Eight years have elapsed since the first Seventh Ring of Saturn album, a self-titled bundle of joy, was unleashed, since when Ted Selke and co have contented themselves only with carving sonic swathes through the art of the Pretty Things, the Beatles, the Hollies and the Dead for a clutch of Fruits de Mer compilations. And if that particular role call even gives you a hint of what you might find on their second album, then it was groundwork well done.
Spin Cycle met up with Selke last year (here), at which point Ormythology had already raised its head as a limited edition CD-R distributed at an FdM gathering. “It’s a very different record from the first one,” he said at the time. “I tried to make it the opposite in every way, the yin to it’s yang. It’s darker, harder, bigger and louder (if you turn it up). I recorded the individual tracks differently, and we’ve been incorporating some of the mixing ideas we’ve come up with working on the tracks for Fruits de Mer.”
Such esoteric roots, however, only throw fresh fuel onto the psychedelic flames. Across its eight tracks – two originals, half a dozen covers – TSROS cannot help but nod back to more mythic times, but like the rest of the best of the modern psych pack, there’s no hint of tiresome revivalism here, and no time machine xeroxing either. In fact, no matter how steeped in classicism their repertoire might be, the fact that Selke’s own “Burning a Hole” is the most instantly memorable track lets you know you’re in for a wilder ride than maybe you expected.… and that’s seriously, instantly, psilocybic ear-worm wild, even before the shadow of “The Hall of the Mountain King” falls over the guitar solo.
TIme slips, and inspirations, too. “Spaceman,” sung here by keyboard player Jeremy Knauff, was first sighted on the Danish band Peter Belli and the Boom’s Hurdy Gurdy album in 1971. The instrumental “Teli Teli Teli” dates from a 1979 hit single by Greek star Haris Alexiou; “Karlı Dağlar” from Turkey’s Erkin Koray’s 1974 album Elektronik Türküler; and Asik Veysel’s “Uzun Ince Bir Yoldayim” (“I am on a Long and Narrow Road”) dates back to the 1930s, and is as familiar to subsequent generations of Turks as “This Land is Your Land” is to their American contemporaries. Heroically rendered an instrumental, it soars here, riding drums that pound and guitars that cry, and maybe, yeah, you can look at that list and say “wow, it sounds like a mess.”
But that’s the beauty of Ormythology because the magic is in the way the moments merge; the way you can switch from a Turkish folk song to a Danish psych rocker with barely a pause for breath; the way the atmospheres swirl and sway, transporting you from sitar-shaded super-psych, to brilliantine Mod pop; from searing acidic extravaganzas (“Yedikule”) to the churning freakbeat of “Faces”… all loping percussion and rolling riffs, recalling but scarcely recording TC Atlantic’s long-ago original (catch it on volume three of Pebbles – and, tantalizingly unreleased, there’s also a TSROS version of the Third Bardo’s ”I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time,” as found on the same side of the same album.)
Hopefully it won’t be another eight years before TSROS get around to their third album; hopefully, too, any gap that should arise betwixt this LP and their next will be plugged with another disc’s worth of solid offerings to the compilations of this world. In the meantime, Ormythology is here to baffle (“what does that title mean?”), bemuse (“where on earth did they find these songs?”) and beautify your world.
Which is more than you can say for most of what you hear these days.
Visit the Seventh Ring here.