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Charlie Tweddle, "Fantastic Greatest Hits by Eilrahc Elddewt"

Companion
This album is a true oddity even by outsider music, vanity-press standards. Recorded and released in 1974 by Charlie Tweddle, a Kentucky native and metaphysical haberdasher, the album encompasses introspective Dylanesque folk, Appalachian music, psychedelia, field recordings and radical tape experimentation. Tweddle was an art-school dropout and an ex-member of Kansas City garage band The Prophets of Paradise when he decided to embark on a three-year lysergic tour through Haight-Ashbury. When he returned, his head still full of acid, he became convinced that he was a real life prophet with the mission of bringing his peculiar brand of primitive hillbilly concrete psych to the world. And so he got together with six guys that look like extras from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and recorded an LP combining his off-kilter songwriting with sudden, frightening excursions into alarmingly atmospheric tape music. He dubbed the prophet part of himself Eilrahc Elddewt (Charlie Tweddle backwards) and wrote some astoundingly boastful liner notes: "Eilrahc is to music what Christ is to religion. This album will reach into the dustbins of your mind." The album definitely reaches into something, but it's not my mind, it's a deep toybox of warped, drug-addled insanity. The opening track sounds innocuous enough, a low-fidelity recording of a Dylan-influenced folk song, but soon there are strange things afoot: odd time signatures, strange tape effects, weird percussion. The second track, which I will call "Hot Tamales" (all eight tracks are untitled), takes a jaunty Tex-Mex tune and distorts it with sudden launches of time-compressed mariachi music. On track four, Tweddle and his pals perform a primitive, ramshackle rendition of the gospel standard "This World Is Not My Home" (Incredible String Fans take note), adding a soundtrack of chirping crickets to the background. Tweddle's obsession with UFOs reaches a nightmarish zenith on track six, which distorts field recordings of seagulls into a menacing alien noise, while Tweddle narrates his close encounter story: "In the darkness of the night, a light came dropping from above...The ship was landing on the shore/And coming from the ship...three creatures pointed to the sea...as you enter from beneath the ship, the figures follow you/It was a night of love/You stood gazing into the eyes of your future/As the sea sang the song with no words." The lysergic vocal mutations are dizzying, and adding to the confusion, Tweddle's narration competes with a recording of himself playing "Blue Bonnet Lane." I figured that was about as strange as this album could get, until I reached track eight, which is a 22-minute field recording of crickets chirping on a still, peaceful country night, as music plays in a far distant background. It's an absolutely haunting end to one of the most idiosyncratic non-Jandek works of outsider music I've ever heard. Companion Records does a great job with reissuing a record that was previously only available to the most diligent flea market crate diggers, adding six bonus tracks of equally inventive music by Tweddle and retaining the original design of the packaging. Just when I think it's safe to be completely jaded and disillusioned by the glut of over-hyped reissues of vinyl artifacts, along comes an album like Fantastic Greatest Hits, forcing me to wonder what other bits of unhinged genius might be hiding out there in history's dustbin.

samples:


 

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Foetus, "Soak"

cover imageWell, I can honestly say that I have never heard another album quite like this one and I presumably never will again, as Soak is an extremely deranged and over-the-top effort—even by Foetus' inflated standards.  That does not necessarily mean that I like it, but I cannot help but admire its complexity, variety, epic scope, and sheer operatic bombast.  In fact, I am quite sure that potential likability was the furthest thing from Thirlwell's mind during these recordings, as Soak resembles nothing less than a mad genius with seemingly unlimited imagination, time, and resources concocting the most kaleidoscopic lunacy possible simply because he can.  We get to hear it, but this is clearly an album that Thirlwell made with himself as the target audience.


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