Saturday, 11 July 2009

Strange Daze '97

It’s a curious thing, but this double disc of bands from the original Strange Daze spacerock festival, held in Sherman, New York is a historic representation of a seminal moment in the development of the US spacerock scene and yet fails in its endeavour to chronicle that event through a total lack of information on its in-lay and liner notes. For though it contains some of the key bands of the era (Red Giant, Quarkspace, F/i, ST37, and Alien Planetscapes amongst them), their inclusion on the first disc seems to be treated as little more than hors d’eouvres for the inevitable appearance of Hawkwind (whose appearance at Strange Daze that weekend marked their first ever open-air festival show in America). Browsing the accompanying booklet, I find that “Disc Two Features Hawkwind” and how “Disc 2 was conceived as a sort of “Cosmic Trip” through the Strange Daze spacerock festival.” But I looked and I looked again, and nowhere did I see a proper running order for the first disc, or more than the scantest of detail (band names and song titles, not in any particular sequence) of the artists included. A visit to distributor Voiceprint’s web page suggests that it “presents the bands on disc one in chronological order as they appeared at the festival.” Which is not much more help than the booklet itself, frankly. I just see that as a huge shame, since some of the bands included are still recording and releasing material today and others have previous CDs still available. Compilations like this are a part of the oxygen of publicity that the scene needs and warrants, and to reissue this previously out-of-print collection without taking the chance to deliver a modest boost to those bands with a bit of biographical data and links, and to not even detail track-by-track which bands you are listening to at which point, is a real pity.

Anyway, I dug around on the Internet and turned up this track listing for disc one:

1.Awakening (Gaia Avatara)
2.Rooms Of Shord (Red Giant)
3.Green Acid (Nucleon)
4.New Arrival (ST 37)
5.Holographic Caves (Architectural Metaphor)
6.Evanwalker P.I.M (FI)
7.Laminate My Organ Donor Card (Bionaut)
8.Pre Millennium Transmissions (Freak Element)
9.Harbour Of Infinity (Melting Euthoria)
10.Burning Inside (Born To Go)
11.Faerienot Space(Quarkspace)
12.Soft Martian (Alien Planetscapes)
13.The Stream (Drumplay)

Now, to be fair, like any developing scene it’s a mix of enthusiasm over ability combined with genuine talent so there’s some roughness around the edges but it is great to see this set getting a reissue because the festival itself is rightly looked back on as a cornerstone of the US-arm of spacerock. It was a real coming together of the like-minded and a chance for those bands involved to take confidence from elevating themselves to the same bill as Hawkwind and Nik Turner, pivotal figures in the genre’s creation, and those that had already reached a certain level, most notably Far Flung.

Disc Two then is described, as I note someone doing on Amazon, as a ‘stream of consciousness’ with cut-ups, extracts and further tracks. Here again, the listener is left to do some detective work as to who is playing and what is actually being played, and my Windows Media Player came up with an incorrect listing (I was amused to see the Hawkwind tracks falling over completely as being by ‘Unknown Artist’, though it has to be said that the Nik Turner & Far Flung tracks were assigned to the wrong artists as well). I dipped in to what WMP reckoned was ‘Burning Inside’ by Born to Go, for example, to discover a really good number by Nick Riff’s Freak Element called ‘Vagabond’, at least if this Internet listing is correct:

1. Intro 0:20
2. (Gaia Avatara) Sunrise 1:22
3. (Nucleon) Green Acid 2:15
4. (ST37) Translunar Injection 3:47
5. (F/i) Evan Walker P.I.M. 1:09
6. (Red Giant) Rooms of Shord 0:43
7. (Far Flung with Nik Turner) 25,000 Feet Per Second 5:16
8. (Far Flung with Nik Turner) /Soul Herder 1:05
9. (Far Flung with Nik Turner) /Opa Loka 3:33
10. (Bionaut) Re-Laminate my organ donor card (longer re-edit) 4:05
11. (Nick Riff's Freak Element) Vagabond 5:58
12. (Born To Go) Burning inside 0:39
13. (Quarkspace) Faerienot Space 3:49
14. (Drumplay) The stream 1:42
15. (Architectural Metaphor) Kairds 1:50
16. (Alien Planetscapes)Radiation King 3:44
17. (Melting Euphoria) Celestial Hysteria 1:07
18. (Hawkwind) Kauai 1:30
19. (Hawkwind) /Assassins Of Allah 9:14
20. (Hawkwind) Brainstorm / In Your Area 12:39

The class of the field here is Nik Turner’s collaboration with Far Flung, being very indicative of the quality of his work across his American tours during the 1990s, the reinvention and updating of ‘Opa Loka’ a particular highlight. Hawkwind’s selections here are predictable choices of familiar standards (the beautiful Kauai is simply a backdrop for extended acknowledgments and gratitudes from the organisers) with two acts of Brainstorm (featuring a guest appearance from Turner) sandwiching the quite dreadful, who on Earth thought this was a good idea, ‘Hawkwind In Your Area’ cod-reggae disaster.

Look, the re-availability of this set is a good thing and welcome exposure to a melting-pot of imaginative artists all set on taking a similar set of inspirational starting-points in a myriad of different directions. But what would have served this better as an archive representation of that weekend might have been to have torn-up what had previously been put together and release a single disc of highlights with a more explanatory booklet placing the whole thing in its proper perspective, telling the listener a bit more about the featured acts and, radical thinking here, actually telling you what you are listening to.

Get it though, because it’s an important snapshot of this scene.

1 comment:

astro said...

Yeah, I totally agree!