Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Archers (a.k.a. The Green Ray)
The Green Ray 12"

Released 1993 on Shagrat Records
Reviewed by gogmagog, 24/09/2008ce

The Archers - The Green Ray 12” (1993)

Readers of my more recent Head Heritage reviews will be aware of my fascination for all things Don Cherry-shaped. However, it came as a complete surprise to me recently that this would become intertwined with another fascination of mine for dreamy, kraut-flavoured, guitar mantras.

Six or seven years ago, long before Cherry-fever had struck, I remember paying a pound for a curious looking record by a band called The Archers. To be honest, it didn’t look anything special (it was only recently I discovered it was a 12inch and not an album), its year of production being 1993, the cover art showing an archer bolting away from one of those classic paintings of that Mount Fuji-type volcano thing you used to see in posh people’s toilets in the eighties.

Having paid my pound, I got home and immediately filed it away for “future listening.” Thus, it was promptly forgotten about. I’m sure at the time I must have thought maybe it was one of those dreadful Ananta-type records (Remember them? Charity shop stalwarts back in the day, I have two LPs by them!!). Also, the label, “Shagrat Records,” certainly reeked of 80’s neo-progressive-ness.

Anyway, cut to 2008 and I’m rearranging my record shelves after liberating some more shelf space. The Archers twelve-inch falls in front of me and my eyes immediately alight on Side One’s track-name “Brown Rice” - checking the brackets I see it is indeed the Cherry track of the same name. Fuck! At first, still unaware of its 12” status, I got incredibly exited thinking I had a full-on 20-minute cover version of Brown Rice. But even as a twelve inch, this is still 6 or 7 minutes of incredibly-chilled, smoky guitar alchemy. Indeed, turns out the band were involved with both Welsh psych-proggers Man, and their spin-off project, The Neutrons. Imagine my surprise to find that ALL three tracks are stoned guitar mantras of the highest order!

Indeed, what is so great about the Archer’s approach to Cherry’s masterpiece of world-fusion is their decision to underplay it. Rather than attempt to ape Cherry’s beguilingly adorned jewel of a track, The Archers have decided to lay themselves wholly at the services of The Groove, retaining that spellbinding 8-note refrain (played here on bass). We have obvious fans of the German underground guitar scene here (and in the pre-“Sampler” days of 1993 as well). Bridging late-Hendrix wah-wah, with nimble, impressively fluid melodic runs of guitar, the vibe here calls to mind the early work of Gila and Popol Vuh guitarist, Conny Veit, with the band distilling Cherry’s tune down to its most magically arcane, alchemical essence. The eight-note groove is festooned with some of the most blissed-out guitar playing I’ve ever heard .

Fans of the early German underground scene - such as Agitation Free, Gila, Carnival-period Duul (specifically Hawknose Harlequin's glorious tail-out), even some Can - will be doubly delighted. Could be Chris Karrer reinterpreting the 1983/Merman side of Electric Ladyland.

Side two has two tracks: the first “Really,” seeps out of the ether - all liquid guitar and fluidly nimble bass runs. Fans of Lunar Dunes supple, groove-led, space-rock will be doubly delighted with this record. A sinewy bass runs nimbly in and around the guitar figures - while bluesy Gilmour shards of molten rock are fired off from all around. Stoned-out to the max - like “Obscured by Clouds” on lithium, man, this is DA SHIT!!!

A nod must got to bassist, Ken Whalley, for his muscular John Wetton-esque runs and rumbloid sound - manna from the under-Earth!!! Drummer brother, Simon Whalley (I guess?) is the perfect foil - a rock solid beat, but with a keen sense of space and groove. The wet echo-laden FX are stunningly manipulated, long drawn out drones of hyper-affect - no showboating here folks (although ALL can play with the best of em’), simply a rock-solid belief in the purity of Sound!! - The guitars keep circling ever upwards and down and up again, perfectly poised - with huge squalls of sustain and fret-noise echoed of its tree.

Last track, “Barking” begins in Schwingungen/“Flowers Must Die” mode briefly, as a scuffed guitar riffs for a few bars, until the huge dubby sound falls in again, creating a kind of sonic weightlessness for the listener. Again, the chromium-liquidities of the guitar playing are second to none. Many similarities to throw at yer - fans of the German sound are not going to be disappointed (Gila, Duul II, Ash Ra), but also latter-day Hendrix, Gilmour, Man, as well as some Ozrics and the aforementioned Lunar Dunes. Most of all though, a fascinating release of the period with much in common would be the Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations track “Eye Am The Sky” from Whirlpool (1991), which has that same dubbed-out space rock sound (although that track is a little more propulsive in style). I bet The Archers/The Green Ray were (are?) great live. A CLASSIC! Recommended without hesitation. And to think a while back I nearly threw it out to create some space!!!

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