Joel Magill from Syd Arthur put together a playlist for the site titled Signposts to Canterbury. Consider this a pretty great intro to the 'Canterbury Sound'. The band release their new double A side single 'Ode To The Summer / Edge of The Earth' through Dawn Chorus Recordings on March 11th.

Far from being any sort of guide to the "Canterbury Sound" and its many myriad influences, I would like to present some of my favourite music from this genre. The music found herein has and will continue to bear a strong influence on my musical and artistic visions, and will hopefully lead others on a journey of discovery… This blog will use the chronology of how and when I discovered this music as a way of signposting you through it.

For a more detailed explanation and history of these sounds, and for further listening and reading, some links will be found at the end of this piece.

Gong - 'Sold To The Highest Buddha'

Album: Radio Gnome Trilogy Volume 2 - Angels Egg

Angels Egg, part two of Gong's seminal Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, was my introduction to the wonderful world of the so-called Canterbury Sound. And it opened the floodgates to the discovery of all of the music of their contemporaries and much more. 'Sold To The Highest Buddha' features such a cosmic groove and the musical interplay between the band, composition and Daevid Allen's wonderful lyrical content, has always made this a favourite. It's also handy as a four-minute introduction to the world of Gong!

Caravan - 'Nine Feet Underground'

Album: In The Land Of Grey And Pink

Occupying the whole of side two of Caravan's 1971 release In The Land Of Grey and Pink, 'Nine Feet Underground' with its explosions of improvisitory interplay, showcases the best of this classic-era Caravan. It was always going to be a tough decision as to which Caravan track made the cut, but this particular composition, or compositions stitched together into a suite, has always resonated with me. From the opening organ sounds to the very last chord, it takes you on a journey unlike any other and remains a highlight in their canon of work.

Hatfield and The North - 'Going Up To People and Tinkling'

Album: Hatfield and The North

Choosing one particular track that showcases what I would like to say about one of my all-time favourite albums and bands was always going to be hard! The self-titled Hatfield and The North album has been a regular on my record player since it was first introduced to me. It is a work of epic proportions… both beautiful and wild, with some of my favourite bass playing from Richard Sinclair. Seemingly conceived as one whole piece, words can't really do justice to this album. So here is it in all its glory, taken from an original 1974 vinyl edition. Enjoy!

Note: I was actually introduced to a mislabelled vinyl copy of this album, and actually learnt to love it with side two preceding side one. Perhaps testament to how wonderfully presented this LP is and was, it works amazingly well "in reverse".

Soft Machine - Hibou, Anemone and Bear'

Album: Volume II

Now, where to start? At the beginning I suppose…

Taken from Volume II, 'Hibou, Anemone and Bear' explodes out of the speakers with Hugh Hopper's quintessential fuzz bass, before piano, drums and the unmistakeable sound of Mike Ratledge's overdriven organ sound take over. Halfway through, you’re introduced to the sounds of Robert Wyatt and his unique lyrical and vocal style. Utterly cosmic and taken from quite possibly my favourite album ever.

Soft Machine - Facelift'

Album: Third

The only band to feature twice in this piece. I couldn't write about the influence the Canterbury Sound has had on me without mentioning this behemoth of a composition… and I mean that in the best possible way! The album version, from the classic Third, is a tour de force in group interplay, tape editing, live performance and overall vibe! But there are many more live versions out there, as the band explored new sounds, instruments and compositional techniques. Far from being set in stone, Soft Machine continued to explore this composition for the next few years. This is one of my favourites – recently surfaced from a live performance on French TV from a short-lived septet lineup.

Kevin Ayers - 'Rheinhardt and Geraldine/Colores Por Dolores'

Album: Shooting at The Moon

Now this wasn't an easy choice! After leaving The Soft Machine after the completion of Volume I, Kevin Ayers went on to have an amazingly experimental run of albums on the Harvest label throughout the 70s. From the barret-esque simplicity of some of his early numbers through to a track like this, where extended forms, tape loops, exploratory forms, band interplay, and that deep, soulful, one-of-a-kind voice! What a voice… and master lyricist.

Egg - 'A Visit To Newport Hospital'

Album: The Polite Force

My top Egg tune! Featuring the incomparable organ playing of Dave Stewart (later of Hatfield and The North, National Health and others) and the wonderful lyrics of Mont Campbell. A tour de force of distortion, vibe, control and musicianship, it re-counts a tale of gigging on the Isle of Wight a few years previously in a uniquely whimsical way. Nothing short of genius!

I could have gone on an on from here, but thought this was a good place to stop. A whistle-stop tour through some of my highlights of this often overlooked genre. Watch out! Once you delve in and discover the wealth of ingenious music herein, you may be set off on a long journey of discovery!

  • Links:
  • - Aymeric Leroy's 'Calyx' – the ultimate Canterbury resource online [Read]
  • - Italian music writer Pierro Scaruffi’s evaluation of the scene [Read]
  • - A monthly three-hour podcast originating from here in Canterbury, featuring sounds old and new (but mostly old!)] [Read/Listen]
  • - Ridiculously detailed Canterbury family trees put together by a tireless Japanese enthusiast [Read]