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CANTERBURY SCENE

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Canterbury Scene definition

With many other types of English progressive music developing mostly in London, it may at first seem strange that the old pilgrimage centre and relatively quiet cathedral city of Canterbury, became the centre of this very English form of progressive music and jazz fusion. Originally the Wilde Flowers, a teenage band of members living in and around Canterbury, playing a mix of pop, R'n'B and band members with a developing love of jazz, was formed in the 60's and became the seedling from which the Canterbury Scene grew. Australian beatnik Daevid Allen during a long stop-over at Robert Wyatt's parent's home, a refuge for many left field artists, was to catalyse the evolution of the Wilde Flowers into the fledging Soft Machine and the development of some avant music during the English psychedelic and underground period. From 1963 to 1969, the Wilde Flowers included most of the figures who later formed Canterbury's two best known bands, (The) Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Hugh Hopper) and Caravan (Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Richard Coughlan).

Canterbury was then to be the cradle for several of the more freewheeling British bands of the post-psychedelic era. While fans would suggest this is the home of an English musical quirkiness tempered with quite a bit of whimsy, within the Canterbury Scene's musical spectrum any similarities between Canterbury's major bands, (e.g. Soft Machine, Caravan, Gong, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Hatfield & the North, Egg, National Health), are not immediately obvious*. Most bands will be found employing a clever fusion of rock rhythms and jazz improvisation with intellectual song-writing and varying strengths of psychedelia - some would too include folk elements (e.g. Spirogyra), others blues (e.g. Carol Grimes and Delivery). In addition, a number of bands employed various elements from classical music, for instance those bands with Dave Stewart playing keyboards. Whilst there have been a handful of excellent and distinctly different guitarists to play with Canterbury bands (e.g. Andy Summers, Allan Holdsworth, John Etheridge, Steve Hillage, Phil Miller), the lead instrument of choice has been keyboards. One English peculiarity of Canterbury is what the late John Peel called the 'School of Anti-song' because of particular Wyatt, Ayers and Richard Sinclair's approaches to vocals and perhaps the whimsy. More recently Richard Sinclair's vocal style has perhaps accurately been labelled as 'English jazz singing' by Jazzwise (i.e. singing jazz with an English rather than the usual American accent). In addition Canterbury musicians have experimented as avant garde, free jazz players, e.g. instance Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill, Steve Miller.

(*However, once you've heard some Canterbury bands the commonality becomes more obvious - chord sequencing e.g. Caveman Hughscore's electric piano opening on the tune 'More Than Nothing', the vocals, the lyrics etc.)

Both the Soft Machine and Caravan were popular in England's psychedelic/ underground scene before releasing their first albums in 1968, with Machine completing on level footing with Pink Floyd. However, by the early 70's a series of fragmenting changes of bands' line-ups, (Soft Machine went through about 30) and the subsequent formation of new bands, rapidly broadened Canterbury's range, with many newer musicians with only loose and in fact, no previous Canterbury connections. Early Soft Machine member Daevid Allen formed Gong in Paris. Both Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt left the Softs because of musical developments they did not like, to begin their own solo careers. By the mid-70's, most the old and new Canterbury bands had progressed away from psychedelia, developing their distinct forms of progressive rock some embracing jazz fusion, many playing extended jams with now limited lyrical input (e.g. Hatfield and The Norths, National Health, Gilgamesh). Caravan became more folky. However, as the 70's progressed several Canterbury bands would lose most of the rock element from their music. Gong retained their psychedelic side longest, but with the departure of Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage in the mid 70's, the band evolved into the percussion-oriented, jazz rock group Gong, which eventually became the modern day Gongzilla. Daevid Allen regained Gong's name in the 90's and through his solo work and with his University of Errors, is still evidently producing psychedelia. Steve Hillage's form of psychedelia evolved into the glissando rock of his own band and then into electronica, by the end of the 70's. In particular, Hillage through his work as a successful record producer of new bands from the 80's, develop his form of electronica through other bands. This music lost much of its complexity e.g. few riffs played over and over, rather than dozens per tune that previously had often typified prog, into a very popular form that is the antithesis of prog, i.e. the various forms of house music, with associated remixing/turntablism. For instance, Gong's "You" got the remix treatment in the 90's - but then to reflect his range of activities, Hillage has also produced and played guitar for Algerian Rai singer, Rachid Taha for over 20 years.

