Maybe theirs’ is the sort of name best associated with an early 90s alternative band, but Steve Palmer’s Mooch are unquestionably cut from a sharper cloth than most of those – as you’d expect from any band whose latest album opens with the sound of Steve Hillage jamming Hendrix over a funky Wigwam’s Ozric Tentacles cover. Or something like that.
The name’s not too surprising, though – the near-twenty-five years since Mooch first mooched date the band’s genesis back to 1992. What is unusual is that sightings of this remarkable noise are scarce enough that herds of explorers are still combing the backwoods of some uncharted land in the hope of finding them playing live. Few have returned, which means the only real evidence we have that this band even exists is… a discography the size of Texas; a swarm of past members that would fill a large tour bus; and this, the magnificently titled Mrs Silbury’s Delicious Mushroom Flavoured Biscuits – a slab of wax that plugs the gap in any collection you’ve built since the golden age of… well, we’ve already covered that.
Psychedelia in its most magnificently modern guise – spacey jams with a jazzy undertow; freaked virtuosity with an eye for anything that fits; Mooch are carved from the same brazen bedrock from which Hawkwind were hacked in ancient days, and from which (again) oozed the Ozrics in the days when all was underslunky. The good stuff, then, without recourse to art for art’s sake alone; rather, an organic stew of atmospheres and energies, layered over the kind of throbbing textures that you wish more bands could perfect. But which very few consistently do.
Seven cuts on the vinyl are the work, allege the liners, of such names as (in declining order of Gong-flavored lunacy) Professor Ali Pali Bimble Bambi, Sergeant Damien Aztec Doughbut, Sir Frank Lee “Quite” Mad, Sorceress Sadie, Cora Cornucopia, Mr Sopht, Dr Silbury and Moonboot – among which aliases Hawkwind hunters will recognize the name of Bridget Wishart, although only at the album’s end, “Another Time, Another Place.”
The majority of the album is instrumental, and you can tick other names off the influences list if you nod towards Santana and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Not a combination you expect to hear every day, and through howling winds and agitated violins, keys that soar and riffs that ricochet, the mushroom cookies splash down through songs whose titles ought to be nonsensical. Ought to be. But then you actually hear them and realize they couldn’t be called anything else.
So all hail Mrs Silbury, all kneel to her biscuits, and all get down to the Great Retsina Jam. And if Mooch aren’t playing live in a field near you, just take the album outside yourself. The hills will thank you,