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THIRD EAR BAND

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock • United Kingdom


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Third Ear Band biography
THIRD EAR BAND originated from Canterbury and started out as a psychedelic band called THE GIANT SUN TROLLEY gaining residency in south-London clubs doing long and improvisations and eventually changing their names to THE HYDROGEN JUKEBOX, recording one live album as such with Sweeney's percussions as scissor's clipping noise (with the mike attached to them) as he progressively undressed completely his girlfriend by clipping her dress during the conert (cut-out were very "in" at that time). Having finished their concert recording they discovered all their equipment stolen. So by sheer coincidence and obvious necessity, they became an acoustic band taking the name THIRD EAR BAND.

They are considered by many to be the first who invented the term "world" music. Published during the late 60s an album as "Alchemy" is seen as a landmark of ethnic fusion music, including many elements of improvisations and obvious eastern and medieval accents. They used a lot of "raga" instrumentations thanks to cyclical, dancing oboe patterns and "tabla" percussions. They often included jazzy rock parts next to India spiritual music. Stylistically this is a band who have brought to the fore a kind of "transcultural" music. Their impressive and cult first effort was followed by what we can consider to be the summit of their career. Their self titled album recorded in 1970 is an outstanding collection of ethereal, ethnic improvisations, totally floating, extatic, consequently directed to a high level of consciousness. A real travel through suggestive, imaginative dreamscapes. The music is executed with genius and always orientated in favour of various acoustic experimentations. Originally released in 1972 for the Roman Polanski Movie their following "Macbeth" carries on this intense, trippy musical adventure but stresses the folk & medieval acoustic structures (including for the first time some vocals). Atmospheres are sometimes creepy, sinister admitting weird and melodic guitar lines. The music is less improvised and really turned to efficient, enchanting, moody and medieval ambiences. This one is recognised as their most popular effort. After a long break the band recorded in 1988 the album "live ghost" with a new line up, continuing a similar musical experience, always making a fusion between a sensitive raga / ethnic style and powerful jazzy rock improvisations. Their following efforts "Magic Music" (1990) and "Brain Waves" (1993) include more evident electronic arra...
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THIRD EAR BAND discography


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THIRD EAR BAND top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.10 | 43 ratings
Alchemy
1969
3.57 | 47 ratings
Third Ear Band
1970
1.00 | 1 ratings
Abelard & Heloise
1970
3.24 | 30 ratings
Music From Macbeth
1972
2.57 | 8 ratings
Magic Music
1990
2.13 | 5 ratings
Brain Waves
1993
2.55 | 4 ratings
Radio Sessions
1994
5.00 | 1 ratings
Magic Music
1997
2.74 | 8 ratings
Necromancers Of The Drifting West
1997
3.42 | 12 ratings
The Magus
2004
5.00 | 1 ratings
Third Ear Band and Roberto Musci: Mosaic A Tribute to Third Ear Band
2016

THIRD EAR BAND Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.04 | 5 ratings
Live Ghosts
1989
5.00 | 1 ratings
New Forecasts From The Third Ear Almanac
1990
3.04 | 6 ratings
Live
1996

THIRD EAR BAND Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.04 | 4 ratings
The Lost Broadcasts
2011

THIRD EAR BAND Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 2 ratings
Experiences
1976
3.00 | 1 ratings
Songs From The Hydrogen Jukebox
1998
3.09 | 3 ratings
Hymn to the Sphynx
2001
4.04 | 4 ratings
Alchemy / Elements
2004
5.00 | 1 ratings
Necromancers Of The Drifting West
2015
5.00 | 1 ratings
Exorcisms
2016

THIRD EAR BAND Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 2 ratings
Fleance
1972

THIRD EAR BAND Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Songs From The Hydrogen Jukebox by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1998
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Songs From The Hydrogen Jukebox
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars A bizarre compilation whose history is perhaps more engrossing than its content, "Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox" is NOT the THIRD EAR BAND (TEB) precursor from the late 1960s with the same name, but more of an offshoot led by percussionist Glen Sweeney which recorded an 8 track album in 1972. In typical TEB fashion, it was shelved until emerging in 1991 as "Prophecies". That release seems rare enough, but 6 of the tracks were merged with 3 numbers from early 1990s TEB albums "Brain Waves" and "Magic Music". That of course leaves 2 orphans from the original album but I'm going to guess they weren't that different from the chosen 6, since they all sound pretty much the same. While bearing a resemblance to the TEB "Magus" album from the same period, which didn't see release until well into the 21st century, they unfortunately co-opt the dirge of that lost classic without the pre punk urgency that offset it so well.. It sounds more like the vocalist (credits not readily available) is reciting a form of existential poetry merely to give the bubbling jazzy rhythms something...er... under which to bubble. According to some, it bears resemblance to GONG's work should you find that a drawing card.

