The seventies were a good time for weirdos. This is perhaps self-evident in the entire oeuvre of the decade, musical and otherwise, but where music is concerned, the seventies marked the perfect conflation of technology and the fact that, by about 1971, everybody had taken drugs for six years straight. Enter Archives, by the George-Edwards Group, a compilation of rare songs and ambient pieces by these 1970s eccentrics. Indebted equally to early Pink Floyd and proto-synth god Bruce Haack, this collection divides its time equally between spacebound prog-pop and experiments with Moog sounds.
Like Farad: The Electric Voice, the recent reissue of Haack’s work, this collection is structured around the progression of the relationship between the album’s central instrument and the songs created through experimentation with that instrument. With Haack, it was Farad, an early model of the Vocoder that he seemed to love on a an almost disturbing level, while with the George-Edwards Group, it’s their early Moog synthesizer, which they used for about damn near everything, substituting it for guitar lines, piano keys, and at times just letting the Moog run the entire show.
It’s these experimental pieces that work best on the album, as you can almost hear the George-Edwards Group working out how to play with their new toy, and then listen as the Moog pops up in the group’s more song-structured work. However, it’s the songs themselves that are often lacking. While Archives remains a strictly bedroom affair, it has larger aspirations that are often constrained by its personnel and skill. While Gary Wilson’s You Think You Really Know Me, a album made around the same time as many of the recordings in Archives, manages to transcend its lo-fi circumstances by Wilson managing to sound one hundred percent like a crazy person, many of the pop pretenders on Archives come across as only about forty percent crazy and sixty percent crappy ELO, Floyd, and Badfinger knockoffs.
With the critical success of 38.38, the George-Edwards Group’s astounding late-70s ambient work, the release of the Archives collection was almost inevitable. However, light-drone aficionados will be turned off by this one, as will most everybody else, really.