Many of Britain's better known avant-garde and fusion musicians of the 70's and 80's - including Fred Frith (Henry Cow), Allan Holdsworth (Gong, Soft Machine, UK, Bruford) and Peter Blegvad - were involved during their early careers playing in Canterbury bands. And still new musicians join the Canterbury Scene's ranks, Theo Travis being perhaps the most notable recently (Gong, The Soft Machine Legacy). The Canterbury scene was to have a major influence on musicians in Europe, especially France (e.g. Gong, Moving Gelatine Plates), the Netherlands (Super Sister)and Italy (Daedalus), and more belatedly in the USA (Hughscore). Caravan reformed in the mid 90's, while ex-members of Soft Machine could be found in various avant jazz and straight jazz fusion groups, e.g. Just Us, Soft Heap, Soft Works and most recently The Soft Machine Legacy. From the Canterbury Scene, RIO it its various forms has developed.

FOOTNOTE: As indicated above, many Canterbury Scene bands are acknowledged as having played/are playing jazz rock fusion. However, because of their strong Canterbury affliations are listed under "Canterbury Scene" in Prog Archives.

Dick Heath
Based loosely in part on the source: http://www.allmusic.com
(Edition 3, Aug 2009)

Current team members as at 14/02/2014:
Steve (HolyMoly)

Canterbury Scene Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Canterbury Scene | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.27 | 1403 ratings
IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK
Caravan
4.30 | 680 ratings
ROCK BOTTOM
Wyatt, Robert
4.24 | 812 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 3 - YOU
Gong
4.26 | 621 ratings
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH
Hatfield And The North
4.24 | 817 ratings
IF I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I'D DO IT ALL OVER YOU
Caravan
4.26 | 557 ratings
SPACE SHANTY
Khan
4.21 | 800 ratings
THIRD
Soft Machine, The
4.25 | 321 ratings
OF QUEUES AND CURES
National Health
4.19 | 455 ratings
THE ROTTERS' CLUB
Hatfield And The North
4.15 | 599 ratings
FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT
Caravan
4.28 | 237 ratings
MAINSTREAM
Quiet Sun
4.11 | 550 ratings
RADIO GNOME INVISIBLE VOL. 2 - ANGEL'S EGG
Gong
4.14 | 327 ratings
THE POLITE FORCE
Egg
4.12 | 340 ratings
FISH RISING
Hillage, Steve
4.22 | 194 ratings
TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER
Supersister
4.25 | 171 ratings
VIVA BOMA
Cos
4.12 | 293 ratings
NATIONAL HEALTH
National Health
4.02 | 436 ratings
THE SOFT MACHINE
Soft Machine, The
4.03 | 388 ratings
VOLUME TWO
Soft Machine, The
4.10 | 224 ratings
PICCHIO DAL POZZO
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Canterbury Scene overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Canterbury Scene experts team

BEFORE A WORD IS SAID
Gowen, Miller, Sinclair, Tomkins
SPLIT SECONDS
Miller, Phil
SOFT HEAP
Soft Heap
GILGAMESH
Gilgamesh

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Latest Canterbury Scene Music Reviews


 The Winstons by WINSTONS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.98 | 4 ratings

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The Winstons
The Winstons Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

4 stars The result of the effort of a trio of Milanese pop stars when they turn their efforts to the pop- and jazz-side of the 1960s and 1970s psychedelic, Canterbury Scene--most specifically the styles explored by Robert Wyatt.

1. "Nicotine Freak" (4:32) starts out as a pure Robert Wyatt imitation--psycho-babble and all--and an amazingly accurate reproduction, at that. Organ, multiple voice tracks and a little intermittent background sax and electric guitar for the first two minutes. Then all hell breaks loose with the full band breaking into an awesome organ and bass pulse while the multiplicity of male vocal tracks play their weave over the top. Incredibly powerful second half! One of my top three songs for the album. (10/10)

2. "Diprotodon" (4:09) is probably the most solid Canterbury sounding song on the album (except for the chunky bass). The Farfisa organ play is so fun, so nostalgic! Very much in the same spirit as the two recent HOMUNCULUS RES albums, if a little more reliant on the horns (saxophones) and bass. Another top three song. (9/10)

3. "Play with the Rebels" (3:42) opens with flutes over organ and cymbal play. When the English vocal enters it takes on a kind of KOOP meets or Brit Pop like Eric Burden/The Animals, Rod Argent or Paul Weller or even Harry Nilsson late 1960s sophisticated intelligent pop feel to it. Aside from the Procul Harum-like organ, it is pure pop late 60s pop. Very, very good late 60s psychedelic pop. (9/10)

4. "?on a Dark Cloud" (7:53) opens like some kind of psycho journey until at 1:00 a pulsing STEREOLAB-like synth bass and Farfisa organ take the fore. Drums and horns begin their contributions at the 2:00 mark. At 2:37 another Robert WYATT-like vocal display takes center stage--only this time sounding more like John WETTON. The dominance of the heavy, chunky bass again takes us slightly away from Canterbury and more into King Crimson or even Zeuhl territory. (9/10)