Luckily the remaining 3 tracks are more captivating. "Behind the Pyramids" belies influences of 1980s rock, boasts colorful wind instruments over an unwavering infectious guitar riff and sounds better with each of its passing 7 minutes. It definitely entices me to seek out the "Magic Music" recording as I'm curious how this instrumental managed to slip onto a vocal oriented collection by essentially a different band. "Dances with Dolphins" is similar but attenuated. "Water into Wine" finally closes the loop with a similar musical arsenal, a bit heavier on the percussion and with vocals that are entirely complementary this time, thanks to Lyn Dobson. It recalls earlier JADE WARRIOR or DAVID SYLVIAN, that is to say I'm quite delighted with it. So add "Brain Waves" to the list of TEB entries to sample. I guess this compilation has served its purpose!

In somewhat of a role reversal for lovers of early prog, the 1972 tracks are simply outclassed by the 3 from the 1990s. How often can one say that around here?

 The Magus by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.42 | 12 ratings

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The Magus
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

5 stars For every hundred-ish long unreleased archival recordings deemed lost classics, perhaps one can claim that honour. Recorded in 1972 yet lovingly sequestered for 32 years by THIRD EAR BAND piano/percussion and sound man Ron Kort until it was finally liberated, "The Magus" is that authentic artifact. Some sources imply that it was initially instantiated as "Prophecies" in 1991, but their only similarities lie in their vocal orientation, which makes them anomalies in the "Third Ear Band" discography.

Gone are the raga inspired lattices of earlier works, and, while Mike Marchant's DONOVAN meets ROBIN WILLIAMSON voice does assume lead, the oboe and recorder of Paul Minns, the violin of Simon House, and the drums of Glen Sweeny swirl about Marchant's fiercely lyrical narratives, vying for attention without a hint of clutter or selfishness. Synthesizer is introduced as organically as its acoustic cousins. The meters of the songs are most hypnotic, materializing as incantations, offering a glancing nod back to the band's origins.

Apart from the unfettered urgency of the delivery and the virtuosity of the players, "The Magus" is even more striking for the list of bands it could have influenced, and I say could have because herein lies the blueprints for punk, industrial, dark wave and neo folk music to name a few genres that didn't really exist at the time of recording. Yet all were well underway and, in some cases, interred, before "The Magus" appeared. In particular, I want to cite DEAD CAN DANCE and CURRENT 93 as would be benefactors. It's true that THIRD EAR BAND too claim influences, among them the Krautrock and the "Lizard/Islands" period of KING CRIMSON particularly in how they capitalize on flourishes of the wind instruments. But this is very much a sui generis of prog folk. It might be a challenge for fans of their early work to adapt to what is laid down here, which is deceptively accessible yet stratified with the same perfectionism that marked those earlier projects.

Where uniformity of mood and multifariousness paradoxically mingle, all 8 tracks are luminous, but I want to especially underscore the Native American sounding "Hierophant", the apocalyptic title cut, and the poetry and music of "The Phoenix". But "The Magus" is an opus, and any over emphasis on one part is mere distraction. Therein lies its wisdom.

 Music From Macbeth by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.24 | 30 ratings

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Music From Macbeth
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars If THIRD EAR BAND tends to be aggregated along with the progressive rock movement, the association has far more to do with their period of activity and tendency to experiment, though to a degree that most prog bands of their day could not or would not engage. I would add another quality that they share with the more prototypical artists of this period: elitism, and in fact their first few albums are projections of an exclusivity that relegated them to the commercial margins , though their debut did shockingly brush the lower rungs of the UK charts. More sound than music in the general sense, they, and perhaps most listeners, pleaded for a modicum of the mundane, perhaps a note held for less than 30 seconds followed by another note that belonged with the first. But alas, such was not to be...until they briefly transformed themselves into a stringy Anglo analog to GOBLIN.

