Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 27

Thanks to Graham for these reviews - except where noted otherwise, of course
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The Excommunication of Christ, the earliest full
album from The Meads of Asphodel (2000) offers
everything you'd expect from the Meads: gargled
vocals, bludgeoning rhythms, jaunty synths, a
perverse sense of humour, and of course an overt
loathing for organised Christianity. Huw Lloyd
Langton guests on lead guitar.

The title track sets the scene by recreating a Latin
mass before the first song, "Angelwhore", kicks off.
This leavens the black metal with poppy keyboard
phrases, in a sort of death metal-Erasure hybrid. "The
Watchers of Catul Huyuk" ratchets the performance
up a notch with tasteful lead guitar lines, smooth
synths, a vocal that hints at a tune and a lyric ("...¦
kings of space and time") that strays into Hawkwind

territory. Business as usual with "Agrat Bat Mablab":
after a synthesised pan pipe intro, some serious
bludgeoning follows, with a spoken interlude at 3 minutes in and a brief melodic rock passage before the
noise kicks back in.

"Weeping Tears of Angel Light" and "Bene Ha Elohim" do it again, death metal with a tune, lots of light and
shade, pop-rock synths, spoken passages and, in the latter, some fine lead guitar, which sounds rather like
Huw's work to me. Next up it's that synth and bass intro, with Huw's signature liquid lead lines over the
top, yes, it's "Assault and Battery". We can just about forgive the Lemmy-with-laryngitis vocals since the
whole thing is done with obvious affection.

"Jezebel and the Philistines" is a spacey instrumental from the Alan Davey school, except for a distinctly
risque (make that distinctly explicit) spoken female vocal, basically providing breathing space before
another rocking epic, "Pale Dread Hunger", a cracker, with pipes, tubular bells and kitchen sink all included.
After this, however, the law of averages reasserts itself and we find out what happened to all the crap
tracks. "Rise in Godless Hell" has a stately, eastern flavour but western and eastern instruments fail to blend
and there are too many spoken passages. The maniacal laughter running through "The Disembodied Voices
Of Melchizedelk" is irritating, and the best thing about "Falling With Lightning Rays Beamed Through The
Blazing Firmament Towards The Untended Burial Ground Of Bharsag" is its title.

Aside from their musical magpie tendencies, the Meads really have a lot to say for themselves, much of
which could be construed as offensive to anyone of a sensitive or religious disposition - but more than most
of the bands with a slight Hawkwind connection, they deserve attention. Currently available on Supernal
Records (94159 0005) from the band website.
Well Worth A Listen (2½ stars): The Meads of Asphodel - The Excommunication of Christ
One Of The Best: The Meads of Asphodel - Damascus Steel
Fast forward to 2005's "Damascus Steel" and the
inventiveness, eclecticism and plain weirdness is
breathtaking in places even if it occasionally misfires.
I think Alan Davey and Huw Lloyd-Langton are both
on this one, along with numerous guests and exotic
instruments, but I can't remember which tracks the
Hawks are on and I don't have the sleeve-notes to
hand.

The opening "Psalm 666" sets a George Bush Jr. rant
to a soundtrack of exotic percussion, explosions and
other found sounds, and ends with a reading of
Psalm 23 over a backdrop of crying babies and
screaming women. Seriously disturbed. "Creed of
Abraham" thunders out of the speakers, an audacious
mix of 100 miles-an-hour death metal, surf guitar
runs, melodic rock interludes and a lyric consisting
Approach With Caution: The Meads of Asphodel - Welcome To Planet Genocide
The most recent album from The Meads, again with
Alan Davey on board, and billed as "the conclusion"
to Damascus Steel. It had a lot to live up to and
doesn't get close. At best it features inferior off-cuts
from the former work, at worst it is rubbish.

Psalm 364 does pretty much what Psalm 666 did on
the last album: synth, ethereal choir, sound effects
and all kinds of spoken word samples (Martin Luther
King's "I have a dream" speech is in there). The
second track, "My Beautiful Genocide" suggests that
the Meads have opted for a simpler approach. This is
straightforward black metal with few frills.
Reasonably effective but disappointing after the
boldly experimental Damascus Steel. The same goes
for the very charmingly titled "A Baptism In The
Warm Pis
s Of Slaughtered Children". All is not quite
quite lost: "The Man Who Killed For God" starts out
as a piano-led ballad with new-age style female vocals, morphs into a soft rock tune, back again into new
age dreamscapes, through the inevitable spoken word section and into an extended guitar solo. Not bad.
"March Towards Annihilation" starts out as a synth instrumental and is beefed up as it progresses with
guitar, bass and drums. This leads into the bog-standard thrash metal of "Hell On Earth/Blood Runs Red".
The final track apparently lasts 33-minutes: "Aborted Stygian Foetus" starts slowly, with synth-drums
overlaid by (variously) sequencer rhythms, synth, trumpet, guitar, ethereal choir and standard gargled
vocals. It goes nowhere in particular before building to a climax in under 5 minutes. In other words, the
CD contains a mere 25 minutes of music plus the inevitable (yawn) hidden track. Church bells herald, oh
dear, oh dear, an 8-minute long spoof sermon. Backed by organ, hymn singing and some gospel backing
singers, the "preacher" kicks off with excerpts from the "The Lord's Prayer" and heads off on a long
ramble, trashing religion and, for good measure, conservation ("Fuck the pheasants"). Plot well and truly
lost. From the sublime to the ridiculous!

