Beaver & Krause - In A Wild Sanctuary / Gandharva / All Good Men [Righteous Records/ Cherry Red - 2019]Here we have a double CD release of early 1970’s work from the quirky & creative pioneering US electronic duo Beaver & Krause. The disc set, on Cherry Red sub-label Righteous, brings together the projects three albums on Warner Bros- 1970’s In A Wild Sanctuary, 1971’s Gandarava, and 1972’s All Good Men- which see the pair moving from a fairly Moog heavy ecological concept album. Onto imaginary film scoring with a Hindu mythological leanings. Through to an album that moves between dramatic musical hall tunes, upbeat easy listening, 70's singer-song writer fare, and beyond.
Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause met in 1966 as session musicians in LA- from the outset the pair had a joint interest in the potential of electronic musical instruments. They appeared in 1967, at the Monterey Pop Festival, demonstrating their newly purchased electronic synthesizer, one of the first constructed by Robert Moog. They went onto introducing the instrument to George Martin & The Beatles, The Byrds, The Doors, And Simon & Garfunkel. They also appeared on more than a few 60’s & 70’s film soundtrack- with either one of the pair playing Moog on soundtracks such as Rosemary's Baby, Catch 22, Performance & others.
The pair’s first album appeared in 1968, and was entitled The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music- and it saw the duo offering up sixty-eight fairly short tracks, which utilized the Moog as the only instrument. The double album demonstrated the possibility of the instrument- by utilizing all sides of the Moog's sound & it’s four oscillators- sine, triangular, continuously randomly variable, and sawtooth The album is understandable now seen as a very important early marker in the development of electronic music. 1969’s Ragnarök (Electronic Funk) , saw the pair pushing the Moog in a more conventional musical, at times trippy, and creative directions- this brings us up to the pairs third album & the first one on this two-disc set In A Wild Sanctuary.
Released in 1970 In A Wild Sanctuary- this nine-track album was inspired by the words of 19th-century writer Ellen Glasgow "Preserve, within a wild sanctuary, an inaccessible valley of reveries”- and is best described as an ecological concept album. The tracks move from the ethnic percussion meets jaunting-to-creepy synth layering of the opening track “Another Part Of Time”. Onto the eerier whistling & gurgling Moog ambience of “Spaced”. Though to the bounding & grooving beat meets tuneful Day-Glo jiving synth march of “Salute Of The Vanishing Bald Eagle”. Over to growing oddness of “Walking Green Algae Blue” which starts off with wavering electro blues, water/ bird/ sounds, twanging guitar. Before later moving onto wildlife commentary samples, weird children/ adult chanting & skittering spacey synth texturing. As an album In A Wild Sanctuary is certainly a wonderful varied & darting album, which really takes you on a trip in the best 1970’s style.
Next spread over the end of disc one & the start of disc two we have 1971’s Gandharva- this took in ten tracks- apparently it’s meant to be the soundtrack for an imaginary film about Hindu mythological, and it certainly saw the pair spreading their genre wings wider- but also diluting their electronic elements. As it moves from the wonderful titled “Nine Moons In Alaska” with its blend of buzzing & accelerating bass synth, & crashing & tinkling icy Moog scaping- all of which rather pre-dates the chilled ethnic snthy-scaping of The Residents Eskimo by eight years. Onto hazed ambient gospel vibe of “walking On The River” with it’s reduced & ghostly swirling soulful female vocals & distant piano weaves. Through to mournful jazz, horn meets rising-to- brooding church organ vibe of “Be Your Graceful”- which along the way hints at Arabic, Jewish & coral colours. Through to lonesome twanging blues guitar opening of “Short Song For David” which slowly burst into a blend of cheeky jazz horn, lightly strutting guitar, synth bass buzz and harp twinkles.
Lastly taking up the final ten tracks of disc two we have 1972’s “All Good Men”- and really this sees the pair shifting to a much more varied & genre darting sound that often plays down the more electronic side of things. It's an album that at times brought to mind the kind of lush, showy & instrumental layered sound of someone like Dyke Parks. We kick-off with “A Real Slow Drag” with its mix of American musical hall big band instrumentation, and grand male & female chorus, with dips into maracas tinged waltzing piano & string blends. By track four we’ve gone all overblown female 70’s singer song with “Sweet William”- with a rich blend of wondering & grand piano lines, rising string swoon, and belting female lead vocals. Track seven “Prelude” begins with tight neo-classical blend of virtuoso piano & jaunting harpsichord, before midway adding in emotive synth keys & real string work. While the title track opens haunting blend of jaunting piano & wavering female harmony vocals, before adding dramatic orchestration, lonesome flute trails, swirling strings & more complex multi-harmony layers- before going all spacey synth bound in its last ebb. It’s certainly an album that really highlights an awful lot of different sounds, sonic approaches & instrumentation- again it’s one hell of a trip, though I can well imagine that it would have rather puzzled much of the duos audience back in the day.
So this certainly is a wide-ranging and diverse selection of work from Beaver & Krause which finds them darting in & out of all manner of sonic genres. While the first two albums in the collection certainly feature a fair amount electronic & synth elements- I’d say this won’t appeal to those who are looking solely for 70’s electronica, but if you enjoy quirky sonic genre mix & blends- you’ll find much to enjoy here.