Hamish Kilgour on The West Coast Pop Art Ensemble – Vol. 2

Adding another legend to the halls of Hidden Gems this week with an entry from The Clean/Mad Scene’s Hamish Kilgour. If you’ve poked through even a smattering of RSTB posts there’s a chance that Flying Nun is namechecked somewhere in close by. So, its definitely an honor to have Hamish take a crack at an album that’s missed its due. He takes a pick from a band that’s long been storied in ’60s psych history, but as is so often the case, picks an album that’s more personally connected to him than universally renown. Usually the accolades on The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band go to their Mother’s-esque debut or their apocalyptic Vol. 3. Kilgour recounts his experience with the band’s sophomore LP an its effect on him as a listener and a songwriter.

Hamish explains how he came to the middle child of the Pop Arts’ catalog, “My brother or myself found the record second hand in our local Goldmine store. We were searching for any American West Coast psychedelia. We had a checklist of artists from a magazine article on the sounds and the movement. We witnessed the mods turn into hippies in New Zealand as children – some of this particular genre was more obscure – only the big artists had been played on the radio in New Zealand. We had never heard anything like it before, and we had listened to a fair bit of British psychedelia.” We had heard the Velvet Underground, because of Lou Reed’s solo breakout with Transformer. The lyrical content and spatially experimental LA engineering and production was like nothing else I’d ever heard, and it had the crystalline transparent LSD infused beauty to it. The hippie battle in the garden of Eden, beauty and innocence versus worldly experience. With a flower children’s softness versus the extreme materialistic harsh American war machine at full tilt in Vietnam – the garden of horrors.”


Reflecting on how this album impacted his own writing Hamish recounts, “The record catches a moment that existed for a short while the period between The Doors, Strange Days or Love’s Forever Changes – it’s just as poetic, evocative, and transcendent. Like all the great stuff, it is in the internal DNA and has shaped aspects of the psyche – kind of indispensable. A cool moment I had about four years ago was hearing it being played by a DJ after The Clean had played in a German style Spiegel tent in Sydney, Australia. Great music traverses all cultures and appears and reminds you not to forget – ever.”


Though the band has received a fair amount of press in hindsight, they still don’t rise to top tier in many accounts of ’60s psychedelia, and for that, Hamish is right about this one slipping by. Take this as a moment to reasses the band’s catalog and push aside the ‘of the time’ production and enjoy their psychedelic excess for the the band’s truly lush take on the genre. As for Hamish himself, he’s just released his second solo LP for Ba Da Bing, the fairytale concept LP Finklestein, which is still fresh for those looking to get their fix from this essential New Zealand songwriter.



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