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Topic: I'm really feeling Incantations these days< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
shenry Offline




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Posted: Aug. 31 2021, 12:11

I don't really think of myself as a lover of Incantations. I think for me, like many Oldfield fans, it's the album where the line is drawn between the mysterious alchemy of his early albums and the generally shiny, soulless feel of his output from the '80s onwards. Incantations straddles both worlds.

There's much I don't like about it. It's too long and too repetitive. I think a lot of people would agree.

And yet, I keep coming back to it time and time again. Sometimes instead of "too long" it feels "immersive", and sometimes instead of "too repetitive" it feels "hypnotic". So yes, every now and again I get an itch that only Incantations can scratch, and it temporarily becomes my favourite Oldfield album.

There's never really been another album on earth that has the same curious combination of instruments. You just don't get vibraphones mixed with bodhrans and trumpets on "normal" albums. I also notice it's the first Oldfield album not to feature acoustic guitar. Up until that point he seemed equally proficient/dominant on both acoustic and electric guitars: but from Incantations onwards it seems to me that the electric guitar was his dominant instrument.

There's definitely a deliberate spiritual/ magical/ occult feel to it. As he has explained in his autobiography, he deliberately started out wanting to make it explicitly like a magic spell. And although he ironed a lot of that out of it, it's still there in fragments. It still does feel like some kind of spell or ritual. I think he should probably have left in the Kathleen Raine poem "A Spell for Creation" (as heard in The Space Movie) as that would have helped to retain this spiritual theme.

Kathleen Raine was introduced to Oldfield by Keith Critchlow, writer of the Reflection film (featuring a number of Incantations demos) and a devotee/enthusiast of sacred geometry. Oldfield dated his daughter for a short time. Critchlow wrote a great book called Time Stands Still, about the patterns and meanings behind neolithic standing stones and other sites in Britain. I love that phrase "Time Stands Still", and it seems to me like an apt description of how I feel when I tune into Incantations.

The Hiawatha poem at the end of side two... I know that rubs a lot of people up the wrong way, but it's one of my favourite parts of the album. It's maybe the only part of the album I wish was longer, not shorter. Time really does "stand still" in the best possible way when I listen to Hiawatha, and when side two ends it's like waking from a wonderful dream.
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nightspore Online




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Posted: Aug. 31 2021, 20:28

Quote (shenry @ Aug. 31 2021, 12:11)
There's definitely a deliberate spiritual/ magical/ occult feel to it. As he has explained in his autobiography, he deliberately started out wanting to make it explicitly like a magic spell.

Speaking of that sort of thing, one of the cartoons that appears on entering the site - the cartoon with a pink figure courting a dark one, who then abandons the dark figure in favour of Oldfield - (Kali courting Lord Shiva before abandoning him, perhaps) contains a sort of spell:

ULA HUP BARBATRUC

This unscrambles to "TUBULAR HUBCAP RA". Perhaps Mike Oldfield sees himself as the Sun God Ra, riding on the endless wheel  :O  :laugh:

Ra would certainly tie in with all the Thoth stuff on the Maestro game.
Whoops - another leak in that "bag of secrets"  :laugh:
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Priabonia Offline




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Posted: Sep. 02 2021, 07:24

Yay! Incantations thread!

It's a tricky one - I love the album, it's by far my most played music and the one I reach for when I need some "reassurance" and respite from life. Yes the mixture of instruments is intriguing and unusual, and yes parts are overlong (the vibes section on Part Four is my least favourite...it's stunning but could do with at least 4 fewer repetitions!)...and (heresy alert!) the guitar solo on Part Three could also do with editing (re-arranging?) as it sort of dribbles off to nowhere rather than ending with a flourish.

By contrast Part One is a musical tour de force, perhaps its classical ABA form lends it some symmetry? I for one am also a fan of the very minimalist bits of Part Two (e.g. 3'22" onwards)...and as for Part Four, I just love the breathtaking sense of finality when the Solina comes in over the marimba at around 14'00"...I could go on but I'll wait to hear others' thoughts!


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shenry Offline




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Posted: Sep. 03 2021, 05:46

I agree about the minimalist bits on part two. When it gets right down to just those shimmering strings it's breathtaking.

I think, when push comes to shove, part two is probably my favourite part. It has that ghostly feeling, a real stillness, and I really do love the Hiawatha song.

