Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Various Artists - The Brain Eaters Volume One: British Psychedelic Rave 1989 ~ 92

Various Artists
The Brain Eaters Volume One: British Psychedelic Rave 1989 ~ 92

Released 2008 on Secret Psychedelic Society (SPS003)
Reviewed by mr happening, 27/01/2009ce

1 Third Wave - Arabian Sugar
2 Lords Of Acid - Hey Ho!
3 Apollo 440 - Blackout
4 Smart Systems - The Creator
5 Flag - Wonderful Day
6 Earth Leakage Trip - Virtuality
7 Eon - Spice
8 Perfect Masters - Raving Mental
9 Mental Collapse - Glide
10 Synaesthesia - Feel The Dream
11 Mind Over Rhythm - Kubital Footstorm
12 Man Machine - Robot Kingdom
13 Cyanide 45 - Deep Thrust Telescopic Probe
14 Smart Systems - Tingler
15 Eon - Electromagnetic Waves

“The SPS attempts to rehabilitate rave on an unsuspecting and unwilling public.
Hardcore drug noise with a beat... Breakbeat Techno pop from the future… Aural acid architecture…Strobes on stun, lasers on lacerate and colours speak in tongues. Strange alien squawks and squiggles saturate your receptors as your ego dissolves into dayglo slithering goo.
Your brain has been eaten, you have seen God and everything is love.”

So blurts the spiel on the SPS “press release” that came with this CD. The SPS stands for the Secret Psychedelic Society apparently, who are all set to subvert the culture from uptight and puritanical to permissive and naughty, although quite how they plan to achieve this is left somewhat hanging. Considering the makers of this CD are attempting some sort of cultural coup, there is precious little info about this on the net, or anywhere else for that matter. So quite who is selling this, for how much and where to get it remain a bit of a mystery, or indeed a secret. The sleeve notes claim that almost half the limited edition of 99 copies will be placed in charity shops while the rest will be sold through an ‘underground network’. Quite how South Shields flea market (where I picked my copy up) fits into this subterranean counter-cultural network is beyond me.

So this CD trawls the murky and choppy waters of early 90s Hardcore Rave/ Techno and exposes some of the weirder, more imaginative and psychedelic examples. I like it, but I was a fan of this stuff anyway and I doubt this will convert any but perhaps the most adventurous psych fans with the “modern electronic dance psychedelia” angle. Then again, maybe this will be seen as the Choc Soup of Rave in years to come.

Some of this stuff actually isn’t too far from German early 70s Cosmische Musik, or the electronic psych of Fifty Foot Hose, USA or Silver Apples. Comparisons between the early 90s and late 60s were quite common at the time, with the Acid House summers of ’88 and ’89 both being referred to as second summers of love. But while both eras initially surfed in on waves of hallucinogen-fuelled optimism for a brave new future, there was little cultural backwash of political activism during the rave era. It didn’t want to change society so much as be left alone to party and take vast amounts of substances.

What the rave era did achieve to a degree was a genuine disruption of socially constructed barriers that the psychedelic era barely touched. Class, race, gender and even football allegiances became blissfully unimportant to loved-up youths on the dance floor and plenty of E, as music played from the latest white labels made by anonymous producers. And while the use of hallucinogens was confined to elite bohemian enclaves in the psychedelic era, everyone was on one in the rave era, from public school double-barreled aristocrats to sink estate hoodlums. There were estimates that 1 million people were taking LSD or Ecstasy, or both, every week at the height of the rave era in ‘91/ ‘92, while a survey conducted in the early 70s suggested the total number of people who had tried LSD in the UK up to that point was only around 500,000.

Musically both Psychedelia and early Rave attempted to transport the listener to higher and stranger realms, utilizing novel melodic progressions, studio trickery and sound effects to curdle craniums. But no matter how idealistic or committed to the cause late 60s psychedelic bands may have been, they were inevitably restrained, restricted and compromised by the same market forces that controlled the ‘straight’ pop of the day. There were very few independents and major labels demanded radio play, singles sales and mainstream popularity from all their artists. Mainstream popularity was not an issue for most Rave producers, who could press up a few hundred white labels of their tune for underground DJs and have enough to pay for their drugs and produce the next tune. Some Rave did achieve mainstream success and even made the upper reaches of the charts of course, but these tended to be the cheesier end of the spectrum and were generally dismissed by hardcore ravers as ‘sell-outs’.

This CD is neither a ‘Best of Rave’, nor a collection of mega rarities. It actually covers a fair chunk of stylistic ground and if we want to get petty about genre definition, as electronic music buffs tend to, the Third Wave track is probably Acid House and Lords of Acid are New Beat and from Belgium. The rest would fit into a broadly Hardcore/ Techno bag though.

Standouts for me are Flag’s “Wonderful Day”, which is surprisingly melodic and actually steals a vocal sample from a hoary old Anthony Newley early 60s soundtrack. Bizarre and beautiful. The two offerings from Eon are classics and still sound quite mad today. Cyanide 45 weigh in with the one genuine rarity in the collection and it’s easy to see why it fetches big sums. Smart Systems, a Future Sound of London Hardcore alias, contribute two tracks, the first of which is brilliantly warped trippy Techno and the second probably an acquired taste. Other highlights are Mental Collapse’s floaty and stoned “Glide” and Earth Leakage Trip’s otherworldly “Virtuality”.

Overall this is an interesting attempt to gather in some varied and imaginative sounds from a thoroughly reviled genre and a somewhat forgotten time. These tracks would no doubt sound much better in a massive warehouse at deafening volume with accompanying light show on top quality E or LSD, but they still sound pretty good without, and for those looking for new druggy sonic thrills, this may be just the pill to swallow, if you can unlock the secret and find a copy.

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