It is quite clear after a few listens that rather than this “piano roll” method of composing often the way with digitally recorded music the Incredible String Band’s arrangements were in the band members’ heads. ISB seems to know its songs like one would know his or her garden or favorite spot in the woods. ISB knows where the oak, willow and pine live, but these musical elements seem to have a mind of their own, meaning that each performance is more like a snapshot of the band members’ souls than a recital of a creation they once made.
How did this music affect me? I was listening to a lot of electronic music, studying arts in London and also played guitar. I was already training my ears to the fine resolution of intricate electronic music and had a fair bit of knowledge in sound and technology. The Bibio project had a pulse and was already sounding a little folky in parts. I had been sampling and arranging my own guitar playing for a few years, but listening to ISB made me want to bring a new element to my music, a meandering, twisty quality. I think the bridge between glitchy electronica and the jangly folk stuff was reinforced by listening to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. The fact that ISB was “captured” on magnetic tape also factored into my love for the group’s sound. The acoustic sounds and the analog equipment seem to walk hand in hand.
The first bunch of Bibio tracks influenced by ISB were “Bewley in White,” “Lakeside,” and “Cluster at Cwm Einion” off my debut, fi (Mush). “Cluster” was more of an attempt at the meandering, tangled, wooden, confused approach that was more related to ISB’s Beautiful Daughter. That album contained these little outlandish acoustic collages that seem inspired by observing the wonderful intricacies in nature. I don’t know if psilocybin or LSD helped during these observations. Either way, they’re beautiful and strange, and I’ll never be able to shake off the feeling I had when I first discovered them.