First we have a bit of tootling post-coital sax, then a beat starts, umm, down below, pulsing but totally insistent and then we’re swamped by a female voice, cooing and trilling, whilst orgasmic moaning occurs in the background. To call it a ‘female voice’ doesn’t really do it justice actually. In fact it sounds far more like the end result of a 1000 mad scientists researching the ultimate sex-bot voice modulation program for 1000 years, no woman has ever really sounded like that, it would run contrary to all evolutionary theory – what use is a voice that would cause any male of the species to, umm, ‘miss the flight’ the second he heard it. As Dawkins would saucily put it, it would be an ‘improperly vertiginous mutation’ and the bearer would die out within a generation – hell, maybe she did, but my money is on it belonging to a Supra-Sex Droid 4000 (T4 Executive model).
The track is by Astralasia and it’s called ‘Squatter In The House’ and it wends its merrily raunchy way for 3:40 and it is the reason I own this little compilation called Shamanarchy In The UK from 1992. John Peel played it on his radio show and I was intrigued, amused and hell, even possibly a little excited. Amused because, betraying their roots in the crusty old festival outfit Magic Mushroom Band, Astralasia are singing about squatters – ever met the predominantly hairy, mostly belligerent and genuinely quite intimidating people who squat houses in London? I have and they wouldn’t want to make me coo, trill and fake an O. I think it’s an excellent track this.
The broad thrust of Shamanarchy In The UK is that, as the didactic sleevenotes/manifesto tells us is that the true rave spirit in Britain got driven underground in the early 90’s where a shamanic army of well-intentioned hippy types are taking care of it and will launch their final assault on the ivory towers of Squaredom and reinstate a goddess-worshipping, techno-tipi dwelling eco-culture. To be honest whilst it is all very entertaining if I was being Mr picky here I would say they are a little reticent about the details of their plan, ah well maybe it was a secret. They were very insistent however that, by dancing, ‘a whole generation is getting out of its collective fucking head … and back into its body’.
Cutting through the rhetoric what we get with Shamanarchy In The UK remains a perfect snapshot of a sub-sub-sub culture of the house movement at that time. The police in the UK had cut down the illegal rave scene via the contentious Criminal Justice Act, Spiral Tribe (contributors here) had held one of the last and most contentious free parties at Castlemorton Common in May 1992. For a brief while in the very early 90’s the rave scene was properly anarchic, uncontrolled by the media, the music industry and/or clubs and promoters. I was far too provincial to catch any of it, other than vicariously in print, besides it wasn’t metal enough for me at the time. What happened though was that all the leftover hippies, crusties, anarcho punks and grebos picked up on that spirit, not to mention the unbridled narcotic hedonism of it all and this is what we got.
Musically, it is less interesting than it is as a time capsule. The Astralasia track is ace, there is an excellent track from a collective known as New Age Radio called ‘Eastern Dreaming’, which sounds like a wonderfully atmospheric trawl through an alternate reality Indian radio broadcast, set to a beat. We get further good efforts from the brilliantly named, Knights Of The Occasional Table and Another Green World and everything cruises along on a wave of chilled bonhomie and samples. Until we get to Side 2.
First we get roughed up a bit by Spiral Tribe ‘Breach The Peace’, which isn’t very good but certainly sets up a good jarring effect and I do so love a bit of swearing*. That’s the highpoint as there are some real dogs to be found here and the award for the most doggiest goes to Fraser Clark & The Evolution House ‘Band Give Us Back Our Planet’. Fraser was the brains behind Evolution Records and a real mover and shaker in these circles, he was no vocalist though and his repetition of various eco truisms over a forgettable backing track is really damn poor, sorry Fraser.
The whole thing is packaged in some really evocative artwork by Jamie Reid**, although Keith Haring should sue for misappropriation of his figures and the manifesto and sketches of all the participants are great too.
Mostly one for the minor-cultural-movements of the early 90’s file. Whether their shaman-anarchy, became mere sham-anarchy is another story entirely, but for now we can look back on Shamanarchy In The UK.
*lots of ‘make some fucking noise’ here
**of Sex Pistols fame, giving the Shamanarchy / Anarchy thing a certain circularity.