Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Ron Geesin
A Raise Of Eyebrows


Released 1967 on Transatlantic
Reviewed by achuma, 16/02/2006ce


Ah, Ron Geesin. What a weird and loveable Scottish talent. He’s not Brion Gysin, Burroughs’ mate, as some people occasionally get confused about. He’s generally known only for his collaborations with Pink Floyd on ‘Atom Heart Mother’ and Roger Waters on the 1970 soundtrack to ‘The Body’, but his solo albums (at least the ones that I’ve heard) are little-discussed gems that, in my opinion, surpass these collaborations in creativity and general strangeness. The first of these was ‘A Raise of Eyebrows’ (although his first solo release was the privately-pressed EP ‘Mr. Mayor Stomp Your Head’ in 1965, containing piano solos, and he’d released some EPs with his first band, Original Downtown Syncopators Jazz Band), also the first stereo release on Transatlantic. And listening to this, you could almost believe that stereo was conceived purely so that Geesin could mess around with sound more effectively.
The liner notes to this album gave a pretty good idea of where Geesin is coming from. “Ron Geesin makes music that is not like any other music. He uses words, sounds, music, electronics and other people, in fact everything that is to hand. Ron Geesin is a new and startling experience. Ron Geesin fits into no existing category or neat pigeon hole. He and his sound creations are of next year not this. Ron Geesin has a loud voice with a Scots accent. Many of Ron Geesin’s compositions are improvised. Most people don’t know what to make of Ron Geesin. Some are bewildered, some excited. Ron Geesin intrigues and involves you.” The cover is great too in a kitschy kind of way, with stock-psychedelic lettering and a photo showing the young Geesin looking like a maths teacher, sitting on a stool in his studio. Nothing mind-blowing, but enough to get you thinking that this album may well contain some interesting sonic tinkering – or if that doesn’t come off, maybe just some bad folk instead, at the other extreme. There’s no bad folk to be found here though, and plenty of off-kilter tinkering, so don’t fear. The reverse features a white-lined drawing on red showing Geesin with microphone in hand, rising genie-like out of his ‘red machine’, a red petrol can he used for jug-blowing (or, as Geesin has put it, “the ancient Black art of jug-blowing”!).

