As on a recent essay Italian writer Antonello Cresti writes, “this album is full as ever of musical invitations (all the tracks are instrumental) to take a more deep and conscious form of spirituality up” (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2012/01/tebs-cultural-sources-on-italian-book.html).
|Druids painted by Charles Knight (1845)|
In "Alchemy" we have also Dave Tomlin's “Lark Rise” (based on Flora Thompson’s book “Lark Rise to Candleford”) that celebrates a vanished bucolic utopia as documented elsewhere here (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2012/01/dave-tomlins-lark-rise-origins-cultural.html).
|Swinside stone circle (West of Broughton in Furnes)|
And we can listen also to three apparently more obscure tracks - “Ghetto Raga”, “Mosaic” and “Area Three” - all related to the idea of space: a space to protect (thanks to the snakes on the cover...), a ghetto, a place for hermetics where to practice alchemy (the cover concept) and turn the poor metals in gold (Prima Materia).
I think they used "Ghetto raga" just because it sounds good. Ghettos are run down areas where poor people, usually of the same race live (Jews etc.). So Ghetto gives a rough type image, and raga is another racy word, although it's doubtful if any of the band studied Indian music. So together the two words create an interesting effect. No more than that...".
|Byzanthine mosaic (Galla Placidia Mausoleum - Ravenna, Italy)|
Thus a record as a clear powerful metaphor alluding to turn bad music in good music, a superficial/commercial listening to a deep one, a materialistic life to a spiritual one…
Maybe an alchemic product itself!?
|A detail of the egg (the Great alchemic Opera) from "Alchemy" front cover|
As Glen Sweeney said about the TEB music, "the music is the music of the Druids, released from the unconscious by the alchemical process, orgasmic in its otherness, religious in its oneness communicating beauty and magic via abstract sounds whilst playing without ego enables the musicians to reach a trance-like stage, a "high" in which the music produces itself. Each piece is as alike or unalike as blades of grass or clouds" (from the original 1969 Isle of Wight concert programme).
And again, just around the period when "Alchemy" was recorded: "We are beginning to move into some strange musical areas, doing a piece we call Druid. Once or twice when we've played this thing, we've gone into a weird sort of experience we call a 'Time-shift'. Nobody really knows what it is. The whole Druid piece is repetitive and extremely hypnotic and yet you have some of the instruments doing far out things so that a fantastic tension is built up. It's like alchemy. The alchemical emphasis is on the endless repetition of experiments, doing the same thing over and over again, and waiting for some sort of X-factor to appear. This is more or less what we do when we play. And our X-factor is this time-shift thing".
"It happened once at the London Arts Lab, and as we played, it seemed as if time had slowed dawn and we had drifted into a completely different dimension. And when we finished, nobody moved at all. They were kind of stuck there. So I felt that perhaps it had happened to them too. So that's the thing we are trying to get into. Although it can be quite a strain during public performance, like living on the edge of a cliff, since nobody knows what might happen. To be on stage and feel it happening can be quite frightening. You go out of yourself, and when you come to, you discover yourself on stage with hundreds of people staring at you. You get this split-second thought: 'Have I been playing? Have I ruined the whole thing?' In a way, it's very similar to meditation and mantra chanting, which is why I feel what we are doing has a very religious depth" (from "Gandalf's Garden" #4, 1969, interviewed by Muz Murray).
There was an Alchemical saying of the time: 'When the sound of the music changes the walls of the city shake', which the Third Ear used at one time. Glen was very much drawn to the Alchemical myth. In fact a few years before he died he kept an ex-WWII torpedo-boat on a north London canal. Its name was 'ALCHEMY', he and Carolyn used to roar around the canals in it and everyone had to get out of the way; they were the terror of the waterways. I sometimes visited them on the boat and when Glen died she took the compass from the boat and gave it to me (this compass came from Glen Sweeney's boat Alchemy)...".
As in the past people used to write books for initiates, in the modern times musicians play records to open mind and soul of people ("Happy new ears!" John Cage wrote): Third Ear Band has left us a beautiful, scary record of magic/esoteric/philosophic music for the everyday life & death...
Also for this reason sometimes we return to it as a sort of breviary, listening to little drops of it as a thaumaturgical magic potion!
|"Alchemy" CD back cover (Drop Out Records 1999)|