Artist: Absolute Elsewhere
Title: In Search of Ancient Gods - An Experience in Sound and Music based on the books of Erich von Daniken
Label: Warner Bros
Catalogue Number: K2 56192
Year of Release: 1976
Notable features: Obligatory prog-rock gatefold sleeve; booklet with gibberish by von Daniken Himself; purports to be in "Quadriphonic Sound", which was so new at the time they hadn't settled on a spelling for it (see Wikipedia article), but I’ve never checked this out.
Before you think this blog is going to be non-stop progressive rock, let me reassure, or disappoint you. There’s a bit of early Genesis and Gong to be got through in the months ahead, but in the way of disingenuous advertisers everywhere, I can confidently state that my record collection is 95% prog- (and therefore guilt-) free.
Alphabets have to start somewhere, and there’s no point making rules only to break them. Therefore in the absence* of any aandblom or aasvogel, we start with Paul Fishman’s Absolute Elsewhere project. I’ve had this record for about 10 years, and must have listened to it 3 whole times since then. I bought it for two reasons, possibly three. Firstly, a mate at the time had lent me one of von Daniken’s books. He also got me into Aphrodite’s Child** and Funkadelic, but his taste in books was nowhere near as good as his taste in music. Secondly, another friend noted that one William Bruford was on percussion. William is of course Bill Bruford, and at the time of recording was ex of Yes. I can’t recall why I thought this was a good thing. I’m assuming the third reason: it must have been cheap.
Let’s dispense first with the booklet. Von Daniken single-handedly paved the way for the X-Files, and whilst there are some interesting photos in this booklet, in the sleevenotes he jumps from “The probability of life elsewhere is totally feasible” to “So did the past teem with unknown ‘gods’ who visited primaeval earth in manned space ships?”. This is an incredible leap of faith, and, if you bother to read the whole thing, a logical fallacy to boot. It also invites the response: “No Erich, it didn’t”. Marvel at the rock painting from Australia’s Central Kimberley (which can also be seen half-way down this page), then ignore the rest of the silly thing.
The track listing:
1. Earthbound (9:10) (Part 2)
2. Moon City (4:50)
3. Miracles of the Gods: (11:45)
... (Part 2) El Endrillado
... (Part 3) The Legend of Santa Cruz
... (Part 4) Pyramids of Teotihuacan
... (Part 5) Temple of the Inscriptions
4. The Gold of the Gods (2:35)
5. Toktela (1:35)
6. Chariots of the Gods (10:35)
7. Return to the Stars (9:55)
Total Time: 50:45
Earthbound starts the album as it means to go on - lots of keyboards doing nothing very interesting, some lacklustre rhythm section work, and castrated guitar. By castrated I mean there’s a potentially brilliant part when the Future Past bit starts, it’s crying out for a scorching guitar solo, but just lacks the balls. It’s bad, but only because it's been performed in a half-hearted way.
Track 2 wouldn’t be out of place on a Tangerine Dream album, or one of Pete Namlook’s Dark Side of Moog efforts. Quite a good bit of ambient noodling, and at least, unlike TD or Namlook, it’s not dragged out over 20 minutes then reissued with remixes or recorded live and reissued ad infinitum.
Miracles of the Gods is a low-rent Echoes cover. Very Nick Mason drums, some piano interludes, it even ends with the same rising synth effect whilst it fades out. There’s no wittering on about albatrosses (albatrii?), but it’s still not a patch on Echoes itself.
The Golds of the Gods and Toktela should be ignored. They sound like they’ve been lifted from an Eastern European cartoon soundtrack. Very, very bad.
Chariots of the Gods is probably the best tune on the album, were it not for some odd post-production choices. It’s chugging along nicely in an almost Krautrock vein, some of the best guitar, bass and drum work on the whole album, then it stops abruptly and is echoed in stereo a few times - it occurs to me that this may be one of the quadriphonic bits - then picks up slightly differently, stops, and there’s some more synth action before the end. Smacks of jealousy on Fishman’s part to me, but I could be wrong.
Return to the Stars is a return to ambient stuff, drawn out a bit longer, and without the interesting (relatively speaking) arpeggios of Moon City. Mostly swooshes, which I assume are the “Sounds from Space” mentioned in the sleevenotes, garnered from Jodrell Bank and the British Astronomical Association, something neither of them trumpet from their respective websites.
The album was produced by Jack Fishman, I’m assuming father of Paul, but correct me if I’m wrong, who also produced the seminal Roy Budd-scored Get Carter soundtrack, which Paul digitally remastered and wrote sleevenotes for in 1998. Buy that instead.
* Which reminds me of a band we once supported at the New Ship Inn in Preston, probably at about the same time as I bought this album. They were called Absence of Choice. It’s interesting only because if they had released any records, and I had bought them, they would be first up instead.
** I implore you to buy Aprhodite's Child's 666 album, if only to see how much of Urban Hymns that talentless fop Richard Ashcroft cribbed from them.