September 23, 2020

Stefano Giannotti and SMS played TEB's "Water".


Stefano Giannotti is an Italian avant-garde musician/composer/arranger/conductor since the beginning of 80's. He's playing and arranging also TEB tunes. I had an interview with him in 2011, you can read about his long career and his ideas about music and the TEB here.
After a first arrangement of "Water" in 2005 with Vaga Orchestra, in 2019 he arranged a new version of it and he conducted (playing with) a young ensemble called SMS who performed it live. Here's the really exciting performance:

Confirming the love for the TEB music, this important event induced me to contact him again for a new interview about his work on the tune. This is our conversation...

.How did you come up with the idea of forming the SMS Orchestra?
The SMS Orchestra is a modular group of students born around 2014 at the School of Music Symphony of Lucca, with the name of Laboratorio OTEME; because it could be confused with OTEME (the ensemble I manage since 2010) we changed the name: SMS means School of Symphony Music. The former idea was to form a group of students playing the guitar and other instruments with voices, which if necessary, as then sometimes is happened, could join OTEME.
The problem of training nowadays is more and more urgently felt, since especially in Italy there is little space for contemporary music, let alone experiments of hybridization between rock, avant-garde and contemporary music! Previously, at another school of music, I had conducted a similar experience with the Vaga Orchestra.
Over the years many members have changed, but for some time a stable nucleus has been created: it must be said that many of them started from very young, from the middle school, grewing up together within this experience.
Today the SMS Orchestra is around 13/14 musicians ranging from 15 to 40 years old. At the same time, some composers were born in the band and their compositions were included in our repertoire. The SMS Orchestra performs mostly arrangements of experimental rock music or similar: we play Residents, Tuxedomoon, Third Ear Band, Battisti/Velezia, Sylvian, but also Bruno Lauzi, Bowie, Baroque and Renaissance music, Battiato's Aries, Peter Gabriel, etc.
 
Stefano Giannotti nel 2019.
 
.Why did you decide to arrange and perform TEB’s "Water" again, after your first adaption in 2005?
"Water" is one of my all-time favourite tunes. I think it is nice to allow young people to discover tunes like this, which I knew when I was 17. If teachers don't let them know this music, hardly nowadays young people will reach it alone.

.How did you wade into the original version? What are the motivations related to the form/structure of the music that led you to rethink it in this way?
I think the most interesting thing about "Water" is the bass. It’s definitely the Third Ear Band's tune that seems more "composed" and less improvised. I find really amazing how the melody leans on the cello; basically, the melody is built by a single cell that is repeated throughout the song at different heights, sometimes with alterations of some intervals. The various mutations of the cell are connected by free parts, very short so that the theme becomes really omnipresent. The bass line creates moments of tension and relaxation, above all the turns of the chords are used intelligently, in particular the first respondent. Then, on the third chord of the melody, there is a FA# played by the oboe on the natural FA of the cello - like a punch in the ear - which melts immediately into a wonderful consonance on the fourth. The real prominent role in the piece, in my opinion, is just the cello that acts as a "fixed song", as in the original counterpoint and the oboe is "opposed" to it. My basic idea was to interpret that cello "false notes", those microtones originated from an oriental mink, as they were semitones: so if a note stands between a LA and a descending LA, I assume it as a SOL#. Being on the bass this SOL# creates a new chord, which was perceived in the TEB's tune and in this version becomes clear. The great thing is that it sounds very similar to the original, despite having forced several chords.
Well, I hope I didn’t say things that were too complicated!
 
.What do you think about the original composition? Do you think it was written or it was a work in progress in the recording studio?
I think it’s in between. I think there is a theme that was born from improvisation, then step by step it was built inside the group, especially by Minns and Smith; but who knows... surely they did not try it once, as it could have happened to other tunes played by them.
 
School of Music Symphony in 2020.

