DE HOMINE URBANOGREEN MANSHADOW OF A GIPSY 45If you wanna hear some truly weird dwellers on the threshold of the psychedelic/ progressive scene, then Ache is gonna be another band right up your strasse. Swimming in the oily wake left by 1967’s heavy organ bands such as Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge, John Hiseman’s Colosseum, and Keith Emerson’s The Nice, Ache was led by the similarly classically-trained organist Peter Mellin, who had just graduated from the Danish Academy of Music. Getting it together in the countryside Traffic-stylee, in January 1968, with the teenage Olafson brothers – Finn and Torsten on lead and bass guitars – and their barechested drummer Glenn Fisher, early photos of Ache standing atop a Bronze Age hoj, or barrow, were employed to push the band’s supposedly uniquely Danish attitude. Furthering this Danish cause, Ache hooked up with ballet dancer Peter Schaufuss, from The Royal Danish Ballet Company in order to produce the first ‘Rock Ballet’. Opening performances of their two twenty-minute-long LP-side-long pieces were received with rapturous applause, both at Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre and at the Bolshoi Ballet, in Moscow. Indeed, the introduction of the so-called ‘Rock Ballet’ is still seen by many Danish heads as evidence of Ache’s uniqueness. The reality, however, was somewhat different and Ache’s massive debut LP DE HOMINE URBANO (‘About Urban Man’) almost fitted right alongside such bombastic second generation overwrought Spanish galleons as early Yes and Van Der Graaf Generator. Indeed, their opening side-long epic title track was surely inspired by Yes’ frenetic and strung-out take on The Beatles’ ‘Every Little Thing’ and was all the better for it. Strangely, the other side of the first LP was itself called ‘Little Things’ and unashamedly nicked even more rock moments from all over (including Led Zeppelin’s ‘How Many More Times?’). However, it is unfair to stop there with the descriptions, for much of the music is truly evocative and entirely Norse in its emotional drive and doomy atmosphere, coming on like a much better version of Van Der Graaf’s THE LEAST WE CAN DO IS WAVE TO EACH OTHER, with added psychedelic guitar somewhere between Davy O’List and Peter Banks’ wired post-Swinging London speedfreak sound. Moreover, there is a psychedelic violence and power to Ache that is far more reminiscent of such pre-prog songs as the Shy Limbs’ incredibly phased ‘Shattered’ and The Syn’s pre-Yes 45 ‘14-Hour Technicolour Dream’. Clearly, the members of Ache had much bigger plans in mind than merely ripping the heart out of late 1960s heavy rock.I much prefer the more song heavy second LP GREEN MAN for its strangely elegant take on PAWN HEARTS’ ‘Man-Erg’-period Peter Hammill, which much better sums up the loss of 1960s idealism and the subsequent ghetto-ising of the underground rock scene. ‘Shadow of a Gypsy’, which opens side two, best illustrates this ‘Man-Erg’ obsession and was a massive hit in France. Unfortunately, the GREEN MAN LP closes with yet another disappointing heavy version, this time of the Beatles’ ‘We Can Work It Out’. Strangest of all, though, is that the Hammillesque lead vocal throughout this record sounds not Danish but like a typically well-spoken English Northerner! Sometimes when travelling in that geographically obscure area of south Jutland, Schleswig-Holstein and the most northerly parts of the Netherlands, I have felt like I’m tripping on acid when - on overhearing local conversations that sound exactly like people from the English north Midlands – I’ve still been unable to understand a single word spoken! Ache occasionally gives me this same psychedelic and appealingly disorientating feeling of alienation in familiar sounds. The biggest problem here is picking a piece of music that best sums up the Ache sound, as you really need a full LP side to get where they’ze coming from. After much humming-and-hah’ing, I settled on ‘The Invasion’ because its mood best captures the fury and the Scandinavian doom as well as copping the superb vocal melody from The Zombies’ ‘Beechwood Park’, on their lost Mellotron 400-classic ODESSEY & ORACLE.
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