Sunday, June 12, 2011

OSCILLATIONS: WEE TAM & BIG HUGE by The Incredible String Band

These two releases from 1968 (a double LP in the UK) may not have much in the way of electronics,  but they do epitomize an eclectic and nearly hallucinagenic ethic that could be referred to as "Acid Folk" over forty years before that phrase was coined.  To call WEE TAM and BIG HUGE seminal would hardly do them justice as music born into the bliss of myriad cultural/spiritual traditions.  These are wildly exploratory songs that haven't dated one bit.  Unlike their earlier releases,  these collections have a wonderfully spacious production (again by Joe Boyd) that emphasizes the peripatetic nature of the song structures and the resultant surrealism,  poetry,  and magic.  This magic is courtesy a gathering of spiritual influences that provide each song with an inherent pantheism through which the material world is lovingly examined.  Whether it's from a pantheon of Gods or the Nature that surrounds us,  the songs' poetry continuously refreshes itself as it moves from place to place. Both Robin Williamson and Mike Heron each created songs and settings that slowly creep into our consciousness,  with Robin generally writing the sweeping epics ("Maya",  "Job's Tears",  "Ducks on a Pond") and Mike the more immediate tunes ("Cousin Caterpiller",  "Puppies",  Greatest Friend").  This is not to dismiss Mike's most intriguingly eccentric moments like "Douglas Traherne Harding", as it's successfully sandwiched between Williamson's  pagan hymn to Pre-Christian England,  "The Iron Stone" and  BIG HUGE closer,  "The Circle is Unbroken",  all standout tracks.  The ensemble (which included Rose Simpson and Licorice McKechnie) playing throughout the album incorporated fewer overdubs than previous albums which further opened up the band's recorded sound,  and made for a clarity and intimacy never heard on a ISB release up to this point.  All instruments,  exotic and otherwise sound great,  while retaining the band's charming raggedness.  Both albums' inclusive nature can be summed up in this line from "Douglas Traherne Harding":

                         One light,  the light that is one though the lamps be many

No comments:

Post a Comment