27 November 2020

BANGING COLOURS – Hallucinogenic Treasures from the Convolution of an Imaginative Brain (2020, 2CD Iapetus)

 

 

RELEASE INFO:

Label: Iapetus

Format: 2CD, Album, Limited Edition, Gatefold Cover with 12-page booklet, 150 copies

Release Date: 4 Dec 2020

Now, what we have here? The absolute UNRELEASED Psychedelic album with 60s recordings ever or what? I listened to it quite a few times. Every time I took notes, different notes each time. Five A4 pages with handwritten notes… What? What is going on here? On almost every song I wrote, “How is it possible to be from the ’67-’69 period?”…

On their, Bandcamp says: “Banging Colours around keyboard player and singer Manny Wolfe were considered one of the most important and influential bands of their time. Between 1967 and 1969 they performed at the U.F.O. Club and in Middle Earth, shared stages with Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd or Soft Machine and established their reputation as a cult band of British psychedelia fans”…

I thought to myself “How cool!”… But, hey, after so many years of “dealing” with 60s Psychedelia how come and I have never heard of them? Maybe I hadn’t read the right books…

It seems that Banging Colours are a cult live-act from the glorious Technicolour Times of the London Underground scene… The band consists of Manny Wolfe (Organ, Piano, Mellotron and Lead Vocals), Keith Friedell (Violin, Mandoline and Musical Saw), Pekka Jokinen (Bass and Vocals), Young Patel (Acoustic and Electric Guitar, Mandoline), Bas Ricken (Drums and Percussion).

The informative press release reads:

Banging Colours “Hallucinogenic Treasures from the Convolution of an Imaginative Brain” Compilation To Be Released December 4, 2020

The year 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. On this occasion, many rare finds from the London Underground music scene found their way into the public ear again. Now, with a little delay, perhaps the most important rediscovery from the time of Swingin’ London is available: Iapetus presents this compilation for the first time, “Hallucinogenic Treasures from the Convolution of an Imaginative Brain” is a comprehensive review of the work of the legendary British band Banging Colours.

“Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys or “Freak Out” by the Mothers of Invention had already been announced the year before, but 1967 was the Year of Great Change in rock and pop. From “Sgt. Pepper” to “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” from “Are You Experienced” to “Surrealistic Pillow,” unprecedented sounds broke into pop music and redefined what popular music is and can be. In place of hit production came the work on the album. The setlist of performances no longer consisted of a string of singles; instead, the musicians experimented live with their material and sounded out the possibilities of rock music in long improvisations. The studio itself became an instrument for expanding musical boundaries, and drug-induced changes in consciousness manifested themselves in psychedelic sound.

During the short period of their existence in London from 1967 to 1969, Banging Colours featuring keyboarder and singer Manny Wolfe was considered one of the most important and influential bands of their time. Performances at the U.F.O. Club and in Middle Earth established their reputation as a cult band by British psychedelia fans. Joint performances with the main acts of the scene consolidated this status as well as their innovative light show, which gave the band its name.

Matthias Derer has meticulously searched and rummaged through the archives of record companies, radio stations and film studios, bringing to light some amazing things. More treasures than ever hoped for could be recovered, in almost all cases in the form of original tapes of the individual tracks and in far better quality than feared. Markus Reuter has remixed them with great devotion and has given these pearls of the psychedelic era, which were considered lost, new radiance. The result is a fascinating testimony of probably the most creative period of rock music.

Album 1 of the compilation brings together studio recordings from almost two and a half years, from the first and only single that not only sings about London’s underground scene but also became its secret anthem, to songs from various album projects from 1967 to 1969. The material was written entirely by the band’s head Manny Wolfe and bears his compositional signature.

Album 2 includes jams and studio live sessions and shows the band from a slightly different side: it impressively documents their impartiality and freedom to improvise freely, leaving the three-minute format suitable for radio light years behind.

