CONSTANTINE – In Memory Of A Summer Day (Guerssen Records)

In Memory Of A Summer DayChicago’s Constantine’s new acid-psych folk album In Memory Of A Summer Day flows with both “cadence and cascade”. Yeah, they were apparently “ladies of the road” mentioned in a Pete Sinfield lyric for King Crimson’s In The Wake Of Poseidon album.

But that’s beside the point.

Cadence is just a friendly pulse, and a cascade is a waterfall. And Constantine’s In Memory Of A Summer Day, with its hazy vibe, recalls the beauty of a long ago waterfall that flowed (in a mystical folky way) into the collective synapses of a whole lot of people who wore thrift shop clothes, grooved in primitive nature, ate organic vegetarian stuff, loved the sound of the flute (and the odd sitar), craved a curry, and understood the wonder of a really nice bonfire that sparked its fiery embers into the autumnal starry night sky.

This album does all of the above—with acid psych melodic street cred incense to burn–with added spiced-up religious pagan purity.

So, cut to the chase: The opening song, ‘Upon Your Eyes’ conjures all the medieval folk mystery of (my beloved) Magna Carta, circa the dreamy “The Bridge At Knaresborough Town’ and ‘Isle Of Skye’, from their Songs From Wasties Orchard. Main man Constantine Hastalis’ vocals touch the soft earth, yet gaze into the heavens (much like that of Magna mainstay Chris Simpson).  And, yeah, huge complement there!   

There’s so much more: A flute and a few bird songs announce ‘Morning/The Meandering Path’; percussion shimmers, and the lyrics invoke lost Eden with the line: “I came upon a garden in a melancholy hour”. (Oh my!) a mellotron sings with bliss, and a medieval aura hovers over the melody. Now, (no hyperbole here!) this music matches the folky moments–sans big guitar stuff–of (my also beloved!) Wolf People and their Wishbone/Fairport hybrid sound during their brilliant Fain’s ‘When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate’. And then, darkness ironically descends as ‘Spring’ gets sinister, perhaps glances at Comus (of First Utterance fame!), while that flute just dances over an ever-present cascading waterfall.

It’s just an idea, and sorry about preaching to a 70’s folk-prog choir, but In The Memory Of A Summer Day may well be the album we Crimson fans hoped Pete Sinfield would make; although, his ‘Song Of The Sea Goat’ does touch the mysticism of this music.

That said: Sitars weave the tapestry of ‘My Dear Alice’. Of course, the mere mention of ‘Alice’ (and the equally odd tabla) gives a certain nod to a fictional character with the very same name and her adventures in Wonderland. Not only that, but the Guerssen label sticker cites Mark Fry’s 1972 acid psych classic Dreaming With Alice—an album that takes a similar glance Through The Looking-Glass, sips tea with the March Hare, and still ponders The Mad Hatter’s riddle as to how “a raven is like a writing desk”. Yeah, there’s a hint of Syd Barrett here. Interestingly, ‘My Dear Alice’s’ lyric proudly proclaims, “I am you and you are me”. And we are, (poof!) once again, “Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come”.

By the way, what exactly was that “Advice from a caterpillar”?

Now, can you believe it: There’s a song called, ‘Slaying Of The Dragon’—with harpsichord and French horn in tow—and they get away with this dart board toss from way back in pub room time when acid folk was an underground secret, and whose crappy van driving band members never dreamt of a time when their music (which they couldn’t even give away to a non-adorning public!) would be resurrected and revered, with precious reissues and high priced original pressings. Go figure!

Life is funny like that, and sometimes, it does actually sing, “goo-goo g’joob”.

True confession: If a time machine were to be invented, I would go back to that 1976 moment in an Oxford WH Smith’s shop when I passed on Hedgehog Pie’s Green Lady album! As the early Genesis song suggested, “Oh! more fool me”.