It began with the soundtrack for a German made for TV movie, "Abelard and Heloise", and followed just 2 years later with their scoring of a score for Roman Polanski's "Macbeth", and then they inexplicably disappeared for almost 2 decades. The comparison to GOBLIN isn't just for the movie connection but for the morbidity of the motifs, depicted on string and oboe rather than organ, which imparts a demented and twisted atmosphere. This clutches the listener fiercely even without knowledge of how Macbeth yields to his innate and hitherto suppressed evil spurred by the naive and skin deep musings of his Lady.

The shorter track lengths offer a shred of accessibility as well, but this is still far from an easy listen, though the opening "Overture" does scratch that Gothic itch, and "Lady Macbeth" breathily heralds the relative vivaciousness of "Inverness". But it's on the trio of "Court Dance", "Fleance" and "Groom's Dance" that they actually sound like a medieval string and wind ensemble, or at least what I imagine one would sound like. Paul Minns' oboe is especially versatile, though it's his recorder that ushers in "Fleance" and swirls about the guest boy soprano Keith Chegwin throughout. This is a staggeringly lovely number embodying a spirit distant in time and place. Interestingly, others seem to agree based on the frequency with which it is conjured on streaming sites.

Unfortunately, the remaining tracks, apart from the "Going to bed" suite and the foreboding closer "Wicca Way" , offer a more soporific mix of the band's own tendencies while neurotically trying to avoid overpowering the scenes in which they are instantiated. This is a common issue with soundtracks, but, since so much of this one was sliced and diced by Polanski, I'm not sure there is a setting for, say, "Prophecies", that hasn't disintegrated in a landfill.

The remastered version has original takes of the three aforementioned centerpieces, none of which are especially different, but they do reinforce the significance of this path rarely trod by THIRD EAR BAND, and given up before it could flourish. But I suppose THIRD EAR BAND wasn't about compromises, and all told their rendering of Macbeth is no tragedy.

 Third Ear Band by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.57 | 47 ratings

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Third Ear Band
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Third Ear Band's second album is music on the border between the West and the East, between light and cultured classical music. It is instrumental music, from start to finish, played by a chamber musical ensemble, which has little to do with rock, except for the fact that some instruments such as violin or percussion are part of the Western rock repertoire.

The album, dedicated to the 4 elements, opens with Air, an impromptu suite with many due to improvisations mainly of oboe (Minns) and viola (Coff), while the tablas (Sweeney) produce a basic rhythm in Indian style very fast but that acts as a background carpet. Wind noise opens this first movement that looks like a jazz improvisation but the sound is completely different because it is conducted by the viola (and violin?), then at about three minutes takes over the oboe that dialogues with the strings in a continuous reference of dissonances that describe a landscape disjointed, very abstract, held together only by percussion, which give a constant basis to which the other instruments return after their overlapping solo scrolls. It is a magnificent piece and unfortunately the other movements (especially those on B- side) of the disc will no longer reach these heights. The piece will fade and again with the noise of the wind. Rating 9.

The second piece, Earth, is more synchronous between the rhythm of the tablas, which changes in speed, and the sound of the instruments. There is an increasingly sustained progression, a pause and a return of fast pace. More narrative piece, less abstract. It's like a folk dance but you can't say what kind of folk: Irish? Arabic? Chinese? Etruscan? Renaissance? We don't know. Another great piece. Rating 8.5/9

End of a wonderful A-side.

The B-side opens with Fire, which produces an orgiastic sound where all the instruments are engaged in high volume dissonances, we are close to the cacophony, you can only identify the odd rhythm of the tablas. The high notes of the strings and oboe are dubbed on both speakers producing extreme almost random dissonances that after a long time make it ardous to listen. Surely it is the most divisive piece, it seems a satanic ritual where you can just avoid paying attention to the ear (the third) and throw yourself into the dance by moving with your bowels. The ears may be annoying, the sounds are unpleasant, this piece should be taken as a tribal dance without listening to the single instrument but only the overall result. Frankly I can not love it, the more time passes the more I hope in a variation that does not arrive and then the song begins to annoy me for the endless racket. I recognize, however, that again the band has found an unprecedented musical fusion. Rating 7,5.

