Rob Thomsett - Yaraandoo

Rob Thomsett

Released 1975 on Kubernete/Kabali - Roundtable Re
Reviewed by aether, 28/12/2011ce

Rob Thomsett - Yaraandoo - The Legend of the Southern Cross (1975 -Kubernete/ Kabali Music - private pressing of 100 copies). Now reissued by Roundtable Records.

Yet another of those early-to-mid-seventies, "forming of the earth" conceptual song cycles to put alongside such psych-folk-/world-jazz monsters as Lula Cortez and Ze Ramahlo's Paebiru (1975), Code 3's Planet of Man (1973), Sergius Golowin's Lord Krishna Von Golocka (1972). It is also seems rather close in its general feel to the second Arica LP: Heaven (1973).

Infused with a deeply mystical feel, this LP covers a number of generic tropes; styistic components that - despite the sometimes arbitrary nature of the edits - never seem incongruous. With a tag line cover sticker description describing the LP thusly: "The 40,000 year old sound of Antediluvian Aborigonal Folklore channeled through mellotron, moog and tape delay", this is bound to resonate with HH'ers.

However, this LP offers more than that, taking in impressionistic hazy instrumental jazz (possibly its overall/general stylistic mode), muscular fusion moves, solo mellotron pieces as heavenly as anything Beethoven or Handel ever concocted, extremely loose-limbed ethno-fusion soundscapes of the Don Cherry/Pharoah Sanders variety, film soundtracks (Wakabout comes to mind), and electronic (BBC Radiophonic-type) experimentalism.

It is, to whit, an Lp of hair-raising, soul-searching beauty - with an overall dreamy, hazy quality that perhaps could only be written by an Australian fully conversant with the "Dreamtime" cultural feel for the myths and legends of the Outback.

An extremey limited (a privately-pressed release of 100 copies in early 75'), lo-fidelity, 2-track recording, the first thing that strikes me about Yaraandoo... is the sad fact that such a talented musician was obviously - at the time - without proper funding for the project, a fact made only too clear by the overly-short length of the record (15 mins per side) and the way pieces of music, some literally astonishing in their aesthetic power, are arbitrarily faded out - sometimes after only seconds of exposure. This should have been one of those seventies conceptual monster-doubles! Given this, and the short nature of the LP, a track by track description is warranted.

Thomset and his fellow musicians (about six of them in all) bring together a huge array of instruments - guitars, bass, tenor sax, percussion, piano, Mellotron, Moog, Arp synths, congas, clarinet, glockenspiel, silver and bamboo flutes, auto-harp and tape-recorders, the timbral variety of the LP is extremey wide - a whole range of sounds. The Lo-fi nature of the recording also arguably adds to the immpresionistic mesh of sound.

Side One [Note: I'm not oversure I've got exactly when each track finishes correct, given the random edits and numerous abrupt changes in pace/mood].

"Baiame" begins the LP with tentatively patted free-jazz drums and distant washes of mellotron on the horizon - as bass, guitar and bamboo flute join in, the loose, loose groove gives it a feel akin to Don Cherry's early seventies corpus (or maybe 68's Mu Lps). Slowly - out of the formless patter, the next track, a slow paced instrumental forms -

"Moulding of the Red Earth" - rolling mercurial guitar arpeggios and finely chopped & muted jazz chords form a foundation against which ethnic futes dance wildly, as hazy mellotrons continue to punctuate this impressionistic soundscape, like the heat of a midday sun. It has a dry, fusion like roll to it, with jazzy scrapes of guitar.

"Nameless Children" continues - as simplistic percussive devices are struck - it has a Sowiesoso-era Cluster-like waddle to it. Synths wheezing and woozing as the cut-off &resosnance filters are opened and closed - a groovy bass begins as sparks of moog or Arp begin to fizz and sizzle - like sparks flying of the rotating bass. Its an incredible groove - which unbelievably fades out after just 10 or so seconds. Criminal! Why couldn't someone fund this guy for a double LP - many of these tracks - not least this one - are obviously meant to continue longer than their final mastering times.

"Drought - Killing" - is formed from a melodic glockenspiel and earnest flutes - similar to some of Pharoah Sanders more ethnic soundscapes (Thembi-era). Its beguiingly beautiful in its humbling simplicity - sonically it points to Thomsett's skill as a guitarist also, as rolling chords of acoustic and electric guitar merge in and out of the overall mesh of sound.

"Killing" begins amid stern timpani, rattled percussion and the slowly emerging hum of electronic sound waves. An atmospheric Delia Derbyshire-type piece of tuned percussion and early seventies synths. An low end farting synth rumble and screams of discontent end this piece. And its back to the main melody of "Drought".

"New Life - Refusal" - begins with a more together-sounding jazz-rock skronk - Mike Russel's tenor sax in particular impressing with a spiritually informed performance. This is a more muscular jazz rock groove - accompanied by a hearty rhythm section performance and some proggish time-changes etc.

"Shadow of Yaraan" finsihes the side with a mournful guitar elegy. Part David Gilmour/part Carlos Santanna - great streaks of creamy sounding guitar are thrown in relief to the rhythms underpinning it - more huge open-ending, jazz rock arpeggios - a slow, Mahavishnu type accompaniment.

Side two

A Lonesome flute and lightly struck wood chimes and bells starts
"Yowi - The Spirit of Death" - an ethno-jazz 'sounding of the spirits of the land.' Again, Blue Lake-era Don Cherry comes to mind - an extremely loose groove with more than a flavour of ECM ethno-fusion (despite preceding Colin Walcott's and Codona's LPs for that label by a number of years).

Flight of Yaraan - begins amidst huge jazz arpeggio chords slowly unfurling - joined with wooden flutes, a slow melody begins to form that has a cinematic flavour (some of the more atmospheric parts of Herbie Hancock's Deathwish soundtrack, maybe). The jazz drums are slowly brushed as the flutes continue to lead the way - just when you think the track has come to an end, yet another creeping, hugely tentative chord is introduced and slowy unfurled (like a lotus flower). Again, bass and drums join in, upping the sonic ante somewhat - and a more thorough, stronger jazz-fusion type groove begins - sax lines and slashed guitar feedback appearing and disappearing like threatened bad weather on the horizon. The tension is ramped up further as sax and guitar perform a call and repsonse solo - its the longest and most Rockist track on the LP. And, I'm all the more impressed to find that Thomsett is playing the saxophone on this track as well as the guitar

The next track is an elongated solo foming out of the preceding track and reminds me of the title track from Sesations FIx's Fragments of LIght - as plangent moog notes dance Corea-like over a bumbling bass line.

"Entrance to Warrambol" is perhaps the emotional peak of the LP - a solo, classical-like Mellotron piece that is totally, transcendentally beautiful and, like many tracks on this LP, criminally short.

"Tears of Blood - Endlesss Weeping" is a classic end track - a slow paced, gradually unfurling, Cluster-like, crepuscular groove over which Thomsett's weeping guitar gently cries - in maudlin Steve Hackett like lines. After which, the LP turns to another uncharacteristically dark mood - as klanging discordant pianos and odd electronics circle each other in a general soup of weird sounds.

Endless weeping ends - like a dying sunset - with graceful acoustic picking and flouresecent whistling trance-like percussive devices, resolving on a resonant final and very fulfilling eternal chord.

As holy a sounding piece of music as I've heard in a long time. Well done to the people at Roundtabe for unearthing this and most of all to ROB THOMSETT and Co for creating it in the first place. As the liner notes say: "Welcome to the unearthed, unheard of and undefinable genre of Australian Dreamtime Psych" - a fitting description if ever there was one.

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