Artists: Daevid Allen and Kramer

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Daevid Allen and Kramer Biography

Whichever way you look at it, Daevid Allen is one of the most interesting and enigmatic characters in modern music. An Australian, he was working in a Melbourne book shop when he discovered the writings of the ‘Beat Generation’, and his life was never the same again.

He travelled to Europe in search of the Beatnik ‘nirvana’ in 1960, and found himself in a Paris hotel, living in a room that had only very recently before been vacated by poet Allen Ginsberg and his life partner, fellow poet Peter Orlovsky. Here he met Terry Riley who introduced the young Allen to the world of free jazz, and the notorious William Burroughs.

“[he] was looking for a jazz band to play while he performed dramatic versions of (his cut-up book) The Ticket That Exploded with Ian Somerville and Brion Gysin. My room was right next door to Brion’s—he was doing interesting tape loops similar to Terry Riley, who was around, too. Burroughs invited me up to his room and said, ‘Well Dave, there’s two ways that I can communicate this information to you. One way will take 30 years and the other will take five minutes. Which way you do want it?’ Anticipating instant sodomy, I said, ‘I think I’ll take the 30 years.’ He was happy with that and told me, ‘I’ve got this job and I want you to play.’ We put on the show and there was the weirdest collection of people in the audience. Burroughs had one scene with nuns shooting each other up with huge syringes. Terry Riley came, and we ended up playing together outside in the street with motorscooter motors, electric guitar and poetry. It was wild.”

Armed with these revolutionary new ideas, he travelled across the channel to England where he formedThe Daevid Allen Trio featuring his landlord’s 16-year-oldson Robert Wyatt on drums. A few years later in 1966 they formed the legendary Soft Machine with Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge. After a European Tour in 1967 Allen was refused entry to the UK because of a visa irregularity, and moved back to France where he became involved in the famous student insurrection of 1968.

He then moved to Deya, Majorca, where he and partner Gilli Smyth began to assemble a loose-knit collection of musicians who began recording under the name Gong. One of these musicians was Didier Malherbe (latter dubbed Bloomdido Bad-De Grass by Daevid), a tremendously gifted saxophonist and flautist, who Daevid claimed to have found living in a cave on the estate of poet Robert Graves. The rest is history.

Daevid, both with and without various versions of Gong, has produced a peerless body of work encompassing folk, jazz, rock and prog (often all of these things and more at once), and his musicianship and compositional skills are legendary.

His partner on the legendary recordings on this CD is Mark Kramer (known usually by his surname), who is almost equally as legendary as Daevid but in a completely different genre. He was a member ofNew York Gong and a band called Bongwater, and toured with many famous acts (usually playing bass guitar) including The Fugs and The Butthole Surfers. In the late 1980s he was sound co-ordinator on Penn and Teller’s Broadway shows, and later formed a band with Penn Jilette. He started his own Shimmy Disc records and in 1992 Kramer sold his Noise New York recording studio to move just across the Hudson River where he'd found a house going into foreclosure with a state-of-the-art 24-track recording studio built in. He dubbed the studio Noise New Jersey and continued to produce recordings.

One of his albums that year was Who’s Afraid with Daevid Allen and three years later the duo followed it up with another album, Hit Men. Unsurprisingly when one considers that these records are a collaboration between two artistes for which the words ‘idiosyncratic’ is an understatement, the music they made together is impossible to categorise, and even more impossible to describe. Just go out and buy them. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. Trust me, I’m a cryptozoologist. JON DOWNES.

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