Tag Archives: Pink Floyd

Hard rocking yet ethereal, short-lived Levitation touched Heaven

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.

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Filed under music, one you might've missed, progressive rock, psych, rock, Uncategorized, video

The death of the album?

A few years ago, my friend offered to download a song his teenage step-daughter liked. When he asked if she wanted the whole album, she said, “What do you mean?” That’s pretty telling. Not only are today’s young people not buying or listening to albums, many of them don’t even understand the concept. The digital age has definitely had a major impact on music. Is it killing music? That’s what the industry would have you believe. Labels and musicians aren’t making the kind of money they used to. I recently came across an article that raises the possibility that what’s actually going on is the return to a singles model: The state of internet music on Youtube, Pandora, iTunes and Facebook.

As illustrated by the chart above, people are still buying music, but appear to be abandoning the album. It looks like the album model that has dominated the music business for the past several decades was an anomaly. If that’s true, is it a bad thing?

I don’t know that it has to be a disaster for the music industry. Popular music has been singles-oriented before. When my mother was a kid, she and her friends didn’t buy albums, they bought 45s and played them over and over. Yet people were able to make a living in the business.

I think the digital age really has changed the way we think of music. And it didn’t just start with Napster and downloading. The seeds were sown when they came up with the compact disc (in a way the industry asked for it by forcing us to switch to another format to squeeze more money out of us). When the CD met the personal computer, people were bound to figure out that an album didn’t have to be a unit any more. A song is a “file” that can be separated from that album, and an album when you get down to it, has become a “folder” or directory.

I’m still not sure what I think about that. Does it mean musicians will just start doing singles? No more coherent themes, no more Dark Side of the Moon or Led Zeppelin 4, no more 2112? The idea bothers me, because I’m a collector. Anytime I find a song I like, I instinctively wonder what album it came from and if I would like it too. Maybe I just have to change my way of thinking and learn to love a good song for its own sake and forget about albums.

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Friends of Dean Martinez capture Southwest’s wide open spaces

I haven’t been out to West Texas in years, but I spent a lot of time there when I was younger. Enough time for its spirit to soak into my bones: wide open spaces, brutal heat and rugged beauty, isolation that can make you lonely or make you feel at peace. It all comes back to me when I listen to Friends of Dean Martinez, an Austin-based instrumental band that was born in the desert city of Tucson, Arizona.

I’ve seen comparisons to Pink Floyd, and I can kind of hear that. I thought of it as a kind of Southwestern postrock in the vein of Godspeed You Black Emperor. A friend of mine told me FODM’s music has weltschmertz, a German word that translates as “world pain.” The closest English equivalent would be pathos. I think that comes pretty close to the mark. It’s beautiful, moving stuff.

The current lineup includes Bill Elm on pedal steel and organ, Andrew Gerfers on drums and Mike Semple on guitar. Elm plays the pedal steel with something called an e-bow, which gives the instrument an ethereal, otherworldly sound very different from the traditional country steel sound. Quite a few other musicians have been part of FODM at one time or another, including drummer John Convertino, who co-founded the group and later became part of Calexico, another group know for its Southwestern ambience.

In this video, the band members talk about the band’s origins, their musical philosophy and some of their projects, including the music they created for a documentary about the Salton Sea (a fascinating subject in itself – look it up).

I listen to them any time I feel caught up in the rat race and my mind needs some wide open spaces. I especially love their cover of “Wichita Lineman,” the Jimmy Webb song made famous by Glen Campbell.

I want to thank Roots Note Music blog for reminding me I needed to write about these guys. The author recently made this post about Robert Randolph — another musician who made me think differently about the pedal steel. I remember I used to dislike the instrument back when I was a country-phobic kid. I thought it sounded like a cat being tortured (I’ve changed my tune on country music quite a bit since then). Randolph turns the pedal steel into a source of incredible funkiness, while Bill Elm of FODM produces dreams. I really love people who can make me enjoy something I used to think I didn’t like.

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Filed under indie, indie rock, music, postrock, psych, Uncategorized, video

Loving the Alien – Little Green Mixtape (or maybe not so little)

As a longtime science fiction buff, I have been very excited by recent news that there could be life on Saturn’s moon Titan. Of course, it’s a lot more likely that it will turn out to be a chemical process (although what is life, really, but a chemical process?), and if there is life, it will most likely be microbial. But I can’t help but think there’s something more substantial out there. Little green men. We might not meet them, but it’s a lot of fun to think about them. A while back I put together a CD-R full of songs about aliens. Kind of in the tradition of the mixtape only a lot bigger. You can get a lot of mp3s on a CD-R. I fudged on the concept here and there — the point was to find songs I liked. I had a lot of fun digging through my CD collection and the Internet and I found the following:

