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Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother CD (album) cover


Pink Floyd


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.88 | 2021 ratings

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2 stars Turning Point

Atom Heart Mother represents the Nebulus of the 1970's Floyd sound - when you hear th band, that is. The "Orchestral" (read: Brass Band) sections are something else entirely - a curious experiment, but one that I feel does not work particularly well, and certainly did not have enough time lavished on it, by all accounts.

I'm reviewing from the vinyl here - and unlike the CD, the sections are not clearly marked, so I've had to guess... but, since there are actually 12 identifiable sections, most expressing one idea, then a "responding" idea, the lines could be drawn in a couple of places. I've drawn them where I think it makes most sense of the piece as a whole - where I can make sense of such a relatively haphazard structure.

Father's shout

A deep organ sound introduces the piece, which leads into a quasi-avante garde brass section that reminds me of the orchestra tuning up at the beginning of "Sergeant Pepper...", with flavours of the main AHM theme drifting through.

At 1:26, the AMH "Theme" is presented for the first time in its entirety: A lumbering behemoth of a theme that I find somewhat lugubrious. Just over 30 seconds later, we are treated to a rather half-hearted chromatic section, with the sounds of guns and motor vehicles - obviously adding the what is intended to be a kind of warped military feel.

Finally (it seems) at around 2:55, we hear Waters arpeggiated bass prelude the band entry, accompanied by keyboard and cello. Some bright modulations propel this section in a satisfactory way through a series of repetitions that are built upon until Gilmour's glissando guitar kicks in and announces the style that he would settle in for life - heralding "Echoes" and everything that followed it.

Breast milky

The "orchestra" accompany this in the background, until a lonely organ introduces a new background theme around 5:22 that ushers in the choir, in an architectural structure which follows the path set by "A Saucerful of Secrets". Simple, beautiful lines intensify towards more dischordant harmony and converge again. Sadly this is more or less repeated, and begins to feel like padding, even with increasingly tense layers and breakaway motifs in various parts.

It's then repeated and further intensified by the addition of the band, who jam along over two chords - the tonic and subdominant, which give a tiringly predictable feel until the new idea at 10:11.

Mother fore

This new idea feels somewhat tacked on, and is a typical 1970s two-chord riff over a subdominant pedal. This is blues, and very satisfyingly played, with lots and lots of space - a real crash course in less is more... except that it's a bit stupefying in its predictability after the big build up we've had to this point.

Around 12:50 some keyboard atmospherics are brought in, and the guitar also changes to an atmospheric texture. A new choral vocal idea is brought in at 13:25 - savage and earthy, but too far down in the mix.

Brown and sounds like a bell (and is funky)

There's a nice modulation heralding a new section around 14:30 - which itself is a re- introduction to the brass, which briefly recapitulate the first theme at 14:55.

Mind your throats please

The events are more dense now, and a new dischordant idea is introduced on a keyboard around 15:25, which is filtered and layered with atmospherics that appear to be based on synth sounds and tape splicing - ideas that probably would have come from the Beatles' "Revolution #9", and certainly hearken back to the studio part of "Ummagumma".

A new section starts around 17:45, again, based on atmospherics that predict "Echoes", but also uses more tape splicing that recapitulates the earlier ideas in the piece - it's a bit of a shambles in execution really, but the idea is a good one, as the listener tries to work out which musical idea is going to take over and dominate.


There's little doubt that it's going to be the 1st or main theme, and it duly returns around 19:14 in a simply variated form, followed by the bass arpeggio/cello 2nd idea (which has jut reminded me of some of Julian Lloyd Webber's playing on his brother's little-known Prog masterpiece "Variations"). Gilmour's guitar idea (the 3rd section, if you will) returns, with Gilmour harmonising against what seems to be a copy and paste version of himself. The layers are all increased - in a valiant but somewhat doomed attempt to maintain interest, before the choir return over a clumsily variated brass section for some directionless sludge that drives us to the dischordant mess that preludes the triumphant final chord that ends side 1.

"If" is a harmless Waters song - pleasant, and with a nice message, but quite obviously not a prog song. It seems very much the predecessor of "Brain Damage".

"Summer Sun" is a Barrett/Beatles/Beach Boys inspired song, with an Arthur Lee inspired trumpet solo - now there's a mix! Oddly enough, the overall flavour ends up being slightly proggy, despite, or possibly because of the film music inspired brass section that's crowbarred in before and after the piano-driven coda. The arrangement is a bit Motown though.

"Fat Old Sun" is a nice, laid-back blues inspired number. 'Nuff said. ;o)

"Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" is Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast. 'Nuff said. :o)

So yes, a very progressive album, one that marks a turning point in sound and style for Pink Floyd - but one that is both not to my taste, and not executed particularly well: An album that makes less sense as a whole than almost any other Floyd album up to "The Final Cut", and one that I really don't listen to very much because it's so carelessly and craftlessly put together - and that shows in the music.

I can't bring myself to say it's good, as I think it's just OK - but it is definitely worth checking out from a historical point of view, and not just by Floyd fans. It's also worth checking out as an example of how not to put together a side-long track ;o)

Certif1ed | 2/5 |


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