(All Album Reviews by Hippy Pants)
Ummagumma is one of my favorite Pink Floyd albums. I like it for its unbridled experimentation and space explorations. It comes as a two disc set: one live and the other studio. Probably the live set is more dramatic, showcasing some of their earlier well-known songs with visceral clarity. I can only imagine how taken aback an experience it might have been hearing and seeing these songs performed live, even more so, if you were unaware of this band beforehand. The live set opens with the starstruck, "Astronomy Domine," a powerhouse rocker with psychedelic lyrics about the cosmos. "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" starts out with a lovely organ intro, O brothers, one barely catches one's breath before one is shaken by the primal screams of a madman. It is a downright ultra-violent horrorshow, my droogie droogs.
Once the tone for this album is set the Floyd continue to divide and conquer nonbelievers as they blast off and "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun." This song begins with vocals barely above a whisper only to soar outward beyond the galaxies of normal music. "A Saucerful Of Secrets" comes swooshing in with Waters' thumping bass and Wright's ethereal keyboards. They hover about as they explore and experiment using echoplexes and other gizmos to take you further outbound. The song structures are loose and squelch with feedback and manic drumming, but Wright's organ comes in at end of the song along with a cosmic, almost choir-like vocal to prepare us for a safe landing.
The studio side is equally spaced out and otherworldly with "Sysyphus, Parts One thru Four." Incorporating menacing drumming and what sounds like a mellotron, it ushers in this dark atmosphere, and then we're confronted by a stark and arresting classical piece on piano. The song morphs and changes like the landscape of some alien planet with what sounds like metallic bird calls and animal sounds in the background, only to be confronted by real birds and serene organ or mellotron again.
The winning piece for me on this side is the wonderful "Grantchester Meadows," with its haunting acoustic guitar strumming, meadow sounds, and soothing vocals: making me want to go sit by a lake or river somewhere. Themes from the opening of the album ebb and flow again until one aurally reaches a cave. Shhhh, listen closely and you'll be able to hear an old Pict inside grooving with several species of animals.
The final side of the studio set sustains this psychedelic, spacey work with more acoustic guitar, sparse cosmic vocals, spacey sound effects, and menacing tribal atmospheres. Ummagumma clearly established Pink Floyd as one of the pioneers of space rock and psychedelia. The truth is out there.