My copy was bought direct from the Meads' website and, although apparently released on Firestorm
Records, there was no label or catalogue number listed on the packaging.
mostly of the repeated phrase "death means nothing, life means less".  "Hollow Womb of Suicide" mixes
black metal and ethereal female vocals straight off the Joe Meek production line (think "Johnny Remember
Me"). Weird, but it kind of works. The obligatory Hawkwind cover is "Sword of the East". Initially merely
solid it then gets more inventive: half way through there is a spoken interlude ("...¦ God lives for ever but
we do not") over gentle bass and synth straight from the Alan Davey cookbook, and the second half then
rocks out impressively.

"Satanic Black Nubian Pharaohs" begins softly, with strummed acoustic guitar and delicate piano before
the flat-out aural assault and then flits effortlessly through different several styles, including chopped
chords that could be The Clash, some more acoustic guitar, and, yes, that's a trumpet applying dabs of
colour in two of the central sections. Next, things gets SERIOUSLY weird with the mindboggling conceit
of an adaptation of "Wonderful World" - played absolutely straight, complete with strings, except for some
trifling revision of the lyrics, such as: "I see ethnic cleansing, pain beyond belief, whole nations murdered,
sorrow and grief, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world...¦".

"The Gods Who Mock Us" starts off with prog keyboards á la Foreigner but the vocals  give away the
band's identity after about 5 seconds. This one tries a bit too hard to be clever and there's even a
bass-driven fairground organ solo in the middle. Not quite "Down In The Sewer" but full marks for
inventiveness! Next up, a call to prayer(?), wind effects, strings, and acoustic guitar float us into the
bizarre 11-minute sound collage "Behold The Kindred Battle Carcasses Strewn Across The Blood-Red
Dunes Of Gilgamesh Mute In The Frenzied Clamour Of Death's Rolling Tongue And Ravenous Bursting
Steel". By this stage of the album it is pretty obvious we aren't going to get any straight-down-the-line
songs so it's a case of sitting back and waiting to see what comes along. A bit too much of the spoken
vocals perhaps, but never less than interesting.

Finally, apparently, there is an 18-minute track called "Beyond Death And Darkness", which updates a
1999 demo and unsurprisingly is a whole lot straightforward, or at least it is until it goes all acoustic after
3½ minutes, and when the riff kicks back in an ethereal choir is along for the ride. At 6½ minutes only the
choir remains and it fades out shortly thereafter. And then nothing. In other words there's a hidden track.
Sure enough, 3 minutes from the end, tabla, sitar and synth transport us to India and provide a backdrop
to a rather po-faced spoken word piece about the state of the world and in particular the pitiful state of the
human species. "...¦we are vulture of chaos". This would have been better left on the cutting room floor.

Currently available on Supernal Records (94159 0020) from the band website.
Worth A Listen: Harvey Bainbridge - Unravelled (Live in 2001, Strange Daze)
One of two live CDR's currently available from
Harvey's MySpace website, Unravelled  features
some performances of well-known Hawkwind tracks
and links, and some extended (albeit not very
interesting) jamming with Nik Turner, who provides
flute and sax accompaniment. It won't convert
anyone unconvinced of Harvey's (or Nik's) talents
but it wisely avoids the wilder excesses of Harvey's
recorded career.

The title track is pretty much everything you expect:
lots of sound effects, pre-recorded voices (if I am
not mistaken, "Angel Voices" from the Church
album, appears early on), sequencer rhythms and
some blissed-out synth melodies. Wholly
unobjectionable but also largely unmemorable. The
next track is titled
"The Scan" and consists of "The
Demise" from Chronicle of the Black Sword bodged
onto "The Scan" from Choose Your Masques plus the first bit of the next track (the editing on these two
CDs is appalling). Of course, on the original albums these are just linking pieces, leading into something
more interesting. Here they link to "Activated City" (aka Mutation Zone from Xenon Codex) which was
sort of OK in context but here it is just dull.

