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Abstract Truth - Totum (1970)

Południowoafrykańska grupa Abstract Truth powstała w roku 1969 w Durbanie z inicjatywy Kenny'ego Hensona, współzałożyciela Freedom's Children. W 1970 roku udało się im wydać aż trzy albumy: Totum, następnie Silver Trees oraz kompilację Cool Sound For Heads. Totum składa się z przeróbek (ale za to jakich!) otworów takich artystów jak m.in. Donovan, Dylan, Simon And Garfunkel czy Gershwin, zaaranżowanych w znakomitym psychodelicznym i folkowym stylu, ze świetnie zagranymi partiami fletu i saksofonu. Silver Trees to już wyłącznie ich autorski materiał, brzmiący trochę bardziej rockowo lecz nadal mieszczący się w ciekawych psychodelicznych a nawet nieco progresywnych klimatach. Na tych wydawnictwach zespół niestety poprzestaje i ostatecznie rozpada się w 1971 roku. Mimo krótkiego okresu działalności wpisali się jednak na dobre do historii starego dobrego rocka w RPA, ciesząc się do dziś sporym uznaniem również poza granicami swego kraju.

Abstract Truth exploded onto the music scene early in 1969, released two studio albums during 1970 (as well as a compilation) and imploded in 1971. The band was formed by Ken Henson, one of the co-founders of Freedoms Children. After he left that band, he was asked by the owner of a local hotel if he could get together an exotic/Eastern-sounding outfit to back a belly dancer at a hotels disco/pub." Henson (who played lead guitar and sitar), got hold of Brian Gibson who played bass, Sean Bergin who played flute and sax, Robbie Pavid on percussion. To fill out the evening, they started playing a hybrid of jazz standards, folk/rock and Eastern-type jams. The press duly noted that "their music is exotic, progressive, and not commercial." It was free-form music-a fusion of blues, folk, jazz and Eastern music... excellent and obscure. The Totum album was recorded in Johannesburg over a single weekend and released in early 1970; it consists of odd covers (Donovan, Dylan, Gershwin and others all get given the special Abstract Truth treatment) and one exceptional sitra-drenched original, Total Totum/Acid Raga. Their other album, Silver Trees, was an attempt to record more structured songs, to make the band a bit more accessible to the record-buying public. It didnt work back then, but with a little help from bootleg label Hugo Montes, the band did get some exposure within the past few years.

Durban, South Africa might not exactly be synonymous with psychedelic folk-rock, but, perhaps crucially, it is a port town (Liverpool, anyone?) where all manner of influences could have come drifting into the air, in the form of records imported from America and England. It's likely that this was the way Abstract Truth developed their sensibilities as heard on their 1970 debut album, Totum. Until its 2009 reissue, this was the kind of record that would make hardcore collectors salivate freely and empty their bank accounts, but at last the rest of us can come to know its subtle pleasures. Totum is made up almost entirely of cover tunes, but the band's distinctive if understated style is clearly stamped on each one. Abstract Truth draws on a mixed bag of jazz, folk, and blues, but transmutes it all into something rather British-sounding; a dreamy, mellow, sometimes psychedelic sound that would be right at home with English contemporaries like Traffic as well as the earliest efforts of King Crimson (their balladic side) and Fairport Convention. The band takes on everything from jazz standards like "Summertime" and "Comin' Home Baby" (listed here as "Coming Home Babe") to a pair of Donovan tunes ("Jersey Thursday" and "Fat Angel"), lending them all an intoxicating, slightly stoned feel, with long jams where guitarist Ken E. Henson and sax/flute man Sean Bergin stretch out to their hearts' content. The album's final track, "Total Totum (Acid Raga)," lives up to its title; the only self-penned cut, it's the most overtly psychedelic moment here, with wandering sitar improvisations surrounded by a swirl of freaky, atmospheric touches. Totum's ultimate impression is one of a dream half-remembered from a time when hirsute musos smoked a little "inspiration" and sat cross-legged in a circle to let out whatever was inside them, commercial concerns be damned. Not a bad way to go. (J. Allen)

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