Daevid Allen Weird Quartet – Elevenses (2016)

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In March of 2015, the life of The Soft Machine co-founder and Gong founder Daevid Allen came to a end. The man The Daily Telegraph called “the court jester of hippie rock” had then just completed one more record and earlier this month Elevenses dropped, a parting gift of quirky music by one of the last of the original psychedelic rockers that will likely never again be done with the astonishing depth, breadth and wit that came naturally to Allen.

Even at near the end of his seventy-seven years, Allen’s music carries a childlike wonderment and humor amid complex arrangements that often suggests where his much-lauded contemporary Syd Barrett could have achieved had he kept it together. Whereas Barrett’s absurdity was his torment, Allen reveled in his in a happy-go-lucky character he lived to its fullest as an artist and a person, the two of which were inseparable.

Elevenses is credited to the “Daevid Allen Weird Quartet,” who recorded as “Weird Biscuit Teatime” for its prior set of recordings DJDDAY from a decade earlier. But putting ‘weird’ in a band name that also includes the words ‘Daevid Allen’ seem redundant, and the music will sure seem that way to many. Whatever the Allen-led group might be called, it also boasted Don Falcone (Sprits Burning), Michael Clare (Allen’s University of Errors), Trey Sabatelli (The Tubes) and Paul Sears (The Muffins).

As eccentric as Elevenses might be, it will delight anyone who ‘gets’ Allen, who proudly counted “Divided Alien” as one of his nicknames. Elevenses quite plainly shares its mastermind with the early, seminal Gong records, Allen’s 1971 go-to solo album Banana Album and even the earliest recordings of The Soft Machine. Its trippy, spacey demeanor is the glue that holds together a journey with stops at many of the outposts of music.

The ride gets going with the kind of acid-inspired stuff you might expect from Allen. The brief “TransloopThisMessage” is a loopy/looping psychedelic trance. “Imagicknation” is straight from 1967 from someone who refuses to acknowledge that the summer of love is over, and even though Allen’s thin voice is even thinner, it’s lost none of its whimsy.

The instrumental “Grasshopping” — most of these songs feature no vocals — is a hippie groove with a lonely, eerie guitar lead and slabs of a chilly organ grating against it. “Dim Sum in Alphabetical Order” builds its groove from a funk-jazzy bass that starts and stops amid a dark, lonely soundscape, while a looped guitar with instrumentation piled on forms “Killer Honey”, creating a strange, dense concoction on a single chord.

Allen never sticks with what’s expected, and left turns lurk everywhere. The Gong-like “Latest Curfew Craze” is a psychoactive “Rawhide” while “God’s New Deal” is a warped Irish folk tune, and the slurring “Kick That Habit Man” with its old synth squeaks rocks out in a spooky, Residents way. “Under The Yum Yum Tree Cafe” covers a lot of moods, with what seems like dueling dobros and a twiddling analog synth solo within a murky sonic stew before picking up the tempo, where a convulsing guitar enters.

Allen’s last album doesn’t at all end in a whimper. The commotion that kicks off “Banana Construction” settles into jazzy groove, over which Allen recites a message. For the rest of the way, the band just jams out.

Sounding like he’s still in 1970 trying to imagine what music might be like in 2020 if we had lost our minds along the way, Elevenses is virtually a note left behind from Daevid Allen, for whom the afterlife world he’s currently habitating probably isn’t much different than the one he was living within his fertile mind before. A person with his kind of spirit tends to transcend both.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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