Water. Rain noise in the distance that bathes the fronds of the trees, soft sounds then come from the percussion of Sweeny, then it is the oboe (Minns) that leads the melody while the viola (Coff) occasionally doubles it and the cello (Smith) produces dissonances in the background. Quiet movement, without particular peaks or falls, is more than anything a variation on a dominant melodic theme with percussion to beat a rhythm in three times. Over time it becomes less and less melodic. Rating 8.

This is an essentially folk-fusion album, completely original and without possible comparison. It has an exceptional first side for both arrangement and music, which could make this album an absolute masterpiece of folk-rock (or chamber music?) but a much less successful second side where the arrangements are still sensational but the music is not of the highest level and then the record is takes "only" a 9+.

Five stars.

 Music From Macbeth by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.24 | 30 ratings

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Music From Macbeth
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars THIRD EAR BAND was a British instrumental group that released four albums between 1969 and 1972 (later they reactivated and made many more albums). Perhaps they were originally associated to the progressive rock scene more because of their prog-oriented record label Harvest than the nature of the music itself. The band isn't very familiar to me, so I can't compare this work to their other albums. However, this one obviously differs from its predecessors in the way that the tracks are often very short (mostly between 1 and 3 minutes) instead of containing lengthy hypnotic drones, since it was composed for film, Roman Polanski's Macbeth (1971). I haven't seen it, but it seems to have become a respected classic. "Perhaps William Shakespeare meant to have Lady Macbeth perform her sleepwalking scene in the nude -- it was this X-rated scene and the film's much-publicized spurts of violence, rather than the brilliant performances of Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as his Lady, that lured crowds", says Hal Erickson in his All Movie Guide review. Did you know that the film was financed by Playboy?

To demonstrate the uniqueness of TEB, it's good to begin with the unusual instrumentation: oboe and recorder (Paul Minns), cello and bass (Paul Buckmaster), plus guitars, drums, violin and VCS3 synth. The two last mentioned are played by Simon House, formerly of High Tide and later of Hawkwind -- the only member who hasn't any composing credits here. The music is mostly acoustic, pretty much dominated by oboe, cello and violin. Also the simple percussion sounds like the band is after an old music flavour. But they were no Amazing Blondel; no harmonic troubadour stuff but slightly disjointed and gloomy soundscapes. One can imagine how emotionally effective this music is on the film telling the sinister story of Macbeth, but undoubtedly it loses some of its appeal without that context.

A couple of brief tracks such as 'Dagger and Death' are more experimental and disturbing than the rest. The most accessible pieces are the rhythmic 'Court Dance' and 'Fleance', which is the only track featuring vocals. The album credits don't mention the vocalist. Only the close reading of the liner notes (I'm having the new Esoteric Recordings re-release) reveals the name Keith Chegwin -- surprisingly, since one would expect a woman. Apart from the lengthy liner notes (written by the underground writer/archivist Luca Chino Ferrari), the ER reissue contains three bonus tracks, previously unreleased first versions of 'Court Dance', 'Groom's Dance' and 'Fleance'. To my ears the differences are small, but at least the pieces in question are among the album highlights.

Personally speaking, this album didn't make me very interested in Third Ear Band. A bit too odd for my liking... Not that I'd ever been very keen on so called Raga-Rock in general. If you fancy hearing acoustic, oboe and string dominated, old music flavoured and dark-toned instrumental music, especially the new reissue with the detailed liner notes is worth checking out.

 Music From Macbeth by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.24 | 30 ratings

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Music From Macbeth
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars THIRD EAR BAND released their self-tiled album also known as "Elements" in 1970 having found notoriety with their other-worldly mix of folk ragas, chamber music and free jazz cranked out on medieval acoustic instruments. The band managed to score gigs by cohorting with some of the psychedelic 60s bigwigs including Pink Floyd and Pretty Things. During the same year, the band was commissioned to create a soundtrack for the animated film "Abelard And Heloise" but remained unreleased until it finally appeared in 1997 on the book / CD set "Necromancers Of The Floating West."

Although it remained occulted for decades, it still resulted in the band participating in yet another soundtrack, the one for Roman Polanski's dark and sombre version of "Macbeth," which was his first movie he made after the horrifying murder of his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, who was snuffed out by Charles Manson and his homicidal death cult. Like his real life tales of torturous pain and doom and gloom set in the tenebrous fog and rainy lands of Scotland, Polanski's version of MacBeth reveled in a cursed and terrifying history and in many ways mirrored the very personal experiences he suffered from the miscreant Manson family.

