March 1994 A4 40 pages
UK ELECTRONICA 1993 Land Of Yrx, Michael Law, Richard
original (last 11 copies)
Example article extract
Few bands that emerged during the 80's have caused as much of a stir as the Ozric Tentacles. A band, who in commercial terms, wouldn't have been expected to break out of the "underground". The success of the "Ozrics" has been due to a number of factors: their single-minded attitude, a heavy gigging schedule that has included many appearances at free festivals, and even more importantly their music - a free-flowing instrumental rock that brings the psychedelic sound of the 70's up to date, with a plethora of ethnic influences, and power-drive rhythms that can whip up a frenzy in a young student audience, otherwise a music that whilst being very progressive is also of very wide appeal.
Of course though, the Ozrics success story is hardly a fly-by-night tale. The story roughly starts in 1982, when a band named Bolshem People was formed by the remnants of various school bands. The core of the group were the brothers Ed Wynne (guitar) and Roly Wynne (bass), joined by Nick van Gelder (drums) and second guitarist Gavin Griffiths. After a year or so of jamming and developing their style, they set off to play at the 1983 Stonehenge Free Festival. It was at this festival that they met Joie Hinton, who'd just returned from a trip to India. Joie had accumulated lots of tape recordings of ethnic music on his travels, which he would play through his battery of synthesizers and effects to create something altogether magical. As they hit it off so well, Joie was invited to join the band. And so, the "Ozric Tentacles" were born, apparently an imaginary breakfast cereal!
As is the case of many bands in their infancy the Ozrics went through numerous personnel changes with up to seven members on some occasions. After a year and a half of heavy gigging (mostly in the London area) guitarist Gavin Griffiths decided he needed more space to try out his own ideas, and as a result he formed the Ullulators. Joie, a musical glutton if ever there was one, stayed with the Ozrics, as well as being involved in the Ullulators, and also the fascinating Oroonies. Joie and Ed also later went on to form the synth duo Nodens Ictus. The influences and musical avenues of the Ozric Tentacles were expanding, the creative juices were flowing and the definitive "Ozrics" sound had been formulated.
In 1985, the need to get some music released resulted in the cassette ERPSONGS, a collection of live and studio recordings by various incarnations of the band. Instantly, the influences behind the Ozric Tentacles' sound revealed themselves: the space tripping sound of Gong and early Steve Hillage, with twittering synths, washes of glissando guitar and effects; there's also hints of Hawkwind and Pink Floyd, as well as touches of jazz fusion and ethnic musics. The fourteen tracks on ERPSONGS cover a lot of ground. The opening Velmwend hurtles head-first at a furious pace, defining the Ozrics sound in 4½ minutes, and tracks like Fast Dots and Spiral Mind are almost blatant rip-offs of the Steve Hillage space-rock sound. Other diversions include two spacey synth tracks, the Ashra BLACKOUTS-like Tidal Otherness and the dub-riffing Thyroid. One track was seemingly recorded without a drummer, Fire Jam though chugs along nicely enough, and it's interesting to witness the instrumental precision against the metronomic rhythm.
Another document of this era is the cleverly titled TANTRIC OBSTACLES cassette, which is also recorded by several different line-ups, at least three tracks by the drummer-less incarnation with rhythm-machine filling in. The opener Og-Ha-Be has since become a concert favourite, as has Sniffing Dog which furiously trundles through a myriad changes. And then there's Trees Of Eternity, almost a re-arrangement of Steve Hillage's Lunar Musick Suite. A touch more mainstream than the first cassette, TANTRIC OBSTACLES thus had wider appeal and apparently sold like hot cakes at gigs!
To further satiate their fans, two more cassettes appeared in 1986. Firstly, there's the live tape LIVE ETHEREAL CEREAL, which alongside some favourites like Erpriff or Og-Ha-Be, also featured some lengthy improvised workouts, and of this period this has to be the hottest, wildest, crazed Ozrics ever released. The next cassette, THERE IS NOTHING, documented their first professional studio recordings. The ability to multi-track and thus eschew every nuance out of every instrument, also gave the rise to much more experimentation, with a wider range of keyboard textures, ethnic and jazzy trips, etc. The Ozrics sound was expanding dramatically.
