7–8 August 2017
Marking the 50th anniversary since the revolutionary Summer of Love, Glasgow's psych rock cosmonauts Trembling Bells hook up with original trailblazers Mike Heron and Ed Askew for a magic carpet ride of musical adventure across two days.
Few bands could be said to embody the spirit of the 1960s more comprehensively than Mike Heron's Incredible String Band. On albums such as ‘The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter’ or ‘Wee Tam and the Big Huge’- with their epic perspectives, pantheistic lyrics and visionary synthesis of musical forms- ISB gave the hippy generation some of their most emblematic anthems.
Ed Askew is a painter and singer-songwriter who resides in New York City. His acid-folk masterpiece Ask the Unicorn was re-released in autumn 2016. Ed has just toured Europe with his trio in September in support of this release and in anticipation of his forthcoming second studio album of new songs, featuring Josephine Foster, on Tin Angel Records.
Glasgow-based TREMBLING BELLS are a psych folk phenomenon seeking to reanimate the psychic landscapes of Great Britain and relocate them to some vague, mythic land where basic human crises are encountered and conquered
Their debut album Carbeth was album of the month in Uncut, Observer and Rolling Stone magazines and their music and live performance has earned praise from artists as diverse as Paul Weller, Stewart Lee and Joe Boyd. They have played with some of the most influential and innovative musicians of the last 50 years, including the Incredible String Band, Kaleidoscope and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, with whom the band recorded the 2012 collaborative album The Marble Downs.
Trembling Bells have toured extensively around UK, Europe, North and South America. The past few years have seen the band go from success to success, becoming a huge festival draw in the process. They released a new album Dungeness in March 2018, their first full-length issue since 2015’s Sovereign Self. Adventurous and dynamic, fusing dark psychedelic expansiveness with joyous folk salutations, it is the sound of a band on top of their game.
An enigma even by the ultra-obscure standards of ESP-Disk Records, next to nothing is known about outsider folksinger Ed Askew. Although Askew has been recording songs since the late '60s, only one album has ever been released, 1969's Ask the Unicorn. A solo recording, the album features Askew accompanying himself on the ten-stringed lute-like acoustic instrument the tiple. A Latin instrument Askew discovered as a teenager because his ukulele-playing father owned one, the tiple quickly became a passion for Askew. While studying art at Yale in the mid-'60s, Askew began performing at local poetry readings, and soon incorporated the tiple into his act. Because the tiple is a difficult instrument, with the player having to press down hard on three tightly wound strings at once to get any sound, Askew's early material has a unique and oddly strained vocal quality that comes from the difficulty of singing while playing such a demanding instrument. After graduating from Yale and getting a teaching job in New York, Askew sent a demo tape to Bernard Stollman of the ultra-noncommercial ESP-Disk, possibly the most legendary indie label of the '60s; with his unique but attractive sound, Askew was quickly invited to record an album for the label. Easily one of the most bizarre and wonderful albums ever released by ESP-Disk, Ask the Unicornis a psychedelic folk masterpiece, like the Holy Modal Rounders jamming with Alexander "Skip" Spence. A second album, Little Eyes, was recorded for ESP-Disk in 1970, but although it got as far as a test pressing, the label was beginning to run out of money and the album was never released. In most cases, that would be that, but while pursuing a career as a painter and poet, Askew sporadically kept up his performing career in New Haven and Boston during the '70s. Though he has never released anything commercially since Ask the Unicorn, his homemade tapes are traded on the fringe music underground. His recent music has included harpsichord, synthesizers, and drum machines along with guitar, piano, and his beloved tiple, but other than the more modern instrumentation, Askew's songs remain the same: quirky, but surprisingly accessible, with an engaging melodic sense and emotional, thoughtful lyrics that belie the easy "freaky outsider" tag that might otherwise get stuck upon him.
Together with Robin Williamson and Clive Palmer, Mike Heron was a founder member of The Incredible String Band. Formed in Edinburgh in 1965, they soon broke from the folk club beginnings they shared with other emerging artists such as Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Davey Graham and Billy Connolly to pioneer an eclectic "world music" approach.
In 2010 the Barbican hosted a tribute to the ISB curated by Joe Boyd. Taking part were musicians as diverse as Richard Thompson, Green Gartside, Abigail Washburn, Alisdair Roberts, Clive Palmer, The Trembling Bells, Dr Strangely Strange and Robyn Hitchcock. At the end of the evening, a tribe of these musicians joined Heron onstage to perform his 1960s psychedelic epic A Very Cellular Song.
Leading on from these musical meetings, Robyn Hitchcock invited Mike to play at his Southbank Festival. Mike then joined Robyn on tour with a line up which included Georgia, and the Trembling Bells guitarist Mike Hastings with his musical partner Solveig Askvik. Mike and The Trembling Bells went on to record a new version of his song Feast of Stephen, which was released by Honest Jons in December 2010.