Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Brainticket - Celestial Ocean

Celestial Ocean

Released 1973 on RCA
Reviewed by aether, 06/10/2012ce

Brainticket – Celestial Ocean

Joel Vandroogenbroek was one forward-thinking Ur-cat! How could he not be with a name like that? And Brainticket was definitely his baby. A loose amalgamation of multi-national musicians, the band moulded a beautifully languorous cosmic-rock masterpiece with Celestial Ocean (1973). Ostensibly a progressive act, this LP in particular betrays a heavily psychedelic flavouring and an impressive disregard for overly virtuosic performances, championing instead, mood, atmosphere and a pan-national interest in world music(s) with a cosmic rock sound. Although based in Italy the vibe of this LP has more in keeping, then, with French and German rock of the early seventies. Bands that they share distinct affinities with include Mythos, Can, Pulsar, Floyd, Amon Dull II, Hawkwind, Cluster, Kraftwerk, Ash Ra Tempel and Kingdom Come.

Abstract sounds abound: wobbling percussive devices, stroked and patted drum skins, and out of the formless patter emerges – like some giant space slug – a slow, wavering, thick, slimy moog riff. It’s a great line, funky even with a great swagger to it. Warm organs vamp in the spaces as a huge flute line blows across the sound field like a great cosmic wind deity. Whispering male and hypnotised (& hypnotising) female voices talk of remembering “a vision…space and time…” and so on. And still the bass line swaggers on until the listener is sucked up into undulating waves of sitar and a forming-of-the-earth flute – More female voices: “Awaken fantasy…all is past, all is the same, the passage of time…” and other mystic utterances. These are Gnostic emissaries from a time before time! Sitar and flute start a joyous dance, as if celebrating the alignment of some major star grouping. Elongated stretches of organ form underneath centring all along your main chakric energy point – like a huge bolt of sunlight up your spine. Only Don Cherry’s humbling “The Queen of Tung Ting Lake” or Popol Vuh’s “Vuh” strikes at the soul so immediately and affectively as this.

“Era of Technology” leads off amidst chattering moog oscillations, throbbing robotic orders from the vocalists and mucho percussion before breaking down into abstract wisps of sound and French commands from the Captain. Along with massed ranks of loose drums (like 4 Jaki Liebzeits thrown into a washing machine) with yet more electronic SFX that throb and pulse. Building and subsiding, the track leads into a solemnly thrummed bass guitar (akin to Sand’s Golem) and mediaeval flute with a beautifully vulnerable whispered vocal singing along, as organs and harp glissandi chime along.

Side 2 starts amidst twinkling wood chimes and another of Vandroogenbroeck’s great throbbing bass lines – a fat Kraftwerkian underlay against which some great tense moog notes form, giving the track a proto-John Carpenter type feel. A cuica is rubbed frantically and the multiple moog notes fight for space flowing around and amidst the woozy sonic space, like surfing space ships circling each other. It’s a great warm analogue sound, all sparkling, sub-sonic analogue riffs and accompanying sheets of organ harmony and almost dub-like deep percussion. This provides the base upon which more spoken cosmic poetry in the Rosi Mueller tradition is delivered in English as male voices speak what sounds like the same in French and German.

This leads into another great floating-within-the-cosmos, zero-gravity tracks – “Cosmic Wind” - all tinkling percussion, becalming flutes and the thrumming of loose-stringed harps and zithers. The track is extremely meditative and peaceful without being over-sweet or over-ripened. The track picks up a little direction as a bass is repeatedly struck, before finally settling in a healing pool of blissful Nirvana.

A lone piano serenades the listener as a karmic spool of sun-dappled notes is gradually unthreaded, similar to Magma’s great “Coltrane Sundia” or Don Cherry’s “Hope.” Warm electric guitar joins in, great swollen rivulets of molten arpeggio, until the track picks up into a sort of classically-inspired spirited Jarrett-like dance, before coming to an end amidst struck piano strings and a final sequenced synthesiser riff, accompanied by shooting, whooshing noises and vocals whispering…Egyptian Kings!

Another Internet scribe noted that Brainticket’s music could be “the perfect sonic companion for your lava lamp.” They could have a point. Drink deeply of this liquid Space Rock!

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