The Beat Sep­a­ra­tion

This month’s stop at rock ob­scu­ria’s cob­webbed ghost sta­tion: ly­ser­gic avant-sym­phonies to the apoca­lypse.

Mojo (UK) - - Filter Albums -

In the pre-in­ter­net ’90s, David Ti­bet, founder of ex­per­i­men­tal col­lec­tive Cur­rent 93 and record la­bels Durtro and Cop­tic Cat, was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the still-buried world of ’60s acid-folk. “Some­one rec­om­mended Don Brad­shaw-Leather,” he re­calls. “I re­mem­bered see­ing his al­bum Dis­tance Be­tween Us ev­ery­where across Lon­don in the late ’70s, in sec­ond-hand stores, of­ten priced at 10p. It had this bizarre cover, a guy painted in black oil, with his name and al­bum ti­tle in Ger­manic gothic let­ter­ing.” Ti­bet’s friend Steve ‘Nurse With Wound’ Sta­ple­ton had also clocked the bar­gain-bin record, and bought one. “Steve said, ‘It’s re­ally doomy, or­ches­tral and dra­matic, I think you’ll like it.’ And I ended up fall­ing in love with this un­known man and his un­known record.” Re­leased on the Dis­tance la­bel, Brad­shaw-Leather’s sole re­lease was a one-track-per-side dou­ble LP, all-in­stru­men­tal bar side one’s pas­sage of fe­male chant­ing, all in­ter­con­nected by shift­ing melodic themes. The lam­i­nated sleeve was highly un­usual for a pri­vate press. Be­sides the alarm­ing front cover photo, the gate­fold im­ages were frankly de­monic, while on the rear, Brad­shaw-Leather grap­ples with a naked wo­man, who screams into the lens. The ti­tle and artist name – seem­ingly mis­spelled ‘Don Brad­sham-Leather’ – are the only words on the cover. It’s how mu­sic cults be­gin.

“SHE SAID, ‘IF PEO­PLE HAD HEARD THOSE TAPES, IT WOULD HAVE DE­STROYED THE UNI­VERSE.’”

As the in­ter­net grew, the record gath­ered ac­co­lades in­clud­ing “DIY hor­ror sym­phony” and “mel­lotron apoca­lypse on toast”. The clas­si­cal/jazz/avant sounds have an hyp­notic, liq­uid mo­men­tum, fus­ing pi­ano, or­gan and mel­lotron with pe­ri­odic Afro-rhythms. Think Mes­si­aen meets Stravin­sky meets Popol Vuh: in­tense, beau­ti­ful, un­set­tling, haunt­ing, to­tally sui generis, and worth a lot more than 10p. In the mid-’00s, Ti­bet was des­per­ate to reis­sue the al­bum, so he started dig­ging on­line. He read a ru­mour that, pos­si­bly be­cause of the clas­si­cal/ prog flavour, Brad­shaw-Leather was a cover for Robert John God­frey of The Enid. Then a post from Brad­shaw-Leather’s sis­ter Geisha re­vealed the truth. It tran­spired that her brother – who called him­self Odin – “was raised within a re­spectable Jewish fam­ily – he grew with and into mu­sic more by ge­netic des­tiny than en­vi­ron­men­tal con­se­quence. He be­came a clas­si­cally trained mu­si­cian of the high­est level. His un­der­stand­ing of mu­sic as a lan­guage… was at a depth and com­plex­ity un­known to most.” Geisha also re­ported that Odin had been ad­vanced money by CBS (Columbia Master­works was busy as­sem­bling a rep­utable avant-garde cat­a­logue at the time) to make a record. The money funded a stu­dio in Sus­sex, com­plete with church or­gan. “Here,” she wrote, “on his own without the use of any elec­tronic se­quenc­ing equip­ment, he recorded Dis­tance Be­tween Us us­ing sim­ple mul­ti­track tape by lay­er­ing each part of the com­po­si­tion… which com­mu­ni­cates judg­ment and mercy in equal pro­por­tion.” Yet it seems CBS baulked at the fin­ished record. A friend of Ti­bet’s re­called Brad­shaw-Leather, while squat­ting in Not­ting Hill Gate, hav­ing up to a thou­sand copies of the al­bum, all self-pressed (all are marred by oc­ca­sional sur­face noise). Lack­ing dis­tri­bu­tion, the only way to get it into re­tail out­lets was by sell­ing it sec­ond-hand, hence its ubiq­uity in Lon­don junk shops. Ti­bet con­tacted Geisha. “She said Odin was very spir­i­tual, like his mu­sic. And that he’d died, in 1999. She seemed very keen on me reis­su­ing the al­bum, though with a dif­fer­ent cover, one that wouldn’t put peo­ple off.” Geisha con­firmed the master tapes were lost, and other cas­sette record­ings dam­aged by wa­ter – “but she said that, if peo­ple had heard those tapes, it would have de­stroyed the uni­verse by its power, beauty and tran­scen­dence.” Ti­bet also heard from a fam­ily friend, Stella Moon, whose late sis­ter Mi­cola had lived with Odin from 1973-78. In a park café, MOJO meets Moon, who brings her signed copy of Dis­tance Be­tween Us, and a photo al­bum that once be­longed to Mi­cola. Here’s Odin at 13, in his bar mitz­vah suit, or grown up, kneel­ing by a grave­stone, or bran­dish­ing a dag­ger – but he’s also shown smil­ing. “He was a gen­tle char­ac­ter, but ex­treme,” Moon re­calls. “He’d been in and out of men­tal hos­pi­tal. He was of­ten very with­drawn. He’d sleep for three days, hav­ing been up three days. But when he was happy, he was vi­brant. I’d never met any­one with such charisma.” She re­mem­bers Odin mov­ing his Stein­way pi­ano into Mi­cola’s house in north Lon­don: “His play­ing could be thun­der­ous, or calm, like his moods. Rag­ing or sweet as a baby.” This might ex­plain the al­bum ti­tle – the dis­tance be­tween his two dis­tinct moods, be­tween ‘us’. Moon doesn’t know what might have in­flu­enced the al­bum’s as­ton­ish­ing dy­nam­ics and range. “He didn’t watch TV, or like films, or lis­ten to other peo­ple’s mu­sic. The only thing he’d read was the Tal­mud [Jewish scrip­tures].” Still, Moon ad­mits Odin “drank a lot, and took who knows what. My sis­ter re­ally loved him, but he just drained her. She even­tu­ally moved to Spain, and wouldn’t give Odin a for­ward­ing ad­dress. I never saw him again.” Be­fore Ti­bet could agree a deal, Geisha moved to Is­rael, and all con­tact stopped. An e-mail trail to her daugh­ter has also gone cold, so it’s pos­si­ble the fam­ily are sim­ply let­ting Odin, or Don, rest in peace. Orig­i­nal copies now sell for up to £500, but bootlegs ex­ist. The mu­sic lives on. “It’s dra­matic, pro­found, un­set­tling, a work of ge­nius, yet it never falls into melo­drama,” Ti­bet con­cludes. “It feels like a side project of a clas­si­cal mu­si­cian who’d never done any­thing with rock or prog be­fore, or since, but had some­thing to get off their chest. It shouldn’t work but it more than works. It’s a com­plete suc­cess in ev­ery way – ex­cept it was a to­tal fail­ure.” Martin As­ton

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