Some thought it impossible. Some said I was insane to even try. Others thought I had to be joking. But I ignored the naysayers… these “glass half empty” merchants of very little faith, and I achieved the unthinkable. The long sought after grail of the delusional writer everywhere, and that’s to crowbar the words “German”, “delectation”, “Swiss”, “Belgian”, “Krautrock”, “genesis”, “Brainticket” and “Vandroogenbroeck” into a single sentence.
Allow me to present it to you in all its splendour:
The genesis of Brainticket was a collective of Belgian, German and Swiss musicians, headed by multi-instrumentalist Joel – wait for it – Vandroogenbroeck, who pedalled a strain of experimental Krautrock, for the delectation of anybody willing to listen.
There, worth the wait, wasn’t it?
Brainticket’s second album Psychonaut, released in 1972 and recorded by a completely different line-up to that of their debut Cottonwoodhill (Vandroogenbroeck aside), eschewed the overt electronic experimentation of the first album for a more grounded (something of a misnomer perhaps) psychedelic approach. So what we have is an album of psychedelic progressive rock that looks back three or so years and borrows heavily from the sound that was prevalent then. No bad thing, at all.
The nationalities of the artists enlisted to record Psychonaut are unbeknownst to me (Vandroogenbroeck aside), nor do their names give anything away. There’s Jane Free on lead vocals and assorted percussion; Rolf Hug on vocals, guitars and Sam Gopal’s very own weapon of choice, the tabla; Martin Sacher on bass and flute; the wonderfully named Barney Palm on drums, percussion and “strange sounds”; Carole Muriel on spoken bits and “ooohh….ooohhs”; and plain old Peter(!), apparently the Witch Doctor providing good vibes!!!
Then, of course, there’s the Belgian himself, Vandroogenbroeck playing basically anything that came to hand and providing all the arrangements. Such is the life of a creative dynamo and multi-instrumentalist.
But nationality matters not, for all lyrics are written and sung in English, meaning even a committed xenoglossophobic (look it up) such as myself can enjoy. And believe me, there’s plenty here to enjoy… Well, six tracks anyway. But it’s not the quantity, my friend, but the quality that matters.
Psychonaut is resplendent in late sixties vibes and seventies prog sensibilities. It’s a quite often dark collection that though lumped in the Krautrock stable, doesn’t boast the overt electronic strangeness of that particular musical genre.
Radagacuca’, which begins at the beginning, is a dreamily ethereal number, laced with otherworldly flutes and sitars, which explodes into a cacophony of spectral cries and Hammond organ exuberance in its final minute. Like Arthur Brown gatecrashing the recording of Pentangle’s Basket of Light.
The standout, however, has to be the progressive sixties throwback ‘Like a Place in the Sun’, the chorus of which evokes the spirit of Grace Slick heralding in a new dawn from a makeshift stage somewhere in Golden Gate Park. Contrast this with the spoken word verses, which languish on a far darker level – somewhere between the acid trip turning bad and the heroin flooding the veins of the once beautiful flower children of Haight-Ashbury – and you have the uneasy alliance of light and shade that ‘Like a Place in the Sun’ represents.
One could go on, but time permits and all that, plus I don’t think my spellchecker could handle too many more uses of the name Vandroogenbroeck. Suffice to say this review has not only broken the mould with its opening gambit: that now legendary line, which will be talked about for years to come; but it has also broken all known records for the number of times Vandroogenbroeck has appeared on a single webpage.
As for Brainticket’s Psychonaut. Well, do you really need me to reiterate what a fine album this is? Is that wonderful album cover alone not enough to convince you? … No? Well, it is indeed a fine album, fit for the collection of anybody partial to the occasional helping of psych/prog wonder mix. One that comes with a liberal dusting of continental oddness for good measure.