Skye Klad & Satan: Beausoleil, the Orkustra, & the Magick Powerhouse of Oz
Continuing in the space rock mode I launched last Wednesday, I come to you with a missive on the excellence of the Minneapolis-based quartet Skye Klad.
I forget where I first heard about this band, but it was only several months ago that I took a chance on their latest record, Skye Klad Plays the Musick of Cupid’s Orkustra Asleep in the Magick Powerhouse of Oz. Buying a record without having heard the artist first is a tricky proposition to the say the least, no matter how glowing the review that drew you in or how enchanting the album title (Cupid’s Orkustra? The Magick Powerhouse of Oz? Yeah boyee, sign me up, I’m down for that mystical shit.) Sometimes it works, many times it does not—but when it does, it really makes this whole gig worthwhile.
Honestly, I’m surprised that I’ve only recently heard about this band, considering they’ve been around in some form or another since 1996. I haven’t heard any of their earlier stuff, but from what I’ve read, this new album, their third full-length, is a bit of a departure. Where their previous work was noisier and more experimental, with this album they have continued to develop a more song-based approach while maintaining their dark, esoteric vision. This is space rock alright, but the Klad ain’t no Hawkwind clones. In these dark, atmospheric dirges, inspiration comes from more gothic quarters, namely Coil, the Swans, and Current 93, and that is what really sets the band apart from their more traditional brethren.
Tribal and percussive, loaded with echoes and effects, and sprinkled with French horn and saz and flutes, the record is grounded in acoustic instrumentation. Like any space rock worth its salt, it meanders a bit in places, adrift in semi-ambience and thee infinite drone, but it always comes back to a “real” song. I submit the following two numbers, one a short but spooky-sweet vocal track, the other a slightly longer instrumental, both of which sound great on their own, but far better within the context of the album.
Skye Klad – The Cross of Lorraine
Skye Klad – Wildes Heer
Read more about it and order it here, or pick it up from Forced Exposure or the usual crowd.
While preparing this post, I got curiouser and curiouser about the album title. Cupid’s Orkustra? The Magick Powerhouse of Oz? I mean, really, surely there was some sort of meaning behind this D&D-esque gobbledygook. Sho’nuff, a quick Google turned up an interesting connection. Both The Orkustra and The Magick Powerhouse of Oz were projects of one Bobby Beausoleil, whose fascinating story makes for one of the darker chapters in the annals of the sixties.
I couldn’t begin to get into the details here (go here for that), but suffice it to say that Beausoleil, today serving a life sentence for stabbing a man to death in 1969, will forever be linked to his former buddy Charlie Manson. Before he befriended Manson, though, Beausoleil was to play the title role in and write the music for filmmaker Kenneth Anger’s (of Hollywood Babylon fame) pet project Lucifer Rising, a cinematic black mass and satanic, acid-trip salute to the dark side. First as The Orkustra, and then under the banner of The Magick Powerhouse of Oz, Beausoleil threw himself into the project, only to fall out with Anger and drift into the Manson camp, with Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, and Anton LaVey all playing cameo roles in this tragic story.
Most remarkably, Beausoleil would actually complete the music for Lucifer Rising, recording it from behind prison walls over a three-year period in the seventies. More on that here. I haven’t yet heard Beausoleil’s critically acclaimed work, only recently issued as a double CD, but sometime last year it ended up on my list of records to check out, where it remains, temporarily unheard to me.
This story, unsurprisingly, played a significant role in Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship, & Rock n’ Roll, an equally fascinating book that I received as a surprise Christmas gift from the noiseboy. His accompanying note said that when he saw it, he thought of me, and just had to pick it up. I don’t know exactly how well that reflects upon me, but I was glad he did. I finally completed the book a few weeks ago, and I’ve been meaning to blog a little on it for awhile now. If all goes according to plan, there will be more to come.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! (I only now noticed that I’m posting about Cupid’s Orkustra on Valentine’s Day….a completely unintentional coincidence…or is it??…)