Buried Treasure: ‘Undercurrents’ reviewed

A soulful, edgy and funky collection of rare grooves from the Josef Weinberger, Programme Music & Impress Libraries.

“‘Undercurrents’ is packed with the best picks from the hundreds of forgotten tracks and includes luminaries such as Tim Cross, Bob Downes and Impress Library supergroup Midas Touch, providing often joyful and sometimes heavy hitting soundscapes packed with enough eclecticism to keep you wondering what’s coming next  — even after repeated listens.”

After a particularly boastful delve into a Christmas cheeseboard during the strange, singular festive period just past, I was plunged into a dream wherein my thinning tonsorial felt had morphed into a proud white-man afro, perched over unaccountably broad shoulders, bobbing above an impossibly fitted shirt (fitting as it should and not as it does). Realisation that this was not my body gave cause enough for me to turn in fear, flee and be chased down by an unknown assailant through the streets of what can only be half-remembered as downtown ‘70s Detroit (or any number of other ‘downtowns’ I’m yet to visit). In the reasonably assumed setting of a Blaxploitation movie, it was the fictional I that was being exploited by dairy intoxication as I ran, in thick Cuban heels and high-waisted flares, to escape breathlessly back into consciousness and my dull, ordinary life of easy-fit denim and a wardrobe full of too-tight leather jackets. I didn’t know who was chasing me or whom it was chasing, but waking into the death throws of 2020, one didn’t need to be Sigmund Freud to hazard an educated guess as to what my subconscious was trying to relay.

These dreams often come paired with visual and physical sensation, but rarely do they have what would be required to make it a complete full scale attack on the senses – a soundtrack, something to return to in order to make it stick.  Undercurrents from the Josef Weinberger, Programme Music & Impress Libraries ’67-’85 fills that gap and opens others, placing me in the movie in my mind, the outcome uncertain and the journey extended ahead.

Compiled by Alan Gubby (Revbjelde, The Delaware Road) from a lucky 2015 haul from a record shop where he found and bought sixty rather sorry looking JW Theme Music LPs in brown and beige covers. Closer inspection of his yoink revealed established composer names and exotic equipment filling the grooves – Fairlight SMI, Mini Moog, Yamaha CS80 and more. He was in, and now am I too and this is the result.

Undercurrents is packed with the best picks from the hundreds of forgotten tracks and includes luminaries such as epic Jazz flautist Bob Downes (who inexplicably also recorded with explosively famous/anonymous drummer Jimmie Nichol if you insist on playing the Six Degrees of Separation from the Beatles trivia game, as I do); the late Prog and punk botherer Tim Cross (Mike Oldfield, The Adverts); Bass master and erstwhile producer of Dusty Springfield and Scott Walker, Mo Foster; Classical Indian composer Naresh Sohal; friend of Sinatra and Peggy, Lee Derek Austin; and Impress Library supergroup Midas Touch who funk their way all over this collection, provide often joyful and sometimes heavy hitting soul, funk, percussive hooks and groove soundscapes packed with enough eclecticism to keep you wondering what’s coming next  — even after repeated listens.

Crossflow One by Tim Cross proves an unreliable prologue with which to open the proceedings, fooling you into thinking an ambient album full of subtle mood and mystique awaits, a trick soon dispelled, although it’s to be repeated, by its successor, Midas Touch’s Jack-Knife. Its brazen melody and unfettered confident swagger sweeps the slate clean, permitting what’s about to follow, which is Bob Downes’ Move and Counter Move. An incessant percussive swing-fest, splattered with guttural floor tom exclamations changes the mood unpredictably from joyous to *squints* is that…danger?

Permeated as it is with gunshot and unsettling time signatures, it does this with a gracious ease before making way for one of the most exciting period funk jazz jams this writer has heard in ruddy ages. The sleazy attack through electric piano, fuzz bass, blistering guitar and jazzy time-signature brass makes this a fitting accompaniment to a mouth downturned in aroused disgust. Disgust is right, because this is Pete Smith’s Rock Minus Zero – a porno-Moog theme used in 1970’s skin flick Highway Hookers. It’s filthy and it knows it. I love it, the dirty bastard.

If filthy innuendo doesn’t get you in the aroused and slightly confused mood, then perhaps Mo Foster’s Times Square will. It’s what Barry White’s widow was reported to bring out of her bedside drawer when all Barry wanted to do was collapse in an exhausted heap after a long day of walrusing. If it’s good enough for him, then by jove it’s good enough for you. Peter Thomas’s The Real McCoy continues the vibe, but by now you’re draining a post-coitus cigarette behind the wheel of an outrageously long car and a sly smile, heading for trouble in downtown (insert city name here). By the time Water Reactor arrives, slow and steady, you’re ready for the reflective montage of your previous passion-born mistakes, you’re allowed time to take stock and you’re advised to take it and have a word with yourself.

This collection of soulful, edgy and often funky as fuck tracks soundtracks a life you probably didn’t have the courage to live, in a land you’ve never been. A dream. At the midway point, however, Tim Cross once again provides an opportunity to reassess where the heart of this album lies, because here he is again, all acoustic guitar, compressed fretless bass and high register staccato notes, cascading like falling stars. If your dream is a movie, then this is the part where you realise your carnal desires are little more than the pursuit of the unenlightened, and that there may be another path ahead. We’ve seen the error of our ways, haven’t we?

No, for here’s a determined, but altogether more disciplined funk with Make No Bones (fnarr fnarr) from Midas Touch. They provide two of the collection’s high water marks, both exaggerated by contrast following rather benign Tim Cross tracks. However, just when we think we have our mind firmly focused on more aspirational pursuits are we surrounded by African rhythms as Primitive Signal by…Mr Surprise, Tim Cross, pulls at more base, carnal instincts. Realisation that we are what we are and that it’s ok, is reinforced by Derek Austin’s Tape Worm.

These recordings were made between the late 1960s and the mid 1980s, and there is, you think, little reward in working out which songs came first. Naresh Sohal’s rhythmic, haunting Evening Prayer may sound like Mr Tumnus covering George Harrison’s Within You Without You, but it was recorded in 1981. This piece is so out of place on this collection that you may well feel as if you’ve slipped into Narnia unnoticed anyway, a suspicion of which Bob Downe’s return with Big Cat helps you escape from with its incessant hand drums before landing at an Awakening and wondering, rightly, what the hell this album was all about, if anything at all. Listen to your subconscious, brothers and sisters, it might be in need of a soundtrack.

You can pre-order Undercurrents from Bandcamp from the 5th February 2021 and the vinyl will be available from record stores from March. Set your alarm, you may wonder if it was all just a dream.

❉ ‘Undercurrents from the Josef Weinberger, Programme Music & Impress Libraries ’67-’85’ (Buried Treasure Records) Bandcamp pre-orders from 5th Feb. In Record Stores from March. Buried Treasure Records: Facebook / Bandcamp / Instagram

❉ A regular contributor to Far Out Magazine, We Are Cult Magazine, The View magazine, Velvet magazine, the Teatles Book and more, Jamie Osborne writes a variety of fiction, non-fiction, comedy and features. Jamie loves to write about music, the Beatles, ’50s & ’60s culture and art, TV, film, comedy and football. You can find some examples on his blog page.

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