.Which elements of the TEB form are inscribed in your music?
The oboe! I fell in love with the oboe thank to them. For many years I conducted a trio/quartet, the Ensemble Il Teatro del Faro, formed by oboe/English horn, electric guitar and cello, plus various objects, tapes and electronics. Our work was more experimental and moved in totally different fields (musical theatre, radio-art, performance), but occasionally opened to phrasing and atmospheres influenced by the Third Ear Band.
.Do you think there is still room today for experiences such as that of TEB?
Sometimes you hear world music, rock-ethnic and similar genres, but the Third Ear Band remains a unique case in the history of music. I think the difference lies in their simplicity and - forgive me - not professionalism as instrumentalists. Today the world-music bands are made by very competent musicians, TEB players were little more than amateurs, but that’s what makes them unique and indescribably magic. They didn’t have to show anything to anyone, no kind of virtuosity, they just start with sound, they create circles that slowly widen and you find yourself wrapped in a total sensory experience. Many ethnic-folk groups sound very stereotyped and corny. Not the Third Ear Band, for some mysterious reason their music force you to listen to them finding new dimensions: think of "Egyptian Book of the Dead", but also of pieces like "Live Ghosts"... this kind of music always opens new worlds. I don’t know if there’s room today, but I think there’s room for everything, the thing you need is just to have a little more imagination.

.What kind of music do you listen to these days?
I love Bach's Cantatas, Frank Zappa, especially his orchestral pieces, David Sylvian, Battisti/Panella, Robert Wyatt, David Bedford, the Third Ear Band (although I don’t listen to it often), Alvin Curran, Steve Reich, Tuxedomoon, Gong and Daevid Allen, Ravel’s Bolero... I can hardly stand the contemporary music, although I admire the ideas... the ones I like most are John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

.What's about you
r future plans?
I am finishing a radio-drama for the German national radio SWR, I will go to produce it in their studios in Baden-Baden in February 2021, if the COVID pandemic will allow us. Last summer I've published "A Greeting to the Clouds", the new OTEME CD, so I’m promoting it. I also have other projects in Poland and Germany, but it will depend on the pandemic situation. With the SMS Orchestra, we will start again in November, maybe with a project between folk and sound experimentation. 
 
 
 
no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 17, 2020

TEB book outtakes - part 3: the great Mel Davis.


Here's the third part of the outtakes from my book on the TEB dedicated to the great late Mel Davis. He played the cello on "Alchemy" in 1969 and he was a great musician in the avant-garde British jazz scene most of all with the People Band (read a piece about him on this Archive here).
These pictures were given to me by film-maker/musician Mike Figgis who played with Davis and the People Band in the Sixties and who's making a docu-film on him (read here).
This is another chance to remember Mel for all his great music and ideas about improvisational music. A real giant!


                             The great late Mel Davis in the last few days of his life.


                               Mel Davis on cello with Mike Friggs in the Sixties.

no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 11, 2020

"Macbeth" vinyl edition out now!


As announced, Spanish label Munster Records had published the remastered vinyl edition of "Macbeth", licensed by Cherry Red Records.

With the same cover designed by cult graphic artist Roger Dean, the album shows the old Harvest green label (but with Munster's logo) and a very pretty insert reproducing the famous film poster and some notes written by journalist Fernando Naporano.
There' also a 1 minute video promo on the Web (go here).

Considering this is an official release, it's enbarassing that  compiling the notes Naporano repeats one of the worst trite commonplaces about the origins of the band stating it was born in Canterbury (!!!) and, really incredibly, that it was "previously called East of Eden" (!!!).
But it's life and errors are more easy than one can imagine... (for example, in my book I've repeated that the TEB played at the Hyde Park free concert on July 18h 1970... but we know that even if on the bill actually they didn't play there...). 
 
 
Anyway, Naporano's essay is quite interesing for his definition of the TEB music form as "an archaic proto-psyche journey". He writes:  "You do feel an acidulated folk-aura, where each one should create its own Trip on it. Above all, is very varied in its conception, and a complete voyage when it stands  up and walks in our ears." 

For the Spanish music writer TEB tracks on "Macbeth" are "folkishly ludic" (as "Overtoure", "Iverness", "Cour Dance"...) or "concrete music - in a very personal way of being" (as "The Beach", "Ambush"...), "as if every drumming fractures, singing seagulls or sharp whistles were conducting us  to waves of fear into the unknown."


And what about the vinyl quality? 
This is not a 180g edition, but  the sound is very good, with great dynamic and deepness and  well separated and clear timbrics...
I think it's a really valid edition, and apart a maybe too expensive price (euros 22 plus postal costs) and the classic (incomprehensible) pops and ticks everywhere, is a worth to have it. 


no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 09, 2020

Extraordinarly amazing TEB tv appearance in October 1972!


