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After the first Stella Maris Drone Orchestra gig in September it was almost five months before we regrouped for another gig. Becoming impatient I decided to record another EP, or mini-album. Royal Free Electric, like Stella Maris before it, was not explicitly an Entropy Circus project. I had seen the three words adjacently to each other on my desk. They reminded me of the title of Gila’s first album, Free Electric Sound. Royal Free Electric was intended as a love letter to 1971: pushing the krautrock envelope, but not necessarily in the fashionable beat driven sense of the Kosmische Club.
The opening track Hekababa opens with a twelve-string and an electric guitar meandering around each other, exploring the Dorian mode and building up density. The second half of the track finds a military drum tattoo, borrowed from the first Amon Duul II album, accelerating ever faster as a synth tone howls higher and higher against fuzz wahed guitar. Gradual timestretching across the track allowed me precise control over the tempo change.
The middle track, Dieter Doppelwah & His Swinging Elektronische Pseudokraut Band Start Up, is a metronomic number built on the foundation of a blunt bassline with shifting repetitions. The dopplewah of the title refers to the use of a Crybaby wah and the autowah on the Korg Pandora in tandem, making the fuzz guitar break up into filthy glitches. This track probably epitomises the idea of krautrock adhered to by most critics, and the fact I heard it playing at the Kosmische club one time makes it even more certainly generic.
The final track however represent a sort of krautrock that was little represented by the club or by critics at the time. It is modelled upon Amon Duul II’s Sandoz in the Rain from the fourth side of their Yeti album. Herr Sandoza’s Plaint wails through delirium at a Strindberg-like knot of family anxieties. It is drenched with cavernous reverbs which it eventually dissolves into.
The cover of this EP is significant for several reasons. It is, for the first time, based upon digital photo; scanned images that been used for all of the previous CD covers. The mirrored abstraction of the front cover is merely iconic, a glyph to represent the contents; while the on the back cover Marx and Engels, against glitched Commodore 64 graphics on a television, vanish away into space. The inner fold shows a Photoshop recoloured view of the pergola at Golders Hill Park on one side, and glimpses of Telephonecomplex Studio on the other. Five years later I would move to Golder Green. Perhaps this was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, or the desired prize in a cave painting.
Royal Free Electric was recorded very quickly; in less than a week. Working quickly allowed all sorts of intuitive processes to take the foreground. The Stella Maris EP and Royal Free Electric, both recorded in this year, used more compact and direct methods of recording. I returned to this format several times over the years. The length of an album is in many ways a relic of historical carrier media; the standard length of the album being set by the capacity of 33rpm vinyl and then extended by compact disc. I found with these two shorter projects that working on the basis of limited attention span could be far more efficient.
Royal Free Electric can be streamed or downloaded from archive.org.