Agitated Atmosphere: The Orkustra - Adventures in Experimental Electric Orchestra: From the San Francisco Psychedelic Underground

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as The Orkustra.


The tales of Charles Manson and his family have been recounted from those who lived it, those who witnessed it, and those who were victimized by it. Deep within the sociopathic tendencies of a man who was abandoned by his blood family and left to rot on the streets and within the U.S. prison system during his youth, there laid a child fixated on the majesty and tranquility to be found in music. A move to San Francisco -- and eventually the star-studded hills of Los Angeles and its surrounding hamlets -- gave Manson a mainline into communities attuned to his actual music talents. Before these talents transformed themselves into the hideousness that became the Manson Family, the group embraced an intellectual and creative vibe that most define the early stages of cults.

It happens that the multi-talented Bobby Beausoleil fell into the Manson family’s clutches like any wide-eyed, young, and eager talent did if they came into contact with Manson’s perfumed poison. Now sitting in a prison cell for murder -- a changed man too late in his life to rectify his missteps -- an energized scene hypnotized by the neglected psychedelia of the mid-60s is able to hear the talents of Beausoleil with Adventures in Experimental Electric Orchestra: From the San Francisco Psychedelic Underground, a catch-all of one-time Beausoleil outfit, The Orkustra.

Listen to “Flash Gordon”:

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Vinyl label Mexican Summer shows no fear delving into two LPs worth of The Orkustra’s recorded freakouts. One may be surprised that the music within Adventures in Experimental Electric Orchestra is less psychedelic than the mainstays of the San Francisco scene (Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, et. al.), driven more by the flushed out sounds of jazz and blues. At the time, a band driven by oboe, flute, and violin mixed within the usual rock aesthetic of guitar, bass, and drums proved an oddball and highly thoughtful approach to the music at the time. Adventures in Experimental Electric Orchestra proves more as a heady historical blueprint than that of mere documentation. The Orkustra’s output is truly experimental to the scene and the era in which it was recorded but it also has an abundance of feeling and soul; a near obsolete possession in much of the assembly line rock and pop derivatives of present-day music. The idea behind Adventures isn’t so much as to push the envelope but rather to carve a path the band finds ideal for their sensibilities. Throughout the LPs, there is no sense of the darkness that will eventually consume Beausoleil; there is no stoned pretense of rebirth; there is no fear of what The Orkustra will become should it follow down the path blazed on these recordings. Adventures in Experimental Electric Orchestra is just the sort of fun flashback that proves that it wasn’t all done before and only the lazy and uninspired think it’s all been done.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist who also runs the webzine, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. He writes the Monday News Mash-Up for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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