(PURPLE PYRAMID RECORDS/CLEOPATRA RECORDS; 2013)
A couple of interesting things about Brainticket’s debut album: First, upon its original release in 1971, it was banned in several countries including, incomprehensibely, the United States (where hippie, drugged-out psychedelic music of this variety was born); second, it came with a label warning that you should “Only listen once a day to this record” because “Your brain might be destroyed.” The record’s good, but I’m not sure of the validity of that statement (of course, everybody and their dog – well,at least Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone – will tell you how unbelievably awesome Springsteen is and I know that’s an outright lie). That warning label must be close to the truth, though, because I played COTTONWOODHILL twice a few days back and had to rest for awhile. So, I’m guessing that you guys wanna know what prompted the warning and the bans and why the album still sounds so good today, right?
Okay… let’s start at the beginning then, shall we? “Black Sand” comes off as a funky Yes hoedown with Santana-like leads and a heavier-than-thou Hammond (provided by band leader, Joel Vandroogembroeck) pounding away throughout. At a mere 4 minutes, “Black Sand” is like the preliminary bout before the main event. That remark will make a lot more sense a little further down the page… trust me. “Places of Light,” another prelim (again clocking in around 4 minutes), isn’t as killer heavy as the first tune, but with Vandroo… uh… Joel offering a jazzy flute signature throughout and the introduction of some way trippy processed vocals by Dawn Muir, it still ranks high on the psychedelic Krautrock meter.
Now, like most albums of the type back in the embryonic phase of what we’ve come to know as “Krautrock” and the waning years of the psychedelic movement, this album takes a cue from Iron Butterfly and IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA: a few (or in this case, a couple) short songs on one side (we’re talkin’ original vinyl release now, children) with a much longer track of the more experimental variety filling the second half. Brainticket goes the Butterfly one better (well, actually, a half better) as the tune “Brainticket” is broken up into three parts. Finishing out Side One of the album is “Brainticket I (Part 1),” over eight minutes of odd noises (credited to Hillmuth Klobe utilizing “potentiometers, generators and sound effects”), more vocal acrobatics from Dawn Muir, as she whispers, screams, orgasms and talks her way through a seemingly (derailed) train-of-thought set of lyrics and a percussive, rhythmic organ pattern that repeats through the entire song (which includes another four-and-a-half minutes of “Brainticket I (Part 2)” and nearly 13 minutes of “Brainticket II”). This is, indeed, the main event that we were hoping for! As we are discussing a CD reissue here, it should be noted that the fade out/fade in of the original vinyl is not present on “Brainticket I,” which is presented as it was recorded, as one solid 13 minute piece of brain-damaging tunage. My one complaint – and it’s a minor one – is that the two pieces of the 26 minute suite should be presented as one track. There’s a definite end to “Brainticket I” and a definite beginning to “Brainticket II,” but they don’t present (at least to me) as two separate entities… the one should start immediately after the other ends but, on this reissue, there is a several seconds pause which is somewhat distracting to me. COTTONWOODHILL was, for many years, a lost jewel at the crossroads of psychedelia and Krautrock. Now, thanks to the fine folk at Purple Pyramid and Cleopatra Records, it has taken its rightful place in the pantheon of mind-bendingly great albums, something to be revered and listened to over and over again. My sole request of you is this: “Please – listen responsibly!”