Apparently coming into existence serendipitously as the result of bumping into one another searching for meteor fragments in the Garwnant area of the Brecon Beacons Welsh national forest, this is SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS third album released on FdM following a 2 x LP + 7” single in 2013 and a sprawling 4 x LP box set in 2020. Again, it is an ambitious project with three a 3 x LP and 2 x CD release.
Taking sides one to three of the vinyl first (This is the CD splitting point), what strikes you is the sheer infectiousness of the melodies, the well-worked vocal harmonies, the classic psychedelic instrumentalization (shimmering guitars, rolling drums, catchy choruses etcetera), and the arrangements – kudos to producer Frank Noughton. The eastern feel to the title track suggests it might easily have sat on a classic sixties psych album by the likes of LOVE or SPIRIT. ‘What Grows Inside the Garden’ is a more Anglified kind of psych, which you could swear you have already heard on ear-catching track from one of those numerous 60s psych collections, a true ‘nugget’. ‘Sea Anemone’ suggests SYD BARRETT (some clever wordsmithing) and early PINK FLOYD; DAVE GILMOUR – like gliding guitar, evocative electronics and striking drumming at its conclusion. ‘Who Loves the Moon’ is a wistful ballad that extends to over seven minutes (The Moon is metaphorically “a haunted satellite”); the trick to its success lies in the arrangement. Following that ‘The Fixer’ is necessarily upbeat, with an early line, “right wing views and an atom bomb disposition” immediately pulling you in; some space-age synth and some sustained organ chords suggesting an updated version of THE SMALL FACES or THE WHO perhaps; the only thing it lacks is a nice little solo instead of the piano fadeout, which is nice but somewhat anti-climactic. Reverberated piano chords begin ‘The Things We Make’, a definite highlight with another killer chorus: listen carefully for a soupçon of dub. ‘Vicious Vivian’ has a McCARTNEY-ish bassline and a BEATLES-ish inclination; ‘Creepers and Vines’, a wine fantasy perhaps (“time goes fast, you have another glass”) and why not?), has agreeable acoustic guitar, elegant, vaporous bass lines (that permeate the album) and more cogent electronics.
CD two starts with an analogous tale about a court as a Venus flytrap (bookended by a rather marvellous pump organ sound- that attention to detail again) followed by an extended (11 minute) mantra, ‘Lost Mariners’, a ghost story (the cold sailors have been at the bottom of the sea for over 200 years): the guitar break reminds me of 10CC’s classic ‘Feel the Benefit’, with otherworldly electronics at the end. It’s back to sea anemones: it’s ‘A Saucerful Full of Secrets’ all over again (and I don’t often get that feeling when I listen to music now!), but 2023 style, based on a striking two minor chord guitar riff (acoustic guitar later). ‘The Garden of Wavering Fronds’ is another “radical remix”, as is ‘My Bike Versus the Dandy Horse’. The final side takes an uninhibited and enthralling sidelong romp through elements of the album (the final two vinyl sides are not on the CD).
It's all rather phantasmagorical and, to my ears. Soft Hearted Scientists have created a psychedelic album (plus bonus) that is right up there with the aforementioned PINK FLOYD, as well as seminal albums like THE SMALL FACES “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” and THE PRETTY THINGS “Parachute.” It is a lot longer of course, but, hey there were usually only 40 minutes to work in back then after all! To pull off a double album plus is some achievement, and I firmly believe this one is a keeper.