These two video tracks are the last nuggets emerged from the Web. British YouTuber Nuthatch (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-VZ_N8KLdwJhobRHGRtm8Q) posted these extraordinary videos of the TEB from a TV appearance in October 1972 taken from ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) archive
The peculiarity of these excerpts is that this is the only existing video thing of Mike Marchant and Peter Pavli with the band.

The line-up consisting in fact in Glen Sweeney - drums; Paul Minns - oboe; Peter Pavli - electric bass; Mike Marchant - vocals and Simon House - electric violin & VCS3.

Introduced by Brian Kenny, the first track is titled "The Magus" and it's the boring vocal song taken from the eponymous album the band recorded in December 1972; the second one it seems to me a rendition of "Air" and it's much more interesting for the improvisations by House  and Minns on violin and oboe.


After a gig at Kingston Polytechnic, on 18 March 1972, Glen Sweeney announced to the press the new TEB line-up, explaining to Roy Hollingworth ("Melody Maker"): "I think us changing in a natural way - and not just for the sake of it - is far more rewarding. I know we will be a far more rational band - giving out something which everyone can enjoy. After three months of rehearsing, we are now capable of playing a varied menu for more than two hours. You wouldn't have got more 45 minutes a year ago".

Even if without a recording deal (after "Macbeth" EMI-Harvest fired the band), through the following months the musicians played live in England (most of all in London), with an appearance at the third edition of "Clitheroe Festival" (Clitheroe Castle of Clitheroe).

Then, on 16 November, thanks to Blackhill's manager Peter Jenner, who has placed The Sharks to Chris Blackwell's label, TEB signed a contract with Island Records for a new album, based for the first time on proper songs composed and played by Marchant, who got inspiration from the Tarot. The agreement scheduled this track-list: "Cosmic Wheel", "I the Key", "Hierophant", "Magus", "New Horizon" and "Tent Dimensional Landscape".

Sweeney to Hollingworth ("Melody Maker", 1972): "Mike has been hanging around the group for some while. We heard the songs, and well, it seemed only natural that he should come in. It's a tremendous jump for us, I mean, we've never done songs before. It's right to say that Thirdies are feeling a little schizophrenic at the moment. I mean, there's that album out from Macbeth, and that's totally avant-garde, and there's us playing songs".
"So what of these songs?" - asked the journalist. "Well, at the start, we teated them in a sort of Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen type of way. But we became dissatisfied with the limitations of eight bars, 16 bars. We decided that we really wanted to open out. They certainly aren't pretentious songs, there's no pseudo rubbish about them. There's no Lucy in the Sky with feedback. But they are songs that fit the Third Ear".


"They are all based around the Tarot, and they are purely descriptions of the cards and their meanings. It's meant a lot of work, changing from a purely instrumental band, but it really seems to be working. And people certainly like it".
The album, despite of all the enthusiastic anticipations, would be "disastrously recorded at Island and rejected" (Paul Minns to me in 1996) and it's been realised by Angel Air just in 2004 as "The Magus". 

Later, Sweeney had strong opinions about it: "(...) At the time I was surrounded by idiots who were hoping I had a few quid! They dragged me in there - even now that Simon House swears it's a masterpiece - I had this rodie, Ron Cort, whose father was a hire car wallah, rolling in it - Ron really went to town on that album - he got acetates made, he got a single made. It was crap - even I didn't know what I was doing - the singer was terrible, we had vocals. All the songs were based on the tarot, but strangely enough, his father [vocalist Mike Marchant's father] was a vicar and all the songs were based on hymns" ("Unhinged", Spring 1990).

I don't know what do you think about, but for myself Glen was right and these video tracks are surely interesting (of course!) but not comparable to the deep dowsing research done for "The Dragon Wakes", recorded two years before by Sweeney, Minns, Bridges, Buckmaster, Coff and House...

no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 07, 2020

The TEB book outtakes - part. 2: Carolyn Looker.


This sequence is about Carolyn Looker, Glen Sweeney's missus. She has cooperated really much to the book, opening her family album and writing a brand new piece on Glen.


 


 
 


 

 

no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

September 01, 2020

The TEB book outtakes - pt. 1.: Glen Sweeney.


As promised, these below are some pictures not included on the TEB book. The first gallery is about Glen Sweeney, portrayed in  different places. Pictures are taken from the family album, courtesy of my friend Carolyn Looker.

