Though I wasn’t around when it came out, it’s hard not to see Dave Bixby’s Ode To Quetzalcoatl as a kind of omen for the hangover that was coming for the Free Love generation as the 60s turned into the 70s. The utter loneliness that suffuses the record comes out of Bixby’s experiences with LSD in high school, which he describes thus: “My love for adventure took me out where no man has gone and I couldn’t get back. I should have stuck to beer and pot. Dave never came back. My empty body wandered aimlessly for months with not much to say. People I knew seemed strange and unfamiliar. The life I had was deleted and I was eventually reborn.”
Though he had played in some folk and rock groups as a teenager, the songs that would become Ode To Quetzalcoatl emerged from his playing at prayer meetings led by Don Degraff. As attendance grew, others encouraged Bixby to record the songs and the record was released in 1969. Around the same time his draft number was called and I’ll let him describe what happened:
“I made an appointment with the draft board and I handed them a letter from my father stating he had been a marine and fought in WW II. His father fought in WWI and supported my decision to pass on war. Then I handed them Ode to Quetzalcoatl. After reading the back cover and asking me some questions. I remember being asked “David do you have any questions for us? Yes, why don’t we deprogram and retrain our soldiers for civilian life after they do the dirty work? WW II left emotional and mental scars on my father and compromised our whole family.” No answer to the question but they thought it was a good question.”
A year later he released another album under the name Harbinger called Second Coming which is a little more upbeat in tone but has the same stripped-down production that makes Ode such a treasure. Speaking of treasure, if you happen to own an original then I’d hang onto it as the originals are nearly impossible to come by. Both records were re-issued in 2009, though the re-pressing of Ode has since sold out. Digital files of both are available at Bixby’s Bandcamp page along with an album of previously unreleased songs.
Bixby relocated to the Grand Canyon in 1979 and has lived there ever since. I wrote to him a while back to ask about chords for Morning Sun which he was willing to provide, so I’ve included a link to those below for others who might like to play this song themselves.
After putting out a few cassettes on their own, Houston trio Khruangbin released this track on an EP with the same name on LateNightTales in 2014, where it waited patiently for three years to be discovered by me. The group takes its name from the Thai word for airplane, which originally referenced the shared love of Thai surf and funk that brought Laura Lee (Bass), Mark Speer (Guitar), and D.J. (Drums) together, though it is doubly appropriate now that the band is split between the U.K. and the States. If you’re looking for an entry point in to the kind of Thai music they are influenced by, Sublime Frequencies has put out a number of great compilations of Thai rock from the 60s and 70s. Two good places to start are Thai Pop Spectacular and Shadow Music of Thailand. Khruangbin released their first full-length album in 2015 titled The Universe Smiles Upon You. They also put together a mix tape that highlights some of their other influences which you can find here. According to their website they’re playing a couple of festivals this summer, including Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, and Outside Lands. Because I’m a curmudgeon I won’t be able to see them live, but discovering this group is almost enough to make me take the plunge. Here are some links to purchase the releases I mentioned here if you are so inclined:
Kikagaku Moyo formed in 2011 as a psychedelic free music project by Go Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada in Tokyo, and while their emphasis on improvisation means performances can shift from night to night, I’d bet they get to some serious zones. They just released their fourth album House in the Tall Grass on their label Gurguru Brain. They launched the label both as an outlet for their own music and as a way to spotlight Asian underground music. A compilation called Guruguru Brain Wash gives a sampling of their label’s output and it is solid as well. To keep up with their hijinks, follow them on Facebook and Tumblr. The group just finished a US tour on election day and then headed back to Japan, escaping just in the nick of time. This feels like a riff on some of the new age material coming out of Germany in the mid 80s, specifically Popol Vuh’s Spirit of Peace. In these tense and uncertain times, it’s hard not to envy somebody with a sitar.
666 is the title track off Sugar Candy Mountain’s third full length release from People in a Position to Know. Ash Reiter and Will Halsey are the core of the group, but they are often joined by Jason Quever and Matt Adams, among others. As if you couldn’t guess by the combination of sun-drenched guitar and occult fascination, they’re based out of California, Oakland to be specific. Before their release on PIAPTK, they put out two records on their own starting with a self-titled in 2011 followed by Mystic Hits, both released on cassette as well as digitally. For anybody who ever wondered what Camera Obscura would sound like if they came from somewhere that wasn’t notorious for dreary weather, it seems we finally have an answer. Or, as the band puts it:
If Brian Wilson had dropped acid on the beach in Brazil and decided to record an album with Os Mutantes and The Flaming Lips, it would sound like this- all psychedelic pop Wall-of Sound and beach balladry
Those interested in tracking down vinyl should head to the Discogs page for the release. While the pink vinyl is sold out, downloads, CDs, and black vinyl can still be had over at Bandcamp.
Yura Yura Teikoku formed in the late-1980s in Tokyo and were very highly regarded in the Japanese underground music scene there, though there first performance outside Japan didn’t come until 2005. This track comes off their last commercial release, 2007’s Hollow Me. Though the group has had a number of drummers over the years, bassist Chiyo Kamekawa and singer/guitarist Shintaro Sakamoto anchored the group until they disbanded in 2010, citing a lack of enthusiasm. Both Kamekawa and Sakamoto have remained active with solo projects, and while I can’t say I’ve heard Kamekawa’s work I can vouch for Sakamoto’s two solo releases: How to Live with a Phantom and Let’s Dance Raw. What really hooks me about this group (and Sakamoto’s solo work) is the blend of folk rock and psychedelia, which is a combination many have attended but few have pulled off as well as these guys do. If you like this track just listen to the auto-generated playlist for this track. It has a couple tracks from Sakamoto’s solo albums as well as some live cuts and it’s had my foot a-tappin’ all day.
This track was featured on a compilation entitled Do Whatever You Want, Don’t Do Whatever You Don’t Want!! which features works relating to the Japanese collective known as Acid Mothers Temple. The collective got started around 1995 and have gone through many different incarnations based on who was performing at the time, including Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno, Acid Mothers Temple SWR, Acid Gurus Temple, and Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. This track from Ueh originally appeared on a self-titled release put out on the house label for Acid Mothers Temple. Though Ueh doesn’t actually share members with Acid Mothers Temple, it is associated with the group through both releases on their label and a split release, Pataphysical Overdrive To My Cosmos with Makoto Kawabata. That came out in 2004 and it doesn’t look like there has been anything else put out by Ueh, though members Benjamin Gilbert and Audrey Ginestet has been active with a group called Aquaserge since Ueh went on hiatus. I’d recommend digging into Acid Mothers Temple, though the sheer size of their discography can be a bit intimidating. I’ve got some recommendations below in case you’re ready to dive right in: