This week's Monday Magick entry is what some might call a "hidden jem" or "dusty classic" from one of the great "lost albums" of the Psychadelic era. "Devil and the Sea" is probably one the least wigged-out tracks from the decidedly occult-tinged self-titled 1968 debut from freaked out Los Angeles area five-piece St. John Green.
Formed by students at Pasadena City College in 1967, the band made a name for themselves locally and quickly fell under the influence of Rock Svengali Kim Fowley who had a hand in several novelty and cult records and was something of a "shadowy figure" involved in some of the murkier goings on on the LA scene. Fowley directed the band in the development of what he called the "Canyon Sound", a "new style of music" intended to be a hallmark of the Topanga Canyon scene. Group founder Mike Baxter would in fact claim that Fowley's agenda, which included weaving a "mystical tale about the Dark Shadows of the Canyon and the Mysterious Canyon people" into their music, overran the project leaving it "twisted into a bizarre Kim Fowley project." The resulting LP, fueled by the eccentric behavior and drug-abuse of lead-vocalist and songwriter Ed Bissot, and directed in ever stranger directions by Fowley, was in fact a dark, paranoid, drug-infused psychedelic journey unlike anything many listeners had heard up to that point. However there were a few slightly more polished selections, like the almost soulful (but still diabolic) "Devil and the Sea", providing groovy respite from all the high weirdness.
Ultimately the album wasn't a success, though it did go on to enjoy a reputation as a cult classic, and St. John Green disbanded soon after its release. Fowley went on to say "I have people come up to me and cry and stuff when I go to Europe. They cry and they start shaking and stuff. That's the way people respond to that record... It's a great record. There's only a handful of records that I've made that are great" about the album. Fowley kept his fingers in the music biz until his death from bladder cancer earlier this year.
This week's Monday Magick entry is a massive tune from one of the most celebrated, not to mention most sampled, Jazz keyboardists of all time, Bob James. And while "The Golden Apple", from James' 1975 LP 'Two', isn't necessarily one of his most sampled tunes, it is one of the more ambitious recordings he committed to wax during the heyday of smoothed out Funky-Jazz at CTI Records. Lucky for us, it also happens to be a cut steeped in esoteric significance.
Clocking in at over seven minutes and comprised of several different "movements", "The Golden Apple" is a big, dramatic composition. It encompasses numerous influences, from Jazz, to Funk, to Classical, to Prog, and is invested throughout with the gravitas of a cinematic soundtrack. I don't know for certain, but the theatrical feel of the song may have been designed to convey the range of emotions associated with the mythology surrounding the titular gilded fruit, the Golden Apple of Discord, which was, according to Greek legend, cast into the midst of a gathering of the Gods by the goddess Eris, setting off a dispute among them over who was the most beautiful and therefor it's rightful owner. In Rome Eris was known as Discordia, and so the Golden Apple has become a symbol for the Discordian religion, founded in the 1960's by Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley, and propagated by the writings of Robert Anton Wilson. Both Eris and the Apple are significant to Discordianism, which incorporates the symbol into its signature glyph, the Sacred Chao. Additionally, the Sacred Chao and the goddess Eris are central to the plot of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shae's 'ILLUMINATUS!', thus linking Eris, the Apple, and the Sacred Chao to traditions about the Illuminati and transcendental illumination, subjects of great interest to us here at Imageyenation.
Over the years James recorded a slew of other Jazz-Funk classics, including the oft-sampled "Take Me to the Mardi Gras", and "Nautilus", which might interest fans of a certain book about a certain golden submarine. Both "The Golden Apple" and "Take Me to the Mardis Gras" can be found on the 'Two' LP, but most of Bob James output, for both CTI Records and his own Tappan Zee imprint, during the '70s and early '80s comes with our recommendation. He's still performing, recording, and suing people over sampling his music, today.
Imageyenation dandies, Athens, Georgia-based Indie-Pop outfit of Montreal, make their second Monday Magick appearance this week with "Enemy Gene". Taken from their tenth studio album, 2010's 'False Priest', the tune features guest vocals from Alternative Soul/Pop singer Janelle MonŠe.
The impetus for posting "Enemy Gene", an uptempo, dreamy number bearing lite-Funk, Synthpop, and proggy influences with heady lyrics touching on a number of esoteric subjects, is a little odd. While working at my dayjob earlier today I spent a few hours battling the tedium by listening to various YouTube videos about random high weirdness, including an interview with noted occult/conspiracy writer, and possible author of the "Simon" 'Necronomicon', Peter Levenda. In the video (shared below) Levenda discusses several different subjects (ranging from 'Necronomicon' lore, to Nazi mysticism, to the so-called "Son of Sam" murders, to the JFK assassination) and at one point uses a metaphor about his field of research being like light which can be both a particle and a wave. He also repeatedly makes a point of blaming religious manipulations for many of the evils that have plagued and continue to plague human civilization. This immediately rang a bell with me, reminding me that almost identical sentiments are elucidated by Kevin Barnes and Janelle MonŠe on "Enemy Gene". The chorus hinges on the concept of "particle-wave duality" and the song ends with the question "How can we ever evolve, when our Gods are so primitive?" adding that "They destroy our hope for peace, hope for love". How you want to interpret lyrics about someone who is "not quite homo-luminous", and "zombies licking your window for black-body-radiation", not to mention the larger themes regarding breaking "the machine" by uniting the fractured halves of a whole via love, is up to you.
I sense hints of illumination at play myself.
As already mentioned, of Montreal's 'False Priest' was released in 2010. Their most recent album 'Aureate Gloom', featuring a song that ends with the refrain "I believe in witches, I believe in you", is in stores now on the Polyvinyl Records label.
But can someone please tell Janelle MonŠe to go back to making stuff like this instead of that "Yoga" nonsense?
I make my own coincidences, synchronicities, luck, and Destiny.
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