Harvey introduces Nik Turner and he adds flute over the top of Harvey's synth and effects tracks for "The
Voyage/Freefall". Nik's playing here sound remarkably like his King's chamber playing from Xitintoday but
once Harvey actually starts adding melody, together they create a not unpleasant instrumental track. The
"Freefall" bassline (on synth) kicks in around 6 minutes in but Nik plays on regardless. The vocals come in
after 7 minutes and Harvey does this number reasonably well even if the instrumental track lacks any of
the dramatic tension of the original.

"Smart Drinks in the DNA Lounge" has a sax noodling tastefully away in the background, presumably Nik,
plenty of electronic percussion and Harvey sort of singing as well as delivering his usual mad professor
rant. Marks are lost for the total absence of structure or dynamics but it is not unpleasant. At the start of
the short "I Don't Know", which appears to be no more than a recording of the interlude between tracks,
Nik introduces Harvey, confirming that Nik really was there in person. The last two tracks are both called
"Jam". On the first (6 minutes long), Nik continues noodling on the sax and Harvey occasionally adds live
synth to the effects tracks. The second (11 minutes long) is not discernibly different until Harvey starts
with the semi-sung vocals ("it could be day or it could be night", a line from Almon Mulo Band's "It Could
Be Day" on the Afrodiziac album) but is generally somewhat busier and more musical thereafter.
Worth A Listen: Harvey Bainbridge - Live 2008
Live 2008 comprises 9 tracks and just over half and
hour of music, with absolutely no information
provided on the CD labels. As on, Unravelled the
editing is appalling. Given that this is essentially a
single, and generally rather good, continuous
performance, visiting various known tracks along the
way, division into 9 bands was probably unnecessary
in the first place but dividing the material into 9
pieces in the wrong places and inserting gaps is just
stupid!

Tracks 1 and 2 are basically "Dreamworker" laid
over the top of a synth track reminiscent of the Back
Sword period - and split in two completely
arbitrarily. Track 3 again favours synth melody over
effects and remains firmly in the chillout zone
throughout. Track 4 is built around synth-drums and
sound effects. Th
e melody is overlaid sparingly and
again recalls the mournful atmosphere that pervaded Harvey's synth work on Black Sword. Track 5 starts
life as the end of track 4 before Harvey performs "Mutation Zone" and, just before the end, it becomes "It
Could Be Day". Track 6 consequently starts with Harvey already part way through the lyrics. Track 7
appears to consist of the end of "It Could Be Day" followed by an effects-heavy interlude. Track 8 is a
continuation, but with sequencer rhythms overlaid with live synth, all a bit Tangerine Dream-like. After the
usual horrible edit, Track 9 continues the same theme before unexpectedly becoming "Freefall".
Worth A Listen: Various Artists - MyOuterSpace volumes 1, 2 and 3
Almost nothing it seems unites people more than a common enemy, and thus it is that Alan Davey has
thrown in his lot with the other ex-Hawks led by Nik Turner. The Herne Bay tribute concert for Bob
Calvert has spawned another scheduled for London in March 2009 and there is a new "Hawklords"
website on MySpace. It is of course ironic that their raison d'etre involves keeping alive the music of their
bete noire, but I digress! The Hawklords website is a good place as any to start exploring the various
websites describing the current musical activities of Nik, Alan, Steve Swindells (and his band Danmingo),
Jerry Richards (Earthlab), Michael Moorcock and Bridget Wishart.

Among the various projects Bridget lists on her MySpace page is this, a set of freely downloadable
collections of space-themed songs and instrumentals. The specific interest for Hawkfans is in two
appearances by Bridget and one by Alan Davey. The majority of the other contributors, with the exception
of Dark Sun, were by unfamiliar names and most could be loosely grouped with the
ambient-space-pop-folk-rock work of the likes of Spirits Burning, Spaceship Eyes or Judy Dyble. With no
commercial imperative, the featured artists are free to do what they like, and the whole exercise is a bit
hit-and-miss. Attack Flamingo's "Rocketship", for example, is pleasant lightweight space rock but Dark
Sun's "The Epic World of Captain Gizmo" is far from epic. Many tracks are rather forgettable and very
few will quicken the pulse. The most active (and interesting) other contributor here is Hensel 3000, who
has his own MySpace webpage.