Polanski could not have chosen a more suitable band for his project for no one at the time matched the sheer terrifying sonic scope of THIRD EAR BAND. For their limitations to a mere handful of acoustic instruments such as oboe, recorder, cello, drums and violins, no one else of the era could evoke such hair-raising emotional power as this band could with their utterly alien approach of seeking out new chapters of musical composition. On MUSIC FROM MACBETH, technically the band's third and final album of the first chapter of their initial run, the band straddles beautifully between bizarre formless constructs of sound and more lugubrious renditions of medieval dance and anachronistic swing.

While there is no mistaking the distinct THIRD EAR BAND sound, this album was different than their previous two works. Firstly, the long improvisations that extended to swallow large chunks of their album's real estate had been truncated into sixteen shorter tracks thus allowing a more focused approach. This album also contains electronic effects as well as angelic vocal contributions by a prepubescent 12-year old Keith Chegwin (although sparingly). The album utilizes the same sort of chamber music as before but there are also elements of Indian and Middle Eastern influences strewn about as well. The tracks alternate between more structured period pieces that are somewhat uplifting and completely detached and alienating tracks that utilized the terrifying effects of aleatoric music which THIRD EAR BAND accomplished with astonishing success.

While some soundtracks are made to accompany a cinematic experience and do not hold up on their own two feet, MUSIC FROM MACBETH is an exception as it lends just enough focusing effects on the music to give it a unifying theme yet allows the band to explore their tumultuous and improvisation acid folk techniques to full glory. This is an excellent slice of early 70s freak folk that manages to take a creative road through what one would assume to be tried and tested material. Much like Polanski's personal experiences, "MacBeth" was a dark and sombre take on Shakespeare's famous oeuvre and THIRD EAR BAND's sonic touches proved to be one of the best decisions he made in regarding the perfect film score to match the film's intensity. This music more than stands up on its own and seems like a logical precursor to the chamber rock avant prog that Univers Zero would adopt several years down the road.

 Third Ear Band by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.57 | 47 ratings

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Third Ear Band
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars While initially forming out of the ashes of a band called Hydrogen Jukebox, percussionist Glen Sweeney switched gears to form THIRD EAR BAND, which was created to improvise Indo-raga type droning effects with freeform instruments that swirl like insects around the percussive drive. The band found success as they signed a three record album deal with Harvest Records. The debut release "Alchemy" displayed a totally unique form of musical experience that was part Indo-raga, part Medieval folk and part schizoid avant-garde bizarr-o-rama weirdness. Despite the completely freaked out nature of the album, this was the late 60s, a time when Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart were finding their day in the sun, and THIRD EAR BAND offered yet another mind altering musical experience to the impressive legacy of the era.

The second album, simply called THIRD EAR BAND continued the freeform improvisational setting of the debut album albeit in a slightly more accessible form, if accessible is the right word. By that i mean that this eponymous sophomore release is more structured and more tamped down by a steady percussive drive that sound to me like some sort of talking drums having conversations with one another. There are only four musicians. Percussionist Glen Sweeney, Paul Minns alternating between oboe and recorder, Richard Coff alternating between the violin and viola and Ursula Smith exemplifying her best cello torturing skills, however nothing on this second release is as far out and startling as the debut.

While eponymously titled, the album is affectionately called "Elements," that being due to the fact that it contains four tracks referencing the main elements of the Earth from antiquity. Those being of course: "Air," "Earth," "Fire" and "Water." Each track presents a musical motif that generates the overall vibe of the corresponding element. Therefore, "Air" is somewhat quickened like a vaporous gas with a heavy percussive drive and loose woodwind and string structures that are as formless as the clouds in the skies above. "Earth" is more grounded and sounds more like a Middle Eastern oasis stop with Arabian musical scales augmented by a rather Celtic sounding fiddling session that ratchets up ever slightly until it is fully caffeinated by the end of its near ten minute run.

"Fire," as expected is, well, fiery. This is the most avant-garde track on the album. While it utilizes the same steady percussive drive, it presents a cacophonous series of counterpoints like flickering flames in a campfire. The oboe provides an incessant drone while the recorder bounces around like a cauldron of popcorn at a movie theatre. Likewise the violin and cello are screechy and buzzing around each other like drunken bees on psychedelic honey. "Water" ends as the shortest track (just barely over seven minutes) and provides a nice relaxing counterpoint to the frenetic nature of "Fire." The drone enters and sustains uninterrupted for a long period. It is joined by ocean waves which i assume are field recordings. The percussion enters but is far gentler than any other track. Likewise the strings and wind instruments join in harmony as they gently unify to create a melody. This one offers a strange Celtic vibe with Medieval folk as the oriental influences have dissipated.

