When you hear something perfect, you want it to last forever. It doesn’t work that way. The most beautiful things in life are ephemeral. Levitation was a perfect example. It was formed Terry Bickers, the emotionally fragile but brilliant guitarist from House of Love. Levitation didn’t last long, but during its brief existence, the band created some incredible music.
Mysterious and powerful, their music was a combination of Madchester, psych and progressive rock. From all acounts, and a few Youtube vids, they had a hell of a live show. I wish I could’ve been there in person.
I discovered Levitation in a box of mixtapes and other cassettes a friend passed along as he made the move to the compact disk and decided to free up some space.
Coterie was the first to grab my attention. It completely captivated me. My friend had recorded it on one side of a cassette, with House of Love’s Babe Rainbow on the other side (another very good album). I remember thinking as I played it on my Walkman for the third or fourth time, “This blows Dark Side of the Moon out of the water!” I’ve backed off a little bit since then — I will always love Pink Floyd, and DSOTM is a classic — but Coterie and Need for Not are also classics in my book. And they all the more powerful because they were hidden from me for so long.
Interesting that I instantly thought of Coterie as a classic album, because it isn’t exactly a proper album. It contains songs from the band’s first EP, plus some live songs and B sides. Yet in my mind it almost comes across as a concept album, very coherent.
Need for Not took a little longer to get my attention, but when it did, it was like being struck by lightning. I suddenly couldn’t get enough of it. Because it’s fully a studio album it is at the same time less intimate but more intense than Coterie. It feels a lot more like a rock ‘n’ roll album. Both albums are out of print but affordable used CDs can be found via private sellers on Amazon and sometimes turn up in used CD stores as well. Definitely worth purchasing.
I love every song on the Need for Not, but I think “Pieces of Mary” really demonstrates Levitation’s sound. It just keeps rising and rising, like an out of body experience.
Levitation released another album, Meanwhile Gardens, after Bickers left. There’s another version of the album with some of Bickers’ work on it. The official version was only released in Australia and is a collectors item that I coveted for years. I finally got hold of an mp3 version from a hardcore Levitation fan and frankly was glad I didn’t pay top dollar for the physical copy. It has a few bright spots — a couple of good psych-prog songs and some experiments with ambient — but isn’t in the same league as Need for Not or Coterie. The magic was there for a time, then it went away.
Terry Bickers later made up with Guy Chadwick and rejoined the House of Love. The other members of Levitation went on to form a band called Dark Star. Haven’t heard them yet, but I’ve read enough good reviews to make me curious. I will at some point.
Other post-Levitation projects include:
Dragons, featuring drummer Dave Francolini.
Mikrokosmos, solo project of guitarist Christian (Bic) Hayes who was tour guitarist for Pet Shop Boys for a while.
Milk and Honey Band, featuyring Levitation keyboard player Robert White.
Bassist Laurence O’Keefe has toured with Martina Topley-Bird
In addition to recording and touring with House of Love, Bickers formed a group with Caroline Tree called Cradle.
Here is a song from the unreleased version of Meanwhile Gardens featuring Terry Bickers. Gives you an idea what could’ve been if things had held together for a bit longer:
There is a nice long thread about Levitation in the Spiritualized forum. It’s informative and makes a nice read. I got some of my info from the thread.