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The Smell of Incense
Through The Gates Of Deeper Slumber
September Gurls Records

The best psychedelic music, in my opinion, combines amusing and unusual lyrics with excellent melodies and musical curiosity; curiosity for new musical expressions, new instruments and sounds. Since the start in 1986, The Smell Of Incense (TSOI) has payed homage to these elements and the most innovating bands of the psychedelic sixties, playing cover versions firstly in their rehearsal room just to please themselves, later live and on record. The TSOI headquarters are in Arendal on the southern coast of Norway and guitarist etc. Lumpy Davy is also a member of Famlende Forsøk (see Luna's December menu). TSOI's album All Mimsy Were The Borogoves released by the Norwegian Colours label and a couple of singles and half a 10" EP made available by German September Gurls include great interpretations of songs by Pink Floyd, Incredible String Band, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Merrell Fankhauser's H.M.S. Bounty, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Gong, even the Kinks and a few others. The first album also includes some of their own subtle songs which don't fall short of the cover versions. All releases are limited editions, between 500 and 2000 copies.

Deeper Slumber indicates growing ambitions; they have made all the music themselves, but the lyrics are supplied by well and less well known fantasy writers/poets such as Michael Moorcock, Lord Dunsaney and Robert E. Howard. The first half of the album consists of the 25 minute long five parts suite A Floral Treasury with lyrics by Cicely Mary Barker. TSOI shows some courage by introducing electronics throughout this epic. During the third part, The Song Of The Nightshade Fairy, techno elements are pretty overt. This might turn away some of their purist fans, but psychedelic music should see no limits and everything ought to be allowed, as mentioned above, if you ask me. And there are more than enough "traditional" psychedelia here to keep everyone satisfied. The Song Of The Winter Aconite Fairy, sort of raga rock with sitar and all, resumes the thread where the TSOI version of Kinks' Fancy ended on the first album. The dynamic Columbine Confused has the twin guitar work that is one of TSOI's trademarks and best assets. The vocals have tended to be a weakness on earlier recordings. The improvement is substantial. Female Bumble B takes care of most of the lead vocals, at times close to the folky voice of Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior. And listen to the superb vocal harmonies on the aforementioned Columbine Confused and Kraken (the second of four parts of From The Third Hemisphere at the end of the album)! Another favourite is A Word In Season which combines the happy-go-lucky and folky with calm and beautiful parts. The production on this particular song is light and breezy and all instruments stand out. Parts of the rest of the album consists of a wall of mellotron sounds. At a time TSOI wanted to call the album The Catalogue Of The Mellotron, which is about right. At first it can be somewhat overwhelming, even for a big fan of the mellotron as yours truely. After a few listenings, other instruments and subtle details can be distinguished as well. The mellotron handling is great, though at times I think this instrument should have played a bit discreeter part of the mix.

Anyway, Deeper Slumber is a maturer work compared TSOI's earlier recorded output. The album doesn't include the obvious psychedelic effects such as backward guitars and there are hardly any long free-form space trips. Whereas All Mimsy Were The Borogoves almost might have been recorded in 1967-69, Deeper Slumber, apart from that techno picnic, is closer to 1969-71, i.e. the late psych and early progressive era. One riff on the album is stolen from a 1971 progressive LP, so the saying goes. A prize to the first who finds the correct answer. To some extent, the way some of the words of Kraken is sung even reminded me of Yours Is No Disgrace from one of the early Yes albums (in fact The YES Album, and NO, it's not the correct answer to the competition). But don't let this put you off. Anyone with the slightest interest in melodic psychedelic music with folk elements is recommended to look for the records by The Smell Of Incense, not least Through The Gates Of Deeper Slumber.

Label: September Gurls Records, Sigmundstrasse 92, 90431 Nurnberg, Germany

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You may also want to check out our Smell Of Incense articles/reviews: A Curious Miscellany, European Tour 1998 (1), European Tour 1998 (2), Of Ullages And Dottles.

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