Those who know me well know that I have a penchant for liking strange and experimental electronic music. Not any old electronic music, but truly challenging uses of synthesizers and processed sounds, especially produced between the mid 1960s and mid 1970s. Synths were new instruments back then, and many of the kinds of sounds that they produced had simply never been heard before. Musicians were discovering them and what they could do.
Some of the groups and artists that I admire most are the Silver Apples, Gong, Steve Hillage Band, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon), Zorch, Kraftwerk, and of course Tim Blake. There are others (plenty of them)! But what do I like about their music? The sheer experimentation of it all. The “what happens if” attitude. Feeding instruments through synths to totally change how they sound. A time of great imagination musically and with production. The fusion of new electronic instruments with rock and processed sounds (echo, reverb, phasing, etc) that organically found its own sound sometimes defined as the genre called ‘space rock’. Genres are so restrictive, aren’t they?
Today, by sheer chance, I can add a new band to my list. Whilst beavering away at updating a website for work I had Spotify on playing an album of mixed psychedelic music. Arthur Brown‘s famous track “Fire” came on. It struck me just how good a track it is, so I clicked on Arthur Brown’s name and listened to more tracks by him. Over coffee, I had a quick look at his biography and discovered that between 1970 and 1974 Arthur Brown’s band was called Kingdom Come, and that their final album “Journey”, recorded in 1972 (released in 1973), was the first to feature percussion generated entirely by a drum machine (a Bentley Rhythm Ace). This is the sort of geeky electronic music trivia that I just love! It also featured EMS VCS3 and ARP 2600 synthesisers. I had to hear this!
Unfortunately, Spotify didn’t have any of their albums in their catalogue, but a quick look via last.fm revealed that the Kingdom Come albums were on iTunes. I listened to the sample tracks on YouTube and 30 second previews, and bought “Journey” (a bargain at £4.49, with bonus tracks) and “Intergalactic Zoo Dossier” (£7.99). The music on “Journey” is among the most astonishing that I’ve ever heard, and I’m rapidly becoming a fan of Arthur Brown’s theatrical singing voice. He’s absolutely fantastic.
I think “Journey” might be one of those one-off albums that was way ahead of their time. Electronic beats, driving bass, different types of synths, processed guitar, reversed sounds and wild vocals make this album really stick out for me. It’s one of those rare, obscure and unsung works of sheer creative genius, which is why I was moved to write about it here. I don’t think that the makers of the Bentley Rhythm Ace ever envisaged one being used in quite the way Arthur used it, often driving the tempo to machine-gun speeds.
Journey’s opening track, “Time Captives” (although Arthur appears to sing “Time Captains”), is embedded below for your delectation (or confirmation that I do indeed have ‘specialist’ taste in music!). I strongly recommend headphones to appreciate the sonic wizardry that goes on in this track.