Glen at St. Ives (Cornwalls).

A stoned Glen.

Glen in Greece in 1978.
Glen on Paxi (drawing by Carolyn Looker, 1984).
A Glen portrait by Carolyn Looker (1990).
Glen, Carolyn and Celia Humphris (Trees' singer) in London at the beginning of 70's.

 no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

August 29, 2020

A wonderful TEB gig poster found!


Designed by talented British artist David Arnott, this is a rare poster for a gig the TEB played at St. Johns Church in Redhill (UK) on 30th October 1971.
David Arnott designed posters for Tony Stratton-Smith productions in the early 1970s and did posters for colleges in the Surrey area, such as Ewell Technical College.
An amazing gallery of his works is available HERE

no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

August 23, 2020

Italian composer and filmaker Francesco Paolo Paladino writes about the TEB book...


My friend Francesco sent me this little unexpected gift, a review of the TEB book. It's in Italian, but I know that the one interested can translate it in English and appreciate his pyrotechnic way to write.

 

ULTIMO TANGO ALCHEMICO

Luca Ferrari me l’aveva preannunciato: “Ho scritto a Chris Cutler per farti inviare una copia di BOOK OF ALCHEMIES e a giorni ti arriva”. Confesso che ero scettico, non certo per i suoi buoni intenti, fuori discussione, ma per la politica Recommended Records che, pur da elogiare senza se e senza ma per essere una delle poche etichette rimaste in trincea nonostante la desolante situazione attuale, non brilla certo per prodigalità.


“BOOK OF ALCHEMIES, the life and times of Third Ear Band, 1967-1973”, per chi non lo sapesse ancora, è un raffinato volume di 225 pagine (231 pagine per alcuni, qui c’è odore di cabala), edito dalla storica R&R il cui autore “potrebbe essere” Glen Sweeney, membro fondatore dei TEB,, ma che in modo quasi pirandelliano viene attribuito “anche” a Luca Chino Ferrari. Io so che il libro è di Luca e soltanto il suo squisito senso di generosità lo porta quasi a renderne fumosa la sua paternità. Per non farci mancare nulla il libro contiene anche un CD “THE DRAGON WAKES- The legendary unrealesed album” una chicca di cui ha scritto in modo più che eccellente Alessandro Monti su queste longitudini. Sorprendente che a scrivere dei TEB siano – per ora - soltanto musicisti e/o creativi e che i dichiarati critici non abbiano ancora assaggiato questo indispensabile manicaretto. Non vedo l’ora di leggere le parole di Gino Dal Soler su "Blow Up", uno dei pochi critici indispensabili alla nostra salute. Ma torniamo al volume, è scritto in inglese, niente traduzioni in italiano, il “range” (si dice così?) di pubblico che vuole interessare è internazionale ed è ben comprensibile. Oggigiorno i budget sono talmente risicati che è già un miracolo avere tra le mani un volume come questo! Per le traduzioni ognuno s’ingegnerà come potrà. Io che mastico poco la lingua inglese, speravo in una versione “kinder” da poter tradurre con Google trad, ma – come vi ho già accennato - per ora non è previsto. “E più non dimandare” direbbe il Sommo Poeta. Ma la soddisfazione di avere tra le mani nel 2020 un libro che, per 225/231 pagine, parli di T.E.B. è talmente un “godimento esperanto” che supera ogni possibile cimoseria. Per la verità io e Luca condividiamo da anni una insana passione per la THIRD EAR BAND; anzi questa nostra passione ci ha resi ancora più amici e ci ha indotto a collaborare in altri mille progetti.


Poi, qualche giorno prima di Ferragosto, in mezzo ai consueti scatoloni di Amazon, trovo un plico che contiene un libro. La modalità di apertura dei pacchi postali meriterebbe un articolo a sé; diciamo che per noi musicomani senza speranza assume una sacralità rituale. Ed è un rito plurisensoriale che include un primo movimento muscolare il più delle volte lieve (il ritiro del plico/pacco); l’apertura con lacerazione o con tentativo conservativo dell’orecchia adesiva con o senza oggetti opzionali (forbici, coltelli, plettri, monetine); rimozione di eventuale strisce di scotch o nastro adesivo; eliminazione di plastiche anti-urto e/o giornali ammassicciati per espletare tale importante funzione. Ma forse la fase clou dell’apertura del pacco/plico è il percepimento dell’odore dell’oggetto che viene sfilato fuori dal pacco, che non è più l’odore del vecchio vinile, ma una “essenza cocktail” di tipografia, plastica protettiva, odore di carta non sfogliata, sudore del corriere e –certe volte- della passione dell’autore.


