Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Ron Geesin
As He Stands

Released 1973 on Ron Geesin private label
Reviewed by achuma, 16/02/2006ce

Geesin’s second solo album (though not counting his first ‘Electrosound’ album released on the KPM library music label in 1972) ‘As He Stands’ was his first release on his own label. It followed in similar footsteps to its predecessor, ‘A Raise Of Eyebrows’ (see separate review), playing like a ‘part 2’ successor, but was even better and more sonically evolved.
The cover is a simple black & white photo of a now bearded Geesin sitting on a wooden fence in the country – as well as several disembodied looning faces floating above the treeline – with lettering that makes it look like a Pam Ayres record! Which it very much is not! Well, hey, I used to think Pam Ayres was pretty cool when I was a little kid (younger readers and those in many non-Anglophile countries probably don’t know who the hell I’m talking about), but that’s another world altogether.

‘Ha! Ha! But Reasonable’ [1:37] begins the album with a jaunty harmonica and piano trip down memory lane, with a bent twist, seemingly ending with the piano getting all tense and the harmonica just fucking around, before picking up again for one last swing. ‘Roll ‘Em, Bowl ‘Em – In Three Movements’ [3:05] unfolds as a robotic synth pulse takes step by step and a bright synth melody plays out over the top for a minute or so, before an acoustic guitar/theremin-like synth doodle duet takes over, with wind sounds swelling in the background, and we’re walking through a misty graveyard at night in a tacky b-movie, before a minute later this too gives way to a weird heavily reverbed guitar and upright bass tropical waltz, stumbling into a kitsch Hawaiian resort ballroom in a hazy evening with your head still reeling from the effects of the timewarp beam.
‘Duet For Two And Street Market’ [2:47] gives a lot away in the title, as a drunken old man with memories of the 30’s sings haplessly in a street market, before an odd two-way ‘conversation’ takes over in nasal, upper-crust comedy voices. An example – “Step aside so I can see through you.” “Step inside, so I can saw through YOU.” “Your buttons come out green, that will never do. They will have to be drilled out on my bench to come out another colour.” “No, those buttons could be converted into coins, that could provide free parking space for me and you.” etc. etc., weirder and weirder, before the first voice gets an attack of the old Alzheimer’s... “My g-god fffathers ffflip ffizz fforsooth! Shh shhshhugar! French balloons!” and then regaining some sense of wacky ‘normalcy’ to conclude the talk as a puttering old car pulls up and pulls away again.
‘On-Through-Out-Up’ [2:37] is all backwards ringing echoed multi-tracked piano drama, zinging into both ears and jittering and bouncing around in your skull, some of the piano tracks treated and sounding like synth stabbings... well, maybe it is synth! Regardless of the source, this is a really interesting piece in the sonic textures that are achieved.
‘Waiting For Life’ [1:18] is an unaccompanied monologue – “The twitchy, pulsing, hairy MAL-formed thing, that wriggled on the waiting-room floor, sniffed and slobbered, with its tongue protruding intermittently in truly obscene suggestions. The male half of its owner, who had a similar mouth and eyes, flicked ash from his cigarette, remarkably close to its bulbous eyes, and barked orders at it, to cover the sound of ash on eyeball. It snuffled loudly, like trying to propel record-sized bogeys a record distance. Its female owner had a funny hat on, but this was no doubt from a reputable milliner’s. She started to kiss the hairy thing with her long nose. This made the bogey projections much more violent, and then, quieter, as the sound was taken over with grinding teeth, and paw-on-floor scraping. The pet, domestic, loveable dog, was loved, domestically, and loveably, and they all lived together, discussing the unreliability of the weather, and the public transport.”
‘The Middle Of Whose Night?’ [2:29] opens with film-score tension and intrigue, violas and sax creating a feeling of creeping stealthily through shrubs around a night festival in some middle-eastern clime which is actually the set of a 1940’s MGM film behind a Californian sand dune, before quasi-operatic she-male vocals ease in and the tone of the music gets more romantic though still exotic in a mannered old black & white movie way, as a greater variety of stringed instruments – sounds like violin and cello – set up a meandering and highly pleasing chamber music scenario under the wordless singing. Then ‘Wrap A Keyboard Round A Plant’ [3:18] seeps out of the cracks with backwards industrial sounds throbbing and all sorts of weird processed and fucked-up emanations springing, leaping and gurgling from the speakers like taffy-stretching on mescaline, and before long a piano is in there too, shuddering out a dramatic improvisation over the seething maelstrom of audio fun.
