Find it at hhv.de: Orange Vinyl LP | Black Vinyl LP | CD »We want to sound timeless,« says Malcolm Catto, the drummer and head of The Heliocentrics. For 15 years the British band has been revolving around the desert sun. And in 2020 they finally swallow acid just to dig up the bones of Jim Morrison and introduce it to the skeletons of Grace Slick, Jimi Hendrix and George Clinton. Malcolm Catto, about whom there was not even a Wikipedia entry until a few years ago, has good reasons. His father was a jazz pianist, played him old swing records from New Orleans as a child. »Not really my thing,« Catto said in an interview with Jamie Cullum, "but it shaped the groove in my playing. As a teenager, he was captivated by the sound of spaghetti westerns. Later he recorded John Peel’s radio shows and got to know new music: The Fall, The Swell Maps and Wire collide with Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai. The edgy scrambled sound of the post-punk commonwealth was more urgent, the future cancelled, the here and now anyway the things that could still be burned down. Soon Catto was looking for talent for Jazzman Records, barricaded himself in the studio. His first albums, between psych-rock and proto-funk, are released as The Soul Destroyers. Together with Jake Ferguson and Adrian Owusu, the musicians who founded The Heliocentrics with Catto in 2007. Catto gets around. He drums for Floating Points, Quantic and DJ Shadow, stands in the studio with Afrobeat legend Orlando Julius and records quirky solo albums with even quirkier titles like »Popcorn Bubble Fish«. In 2020, he aims his new Heliocentrics record straight into the smoky jazz cellar, spreads sweet cigarette butts and then heads off to Batland, because the old Giallo hams from the imaginary are much easier to remix. Madlib, who hoards the records of the Heliocentrics and diligently used their drum samples on »Bandana«, now releases »Infinity of Now« on his label.
1 – Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza – The Feed-Back (Schema) (1970) | Vinyl LP+CD
Malcolm Catto: Like many from my generation, I have been under the maestro’s spell since being exposed to his inimitable music as a kid, recording from TV onto cassette tape his »Spaghetti western« soundtracks. It was with surprise and joy, many years later, after assuming that those earlier seminal soundtracks were Morricones greatest musical contribution, when Gareth »Godsy« Cherrystones played me some Ennio Morricone (and his close musical associate and long term collaborator Bruno Nicholai) library and horror soundtracks that totally delivered on this exciting earlier promise. I was lucky enough to get a copy of this long before its now attained cult status in the 90s. On this »The Feed-back« album and many of these Library/soundtrack LPs , a Jazz, Psychedelic and Funk influence has now appeared but it is the Feed-back albums precision breakbeat drumming that gives this particular album a modern relevance that sees it fetch a princely sum on discogs. This music is the natural culmination of over half a lifetime of experimenting and improvising and sees not only a blatant disregard of melody and key, but also the very lynch pin of modern music from the blues onwards – repetition is also shunned, as the instruments themselves are picked up, played then put down as the musician moves onto another instrument so that the only constant is the evolving rhythmic drum pattern.
