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Hatfield And The North - Hatfield And The North CD (album) cover


Hatfield And The North


Canterbury Scene

4.26 | 739 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Foreword: The score for this album will only be relevant depending on if you're familiar with Canterbury Prog or not. I recommend going straight to the Verdict if you are unsure what to expect with this record.

Now, I will not ever claim to be an expert on the unusual isolated realms of prog (Zeuhl, Krautrock, the Canterbury Scene and the like), but looking at the tracklist and the fact that Dave Stuart and Robert Wyatt make appearances here (both well known Canterbury prog rockers), the possibilities are endless when you're talking about a hive mind of Canterbury prog vets who know how to boggle the mind. Sure enough, they scrambled my brain with this record. And then some.

Why all the songs are divided as such, I'll never know and never bother to question (why is the intro 30 seconds long with a 10 minute jam just shortly afterwards?), but the creepy tinkling intro gives way to a 30 second verse ("Big Jobs"), followed by a cool jam ("Going Up To People And Tinkling" [with a few guitar links that sound very Grateful Dead-ish]), and then another 2 minutes of men saying "Ahh" a lot ("Calyx"), all leading in to the 10 minute jam, "Son Of 'There's No Place Like Homerton'".

Now, I am familiar with Soft Machine and the drug-crazed insanity that resulted in many of the early Gong albums, but as far as British drug-crazed insanity goes, "Hatfield And The North" might just take the cake. At least with Gong, many of the early albums followed a storyline. An insane story line, involving drugs (a lot), but a story nonetheless. This album has no story. No guidelines. No rules. Even during the somewhat sober 10 minute jam "Son Of", it's very much a free-flowing progression. The sax lines move without care or progress, the organ has a mind of its own, the drums have a very mechanical feel, even during some of the impressive solos and fills drummer Pip Pyle engages in.

It really wasn't until this song that I could understand the point of this album. This band is a collection of prog veterans, a British supergroup of drugs, pornography and plenty of alcohol. "Son Of" broke open the chaos of the first five minutes by introducing order, a massive contrast to the first four tracks heard previously. Yes, it's not for everyone. But then again, drugs are not for everyone either, but that's another story entirely.

I digress, "Aigrette" starts like a sort of spin-off of "Son Of", with the mindless shouts and singing of "Calyx". Once it bleeds into "Rifferama", though, the groove becomes infectious. It seems like everyone wants to rock out all at the same time, til the guitar takes center stage. Definitely one of my favorite tracks of the album. It still has the crazed, drug-hyped, spasticality of Canterbury prog with the groovy, infectious tone of classic 70's rock that everyone knows and loves.

"Fol De Rol" takes a step back from the fast-paced insanity and slows down the jam, with the bass getting time to shine for 3 minutes. Love the telephone, though. The guy picks it up and the singing picks up where it left off, through the telephone. Nice little effect there. Luckily for fans of long jams, though, the fun continues with another long jam, this time 8 minutes long, with the amusingly named (and truthful) "Shaving Is Boring". Pyle picks up the pace a little bit with the drums, and Phil Miller pulls off some impressive licks on the guitar here. Though, I'm still confused about the samples of previous songs, then what sounds like a guy punching a radio, running over to another radio, turning it on to another sample, punching it again, and running away again. Odd. Still, it goes back into another jam. And that's nice.

"Licks For The Ladies" is actually a misnomer. There are no real licks, here, just a ballad of sorts. "Bossa Nochance" is actually a continuation of that ballad. And, coincidentally, so is "Big Jobs No. 2". This sequence of tracks, then, is the first properly structured song on this entire album. And also, the last. Segue into the weirdly named "Lobster In Cleavage Probe", which mainly consists of a female chorus, til the guitars and synths plug in halfway into the track with skipping lines and up and down licks. Ominous bass lines pepper "Gigantic Land Crabs In Earth Takeover Bid" , headlined by a massively distorted guitar solo that sounds like a lick taken straight out of Buckethead's book 30 years prior. Then it suddenly settles down again, seamlessly bleeding in and out of this chaos/order philosophy. "The Other Stubbs Effect" is a continuation of the weird sparkly intro to the record which ends this set of tracks.

Then you get to the bonus tracks, which aren't really bad at all. "Let's Eat (Real Soon)", funny enough, is the complete opposite of the previous song. A happy melody, a cool little verse, and a nice little synth lick with peppy drumbeats filling the whole track with life. "Fitter Stoke Has A Bath" is structured similarly, With a vocal line, a happy melody and lots of little licks and lines from synths, guitar and flute.

VERDICT: This record is definitely not for the faint of heart. Of course, if you love Wyatt and Dave Stewart's works, and Canterbury prog in general, this will be a must have. Surely, then, if you are reading this review, you probably like Canterbury Prog and know what to expect, so my review will probably be misleading to both insiders and outsiders of the genre. In terms of sweeping melodic lines and beautiful song structures, this album is definitely, repeat, DEFINITELY NOT FOR YOU. It takes a bit of a stomach to appreciate the boundaries these guys are breaking and leaping beyond to create this record. As I said previously, this is mainly a free-formed collection of jams. The album focuses less on songwriting and more on sound sculpting. The Chaos/Order philosophy occurs many times throughout this record. This album gives no mercy upon its listener, so hopefully this review helps to prepare you for what you'd expect when popping this in a record player or iTunes.

Then again, if it's still confusing for you, just think "drugs". It'll all make sense eventually.

Wicket | 4/5 |


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