Julian Cope presents Head Heritage


Released 1975 on Cosmic Couriers
Reviewed by gogmagog, 18/04/2008ce

Mythos - Dreamlab (1975 - Cosmic Couriers)

Often passed over in space-rock circles for the more renown German artists, such as Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream, Stephen Kaske’s troupe of merrily out-there space-rockers hit a truly interstellar peak with this gorgeous 1975 offering for Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser’s cultish Cosmic Couriers label. After their 1971 self-titled debut for Ohr, nothing much was to be heard from Mythos until Dreamlab four years later. On this LP Kaske pitted Jethro Tull-in-space flute-rock, alongside the more fluid, loose-limbed, kosmiche stylings of bands like Ash Ra Tempel (specifically Join Inn/Inventions-period), and, maybe, Walter Wegmuller’s Ash Ra-assisted Tarot (1972). Despite subsequent attempts at the mainstream rock market, the group would never reach such stellar peaks of crystal-clear clarity as they did on this little space-rock gem.

“Dedicated to Wernher von Braun” begins as Robby Luizaga’s echoed-bass octaves lollop into the mix, Kaske’s slithery guitars seemingly seeping out of every pore of this formative space-bass architecture. Gradually, the guitars becomes more prominent: myriad cascading melodies of gentle chromium rain, falling and dancing all around, and echoing contentedly as only the German’s know how. Very much in the Gottsching/Reichel/Schickert’s vein of cosmic echoplex rumblings, Kaske’s delicate, feathery guitar has a lyrical quality arguably absent in much of the aforementioned artist’s work. The groove here is more akin to energised globules of oily sound wobbling around some viscous sonic ether - indeed, for a more accurate comparison one might turn to France’s Verto (particularly “Strato” from their Krig/Volubilis (1975) LP - see Achuma’s and my own HeadHeritage review). It appears as if time itself has been stretched out specifically for this track, only to be rearranged into some eternal Moebius curve of ritualistic and trance-like repetition; in fact, this track could be the perfect soundtrack for the space-scapes of John Carpenter’s gloriously stoned sci-fi mediation, Dark Star - pulsing, throbbing, and eternally adrift. But no doubt the drugs begin to wear off (albeit momentarily), as Luizaga’s bass begins to pick up pace, and Kaske’s snake-like riffs burst into action, endlessly circling and intertwining with one another (just like the naked sci-fi lovers in designer, Peter Geitner’s fascinatingly Aubrey Beardsley-like cover art for the LP). Drummer Hans-Jurgen Putz taps contently on his cymbal in the middle distance as, gradually, things fall away until we are left again with only the throbbing bass octaves. - Moebius curve indeed!!!

Cosmic wafts of wind and other sundry electronic ruminations introduce Side One’s two-part, mini-epic “Message” - free-form drum rolls and crazily-blown flute erupt into a frenzied wail, as the glutinous synthesisers gurgle out in response. Out of this aural melee, a more relaxed flute sings out a minor-key refrain, whilst Herr Putz thrashes his cymbals in a vicious Roger-Waters-in-Live-at-Pompeii fashion. Then the tune arrives proper; a jaunty Jethro Tull-like riff (only transplanted to the spectral hinterlands of the outer cosmos) heralding a typically earnest Germanised vocal (in English):

The first expedition we sent to Earth,
Never returned to Sirius.
Our ancestors got a last message:
“We’re stranded planet No 3!”

(Aaaah, the seventies, you gotta love’em!). Corny lyrics aside, there is something endearingly appealing about Mythos’ bare-minimum orchestration and simple musicality. In the same way as Steamhammer’s classic “Penumbra” or T2’s side-long, “Morning,” the music of Kaske et al. charms via a naïve musicality - never over-complicating a song for the sake of it, despite their obvious skill as musicians. Yes, its hard not to chuckle at Kaske’s gawky vocals; luckily he keeps them to a minimum, and expresses himself instead via his chugging cosmi-blues, Eddie Hazel-like solos and echoed-out flute histrionics. The flute-n-bass dance some more as further ominous lyrical portents of interstellar travel and distant suns are uttered - until side one’s closing track: the marvellous “Expeditions.”

