What do you get when you combine an Australian Aboriginal creation myth, jazz guitar, several flutes, mellotron, and a healthy dose of psychedelic and ambient soundscapes? Yaraandoo. The brainchild of Rob Thomsett, an Australian guitarist, Yaraandoo is considered quite the collector’s item in the world of obscure prog: only 100 LP copies were originally released in 1975.
Yaraandoo tells the tale (through the instruments listed above, in this case) of the world’s creation and the fall of man. According to Thomsett, the story includes several elements that make it distinctively Australian, including gum trees, kangaroo rats, and the red earth of the Outback.
The album opens with the soft sound of mellotron and percussion, and this ambient, dreamy, and spacy sound, driven by the mellotron, several flutes, and Thomsett’s luscious guitar, never lets up. (The best comparison I can think of is some of Robert Fripp’s ambient work.) Although jazz is clearly an influence here, it is not the kind of jazz-inspired music you would hear on Relayer or In the Court of the Crimson King; this is much more ethereal in tone. About twenty minutes in, however, we get to enjoy some faster-paced interplay between the saxophone and electric guitar. And too soon, alas, Yaraandoo closes as it opens: softly, with chimes and acoustic guitar gently returning us to earth after this serene cosmic journey.
Caveat emptor: for those looking for an epic, this may not be the album for you – most of the songs are very short (under three minutes). But that does not mean you should overlook this obscure gem. And if ever you find yourself pondering the permanent things in the Outback, consider Yaraandoo as a source of inspiration.
Stay tuned for number sixteen!