While far more adventurous than the average rock band of the 60s, "Elements" does tame down THIRD EAR BAND's bombastic display of their debut "Alchemy" quite a bit. Although staunchly avant-garde, this one has a smoother and more mature display of the musical flow. While some may deem this too repetitive or even dare i say, boring, i find this to be quite meditative. It has a passive beauty with the complexities shining through on the dissonant freeform counterpoints of the strings and woodwinds. It's also easy to hear how THIRD EAR BAND's improvisation style built on droning rhythmic flows of percussion were antecedents to the electronic pioneers of industrial as well as the more artistic angularities of post-punk especially in the no wave world. While not as adventurous as the debut, this one has a charm all its own in how it flows in a more controlled fashion. Another great album by THIRD EAR BAND.

 Alchemy by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.10 | 43 ratings

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Alchemy
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars The year 1969 was amazing year of explosive experimentalism in every direction with artists like Cromagnon, Amon Duul II, Captain Beefheart, early Alice Cooper and not to mention prog classics like King Crimson and East Of Eden hitting the marketplace leaving listeners grasping for new nomenclature to slap onto the hitherto unheard sounds spewing forth. While free-form and improv were certainly nothing new having been a staple of the jazz world for decades, the rock scene was relatively new to the game and the freedom that the 60s offered gave a green light to artists far and wide to fly their freak flags as high as they could possible fly.

One such band was the THIRD EAR BAND which was formed by Dave Tomlin who participated in free-form jazz sessions at the London Free School and took the show over to the famous UFO Club where he would solicit a free-form group of audience members and band members after hours to engage in spontaneous jams around Indo-raga, European folk, Medieval classical and experimental styles. While they gained the name Giant Sun Trolly, they soon attracted the attention of the EMI Harvest label, changed their name to THIRD EAR BAND and found minor success with their first two albums. This debut ALCHEMY displays all the styles that they set forth in the club scene in all their improv jam session freedoms and laid down to tape.

While loosely tied in with progressive rock, this isn't rock at all but rather a strange mix of tribal percussion such as chimes, tabla and hand drums, chamber rock style oboe along with violin, viola and cello and other strange instruments such as slide pipes. This first album was actually promoted by the great DJ John Peel who contributes jew's harp on a couple tracks. The music flows much like an Indian raga in a linear way with the percussion keeping a constant rhythm while the strings and winds are allowed to float off into a fantasy world as they create fluttering melodies and build up tension until they transmogrify into too-fast-to-hear-individual- notes-ish type droning. The recorder seems to bring about the Medieval flavor which makes this album sound sort of like a Indo- raga prototype of Gryphon's first album.

While ALCHEMY may have come as a shock to the rock'n'rollers engaged in the psychedelic branch of the genre at the time, in reality it wasn't overly different in approach to what Sun Ra & His Astro-Infinity Arkestra were dishing out on their most outlandish albums at the time. Sun Ra would regularly use similar sounding tribal drumming with his improvised jazz section with similar bouts of dissonance and avant-garde compositional structures. THIRD EAR BAND takes a similar approach with more of a classical chamber ensemble of instruments that creates thick and impenetrable counterpoint melodies between the string section and the woodwinds. The tension is thick and it all comes across as a war march through the streets of the capital city (wherever that happens to be) as to rally the troops for an impending attack on a neighboring city state. Somehow they manage to keep a Medieval sort of feel throughout.

ALCHEMY was one of the earliest forms of psychedelic freak folk that showcased dueling woodwinds, completely unhinged violin and viola freak outs alongside meditative percussive beats. While most of the tracks adhere to that description, the near ten minute "Egyptian Book Of The Dead" sounds more like an early electronic industrial album as it creates and eerie atmospheric soundscape out of chimes and woodwinds that sound like the wind revealing esoteric knowledge in coded form. The track builds tension as the instruments come to life and eventually a sort of Native American powwow beat occurs but the crazy noises that come out of the cello are startling and totally frightening! This track is totally unhinged and the most successful at totally freaking me out with all the demonic tones, squeaks and frenetic entropy breaking out at the speed of light. The drums ratchet up the tension as the track nears completion as the squawking swarm of instrumentation begins to sound like a plague from hell ready to consume all of reality. OMG! I can't take it anymore. This has to be the scariest and most intense track of all the 60s!