2 – The Swell-Maps – Jane From Occupied Europe (Secretly Canadian) (1980) | Vinyl LP
Maclolm Catto: My older brother brought home »Never Mind The Bollocks« by the Sex Pistols one day and everything changed. A DIY ethic was born that spawned hundreds of bands in its wake almost overnight, bands that would prove that an idea is more important than its execution and who were a reaction to the out of touch and sterile accountant lead British music scene at that time. We hailed from Stevenage, a mere 30 miles north of London, but Punks shock waves soon spread to encompass every major UK town which saw the emergence of previously alienated youths who before hearing »Never Mind The Bollocks« had little or no musical experience or knowledge, and were now given an opportunity to voice their previously muted feelings of futility and angst becoming spokesmen for a generation. There was no direct blueprint to what Punk had to be back then, the only credential needed was to appear suitably disenchanted and to make uncomplicated showy music like the Prog dinosaurs who now faced extinction. In the way that 1920’s/1930’s blues was initially pre formulaic 12 bar those early years of Punks conception saw endless invention and diversity and included under its banner bands whose musical styles differed as widely as magazine, the Talking heads, Suicide, Motorhead and The Jam. The only credential needed was to be suitably disenchanted. The Swell Maps are one such example of the many musical anomalies that briefly flourished under Punks brief but intense explosive arrival. There were bands who did not stray to far from the tree and emulated those early Punk missionaries- The Clash and the Sex pistols etc but man, like Wire, ATV, early Adam and the Ants,, X Ray Spex, The Fall and Siouxsie and the banshees to name but a mere hand full, seized this opportunity of self expression granted by the Punk /New Wave umbrella to create their own totally unique take on the genre. The Swell maps are one such band, using their varied influences from Can to Stockhausen, and who quite exceptionally used odd time signatures (rare at the time), dissonance and included one member of the band playing solely kids toys. Unlike the more traditional pub rock, less arty sounding bands of the day, this Swell maps albums still remains musically inspirational and truly subversive.
3 – Friend Sound – Joyride (RCA) (1966) | Vinyl LP
Malcolm Catto: After Punks initial shockwave, there was an emergence of many other interesting bands who existed under the general classification of Post Punk which lasted into the early 80s with innovative and experimental bands like 23 Skidoo, Cabaret Voltaire, The Blue Orchids, the Gang Of Four and the Birthday Party. After that we began to see a shift into what was to become from then on known ’ as independent (or indie) music’, which saw the emergence of the Anorak and cardigan as the desired items of clothing and apart from a few superlative bands like My bloody Valentine and The Pastels. – The new emergent indie kings were The Smith’s who reigned supreme at that time in an ennui of heavily stylised self-satisfaction. I and a handful of fellow »Stevenagites« took refuge from this musical downturn in an emerging interest in 60’s garage Punk and Psychedelia. This initial foray into Psych albums by a natural process of trial and error yielded the occasional interesting result as at that time few in Hertfordshire were particularly interested in the abundance of cut price second hand late 60s records available. Generally though the recordings suffered from being very much a product of that time and sounded a twee and dated. One record which along with the early Velvet Undergrounds records, The Red Krayola, Godz ll and Beefheart’s »Strictly Personal« album, which to me towered head and shoulders above this tide of mediocre West Coast quasi Psychedelic Pop, was the above. This is ironic as the band who made up Friendsound were actually made up from members of the 60s pop icons – Paul Revere and the raiders, who apparently invited a horde of local musicians to the studio to create this gem. The main track »Lost Angel Proper St« is a sprawling jam enhanced by tape splices and an array of amazing studio audio manipulation techniques that still has me baffled today as to how they achieved it. The result is true mind altering Psychedelia and remains the trippiest track I’ve ever heard to date.
4 – Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician (Latino Bugger Veil ) (1987) | Vinyl LP
Malcolm Catto: Along with the likes of Sonic Youth and Spacemen 3, the Butthole Surfers helped salvage that otherwise musically grim part of the 80s after Post-Punk but before Hip-Hop became the phenomenon that would steamroll everything in its path and rewrite the rule books. It is an example of one of those rare records, such as White light white heat, that show us what is possible when a band who are all on the same page and are not afraid to create their very own era less musical vision that is totally undiluted by self doubt and commerciality, turning their back on the current musical trends to create a totally sincere and unique musical statement that like a black hole engulfs anything in its proximity that does not stand up to scrutiny alongside it.
