Cosmic Roaming To Metallic Riffing: Paul Allen's Anthroprophh Reviewed

Are you a fan of intergalactic chants and Twilight Zone guitars? Then The Heads' new side project may just be your cup of tea.
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Are you a fan of intergalactic chants and Twilight Zone guitars? Then The Heads' new side project may just be your cup of tea.

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Over the course of the last 20 years or so, Bristol’s The Heads have steadily matured from a fairly marginal psych-grunge/stoner outfit into fully fledged cult status. This is in spite of the fact that they have seemed to have been on a semi- permanent hiatus for a good while now. Live dates and a positive tsunami of archive releases have kept them firmly in the imagination in their growing legions of fans, whilst widening fissures that exposed some of the more esoteric influences that drove the band. There are any number of US psych rock bands willing to attest to the lasting influence of The Heads, not least one Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips/Moon Duo fame.

Anthroprophh is the solo work of guitarist Paul Allen, who along with Simon Price (who released the marvelous Kandodo album earlier last year) formed the two guitar offensive wing of The Heads. Recruiting the help of fellow Bristolian noise merchants, Big Naturals and The Head’s compatriot, Hugo Morgan , Anthroprophh manages to channel Paul Allen’s more kraut-y, avant and proggy fantasies and certainly turns up the weird dial somewhat.  And really, it’s all for the best.  If the Silver Surfer owns an Ipod, you really wouldn’t be surprised if you found Anthroprophh blaring out of it.

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‘Hermit’, the album opener, is probably the most Heads-like track here; reminiscent of Hawkwind’s cosmic roaming. The ‘Proff’s guitar here at times sounds not unlike Nik Turner’s weirdo sax skronk.  ‘Discretion Shot’ is an odd, short acoustic ditty that melts away into a burbling analog synth meltdown.  ‘Precession’ proceeds along one of Sun Ra’s Outer Spacelanes, powered by the same exotic Intergalactic Tropicalia that the Arkestra specialized in. Allen spirals out guitar lines that I imagine would make (Can guitarist ) Michael Karoli nod approvingly in the hereafter.

‘Ende’ is a more morose, hazy and yet oddly affecting funereal dirge – which by the sound of it, was a funeral service conducted inside a giant galactic wormhole. The 16 minute ‘Entropy’ takes you on a disorientating ride. Twilight Zone guitars hold you in place whilst spacey glissandos and oscillations attempt to pull you away with its hypnotic undertow. This is a shining doorway to Krautrock (at its most ‘out there’) heaven.  Album closer ‘We’ takes us back into more Hawkwind/Kraut territory, as the’ Proff’s intergalactic chants, metallic riffing, mellifluous flute and bubbling synth take us finally towards the vanishing point.

This is certainly weird and exotic, if not exactly easy, listening. That said, it is never really inaccessible or impenetrable. However, If you were just looking for The Heads-style psych-rock thrills, well, I’d say you might be barking up the wrong tree here.  All the same, it’s certainly worth the effort, and may take you miles further from home than you have ever been before.