Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Orkustra - Adventures In Experimental Electric Orchestra From The San Francisco Psychedelic Underground (1966/2010)

The Orkustra, a very enigmatic group from the time of the original Haight-Ashbury scene, before it went commercial. Perhaps best known for being one of the first projects of later controversial killer Bobby Beausoleil (he got into some nasty business with Charles Manson), and unjustly obscure. Beausoleil was a visionary. In the time when most others in the rising psychedelic scene were almost exclusively rooted in folk-rock and related genres, he combined various influences to create a unique concept in music, and the sounds to go with it.

This compilation consists of only recently recovered tracks that the violinist, David LaFlamme of later It's A Beautiful Day fame, recorded during practice sessions and gigs. A great find, considering that all recorded material of the group was assumed lost. What Bobby Beausoleil wanted to reach with this group was a fusion of free jazz elements, medieval European folk music, Indian ragas and the then new concept of psychedelic rock. He did this by absorbing a varied group of musicians, which came and went as they pleased. Among its musicians were: a cellist, a violinist, a flute player, a Hammond organ player, an oboeist, a jazz drummer and for one day, even a harpist. Many of these instruments he amplified, a completely new concept at the time. They were taken to a guitar shop and modified to make them compatible with amplifiers, which was a very tricky business to get right, but supplied the band with a very special kind of sound, that of electrified oboes and bouzoukis, amplified upright basses and violins, a feat which to my knowledge has never been quite repeated to such great results. The music was often improvised and subsequently improved upon, this being the case on for example Flash Gordon, a track featured twice on the record. Also audible on this track are the jazz roots of the drummer, much revered by the whole group for his virtuous ability to accent at precisely the right moment, impeccable timing and a talent for improvisation.
Really, the whole album is just a showcase for the amazing ideas and capabilities of the musicians who play on it. From the first melancholic notes of Bousaki Blues Experiment it transports you by means of a carpet ride to far away lands, Persia, India, medieval England - it's all present on this album. Gypsy Odyssey, the 25-minute epic that is perhaps the most exciting one on the record, also incorporates sounds that appear to come from drone adventurers like Terry Riley or the early days of The Velvet Underground. The title and concept of this album might seem pretentious, but this compilation really lives up to it, and manages to revolutionise as well as evoke various emotions. Bousaki Blues Experiment, as I mentioned earlier, is a sad, ballad-like song reminiscent of Eastern Europe and gypsy music, also a strong theme throughout most of the songs. Then there are more upbeat songs like Bombay Calling (later used by It's A Beautiful Day then famously stolen by Deep Purple to form the basis of A Child in Time) and even some that can be called plain happy, for example 'Flute Player Audition' and Dancing In The Park. Gypsy Odyssey remains the greatest achievement, combining and delving deeper into the emotions and ideas the other tracks hint at.

A revolutionary album.

The Orkustra - Adventures In Experimental Electric Orchestra From The San Francisco Psychedelic Underground (320kbps)

No comments:

Post a Comment