Type John Cavanagh’s name into Google and, nearby, you’ll nearly always see references to Syd and The Piper at The Gates of Dawn.
However, this evening, that isn’t the album that’s holding a lit Zippo to the feet of my synapses, and making me applaud, as Mr Cavanagh, in his occasional guise of ‘Phosphene’, accompanies an edited version of Roger Corman’s movie, The Raven.
No,instead, it’s flashes of my favourite pieces of musical mayhem from that second album, A Saucerful of Secrets, that keep flashing past the inside of my eyelids………….…and that’s no bad thing at all!
Like some modern day silent film pianist (the soundtrack and dialogue had been muted) he beavered away be-headphoned, twiddling, twerning and cajoling all sorts of synchronised accompanying squeals & sounds from his VCS3 (or Putney as we in ‘the know’ like to call them)
The first half, meanwhile was a tad gentler with John reading a short fairy-tale, The King That Would See Paradise, from Andrew Lang’s ‘Orange’ Fairy Tale Book (1906) This piece came in at just around half an hour long and featured a pleasant burbling analogue synth, reminiscent of Tim Blake’s early work. I could also hear many percussive delay sounds that recalled Dave McRae’s intro to Matching Mole’s ‘Gloria Gloom’.
When not reading the text, and indeed what a sonorous timbre he has, John also made good use of chimes, some Ganesh style singing bowls and heavily processed/delayed/choral vocals.
As the story ascended to its inevitably bleak denouement we were treated to a Cavanagh clarinet solo so shrill, deranged and unexpected, it would have sounded quite at home snuggling up to Flash Gordon’s Ape. I was annoyed to hear that this was the penultimate soundlab show as I would have liked to have experienced more.
To paraphrase Janice Nicholls, “I’d give it foive!”