Bene, visto che non so leggere la lingua inglese come vorrei, ho annusato più e più volte il libro di Luca e devo dire che l’essenza cocktail di cui vi ho parlato qualche riga fa, vede prevalere senza possibilità di smentite l’ingrediente della passione dell’autore. Una passione che, si badi bene, non è una smanceria da fan club, ma una virginale ed immensa estasi da stupore. Luca ha superato da tempo la gelosia del giocattolo personale; il suo lavoro è quello del minatore che sa di essere in una miniera, una miniera piena di gemme che però non sono lì in bella evidenza, non basta schiacciare un tasto per farle emergere, bisogna lavorarci duramente sopra, ecco cosa bisogna fare. Un lavoro minimale di contatti, di amicizie guadagnate nel tempo, un lavoro di rianimazione di spigoli musicali inadeguati, di insperati ritrovamenti impensati.


Ecco il libro che vi consiglio caldamente è un piccolo museo di tutti i reperti che Luca ha trovato in quelle dimenticate miniere che ha picconato da mattina a sera senza mai perdersi d’animo. Mi diceva Luca qualche tempo fa che scrivere un libro serio sui T.E.B. non è cosa facile perché i musicisti principali sono tutti deceduti e quello che riesce a ritrovare emerge da persone che erano vicine ai tre TEB principali. Ora se avete visto qualche serie televisiva gialla su Netflix, solitamente “le persone che erano vicino” allo scomparso la pensano in modo completamente diverso da quello, pur amandolo o stimandolo immensamente. Danno poco importanza a cose, frammenti, oggetti che l’ispettore di turno, quando ne prende possesso, ne comprende invece l’importanza fondamentale per la sua indagine. Ferrari ha fatto una lunga indagine, ha interrogato familiari e amici con quel senso di ottimismo che è assolutamente padano. Un lavoro maniacale, che lui stesso definisce “non finito” che è consistito nell’accedere a tasselli e indizi sui quali ha duramente lavorato. Il libro è bello di per sé ed è bello dentro, cosa volete di più? A tutti gli appassionati di “musica diversa” non potrà che eccitare; ai fans dei TEB regala nuove emozioni nella rilettura e risistemazione della cronologia dei concerti e della discografia e nell’emersione di foto di cui si era persa traccia. Questo libro, rispetto a “Third Ear Band Necromancers of the Drifting West”, che Luca aveva scritto nel marzo 1997 per Stampa Alternativa, ha una dimensione più “internazionale”, un respiro più compiuto e – soprattutto - la minestra non è riscaldata. Il nuovo libro di Ferrari testimonia e documenta tutta la ricerca che l’autore dal ‘97 in poi ha continuato e splendidamente realizzato. Luca è un amante dei T.E.B. sincero e appassionato. Per lui non è una fesseria ma una necessità continuare a dimostrare il suo amore per i TEB. Con BOOK OF ALCHEMIES, the life and times of Third Ear Band, 1967-1973 il suo atto d’amore diventa uno splendido scritto, un libro sublime. E noi non potevamo chiedere di meglio perché così le rifrazioni di quei raggi di passione ce li godiamo tutti.

17 agosto 2020
Francesco Paolo Paladino


no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

August 18, 2020

The very first Web review about the book.


This is the very first Web review of the book by Arcana.fm, "set up to give you the chance to step into classical music with no fear or pressure – just the chance to enjoy and read about good music!", written by  Richard Whitehouse and put on line on August 8, 2020.



On paper – Glen Sweeney’s Book of Alchemies: The life and times of the Third Ear Band 1967-1973 by Luca Chino Ferrari 

Glen Sweeney’s Book of Alchemies: The life and times of the Third Ear Band 1967-1973
by Luca Chino Ferrari
ReR Megacorp/November Books [softback, 226pp plus CD, ISBN: 978-0-9560184-6-5, £18]


Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse


What’s the story?