5. "She's My Face" (4:22) returns us to the late 60s organ-dominated psychedelic pop. Sounds a little more emo than it needs. The carnival mood set at the 1:54 mark is cool but weird, but we are quickly turned back into a kind of WHO-frenzy with some BYRDS-like 12-string electric soloing. The song definitely grows on you. Could be a PAUL WELLER-like radio hit. (8/10)

6. "A Reason for Goodbye" (6:01) opens with a kind of minimalist structure of bass arpeggio and sparse cymbal play while the male lead vocalist sings with a kind of combined Roger Daltry-Robert Wyatt-Joe Strummer form. The jazzy bridge in the middle of the fourth minute is a nice twist before the song simplifies for a return to the vocalist's singing to Jennifer. The final 90 seconds has the band amping back up for a MOTORPSYCHO-like instrumental jam. (8/10)

7. "Dancing in the Park with a Gun" (5:17) is a definite Canterbury style song with a particularly direct social-political message. It is strongly imbued with the spirit of Robert Wyatt again. One of my top three songs of this album. Any song that uses the word "symmetry" is automatically held high in my esteem. Very psychedelic song. (9/10)

8. "Viaggio nel suono a tre dimensioni" (3:33) is an instrumental that opens and closes with a male voice speaking in Italian as if for radio/television or an advertisement. In between a kind of SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET frenetically paced round establishes itself. The bass play is fun, the swirling organ play, too. (8/10)

9. "Tarmac" (3:30) is a slowed down, bare bones piano-based dirge in which the Robert WYATT-like vocal performance exactly matches the melody play of the piano. So like Sir Robert's solo work. Probably the weakest song on the album. Musically. (7/10)

10."番号番号 (Number Number)" (6:11) is a very psychedelic take on the Canterbury style of music--with a Beatles/Doors influence as well. Apparently the lyrics for this song and 2. "Diprotodon" were written by Japanese artist Gun Kawamura (who did the album art) and sung in Japanese by Gabrielli and Dell-Era. The first half of the song drags on a bit, but the shift in tempo and style that begins with the bridge at 2:50 is awesome. Here is where the very distinct influence of The Beatles and The Doors can be felt. Good song. (8/10)

An album of refreshing mastery and creativity despite its draw from older music and artists. One of the few who has been able to synthesize older styles and sounds into a totally new and refreshing form. Very nice use of organ, jazzy drums and saxophone throughout. Kudos, Lino, Roberto and Enrico!

A 4.5 star album; a near-masterpiece of jazz-pop Canterbury-styled progressive rock music.

 The Winstons by WINSTONS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.98 | 4 ratings

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The Winstons
The Winstons Canterbury Scene

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Neo Teams

4 stars An Italian rock bizarre The WINSTONS have appeared on the rock music scene with their eponymous debut album upon their head veiled in white bandage. We Rock Progressivo Italiano freaks have thoroughly got immersed in their assertive, bombastic creativity, for their very first creation. Amazingly weird psychedelic keyboard reminds us of something like Canterbury or 60's oldie psychedelic scene, but their play can drive us mad because of their magical enthusiasm via sounds and melody lines appealing directly to our brain. Their play exactly sounds like an octopus that is rubbery but flexible, and the core of sound is not spineless at all.

Curiously, opposite to other Italian rock combo, their composition strategy is flooded with obvious musical diversity ... pop essence, cynical structure, mischievous material, and massive pleasure. Guess they have got extensively influenced by lots of rock vanguards, not only like 70s British or Italian ones but also like Canterbury, avantgarde, jazz rock, and old-fashioned psychedelic pioneers. For example, we can feel their miscellaneous vision (and their sincere sentiment for jazz rock in the latter part) through "A Reason For Goodbye" or touch their sincere sentiment for psychedelic pop in "Play With The Rebels". Such a sound variation via their experiences is quite unique, although their position as "a progressive rock band" is uncertain, vague and fuzzy.

Of course not all of the tracks in this production are innovative let me say, but at the same time it's pretty adventurous, addictive, and advantageous they have launched the first strike with multiple music (not only rock) essence into it. And it's amazing that some of their songs, if on stage, can give the audience spiritually enormous energy and power ... based upon their catchy melodic structure maybe. Personally meaningless, strange Japanese words cannot be avoided at all, anyway.

 Dance Of The Goodbyes by AMOEBA SPLIT album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.11 | 42 ratings

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Dance Of The Goodbyes
Amoeba Split Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Whilst it was never quite the cohesive, unified scene the music press sometimes made it out to be, there is some truth to the idea that the whole "Canterbury" style was perpetuated by a particular group of collaborators, with particular names - Dave Stewart, Robert Wyatt, Pip Pyle, Richard Hastings, Barbara Gaskin, and so on ad infinitum - appearing on a wide swathe of albums from the era. As a result of the inevitable ravages of time, the prolific stalwarts of the scene have slowed down their pace of releases over time (and indeed some cornerstones like Hugh Hopper or Daevid Allen are no longer with us), so the Canterbury output of late has been diminishing, and what has existed consists of a fair swathe of archival releases and reunion projects and other vehicles for old hands.

