The song straddles over six minutes, a fabulous Rubenesque hand-maiden trying to stay in a pair of tight-fit jeans.
I think, by way of introduction, a transcription of the sleeve notes would not go amiss, just to give you an idea of the beast you will encounter once you listen to this lp for the first time. Here goes;
"The Serpents played: acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic theremin, balalaika, bass, bodhran, shanter, doepfer a-100 expanded modular synth, drums, dulcimer, electronic toys, farfisa and hammond organs, french horn, glockenspiel, harmonica, harmonium, harp, hohner cembalet, jew's harp, l.i.f.e., mandolin, marimba, moog, percussion, piano, pedal steel guitar, pneumatic drill, psalter, polystyrene, rainstick, recorder, roland sh-101, sh-09 and tr-606, sitar, speak and music, speak and write, treble and tenor stylophones, tibetan singing bowl, trumpet, violin, vocoder, watkins copycats, wine glasses and all sang. Recorded at Bryn Derwen and the Gossamer Dome... Preliminary and location recordings at Llingwy burial chamber, Hen Capel vault, Din Lligwy hut group, Bryn Derwen grounds and well, Flowers brewery cellars, Cheltenham, The Palace of Culture, Menai Bridge and the Gossamer Dome, Ynys Mon."
Bloody hell. It's also got a cast of 34 people including the Bunnymen's Will Sergeant, Super Furries' Gruff Rhys and The Wild Swans' Paul Simpson on it, as well as "3 unknown musicians and Merlin Zol".
You can guess that the music sets itself up to be way out there, and 99% of the time it succeeds utterly. A freakout recording in the style of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, or Amon Duul 2's Yeti and Phallus Dei, it's an incredibly exhausting listen, but worth it.
Things start very sedately with the Neu!-esque opener, Flowers in the Cellar; dripping water and a slow drumbeat set up a beautiful and very mournful guitar, (and I'm pretty sure, after twenty-odd years' experience of listening to the Bunnymen, that it's Will Sergeant playing), that in turn allows a big synth chorus to blossom in a very melancholy way. It really is an incense-laden punt downstream in Victorian clothing. There's no doubt of that. In total contrast the second track Bricweithiau Borth Wen is all thumps and pulsating drumming, reminiscent again of Klaus Dinger, this time in his La Dusseldorf guise. Guitar and synths create sitar effects, (it sounds like a sitar; I can't be sure, maybe its just Will S again up to more guitar magicke) that give tone and emphasis to the beat.
Y Cwpwardd Lluwchwynt is a child's voice sampled over some synth burn-out that leads into And So the Ice Melts which is a sonorous and very female pagan lament, reminiscent in turn of Gong's Space Whisper vocal style. The track glides about like a drugged dragonfly above a still pool before coming gently to rest. Seirff's Up starts in a cacophony of voices, three people telling different stories all at once over a grumbling primaeval backdrop of low wobbly synth and recorder (and who knows what else).
Things rumble on like this for a while before various synth noises bubble up from the swamp and allow a gradual drum beat to be established, that propels things into a monotone moog refrain that, in turn, kicks off the following track Dusted. Glockenspiels make a brief appearance before giving way to the synth and bass combination that starts Heulog. A beautiful (if rather druggy) female voice establishes itself over the bubbling synth noises, underpinning a long langurous song filled with hazy effects and pattering drumming. Things speed up half way through, lending a pretty epic feel to proceedings.
Three Shards of Time is, in contrast a much more menacing affair. A very stentorian beat is set down, and a walking bass part with the synths lends a Remain In Light Talking Heads feel (in fact very similar to The Overload). However, all similarities end there, as the female witch incantations asking for (amongst othe things), "three shades of reality" give this piece a very un-New Wave feel... Once again the song quickly fades into the mist. Map of Itch is much softer and lent a beautiful, almost choral poignancy by the pedal steel guitar and the bells. Laughter permeates the background. Screch Llysywen is another short track, this time a male voice summons up another incantation in Welsh over an acoustic backing (made all the more by a quietly squealing synth noise).
Tape Hiss is a brilliant mess, noises and trumpet (apparently played by Gruff Rhys's brother) are offset by a brilliant guitar part that effectively holds everything together – just. The song straddles over six minutes, a fabulous Rubenesque hand-maiden trying to stay in a pair of tight-fit jeans. I thank all that is good and right that I haven't heard this track under the influence of any narcotics. Lunatic Tester is a pastoral affair that is again messy, though beautifully so. Gossamer threads of acoustic ad pedal steel guitar create a pattern that is offset by various stories to be narrated over. I get the feeling that these stories are not nice at all but, as with all the spoken word bits on this album, its very hard to discern what is being said. Dyn Gwiail is like Fleetwood Mac or Sandy Denny on bad acid, jaunty and hippies dancing self-consciously in a field way... Oh, and the annoyingly brilliant synth riff from Autobahn makes the occasional appearance too. It's great fun and very outre, if not a bit twee.
As the Sun Goes Down, the 13 minute epic closing track starts (as all 13 minute tracks should) in a cacophony of sitars guitars and violins that, of course, take an age to settle down. Soon, a roland synth (or maybe its a moog, its certainly very Popol Vuh) brings an unearthly calm to the proceedings. You really chart Cluster/Tangerine Dream territory for a good five minutes before a very drugged and posh female voice starts talking about insects and ghosts of machines. Then its back to the moogs which are, by now, floating around the earth before coming softly to land again.
Listening to it again in these angular times is well worth it, it is silly irreverent and charming, something I feel is missing right now in music. Well worth checking out.