Over two decades after his pioneering biography of Third Ear Band, Necromancers of the Drifting West (Sonic Book: 1997), Luca ‘Chino’ Ferrari has now published this larger and more inclusive survey of arguably the ultimate cult band to have emerged in the late 1960s.

What’s the book like? 

One thing it is not is an update of that earlier study. Instead, Ferrari has assembled a range of documents from a variety of sources centred on TEB’s guiding force: the often enigmatic and always recalcitrant Glen Sweeney. Only in those (brief) first and second sections does Ferrari posit his thinking as to why this outfit flourished, foundered yet refused to die across a period of almost 30 years. The third section showcases Sweeney’s poems and lyrics – ranging from the inspired to the not so inspired while suggesting that, with a degree of luck, the proto-new wave incarnation of the mid-1970s (aka Hydrogen Jukebox) just might have broken through.

The fourth section features Sweeney’s writings – engaging and frustrating in equal measure – but most valuable are the interviews in section five; above all, an expansive 1990 Q&A with Unhinged’s Nigel Cross as captures Sweeney in almost confessional mood. Quite a contrast with those gnomic ‘soundbites’ in the sixth section where he dons the guise of false Messiah. Much the longest section is the seventh, ‘memories and interviews’, carried out over almost a quarter-century and drawing in almost all TEB’s one-time members (except for the elusive violinist Richard Coff). They range from the humorous to the desultory, with several of those featured seemingly intent upon post-priori acts of self-justification, but not oboist Paul Minns – who, writing in December 1996 (months before his untimely death) places the triumphs and failings of TEB in the wider context of post-war Western culture with a precision and pathos that makes it required reading for anyone at all interested in this veritable fable of disillusion.

The eighth section comprises a chronological listing of audio and video releases – worthwhile especially as TEB releases from the late 1960s or early 1970s have been reissued on various occasions in numerous formats, whereas those from the 1980s onwards constitute a minefield of reissues and partial re-couplings which Sweeney must have relished. Hardly less welcome, section nine offers a day-by-day chronology of the band across 53 years and which is, almost inevitably, at its most thought-provoking when the band had all but ceased activity and those associated with it make a (not always fond) adieu – above all, Sweeney himself in 2005. Chris Cutler’s footnotes are a judicious enhancement from one ‘who was there’, while the selection of photos is decently reproduced with several stunning shots of drummer Sweeney in action.

Does it all work?

Yes, despite vagaries of presentation (Section IV is headed ‘VI’ on p28, and where exactly is the Epilogue?) or inconsistent layout. Whether or not the attached CD indeed constitutes The Dragon Wakes, the unreleased third album from 1971, its content is never less than absorbing.

Is it recommended?

Absolutely. Apart from its historical significance, Third Ear Band’s extensive recorded legacy is still of undeniable relevance, with this latest publication a valuable and necessary resource. Whether or not it proves to be the ‘last word’ on TEB rather depends on Luca Ferrari himself.


no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

August 03, 2020

Alessandro Monti (Unfolk)'s review on "The Dragon Wakes" CD.


Being attached to my last effort on the Third Ear Band, avantgarde musician Alessandro Monti reviews "The Dragon Wakes" CD. Note that he wrote for Ghettoraga Archive also another very interesting piece about the TEB's remastered CD "Elements 1970-1971" (read at https://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2018/12/italian-musician-and-composer.html).

 

A midsummer's night dream: unearthing TEB.  

After years of work and disappointments from publishers and labels, Luca's dream became reality at last. Thanks to his never ending research Glen Sweeney's Book Of Alchemies and The Dragon Wakes fabled recordings have now secured their place in history thanks to ReR Megacorp. It would be almost impossible to review the book here: years and years of details about recordings, concerts and real life on the road were collected by Luca using the vast amount of material available on this website, from the beginning to the days when he actually managed the band in the late 80's and beyond; Chris Cutler's explanatory notes for the newcomers are an extra bonus: as he writes on the preface he was there during most of Third Ear Band's history, I think few musicians could add infos about that era with better knowledge and open mind (I found out in the book that his band Henry Cow even played on the same program with TEB in some occasions). 

