Tuesday, 1 April 2008

STONED MOON (pscikadilik musick)

JAN DUKES DE GREY
MICE AND RATS IN THE LOFT

Original Issue: 1971 Transatlantic (TRA 234)

Reissue: 2005 Breathless (
BSS52001) Buy it here!!!


Margot-meter: 4,5 moons / 5

01 - Sun Symphonica
02 - Call Of The Wild
03 - Mice And Rats In The Loft

from Progarchives:

Every time I find one of hidden/lost early 70's gems, I find myself always carried some 30 years back even if I discover them now. Of course only a small percentage of those gems turns to be diamonds, but I believe this is one of them. How is it possible that such grandiose masterpieces are still not common knowledge among progheads? Because we are dealing with one of those masterpieces of Folk Prog to be classified along with other pearls such as Comus or Algarnas Tradgard.

The music is of an incredible and highly original nature that bond high vocal prowesses ala Tim Buckley with a rather sombre timber reminding you of Audience's Howard Werth (Hammill is not far away, either and so is Van Morrison) and outstanding musicianship so much that both original members Noy and Bairstow play multiple instruments and apparently with great ease. The third member, drummer Conlan has his hands full accompanying his comrades and I believe he also plays congas, although this is not mentioned on the credits. The only outside help they got are additional strings for the last 12 mins of their magnum opus Sun Symphonica.

And what a masterpiece this tune turns out to be!! If the first six minutes develop a good mix of folk rock somewhere between the Comus and Jethro Tull (circa Brick album), the strings come in and the music plunges into a deep madness likely to sink you into insanity if the strings were not to bring you back to the surface for a breath of fresh air every so often. The melange between the 12 string guitar strums, superb drumming all underlined by a swirling cluster of wind instruments and the strings (it does not mention the size of the orchestra, but my guess is a quintet) is one of the most perfect blend ever achieved far from the many catastrophes of the era (I will not name the guilty groups but only Procol and Caravan fared correctly). As Travis/Con Safo mentions in his excellent review below, the lyrics become intensely disturbing also, but do not reach the eerie call for murder and rape that Comus does in their song Drip Drip but they do curdle the blood. The beautiful atmosphere is completely different than Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die masterpiece but one cannot help thinking about it as those wild and sombre ambiances are driving you to the outer edges of reason. Nevertheless, the superb 12 min finale is completely spine chilling, hair raising, shivers and goose bumps being also on the menu as the abrupt end leaves a empty feel that can be assimilated to the last glass of wine of a 1947 Grand Cru Cos D'Estournel is emptied.

The second side pales a bit in comparison, but by no means are those two tracks anything else than gems themselves. Call Of The Wild is probably the folksiest of the three tunes, starts off with a great acoustic 12-string guitar beautifully underlined by a splendid yet serene flute. Again Comus is not far away from the mind even when the track moves through a series of wild tempo changes sometimes hinting at Indian Classical music. Yet another perfect call! A strange siren alerts you that the third and final track (the title track depicted by the strange artwork sleeve) just got under way, and that you are not yet through with madness as comes in a psyched guitar and great sax and insane vocals. The last part of the track is dedicated to improvisations on that theme and they come out grandiosely successful at it.

This is the kind of album I will personally make sure more people will know within the following months - a bit the same as I did for Comus, Circus and a few other gems. Run, walk, fly to your first vendor and order it (it is distributed by Sanctuary Record - a fitting name for such a masterpiece), because your life cannot be complete without having heard this. A pure moment of intense orgasmic pleasure!!!!!!

Sean Trane

Those who are familiar with Comus’ First Utterance will be delighted to learn that First Utterance has a twin brother in Mice and Rats in the Loft, the magnum opus of Jan Dukes de Grey. A similar psychedelic folk release (even down to the mildly disturbing lyrics, especially on the title track), Mice and Rats in the Loft is every bit as good as First Utterance. And for those who don’t know Comus’ disturbed music, Mice and Rats in the Loft might be a better place to go, given the lyrics aren’t nearly so harsh. Really, though, what it comes down to is the simple fact that Mice and Rats in the Loft is a monumental progressive folk release, one of the very best there is.

That simple truth is due to three long and complex compositions, whose lengths will remind potential buyers of this other famous CD (released one year after Mice and Rats in the Loft), Close to the Edge. The music bears little similarity, however. Whereas Close to the Edge is tight and firm, Mice and Rats in the Loft is a sprawling CD, mixing composition with improvisation, capitalizing on strong songwriting skills to build room for extended folk jams that truly make the CD, particularly on the track “Sun Symphonica” (the “Close to the Edge” of Mice and Rats in the Loft). At nearly nineteen minutes in length, “Sun Symphonica” is the centerpiece of the CD, and it’s a marvelous one at that. It has some symphonic touches (as the title suggests), but it’s mostly folk jamming. Again, as the title suggests, it’s quite light-hearted and happy, and it’s a stellar opener.

Even more stellar, though, is the closer, “Mice and Rats in the Loft.” The shortest of the bunch at eight minutes, the title track builds around a massive riff positively drenched in psychedelia. Every time the main riff kicks in, it feels fresh and new, bringing the song full circle from its jamming nature, taking it back to the land of sane in order to close out the CD. Sandwiched between these two epic songs is “Call of the Wild,” which is another track full of great songwriting and better jamming, though it’s not quite as good as the two around it.

Mice and Rats in the Loft is one of those releases that is unfairly obscure, and it definitely deserves more respect than it gets. Anybody looking for an excellent progressive folk experience should look no further than this hidden gem. Fans of Comus will delight in its psychedelic madness; everyone else will find they can’t help but do the same. An essential purchase for anyone with even the slightest interest in progressive folk music, or even folk music and psychedelic music in general. It’s a trip you won’t soon forget.

Finnforest


4 comments:

Margot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I got to know this one when the NWW List craze was hitting hard around some blogs. And a good record it is. Also thanks for the Faust, Anna Själv Tredje, Merzbow. I already had Naked City which is also very good. But I have to listen carefully to Jack & Jive to give you the opinion you asked from us visitors of your blog. Some boring work translating something from latin & some laziness have taken its toll over other things ... You know, I'm a Cancer & they say the Moon is my planet. Thanks & "see" you later.

Josef

Michael said...

thank you!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to listen to this. Thanks!