“Expeditions” is a true highlight - picked acoustics and flute dance along the horizon, a real slow burning cosmic shuffle, the stroked harmonics of Kaske’s acoustic forming a thin veil across the slightly Egyptian-sounding flute chirrups. Another earnest vocal and the tune steps up a gear as a very Gilmour-like solo dominates the track. This track brings the band’s more folky aspects to the fore with a sound reminiscent of fellow German space-folkies Emtidi, or hippie-mediaevalists, Parzival. Here, the ‘Sternmadchen’ (Star Maiden), Gille Lettmann, provides ghostly backing vocals - a frosty and yearning abstract wail, only just audible in this serene musical space, but, like a chill distant northern wind, it still manages to permeate everything. As the song fades, a rather sinister repeated riff appears: vibes and clipped guitar plonking away in a rather monotonous, but still fascinating, childlike manner, strangely akin to Genesis’ deadly contagious “The Waiting Room/Evil Jam” - i.e. the sort of tune to score a group of strange toys coming alive in a dimly-lit room at dusk. Grosses Wasser-period Cluster would have got a full-side out of this hymn-to-retardation, but, unfortunately, Mythos only have about 40 seconds of this first side left, and this charmingly sinister tune is, sadly, cut short.

Happily, Side Two ups the kosmiche ante even further! It begins with “Mythalgia” (I had a feeling that would flag up for spelling!!) - fizzing, popping Klaus Sculzie-sisers, and a minimalist propulsive guitar riff, urge us ever on with this psychic journey into the heart of Mythos’ strangely alien muse. And just like the mad piping of Lovecraft’s fat, formless, idiot-god Azathoth, Kaske’s flute flowers - albeit it in a largely stuttering and farting fashion - out of this infernal musical engine. A grit-ridden Mellotron adjoins the tune, asserting an icy backdrop, until the music is seemingly sucked into a nearby black hole - the keyboards groan - and a percussive and very Tull-like flute riff appears for the start of the title-track, the 3-part epic “Dreamlab”

As more synths are fired around the stereo (or quadro-) star-field, glooping and squeaking out their analogue distress, a robust flute riff doubled by the drums and a great wobbly early UFO-like bass-line heralds the first part: “EchoPhase” - Kaske’s breathy flute tones puts one in mind of Kraftwerk’s great, proto-trance monster “Ruckzuck” (only with more ability). The flute playing on this LP - (and there is a lot of it) sounds great - a kind of weird amalgam of Paul Horn and Nik Turner’s Xitintoday that renders most of the top-line melodies. More surfing moog sounds enter the affray, as the bass and drums enter into some bizarre courtship ritual, on and on the dance goes, and even the synths are starting to sound weary (almost, by the end, like puppet character Sweep after running the London Marathon).

A loud gong chimes the beginning of bassist Luizaga’s beautiful Bert Jansch-on-Saturn acoustic piece - all warped acoustic arpeggios, and slow mating call type noises from the synths - of course, Kaske cannot keep his gob away from his flute for longer than two minutes - and more peaceful flute-serenades join the song - its an unnervingly blissful piece - a slow dramatic waltz-like flit through the outer stratosphere. Not sure when this track becomes the next track, “Going to Meet My Lady,” but the pace quickens towards the end, with a long flute solo that rises and rises, until falling down the same black hole that birthed this mini-masterpiece in the first place. More Paul Horn-like flute-grunts finish the track, echoing off unto the dawn of time itself, until a final long drawn out rumble from the band finishes it off finally.

Closer, “Eternity” is a more orthodox-sounding Tull-like stroll through Saxony-in-Space - the only way any band with such Tull-like inclinations as Mythos could sound, when recorded at Studio Dierks by someone called Toby “Mad Twiddler” Robinson. More progressive rock hoedown, than icey kosmiche exploration, this last track sees the return of Kaske’s dreaded vocal talents, albeit serenaded by some of the most out-there, phased drum-sounds you’ll ever here - Luizaga playing something called a “Moog Drum.”

“Eternity is calling for you…don’t you hear it?” Kaske laments. Well, if you don’t, you probably haven’t got this space-prog monster in your collection - something all lovers of quality German 70s music should put right immediately. In a beautiful show of ritualistic circularity - right at the very end, we hear distant rumbling of Side Two’s opener Mythalgia - something which emphasises the sublime eternal drift-and-bliss of this offering from above!

Reviews Index