The unreleased music on the attached compact disc is of great historical importance and succeeds in putting those musical pioneers in better focus, plus it finally completes the rare studio sessions collected on the "Elements 1970-1971" remaster of the second album (released by Esoteric), bringing that epic story full circle. Few pieces are missing from the puzzle now! I wondered to myself: how could I listen to the music to get an organic idea of Third Ear Band's method of work? The best solution seemed to compile a special folder including all the unreleased music recorded between 1970 and the late 1971 and listen to it non-stop in a sort of alchemical flux. Needless to say that the result was so instructive and rewarding that I suggest this full-immersion to everyone to fully appreciate the new electric direction taken by TEB during those months of continuous change. They were actually working on a radically different sound during the making of the fabled third album, a project then replaced by the ambitious soundtrack of Roman Polanski's Macbeth. All that music laid forgotten for years, but it's definitely among the most interesting documents of the progressive era. Here's a possible and fascinating sequence:

Mammatus (Electric Air)
Sulis Stirs
Druid One
Hexagonal Wheel
Tellus, the Earth
The Rising Seed
(All included on the CD attached and perhaps the most finished pieces.)

Very Fine...Far Away
The Dragon Wakes
Sunrise
Mistress To The Sun
Evening Awakening
In D
(The above tracks being part of the 2nd & 3rd CDs on the Esoteric remaster.) 

Raga No.1
(Surfaced on the incredible "Necromancers Of The Drifting West" compiled by Luca for Gonzo Multimedia, it dates from the same sessions as Mammatus & Druid One (February 1971): an adventurous piece of free form jazzrock performed by the quartet Sweeney, Minns, Buckmaster & Bridges, an electric jam without a violin.)

Hyde Park (audio)
(I added this nice song from the Lost Broadcasts DVD as a bonus to round the compilation: it dates from the earliest days of the new electric phase and it seems that they only performed it in concert, so it's the only version available.)


I already wrote my short impressions of the "Elements 1970-1971" set, so lets focus on the first 6 tracks this time, the newly discovered gems from Denim Bridges' archive: “The Dragon Wakes”. The nice yellow artwork with a modern red dragon has everything written on it: you can visually picture that transformation from acoustic to electric. TEB quickly developed their new sound approach merely in the space of weeks and the opening piece on the CD is their new version of “Air”, a track fom the last album. Glen plays trap drums instead of hand drums, giving the track a strong rhythm edge; the original piece on the second album had the peculiar sound of a rhythm loop, here the drum set is closer to Nick Mason's famous section in Pink Floyd's “A Saucerful Of Secrets”. The sound effects are the perfect link to the classic version. This and track n. 3, “Druid One” are mono recordings and they probably survived some loss in sound through the years; they use some familiar themes from the official recordings to great effect, while exploring electricity and pre-dating the other stereo pieces of a few months. Richard Coff seems to play on these, looking forward to a still uncertain direction. Track n. 2, “Sulis Stirs” is a welcome surprise: a rockin' TEB! Perhaps the only true rock piece ever played by the band is something of an oddity in their catalogue. Denim Bridges' distorted sound takes the music in some other dimension; towards the end of the piece I can hear a brass sound, a trumpet or a trombone? I may be wrong but this will probably be another mystery to solve. The next piece “Hexagonal Wheel”, is a beautiful variation on the new electric area with an interesting pop-rock feel by the whole band. Finally on “Tellus, The Earth”, the famous bass riff by Paul Buckmaster has its definitive version. The notes, a simpler sequence than the one used by Miles Davis on “Bitches Brew” (see the Paul Buckmaster interview in this website), are so perfectly chosen that could literally go on for hours. The track has Paul simultaneously playing his electric cello, while Denim Bridges' double tracked guitar is more convincing and focused here than on both live versions available (BBC in concert and Beat Club): they seemed rather in progress and unfinished in comparison. Paul Minns' jazzy oboe here reminds me of Karl Jenkins' use of that instruments in some alien context (Nucleus and Soft Machine) or the late great Lindsay Cooper (Henry Cow), even if TEB arrangement seems on a unique wavelength of controlled freedom. The last track on “The Dragon Wakes” CD has a beautiful and meditative intro, morphing itself into an exact anticipaton of the “Music From Macbeth” soundtrack. No VCS3 synth here but Glen Sweeney is back to familiar hand drums, supported by great harmonies on bass by Paul Buckmaster and dynamic violins: it seems to me that the style could be Simon House's.


