Grey Malkin, known for creating spectacularly spooky Wyrd folk via The Hare And The Moon, runs through some of his all-time favourite acid folk records…
Stone Angel – ‘Stone Angel’ (Seashell, 1975)
I am a huge fan and an avid collector of the period of folk music in the late 60’s/early 70’s where something a bit darker and ‘out there’ permeated, creating what is now often labelled acid, wyrd or psych folk. Albums by such artists as Mellow Candle, Midwinter, Loudest Whisper, Fuschia, Mr Fox, Sourdeline, Forest, and Spyrogira are all exceptionally inspired and truly creative. Over the last few years their influence is really starting to be acknowledged which is truly gratifying and some of these recordings (which were often private pressings or sold very few copies at the time) have thankfully become easier to get hold of. Stone Angel’s debut is one such album and comes highly recommended; its gothic folk and chilling skeletal sparseness has been a huge influence on my own music. Scratchy, unsettling and featuring folk music reduced down to its bare bones, this is the musical equivalent of a Victorian or Edwardian ghost story.
Caedmon – ‘Caedmon’ (Self-released, 1978)
Often described as possibly the best acid folk release of all time, Edinburgh based Caedmon’s self-titled debut (and only studio album till a reunion 32 years later) still stands as an ambitious and awe inspiring take on traditional music. Combining cello, mandolin, psych fuzz guitar and songs inspired by CS Lewis with a genuine maverick creativity, ‘Caedmon’ is a musical treasure chest. Recognisably indebted to the folk rock scene that was borne from the likes of Pentangle and Fairport Convention, yet also brim full of its own odd and exotically textured flavours, ‘Caedmon’ still sounds startlingly vibrant today
Comus – ‘First Utterance’ (Dawn, 1971)
Potentially one of the most disturbing and terrifying albums ever recorded, Comus’s debut was unleashed upon an unsuspecting still swinging London perhaps not quite ready for tales of woodland murder, Roger Wootten’s snarling vocals, or the sheer intensity of the band’s singular vision. Now rightly revered and the band reformed, ‘First Utterance’ is unlike any other folk, psych or prog album you will ever come across. Be warned; leave the lights on when listening and bolt the door…
Perry Leopold – ‘Christian Lucifer’ (1973)
Perry’s second album nearly didn’t survive to be heard at all after the studio that it was recorded in closed down and the master tapes were erased to be used again. This would have deprived us of one of the seminal albums of the era; a true visionary, Leopold expertly creates his own psychedelic tapestry and song cycle with layers of woodwind and acoustic instrumentation that is both equally heartbreaking and uplifting. Indeed, Perry’s plaintive voice alone is enough to bring tears to the eyes on a recording that should really be much more widely known and deserves much greater appreciation; this is his “Five Leaves left” or “Jack Orion”.
Mellow Candle – ‘Swaddling Songs’ (Deram, 1972)
The Irish acid folk outfit’s only ‘proper’ album and recorded whilst both Clodagh Simonds (later of Fovea Hex) and Alison O’Donnell (United Bible Studies, The Owl Service) were only 15 and 16 respectively. But what an album; silvery trails of psych guitar criss-cross the most crystalline harmonies you will ever have the good fortune to hear whilst harpsichord and mellotron add an otherworldly feel to a record that is now both hailed as a lost classic and seen as hugely influential. I would strongly recommend investigating Alison’s other work with psych folksters Flibbertigibbet (whose long lost album is now available on her Bandcamp page) and her most recent solo triumph ‘Climb Sheer The Fields of Peace’.
Mr. Fox – ‘Mr. Fox’ (Transatlantic Records, 1970)
Bob and Carole Pegg tapped into some hidden, ancient rural darkness when they recorded the two Mr Fox albums, the self-titled debut and equally baroque follow up ‘The Gypsy’. Accomplished and yet with a pleasingly rough edge to their music that added an air of authenticity, the Peggs owned a genuine air of bucolic menace that set them apart from some of the more polite folk practitioners of the day and felt positively pagan on violin driven tracks such as the demented frenzy of namesake ‘Mr Fox’. Their ‘He Came From The Mountain’ (released under Bob and Carole Pegg) and Carole’s own ‘Carolanne Pegg’ also contain several moments of arcane spellcraft and witchy goodness. Bob Pegg is now, appropriately, a folklorist and storyteller, releasing many fine books on custom and local tradition.
Dave and Toni Arthur – ‘Hearken To The Witches Rune’ (Trailer, 1971)
The finest occult folk album ever made by a practising witch who also graced our TV screens as a children’s TV presenter, ‘Hearken To The Witches Rune’ is a sparsely but effectively arranged collection of the most supernatural of the Child Ballads. Probably at once the wyrdest (in intent and context) and yet also the most traditionally folk (in sound) on this list, the album has remained out of print for decades and any copies found floating around disappear quickly for vast sums. Fortunately, Dave and Toni Arthur’s other releases such as ‘The Lark In The Morning’ and ‘Morning Stands On Tiptoe’ are equally as impressive and more readily available. Whilst Toni has somewhat gone to ground, I recently spotted Dave playing in Shirley Collins band during her ‘Lodestar’ live shows.
Trees – ‘The Garden Of Jane Delawney’ (CBS, 1970)
A truly beautiful, melancholy and unsung classic that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as ‘Liege and Leif’ and ‘Basket Of Light’, ‘The Garden Of Jane Delawney’ switches masterfully between more folk rock driven standards such as ‘Glasgerion’ and more ghostly fare such as their take on ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ or the stunning, haunted title track which is as close to an aural representation of such visual treasures as The Haunting or The Innocents as you will ever get. Perfect for listening to whilst staring out of frosted windows. As you do…
Jan Dukes De Grey – ‘Mice And Rats In The Loft’ (Transatlantic Records, 1971)
Generally when people say that you must listen to an album as it is ‘properly bonkers’ the resultant experience is often underwhelming and, well, a bit ordinary and not especially bonkers at all. Not so Jan Dukes De Grey’s second outing which spreads its epic three tracks through a mind melting psychedelic nightmare of screaming saxophones, air raid sirens and whimsy that is akin at times to a delirious and slightly more cheerful Comus. The band dissolved soon after, though some members, such as mainman Derek Noy later reconvened to record one further album ‘Strange Terrain’ with Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason that then remained unreleased for 33 years. Like I said, bonkers.
Sourdeline – ‘La Reine Blanche’ (Discovale, 1976)
Sometimes neglected in the greater focus on their U.K./U.S. counterparts, France’s Sourdeline are, to my mind, one of the most timeless and impressive of all folk acts. This, their debut, ably sets out their stall with eleven medieval hued slices of silvery beauty such as the yearning melancholy of ‘La Belle Est Au Jardin D’Amour’ or the strident ‘C’est À Ville’, adorned with instrumentation such as the mandocello, psalterion and dulcimer. They continue to record today under the name Futur Passé and their first two albums are deservedly back in print; do seek them out.
You can listen to The Hare And The Moon’s final album featuring Futur Passé here:
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