4 – Siver Apples – Silver Apples LP (Jackpot) (1968) | Vinyl LP
Malcolm Catto: I owe much thanks to the Hip-Hop producers and those who constantly searched further afield to supply ever increasingly intriguing loops to Rappers, for discovering many of the albums I now love. This is just such an example and was discovered on a trip to the US with Jazzman Gerald in the 90s at a time when the search for breaks and loops was at its most intense, and we would go and trade breaks with Hip hop producers and rappers for records we liked. This record was brought to my attention courtesy of »Boston Bob« who was renowned in Hip hop circles. This album blew my mind and still remains for us one of the most influential records in history. You can find within its grooves a prototype of Techno and Trip-hop, all from a record released in 1968, at a time when most records were the embodiment of the West Coat hippie movements naïve Love and peace sentiment, this, like the Velvet Underground and Madrigal hailed from New York where exists the closest thing that America has akin to that most essential English characteristic – cynicism. Chalk and cheese. Just a two man operation, Silver Apples consisted of drums and a homemade primitive synth made from oscillators called »Simeon«. When asked in an interview in around 1968, on the future of music, John Lennon is quoted as answering: »I have seen it, they are called Silver Apples«. A truer word has never been spoken.
5 – Organized Konfusion – Stress: The Extinction Agenda (Hollywood Basic) (1994) | Vinyl LP
Malcolm Catto: It took a while for Hip-hop to mature and evolve into this single statement where the complexity of the music and the still meaningful message both merge to create the pinnacle of the 90s Jazz Hip hop scene. At a time which was the zenith of the sampling age where anything could be put with anything else regardless of origin. This liberating attitude of combining together any kind of music is the premise of our music and most underground modern live bands… where the only rule is that it sounds good.
6 – Faust – The Faust Tapes (Superior Viaduct) (1973) | Vinyl LP
Malcolm Catto: This ground-breaking divergence of uncommercial experimental music and extreme production techniques whose boldness puts contemporary bands to shame was so revolutionary at the time a young Virgin records talent scout called Richard Branson had them ear marked as the next big thing. This now seems bewilderingly off target when you hear this record which even now nearly 50 years later still is a tough listen and totally devoid of anything remotely commercial. Faust fearlessly explore countless musical frontiers with a brazen disregard to all that has gone before them. As daring as any band from any era Faust make many of the other exponents of Krautrock sound traditional in comparison. Still going strong to this day. A precursor to the Punk attitude and a lesson in musical freedom and the possibilities of production. So deep that we can only scratch its surface.
7 – Philip Cohran & The Artistic Heritage Ensemble – On The Beach (Pheelco) (1967) | Vinyl LP
Malcolm Catto: We as a band have admired Sun Ra and his ability to adapt to the changes in music and technology around him without losing his core ethic and always remaining true to his vision. A stand out for us is the late 50s, the Sun Ra period which saw him and his Arkestra evolve into what he is known for. Those unearthly yet beautiful early albums like »Angels And Demons At Play« and »The Futuristic Sounds Of Sun Ra« exist outside genre and era. Instantly recognisable and totally inimitable Sun Ra remained cutting edge into the early 80s. His music is well documented, but this record which includes ex-Arkestra trumpeter Phillip Cohran Is lesser known but equally as strong musically if maybe historically less important. Again, it has that »in« yet »outside«, the Jazz idiom at its core and here we also sees a strong late 60s Black consciousness and empowerment message that includes an arsenal of electrified African instruments and boasts horn arrangements that rival Sun Ra and his »When Pathways Meet«. Jazz was a revelation to myself and founder member Jake Ferguson, its sincerity and soul reach out from beyond the past to touch the listener now and in a thousand years.
8 – This Heat – This Heat (Piano) (1979) | Vinyl LP
Malcolm Catto: Even though I spent my pre-teens fighting to stay awake while listening to John Peel’s nightly radio slot between 10 to 12am, I never came across This Heat. Peel each night at that time would play through the many new records he had just been sent by aspiring New Wave groups across the country along with world music, Dub and whatever else he fancied. It was not until the release of my »Popcorn Bubblefish« album in 2001 that I became aware of this most singular band. A musical confederate Dante Carfagna mentioned that he liked some of my album soon after its release but that also sadly I had been beaten to it by a band called This Heat who did it way better some 20 plus years previously, he was surprised at my ignorance of them. On checking them out I could sadly find little resemblance to them in my low fi rantings, but had found one of the most free thinking and cutting edge UK bands of all time. Like a UK version of Silver Apples but angry and on steroids, This Heat (along with early 23 Skidoo) stand alone in the annals of that era as preempting the music of the future, with the concept of sounds over a strong rhythm, (the same principle that make Can a huge reference even now), and by moment make This Heat a pre cursor to modern electronic dance music. The band would also use tape loops live, something that would not appear in mainstream music for many years. I am lucky enough to work with ex-23 Skidoo guitarist Sam Mills, who once recalled how at that time in the latter half of the 70’s their band (who saw the Turnball brothers as a driving force), were another 3 chord song based Punk band among many until one of the Turnballs turned up to a band rehearsal claiming that they needed to scrap all the songs and start again as he had just seen a band that blew all their contemporaries out of the water with their avant-garde approach to music. The band was This Heat.