‘Twist And Knit For Two Guitars’ [2:25] does indeed consist of two acoustic guitars spinning up an unusual, fractured duet that sounds both improvised and carefully planned out note for note. Most likely is that Geesin improvised one track flawlessy, then planned out what he’d play to accompany it on the second track, which must have been difficult considering the complex abstract structure of this brief piece. Experimental without resorting to any special audio magic, just the guitars going strange places, like a couple of speedy termites in constant 2-way radio contact boring their separate but intersecting paths through your head.
‘Up Above My Heart’ [2:02] is another bizarre piece of retro sentimentality for music hall good-time cheezpleez from earlier last century, with the usual jaunty piano joined by a vocal and organ chorus that sounds as though it’s reverbing in from some gospel church hall on the other side of the galaxy courtesy of Sun Ra. The following ‘A Cymbal And Much Electronics’ [2:40] is, like it says, various whacking and attacking of a cymbal heavily processed electronically (and presumably through tape manipulation as well, to nit-pick, though I guess that’s ‘electronic’ too), with lots of knife-edge stereo panning and bizarro mixing, to create a thoroughly tripped-out soundscape reminiscent of some of Ligeti’s early electronic stuff, as well as Subotnick and Xenakis, but perhaps even more of a total head-fuck compressed into a few minutes.
‘To Roger Waters Wherever You Are’ [3:01] sets a bleak scene on a moor somewhere with howling, freezing wind blowing in both ears as a muttering Scotsman tries desperately to start a crackling fire to warm himself by. The success of the fire-creation is signalled both by joyous cries from the Scotsman and a growing swell of insectoid electronic drones carpeted by rows of winding, wiggling discordant synth tones that make me feel like I’ve got a gutful of intestinal worms eating up my insides, before passing through the other end as the man laments that he’s “burnt the hairs of ma legs”.
‘Mr. Peugeot’s Trot’ [1:12] feels like the soundtrack to a short animated 50’s educational film, as weirdly shuddering notes from a falling-apart old organ produce a kitsch, non-threatening sci-fi throb of a backing to a happy little melody on electric piano. Hmm, I feel lerned afta that!
‘Upon Composition’ [2:59] drips into the speakers with an expansive reverbed gong stroke, as a strange wandering synth melody stumbles around below the surface of a murky pond, imagining it’s exploring the ocean floor, whilst jittery guitar lays out a counterpoint and Geesin lets off with another characteristic monologue, before it crossfades to a cheesy ship of synth floating through, fading out again to the last bit of an argument and some drunken crashes of cymbals and laughter. Different themes keep drifting into view and drifting away again some short seconds later, and the monologue continues throughout, though in connection with the musical comings and goings rather than just being recited over the top regardless. It ends with a mad rush of treated vocal babble, ringing phones and things being knocked over in an office, and a haughty, tight-lipped man ticks us off for intruding – “I do wish people would realise when I’m engaged in composition!”
‘Concrete Line Up’ [2:22] begins with a two-chord synth throb, sounding kinda more late 70’s than early 70’s, as layer upon layer of almost-cheesy synth goodness is piped out as a melodic topping. This really isn’t too far away from some Cluster. ‘Rise Up Sebastian!’ [2:27] is a nutty exposition featuring a human who sounds like he thinks he’s a rooster attempting avant-garde vocalising, with guitar strumming dramatically over his demented crowings, alternating with a bizarre two-voice disconnected dialogue that sounds like one half is played out in a resonant church by a totally mad clergyman, the other perhaps in a field somewhere by a more reasonable loon. ‘Looming View’ [2:02] naturally looms into view with treated organ and synth sluggishly oozing along like some towering gelatinous worm-beast escaped from an old Dr. Who set.
‘Can’t You Stop That Thing?’ [2:40] closes the album with another jaunty, madcap ragtime duet in Hawaii 70 years ago, this time between banjo and acoustic guitar, making sure you finish this singularly odd musical experience with a silly grin on your face. Near the end a very English upper-crust voice begins calling out from the background, “excuse me! Can you stop? Just hold on a minute... Hey! HEY! Can’t you stop that thing?” as he walks into the foreground, clearly thinking he hasn’t been heard. “Oh no, no, it’ll take at least another 300 years...” old man Geesin replies, before the whole piece dwindles out on a dramatic final trill.

Geesin didn’t stop here, but continued to crank out occasional library records (such as ‘Electrosound Vol.2’ on KPM in 1975) and ‘proper’ solo albums, such as the excellent ‘Right Through’, which is covered in a separate review. If you’ve read the previous review for Geesin’s debut ‘A Raise Of Eyebrows’, you’ll know that this album, ‘As He Stands’, was reissued by See For Miles on 1 CD together with the debut album. It’s now hard to get, so if you think you’d like this sort of thing it’d be a good idea to grab a copy without hesitation should you see it somewhere for a reasonable price.

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