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Smell Of Incense - Smell of Incense w/ Ethereal Counterbalance CD (album) cover


Smell Of Incense


Prog Folk

4.04 | 4 ratings

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4 stars Smell of Incense caught my attention a few years ago when I first heard their fairly accessible pop/psych/trance/dance album 'Through the Gates of Deeper Slumber', and particularly the stunning 25-minute plus "A Floral Treasury" which opens that album. It was apparent even then that these guys have deep roots in (and extensive collections of) progressive and psychedelic music and not all of their interpretations are as easily digested as their three proper studio albums. Some of their most reaching work resides on various long singles (mostly on vinyl) as well as joint projects like this one with Ethereal Counterbalance aka Rod Goodway.

I'm not completely clear on the history of this 10" vinyl EP, but I know it came out around the same time as 'Through the Gates of Deeper Slumber' although according to the liner notes most of the tracks were recorded earlier than that. The front side of the disc consists of two old Gong songs by Gilli Smyth, while the backside is covered with three original compositions written and performed by Goodway who was apparently introduced to the band through his early seventies work as Magic Muscle and later as Ethereal Counterbalance.

This stuff is much more hardcore psych than what ends up on most SoI albums, although the trademark trippy synthesized sounds, occasional drone and melodic passages do show up along with plenty of fuzz guitar, whacked lyrics and lengthy, disjointed arrangements. I have to say I was a bit surprised to hear the band have a go at these two Canterbury tunes, but they manage to be true to the originals while still imbuing both with their unique brand of 90s psych. "Magick Brother" sounds especially like a solid and respectful cover, while "What Do You Want?" takes a while to get going and is a bit hard to connect to the Gong version without a few spins to get one's bearing.

Things really get hazy and weird on the backside of the record, with Goodway launching into three successively increasing brooding psych numbers. As someone who gave up on recreational stimulants years ago I almost lament the lack of insight they might have given me into these heavy psych dirges.

The first, "Bodyland II" was recorded with Simon House (ex-Hawkwind) for his album 'House of Dreams' that wasn't released until five years after this version came out. I can see this one being on an album by someone who cut their teeth playing for a heavy psych band like Hawkwind. It's spacey, thick with chords and dirty rhythms, and was probably heavily improvised in the studio.

"Liar's Boogie" is a heavy blues-rock number layered with raunchy piano, blistering psych guitar licks and ranting backing vocals that sound like something Ted Nugent might do if someone slipped some acid into his Perrier about an hour before a live show. A beautiful blend of blues and psych that couldn't have been easy to pull off but it stays tight throughout except maybe a little at the end with a disjointed and abrupt closing. Otherwise this one takes me back to at least 1976 and possibly even further.

Finally, "Flight 49" was recorded live at the Earth Ritual II Festival in Belgium in 1994, a soundboard recording apparently because the crowd noise is barely perceptible and the quality is quite good. The song takes a long time to get going with a slowly building guitar solo that is eventually joined by bass, drums and a rhythm guitar for an orgy of psych noodling around a blues-based tempo ala Black Sabbath or possibly some of the raunchier Uriah Heap stuff. This is the longest Goodway song on the album but it feels much shorter, probably thanks to the long and understated lead-in.

I'd also like to give props to the outstanding artwork courtesy of Smell of Incense's violinist/ singer Bumble B, who has provided or contributed to pretty much all the SoI album art over the years. This one is a real throwback that sort of combines the intricacy of sixties and early seventies psychedelic art with the black-and-white, barebones DIY punk feel of the latter seventies.

This is an EP (or maxi-single even) but is long enough to qualify as an album at more than 34 minutes. Four out of five stars for sure; while the Goodway material makes this not quite a proper Smell of Incense release, their contribution to the packaging, as well as their unique take on a couple of Canterbury classics makes this a great addition to your collection if you can find it.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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