Nonetheless, there's nothing inherently stopping anyone from keeping the sound going and developing it further - various European acts did it back in the 1970s without any of the key Canterbury personalities being involved, after all, and in more modern times with have the exceptionally capable Amoeba Split, who on this debut album have cooked up a modern sound centred on the style of Hatfield & the North or National Health but with regular excursions to other musical territory, from the mellow and peaceful to hard-cooking fusion. Perhaps in time we will see more of a revival of this musical style; if so, you can bet Amoeba Split will be at the forefront of it.

 Gilgamesh by GILGAMESH album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.90 | 128 ratings

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Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Alan Gowen's Canterbury crowd form the other half of the puzzle which came together with Hatfield and the North to form National Health. This is the sole album they put out before National Health (their second album would emerge after Gowen dropped out of National Health), and it's a rather mellow affair, showcasing where the gentler side of National Health's sound came from. Never quite getting into the sort of madcap soundscapes that, say, Hatfield and the North, Caravan, or early Soft Machine would sometimes visit, this is Canterbury for a gentle afternoon snoozing on the sofa. Some may find it a bit too sedate, polite, and overpolished, but in the right mood I find this an interesting different side of the late 1970s Canterbury house style.
 Elsewhere by MASTER CYLINDER album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.58 | 12 ratings

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Elsewhere
Master Cylinder Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars MASTER CYLINDER were based out of Fort Worth, Texas and released this sole album back in 1981. Keyboardist Joe Rogers was the driving force of this band and he was greatly influenced by the music of Frank Zappa and SOFT MACHINE before getting into WEATHER REPORT and Chick Corea. So the music here is very jazzy, and most places I've looked have tagged this album as Canterbury just to give you an idea of the sound. THE MUFFINS and even NATIONAL HEALTH could also certainly be mentioned when talking about this all-instrumental record.

"Overture" certainly changes tempos a lot from the uptempo keyboard led intro where we get some excellent bass lines to the calm that follows. Flute before 2 minutes as it has picked up again then it settles right down again with piano and horns coming and going. It's building again but again it settles back quickly. Full speed ahead before 4 minutes as jazzy drums and bass help out. "Isabelle" is laid back with piano, bass and drums before synths and more join in as it picks up. This is very jazzy especially before 1 1/2 minutes with piano, drums and bass. Back to that opening theme before it picks up again.

"Elsewhere" is the longest track at over 10 minutes. Cymbals to start as the sound swells and recedes over and over until after 2 minutes when drums and a darker sound take over. I like this. Horns join in but it's relaxed until it picks up around 3 minutes, jazzy is the word. Nice bass solo a minute later and I really dig the jazzy piano, drums and bass after 5 1/2 minutes. Even the guitar sounds jazzy after 7 minutes. It starts to settle back before 9 minutes.

"Silhouette" is led by keys, drums and bass in this energetic intro before it settles right down with synths and more. Piano after 1 1/2 minutes then this almost silent calm follows with faint sounds until the bass, cymbals, synths and more arrive. It's still relaxed until it picks late to end it. "Sleep 1937" is another jazzy uptempo number with horns, bass and drums standing out. It does settle some after 2 minutes with intricate sounds coming and going before it settles even more with random drum patterns and other sounds. Electric piano 4 minutes in as it starts to build with drums and synths. It's uptempo again after 4 1/2 minutes. Jazzy bass a minute later then horns. Nice.

"Plus 3" has this pulsating rhythm before it calms down around a minute. Keys join in as well and lead the way before that pulsating rhythm returns. Keyboards come in over top then we get a calm as this intricate drum solo takes over but it's brief. It's pulsating again. A calm 7 minutes with melancholic synths and more. Bass to the fore after 7 1/2 minutes. It's fuller and brighter before 9 minutes, guitar as well to the end. "Hobb & Geeb" features some impressive drums work and I really like the electric piano and bass. A calm before 2 1/2 minutes with flute and intricate sounds. Picked guitar late joins in this uptempo soundscape. There's even a Classical vibe the way it ends.

Kind of a cool album cover that connects with the title of album. I don't love this album as sometimes it comes across as little lightweight for my tastes at times but overall I think it deserves 4 stars. There's some really impressive moments and passages that make me look forward to spinning this one.

 In The Land Of Grey And Pink by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 1403 ratings

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In The Land Of Grey And Pink
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars Given the high ratings for this album by hundreds of other reviewers, it's easy to say that this isn't a very hard album to love. But what makes it so universally enjoyable?