9 – Philippe Bescombes – Libra (Pôle Records) (1975)###*
*Malcolm Catto:** One of the perks of touring is the chance to seek inspiration in record shops across the world. This is helped if the shop owner happens to like our band as he or she will consequently pull out some amazing records you might have ignorantly skipped past and never have been aware of. One such record is this, whose deceiving front cover resembles an 80s Michael Jackson bootleg. As a band we are always trying to evolve and incorporate our combined influences to create a sound that is the embodiment of us at that particular time. We will often try and achieve a unique sound with the help of production techniques and the sound treatment of familiar instrument to make them sound like something else entirely. One such album was our »The Last Transmission« which was a set of recordings made over several days that saw us jamming together after a long time of bring without a studio and consequently apart. I had been listening to Faust and other examples of unorthodox production styles which inspired me to apply some of those ideas to those recordings. It is rare for us to feel that we have created something that is deeply unlike any other recordings we had heard, but there were moments on that album where we felt we had achieved just that. It was some time later when we were offered some gigs in Japan and while there a Japanese record store owner kindly recommended this album which I was gutted to hear sounded basically very similar to The last Transmission but with better ideas and a way more radical production done in 1975. Back to the drawing board…
10 – Pärson Sound – Pärson Sound (Subliminal Sound) (2019) | Vinyl LP
Malcolm Catto: This box set of previously unissued recordings was recommended by a record store owner in Copenhagen who has supported us since we played in that city with Mulatu Astatke back in around 2010 or 2011. I always find it fascinating how music reflects its environment and the time in which it was made. This is a basic criteria for most music as this is an inevitable part of your everyday existence that will manifest itself through your playing. Sun Ra overcame this inevitability by his unceasing gaze upwards into space and seeking extra terrestial influences on his music. By doing so and concentrating not on the immediate surrounding reality but of the infinite possibilities that lay outside of our sphere he managed to make music that transcended both his surroundings and era. Pärson Sound started out as a Psych band called the Mecki marc men who alongside forward looking bands Fifty Feet Hose and Spleen, released two albums on the standout predominantly electronic music label- Limelight. It is also interesting to see how a small group of musicians/artists can influence so much music from that time. In Hip hop you had the D.I.T.C crew who all contributed to pushing the New York early to mid 90s Hip hop envelope with artists such as Lord Finesse, Showbiz and AG, Big L, O.C. and Diamond D. They all contributed to each others records and created their own scene within a scene. Like Pärson Sound whose members also went onto form Trad, Gras Och Stenar, Harvester and International Harvester All Inspirational bands. Pärson Sounds musicians who although originally part of the Swedish Jazz scene like their German counterparts Can, turned their back on complicated musicality and »chops«. And instead became obsessed in stripping away any superfluous complexity to create something almost primal in simplicity and repetitiveness.. I read that Pärson Sound root concept was to try and make the music standstill a bit like how your breath does momentarily in the cold. This is pre-stoner rock and the Heroin soaked sounds of Spacemen 3 by 20 years. By stripping everything back to the barest essential components and applying a strong concept this band have created their own completely unique style. In a similar vein to God speed you black emperor, the sparse and sometimes painfully slow music gradually descends into an intense cacophonic climax that must have been incredible to witness live. This band in all its various guises have been a huge influence on our music.