Tuesday, June 17, 2008

by Brian Andrew Marek #2

Quintessence "Self + Indweller" 1972

Okay, so I roll differently. Even in the company of prog-heads, psych-freaks and low-fi obsessives, I'm the weirdo. Y'see, I'm just discovering Quintessence, the late '60's - early '70's British group that managed to bring together psychedelia, prog-rock, fusion, chanting, and high octane jamming with a highly spiritual agenda - predominantly Krishna/Hindu in nature, but with more than a little lip service to Buddha, Jesus, and the like as well. Anyway, conventional wisdom has it that Quintessence's last album, "Indweller", was the worst of the lot - yet I find it fascinating me the most.

I think it started with the cover. Even before hearing the music, I had a gut feeling I'd like it. Later research revealed that "indweller" is an actual word, a noun indicating (roughly) the higher spirit that dwells within a person, but when I saw that claustrophobic, fish-eye lens portrait of the band in a small room, I took it to mean "shut-ins with musical instruments" - which suited me just fine, and still does, thank you very much, because that's what my (admittedly imaginative and suggestible) ears hear on this disc.

With its shakey, fragile vocals (the lead vocalist for the rest of their career had split before this album, as I understand it), low-key atmosphere and rapidly changing music styles (not to mention the predominance of very short and very long songs), this feels like a well-recording analogue of some lo-fi four-track weirdo's basement doodlings. You get Soft-Machine-gets-really-stoned jams ("Indweller"), acid-soaked spirituality ("Jesus My Life"), and, every now and then, something just plain beautiful ("It's All the Same"). I love it.

My copy came to me as part of "Self + Indweller", a CD repackaging of Quintessence's last two albums. A quick glance suggests that this CD is missing one track from the original vinyl "Indweller" - so I may have to go searching if I want the full story. The other album on the disc, "Self", is a fine listen in its own right (although the lyrics of "Wonders of the Universe" actually succeed in making me wince where the other devotionals had failed), especially the live half, which sounds like what the Grateful Dead would sound like live if they were fun, interesting and enjoyable.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always been a huge fan of Quintessence and 'Indweller' is the one album I have not been able to find so thank you very much. Used to see them often in the early 70s, at Essex University a couple of times (I think!). They gave free concerts and were far out. You either love or hate from what I have heard from reviews over the years. MF

18 June, 2008 01:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sad bu--er...

18 June, 2008 07:52  
Blogger Klausberg said...

Congratulations for the good job in your extraordinary blog.
Wouldyou mind repost Quintessence in another server?
Unfortunately Megaupload blocks downloads from brasil and I think in the whole South America, so, altough you posted very gently these records we, that lives here could not get them.
Thank you, again, for the music you kindly share with us.

18 June, 2008 08:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megaupload seems to block Asia too. I don't think I've ever managed to download anything from it.

Nice post, though.

18 June, 2008 21:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really appreciate the hard work you put into maintaining his superb blog which surely provides so many people with so much pleasure. Thank you, thank you, thank you from London.

19 June, 2008 15:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know if the 'sad bu..er' is said in jest or is just childish spite? That said, 'Indweller' is aweful! Any other Quintessence is fine, but this was very disappointing. MF

20 June, 2008 01:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quintessence were a damn good band,listen to Dive Deep,In Blissful Company,superb albums.Thanks for bringing them to other peoples attention. Gordon Angel,SCOTLAND.

26 June, 2008 05:45  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I may justify my love...

Having absorbed the full catalog of Quintessence more thoroughly since my original post, I can certainly understand why some people would dislike "Indweller", but mostly because it sounds (and feels) so unlike what came before. In other words, I consider it simply different, not inferior, and perhaps even difficult to fairly compare to the other albums.

"Indweller" would have a better reputation if it had been released under a completely different band name. For that matter, if "Indweller" was an obscure labor of love by four unknowns in some basement, I bet some of you would be praising it to the high heavens!

P.S. Does anybody have that Kala (I think that's the name) album done by the guys who left before "Indweller"? I've never run across it...

29 June, 2008 01:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


30 June, 2008 06:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gordon: Absolutely!

30 June, 2008 21:43  
Blogger Tall J said...

Thanks for this.

Does anybody have stuff from Phil "Shiva" Jones first band Unknown Blues? Veryinterested in finding some of that.

Thank you.

26 August, 2008 23:20  

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