Both showcase the extraordinary lineup of Banging Colours: Bas Ricken, whose powerful and soulful playing was acknowledged by the major drummers of his time, is the pulse in which the colours are banging. Pekka Jokinen on bass is an exceptional phenomenon: Seldom in this era has a bassist shaped the overall sound of a band as much as he did. On these recordings, he not only proves that he lives up to his idol Paul McCartney and is on the cutting edge of his time, but he also shows himself to be a harbinger of a new type of bass player, as he was later embodied by Chris Squire or John Wetton in the ’70s. You don’t have to be a music expert to imagine what a brilliant career Young Patel could have had on the guitar if fate hadn’t objected. He effortlessly freed himself from his roots, the R‘n’B, without ever having to deny his musical origins. Especially his interaction with Keith Friedell is one of the most exciting elements of Banging Colours. While Young lets the blues flow in, Friedell makes the wide field of swing and gypsy jazz fertile for psychedelic proliferation. His virtuosic playing leaves its mark on the band and contributes significantly to the incomparable sound of Banging Colours. The creative centre around which this ensemble of exceptional musicians is grouped is Manny Wolfe, who not only wrote all the songs but also lends them the psychedelic sound carpets on organ, piano and mellotron as well as his unusual voice. At the moment he is writing an autobiographical story of Banging Colours, and it will be interesting to see if more treasures of the band will be salvaged in the course of this.

But not only the acoustic side of this rediscovery is interesting. In the course of extensive research, Matthias Derer has also succeeded in making the work of one of the most important graphic artists of his time partially accessible again. Wes H. Bernatt was not only a friend of the band and designer of their record covers, posters and the band logo, but also one of the most creative draftsmen and illustrators in London in the late 60’s. His contribution to psychedelic art and graphic design was unjustly forgotten. Bernhard Wöstheinrich’s revision of the album covers for this compilation brings Bernatt’s merits back into focus.

This compilation is a major act and an important contribution to the history of music, which gives an idea of the importance of Banging Colours. A must for all fans of the ’60s and lovers of psychedelic music”…

“… of the Most Important and Influential…” I spent the last few days “searching” the Net… Nothing… Not a single reference… UFO was running for a very short period from late 1966 to late 1967, so there were like around 50 parties? Why their name isn’t on any UFO poster or a Middle Earth or on any other Happening? Also, the one (and only picture) of them presented in different colour variations is terribly “photoshopped”!

Now, I’m really getting suspicious! I’m checking/reading the booklet. There’s a guy Steven Griffin that gives information for the band and the times back then, every band member is either vanished or just can’t be found… “You can ask Manny Wolfe if you can find him…” Hmm, how convenient! More Web searching… And I came to this “Q&A with Manny Wolfe of Banging Colours, the legendary pioneers of the London Psychedelic Underground” published on Blues.gr by Michael Limnios on November 26, 2020. Michael is a serious, clever and cool guy. Glass Onyon PR provided Michael with all material about the interview, I’m sure… More confusion here… Michael, surely did this interview, but who was on the other side? Now, things are getting really complicated… Or maybe not…

At the press release, I read Markus Reuter has remixed them with great devotion and has given these pearls of the psychedelic era, which were considered lost, new radiance”So, did he make them too digital? There’s a Q&A on their Facebook page, Markus Reuter says “The good thing is that I really don’t know much about the origin of the material and I had nothing to do with digitizing it. I say that’s a ‘good thing’, because that also meant I could concentrate on simply making it sound as real as possible, having the vintage equipment it was recorded on in the back of my head. So, in a nutshell, I did as little as possible, and as much as necessary. There are no edits, no fixes, just the original performances, of which I’m not even sure if they were intended for release or had been released. Mathias will be able to answer those questions. Sonically, I also tried to not touch anything. Apart from a little EQ and some added reverb here and there, things are just as they were. I was actually rather surprised about the signal to noise ratio. There were only a couple of tracks (mostly the violin) that I have to use some denoising process on”…

Did they have denoising filters back then? Of course not… Is it getting more complicated? Certainly, yes! Mathias Derer who found the audio tracks says about how big the research effort was: “Well, the effort was not small. There is also a difference between Pink Floyd asking the BBC for example, and me asking the BBC for an obscure band called Banging Colours, which only a few people remember. Nevertheless, I have to say that everyone was very helpful and at some point, they were convinced that the band really existed and that I could find something there”… and about the band, Mathias mentions: “I am a music enthusiast and have a great love for psychedelic music, especially for the British one between 1966 and 1969. I also read a lot about that period, and that’s when I came across the name Banging Colours from time to time, including that of Manny Wolfe. And then at some point, it simply happened by chance that I met Manny personally. I asked him a lot of questions, his story fascinated me, he, in turn, learned that I am an author. So one thing led to another. I urged him to write his life story and offered to help him. And that is what we are doing together right now. His life is definitely worth telling. But after a short time, we both felt that the music had to be made audible again. After all, Manny’s life is mainly about music. So I set out on a search – with a letter of recommendation from Manny”…