The answer certainly doesn't lie in the musicians' virtuosic pyrotechnics; most of the album's licks are just simple major harmonies with pentatonic soloing and there's nothing flamboyant about their performances. Instead, what we have is an album that plays off of its charm. From a glance at the cover, you know that by listening to "In The Land of Grey and Pink", you'll be spending the next 40 or so minutes in a psychedelic dreamland, where wit and whimsy reign supreme. In this world, the music acts as a sort of blanket, keeping you warm and cozy in the rain. And the fabric that weaves its way into your heart? The warm, fuzzy organ sounds from David Sinclair and the mellow, nonchalant vocals singing of far away fairy tale lands and carefree excursions into fantasy.

In short, this is an album that prog fans should have no trouble getting into, and is somewhat of a fan favourite, but I wouldn't consider it a masterpiece, given the often repetitive musical accompaniments. 4 stars.

 Camembert Electrique by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.80 | 317 ratings

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Camembert Electrique
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

5 stars After the release of Gong's debut album, Magick Brother, in March 1970, the group moved to a 12-room hunting lodge, Pavillion du Hay, in the French countryside, located near Voisines and Sens. The band's drummer and percussionist, Rachid Houari, left and was replaced with an English musician, Pip Pyle, previously on drums with Delivery, Steve Hillage's Khan, and briefly with a blues rock outfit Chicken Shack. In the line-up consisting of Daevid Allen, Gill Smyth, Didier Malherbe, Christian Tritsch, and Pip Pyle, the group recorded the official soundtrack to a film by Jérôme Laperrousaz, Continental Circus. In addition, they got to play at the Glastonbury Festival. In June of 1971, Gong entered the doors of Château d'Hérouville to record Camembert Electrique, which was released on the French BYG Actuel label in October of the same year.

First thing that catches one's eye before listening to the music on the album is its strange, eccentric art. The front cover portrays a black-and-white mandala with various comedic sketches, drawings, and captions around the name of the band and the album. On the back, we can see a photo of all the band members in strange outfits. The track and personnel listing as well as liner notes look to be handwritten with numerous rhymes and puns. The big signature strangely reads: "THIS IS THE FIRST ALBUM BY GONG THE BAND AND FAMILY RECORDED IN FRANCE IN 1971.". Furthermore, every musician gets their own nickname. Didier Malherbe, the saxophonist and flautist, gets the alias of "BLOOMDIDO BAD DE GRASSE" and is said to play "sassy sax" and "floating flute". Christian Tritsch, playing "aqualung bass", gets the title of "SUBMARINE CAPT." Pip Pyle's name does not change, but one will spot a caption "PIP THE HEEP" on the front cover. The instruments Pyle plays include "drumns" and "breakage". Daevid Allen names himself "BERT CAMEMBERT", while Francis Linon, the band's live sound engineer listed as "switch doctor and mix master" gets the moniker of "VENUX DE-LUXE." Gill Smyth, Allen's partner, is nicknamed "SHAKTI YONI". Robert Wyatt's son, Sam, is pictured with the band members. In addition, Gong invited two guests to help them record their album. Edouard Louise, nicknamed "EDDY LOUISS", plays Hammond organ and piano on one of the tracks. Constantin Simonovitch plays what is described as "phased piano" on one piece.

Daevid Allen's odd, comedic musical vision presented on Gong's first album album, Magick Brother, is continued with Camembert Electrique. The cosmic, psychedelic atmosphere is omnipresent. In addition, the tongue-in-cheek arrangements, unorthodox harmonic solutions, and strange lyrics play a crucial role in the album's distinctive sound. Didier Malherbe recalls that one of the key elements to the unique character of Gong's music was the inexplicable doctrine, pataphysics. Although one will still be able to detect elements of the sixties' psychedelic boom, it is undoubtedly being estranged with more modern methods being put in the foreground. One thing that remains very similar is the application of influences from jazz, specifically artists such as Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Ornette Coleman. The overall delivery of the music seems to be aimed at approaching the listener with unexpected, startling, and at times even baffling and superficial moments. Although it may occasionally seem like it, Camembert Electrique is by no means a pretentious creation, with every idea or thought actually contributing to the final result.