Byrds – Mr. Spaceman
Blue Öyster Cult – E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)
Creedence Clearwater Revival – It Came Out Of The Sky
David Bowie – Starman
David Bowie – Hallo Spaceboy
David Bowie – Loving The Alien
David Bowie – Life On Mars
DJ Spooky – Object Unknown (w/ Kool Keith)
Dr Octagon – halfsharkalligatorhalfman
The Wipers – D-7
Husker Du – Books About UFOs
Babylon Zoo – Spaceman
Dr. Octagon – Aliens
Jefferson Airplane – Have You Seen the Saucers [live]
Jefferson Starship – Home
Jefferson Starship – Have You Seen The Stars Tonite
Jobriath – Space Clown
Jobriath – Morning Star Ship
Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers – Here Come the Martian Martians
Kelly Family – Fell in love with a Alien
The Kinks – Animal Farm
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Starliner
The Meteors – Attack Of The Zorch Men
Misfits – I Turned into a Martian
Patti Smith – Birdland
Pink Fairies – The Pigs Of Uranus
The Pixies – Motorway To Roswell
Radiohead – Subterranean Homesick Alien
The Rezillos – Flying Saucer Attack
Roky Erickson – Creature With The Atom Brain
Roky Erickson – You’re An Unidentified Flying Object
Seu Jorge – Starman
The Wildhearts – Sky Babies
Sheb Wooley – Flying Purple People Eater
Spacemen 3 – Starship
Yellow Magic Orchestra – Cosmic Surfin’
Judas Priest – Freewheel Burning
Styx – Come Sail Away
UFO – Martian Landscape
Billy Thorpe – Children of the Sun
War Of The Worlds – Eve Of The War (Hybrid Mix)
A Flock Of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)
Joe Meek And The Blue Men – I Hear A New World
Split Enz – Poor Boy
A.R. Kane – A Love From Outer Space
The Byrds – C.T.A. – 102
Lustmord – Aldebaran of the Hyades
Fountains Of Wayne – I Want an Alien for Christmas
The Stranglers – Waiting For The Men in Black
Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
The Legendary Pink Dots – The Saucers are Coming
Kaleidoscope – Beacon from Mars
Deep Purple – Space Truckin’
Björk – Earth Intruders (Mark Stent Extended Edit)
Bikini Kill – Alien She
Blondie – Rapture
Boyracer – Area 51 Revisited
The Comsat Angels – Red Planet Revisited
The Comsat Angels – I Come From The Sun
u.f.o. feat. Dee Dee Bridgewater – Flying Saucer
ESG – UFO
Cletro, Eddie – Flying Saucer Boogie
Towa Tei – Mars
Teenagers From Outer Space – Prepare to Possess Earth’s Women
Monster Magnet – Space Lord
Buddy Clinton – Take Me To Your Ladder ( I’ll See Your Leader Later)
Kansas – Nobody’s Home
Scary Bitches – Lesbian Vampyres From Outer Space
The Wildtones – Martian Band
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Buchanan Brothers – (When You See) Those Flying Saucers
Joe Satriani – Surfing with the Alien
Bonzo Dog Band – Beautiful Zelda
Atomic Mosquitos – Alien Roundup
Billy Bragg & Wilco – My Flying Saucer
Creedence Clearwater Revival – It Came Out Of The Sky
Cabaret Voltaire – Venusian Animals
DJ Spooky – The Terran Invasion of Alpha Centauri Year 2794
Dr. Octagon – Aliens
Japan – Alien
Kool Keith – Livin’ Astro
Leonard Nimoy – A Visit To a Sad Planet
Meat Beat Manifesto – Oblivion/Humans
Meat Beat Manifesto – The Tweek
The Residents – You’re a Martian/Home
Robert Gordon – Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll
Sonny Day – Creature From Outer Space
The Ventures – The Fourth Dimension
Twinkeyz – Aliens In Our Midst
Tool – Faaip De Oiad
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Zero From Outer Space
Dane Cook – Abducted
The Telescopes – My Name Is Zardak (Drop Your Weaponz)
The Busters – Space Patrol Orion
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones – Flying Saucer Dudes
The Cramps – Mojo Man From Mars
Devo – Auto Modown/Space Girl Blues
Feathers – space alien blues
Little Walter – Flying Saucer
Perrey-Kingsley – The Little Man from Mars
Placebo – Mars Landing Party
Smokey Wilson – The Man From Mars
Little Shop of Horrors – Mean Green Mother From Outer Space
Butch Paulson – Man from Mars
Cibo Matto – Sci-Fi Wasabi
Add N To (X) – Take Me To Your Leader
Queen – Flash
The Astral Army – Interstellar Shortwave
Aqua Teen Hunger Force – A Typical Mooninite Weekend
Cacogenic Systems – Alien Probe
Hanzel Und Gretyl – Take Me To Your Leader
Tony Mattherhorn – Man From Mars
Neanderthals – Werewolf from outer Space
Ran-Dells – Martian Hop
Leonard Nimoy – Alien
Klaatu – Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft)
Marty Quinn – Genuine UFO Contactee
Mellotones – Flying Saucers
Sam Space & the Cadettes – Take Me To Your Leader Cha Cha
Floyd Robinson – My Little Martian
Jesse Lee Turner – The Little Space Girl
klaatu – the loneliest of creatures
Julian Cope and the Teardrop Explodes – Spacehopper
Jesse Lee Turner – The Little Space Girl
Hermann, Bernard – Klaatu
Brownsville Station – The Martian Boogie
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Third Stone From The Sun
Jamiroquai – Cosmic Girl
Jorge Ben Jor – Space Man (Homem Do Espaco)
Pete Johnson – Death Ray Boogie
Pink Floyd – A Saucerful Of Secrets
Pink Floyd – Let There Be More Light
Pixies – The Happening
The Prodigy – Out Of Space
Robyn Hitchcock – Welcome to Earth
Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 – Adventure Rocket Ship
Slowdive – Souvlaki Space Station
Smashing Pumpkins – Spaceboy
Spacehog – Spacehog
Legendary Pink Dots – Terra Firma Welcome
The Webb Brothers – Beyond The Biosphere

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