Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A to Austr

When you're talking late 1960s British psych, arguably no other band did it better than A-Austr, a bizarre short-lived studio project put together by Holyground label manager Mike Levon and the inhabitants of his spontaneously organized hippie commune, which included Brian Calvert, Chris Coombs, and a young Bill Nelson (who would later achieve huge commercial success with Be-Bop Deluxe). Music on the album ranges from mid-1960s beat to freaked-out psych, glam-rock, proto-punk and even classically influenced proto-prog. The album starts with the melodic "Bird", sounding not unlike US psychsters Head Shop or the poppiest tracks on the first Byzantium album, but also incorporating an unexpected weird mid-section, obviously influenced by the soundtracks to 1950s comedy movies. "Bird" maintains the same crazy vibe all the way through. "Jude" and "Mini" are both catchy melodic tracks with hints to Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles or Something Else-era Kinks. "Thumbquake & Earthscrew" uses some odd sound effects and very primitive overdubs to a fantastic effect. Starting with a weird vocal line, it entangles the listener in a whirlpool of psychedelic reverb. "Between the Road" is on the other hand a raw and unpolished track, full of raunchy garage-like guitar riffs and out-of-tune falsetto vocals, predating the avant-punk sound for nearly a decade (in fact I'm oddly reminded of Pere Ubu here!). "Hawaiian War Chant" stands true to its title - it's their take on tribal psych, and though one can question the success of that short ethnic interlude, it sure sounds wonderful in the context of the album. "Essex Queen (She Dances)" is a relaxed psychedelic track, while "D Minor Minuet" (a brief solo-harpsichord tune) sets up the excellent "A Curse on You", which enriches the simple pop-psych formula with layers of female backing vocals, giving this song once again almost a soundtrack feel. Finally, "Grail Search" first sounds almost like the lost early T-Rex track, but turns into a typical period heavy-blues-rock piece in the chorus.
Overall, this is the amazingly diverse album, one could say maybe embarassingly diverse, but although I had some troubles with it in the beginning, I now come to think it's an absolute masterpiece. Having only a couple less impressive tracks (the extended soft-psych "It's Alright" being the obvious low-point), it can serve as an excellent gateway for anyone willing to dive into the world of British psych.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This music is beautiful. I love Mike Levon. Thanks Lizardson.

22 May, 2007 15:35  
Blogger J Thyme...kind said...

Any chance of a link good buddy? I visit all the time.

22 May, 2007 16:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this A to Austr! Good surpise : diverse music!


23 May, 2007 14:54  
Blogger Colin said...

really great, thanks

28 May, 2007 01:34  
Blogger UK folk junkie said...

Son of Lizard!

28 May, 2007 23:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, I've wanted this one forever but it's always just out of reach it seems.
-Lhasa Crawler

30 May, 2007 12:53  
Blogger Gathering_Of_The_Tribe said...

Brilliant! what a mad stoned album this is,heard of it but never heard it till now!

31 May, 2007 02:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all - Mike Levon here. Thanks for the lovely review. Glad you like it! You can get the CD(s) on my website
if you like :


Cheers, Mike

17 October, 2007 06:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds really interesting, but the link is dead...

26 April, 2008 23:34  
Blogger Diego said...

wonderful record.
love the homemade spirit of it and the beautiful songs.
got this and the astral navigations cd from the holyground site.
mike is a great guy.
cheers from Brazil!

10 September, 2008 21:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hooray! the RS link's alive again!)))))

MILLION THANX Lizardson, son of the Lizard King, yours is the best den around!

MR - (happy)

19 September, 2008 04:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link is dead! :'(

28 February, 2010 19:46  

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