Seems like as long as Raven has been around there’s been a band with Pete Nolan tearing up the speakers. From GHQ and Spectre Folk to Magik Markers, among countless others Nolan’s been involved in some of the best noise-psych rippers of the past fifteen years. With the triumphant return of the Markers this year, Nolan and his band picked up right where they left off, delivering a varied record that was much needed in 2020. I asked Pete to queue up a pick for the Hidden Gems series and he delivered an unexpected treasure. Find out how No Strange came into Pete’s life and the impact that it’s had.
“I first heard this record after a trip to the West Coast with jammer guitar trio GHQ. I was in this band back in the early naughties with Steve Gunn and Marcia Bassett,” recalls Pete. “Part of our non-lucrative tour involved going up to Main Island north of Vancouver, BC to record with Otic Library mastermind Joshua Stevenson. We hung out in a cabin in the woods while bald eagles circled overhead. I never heard the results of the session, but Josh hooked me up with a DVR containing a ton of rare psych records like the Electronic Hole, Clark Hutchison, and Cold Sun. These records would also make good additions to the hidden gem pile, but I’ll tell you why, for me, No Strange takes the cake.”
“I didn’t really like this record at first,” Nolan admits. “It was hard to find a frame of reference for it. It kind of sounds like roller skating music. Also, like I said, it was piled up with a bunch of other killer jams. I put all this stuff on a little baby black iPod and listened to it a bunch while riding the subway around New York for a few years.”
“After one of many Magik Markers tours of Europe from this era, my girlfriend Julie came to stay with me in Berlin for Christmas. We rented an apartment in Prenzlauer and hung out in super smoky clubs while DOODCAST honcho Fritz Fitzgerald DJ’d. I also remember playing a sweet trio gig in front of a humongous crowd at Festshall Kreuzberg with J. Mascis and his brother-in-law Phil Virus. This club was sooo smoky and I was so zonked from the tour that Julie and I both got incredibly sick with bronchitis. We played house in our little apartment making a few brief sojourns out to check out the holiday market and visit the Berlin Wall. My fondest memory is cooking dinners and listening to L’Universo by No Strange. It felt very nice and Christmassy. I also started to feel like I could get used to this domestic scene with Julie.”
“Fast forward a bunch more years to a Christmas morning with my now wife Julie and our daughter Violet. I always like getting records for Christmas. This year I got a first edition of L’Universo on yellow vinyl. Julie had ordered it from a record store in Milan. I’m realizing now that I haven’t really talked about how the record sounds yet. From what I understand, No Strange was part of an Italian psych revival in the 80’s. The record has killer home-made looking weirdo art. It’s got organ psych and raga zone jams with repetitive lyrics about a “magic kingdom.” I still love to play this record loud around the house. It makes me think about all the stuff I’ve talked about here.”
Another great LP I wasn’t familiar with, which always makes this series a secret treasure hunt for myself. This one still proves a bit elusive with the digital not really available and no reissues of the original, but as usual there are copies on Youtube to at least experience the record before plunking down $50+ on Discogs. In the meantime, I’d recommend nabbing Magik Markers new LP 2020 from Drag City, one of the years’ best for sure.