Unashamedly retro, and placed firmly in the shadow of The Soft Machine (indefinite article essential) while imbibing heavily of the heady atmosphere of alternative London in 1967, Italian band The Winstons give the impression that, for them at least, 10:15 certainly never even considered leaving the bedroom. One does in fact wonder what the point of this musical museum curating actually is, as I would imagine its audience is somewhat limited and in any event rapidly ageing and shuffling off this mortal coil with alarming rapidity.
That is not to say I do not find this album enjoyable, but ultimately the reaction it draws from me as it recycles the first two Soft Machine albums in a thoroughly unsubtle fashion with a bit of Daevid Allen’s later troupe thrown into the blender to good effect, is no more than a world-weary sigh as I wonder where it’s all going. Once those of us of a certain age have lost the ability to appreciate the music, be it by failing powers of hearing or of reasoning, bands like these will have to try their hand at their own music or wither on the vine.
Usually I would reserve my scorn for retro-proggers falling off the teetering insurmountable invisible-peaked mountain of Yenesis wanabees, but increasingly the same kind of past-fixation applies to modern prog bands of a Canterbury bent. There is nothing wrong with using ancient influences, in fact it’s nigh on impossible to make adventurous or any other form of music that does not start from some kind of trope or another, but this lot are the Canterbury equivalent of the likes of Wobbler. I’d bet they even use the same analogue instrumentation as played by their heroes too in their quest to make “Volume 1½”, their equivalent of Wobbler’s vain attempt to make “Fragile At The Edge”, aka Rites At Dawn.
Actually, I’m being rather unfair on The Winstons, using their rather pleasing if thoroughly derivative debut album as the target for an oft-repeated rant of mine, but come on, as soon as Nicotine Freak gets going we’re transported into the lysergically enhanced portals of the UFO Club, circa May 1967. I bet The Winstons use a kaleidoscopic effect on a mirrorball in their light show too, it would be remiss of them not to after all.
You will notice two tracks with Japanese titles. The lyrics to these are contributed by Japanese artist Gun Kawamura, and if any race knows a thing or two about making uncanny recreations of eras of Western culture of the recent past, it’s the Japanese. Diprotodon could be an amalgam of any number of early ’70s Canterbury bands, and lurches along pleasingly enough in familiar jazz-influenced fashion.
The music is provided by a trio of multi-instrumentalists who together create an interesting mélange of psychedelic swirling sound, dominated by guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, occasionally livened up by some saxophone interjections. They can sing a bit too, as the woozy harmonies on the sub-’60s fantastic exploito-psych workout Play With The Rebels attests. …On A Dark Cloud is an unfolding eight minute mini-epic with suitably Wyatt/Syd-fragile vocalisations, buried somewhere on side 1½ of Piper At The Gates Of Volume 1¾ I’ve no doubt, and so we ride.
It’s still 10:15 in the bedroom on She’s My Face, and stays that way through most of the following track, although A Reason For Goodbye is enlivened by some nice sax and electric piano work. Dancing In The Park With A Gun is the snappiest title I’ve come across in a while, it has a touch of the John Cale’s about it, doncha think? It swings a bit too, which is nice, before flying out of orbit and it is probably the best song/experiment on the record. Viaggio Nel Suono A Tre Dimensioni translates as “Journey In Sound In Three Dimensions”, and by now you probably do not need me to tell you how that sounds. Tarmac is led by some lovely piano and vocal Wyattisms, making for an island of peace during this strange trip to an alternate version of London in 1967. We end with more lyrics from our Japanese artist on Number Number, a relatively languid journey down on through the fingers of Mike Ratledge, with Kevin Ayers crooning on dreamily.
Yes, this is all rather fun, and while I may have been a tad harsh on the band earlier on, I stand by my comments. Bitch!
01. Nicotine Freak (4:33)
02. カンガルー目(Diprotodon) (4:09)
03. Play With The Rebels (3:41)
04. … On A Dark Cloud (7:53)
05. She’s My Face (4:22)
06. A Reason For Goodbye (6:01)
07. Dancing In The Park With A Gun (5:16)
08. Viaggio Nel Suono A Tre Dimensioni (3:33)
09. Tarmac (3:30)
10. 番号番号 (Number Number) (6:11)
Total time – 51:12
Lino Gitto (Linnon Winston “The Moustachioed One”)
Roberto Dell’Era (Rob Winston “The Tall One”)
Enrico Gabrielli (Enro Winston “The Strange One”)
…individual instruments uncredited
Record Label: AMS Records
Year Of Release: 2016