Monday, 14 November 2011

A Belief in Mischief - #3

A Belief in Mischief is the new edition of Your Heart Out which can be downloaded here as a pdf, free for all. It started out as a meditation on sacred texts, and ended up as a celebration of irregulars, visionaries, mischief makers, and people who just don't get written about enough. Right at the heart of this issue is the story of Peter Shertser, Ian Sippen, and the Firm, the psychedelic mod mischief makers who in turn became underground entrepeneurs. I have been fascinated by stories of the Firm ever since Jonathan Green's Days in the Life appeared, and keep an eye out for new revelations.
Tracing the story of Shertser and Sippen leads to A=MH2, the remarkable LP by the fantastic duo of Clark-Hutchinson which the Firm produced. It's a mad record, which is up there with the best Impulse! or ECM were putting out at the time (this is the end of the '60s and into the start of the '70s) while simultaneously being rooted in the UK underground acid rock scene, along side Mighty Baby. The opening track, Improvisation on a Modal Scale, is a brilliant dance track, and the funny thing is I doubt if I would ever have heard it were it not for my interest in what Shertser and Sippen got up to.
Against the odds (you've got to read their story) Clark Hutchinson became a proper group and put out a couple more cracking LPs. The final one, Gestalt, from 1971, has got some beautifully desolate songs on, like Come Up Here. The one in-between, Retribution, is a wonderful mixture. I particularly love After Hours which builds on a gorgeous Horace Silver style piano motif, with Mick Hutchinson adding some searing guitar work over the top. It needs to be mentioned Mick had previous form with the excellent Sons of Fred, south London beat noise savages whose too few recordings such as Baby What You Want Me To Do are much admired. So perhaps it's no surprise that Retribution contains a track as unsettling and twisted as Death, The Lover which is incredible. And if Mark E Smith and The Fall, back in the early years, weren't familiar with this astonishing track then I'm Roman Totale ...

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