As a debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is an exemplary work of art, a masterpiece that placed Pink Floyd firmly on the map of psychedelic, experimental folk-infused rock. Named after the children’s book “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was recorded from February to May 1967, released in August 1967 and remains one of the most influential albums of all time. Through the stunning cover artwork by Vic Singh and eclectic mix of tracks, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is a paradoxical album, whose child-like wonder and storytelling narrative captures the vulnerability and mystical essence of Syd Barrett. A psychedelic prophet, Barrett was a mass of contradictions, whose poetic lyrics and vocal delivery was etched in simplistic and boyish charm. As the principle singer/song writer of the band, Barrett was the bona-fide front man, whose good looks, charisma and enigmatic persona captivated his audience, which was a blessing and a curse.
Through the tribal brotherhood and theatrical performances of Pink Floyd, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn internalised the free-thinking, free flowing, flamboyant spirit of the 60s. It’s a surge of spontaneity, with a boundless energy which expands and leaps at every opportunity into other dimensions. Whereas some albums, from the same era, used a more rigid formula, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn thrives on change and versatility, utilising the vox as a standalone instrument, which could convey emotions, abstract imaginary and primitive feelings in a series of extended intervals.
It’s a phenomenal album, whose divine musicianship and multi-textured tracks delve deep into the subconscious of Barrett, whilst remaining an intriguing journey into the unknown. Through the somewhat unstructured and unpredictable poise of the album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn lifted the bar and made self-indulgence and extended intervals, interludes and crescendos into a bohemian art-form, which fitted in nicely with the counter-culture of the tune in, drop out, free-loving generation.
It’s essentially a guitar laden album, overlapping in the groovy cool and Eastern influences of the 60s, whilst bordering on the avant-garde. Along with the scuzzy and Sci-fi psychedelia, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn nestles in a mass of darkness, colliding from the debris, whilst ignited by the UV radiation, making it one of the most innovative and original albums of its time.
1) Through the muffled narration, “Astronomy Domine”, reaches out for yonder, sending out signals to its mothership, whilst watching the poignant pieces float by. It’s a fierce contender, whose pulsating beats, throbbing riffs and cascading harmonies synchronise in juxtaposition, in frictional cycles, amongst the thunderous drones and hissing gas. Along with the slippery farfisa and descending riffs, “Astronomy Domine”, quantum leaps into a parallel universe, gliding back and forth, introducing us to the wondrous space-horror-infused psychedelia world of Pink Floyd. Through the digital beeps and space slopes, “Astronomy Domine”, orbits into the space explorations of the 60s, travelling on a higher frequency, whilst becoming intoxicated by the flowery sounds of the summer of love. It’s an epic opener of “The Piper At The Gates of Dawn”, a multi- faceted trip, that circumnavigates amidst the white noise, curves and scribbles into the psychedelic realms of a mind expanding existence. Along with the uber under-stated cool delivery of Pink Floyd, “Astronomy Domine”, showcases the cool, calm collective demeanour of the band articulated with a quintessential English stiff upper lip, whilst concealing the chaos and vulnerability that lurked behind the self-indulgent improvisation and child-like spontaneity.
2) Through the throbbing riffs, “Lucifer Sam” pulsates with a formidable force, descending down a dark alley, amidst the farfisa haze. It’s a mesmerising track, whose purring riffs capture the witchy-woo seduction of horror-infused psychedelia. Through the quivering riffs, “Lucifier Sam” is steeped in intrigue and suspense, capturing the zeitgeist thrills and chills of the groovy 1960s. A song written about Barrett’s Siamese cat, “Lucifer Sam”, dances with the devil, doing a Beelzebub bop, aside the rattle, creaks and shakes in a spiral spin of shadows.
3) With Richard Wright accompanying Barrett on vocals, and originally influenced by Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales, “Mother Matilda” revisits the chapters of Once Upon a Time and cradles its pain from the tree top with silver bells and wistful yearnings. Through the jangly riffs and heavenly hammond, “Mother Matilda” wanders and marches up to the top of the hill, whilst guided by the ghostly harmonies. It’s a misty ride, which takes an excursion on a magic carpet, chanting in code, floating above the clouds towards an Eastern horizon.
4) Like a Hammond horror camping in the wilderness, “Flaming” casts its shadows amongst the howling werewolf and foggy dew. It’s a psych-folk infused track, sleeping under the stars, whilst waking from the night terrors. It’s an intriguing track, which simultaneously resides in the darkness, whilst shining its technicolor torch. Through the farfisa vortex and spinning vocals, “Flaming” drifts between mystical realms, riding its unicorn whilst talking to the cosmic cuckoo birds. Along with the overlapping Lowrey organ and Tack piano, “Flaming” is classically crafted, customised by the mechanical toys and jangly bells, creating a mayhem of nostalgia and wistful ambience.
