The Orkustra - The Orkustra (RD Records LP)
Oh boy. Nothing gets my saliva glands pumping like a long lost unearthed gem from the true golden era of music (that'll be late 60's/early 70's). Especially if it's a psychedelic rock album, which they almost always are. And especially if they, like this one, consist of previously-unreleased recordings from a 1967 band involving the ever-infamous Bobby BeauSoleil (even though it was actually formed by future It's a Beautiful Day ringleader David LaFlamme). You might already known BeauSoleil from his involvement (be it as composer or as actor) in Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising and Invocation of My Demon Brother, two stone cold classics to be sure. Oh and also he was convicted of murdering a music teacher as an associate of Charles Manson, but why should we dwell on the past?
If you know the music of Lucifer Rising, you have as good a starting point as any. The music Bobby and his Freedom Orchestra was largely centered around sweeping instrumental psychedelic epics boasting a heavy, proggy keyboard/synth influence as well as some freewheelin' electric guitars (BeauSoleil plays guitar and electrified bouzouki on the Orkustra disc). However whereas the music from Lucifer Rising generally rides free, seeming to spiral off in all directions, the Orkustra's brand of jam is a bit more focused, particularly on the a-side. There are four songs, two of which have already been made available on the 2-disc reissue of the Lucifer Risins sessions, courtesy RBeauSoleil's record label White Dog Music (ran by his wife while he's busy composing new slammers in the slammer). "Flash Gordon" is the commencing tune, a bouncing little number with a boppy, jazzy bassline running through it. "Bombay Calling" lives up to the Eastern hints dropped by its title, with a wonky flute (I think? Hard to tell with the muddied production and the fact that I don't have BeauSoleil's extended liner notes in my hands) heading up the charge. It's pretty hard to come up with comparisons for this - maybe a more relaxed krautrock a la German Oak, Brainticket, Cosmic Jokers, Annexus Quam, etc..."Punjab's Barber" is even further out into the east, rocking a delirious and positively (snake-)charming vibe. "Flash Gordon's Return" also has a jazz feel to it, and the more I think about it the more I realize that Sun Ra wouldn't be a bad point of reference either, circa "Nubians of Plutonia" with the sax removed.
The B side is a side-long jam (oh you know how I love it) called "St. John's Cathedral Jam", clocking in around 25 minutes. RD Records calls it "Theatre of Eternal Music (the famed Pre-Velvet Underground La Monte Young/ John Cale Drone Band) meets It's A Beautiful Day" which I guess sounds pretty good to me, even though I don't know a tremendous amount of the former (due to my name not ending in Young or Zazeela) and know next to nothing about the latter. But heck, I can use my imagination. Anyway what I do know is that it's a romping, splayed-out, noisy effort that is sure to leave your ears ringing if you play it too loud. The whole track is led on by more Middle Eastern riffing and gets exceptionally interesting when the feedback threatens to explode your nervous system. There's some fantastically hidden, slurred vocals in here too. Actually this may sound off-the-wall, but a lot of this reminds me of the come-down from one of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's epics (specifically the live-only "Albanian"). All I seem to be able to come up with are contemporary references, really. I mean, who was doing this shit back in '67? This is a true slice of forgotten music history, ranking right up there with Cromagnon's "Orgasm" as a sample of what the most fried minds of the era were coming up with. Righteous, brothers.