One of the most popular British psychedelic bands of the late 1960’s, The Incredible String Band are close to our hearts here at The Parts You Don’t Hear. Even listening to them today in our culture of been there, heard that they are an astonishing, unique listen to which we’ve never heard the likes of again. In a way they are key to the Sound Techniques studio story because their rise in the music scene mirrors the studio’s fast growing popularity.
It was only a year or so into the studio’s humble beginnings that producer Joe Boyd, having just signed them to Elektra brought them into the Chelsea studio to record their debut self titled album released in summer 1966. It was recorded live to tape in 2 days on a weekend with John Wood engineering. This album garnered enough attention (also some praise from Bob Dylan!) so that in summer 1967 with bigger budgets and the psychedelic scene in full swing the now duo (having lost Clive Palmer who was travelling in Afghanistan) Mike Heron & Robin Williamson released their follow up classic album The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of The Onion.
By this time the band had started inserting their ‘world’ music influences into their music. Robin’s travels to Morocco had opened up his singing style and he brought a host of instruments back with him for recording and playing live. Elektra‘s sister label Nonesuch had also started releasing their explorer series which Mike acknowledges being a huge influence on their songwriting during this period. Although their first two albums might be considered their most charming, it was their third album The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968)that is now considered by many as their creative zenith and where they really pushed the envelope of songwriting and recording.
The move towards more experimental, conceptual songs mirrors the studio’s technological advances as well as the cultural climate. The band went from a virtually live recording, to 4 track, to 8 track and eventually to 16 track. The Beatles with whom they had greatly influenced, released the double album The Beatles (white album) in November 1968, the same month in which The ISB released their superb double album Wee Tam & The Big Huge.