Part three is definitely my least favourite. I have a feeling this part mostly came about at the end of the process, after his Exegesis therapy session. It looks forward to a more rhythmic, poppy future and is definitely a bridge to Platinum. (Which is really where I part ways with Oldfield).
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Ommagest Offline




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Posted: Sep. 03 2021, 07:05

First MO LP ever bought.
I always liked its random slightly overblown pompousness although it could have been so easily cut down.
The only bits I find a bit unengaging are the flute and orchestra part on side one after the Hymn to Diana bit and pretty much all of side 4 after the Vibraphone Canon. I wish that on the long side 3 guitar solo he'd left a bit more without the lead guitar line as there is the most impressive sounding rhythm guitar grinding and growling away. That guitar solo is also played a lot better on Pierre Moerlen's Gong Downwind at 6 mins 40 secs
Side 2 up to the start of the Hiawatha Poem is really quite something with the small choir adding a dimension to the orchestration.
Also plus 1 for the Solinas String Machine with Jabula's incredible drumming. Why did MO not use them more?


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qcfoetus Offline




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Posted: Sep. 03 2021, 12:55

Interesting comments, guys! In spite of its imperfections, Incantations is probably my favourite MO album. Must have listened to it hundreds of times over the years. At first hearing, way back in 1978, the opening eight notes were enough to get me hooked (for life)! As a musically uneducated 20-year old, I was also mesmerized by the unusual time signature. Anyways, it was a magical experience that endures to this day.
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nightspore Online




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Posted: Sep. 03 2021, 20:12

Quote (qcfoetus @ Sep. 03 2021, 12:55)
Interesting comments, guys! In spite of its imperfections, Incantations is probably my favourite MO album. Must have listened to it hundreds of times over the years. At first hearing, way back in 1978, the opening eight notes were enough to get me hooked (for life)! As a musically uneducated 20-year old, I was also mesmerized by the unusual time signature. Anyways, it was a magical experience that endures to this day.

Pete Renolds said it wasn't worth listening to  :laugh:
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Priabonia Offline




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Posted: Sep. 05 2021, 07:20

Er, am I missing something, but who is Pete Renolds??

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pauken Offline




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Posted: Sep. 05 2021, 08:33

Quote (shenry @ Aug. 31 2021, 12:11)
I also notice it's the first Oldfield album not to feature acoustic guitar.

There is a little bit of acoustic in the break in vocals in the Hiawatha section but I think that's about it.

Incantations is just such a wonderful thing, length, repetition and all, I love it :)
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nightspore Online




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Posted: Sep. 05 2021, 20:39

Quote (pauken @ Sep. 05 2021, 08:33)
Quote (shenry @ Aug. 31 2021, 12:11)
I also notice it's the first Oldfield album not to feature acoustic guitar.

There is a little bit of acoustic in the break in vocals in the Hiawatha section but I think that's about it.

Incantations is just such a wonderful thing, length, repetition and all, I love it :)

All that love spread over only 67 posts since 2005 apparently
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pauken Offline




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Posted: Sep. 06 2021, 17:57

Quote (Priabonia @ Sep. 02 2021, 07:24)
Yay! Incantations thread!

\o/

Quote

It's a tricky one - I love the album, it's by far my most played music and the one I reach for when I need some "reassurance" and respite from life. Yes the mixture of instruments is intriguing and unusual, and yes parts are overlong (the vibes section on Part Four is my least favourite...it's stunning but could do with at least 4 fewer repetitions!;)...and (heresy alert!;) the guitar solo on Part Three could also do with editing (re-arranging?) as it sort of dribbles off to nowhere rather than ending with a flourish.

I remember once listening to Part Four and becoming almost hypnotised by the vibe section. The way Part Three ends is great, from about 13'33" where the piano and Solina pulsing thing happens, a real buildup of tension. The intro fanfare to Part Three has always grated with me somehow though, not sure why. And the guitar solo does go on and on :/

Quote

By contrast Part One is a musical tour de force, perhaps its classical ABA form lends it some symmetry? I for one am also a fan of the very minimalist bits of Part Two (e.g. 3'22" onwards)...and as for Part Four, I just love the breathtaking sense of finality when the Solina comes in over the marimba at around 14'00"...I could go on but I'll wait to hear others' thoughts!

In the Diana section of Part One, I love the synthesizer "recorder" melody that starts at 8'57" and comes back later, it's a definite earworm and I have it going around in my head for days afterwards :)
The Diana choral section in Part Two is glorious, especially the flute/strings introduction, but really the whole thing.
The electric guitar solo in Part Four starting at 11'37" is just ecstatic, even if it's only brief. I'm not sure he ever really played anything quite as raw as that again after Incantations...
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shenry Offline




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Posted: Sep. 07 2021, 04:54

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In the Diana section of Part One, I love the synthesizer "recorder" melody that starts at 8'57" and comes back later, it's a definite earworm and I have it going around in my head for days afterwards :)

It's a great melody, agreed... but I'm afraid I have a real aversion to that synthesized recorder sound. A real shame because for a few years from around 1978 onwards he seemed to use it on just about everything! I'm not sure of the name of the synth itself, but in the Blue Peter interview video (1979 I think?) he demonstrates playing it at half speed which is how he got the "fruity" sound. Ugh... I don't like it I'm afraid!
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Priabonia Offline




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Posted: Sep. 07 2021, 05:17

[quote=shenry,Sep. 07 2021, 09:54]
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I'm afraid I have a real aversion to that synthesized recorder sound.