But, as with virtually all bands, the Ozrics trip was a bumpy one! The nest two years saw a great number of changes. Ed had gone on a trip to Thailand, Merv Pepler replaced Nick van Gelder on drums, and numerous other people came and went. The most notable addition was "Jumping" Jack Egan, the flautist with the Oroonies. As well as expanding the bands instrumentation, his outrageous stage presence gave a new vitality to the music.
It must have been quite confusing when Ed returned to England, with Joie also involved with two other bands, and the Oroonies sound had become almost like a more ethnic esoteric twist on the Ozric Tentacles style. The Oroonies cassette release THE WHALE & THE WIND is certainly highly recommended if you can find it. Whereas the Ullulators tape MONADS OF MANGONIA is more for those who like the reggae/dub side of the Ozrics sound. And also amidst all this jumble of activity, came a cassette from the multi-synth and guitar duo Nodens Ictus. At this time Joie and Ed (so I'm told) often played as support as Nodens Ictus, playing a cosmic synth music notably influenced by the spacey moments of Gong, with also many nods in the direction of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, et al. Their cassette THE GROVE OF SELVES is an excellent album of twitters, sequencers and washes of drifty synth tones.
The new incarnation of the Ozric Tentacles took some time to refine their new formula, but the chemistry was really bubbling, and the 1988 cassette release SLIDING GLIDING WORLDS welded the definitive Ozrics sound into place. Now they could storm the world with a truly astonishing set of music! The addition of John's flute, and a wider range of keyboards, made for a music with a much richer palette, with greater use of Middle-Eastern, Asian and Oriental themes, and a great deal of precision and dynamics, with thunderous show-stoppers like Kick Muck and White Rhino Tea. For me, this is the finest of the Ozrics early cassettes, and was my introduction to the band.
Thus far, any success in gaining the interest of record companies had eluded them. But then came good news from the enterprising small label Demi Monde, owned by Amon Düül/Hawkwind/ Groundhogs bassist Dave Anderson. Dave invited them to his Foel Studios to record a proper album. However, the Ozrics has built up a large batch of tape recordings that remained unreleased, so before committing themselves to a record deal, they compiled their favourite tracks as the cassette THE BITS BETWEEN THE BITS. Generally a lighter and more playful release, it's mostly variations of themes heard on previous releases, with a few surprising new twists, like the strange chug-along Wreltch with its use of unusual vocal effects and Gamelan percussive sounds.
Blim, the creator of Ozrics cassette covers and vivid stage backdrops, now had the opportunity to dazzle with some really vivid cover art. The cover of the LP PUNGENT EFFULGENT featured the picture of a magical fantasy land with a bizarre multi-coloured swirling psychedelic sky, with a strange pixie-like character casting a spell! The album was more-or-less a distillation of all that had gone before, but on a more complex and high-tech level. Old favourites and new compositions showcasing the Ozric Tentacles as one of the finest bands around. However, getting this record out was not a total success, as Demi Monde ran into difficulty when first the Cartel Distribution chain broke up, and then Rough Trade Distribution also folded. Supplies of the album dried up quickly.
Realising that they could probably do the job better themselves, the Ozrics established their own record company "Dovetail Records", a jocular play on images/words with a dovetail joint (i.e. joint as in spliff, herbal tobacco roll-up, etc.) as the logo.
So, ever the ambitious troupe, and kicking off an extensive UK tour, they launched the double album (captured on a single CD) entitled ERPLAND, and also reissued PUNGENT EFFULGENT. The 74 minutes dose of ERPLAND trips out beyond what anyone could have expected, a much richer smoother flowing concoction, with a heady brew of Arabic musics, space-outs and breakneck power-drives, topped off with all manner of strange synth sounds, guitars and flute. Especially mysterious and aptly titled is Mysticum Aribocola, the cavernous acid dub of The Throbbe, and the rarity of an Ozrics "song" in the also dub (or should I say reggae) styled Incense. But mainly ERPLAND is the finest calibre space-music, overflowing with invention.