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Brainticket

Nearly as important today and essential as filmic kraut-rockers, POPOL VUH, but posted missing from historical music books (including, sadly, The un-Great Psychedelic Discography), the jazz-inflected BRAINTICKET unleashed a triumvirate of classy LPs in the early 70s. Unavailable outside of Germany, the base chosen by Belgian-born leader Joel Vandroogenbroeck (the youngest winner, at 15, of the Art Tatum prize), all three sets should be in the collection of every avid kraut-rock fan.
Taking inspiration from his classical studies, his love of jazz and the incumbent prog/kraut-rock scene of 1967/68 (TANGERINE DREAM, CAN and AMON DUUL II, among them), keyboard wizard/vocalist Joel enlisted the aid of guitarist Ron Bryer, percussionist Wolfgang Paap, drummer Cosimo Lampis, bassist Werner Frohlich, keyboardist Hellmuth Kolbe and the sensual voice of Dawn Muir, to record the mind-expanding debut set, COTTONWOODHILL (1971) {*9}. A trippy, hallucinogenic experience – think TIMOTHY LEARY getting the funk out of his skull – the frenetic organ and chaotic rhythm of the opener, `Black Sand’, captured a power all of its own, while the plummy Englishness of spoken-word chanteuse, Dawn, got to shine first on `Places Of Light’. Displayed in two parts with “Part I” expanding into side two, eponymous piece, `Brainticket’, crashed out of speaker into one mouldy ministry of sound – may the funk be with you.
Unlike its frantic and frightening predecessor, and with a completely fresh line-up to bolster Joel (Bryer died in ’71), PSYCHONAUT (1972) {*7}, was something of a damp squib in terms of acid-fuelled witch-a-thons. Incoming musicians/singers, Carole Muriel (a multi-tasker from the States), singer/tambourinist Jane Free, guitarist Rolf Hug (from Switzerland), bassist Martin Sacher (also from Switzerland) and drummer Barney Palm, brought forth a straight-forward approach to some of the folk-styled cuts (`Radagacuca’, `One Morning’ and `Feel The Wind Blow’), but it was down to the CURVED AIR-esque showstopper, `Watchin’ You’, that signalled BRAINTICKET had not lost it yet. A slow burner.
Joel, Carole and Barney set about creating one of music’s most underrated albums of all time. If one can imagine POPOL VUH, a serious GONG and FAUST, the cosmic CELESTIAL OCEAN (1973) {*7}, was a time-travelling ticket to the ancient times via The Book Of The Dead. Sonic opener, `Egyptian Kings’ (Carole cutting in on demure dictation), while stuff like `Rainbow’ took a leaf from the TODD RUNDGREN book of the living. Spacey, HAWKWIND-like noodling and TANGERINE DREAM from a “new age” perspective were all aboard `Era Of Technology’, while a pre-ENO-esque `To Another Universe’, was funk-ing around the galaxy – somewhere. End title, `Visions’, completed the show with Joel’s delightful piano as its centre-point.
Vandroogenbroeck took a long sabbatical before he re-shaped his BRAINTICKET for his long-time-coming 4th set, ADVENTURE (1980) {*4}, an album recorded in the mid-70s but left in the can until it matured. Sadly, it did not. Featuring only two side-long jam pieces, it harked back some ten years when TANGERINE DREAM were experimenting with “Zeit”. The derivative and thankfully conclusive, VOYAGE (1982) {*3} was even worse, meandering synth exercises without much passion.
BRAINTICKET’s third trial-and-error existence, ALCHEMIC UNIVERSE (2000) {*5}, showed little signs that Joel had learned much from his previous misdemeanours, but this was his enterprise, his baby, and his fault, if fans were remembering only his first three gems. As of 2011, Joel and the ‘Ticket were still taking bookings alongside progsters, NEKTAR, while a new formation was getting ready to perform at the prestigious SXSW Festival of 2013; Joel was joined by the voice of Kephera Moon (also synths/keys), guitarist Nicky Garratt (ex-UK SUBS) – bizarre as it seems – drummer Jason Willer (ex-NIK TURNER BAND) and keys/synths man Jurgen Engler (ex-DIE KRUPPS); singer Kyrsten Bean would guest on future excursions.
Out of the blue, or indeed the cosmos itself, BRAINTICKET travelled back in space and time to log-in for album number seven, PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE (2015) {*7}. An exhausting trip of around 75 minutes (`Dancing On The Volcano’ the opening track in 2 parts taking just over a half-hour), jazz-rocker Joel and Co re-awaken the gods, including Ramses, on several luminous pieces of grandiose Swiss kraut-rock. Recalling intergalactic trips from heady days long gone when sitar and synths had been king, BRAINTICKET reached for the stars on instrumental `Reality Of Dreams’, while there was an 007 feel by way of `Proto Alchemy’. If one was looking to exotica and female narration of a cinematic scale, then the retro-fried closing triumvirate `Singularity’, `Egyptian Gods Of The Sky’ and the horizontal `Brainticket Blues’ signed off in style before setting their sonic synths for the heart of the sun.
© MC Strong GRD 1997 outtake // rev-up MCS Aug2013-Feb2015

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