have been hired studio musicians? I spotted this LP years ago on eBay, and let it slip by as I was a bit distrustful regarding what it was. I believe it may have been the very same LP put up again on eBay by the next owner when Patrick Lundborg won the bid more recently. There was no sleeve, no insert or other material to the original, just a disc in a plain cover. Patrick was so excited about his acquisition, he made arrangements with his fellow Lumber Island Acid Crew member and owner of Subliminal Sounds, Stefan Kery, to have it re-released in a limited run of 500 (along with 500 Madrigal LPs). In his last posting to his blog Patrick wrote "This is a fucking game changer" regarding the history of psychedelic music. So, what is it like? Think The Residents' (featuring Snakefinger) version of Frank Zappa's "King Kong" for about 30 minutes and you have it. Byron Coley wrote for Forced Exposure, "It sure as hell sounds like it is what it claims to be - a bunch of musicians on acid", based on ads from 1966 that claimed the musicians were on LSD when recording this music. I, personally, have my doubts. If it is true, it predates by a few months Ken Kesey's Acid Test LP of actual people on acid during the recording. Yet, in 1962, Alan Watts got some friends together to record a tribal-ecstatic album that I suspect was recorded while doing mushrooms or peyote, though it does not directly claim to be such. It is rumored that John Coltrane's recording of "Om" in 1965 (released in 1968) was while he was on LSD, so if true, it would predate all but Watt's recording. This album actually claims to be, or at least the ads state this. But I wonder if it was a hoax, designed to make a few bucks ($5.00 for an LP) on the hype that these artists were on LSD at the time. There is some jazz element to the sound of this recording, but using rock instrumentation. Perhaps hired guns from the LA jazz scene? The giveaway to me is that so much of this recording is speeded-up to make it sound weird. That would have to have been done after the recording session. When imagining how the music would have sounded not sped up, it would not have sounded so unusual to me. This LP is not really something that I would play often, as it is more of a curiosity and a collectible than an inspired piece; a conversation piece at best. I just wonder if Patrick Lundborg would have come around to this conclusion after a while if he had lived. Still, I am glad to have it in my collection.