Just goes to show how we're all different! I just *love* that bit, I love the way it's really trebly with the claps, the rim shots from the bodhran (one day must put a spectrograph on it...).

For an alternative take which might be more to your taste check out Howie's Turkish megamix!


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omgmo Offline




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Posted: Sep. 07 2021, 07:36

For me, Incantations is like a spaceship. Or a time-machine. Unbelievable album. I hope I will soon have the time for an extensive post on Incantations.

Thank you, shenry, for sharing your thoughts/feelings, I enjoyed your post. (I didn't know he was dating Critchlow's daughter! Cool, isn't it? :laugh: )

Regards
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shenry Offline




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Posted: Sep. 07 2021, 09:34

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I didn't know he was dating Critchlow's daughter! Cool, isn't it?

I love picking away at little threads and connections like this. It's great when you pick up a reference from one author that leads to another, then another... then you end up coming back to where you started.
At the moment I'm on a little journey of reading, listening and pottering where Keith Critchlow, Kathleen Raine and Mike Oldfield have led me down a little rabbit hole from Critchlow's sacred geometry to Julian Cope (The Modern Antiquarian), David Bedford the the Song of the White Horse, Wayland's Smithy... a bit of Tolkien... and on to the theories of Robert Graves (The White Goddess), Richard King (The Lark Ascending) and Alfred Watkins (The Old Straight Track)... then all of a sudden I'm reading Watkins in The Old Straight Track talking about Hergest Ridge! A great little journey which I am enjoying immensely.
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shenry Offline




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Posted: Sep. 08 2021, 04:20

I've just been watching the live Incantations from the Exposed Dvd, which I bought recently from ebay. WOW. I know the Exposed album and had watched this on YouTube before, but the multi angle view on the dvd is a total revelation. Makes such a difference being able to view the wide angle and see all the things happening at the sides of the stage. It gives me a new appreciation for the craftsmanship and collaboration involved. A great performance of a wonderful piece.

And I'd never noticed before but the audience looks half empty!! No wonder he lost money on the tour.

I was too young to see this at the time, but I wish I had been old enough.
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pauken Offline




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Posted: Sep. 13 2021, 18:59

Quote (shenry @ Sep. 07 2021, 04:54)
Quote
In the Diana section of Part One, I love the synthesizer "recorder" melody that starts at 8'57" and comes back later, it's a definite earworm and I have it going around in my head for days afterwards :)

It's a great melody, agreed... but I'm afraid I have a real aversion to that synthesized recorder sound. A real shame because for a few years from around 1978 onwards he seemed to use it on just about everything! I'm not sure of the name of the synth itself, but in the Blue Peter interview video (1979 I think?) he demonstrates playing it at half speed which is how he got the "fruity" sound. Ugh... I don't like it I'm afraid!

I do know what you mean. But it has taken on a life of its own somehow, it's become a sort of canonical MO sound and I've stopped questioning it. Totally objectively, it's a naive square wave 70s synthesizer sound; but once you accept is as an "instrument" in its own right, it makes sense in the context it's in. Maybe. I could have been drinking before making this post...
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pauken Offline




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Posted: Sep. 13 2021, 19:03

Quote (omgmo @ Sep. 07 2021, 07:36)
For me, Incantations is like a spaceship. Or a time-machine. Unbelievable album.

I really like this analogy. It's its own thing, independent of anything else terrestrial. It defies subjective analysis. You can learn the notes and structure, the "what" and "how". But the "why" is a total mystery.
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nightspore Online




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Posted: Sep. 13 2021, 22:56

Quote (pauken @ Sep. 13 2021, 19:03)
But the "why" is a total mystery.

So instead of "Why did you write Tubular Bells?" we have "Why did you write Incantations?" I'm sure that would please Mr O  :laugh:
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omgmo Offline




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Posted: Sep. 15 2021, 03:33

Thanks, pauken.

Music, real music, not all these... things labelled as such, is a code. Great musicians like Mike "speak" the language of music. Lovers of music like us (hopefully) get some messages in such works of music.

This is my view on what we call Music.

Incantations in particular is something that comes from thousands of years ago perhaps, or has always existed. It is just so true, so lively, so specific in its effect on me (and others). It could be put in words as an interpreatation or analysis, but there would be much more for sure. Music is more expressive than words, of any language, however advanced.
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