The album opens with odd high-pitched voices and electronic effects of "Radio Gnome Prediction", which quickly dissolve into "You Can't Kill Me". The piece basically sets the mood for the rest of the album with its cosmic jazz-rock theme. One of the highlights of the track is the way Daevid Allen's singing matches the phrasing of his guitar and Didier Malherbe's saxophone parts on odd rhythm patterns. "I've Bin Stoned Before" begins as a slow, solemn, yet amusing march dominated by vocals and liturgical Hammond organ. The piece descends into psychedelic madness, which opens "Mister Long Shanks/O Mother/I Am Your Fantasy". This song has somewhat of a count-out-rhyme feel in its opening. The theme is quickly dropped for "O Mother", which sounds a bit like an avant-garde take on a simple pop song. "I Am Your Fantasy" part is much calmer, spacey, almost ambient with Gill Smyth's gentle, feminine voice. On the contrary, "Dynamite/I Am Your Animal" begins with a punchy motif that is repeated with new sounds addend every four bars. Then, an ominous groove in an odd time signature kicks in, with Daevid Allen's whimsical, peculiar yelling and weeping. The motif from "You Can't Kill Me" appears towards the end of the song. "Wet Cheese Delirium" closes the side similarly to how it was opened, with sampled voices and electronic sounds. It also features a locked groove, which is especially interesting, if you are listening to the album on vinyl. Side two is opened with "Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen's Heads", which yet again consists of vocal and electronic samples. "Fohat Digs Holes In Space" begins with a cosmic jazz-rock jam. Then, the main theme is introduced, dissolving into a more song-oriented scenario. "And You Tried So Hard" has somewhat of the Revolver-era Beatles-like feel. That is until the more varied parts kick in. But even with that, it is clear that the song follows a more traditional pop pattern. "Tropical Fish/Selene", being the last true piece of the album, emphasizes all of Camembert Electrique's basic ingredients - psychedelic rock, quirky jazz, odd rhythmic patterns, odd lyrics, contrasted segments. Daevid Allen's last words on "Tropical Fish/Selene" are "Ca-mem-bert E-lec-trique", as if concluding and summing up the whole listening experience. Similarly to all other side openers and closers, "Gnome The Second" compiles odd samples and also features a locked groove.

Dripping with exaggerated psychedelic weirdness and unorthodox musicianship, Camembert Electrique witnesses the meeting of space rock, psychedelia, jazz-rock, and high-quality cabaret. The album is an incredibly fascinating and rewarding journey through the band's sophisticated, tangled fantasy. Furthermore, this release points the way towards what is known as Gong's "classic" era - the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy. A very important record and simply plain joy to experience. Highly recommended!

 The Rotters' Club by HATFIELD AND THE NORTH album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.19 | 455 ratings

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The Rotters' Club
Hatfield And The North Canterbury Scene

Review by Mens1MeterDash

5 stars This might just be my favorite album of all time. Any genre, period. And it's an *album* meaning that each song flows into the next.

I listened to this just about every day for a year or two while attending Berklee College of Music and at the end of that period, I still couldn't say for certain which parts were improvised vs. composed, where one song started or ended. Well, some points are obvious, and on the CD, the tracks are labeled, but with the vinyl, it all sort of blended together.

Other questions too, like "Is Phil Miller an abstract genius, or is he just terrible?" plagued me for years. Clearly he's not a technical wizard and you can hear him hit some obvious clams in the solos, but he's not marching to the beat of anyone else's drum, he does a lot of upper-structure triads with his harmonizations and he composed some of the best pieces (like Underdub). So, yeah, he knows what he's doing, but he's just raw and a little outside.

I know the general consensus is that the first (self titled) album is better, but I have to disagree. It has some high points, to be sure, but this one is just more mature. After listening to them both for 25 years or so, I really don't want to listen to the first album any more, yet I'm almost always delighted when this one comes on shuffle.

In terms of it's place in Prog Rock, I can't say this album is better than Kind of Blue, Birds of Fire, Permanent Waves, The Yes Album, One Size Fits All, or In Absentia. But I like it just the tiniest smidgen better than those and musically I put it in the same league. Thus: favorite album of all time.

 Magick Brother by GONG album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.43 | 144 ratings

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Magick Brother
Gong Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars After touring Europe with Soft Machine in August 1967, Daevid Allen was rejected to enter the United Kingdom due to overstaying his visa on previous staying. Allen settled in Paris and together with his partner, Gilli Smyth, he formed a band called Gong along with a few other side projects such as the Bananamoon Band. The two also took part in the 1968 Paris protests and later settled in Deià, Mallorca, where they had met a poet Robert Graves on their previous visit. In August 1969, they returned to Paris and recorded their debut album Magick Brother with Gong, which was released under the BYG Actuel label. At the time, the group did not have a bass player, so it was up to Allen to play the instrument. He also invited guest musicians, notably Barre Phillips, a renowned double bass player, who had previously performed with Eric Dolphy, Jimmi Giuffre, and Archie Shepp, Burton Greene, a pianist, who had played with Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler, and a wind player Didier Malherbe, who would later become one of the members of the "classic" Gong era.

