Pharaohs From Outer Space is one of three albums launching British experimental / ambient label Painted Word. The label has been formed by post-punk band Killing Joke's bassist Youth, who describes the albumwhich he produced and co-headlines with Nik Turner, saxophonist with psychedelic space-rockers Hawkindas "a nod to Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane." It is mellifluous, multi-layered, chill-out music which sits comfortably with Brian Eno's dictum that good ambient music does not demand the listener's attention, but that it rewards such attention if it is given.
On the basis of their emergent years, neither Turner nor Youth would seem obvious candidates for a successful foray into ambient music. In their first incarnation, Hawkwind, of which Turner was a founder member in 1969, was known for two thingsthe ingestion of colossal quantities of LSD and amphetamines, and a level of musicianship which barely rose above entry level. The late bassist Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, who left the band to form Motörhead, is a fairly representative example of early Hawkwind personnel on both fronts.
Killing Joke, of which Youth was a founder member in 1978, emerged from the same druggy milieu in London's pre-gentrified Notting Hill Gate area as Hawkwind. The band's style fused the spirit of Motörhead with gothic rock and what would become known as industrial rock.
But all was not wholly as it seemed. Turner's musicianship was more sophisticated than that of Hawkwind's other founder members, and late 1970s Youth's frame of cultural references encompassed much more than heavy rock. Turner left Hawkwind in 1976 (he rejoined for a few years in the 1980s), Youth left Killing Joke in 1982 (he is currently part of the reunited original line-up), and both musicians have subsequently notched up prolific and varied recording histories.
Turner was also an early aficionado of Sun Ra. In 1976, on a post-Hawkwind holiday cum Ra-pilgrimage in Egypt, he talked his way past security guards to record three hours of solo flute music inside the Great Pyramid at Giza. The tapes formed the basis of his album Xitintoday (Charisma, 1978), which was produced by Gong guitarist Steve Hillage. If any album in Turner and Youth's discographies can be taken as a precursor of Pharaohs From Outer Space it is Xitintoday.
In the bumph accompanying Painted Word's launch discs, Youth cites the arthouse ethos of ECM as an inspiration for his own label. Whether Painted Word goes on to achieve as much as ECM remains to be seen, but Pharaohs From Outer Space is a promising start.
Side One: Toltec Flying Pyramid; Nibiru Calling; Junk DNA; Cycles Per Second; Heruxuti. Side Two: Don’t Stand Still In The Sky; Magnetron; Asteroid Belt; Psyck Satellites In Sumaria; Pharoahs In Outer Space.
Nik Turner: tenor saxophones, flute; Youth: keyboards, guitar, bass, harmonium, programming; Jah Wobble: bass; Raja Ram: flute; Adamski: keyboards, programming; Daniel Romar: pipes; Morris Gould: keyboards, programming; Jamie Grashion: keyboards, programming; Michael Rendall: keyboards, programming; Eddie Banda: tabla; Luke Fitzpatrick: keyboards, programming.
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