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The Amorphous Androgynous - The Isness CD (album) cover


The Amorphous Androgynous

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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4 stars One of the most ill-judged records ever released, and which proved to be a career-breaker, 'The Isness' is in fact an excellent foray into the world of late 60s - early 70s psychedelica. Trouble was, this by a duo (COBAINS and DOUGAN) whose previous work had been cutting-edge IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) under the FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON moniker. When this came out it received a uniformly hostile reception from fans and mixed reviews from critics. Why on earth were these talented lads releasing a prog rock album? The Times loved it, AllMusic hated it. It was released in two quite different versions (I have both) and even under two different band names (AMORPHOUS ANDROGYNOUS in the UK, FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON in the US).

What should prog fans make of it? The album is a heady mix of retro-prog and twenty-first century production values, with an enormous variety of instruments - featuring heavy reliance on Eastern influences - and some reasonably respectable singing. Sitars, tabla drums, string quartets, flutes, banjos and chimes mix with the superb electronic wizardry COBAINS and DOUGAN are famous for to create a compelling psychedelic journey. There are some standout songs: the instrumental 'The Lovers', for example, is flat-out gorgeous, though it does stray into techno territory. 'The Mello Hippo Disco Show' is full-on retro keyboard heaven, Hammonds and mellotrons, giving out a 'Strawberry Fields' vibe, with absurd 'I Am The Walrus'-like lyrics. 'Elysian Feels' and 'Go Tell It To The Trees, Egghead' are excellent instrumentals, while 'Divinity' is a golden track, oozing bliss, stepping in DONOVAN's shoes and (probably) just avoiding cheesiness - though SIMON AND GARFUNKEL might want to sue. It even incorporates a dreamy brass section. 'Her Tongue Is Like A Jellyfish' is a bizarre juxtaposition of beautiful strings and weird electronic noises. The gorgeous 'Meadows' pays homage to PINK FLOYD's 'Grantchester Meadows', though the mighty Floyd were never this strange. 'High Tide On The Sea Of Flesh' channels early TANGERINE DREAM. Trust me, had this stuff been released in 1968, it would have sold millions. It really is very good. The final track 'The Galaxial Pharmaceutical' (and if that's not a hint I've never heard one) is an absolutely brilliant prog rock epic (divided into two parts on my promo), building to a superb climax, and is a must-listen for every lover of progressive music. The psychedelic feel is utterly convincing.

And that's the trouble. This is retro-prog, harking back to a time most of us barely remember, and as such is dissociated from contemporary life. When we listen to records from that time we not only hear the music, we relive old times. We can do no such thing with this material. Because it is so out of its time, because it is so obviously a re-creation, the album must be approached with caution. Those who crave originality - whatever that is - should steer clear. For the love of God, run! But if you want something with compelling tunes, crystal clear sound and that 60s psychedelic vibe, this is the album to get.

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Posted Monday, May 18, 2009 | Review Permalink


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