We can only be grateful that, after almost 50 years this music is now available: it's a confirmation that so many hours of recording sessions were poorly documented on the original releases; we should say a huge thank you to the following people who made this edition possible:

Denim Bridges for keeping all recordings and cleaning up the sound in time for the digital age;
Chris Cutler for believing in the project with such enthusiasm and competence;
Luca Chino Ferrari (the éminence grise): the hidden man behind all this music, words and images. 


Footnote:
I wrote the above review without reading the actual credits on the cd; it seems that the violinist on the mono tracks (1&3) is Simon House, so perhaps I got it wrong! Nevermind... enjoy the music anyway!


Alessandro Monti :: Unfolk 

 no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

July 15, 2020

Soon a vinyl reissue of "Mcbeth" soundtrack...


As announced, Spanish label Munster Records is going to publish the old TEB catalogue on vinyl format licensed by Cherry Red Records.
First issue will be the vinyl reissue of "Macbeth" soundtrack, followed by the "Elements" album...
Info at:  http://munster-records.com/en/label/munster/product/macbeth


This is the press release  (with some historical bad errors included!): 

"As a luxurious aperitif for the future release of the “Elements” album (including its extra sauces), Munster Records bring us “Macbeth”, the staggering soundtrack by the English band Third Era Band for a Roman Polanski’s film, recorded and produced in 1971.

A magical invitation urging the listener to dive into unsuspected regions of boldness, unpredictability, and an intimate abstract-folkster-experimentalism. According to the founding member Glenn Sweeney, “the music was called alchemical because it was produced by repetition”. However, mind it, such repetition doesn’t follow the same musical structures of, let’s say, Terry Rilley, Steve Reich or Philip Glass due to its indefinite nature of internal-twisted and tormented passages of a peculiar poetic enchantment.

The band, formed in Canterbury, started in 1967 playing an oriental hypnotic-free-form-folk. Signed to the prosperous cult label Harvest, they debuted in 1969 with “Alchemy”, an instrumental jazzy-psych improvisational album. A fully formed masterpiece came in 1970 on the already aforementioned self-titled opus, also known as “Elements”. For “Macbeth”, their third one, just the main chief Glenn Sweeney (assorted percussion) and Richard Coff (viola and violin) remained from the original four-piece line-up. It was recorded when half of the quartet - Richard Coff (viola and violin) and Ursula Smith cello) – had already departed, and they were about to record a third album entitled “The Dragon Wakes”, which had promised to be an electric album with rock influences. Aside from a few sessions, this album was never completed.

The themes presented on the film were composed in an improvised manner while watching black and white excerpts of the oeuvre. The music, recorded in six weeks at George Martin’s Air Studios, in July 1971, has the same unconventional and quite unique dimension as the film itself. It is an auteur music for an auteur film. The music seems to fit perfectly the deliriously idiosyncratic free narrative of the story adapted by Polanski, even if it was used sparingly or remixed in a debatable form for a purist music fan.

Glenn Sweeney summarized his creation better than any critics attempted: “Third Ear Band music is a reflection of the universe as magic play illusion simply because it could not possibly be anything else. Words cannot describe this ecstatic dance of sound, or explain the alchemical repetition seeking and sometimes finding archetypal forms, elements and rhythms...”

There is an arty-medieval atmosphere overall, and it’s folkishly ludic in tracks like ‘Overture’, ‘Iverness’, ‘Court Dance’ and ‘Fleance’, where the experimental interjections function as colorful devices. ‘Fleance’ – with the guest singer Keith Chegwin - is a scintillating highlight.

The poetic assaults of concrete music are present in themes like ‘The Beach’, ‘Ambush’, ‘Prophesies’, as if every drumming fractures, singing seagulls or sharp whistles where conducting us to waves of fear into the unknown. There are other lost beauties in its official 44 minutes like the minimal oboe melody of ‘Lady Macbeth’ floating as a centipede of dreams or the lyrical guitar chords of ‘The Banquet’ punctuating a climax of sheer mystery. And, by the way, that is the song played during a banquet at the castle when the band appears for a few precious seconds on the film.

Taking in consideration the uniqueness of the film, we have in here a sublime soundtrack for it. A music that makes us feel the unfathomable and the unpredictable, sometimes going softly as a solid mystery piece. Close your eyes and enjoy an adventure in this kaleidoscopical carpet of unexpected possibilities of the imagination."


 no©2020 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)