❉ Modern technology meets retro psychedelia with the enigmatic Cult of Free Love’s blissed-out debut album…
In the mid-1960s North Wales hosted two of the most significant cultural moments of that decade: firstly Patrick McGoohan brought a crew up from that London to film what’s probably still the strangest show of the era, ‘The Prisoner’. Then, just under a year later The Beatles arrived to attend a conference on transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Bangor. Didn’t they have a lovely time? The latter event’s part of the musical turning point of the mid-60s, with the The Beatles opening out their sound from the point where Norwegian Wood and Within You Without You jarred at the heart of their albums to the instrumentation and mindset opening up the eclectic vistas of The White Album.
Clearly there’s still something in the water. Northern Star records have been putting out some fine psychedelia for over a decade now, including the excellent Psychedelia compilations and contemporary psych bands such as Nova Saints. The latest addition to their fine roster is the mysterious The Cult of Free Love, who rather wonderfully strike a mysterious pose in their band biography and allude to being a ‘living, breathing cult’. Pretension is a wonderful thing in the right hands and these are the right hands.
Debut album ‘Love Revolution’ couldn’t be any more 1967 in attitude if it ponced up in a paisley shirt, bell bottoms and reeking of patchouli and weed. You know what you’re in for before you even hit play with band name and album title being composed of late 60s slogans and some none-more-psych album artwork. And that’s before you get to the song titles with plenty of love, a guru and a space odyssey. As their space odyssey being set in 2020 suggests though it’s not a reverent 60s style though – in the true spirit of those times the band are as open to contemporary music and instrumentation as they’re committed to the retro style. It’s the drone element of psych that’s the dominant force here in the krautrock manner of Can and the repetition of Kraftwerk. Opener Drone On does what it says on the tin, building the atmosphere for the album in the style of Fuck Buttons circa ‘Tarot Sport’. From there we’re on to the hypnotic charms of Jaya Deva which melds Hindi vocals and an electronic drone to woozy effect.
Just when you’re being lulled back to the days of acid come the back to back album highlights You Are Obsolete and Interpretations of Love II. It weaves repetitions of Burgess Meredith’s defiant dialogue from The Twilight Zone episode The Obsolete Man into the sitar drone and drum machines to startling effect, breaking the trance like effect briefly. From there Interpretations of Love II feels like something of a soaring release with synths causing it to soar in an entirely un-Ibiza like manner. The album winds down with the aptly cosmic Space Odyssey 2020 and ends on what feels the most 60s track, Interpretations of Love III, straight from Maharashi’s tent via Lennon’s tripped out experiments.
In an era of single songs being prioritized it’s a pleasure to hear a band taking the time to construct a coherent album rather than just chuck a lot of songs together and hope for the best. It ends up synthesising the best of both eras; the ideas and spirit of the Love Decade evoked with modern production and technology. Grab yourself some free love.
❉ ‘Love Revolution’ by The Cult of Free Love is out now from Wrong Way Records (WWR 003).