So, Manny exists… And of course, there’s this London-based writer and blogger who wrote the liner notes, Dann Chinn: … I don’t remember hearing anything about them before”… and about the restoring of the music: “… while Markus has done a wonderful job restoring the music (and Lee Fletcher’s mastering is also great), people will have read in Markus’ interview that he didn’t actually have to do very much in terms of processing or remixing, and a lot of his contribution involved knowing when not to do anything unnecessary! Banging Colours had a real stroke of luck back in their day in that they worked with some truly wonderful engineers”… “Sometimes when I’m listening to some old ‘60s recordings, even by quite celebrated bands, it sounds like hackwork… it’s tinny and flat, and it feels as if I have to imagine half of the magic. It’s like trying to read a book when the only copy you have is some dog-eared second-hand copy with stained pages and a fusty smell. With Banging Colours, on the other hand, it all sounds great. Whoever was behind the recording desk at each of those sessions was a bit of an unsung hero. There’s not much in the engineering that’s particularly flashy, but in every case, the engineer was dedicated to getting the sound recorded well. That matters”…

“…truly wonderful engineers…” Yes, if you are The Beatles and recording “Sgt Pepper”… So, it seems that Banging Colours were extremely lucky with the sound engineers… Hmmm… With all of the engineers? Because from what I read in the booklet they recorded an album in 1967 (which somehow got stalled, they re-recorded half of the album in 1968 and they recorded half of a new record in 1969. So, at least 3 different recording sessions in a period of 2-3 years. Such a real stroke of luck? Hmmm… But, no luck at all with a contract with a label…

And there’s this guy who did the artwork. Bernhard Wöstheinrich, a German painter and multimedia artist, composer and musician. He designed the layout and spent a lot of time with the original graphics by Wes H. Bernatt. Bernhard says: “The biggest challenge was to preserve the original feeling and the impression of Wes’ drawings and layouts”…

Who is Wes H. Bernatt? I can’t find any info on him!

So… some of you may think that this is of no importance. Yes, you’re right. But, from my point of view, I need to know when this is recorded. And because of the ‘general’ Sounding, I have my doubts… Is it a new recording? An old one? Knowing this, I can appreciate or not appreciate. It’s important for me to know. When reviewing something, an album or a song, the first thing I do is to place the recording in the timeframe, so I can figure out influences, inspirations etc…

Is my intuition wrong? Maybe…

Is this a well-hidden secret that just came up? Maybe…

Are all of these so god damn perfectly set up? Maybe…

Are Banging Colours truly underrated Pioneers of British Psychedelia? My opinion is that if these recordings are from the 60s then YES, ABSOLUTELY YES, Banging Colours are underrated Pioneers of British Psychedelia… If these are original 60s recordings then Banging Colours rightfully deserve to enter the Pantheon of British Underground Psych of the 60s. One way or another, I think, time will tell…

So, with all these in mind let’s have a few words about this double set CD release and the 20 tracks…

“The Love And Fun Brigade (Full Stereo)” (6:27min), it’s typical British ’67-’68 Psych, with a kind of ‘acoustic medieval’ psychedelic instrumental middle section, a track in which someone can witness shades of early Prog, a song that by alone can stand next to the greatest Singles by the likes of Nirvana, Kaleidoscope, July and so on… “Evaporation Of Linearity” (9:04min) is an instrumental tune that develops an unbelievable Psychedelic motive while the band unfolds a lysergically colourful cloak, simultaneously flirting with Prog but also giving an amazingly fresh “freak” sense! The whole track acts as a British Psych experimental studio-jam with a free-jazz spirit, a mix of Beefheart/Dead feel, becoming dark, creepy with a hippy-like improvisational touch, it seems that a New Chapter in 60s Brit Psych is going to open really soon!!! From now on, on every track I keep asking myself “is this from ‘67-’69 period?”“If God’s A Fly” (10:41min) develops a strong hallucinogenic stoned musical background while the singer is not singing, he just speaks and laughs. Uncle Frank knows… I may call this Freak-Prog! There’s an intense flirt with the other Kaleidoscope, the ones from America. The keys though, are Manzarek oriented… It’s A Beautiful Day, is here too… Or maybe is because of that ‘cursed’ violin’ that my mind projects pictures of L.A. bands… Wow! “Tapestry Puzzle” (4:48min) is another instrumental with one of the best mind-blowing bass lines you’ve heard for a long time now! The keys are haunted and prolific, Pink Floyd’s presence is all over, Lucifer Sam is here too (not his ghost, I want to believe). The song acts as a magnificent and cool Prog tune of the mid-70s, but hell no! It’s from the late 60s! Right? F@ck! Everything is spinning… Everything is turning… Everything has been liquefied… “Primrose Hill” (5:38min) is an acoustic song, filled with a piano melody and diacritical violin, emerging a nostalgic, sentimental feeling… How it is possible for a succeeded enough band of the 90s (The Verve) to have based their sound on an UNRELEASED track from the Sixties? Another Paradox! “Ivica” (5:41min) it’s another instrumental that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to fit it inside this specific time-frame! To my knowledge, nothing quite similar has ever recorded /released back then! A dark late-night LSD drenched Psychedelic tune with some creepy flute, some toxic keys, some melting bass, and some stoned violin…What am I listening to? … “Waves” (6:30min) is an acoustic ballad, full of melancholy, waves, and violin, it brings to mind some of the greatest Rock ballads of Hard Rock bands of the 70s, but hey, it’s from the 60s! “The Letter” (5:24min) is mystical and trippy, an eerie tune that acts like a long-lost track of The Devil Anvils or maybe of The Orkustra… “Toward The Great Oneness” (5:40min) is another kind of a strange balladesque song, imagine Nick Cave performing with It’s A Beautiful Day…If this one was released back then, I’m pretty sure that Nick Cave would have mentioned it among his influences… What the f@ck I’m writing here? More Paradoxes… “Magic Theatre” (6:35min) has a kind of a theatrical psychedelic approach, what a brilliant song full of mind-blowing ideas! Is this a “Dark Side Of The Moon” approach on a ballad song? Definitely, not a 60s recording!!!

