Where to start with Joe Meek?
British producer and madman. Know for many sonic watersheds in recording technology, most of which he recorded in his apartment, above his land lady, whom he later killed. The Meek backstory was wild and sad, but the music he made is anything but. There are many fantastic compilations of the artists he recorded, but for today I want to focus on a particularly wonderful oddity of 20th century music.
I Hear a New World, is one of the earliest “concept” albums. I’m using that term loosely because it didn’t really exist as early as 1960 (outside of Sinatra records), there was no Tommy, the Wall, whatever…..
Meek channeled his space-themed mini-opus onto two double 45’s under the guise of a “stereo hi-fi”demonstration record. It is now available again, and has transcended its original intent tenfold. That’s the weird thing, if this was the LATE 60’s or even early 70’s it seems there would be a point of reference for this, but in 1960, who would seek this out?
Why does this record still resonate with me (enough to get played every other month or so)? One very surprising element of I Hear A New World is the economy of it. For such an “out-there” proposition, the instrumentation and arrangements are fairly simple and uncomplicated. There is none of the faux-romanticism of exotica (which was in vogue around this time). Valley of the Saroos is like a love theme from Mars with it’s deceptively simple melodic pattern of cascading notes that sound like some half-beamed back bits of shuttle static deep from space. But junky space, not clean space.
Glob Waterfall is certainly abstract for its time; a slow decay of ringing symbols over some mild electro-water noise. Head music for sure. Think of it as Esquivel minus the fidelity meets Ventures minus the monotony.
Below, enterprising soul MickTravisBickle has combined the title track with footage from “Holy Ghost People” (1967) with highly impressive results.