It took awhile before I clicked with psychedelic folk music, but it all started when I decided to buy an album by t he Incredible String Band. This was partly prompted by Boards of Canada mentioning ISB in various interviews. I was curious how an acid-folk band could have an impact on the mysterious synth-laden tunes of Boards of Canada. I bought The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Hannibal), originally released in 1968, and it took some getting into. After all, I was listening to a lot of electronic music at the time, which seemed polar opposite to the jangle-riddled acoustic clusters of the Incredible String Band. But after three or four listens, I was hooked, and I also realized there was some kind of link to be made with electronic music.

The Incredible String Band’s music is so horizontal. Each track travels in a free and meandering way, not adhering to a metronome or a beat. It doesn’t appear to be conveniently divided into sections such as verse/chorus/verse, and there is an amazing story-like structure to the group’s early work that sounds like some drug-induced, observant comment on life and fantasy, One minute you’re sitting on a garden wall saying “hallo” to the baker; the next minute you’re skating on happy valley pond surrounded by various ministers or playing cards in a tent with soldiers. These sections feel natural, never spliced together or contrived.

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.


Mush Records