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). Following the first part of his Guest Column the band's Garry Cobain continues his personal history of the Bubble's explosion...
Volume 2: The Bubble explodes...
Initially, from 1997 to 2007 all the music had a physical connection and story. Hours upon hours of searching in record stores on the four corners of the globe, frequenting only shops that would allow me to play and search, some shops even set up back rooms for me where I'd go for the whole day. I'd strut in to new shops and say "if you allow me to search I'm sure I'll end up spending quite a bit of dough otherwise I can only buy what I know which isnt very much and you'll get nish!"
I'd spend whole days in some of them going through everything and anything that looked interesting: Cool cover? Check! Interesting song titles beyond the normal love bollocks? Check! Interesting or exotic instrumentation? Check! Advertising the fact they'd used the studio as art? Check! Plus I was getting into the mystics and practising yoga and meditation by late 97 and discovered the exact same thing had happened in 67, the counterculture had been consumed by alternative god concepts away from those of organized religions so as my interest in this developed I started seeing (and looking for) the same devotion in music. George Harrison, Alice Coltrane, John Mc Laughlin, Donovan, The Moody Blues, David Crosby all entered my consciousness and by Christmas that year I went to India for the first time actually to study Ayurvedic medicine but also with memories of hazy days sat with my family listening to Beatles records in silence and the early resonance of the Indian instrumentation of Within You Without You, flooding back and electronic music died very swiftly from mid 1997 to the beginning of 1998.
Freeform non-tempo locked experimental music preferably with a nod to the mystics was what I craved and I searched to see if it existed, trips to Japan unearthed the rare Betty Davis album and Dorothy Ashby's Soul Vibrations, alongside Bonnie Dobson's groovy folk complete with requisite twanging droning sitar, anybody flirting with the sitar was briefly ok in my book. I collected everything I could find, I had various 'dealers' dotted around. A couple in Camden Lock whoIi versed in my needs and albums duly arrived for £30 or £40. Mystic Moods' Cosmic Sea' alongside Lord Sitar. I had had a sitar made in India for me anticipating following in George's footsteps... but never brought it home.
The wafts of a beautiful flute brought me running to a small cassette shack in the middle of a field in India to enquire what was the music I had heard at almost a km away – it was Haraprasad Chaurasia and cassette duly purchased (the principle format for buying and selling music in India) that particular raga soundtracked every yoga session for the next five years and by the time we eventually got the opportunity to release the 'Bubble albums from 2007 onwards I would include an excerpt in the mix (it's a travesty really, since the 20 minute plus raga is the most dynamic piece of music I have ever heard still to this day and one which i never tire of).
For now though the music was unravelling in tandem with my life and every journey, every personal crusade brought a fresh vinyl (or cassette!) purchase to soundtrack it. By 2007 while compiling the first Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble album to actually be released, all these personal experiences were poured into the mix. I'd already set out my ethos: that the psychedelic was a living, breathing, timeless entity, our birthright and that rather than being something exclusively fixed between the years 66-69. It was very much still alive today in an ever evolving form!
Sounded great on paper and I knew it to be true but now to prove it... hmmm... this was the time of Myspace so I set to trawling endlessly through psych and prog genre bands looking for modern exponents to justify my mission statement. Nick Nicely, Mountain Machine, Cranium Pie and Ian Neal were found in this manner after hundreds of hours searching and filtering all the psych wannabes – I'd blagged it! They all sounded great sat next to the greats, with the added advantage that these were all cheap to license among the major label licenses which were untenable over a double album. £1000 for an Aphrodite's Child track? £1000 for a Pan Pipes play The Doors' Light My Fire? You're 'Avin a Giraffe! But these were the restrictions on seemingly discovering and bringing forward the past catalogues it seems.
This process continued until Bubble Volume 3 with the added advantage that with success comes amenability and labels and artists previously dismissive began to come to the party. Licensing requests previously dismissed were now effortlessly authorised, fees diminished, doors opened as the releases progressed the zeitgeist, paradigm we'd prophesied seemingly gathered momentum too. We were being approached left, right and centre with a view to a new emergent psychedelia and our production work as The Amorphous Androgynous took on a life of its own.
BY 2009 and the release of the Third Ear, all the music that had been found via the physical searches had dried up and increasingly the digital search engine was being utilised – less crate-digging more googling, blogs and Youtube. Some of the romance had gone but the albums got better and better as Bubble volumes became less about (on the one hand) our personal search, but increasingly connected globally to the search.
You could say that the personal experience of finding all the initial tracks brought in a kind of ego or possessiveness in fact and without this both Brian and myself were completely free again to simply be childlike and intuitive, appraising simply what worked in the moment, free of all baggage, in the now – one of the principle tenets of A Monstrous Bubble after all! To be solely interested in what works now divested of all historical baggage. Garry Cobain @theamorphous
For more information the latest compilation and more head to Amorphousandrogynous.com.