Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Chillum - 1971 - Chillum


01. Introduction By Brain Surgeons From The Royal Free Hospital
02. Brain Strain
03. Land Of A Thousand Dreams
04. Too Many Bananas
05. Yes! We Have No Pajamas
06. Promenade Des Anglaises
07. The Lone Commuter
08. Three Blind Mice
09. Celebration
10. This Is Not Romance

- Ken Elliott / keyboards, mellotron, organ, vocals
- Kieran O'Connor / drums
- Tony McGill / guitars
- George Hart / bass

Like an insane instrumental Canterbury band soundtracking the end of the world, `Chillum' is a difficult but hugely fascinating album that will easily divide listeners. Some will relish it's noisy tuneless chaos, thinking it was way ahead of it's time, others a total useless mess of bad ideas that will make them flee in terror for a safer listen! I fall somewhere right in the middle - one listen I'll find it an endlessly intriguing psychedelic knockout, the next time it'll drive me up the wall and I'll remove the album in disgust. Try not to be listening to the album too loud if you start to react negatively to it, as it may cause quite a violent reaction in you!
After a fairly rubbish comical introduction, the band charges head-first into the aptly titled `Brain Strain', a 21 minute side-long piece which may be the breaking point to a first time listener. A noisy and seemingly directionless freak-out, filled with a million musical ideas that occasionally work brilliantly, and other times fall a little flat, it does showcase some interesting and talented musicians. The endless extended fuzzy and scuzzy organ by Ken Elliot reminds me of a more unhinged and deranged version of Canterbury band Egg, and that sound dominates much of this track. Tony McGill's guitar work is frequently tuneless, bendy and shrill, but also quite imaginative. He comes across like a more deranged and sloppy Syd Barrett on the improv workouts on Pink Floyd's debut or the `Tonite Let's All Make Love In London' LP. George Hart's bass playing has a hypnotic and dreamy quality, frequently plodding and monotonous but also very fluid and loose. It's a bit of a stretch to say it helps the music really groove in places, because moments like that only last a few seconds before the next aimless direction kicks in. I feel Kieran O'Connor's drum-work and percussion really steals this piece. Frantic, fiery and lively, with the musician quickly adapting back and forth to the different directions and musical paths the album treads down. He really helps hold the piece together - as much as possible, anyway.

Side Two's all too brief `Land Of A Thousand Dreams' is a brief musical lullaby with restful Mellotron and pretty piano. It then segues into a very repetitive and mostly mundane percussion piece called `Too Many Bananas' that barely changes for it's four minute running time. The ten minute `Yes! We Have No Pajamas' is a very loose but oddly coherent workout. There's a real energetic groove to this one, with lots of knockout Hammond and pounding drum-work. Some very laid-back, almost bluesy guitar plays over some lively and melodic bass. Actually quite an upbeat piece, in a few brief moments it reminds me of a messier version of Focus. Probably for wary listeners, this track may be the best place to start with this album, but in some way it doesn't prepare you for the mind-breaking noise of the first side. `Promenade Des Anglaises' is a simple but lovely acoustic ditty with gentle percussion, some slight tasteful keys and Mellotron washes. A nice comedown to wrap the album on.

I really appreciate that the `Chillum' album is totally instrumental, as I found the previous band Second Hand's work was somewhat let down by comical vocals that were obviously hugely amusing to the band members themselves, but sabotaged their potentially interesting ideas to listeners. I do find that, for all it's chaos, noise and seemingly random arrangements, there's a very interesting and frequently exciting album here. The band seems to relish playing in such an unhinged and random fashion on the first side, while the second half shows their music is not completely devoid of a good tune or melody.



  2. This is just as much a Second Hand album as any of the others.. I think that the next notable project O'Connor and Elliott worked on together was the band Jets, whose amazing 1973 glam stomper "Yeah!" made it onto the great Electric Asylum compilation series. Death May Be Your Santa Claus was definitely their masterpiece, but they're all worth hearing. Cheers