But back to In Memory Of A Summer Day: ‘Far, Far, Far Away’ is gentle folk that (sort of) recalls Graham Nash’s ‘Lady Of The Island’ from the first CS&N album. This is candle light flickering soft memory stuff. The lengthy ‘Matilda Of The Meadow’ is pastoral flute drenched acoustic beauty, with a fuzzy electric that sips into wah-wah heaven guitar solo; and the tune does catch the fragrance of the “Incense children” as they “dance to an Indian drum” (Thank you, again, Pete Sinfield!) in the King Crimson song, ‘Formentera Lady’.

This album simply bleeds with the very same passion (to name check yet another folk classic) as Duncan Browne’s Give me Take You–a record, if I may say, contains the song, ‘Dwarf In A Tree (A Cautionary Tale)’, which just happens to be the second favorite all-time song title of my friend, Kilda Defnut–and it’s a close second only to Fairport Convention’s B-side (to ‘Now Be Thankful’) that historically recounts ‘Sir B. McKenzie’s Daughter’s Lament For The 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat From The Straits Of Loch Knombe, In The Year Of Our Lord 1727, On The Occasion Of The Announcement Of Her Marriage To The Laird Of Kinleakie’. So, let’s just say that this album is in good company.

All of this, of course, begs the question: Is this acid folk music a sad modern cousin to The Kinks’ ‘Last Of The Steam Powered Trains’, which confesses, “All my friends are middle class and grey/But I live in a museum, so I’m okay”. Well, let’s just mention that Sir Raymond Douglas Davies also wrote a song called, ‘Definite Maybe’. Sure (or not so sure)–but to any of us who buy any Kissing Spell release (The Loudest Whisper’s The Children Of Lir and Fibbertigibbet’s Whistling Jigs To The Moon are favs!), this album is unicorn horn magic that manages to recede the aging grey in our collective folky hair. But, you know, a lot of kids are acoustically hip again, and they, once more, cook life with vinyl organic vegetables while decked out in thrift store duds. And that’s what this record does: It vibrates with an organic purity—with a mystical and spicey curry vibe. Not only that (again!), but all the lovers of Led Zep’s ‘Battle Of Evermore’ who are always “waiting for the eastern glow’ would, once gifted half an internet spin, love this album. These songs spring from the very same Glastonbury (via Chicago) Chalice Well.

Memory then sprints the long-distance and pretty epic marathon to the finish line. The very acoustic ‘Along The Castle Wall’ could be a flute enhanced Zep tune.  ‘Upon The Stream’ is quiet and contemplative. It vanishes in a minute of a rivulet’s time. ‘Rivers’ has a mantra’s dissertation in its soul. This, indeed, still searches for that “Lost Chord” The Moody Blues always hoped to find. Then, ouch(!), the almost ten-minute ‘The Kingdom Must Fall’ gets into deep psych rock overdrive with tense guitar and percussion, that darn sinister mellotron, a slow-pulsed vocal, and a heart-strung guitar with an (almost) liturgical backbeat psych rock ‘n’ roll prayer. And although no dragons were injured in the making of this song, there is nothing twee here. Let’s just be blunt: The tune isn’t “going to San Francisco”, and it certainly is not “wearing flowers” in its “hair”.

And as it all spins into the final groove, with an echo of Yeats’s caution that “the centre cannot hold”, the album, to quote the highly appropriate Lewis Carroll poem ‘Jabberwocky’, does somehow manage to “gyre and gimble in the wabe” into a maelstrom thankfully graced with songbird voiced final thoughts that conclude a wonderous record of modern acid-folk bliss as it sings to a very ancient charmed dance and flows with an autumnal falling leaf’s “cadence” and the “cascading” memories of any certain summer and its oft remembered long lost and very warm musical dream.

 Bill Golembeski

Bandcamp website: https://constantinedayoflight.bandcamp.com/album/in-memory-of-a-summer-day

‘Matilda Of The Meadow’ – live


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