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Guest Column – The Amorphous Androgynous' History Of A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (1)

Guest Column – The Amorphous Androgynous' History Of A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (1)
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London duo The Amorphous Androgynous have just showcased the forgotten corner of Australian and New Zealand psych with the latest volume of their grate-digging compilation series A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding In Your Mind) – The Wizards Of Oz (a special edition of which is on sale this Saturday, 18 April for Record Store Day). In a three part Guest Column the band’s Garry Cobain recalls the history of the Bubble’s explosion…

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Volume 1: Future sounds lead to old sounds…

In 1997 my band the Future Sound Of London (along with partner in crime Brian Dougans) were riding high… another top 20 album DEAD CITIES and single after single in the Top 20 and yet there was something missing. I’d never stopped being fixated with the song, the vocal, the lyrics and yet by day I was seemingly imprisoned by experiments in deep instrumental music. Far from wanting to represent the future with its endless craving for technology and intellect I felt relatively childlike and innocent by comparison and desired a song of liberation.

I started looking and collecting and playing these in private not understanding their relevance to my day job. The majority of modern bands weren’t satisfying or expressing this need either. I needed sonic revolution alongside spiritual revolution… nothing else would do. Most bands seemed more intent on wearing jeans and delighting in the working class roots of music than expounding on spiritual enlightenment and sonic revolution!

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Car boot sales became our playground, here was somewhere I could indulge searching without spending a fortune, records as cheap as 10 pence picked up simply cos they had a groovy weird cover and a mention of an obscure piece of studio technology or exotic instrumentation on the back. Brian was doing the same thing it turned out and we quickly developed a checklist of things that piqued our interest: groovy cover suggesting cosmic way out worlds; connections to spirituality or the mystics plus an extensive kit list of exotic instruments and/ or studio technology; The avant garde merged with the cosmic, the kraut with the new age into the not so easy listening into a new cosmic soup of influence.

We were asked to play our favourite five tracks of all time on radio, (or at least the ones that particular radio station might actually have) so we pitted The Cult‘s She Sells Sanctuary against Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles alongside Manuel Gosching E2E4 which led us to contact Ian Astbury himself and by 4pm the next afternoon he was there, in the studio with us, all skinhead and tattoos and bristling intent and spiritual crisis, not quite the long haired bohemian goth I remembered. It didn’t matter, we were on the same page: the exoticism fusing into a new psychedelia. We had a track The Shining Path which we commenced and then Ian returned to LA and I, searching for something and sick of myself and London jumped on a plane and spent a month out there, tripping from walking meditation retreats in Boulder, Colorado, to road trips with recently released convicts. Not that i knew, I was just trippin’ on finding a way out… In between Ian and I thrashed out a new “psychedelic manifesto” which we pinned to the wall of his LA apartment, burnt sage and meditated together and took trips to the Bodhi Tree (LA’s largest spiritual bookstore) reaped Alan Watts, Osho and Deepak Chopra and Krishnamurti.

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We set to discussing how this would all apply to the song and its creation and back in London both Brian and myself spent a month putting all these components, songs, beats, voice cut ups both spiritual and absurdist into a giant collage and the words A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble popped from somewhere into my head. Brian seizing on a Sundial 12-inch we both loved in the studio called Colours Exploding In Your Mind suggested appending that to our working title to suggest something even more psychedelic and preposterous and BINGO! We were off… A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding In Your Mind) had been born little knowing at that point we’d be using that monikor almost 18 years later for a slew of things from DJ compilations to remixes of Oasis and Paul Weller to 12 hour events curated by ourselves featuring Hawkwin and my own band The Amorphous Androgynous and our own record label Monstrous Bubble Recordings.

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Thus, once finished, the first Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding In Your Mind) radio mix was dished up in 1997 to KISS FM in Manchester via ISDN which meant we, from the comfort of our then studio, Earthbeat in Dollis Hill, London could mix and broadcast live to manchester down digital phone lines we’d been using prior to that (for the previous four years) exclusively for Future Sound Of London live transmissions to the world/radio/venues.

This was different though… this was specifically a DJ mix. An incredible amount of work went into that first mix. It was packed with everything we wanted to hear at that precise point in time all disassembled in the mix, representing this sonic and spiritual liberation, verses only of Walker Brothers tunes in giant reverbs cascaded down into voice cut ups of Charles Bukowski talking about “women’s breasts shaped like giant torpedoes” segueing perfectly into Barbra Streisand‘s Theme from Evergreen so saccharine (and again smothered in effects) that it became a thing of almost druglike dislocated innocence especially slamming into The Chemical Brothers Psychedelic Reel mixing perfectly into the Tomorrow Never Knows plus many obscurities from our Brick Lane foraging.

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Mixmag were particularly enamoured with that mix and set about trying to release it, beginning the arduous process of licensing all the components. Barbra Streisand refused copyright along with Jonatha King’s Everyone’s Gone To The Moon, was the moment we realised we’d hit upon something that although potentially revolutionary could never probably be released since it would potentially offend everyone’s copyright in the way we were using it in the mix. With Everyone’s Gone To the Moon we used to turn off the power on the turntable half way through so that the voice dragged to a stop akin to HAL the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, plus by using only bits the licensing costs increased exponentially since as many as 60 snippets would be used per hour-long mix. This was to prove partially true at first, the absurdism resulting in a slew of rejected license requests when they heard the context in which the music was to be used. Primal Scream , Barbara Streisand , Jonathan King… the rejections piled up and the idea was silently dropped and we settled on the fact that radio was the only place to allow such escapades in sound and thus it transpired for the next ten years.

Garry Cobain@theamorphous

For more information the latest compilation and more head to Amorphousandrogynous.com.


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