“Is this real? Does it matter?” (The) Amorphous Androgynous is one of the many alter-egos used by Gaz Cobain and Brian Dougans, who are probably best known as The Future Sound Of London (FSOL).
Amorphous Androgynous first appeared with 1993’s Tale of Ephidrina but wouldn’t be deployed again by Cobain and Dougans until 2002, by which time they had shifted from the steel-hearted electronica of their previous release – FSOL’s Dead Cities in 1997 – to The Isness’ heavy psychedelia. Influence wise, Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno were out, Donovan and The Incredible String Band were in.
In the aftermath of Dead Cities the duo reportedly began work on a series of DJ mixes called A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding in Your Mind), which took in cosmic, exotic and spiritual sounds both obscure and otherwise.
The complex process of licensing each track and sample held back the release of the first Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble album, Cosmic Space Music, for almost ten years. It was eventually released in 2008. The two-disc set attracted praise from press and peers alike for its exquisite mix of way-out sounds.
The big difference between the Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble albums and other compilations is that the music is brought together irrespective of time, context or narrowly-defined notions of what “psychedelic” could or should be. A second compilation (Pagan Love Vibrations) would appear in 2009 and a third (The Third Ear) in 2010.
Another five years would pass until A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind (Volume 4) – The Wizards Of Oz would be released in February 2015, about which I interviewed Gaz Cobain for Sydney street paper The Brag. So far, so promotional.
It was through their first Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble compilation that The Amorphous Androgynous caught the attention of Noel Gallagher who commissioned the duo to remix what would turn out to be Oasis’ final single, ‘Falling Down’. Cobain and Dougans didn’t just remix the song; they upended the track into a five-part reimagining. The 22-minute epic wig-out stands as an absolute tour de force in both artists’ body of work.
With Oasis dissolved, Gallagher went solo, enlisting Amorphous Androgynous to helm one of two solo albums slated to be released in 2011/12. First to drop was Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, a traditional singer-songwriter affair. Extensive touring ensued after which a second solo record from Gallagher arrived…but not the one recorded with Amorphous Androgynous. Gallagher has reportedly shelved it for good, complaining that they turned in “the quietest CD of all time”. [Noel loves dynamic range compression – Ed]
Confusingly/frustratingly, two tracks from the The Amorphous Androgynous sessions have appeared as single b-sides.
Taking Gallagher’s originals to places your run-of-the-mill Oasis fan would likely label “fookin’ weird”, they give us a taste of what could have been. “Shoot A Hole Into The Sun” is a sultry summer saunter, all heat haze and weed-induced lethargy. The Amorphous Androgynous remix of “AKA…What A Life!” takes the pounding house feel of the original and turns it into squelchy, tribal electronic trip that clocks up an epic 16 minutes.
In other interviews Gallagher has explained that the album’s non-appearance was down to the first album being more successful than even he anticipated and that he didn’t find Amorphous Androgynous’ mix to be satisfactory.
Gaz Cobain begs to differ.
I asked Cobain if he thought it likely that the album made with Noel Gallagher would ever be released.
Here is his reply in full.
“Unfortunately, he’s kind of made it [the album] quite difficult to come out because he actually recorded another album in secret that also completely copied our track order. So, at the same time as he kind of dragged his heels in terms of really… it was really bizarre actually because he kind of, in the studio, because I think it was supposed to be his main album, with us, you see? It’s actually a very complex story. It was supposed to be his main album so obviously we weren’t going to go really, really far out but we were going to try and get it right, so it was really interesting. It was his songs and whenever we tried to go really far out, he kind of resisted, which was fine because we knew it was his album, but then he recorded another album, which did the straight versions, in exactly the same order as ours. So, he kind of made it impossible to bring ours out.”
“If you go and look at the press conference like two years in, where he names to the world ‘I’m releasing two albums and the next one is going to be the furthest out that I’ve ever been’, that was the first time I knew about this album (his album, the other album) and it was the first that I’d realised he’d copied, he’d copied our exact track order. We basically had to change our album all around with about two days to go. Luckily we’d written new tracks but what he’s done is he’s just taken those new tracks and put them on his new album.”
“It’s all just ridiculous really and I’ll tell the full story at some point because it’s a very entertaining story. My nose is a bit out of joint from the whole experience. To be honest, he’s just too feared to be weird, which is what I like to say these days. He kind of used the idea of being really sort of way-out to make everyone think he was going to do something different and he released something that was kind of pretty standard Noel Gallagher and he cherry-picked what we did like ‘Shoot A Hole Into The Sun’ and he cherry-picked the two new tracks [‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘The Mexican’ from Gallagher’s 2015 album Chasing Yesterday.] that, when we forced him under arguments, to write new tracks.”
We feel a bit used, actually because at the end of the day, the album was where we were going to obviously make our mark. The album was amazing, by the way, so it’s all a little bit sad but hey, I got over it all a little while ago and moved on. I’m still going to be telling that story some time in its full depth, just because I’ve spoken about it so much in parts, we’ve spoken about it for five minutes. But, once you hear everything about in the studio and all the various things that went on, you’ll find out by the time it got to that press conference, it’s already about 20 complex points in and you’ll go ‘Wow, those poor guys. All that work they did’ and he was kind of making all these secret decisions that completely made it impossible for our album to come out without really ever having the respect to talk to us directly about it when we’re actually collaborating with him and giving him everything we had. We gave him everything.
While it’s possible that the real answer could lay somewhere in-between both versions, we do hope that the album ultimately sees the light of day. If not, going by the tracks that were released, it has the potential to go down as one of the great lost albums of the early 21st century.