Cottonwoodhill by Brainticket

ImageBrainticket’s Cottonwoodhill (1971) has been re-released again, this time by Cleopatra, that venerable house of psych and goth back-catalogues.  Roughly lumped in with German rock of the period, Cottonwoodhill was one of the many ambitious brainchildren of Joel Vandroogenbroeck, the Swiss musical polymath behind Brainticket who later went on to create music libraries for TV and film. (Knowing this, Cottonwoodhill makes a lot of sense, its jazz-funk amalgam suggesting less the communal freakouts of its European contemporaries as the soundtrack to Bullitt or Dirty Harry, where Hollywood finally caught on that something weird was happening in San Francisco but couldn’t bring itself to actually use a ballroom jam to back up the car chases or bar scenes.)

When I first heard Cottonwoodhill in the mid-90s, it struck me then as it does again now:  a very pleasant, well-produced, rhythmically cohesive psychedelic jam, heavy on the organ, with some trippy spoken word passages by Dawn Muir, who intones in a posh English accent, suggestive to me of the White Witch out of C.S. Lewis, the impressions of a woman seriously stoned out and orgasming.  So where Brainticket’s contemporaries, like Amon Duul and Tangerine Dream, pushed their music to live outside of their own era, Brainticket’s music solidly inhabits early 70s European psychedelia, more akin to Out of Focus or Krokodil.  With some interesting polyrhythms running underneath and a kitchen-sink approach to layering found sounds and treated tracks, there is an argument here for seeing Vandroogenbroeck as divining a thread or two of Eno/Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.  But that’s perhaps a bit optimistic and trying too hard to bring a different respectability to what is, in the end, a really fine example of art gallery soundtracking of the late 60s and early 70s (something documented most effectively on Virgin Records three-CD Unknown Deutschland/Krautrock Archive), which is where Brainticket probably really belongs.  Still, I think it’s appropriate to think of Vandroogenbroeck as being in the same group of individualists, including Chris Karrer, Christian Burchard, Hans Joachim Roedelius, Florian Fricke, and Klaus Schulze,  who drove “krautrock” forward with no consideration of worldly reward.

Get thee to an excellent 2012 interview with Joel Vandroogenbroeck:


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