Friday, May 22, 2015

Beaver & Krause - 1969 - Ragnarok

Beaver & Krause

01. Ragnarock
02. The Fisherman
03. Circle X
04. Dill Picolo (Try Not to Twitch)
05. Dr. Fox
06. Moogy Blues Funk
07. As I Hear it
08. 33rd Stanza of a Hymn to Sancho Panza
09. Fountains of the Dept. of Water & Power
10. Changes
11. Interplay

Released the year after 'The Elektra Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music', Beaver and Krause’s somewhat misleadingly titled 'Ragnarok: Electronic Funk' (which remains unissued on CD) is one of the ultimate cult moog gems. Seconds into the opener I ditched my vain search for hardwired approximations of Bootsy licks to settle back and marvel at this unusual and intriguing LP. Armed with the knowledge that Beaver and Krause were both Dr. Robert Moog’s west coast sales representatives and expert Moog programmers (rigging it up for, amongst others, The Doors and The Monkees; for Mort Garson’s early moog LPs; and – as I later found out to squeals of delight (yes, mine) – the soundtrack to Nic Roeg’s 'Performance'), it might be easy to dismiss 'Ragnarok' as a mere industry demo if it hadn’t the ability to stand so firmly on its own two feet. Given the LP’s breadth of scope, it could conceivably have been subtitled 'The Limelight Guide to the Moog Synthesizer', but comes across more like highly advanced library music for an as yet undreamt-of 21st century.

In terms of sheer ambition, the title track (which opens the LP) has something in common with some of Walter Carlos’ more adventurous work of the early to mid-1970s such as ‘Geodesic Dance’ and ‘Timesteps’. Sandwiched between this and the ominous organ-like spirals, elliptical twitters and subliminal voices swirling at the turbulent epicentre of ‘Circle X’ is ‘The Fisherman’, Krause’s unfussy, lilting guitar ballad which the moog lifts out of the realm of the ordinary with gently placed burbles and delicate counterpoints. ‘Dill Piccolo’ takes apart and rebuilds the moog as a clownish, carnivalesque tumble of moving parts and mechanical tricks, preparing the ground for ‘Dr Fox’ and ‘Moogy Blues Funk’, the LP's most off-the-scale spikes in eccentricity. The cartoonish lyrics of the former allude rather obliquely, I suspect, to Dr. Moog and his ‘...freakin’ brain box...’, and for maximum wobble, the sleeve notes suggest headphone devotees don their cans, so I did ... brrrrr. You should too.

Neither recognisably bluesy nor funky, ‘Moogy Blues Funk’ (which opens side 2) is instead an absurdist hillbilly romp which kisses an irreverent if sweet-natured goodbye to Bob’s visions of classical respectability for the Moog while wrenching open the paddock gate through which Gil Trythall’s bizarre moog hoedowns would eventually trot. Another series of abrupt and unexpected musical about-faces brings us the gorgeous and all-too-brief ‘As I Hear It’ and riding on its coat-tails, the scalding, stuttering acceleration of ‘33rd Stanza of a Hymn to Sancho Panza’, a minor, pin-you-to-the-wall masterpiece that makes speculation about what stanzas one through thirty-two might sound like almost unavoidable. ‘Fountains of the Department of Water and Power’ pretty much does everything it says on the pack, with cycles of fluid, cascading motifs welling up from within a polished utopian muzak. ‘Changes’ and ‘Interplay’ – both taken from a film score entitled ‘Breakthrough’ – close the LP. ‘Changes’, as the title might suggest, morphs from meandering downbeat exercises in harmony and counterpoint to chilly isolationism within the space of three-and-a-half minutes, and still finds room inside for a stately electronic fanfare. The additive structure at the heart of ‘Interplay’ blossoms into a variegated six-part invention that could easily be mistaken for something else Walter Carlos might have done in the late 60s or early 70s, and as the needle finally drifts into the run out groove, it dawns on me how far you can go in just one LP. Frequently unique, often exquisite, and more than a little bit bonkers here and there, 'Ragnarok' deserves every last bit of its rarefied cult status. When I die, I want mine buried with me, please.



  2. Hoi Drago.
    Dit is inderdaad uitstekend. Wist je dat Paul Beaver ook op The zodiac - Cosmic sounds speelt. Eén van mijn favorieten op dt gebied.

    1. Wist ik niet... en dan als iemand het vertelt... it makes sense!

  3. Ps: ik heb hun Nonesuch guide ooit, als dubbel-lp gekocht.