After all is said and done, THIRD EAR BAND leave you feeling like you've heard something that you have never experienced before and even well into the 21st century, i still have never heard any other artist that sounds even close to the style that they displayed on their debut album ALCHEMY. While the band would change things up over time, this early artifact is a gem of avant-garde musical improv expression and most likely one of the major influences of many of the free-form electronic thinkers such as Throbbing Gristle, Coil and Nurse Without Wound that would take a similar stylistic approach only direct it into the world of electronica rather than the Medieval freak folk instrumentation. This is certainly a jarring one, but a totally unique musical experience that only could have come out in the completely tripped out year of 1969. While not as musical as Comus or Spirogyra, this one more than makes up for its lack of compositional complexities with clever sprawling drone inspired raga marches.

 Music From Macbeth by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.24 | 30 ratings

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Music From Macbeth
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Dobermensch
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I'm always left wondering why I bought albums by this mob. I guess I'm a real sucker for impressive artwork. Being the soundtrack to Roman Polanski's 'Macbeth' film, you'd think it would be a bit more dramatic.

They're known for their swirling, acoustic trance music. It's certainly swirling - Iistening to this makes me feel like I've been on a Merry-go-round for two hours after drinking a bottle of gin and wanting to get off pronto before the unthinkable happens.

There's an awful lot of droning atonal oboe and violin at play here and despite their professionalism it's terribly untuneful and wayward. In fact it reminds me of the superb band 'Biota' but far more minimalistic, gloomy and grey - and being from the early 70's, played with a lot less effect units. Supposedly there's a VCS3 synth used, but for the life of me I'm never aware of it.

A few notes are repeated incessantly, ovelapping and at odds with one another. It's all strangely discordant and vague. I do like the field recordings of the seagulls and later on - blackbirds. I could be cruel and say that they have more musical sense than 'The Third Ear Band'.

I've never seen the film, so perhaps I'm being a bit harsh here. Perhaps it fits perfectly with the visuals it accompanied? It does remind me of Pasolini's 'Canterbury Tales' movie. Both are similar in sound.

'Macbeth' improves the longer it plays. Your ears and senses become accustomed to the out of time beats, the groaning strings and screeching recorders. It's a 'difficult' album but with perseverance can implausibly be quite rewarding in a sadistic kind of way.

I'll give it this - 'Macbeth' must be the worst hangover album ever made. If you play this on a Sunday morning after a heavy Saturday night, you'll regret it - big time...

 Music From Macbeth by THIRD EAR BAND album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.24 | 30 ratings

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Music From Macbeth
Third Ear Band Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As with soooo many scores written for the screen the music is suited for an audiovisual experience, rather than simply listening to it. It's the case with, for instance, Popol Vuh's soundtrack albums to the Herzog movies. Extremely beautiful and engaging, when combined with the actual movie. The same goes for Third Ear Band's "Macbeth".

Whenever I watch the movie, a favorite of mine, I love everything about it, not least the music with it's chaotic, scary ambiance. When I listen to the soundtrack I am less amused. Obviously there's brilliance on this record. The band is brilliant. It is simply a question of the music not being able to sustain the brilliance on it's own. Accompanied by the movie it is an easy four star album, when listened to without the movie a solid three star. That does not mean I fully grasp the music. No, not at all ('cause I don't) but I can feel it, knowing and understanding that it is good.

My favorite track on the album is "Fleance". That track is as gourgeous as music gets. Steeped in history and molded in an amazing coat of a strong, beutiful voice of a young boy it lifts me up and transports me in to Time and Space, allowing me to touch tha world of yesteryear. Obviously I am raving but it is quite a powerful track. When combined with the footage it is heavenly, on it's own captivating. Easily a five star song and one I return to ever so often. I thank Third Ear Band from the bottom of my heart for that track.

Conclusion: Great soundtrack, not so great an album. Brilliant but not as enjoyable on it's own as with the actual movie. Still, "Fleance" is a track making the album worth every single penny.

Thanks to Philippe Blache for the artist addition. and to sheavy for the last updates

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