Daevid Allen: N’Existe Pas! (Charly)***½/ Banana Moon (Charly)***½

YOUR PLANET Gong correspondent reporting again, and with better news than of late, Both of these albums have much to commend them to Daevid Allen cultists and even to people who appreciate the odder departures of British New Musick. It’s to do with fashion rather than fact that outfits like Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League are considered OK modern heavy listening while Allen and friends have to be dismissed as deranged old hippies if you are to maintain your standing in the community.

It is undeniably strange tactics though to bring out two albums at the same time – Charly seem to have acquired the tolerance that sustained Virgin in their far-out heyday (when Tubular Bells was buying the groceries for a horde of bizarre experiments).

Banana Moon is another example of Allen’s apparent desire to release on record every note he ever taped. This dates from 1971 and, while the technical quality is nothing to write home about, it does show up the wretched live album from about the era which Allen released last year. A special treat is that it features Robert Wyatt’s drumming demonstrating how to combine academy skills with the momentum of a runaway locomotive.

It includes several of what Allen’s notes term ‘lighthearty bananas’ such as ‘Stoned Innocent Frankenstein’ and ‘Fred The Fish And The Chip On His Shoulder’ in which the whimsy remains within the boundaries of humour rather than veering into sheer daftness. But the most significant track is ‘Adventures In The Land Of Flip’. It has a humanity rare in Allen’s work: generally he refuses to allow of people suffering any ill or pain that cannot be swathed and muffled in a ganja dream. But this expresses hurt and puzzlement at the fate of a friend whose retreat from reality into bad trips made him think he was a messenger from God. It’s fierce and nightmarish with the improvisations from Wyatt, Archie Leggett and Allen wild yet purposeful.

N’Existe Pas is similarly balanced between fripperies and alarming emotions, though the tracks are all written by Gilli Smyth rather than Allen himself. The little matter of whether the human race really exists, philosophically speaking, is the theme but between them they handle it with remarkable spirit and imagination.

There’s comedy in the rustic ‘Something Tells Me’ (with Allen as Jean-Paul Wurzel or Madge Sartre) and wistful gentleness in ‘No Other Than The Mother’. Then the sour power bursts out in ‘Because Bar-Room Philosophies’ and ‘Non God Will Not Go On Or The Wrong Way To Be Right’. The latter yanks together funk bass and drums, cosmic synthy swirls and George Bishop blowing sax like a scream from the ultimate void.

Well, both of these LPs are as uneven as ever but they do have charm and moments of worrying insight. Such a strong selection from his past and a forthright new creation suggest Daevid Allen has eased up on defying all-comers and recovered some of his capacity for self-criticism.

© Phil SutcliffeSounds, 14 April 1979

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