Question - what’s on the other side of Saturn?
Answer - well, if you’re taking about astronomy, Uranus and Neptune are up there somewhere. But if you’re talking about upcoming Fruits de Mer box sets that are just a little bit easier to get your hands on now, but won’t be once the edition’s sold out, the other side of Saturn (the Seventh Ring thereof, at least) is Black Tempest, southern English spacenauts whose album, Sticks and Bells and Ancient Spells, already has one of the best titles of any release this century. Of course it’s packed with music to match.
Haunting electronics that old ears fill with echoes of classic Tangerine Dream will not surprise us - the first time that a lot of people heard of Black Tempet might well have been when they were covering the Dream’s “Rubycon” for Fruits de Mer’s Shrunken Head Music. Or when they took on Klaus Schulz’s “Bayreuth Return” for the similarly styled Head Music. Or their own “Energy of Stars” on the third Strange Fish LP.
Fruity fishy veterans indeed, but then Black Tempest were invited to contribute to Fruits de Mer's 7&7 Is box set of west coast sixties psych, to line up alongside the Bevis Frond, Sendelica, the Higher State, the Chemistry Set, King Penguin, the Seventh Ring of Saturn and the Gathering Grey on one of the most eagerly awaited vinyl packages of the year. And Steve Bradbury had no doubt where to look for inspiration.
“I chose Spirit as they are my favorite band ever. On my first excursion to the outer realms, they accompanied me, and let me know that I wasn't the first to feel like this. I was lucky enough to meet Randy and Ed after their gig at the Rainbow (recorded for posterity on the live album), and corresponded with Ed for many years afterwards - such wonderful outgoing and friendly people. They were powerful souls, and their legacy lives on.”
“Nature’s Way,” from 1970’s Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is the track beneath the Tempest. According to legend, Randy California wrote the song in an afternoon, while waiting to soundcheck at the Fillmore West, and it certainly became a highlight of the album that many people still regard as Spirit’s finest. Rolling Stone even called it “a groovy bossa nova about death,” which would make you want to hear it even if you’d never heard of Spirit.
But don’t go into the new box set expecting the traditional Black Tempest approach. “I really wanted to do justice to such an iconic and out there band,” says Bradbury, “and I did try to do my usual synth-based thing, but it sounded too gimmicky.”
Instead, he went for “a straight guitar-and-drums-and-vocals version,” even calling in Chris Hardman of Dead Sea Apes “to help me out with his amazing drumming - for me it made this recording, and helped to achieve such an organic sound. And if it introduces even one person to their wonderful catalogue, I will have succeeded.”
Oh, don’t worry about that. You succeeded.