Since his very first days in Soft Machine, it was clear that Daevid Allen was a forward-looking, unorthodox, and immensely original individual. Brian Hopper, formerly of the Wilde Flowers with Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, and Richard Sinclair to name a few, recalls meeting Allen for the first time: "[Daevid] showed up at Robert Wyatt's parents' house along with which he brought his own record collection, which was quite eclectic. And he was the first, I suppose, really hippie sort of person we'd met at that stage, you know, he was quite a sort of phenomenon, if you like, that arrived on the scene." Allen's musical vision comprises various diverse element, which fructify in a complex, odd, moody, tounge-in-cheek whole. Jazz influences are the most evident of all, reflected by swinging arrangements, free-jazz-like passages, and harmonic solutions. However, these only provides the basis for the music on Magick Brother. Avant-garde elements such as spoken word, storytelling, melody-less ambient parts, are introduced and play a crucial role in Gong's distinctive musical formula. Everything is topped with somewhat of a cosmic topping to it, whether it be lyrics, long reverb tails or quirky modulation effects. Most of all, the band builds on the legacy of the psychedelic boom of the sixties, with its escapist, hippie, trance-like feel.

Isn't it amazing that the first seconds of the very first Gong album are a sound of an oriental-sounding gong? "Mystic Sister/Magick Brother" is somewhat of a display of magic that one is dealing with on the album, being a hippie folk ballad opened by spacey ambient guitar parts with whistling, bird-like wind instruments somewhere in the distant background. "Glad To Say To Say" follows a rather simple psychedelic pop song pattern, featuring a catchy guitar riff and Daevid Allen's overdubbed vocals. Towards the end, the piece descends into trippy atonal mayhem. "Rational Anthem" is based around a quiet, blurry guitar motif with various ambient effects around. After the calm mood of the previous track, "Chainstore Chant/Pretty Miss Titty", a heavier psychedelic rock piece, offers more dynamically varied parts with Daevid Allen's guitar in the foreground. The song also features spoken word parts, delivered through Gilli Smyth's "space whisper". "Fredfish/Hope You Feel OK" opens with comedic spoken words, which sound as if broadcasted through a radio. Later, the track turns into a Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd-like ballad. Side two, labeled The Late Night (as opposed to side one, Early Morning), opens with "Ego", an avant-jazz statement with psychedelic rock influences, particularly on the sung parts. "Gong Song" tells a story of Pothead Pixie, a visitor from a distant planet, Gong. The concept would be continued on the following albums. Musically, it has somewhat of a Beatles-like sound, but with strong influences of jazz. "Princess Dreaming" opens with a repeating screech, an awfully unpleasant ear-sore, which later dissolves into a part spoken by Gilli Smyth. "5 & 20 Schoolgirls" is another piece kept in a psychedelic pop convention, but again with jazzy flavoring and a healthy dose of peculiarity. The album closes with a haunted ambient soundscape of "Cos You Got Green Hair", which seems to point the way towards the following works by Gong.

The Flying Teapot may yet be to take off to planet Gong, but Magick Brother, Gong's debut album, undoubtedly sets the stage for the band's next albums with its cosmic, trippy, escapist, and jazzy character. The release does have its flaws, poor studio recording being the most notable and disturbing, but is an incredibly rewarding and fascinating journey. Regardless of the style, whether it's a free-jazz workout, a spacey ambient trip or a psychedelic pop ballad, everything is played with great taste and precision. Highly recommended!

 Chronometers by MUFFINS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.82 | 30 ratings

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Chronometers
The Muffins Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars Despite releasing their first album, Manna/Mirage, in 1978, The Muffins had been functioning long before, being formed in 1973. Before their debut, the group recorded numerous studio and home demos, mainly at a large farmhouse in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which they had moved into, naming it the Buba Flirf house. In 1993, Cuneiform Records released a compilation of these recordings from around 1975, under the name Chronometers. At the time, the line-up was different from that on Manna/Mirage, with a guitarist and violinist, Michael Zentner, and Stuart Abramowitz on drums.

The Muffins' style on Chronometers is quite similar to that of their debut album. Their distinct Canterbury-inspired sound is very much present, but at times seems to be characterized by a greater amount of eclecticism and musical diversity. That might, at least partly, be caused by a greater variety of instruments. Tones of Fender Rhodes electric piano, the interplay of Henry Cow-like woodwinds, a xylophone, groovy basslines are now enriched with a mellow, jazzy electric guitar, opening a whole new plethora of possibilities, as well as a virtuosic violin, which gives the material a RIO-like flavor. Similarly to their debut album, the instrumentalism is nearly flawless. The members find themselves comfortable in complex, intricate, jazz-rock-fueled arrangements, dripping with unorthodox time signatures, harmonic sophistication, and difficult improvisational parts, to name a few. Chronometers is also full of tongue-in-cheek arrangements, reminiscent of Hatfield and the North or Egg, a key element to the Canterbury sound. Compared to Manna/Mirage, the music on the album relies on improvisation to a much greater extent. The tracks do not create an impression of lengthy, organized pieces like on The Muffins' debut, but rather that of short musical miniatures compiled together. This gives a great diversity between the pieces.