On volume 3, Bridget Wishart and Everling offer 9+ minutes of light and fluffy space pop called "On and
On". Also on volume 3, Bridget Wishart and Hensel 3000 combine forces with the languid "Voyager 1".
Possibly the highlight of all three volumes though is Hensel 3000 and Alan Davey's "Confetti Check A-OK"
- the title comes from a UFO episode according to Hensel's website. This combines classical (the
orchestral bits) and folk pop (the female vocals by Gabi Bott) elements with a muscular rock backbone
(chugging rhythm and extended guitar solo). Alan Davey contributes bass.

All these tracks are freely available at
http://www.myouterspace.net
One Of The Best: Bedouin - Live in Europe Summer 1998
This mini-album is available from Alan's website and
captures Bedouin live some five years earlier than
their other live document. The sound on this one is
clean and spacious, with only some lightly applied
synth departing from the basic power trio format,
and Alan's bass playing is volcanic - or in his words:
"This raw and raucous album faithfully recreates the
live power and energy of Bedouin in full flight. If you
have only heard the studio recordings, you are in for
a treat, however it's worth noting that this recording
may cause structural damage when played at high
volumes".

The song selection draws heavily from Alan's
Hawkwind days, starting off with a powerful "Swor
d
of the East". Compare this with the 2003 live version:
the 1998 Bedouin are tight and powerful but relatively
relaxed, with Alan's singing more tuneful and less strained than on the balls-to-the-wall all out thrash of the
2003 performance - and he apparently sings some of the lyrics in German. "Wings" is played with just the
right amount of sensitivity, neither too mawkish nor too raucous. This is followed by the only genuine
Bedouin track, "Rock Palace", taken at a more measured pace than on the 2003 set with the lead guitar
more restrained, bluesy rather than metallic. Then there is a live workout for the Black Sword era
instrumental B-side, "Arioch" and the half hour set closes with "Bass Junk", a definitely less mellow version
of "Stan's Middle 8" from FTM Volume 3 - and obviously also familiar as said middle eight of "Sputnik
Stan", which is mainly one extended bass solo - a virtuoso performance but not exactly hummable.

It's all over much too quickly but well worth tracking down.
Approach With Caution: Harvey Bainbridge - Red Shift
One of only two post-Hawkwind Studio sets that
Harvey has released under his own name, this is the
more user friendly of the pair (although almost
anything would be more user-friendly than
"Interstellar Chaos"). Eight tracks totalling around 60
minutes. On the CD cover there is a picture of
planets and some kind of crystal or prism. On a few
tracks, well three to be precise, Harvey allows
himself to compose what might pass for tunes and
avoids smothering them in too much noise.
Elsewhere he spends too much time hiding behind
general weirdness. Plus, I've said it before and I'll
say it again: much of this stuff would make great
links between, well, some proper Hawkwind songs,
but on its own is just a bit unsatisfying. Released in
1996 on Taste Records (Taste 65 CD).

"Solar Drive Down" offers all the standard
ingredients: plenty of sequenced rhythm, some melodic passages and lots of weirdness and whooshing
noises. Nine and a half minutes of not unpleasant but unremarkable soundscape. "And He Smoked His Pipe
And Talked To Dawn" does the melodic synth-wash thing over a background of birdsong and wind
effects. The vibe is mid-seventies Tangerine Dream (but without the euro-disco sequencer rhythms).
Another long track (8½ minutes), but listenable.

Mechanical pulses and whispers herald "Cygnus Loop", which is heavy on effects and light on melody or
rhythm. It goes nowhere and spends 7½ minutes not doing so. "Blue Giant" offers an eerie atmosphere and
glacial synths but verges on the comatose. At least it is shorter. "Horseshoe and the Swan" raises the pace
a notch, with a mournful (i.e. minor key) synth melody over a pulsing rhythmic base. Another relatively
successful track

"1000% solution" is the second longest and least successful track: a brief introduction on synths gives way
to sound effects, heavy breathing, and the spoken vocal line "I've been waiting for you"... more sound
effects, mechanical pulses and more spoken vocals which appear to be repeating the phrase "you're
fucking me, you're sucking me, stop fucking me" etc., or perhaps it's just all in my mind. A bit of plangent
synth wanders in...¦ I'm struggling for a reasoned response here, but it's coming to me...¦ ah yes: complete
and utter bollocks!

"Long lines at the Double Helix bar" meanders until the rhythm track comes in at 2½ minutes. There is
more noise than melody and rather too many irritating sounds in the mix but at least there a sense of
urgency. Just over nine minutes in, an explosion heralds a switch to an over-sweet coda on faux pipes - a
very similar synth sound incidentally to that used on "Note From a Cold Planet" on Nik Turner's Space
Ritual's "Otherworld". "Out on the Surface" features a positively jaunty melody over massed wind effects
and clanking synth rhythm. Short and sweet and an upbeat ending to a decidedly mixed album.