6 July 2020
THE MIGHTY ORCHID KING is the British answer to King Gizard King Gizzard & The
Lizard Wizard, that incredibly productive and mind-expanding Aussie collective. The
St. Albans psych prog rockers just released their kaleidoscopic debut album called
THE DOCTRINE OF INFINITE KINDNESS. A bold, existential, bizarro piece of work.
These Five Horsemen of Eco-Anxiety combine Kerouac-esque spontaneous prose
with more direct protest songs about the ongoing destruction of our beloved, living
Earth. Their spectacular firstborn sounds like a sonic visualization of Stanley Kubrick‘s spectacular sci-fi vision ‘2020: A Space Odyssey’. Otherworldly, metaphysical, starry-
eyed and rainbow-colored. Several of the songs were written about their experiences
in the Extinction Rebellion movement, others were inspired by long periods of
isolation and attempts at enlightenment.
Sonically they mix their appetite for 60s harmony, fuzzy guitars, synth arpeggios with occasional impressions of samba, jazz, and house.
Sounds pretty far-out to my ears. Curious, aren’t you? No problem, ringleader Jonny Bennett will tell us all and more about ‘The Doctrine Of Infinite Kindness‘ track by track.
Let’s roll, Jonny…
1. (SUMMON THE SPIRIT)
“A recurring theme of the album is diving down deep inside our consciousness to
see what’s there — I was inspired by an idea from Sharon Salzberg that we can inherit trauma through generations. A lot of the lyrics were written spontaneously, often early in the morning. I’m endlessly obsessing about different ways to get the creative flow going – for a while summoning the spirit was about meditation then totally overwhelming my senses with crazy jazz and coffee while reading from my favourite site called Brainpickings.”
“We pick up again on this journey into the mind here. I’d been reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and remember being really struck by his Orwellian prophecy that love would be unnecessary for cyborg humans of the future.
The synth arpeggio section was on endless loop for a few days, I got totally lost in it”
“I like the juxtaposition of the fancy-free shuffle groove with the lyrics which are basically about escaping the fear of climate meltdown by getting intoxicated and the ensuing guilt of feeling like you’re ignoring the crisis. It’s not just about getting drunk, but anything that we lose ourselves in to avoid confronting reality. We included a line about the absurdity of obsessing over streaming figures while our actual rivers and oceans are being polluted. The irony is that checking our Spotify stats is all we do at the moment!”
“This is the jam song on the record and our usual live set closer. This dates back to
a rehearsal jam in 2017. I started playing this weird rhythm on the kit and as soon
as I heard Martin’s guitar riff I grabbed my phone to record it. We used to write all
our songs that way. The synth sound felt like a real turning point for us towards
more dance elements. These were very spontaneous lyrics again, evoking a kind of
fundamental connection between people and nature.”
5. I WOKE UP EARLY TO DIAL IN TO SOME SACRED FREQUENCY
“Another song about the sanctuary of the early morning before facing the chaos of the world. There’s even a mangled Trump quote in there — “violence on both sides” — symbolic of the way these everyday horrors encroach on our peace. This is the album’s central conflict I think, between the bliss of withdrawing from the world and the need to confront the existential threats we face.”
(From Martin) “Head started off with the little drum machine beat and a few guitar parts but was condemned to the depths of my computer before Jonny helped bring it back to life. Lyrically it was a real mess at first. Basically just written to try get the song ready for a gig, but it ended up becoming about boozing/partying but that it leaves you feeling worse off (in more ways than one). I feel there’s something there about burying your head that fits in with the environmental message of the rest of the album.”
“This one was written by Michael C. Rea AKA Symbol Soup, who doesn’t play with the
live band now but is still very much a part of our collective. I went overboard on the harmonies. It was about trying to move away from just stacking on top of the lead
line and instead create contrapuntal sounds where different voices sing different
rhythms and melodies to create these interweaving webs. I’m always trying to get
closer to that Brian Wilson sound!”
8. (GETTING BETTER, GOLDEN METTA)
“The interlude track sets up the last three songs. It’s kind of a play on the Beatles song, and like the closing song on the album is about a Buddhist meditation where you bring people to mind and wish them well – usually you start with yourself, then someone you really like, then someone more neutral and then someone you don’t like. I stopped drinking for nearly a year and started diving deep into all of these practices. Sometimes I’d try and meditate for two hours in a session — it was quite intense.’ ”
“This is the most direct song on the album about our ecological crisis. I was reading about indigenous protectors in the Amazon being killed as the Bolsonora government moved in to clear more land. The song is about the fundamental absurdity of chasing money at the expense of our life support system. It’s also about the hope of change. Last year a few of the band members were out protesting with Extinction Rebellion often playing with the samba band. It was an incredible feeling to be part of that community for a few weeks – you just start to lose all sense of your individual worries.”
10. THE INTERNET IS ANCIENT
“I remember listening to a podcast with a guy who claimed to have achieved enlightenment and he said one of the downsides was that emotions became so heightened afterwards that even seeing a moth flying towards a lamp became too
painful. I was reading a book about the mycelium networks between trees that allow
them to communicate, share resources, and protect each other. In this context a tree
in concrete with no friends seemed so sad. This song has quite a silly structure, there’s about 6 sections which repeat and a really strange key change.”
“This is the most experimental moment on the record but also I think the most groove-based. All the instruments in the verses are based on a rudiment pattern on the drum kit – I was trying to do a kind of Tony Allen linear thing with guitars and bass emphasising different parts of the groove. There’s a few polymetric moments on the record but this is the most out there – we’d been listening to Polygondwanaland by King Gizzard and also Your Queen Is A Reptile by Sons of Kemet. There are sections where the guitars are in 7/8 while the drums are in 4/4 – I think this chaos reflects the central theme of sending out unconditional love to all beings. I hope that we leave listeners with a positive uplifting message at the end.”
Thanks, Johnny for this revealing breakdown.
May the road rise with The Mighty Orchid King!
Stream/buy album here…
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