The fourth of Motorpsycho’s expanded archival sets revisits 1997’s Angels and Daemons at Play – a chronological and developmental follow-on from the earlier Blissard set.
The box contains 6 CDs but it’s actually quite a tidy package, with very little replication of material. There’s just one disc of EP cuts and rarities, plus a complete concert recording that spans two further CDs, and the original album, presented, as the first 500 copies were, as three separate CD EPs, although all the music would fit onto a single disc.
There are no experimental studio tapes or discarded albums to exhume this time around, as Motorpsycho circa 1997 was compacting and locking into a hectic schedule of touring and recording.
The EPs make sense, with the first, Babyscooter, being a vigorous collection of melodic indie rock tracks. The third, Lovelight, is more of a mixed bag, but likewise features Motorpsycho pared back from the quintet that recorded Blissard to the core trio of Bent Sæther, Hans Magnus ‘Snah’ Ryan, and Håkon ‘Geb’ Gebhardt. The middle EP, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, is something else: a suite of more progressive music with guests Deathprod on electronics and Ole Henrik Moe (ohm) on saws, strings and piano, further enhancing the trio’s multi-instrumentalism.
The Motorpsycho sound of this era reveals both The Beatles and Blue Cheer as bedrock underlying other classic rock, grunge and (not so much) prog influences, but since the trio, Sæther in particular are no slouches in the songwriting department they’re closer to the former, and the overall impact of Angels and Daemons is more punchy and concentrated than the curate’s egg eclecticism of Blissard, though there’s still plenty to dig into.
Of particular interest are the three versions of “Un Chien d´Espace”, a structured improvisation to accompany Luis Bunuel’s surreal short film Un Chién Andalou. These include its first performance, recorded at Cinemateket, Oslo, in 1996 (on the ‘rarities’ CD, along with an improv extract from a later performance), a subsequent performance on the 1997 live set, and the studio version on the Have Spacesuit Will Travel EP.
One of my few gripes is that this EP isn’t indexed, so “Un Chien d’Espace”, the title piece (which was dropped from the single CD version of the album), and the short “Ohm’s Concerto for Alto and Soprano Saw” are run together as a continuous half-hour ‘suite’ despite not being one – the longer cuts are quite separate, with “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” pointing the way to the expansive progressive rock of more recent years.
The rarities include a couple of album outtakes, also with Deathprod and ohm, which are less experimental than the “Have Spacesuit” cuts, but more so than the material on the other EPs, on which the most outré thing is the untitled banjo-based ‘joke’ track that ends the album proper, and which I could happily live without.
In a similar vein but more welcome, there’s a trad romp through “Syk”, a song originally recorded – with a more contemporary electronic sound, ironically – by cult Norwegian children’s entertainers Knutsen and Ludvigsen. For the most part though, the bonus material only goes to point up what well-honed artists Motorpsycho were becoming: they even manage to nail an acceptable studio version of “Flick of the Wrist” from post-Blissard reject album When The World Sleeps.
The live CDs contain an entire two and a half hour 1997 concert, including Deathprod’s opening half hour noise/ambient piece “Komet”, on which he’s accompanied by Moe and a couple of percussionists, all of whom assist Motorpsycho’s power-rummage through what was already, in ’97, a rich back catalogue.
Standout tracks include a hefty rendition of “Hogwash” from debut LP Lobotomizer and a suitably rough-and-ready take on The Who’s version of Mose Allison’s “Young Man Blues”. Though the latter isn’t as convincing as the Live at Leeds classic (they fare better, on the Starmelt EP, with a powerful retrofit of Humble Pie’s “Up Our Sleeves”), the audience singalong to “The One That Went Away” is testament to an exhilarating, crowd pleasing set. All very nicely recorded by NRK, the Norwegian broadcasting corporation, and newly mastered by Deathprod.
As usual the box itself is neat and sturdy, with a re-design by Kim Hiorthøy, a booklet with all the info you need, and three photos of Bent, Snah and Geb looking almost dapper, which is only appropriate – these Motorpsycho reissues are exemplary.
Bent Sæther vocals, bass, guitars, piano, mellotron, Rhodes, percussion, Moog Taurus synth; Hans Magnus ‘Snah’ Ryan vocals, guitars, piano, organ, double bass, Moog Taurus synth, 301 Space-echo; Håkon Gebhardt drums percussion + Helge Sten (Deathprod) oscillators, reverbators, ring modulators, echoplex; Ole Henrik Moe (ohm) violin, alto and soprano saw, grand piano.
Buy Angels and Daemons at Play direct from Rune Grammofon.