‘A Raise Of Eyebrows’ [2:16] opens the album with shattering crockery and the disturbed giggling laughter of a right nutter, getting more and more multi-tracked, panned and crazy, collapsing midway with a big crash and segueing to weird gargling and blubbering noises over a radio sports broadcast, before another crash and an upper-crust voice telling us all deadpan “there are bricks in your garden, go and throw them at your neighbours...”
‘Freedom For Four Voices And Me’ [2:25] has Geesin groaning and singing to himself in pre-language sounds as though he’s just woken up from a huge bender on glue and paint thinner, as weird and funny chants emerge forming a choir of nitrous oxide crazed barbers over which Geesin scats nuttily and wordlessly, now more (or less) conscious.
‘Psychedelia’ [1:08] consists of crazed organ fiddling (keep your minds out of the gutter now, folks), settling quickly into a repeated motif and silly monologue consisting of all sorts of semi-connected lines and finishing with “Humans pulsate! (where?) Somewhere else...”
‘Positives’ [2:15] is another bizarre disconnected monologue in Geesin’s distinctive Scottish voice, warbling with comedy although you can’t really pick what’s so funny about what he’s saying – perhaps that it’s just so juxtaposed and odd, holding together despite being apparently meaningless, delivered in an amiable lilt, and humorous due to kooky bamboozlement rather than the presence of a punch-line. Who knows if there’s any reasoning behind this jumble of mad poesy? But who cares, it’s fascinating to listen to.
‘It’s All Very, You Know’ [5:37] opens with unsettled jangling and throbbing piano stabbings, suddenly morphing into a crazy bebop routine (still just piano) before getting all dramatic and tense like a silent film musical accompaniment hinting that something unexpected and possibly scary is about to happen, then collapsing into seemingly random improvised plonks and fractured mini-melodies, though still holding a degree of tension and sparse drama, and finally returning to a rollicking up-tempo finale and fading to a gentle ending.
‘A Female!’ [0:22] is a short poem recited dramatically – “A female walk-ed down the street, her knees were bare, her ankles neat, her eyes did flash with false preparations, but in her head...” and ending almost embarrassed – “well, I didn’t manage to finish that line, but I daresay she wouldn’t have been able to, either...”
‘Certainly Random’ [2:49] opens with improvised banjo ruminations, soon joined by a weird clucking and cooing voice as though emulating some small farmyard animal on good drugs, as the banjo picks up a thread and jams with it, going into a tune joined with wordless lunatic scat singing that sounds like a demented old lady who doesn’t remember how to speak any language, but has great fun just making funny noises in (and out of) tune.
‘The Eye That Nearly Saw’ [4:29] begins as a solemn slow beat and unsettled quiet droning groans that grow and become nearly recognisable, perhaps as a slowed-down snore or animal grunt, sounding like a heavily-doped dinosaur or some other large beast lying on the ground and drooling over itself as it lurks on the very cusp of a coma. Soon this recedes and a free-form piano enters, though sounding more harpsichordish, then echo effects are added with sounds now bouncing all around, and the groans and slow thud beat return and disappear. The intoxicated treated piano ramblings take over as some drunken bum you’ve never seen before walks out of your bathroom, muttering and dribbling curses you can’t understand and leaving a trail of dank debris as he walks down the hall and out your open front door. ‘Two Fifteen String Guitars For Nice People’ [2:28] consists of freeform acoustic guitar explorations, with resonant attacks inside a piano occasionally sending discordant vibrations across the mix. The two guitars intertwine and spindle away, descending to a close.
‘From An Electric Train’ [3:23] has a discordant organ drone with another nonsensical monologue, and the organ soon takes off on a semi-coherent gothic interlude before Geesin delivers some more lines – “people are burning their souls in their fires, from out of their chimneys comes smoke... TV is burning their eyes and their brain, brown bricks crumble, and the people? They collapse...” The organ dominates again, going more nuts and freeform this time. “Mother gives sweeties to Robert! Will he throw himself on the railway line? Father’s not puzzled, four pints he’s just guzzled, and Robert’s not his, anyway!” Closing on a more extended and together organ improv, the track fades out on a final drone and a mischievous single light note reminding you not to take any of it seriously.
‘A World Of Too Much Sound’ [2:07] begins with fractured electric guitar spinning fucked-up webs like those famous spiders doped up on caffeine, as a croaky old voice requests “oh, talk to me, guitar!” and the music descends into a nutjob fast dance at an old folk’s home as a demented old crone skronks away with her vocal cords, then fading out for a brief monologue. The dance continues as Geesin blows on his ‘red machine’, sounding halfway between a jug and a kazoo. “Throb your guts out... Pound the strings! Pound the microphone diaphragm, pound your mother when you get home!”. The dance stops and a crazed Salvation Army coot enters banging a tinny drum, as Geesin squawks demands of “louder! louder!”, and the Salvo slips and falls into a rubbish bin with a clatter. “Not loud enough!” is Geesin’s judgement. He sighs “another hundred pounds gone, on a more powerful amplifier...”. “Where’s it gone” he asks himself in a different voice. “To the manufacturer of course, to make more powerful amplifiers, to make more powerful amplifiers, to make more powerful amplifiers...” etc. ad infinitum, fading and finishing with a tropical banjo theme that’s then gone, too.
‘Another Female!’ [0:06] is just one short poem, “Trot trot old lady, how was your body in the bath, or were you just disgusted?” ‘We’re All Going To Liverpool’ [3:57] is more freeform piano dramatics, interspersed with another crazy monologue, this time about train travel in some way but soon extending to bizarre existentialist ponderings and more seemingly meaningless disconnected ramblings. Suddenly Geesin spots a heart running down the road, and a crazed chase begins, until having to stop for traffic and, instantly forgetting about the blood-pumping organ on the run, returning to the public transport-related babbling.
‘Ha! Ha! But Reasonable’ [1:37] closes the album with a jaunty and nutso good time romp led by piano and harmonica, and again sounding improvised except for the start and end. And that is the end to a quirky and unusual listening experience.

After this Geesin collaborated with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters, as well as releasing his ‘Electrosound’ on the KPM library music label in 1972, consisting of short vignettes of weird electronic sound sculptures each with its own feel. The following year he released ‘As He Stands’, for which see the separate review. Both ‘A Raise of Eyebrows’ and ‘As He Stands’ were reissued together on one CD by See For Miles in 1995, but I believe it’s no longer in print, so if you’re interested in checking these albums out it’s probably best to grab a copy without hesitation if you get the chance.


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