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Pink Floyd - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn CD (album) cover

THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.90 | 1405 ratings

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5 stars As close to Prog Rock as you are likely to find in 1967

The impact this album must have had on it's release must have been staggering - and it must have been easy to fall into a "love or hate" category, as the stunning production puts this album into a class of its own.

Forget Acid Rock - this is nothing like the psychedelic noodling and simple, catchy melodies of Jefferson Airplane et al, it's a collection of music that's uniquely English and that can only have been produced in the late 1960s, as it captures perfectly the essence of the London Underground circuit (and I don't mean the Circle line here...).

The side openers, "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive" are legendary - and rightly so. The painstaking attention to detail in what seems like spontaneous, even random music is incredible - small wonder neither sound quite right when covered by other bands - you could play every note precisely right, but completely lose the feeling that Pink Floyd manage to muster.

Those are covered in minute detail in other reviews, so I'm going to turn my attention to the remaining songs - short shots of psychedelic sublimity that often (wrongly) get dismissed as simple pop songs.

Every song on this album feels like it was forged in a different dimension, and "Lucifer Sam" is no exception. While the riffing is superficially unremarkable, and the overall construction a standard song with additional instrumental passages, the mashing up of time caused by Barrett's guitar experimentation and Wright's keyboard during the song and particularly the instrumental bridges lend a peculiarly spontaneous feel to the whole piece.

"Matilda Mother" carries remarkable presence, thanks to the reverb-drenched vocals and heavy-handed stereo panning. Gone here is feeling of a standard song - there is a refrain as opposed to a chorus, and the instrumental bridge is a pure slice of Eastern- feeling psychedelia thanks to Wright's modal keyboard runs and Barrett's drones. The coda (the instrumental passage that closes the piece) bears a striking resemblance to "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles - was this a co-incidence, given that the Fab Four were also in Abbey Road (working on Sgt Pepper...) at the time the Floyd were creating their debut?

"Flaming" begins with a crushing, deep dischord, which fades to a pastoral song with the most incredible production effects thus far - the cuckoo that follows the line "Lazing in the foggy dew" still makes me jump and look around to this day, and the tinkly bells that accompany the line "Watching buttercups cup the light" has the feeling of perfect timing without any real reason why - but my favourite bit is the instrumental section that follows the line "Hey-ho, here we go, ever so high...". Beautiful pastoral images are painted with a positively lysergic wash in the soundscape.

The opening vocalisations of "Pow R Toc H" are madness encapsulated, and Rick Wright shows a gentle bluesy jazz edge to his keyboard skills, roaming through modes in what would appear to be a jam, until a sudden change and darkening of mood brings more vocalisation madness and guitar experimentation from Barrett. Like decent Jazz, the instruments give each other plenty of room for expression, and Mason's sensitive percussion brings out every bit of drama and mood change, until Wright hits us with a new, mellower keyboard idea for the third and final section of this short piece. The vocalisations are brought back as a kind of leitmotif, showing again the great patience in construction that the Floyd were capable of.

"Take up Thy Stethescope and Walk" features a pulsating backdrop against which Wright and Barrett experiment to their heart's contents, with Waters providing the earth, or link to reality with his bass before Mason mashes up the drums for a blend of psychedelic swirls and colours in yet another cunningly constructed instrumental - or so it would seem! A vocal section kicks in just in time for the ending.

"The Gnome" sould be seen as just a novelty item - something to dismiss. But doing so would be to miss out on even more fantastic psychedelic imagery, with great production enhancing wonderful musical exploration. Sure, the lyrics aren't anything to go wild about - but the vocal treatment and sympathetic instrumentation combined with Barrett's amazing ear for a melody are.

"Chapter 24" has a really epic feel to it, and is too short by far. The Eastern feeling (common to much psychedelic music) returns, but, as ever, it's in the perfect instrumentation that satisfaction is to be found. Unusually, there is no "beat" to this piece, and hence it has a unique ambient quality that I cannot think of a precedent to.

"The Scarecrow" has an accompanying video, which is full of the same pastoral images that the song paints. The constant clippy cloppy hooves paint a picture of a comical horse dancing to what is essentially a very simple song - but with Syd's own brand of rythmic invention and lyrical genius. The closing instrumental section gives a taste of what you want - a little more intensity in sound - before finally moving to the most eccentric track on an already eccentric album.

"Bike" has probably been covered in enough depth elsewhere, and is just as notable as any other song on this album for its amazing instrumental arrangement, uses a refrain rather than a chorus, and each verse increases in intensity until the final couple of minutes of musical madness. The room of clockwork toys positively drips with cavernous reverberation until the maniacal laugh that closes the piece that this little section is a trip all by itself.

All in all, an astonishing and practically unprecendeted debut from a band that justifiably deserves all the credits it still gets, despite the odd turkey here and there.

It's Progressive Rock, alright - before its time, yet unmistakably a product of its time.

Certif1ed | 5/5 |

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