5) “Pow R. Toc H” lifts its vibe and gathers its tribe through the quirky animalistic chants. It’s through the “bum che che” and “doy doy”, that “Pow R. Toc H” introduces a sort of “Trippy beat boxing”, arguably ahead of its time which stylistically complements the whimsical wilderness of the track. What could be described as an assault of birds and beasts in a confined space, its through this primitive form of “beat boxing” that “PowR. Toc H” borders on the absurd and invites you into a surreal and abstract world. Vocally free in the conventional sense, “PowR. Toc H” is an experimental and instrumental track, whose safari beats saunter freely amongst the chilled out piano and hammond haze. It’s a quasi-jazz interlude of free-styling improvisation, pounding beats, spinning erratic riffs, abrupt destruction and primal pandemonium, abducted by the zany space riffs.
6) Through the pulsating beats and brusque narrative, “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk” shakes and stirs in a slumberous heap of spinning psychedelia. It’s a snooze button on speed, whose adrenaline infused riffs, toss, turn and tangle in its rude awakening. Through the steady bass murmurs, “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk”, seethes and drowses, aside the looping levitation and whimsical chatter. Through the spiked flutters and farfisa fog, “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk”, back-flashes and clatters amongst the groggy grooves in an interlude of self-indulgent bedlam. It’s the lyric, “Music seems to help the pain, seems to cultivate the brain”, that encapsulates the harrowing sentiments of the song, which is intensified through the menacing vocal delivery.
7) “Interstellar Overdrive” takes off in full glory, spinning its concentric wheels, accelerating at high velocity along a hallucinatory highway. Vocally free, “Interstellar Overdrive”, burns at both ends in a surge of nimble-fingered dexterity, hijacked by the rudimentary forces of space-prog rock and Industrial dark wave. An uncompromising track, “Interstellar Overdrive” soars in an escalade of climbing, crashing, jittery riffs and rhythmic repetition, in a swirly whirl of spinning riffs. What sounds like a space apocalypse, “Interstellar Overdrive” sets a precedence for psychedelic rock, which sounds improvised, harrowing and animated, and whose digital beeps provide a horror-esque backdrop amidst the hammond haze. Along with the throbbing beats and crawling clatter, “Interstellar Overdrive” grips you by jugular, in a duality of light, reflecting from the darkness and shaped by the ectoplasmic electronica. It’s a visceral voyage, ahead of its time, tormented by the phantasmal pop-ups, in an extended game of space invaders, shooting down the drones, whilst sinking in a technicolour wormhole.
8) “The Gnome” is a folk-psych infused track, whose stripped down acoustics, offers a story-telling narrative. An enchanting track, “The Gnome” taps into Barrett’s child-like wonder and penchant for intermixing innocence with intrigue and mythology. Through the vibraphone and celesta twinkles, “The Gnome” rises to ethereal heights, whilst floating aside the token eerie vocals. A pristine production, notably it’s the crisp pronunciation of lyrics such as “Grimble Grumble”, which draws upon the quintessential quaintness of Barrett in his prime, at a time when music was still experiencing the “British Invasion” and English eccentricity was a creative and free-spirited force.
9) Inspired by chapter 24 of the ancient Chinese tome “I Ching”, “Chapter 24″ is a divine track, whose arcane lyrics unravel a series of cryptic reference points and poetic musings. Lyrics such as “The time is with the month of winter solstice when the change is due to come…” and “… thunder in the other course of heaven…” , captures the spiritual essence and zen influences of the late 60s. A mesmerising track, “Chapter 24″ showcases Barrett’s skill at orchestrating music which creates an abstract and alternating soundscape. Through the crashing cymbals and slithering zurna, “Chapter 24″ awakens the senses and whose alchemic dust drifts from its esoteric vault. Along with the elongated vocals and overlapping harmonies, “Chapter 24″ rises into majestic realms, beaming in full glory and blinded by the sun-drenched synths. A commanding track, it’s through primal hums and sonic screeches that “Chapter 24″ metamorphasises into an all consuming transcendental state.
10) Through the taps and clickety clocks and Eastern pipes, “The Scarecrow” rotates and hangs as a standalone psych-infused folk track. It’s a fleeting and quirky track, whose stripped down acoustics are enlivened by the vortex of drones, which are fazed out by the seasonal gust of wind.
11) “The Bike” is an abstract ride on a psychedelic penny farthing, sending out a cosmic invitation, whilst plodding along a solitude path. It’s a genius catharsis, an eccentric expedition into the chimerical, whimsical and aloof world of Barrett, which is delightful and dark in equal measures. Through the sprightly riffs, “Bike” bobs dandily, in all its gentlemanly attire, whilst flapping around in its red and black cloak. Through the hallucinatory horns and ground-moving shudders, “Bike” slides down a hill into a rabbit hole, visiting Geraldine the honky-tonk mouse, playing a Tack piano in the back room, amongst the ostentatious gingerbread men and celesta clatter. Through the collective vocal harmonies, “The Bike” rides in flamboyant union, evoking a sense of calm grandiose, which is disrupted in “a room of musical tunes”. Rummaging through the dusty boxes of wind up robots, “The Bike” sees its distorted reflections through the xylophonic mirrors, whilst getting tangled by the eerie violins and tormented by the demonic ducks.