Every so often a beautifully flawed pseudo-concept album gets released which it is almost a sin to try to describe. So it is with this absolutely mesmerizing record, a taste-smashing, fabulously old-fashioned, wobbly blitzkrieg of slippery, retro-futuristic, prog rock precision. As a rule I try to avoid describing music by talking about other music the reader may or may not have heard, but the gloves are coming off for this one. Imagine if modern psych groups weren't so one-paced, if Barclay James Harvest had a wah wah pedal and enjoyed fiddling with tape speeds, if Yes were fronted by Serge Gainsbourg or had a sense of humor, if The Opium Warlords and Bo Hansen joined The Mike Sammes Singers; and it all sounded perfectly natural. Juxtaposition and incongruity are at the heart of The Valley of The Dandies: a wonderfully unpredictable recording which manages to sound deliberately dated, and also touches on mythical themes ("explored" would be an exaggeration) but not in a po-faced or over-referential manner. The music is sometimes grandiose but CV Vision does not portray by resorting to a dull slow burn plodding pace. These tunes are amusing, bright, clever, and dynamic, the lyrics intriguingly clumsy but yet light and unobtrusive. There is an unknowable quality to this album, though; and a certain confidence in its completeness. It can not be reduced to a few neat genres, has a rich complexity but never sounds cluttered or gets bogged down. This is a real gem: clean, clear and valuable. It may become a cult classic or merely prove to be a refreshing oddity. Either way I played this thing through five times without a break!
As such, it is weird to speak of individual tracks but here we go. The opener "Welcome" sounds like a cryogenic time reversal accident has resulted in Wendy Carlos waking up in medieval times and getting right to work with mysterious bleeps and ominous thuds. There then follows a bout of funky bass driven prog rock jousting called "The Pious Wanderer." Drums seem to shatter and splat, and the German lyrics waft on a flute like breeze as the track races onward and then clicks into "The Messenger Faster Than The Wind" which includes a child talking of swords pulled from stones followed by the waking from death of a rightful King, returning to save the land at time of great need—presumably during a hideous outbreak of repressive good taste. It brings to mind a futurist motorik-lite version of an ancient prediction woven into tapestry. In one of several brilliantly incongruous moves, CV Vision sings the word "messenger" with a decidedly un-folky edge, more as if he were trying to impress a crowd of bikini clad beauties on Copacabana beach. "Ride My Seesaw" was never this odd.
"King Friedrich II" is a veritable mini masterpiece, somewhere between French psych-pop and a jaunty late-1960s television theme tune. It begins with a low-fi grungy guitar which Dwane Warr might have discarded because it was too surreal and weedy. Then it flips quickly into what could easily be a lost TV theme from a spy or detective show; perhaps a Jason King/Department S style series with a ludicrously debonair womanizing hero who, off screen, naturally prefers birds of his own feather. "Before And After The Storm" initially sounds as sublime as a graceful swan gliding across a pond, and then as groovy, thunderous, and manic as if it were titled Blade Road Runner Throb. All these pieces maintain the flow of the album while adding variety and contrast which burst out unexpectedly.
Take "Wizard and The Hex" where a spell-like incantation gives way to a surf-fuzz bass groove, meandering morse code dub effects, and a languid synth sway. Equally, a sort of reverse time traveling whirl makes "The Journey Inward" an absolutely beautiful track; disintegrating superbly from sub-Floydian grandeur (via what sounds strangely like early Little Feat if they'd emigrated to Berlin) to a dynamic series of headless fast action pursuits. "Light Moon" approximates a hyper-cooing version of Stereolab wading through interstellar quicksand. So it goes on, as dogs bark, anvils thump, cows moo, and at times we may wonder if Edgar Broughton has used the flute from Hawkwind's "Silver Machine" to make a dub track. "The Merry Juggler" and "Children of The Miller Who Lives On The Edge Of The Forest'' indeed took my musical taste buds to the edge of somewhere, just pulling back before the desire to perform my own dentistry became overwhelming. Naturally, "Over Love Affairs" brings everything together and rolls it safely back home like the essence of sun sparks zooming into a hundred video game endings (with strings).
I have translated the German track titles so any errors here are mine.