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Synanthesia biography
Synanthesia were a hybrid of Incredible String Band, acid folk, Comus-esque darkness ala, First Utterance and jazz.These styles/genres combined to make for quite an original sound.Jim Frazer's sax and flute sounding somewhat like a cross between Keith Gemmell (Audience/Stackridge),David Jackson (VdGG) and Harold McNair (Donovan,et al). The closest sounding bands that can be referenced are probably Dr Strangely Strange and Jan Dukes de Grey.

Formed in London,England in 1968 by guitarist,Les Cook, SYNANTHESIA were a trio with an 18 year old,ex soul bassist,Dennis Holmes,who switched to guitarand vibes.The trio is completed by jazz sax and flautist,Jim Fraser.They performed in and around the London area and garnered interest from the newly formed Chrysalis record label. One of the venues that they would frequent was the 'infamous',Three Tuns in Beckenham Kent,home to DAVID BOWIES Arts Lab. It is rumoured that Synanthesia were for a time Bowie's backing band before he then recruited THE HYPE and then,more famously,Hull's RATS,who becames THE SPIDERS FROM MARS.

SYNANTHESIA eventually recorded there only album,'Synanthesia', in 1969 for RCA.Unfortunately,RCA weren't interested enough to promote the band.Without RCA's backing and the lack of airplay on the radio,Synanthesia split and the threesome went their seperate ways.

SYNANTHESIA'S only album has a unique sound.Falling somewhere between FOREST,INCREDIBLE STRING BAND,COMUS and JAN DUKE de GREY with a hint of AUDIENCE and VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR.The last two bands are included owing to Les Cook's sax and flute styles.


!!!! Bio written by Lee (Man-Erg), UK !!!!

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essential prog folk

Synanthesia - 1969

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3.38 | 17 ratings

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 Synanthesia  by SYNANTHESIA album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.38 | 17 ratings

Synanthesia Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Rumoured to have been the backing band to DAVID BOWIE at some point along the succession to the Spiders from Mars, SYNANTHESIA was an acoustic trio that tends to get filed with the likes of other hippy dippy artists of their day. Synthesizing the kookiness of INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, the madness of COMUS, the whimsy of DONOVAN, the out there quality of TYRANNOSAURUS REX, and the acoustic anarchy of JAN DUKES DE GREY along with pretty much everything else they heard, in some ways they offer a more tasteful alternative to all of the above that their audience could appreciate stone cold sober. Unfortunately, in this their sole recorded output, a rigidity neuters even the mostly fantastical subject matter. While "Minerva", "Trafalgar Square", and the droning closer "Just as the Curtain Finally Falls" all could have been standards in luckier hands, too much of what is here just floats by inoffensively, which is a criticism so seldom leveled against, say COMUS! In the end, SYNANTHESIA's eminency remains tied to the insubstantial Bowie connection, and that doesn't speak well for their own independent and verifiable legacy.
 Synanthesia  by SYNANTHESIA album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.38 | 17 ratings

Synanthesia Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars Synanthesia’s lone album is one of those forgotten psych folk minor recordings from the late sixties that managed to get released only because of the wide-open landscape of musical expression that existed at the time, but which was fast changing as that decade came to a close. One has to wonder if the band would have had more success if they had released this a couple years prior, or if RCA had gone to any expense at all in promoting the group.

That said, the music here is quite good and will be instantly appealing to most prog folk fans. The trio of Dennis Homes, Jim Fraser and Les Cook with their completely acoustic instrumentation calls to mind similar acts like the Incredible String Band, Comus, and even Amazing Blondel to a certain extent, but also Simon & Garfunkel before they hit it big, and even other obscure acts like Gentle Soul, Mortimer and Ant Trip Ceremony. The main difference here is that the band did not employ drums aside from Cook’s bongos, but they did prominently feature saxophone, oboe and especially a variety of flutes including the slightly nauseating nose flute.

The album was recorded without overdubs and pretty quickly – two days in the studio with obviously a fairly rudimentary mixing job. No matter, that version is impossible to find today, but the remastered Sunbeam release is clear and well-produced. Probably not all that hard to pull off considering this is all acoustic, but still a decent job.

These are all pretty short tracks, which was not all that unusual for folk acts of that day. Only “Morpheus” and the tribute to the mother of Greek muses “Mnemosyne” run more than five minutes, and these just barely that. The themes range from Greek and Roman mythology (“Mnemosyne”, “Morpheus”, “Minerva”, “Fates”, “Vesta”) to middle-age folklore (“The Tale of the Spider and the Fly”, “Peck Strangely and Worried Evening”) to British history (“Trafalgar Square”). The instrumentation is primarily anchored by acoustic guitar finger picking, the numerous flutes, and Homes’ vibraphone which he manages to make sound like a soft piano in some places and more typically like a xylophone in others. Some tracks like “Minerva” have a solid rhythm courtesy of the bongos, while on others the guitar sets the tone with little or no percussive accompaniment.

The closing “Just as the Curtain Finally Falls” is the last the band would record although they probably didn’t know it at the time, and it does sound like a swan-song with the sad, lazy saxophone and introspective soft vocals. The Sunbeam reissue features a bonus track “Shifting Sands” which interestingly is the most dated-sounding on the record, with harmonizing vocals that are clearly Beatles-inspired.

This is a very ear-pleasing album to enjoy on a quiet evening, and although it never made a splash when it released nearly forty years ago and won’t now, it is worth seeking out for fans of older light psych and especially progressive folk. Four stars and recommended to those people I just described.


 Synanthesia  by SYNANTHESIA album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.38 | 17 ratings

Synanthesia Prog Folk

Review by Man Erg
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars The only album recorded by London based trio,Synanthesia,manages to incorporate several genres;Prog-Folk,Jazz,Blues and an unclassified genre all it's own. If there are similarities to other bands I would reference Jan Dukes de Grey,Dr Strangely Strange,Comus Heron and Forest. There is also a hint of Audience, VdGG.This is because of Jim Fraser's sax and flute playing style.

Les Cook's languid vocals, Dennis Home's vibraphone and Jim Fraser's sax and woodwinds create an eerie,dream-like quality. Always in the background is the sound of strummed and delicately picked washes of acoustic guitar.

The albums starts vibrantly with the psychedelic sounding 'Minerva'.The psychedelic feel crops up through out the album.Not in a freak-out style of psych but more 'Donovan-esque'. 'Morpheus' has an odd quality.Sounding like a cross between something from Comus's First Utterence album.The sax sounds like a cross between Keith Gemmill (Audience), David Jackson (VdGG) and David Bowie!

The album also has it's 'English-whimsy' moments.I have already mentioned Donovan.I could also throw in Tyrannosaurus Rex and early Kevin Ayers for good measure. All in all,this album should be recognised as an Acid/Prog-Folk gem.Maybe not quite as ' up - there ' with Comus or as 'out-there' with Jan Dukes de Grey but they were definately on a similar flight path.

RCA's lack of promotion put paid to a follow up album.Each member going hisr own way when the band split in 1969. Ironically David Bowie,the man who they are rumoured to have been a backing band for,signed for RCA that same year.

Hmmm. I wonder...

Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition.

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