Banished to a distant star
They could not stand our motorcars
Vanished from our woods and fields
They’re waiting for the air to clear
Power to the pixies
Write down the dreams in your dream
Write down the dreams in your dream
Open your eyes, love has begun
Okay so we’re not in hardcore socio-realistic anarcho-punk territory today and this track definitely isn’t called something like ‘Goon Banker Death Squad’ and doubly definitely isn’t by a bunch of shaven-headed oiks called The Pig Informants – honest. It’s much more fun and it’s called ‘Power to the Pixies’, the band are Circulus and the LP is the wonderfully-titled The Lick on The Tip of an Envelope Yet to be Sent, from 2005 on the ever cool Rise Above Records. I bought it following an article I read about them and their highly interesting main dude Michael Tyack. At the time this bunch of faux-medievalist suspect psychonauts were viewed on the folk scene as something akin to the way The Darkness were viewed in metal circles – effective, but … The fact that like all LPs on Rise Above it was beautifully packaged and was on khaki vinyl, and (all glory to Crom on high!) a bonus track (‘La Rotta’) on the vinyl version only, had no bearing on my decision at all obviously.
I’m pretty ambivalent about folk music in general, and only really like it when it has a 1960’s filter applied, which means I love Bob Dylan, Woody Gutherie, some Fairport Convention, Davey Graham and some of the more traditional Incredible String Band tunes, but that’s about it. But this crew looked like they could be lots of fun and so I dived in.
Musically, I’m about 50/50 on the whole thing. When it’s good such as the ye olde English opener ‘Miri It Is’*, it is excellent, when it isn’t such as the pixie nonsense quoted above, it hurts my brain. ‘Miri It Is’ is a great start, over a folk choral background we get hit with six tons of moog and all manner of recreated medieval instrumentation and Praise God! A TALKIE BIT !! God I love songs with talkie bits in them! The song repeats the first verse in authentic Chaucerian English (miri = merry), which the English Language geek in me loves too.
Other highlights are ‘The Scarecrow’, which manages the feat of being both supremely silly – it’s a story about why scarecrows shouldn’t smoke, and also really rather emotional (‘Don’t burn out before your time’). It’s a neat trick. My two favourites open the second side of the LP, which unfortunately for my money, just descends into twittering doggerel afterwards and they are the brilliant psych-fried, percussively interesting instrumental ‘The Aphid’** and ‘The Swallow’ which is an almost West-Coast sounding pop-folk sung by a guest singer, Marianne Segal. Again, like all minor chord songs do, it pricks my sadness centres like nothing else.
There are some nice instrumentals elsewhere and I’m always a sucker for any record which boasts both a crumhorn and a rausch pfiffer being weilded by a man dressed as a wandering minstrel. Word up. Rather strangely the track, ‘We Are Long Lost’ features the most sustained and gratuitous use of the word ‘bitch’ that I can think of this side of the Geto Boys.
Oh we are long lost bitch, oh we are long lost
Oh we are long lost bitch
This puzzles me. Is this the birth of a gangsta folk? MWA (Minstrels With Attitude)?
So not a glowing endorsement here, but as I said before when this LP is good it is damn, damn fine. Plus I discovered accidentally that if you watch the centre of the LP spinning around for 5 minutes and then look at the over of the LP it pulses and twirls in quite an extraordinary fashion reminiscent of how I imagine a head full of medieval highs would feel. Try it.
* I have a ‘Moog Up Mix’ of it on a single somewhere too, it’s just how I roll.
**unclear whether this is the lament of an exploited and milked aphid in thrall to the ladybirds (ladybugs, for all you trans-Atlantic types).