What follows is the Mono version of “The Love And Fun Brigade (Mono Single)” (2:54min), though it’s 3:50min shorter, it does not miss that amazing magical aura of the Stereo longer version. The next 5 tracks are entitled “Gustav Metzger Improv I, II, III, IV, V”, these are experimental improvisational tunes, full of Psychedelic musical patterns, expressing of what was going on inside composer’s mind… The next three ones, “Radio Session Improv I, II, III” are much different from the previous series of improvisations. There’s the voice of a Radio DJ announcing the band (hmmm…) and believe me these are the cleanest ever live-radio recordings that I heard from the 60s era (hmmm, again…)… These ones act like a long jam, free-flowing, and high floating with plenty of Mind Substances all over, Jazz is here too. These ideas can easily and sufficiently feed more than 100 albums by nowadays bands!!! The album closes with the 19:22min “Fool’s Parsley In Pills”, dark, creepy, trippy, psychedelic with one of the most fascinating haunted Farfisa sounds I heard for ages! And then, there’s that violin sound, coming straight out of the 7 Levels of Hell! This is West Coast Psychedelia played and revisioned in Swinging London! Why no one had done this before? Why? The band improvises like there’s no tomorrow, I can’t believe my ears! Slowly, the band is getting away, becoming terribly creepy and extremely Far-Out… Terror! All over! It feels like entering the darkest corridors of your mind… I can only imagine people’s reactions during a live at UFO, or Middle Earth and combined with their massive trippy druggy liquid light show… Oh, God! It could be one of the Ultimate Psychedelic Experiences…

Deep inside me, I want to be wrong. I want this release to be the junction between the West Coast scene and the British Underground of the 60s. I want to refer to Banging Colours’ music by saying “imagine Zappa being a Londoner and active member of Banging Colours” or by saying “think of Syd being a Hasbury inhabitant and his band Banging Colours playing the Matrix”… I want to place Banging Colours ahead of their time! I really want to… Can I? Well, time will tell my friends, time will tell… TimeLord Michalis

 

Tracklist

1 The Love And Fun Brigade (Full Stereo) 6:27
2 Evaporation Of Linearity 9:04
3 If God’s A Fly 10:41
4 Tapestry Puzzle 4:48
5 Primrose Hill 5:38
6 Ivica 5:41
7 Waves 6:30
8 The Letter 5:24
9 Toward The Great Oneness 5:40
10 Magic Theatre 6:35
11 The Love And Fun Brigade (Mono Single) 2:54
12 Gustav Metzger Improv I 1:36
13 Gustav Metzger Improv II 1:28
14 Gustav Metzger Improv III 3:07
15 Gustav Metzger Improv IV 1:14
16 Gustav Metzger Improv V 2:23
17 Radio Session Improv I 5:01
18 Radio Session Improv II 4:54
19 Radio Session Improv III 6:29
20 Fool’s Parsley In Pills 19:22

 

 

Listen / By through Banging Colours Bandcamp

For more info visit Banging Colours Facebook

 

 

 

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