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 and second instalments, the band's Garry Cobain concludes his history of the Bubble's explosion...
Volume 3: Searching for the Wizards Of Oz...
For the past two years Volume 4 The Wizards Of Oz' has taken us deep down under tracing the Antipodean cosmic space music from 1966 to the present. What started as a cursory bit of banter to a Warner Bros Australia MD triggered a series of events that no-one could foresee. "The only heritage you guys have is Olivia Newton John, AC/DC and a dubious claim on the Beegees" I'd joked, delighting in my ignorance. We were discussing production work for an Australian band at the time and such disrespect was useful in the context of the conversations (well that's my excuse anyway!) but as they responded with a glut of bands we'd never heard of and we realised though that beyond a handful of songs we knew relatively little...So the search began more out of schadenfreud than academic diligence!
As the notable finds amassed he idea of a new volume devoted to the Antipodes gradually developed. We found one of only 100 vinyl copies of an album by Rob Thomsett called Warambool, "a sonic space jazz telling of an ancient Antideluvian myth from the out back". We couldnt find out who owned the rights though so couldnt include it. We hit a dead end with tracing it until I took a chance and simply rang an IT company Thomsett International who seemingly had a Rob Thomsett as MD. I shakily enquired if the MD had a salubrious past as a member of a space jazz 70s outfit, I didnt expect to hear back but I hit goldL He did!
We connected, indeed it was him and we promptly lifted three tracks from his album. Next we traced Leong Lau down via a bizarre youtube account and countless videos of him performing tai chi violin and flute recitals (tai chi movement interspersed with erratic passages of play – I kid you not!) over recordings of the Melbourne Orchestra playing in the background. It had to be him, there could be only one! This had nothing to do with what we were after though, the smoky cosmic funk of Salem Abdullah from his first self-released album from the mid 70s was very much the target of our search. He'd set up his own label Sunscape after taking the advice of Frank Zappa at a chance meeting at a hip Sydney party in '75 but despite that by 2014 he didnt even have any master recordings let alone a copy so the euphoria of tracking him down and getting his blessing evaporated pretty quickly. We'd hit the wall again until, quite by chance, two weeks later a pristine vinyl copy was found in a library from which we mastered. One-by-one over a two year process the tracks came together until finally all 35 tracks were unearthed and mixed together and the next extraordinary chapter of the Bubble was set to launch.
In those 18 years I have seen my own personal search reflect a paradigm in which something bigger has stirred. The yearn for freedom, both spiritually and politically manifesting in the song changing to reflect this desire. Studio technology with its countless weird and wonderful sonic extrapolation has missed the song voicing its counterpart and the song and the majority of bands has resolutely missed the sonic psychonautical exploration and thus finally a new fuse would inextricably draw closer and inevitable.
After we'd re-discovered 67, coicidentally the year of my birth we quickly tired of its frivolities and realised as much as we loved it for our own personal liberation it would never be taken seriously in a world so "advanced technologically" and yet not spiritually. One that it had lost its innocence and appreciation of absurdism so '67 (for us 97) and had to evolve and roll into '70 (our 2000) and the synths fused with the live drums and proto prog in a parallel time was upon us. Each shift of the paradigm that had occurred from the 60s to the presnt day being enacted afresh but this time subjected to a very different set of catalysing factors. And yet same shit different year. Corrupt governments, wars on all continents, sex used to sell everything and porn everywhere and yet sexual freedom... really? Repressed in terms of its spiritual roots, where was the tantra, the mantra and the mantra? A feeling of entrapment leading to a spiritual search not rooted in organised religion, the mystics were back. Cosmic consciousness and the sonic expression, the song had to have its voice and so, Viva le psychedelia! Or in order to free it of its historical baggage – Viva le musique cosmique! Cosmic space music was back and yet it had never been away... Garry Cobain @theamorphous
For more information the latest compilation and more head to Amorphousandrogynous.com.