The album opens with "Chronometers", the lengthiest and the most representative track of the album. In construction and the overall feel, it shares an affinity with "The Adventures of Captain Boomerang", a 23-minute epic from the band's debut. However, one is likely to notice, that "Chronometers" has its own, unique feel, quite different from the previously mentioned piece. It begins with a catchy motif, which utilizes a pixiphone and a mouth harp. Going through various dynamically contrasted jams, every musician gets a chance to display their instrumental skill ? Michael Zentner on guitar, Dave Newhouse on keyboards and wind instruments, and Tom Scott on saxophones. On one of the more soft, ambient passages, the group introduces samples and, more prominently, dialogues from The Wizard of Oz, with a comic, yet somewhat ominous and unsettling feel. After many variations, the track closes with a descending soundscape, somewhat reminiscent of Mike Oldfield, with Canterbury flavoring. I feel like reviewing other twenty one "miniatures" separately would be aimless so let me just say that they have a great diversity between them and their short format just adds to that impression. One is likely to find similarities with Henry Cow, Hatfield and the North, Egg, Sammla Mammas Manna, Soft Machine, Frank Zappa, Supersister, Moving Gelatine Plates, Caravan, Gentle Giant, and even Mahavishnu Orchestra. The tracks range from almost ambient compositions to elaborate jazz-rock pieces to free-form avant-garde mayhem. The tracks that in my opinion especially deserve attention are "Three Days That Won't Soon Fade", with its spoken word parts, "Look at the Size of that Sponge", driven by impressive violin playing, and "Apparently", which showcases Michael Zentner's jazzy guitar playing.

Chronometers is not only an incredibly rewarding musical journey, full of surprising, baffling moments, but also an important historical document, presenting The Muffins' musical style before their debut album, Manna/Mirage. Furthermore, these are the only recordings by The Muffins to feature Michael Zentner on guitar and Stuart Abramowitz on drums. Chronometers is an uncommonly enjoyable, fresh-sounding, innovative, vigorous, and unique album. Highly recommended to all Canterbury scene fans!

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Canterbury Scene bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
DAEVID ALLEN Australia
AMOEBA SPLIT Spain
ANTIQUE SEEKING NUNS United Kingdom
KEVIN AYERS United Kingdom
THE BOOT LAGOON United Kingdom
BRAINVILLE United Kingdom
CARAVAN United Kingdom
CLEAR FRAME United Kingdom
COS Belgium
DELIVERY United Kingdom
EGG United Kingdom
THE GHOULIES United Kingdom
MICHAEL GILES United Kingdom
GILGAMESH United Kingdom
GONG Multi-National
MILLER, SINCLAIR, TOMKINS GOWEN United Kingdom
JOHN GREAVES United Kingdom
NICHOLAS GREENWOOD United Kingdom
GRINGO United Kingdom
HATFIELD AND THE NORTH United Kingdom
STEVE HILLAGE United Kingdom
HOPPER DEAN TIPPETT GALLIVAN United Kingdom
HUGH HOPPER United Kingdom
JAKKO M. JAKSZYK United Kingdom
KHAN United Kingdom
THE LODGE United States
MAGIC BUS United Kingdom
MANNA/MIRAGE United States
MASTER CYLINDER United States
MATCHING MOLE United Kingdom
MILLER & COXHILL United Kingdom
PHIL MILLER United Kingdom
MOOM United Kingdom
MOVING GELATINE PLATES France
MR. SIRIUS Japan
THE MUFFINS United States
NATIONAL HEALTH United Kingdom
PANTHEON Netherlands
PAZOP Belgium
JOHN G. PERRY United Kingdom
PICCHIO DAL POZZO Italy
PIP PYLE United Kingdom
QUANTUM JUMP United Kingdom
QUIET SUN United Kingdom
SHORT WAVE United Kingdom
RICHARD SINCLAIR United Kingdom
SOFT HEAP United Kingdom
SOFT MACHINE LEGACY United Kingdom
THE SOFT MACHINE United Kingdom
SOFT MOUNTAIN Multi-National
SOFT WORKS United Kingdom
STUBBS Japan
SUPERSISTER Netherlands
TORTILLA FLAT Germany
TRAVELLING France
VOLARÉ United States
THE WILDE FLOWERS United Kingdom
THE WINSTONS Italy
ROBERT WYATT United Kingdom
ZYMA Germany

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