Rarely does a new record come through our post box with so much historical background than John Sinclair’s latest offering ‘Beatnik Youth Ambient’ on Iron Man Recordings.
John’s legacy is depicted aptly in this content-heavy exploration through ambience, free form Jazz and sound-scape structures. The renegade poet has led a life that few of us would be familiar to. Following the Vietnam war, droves of protests sprung up attacking the Nixon presidency and their handling of the war. Whist the War on Drugs developed it’s motto, debatably as a strategic move for mass incarceration of black Americans (see the documentary 13th for a splendid explanation of this), the White Panthers also founded a movement to attack the poisonous racism and injustice that was being seen. John Sinclair played a pivotal role within this, alongside his group MC5, which then led to his 10 year imprisonment sentence.
His omnipresence was felt by thousands and whilst slogans of ‘Free John Sinclair’ rung from the the crowds, artists like Yoko Ono and John Lennon dedicated songs for his release which duly came in 1971.
On this release, John teamed up with Youth, who’s career spanning 30 years has recently honoured him an Outstanding Contribution Award by the Music Producers Guild. Youth was Paul McCartneys ‘Fireman’, and has worked with the likes of Primal Scream, The Orb, The Charlatans and The Verve. The pair teamed up to create this 30 minute tip of the hat to the Beatnik generation.
This isn’t so much a standalone body of music, any more than a recital of a brilliant mind, canvased in awe-inspiring soundscapes.
Opening track ‘Do It’ sets the tone for the release with ruminative dialogue from John, blanketed by some broody synth structures. The maturity of the track sometimes getting lost by gimmicky trigger sampling of his spoken word.
“Out of the darkness of the Second World World, before the soldiers, before the soldiers came back to turn America in to a vast suburban wasteland. Dreamed up by real estate developers with huge dollar signs in the eyes, and nothing at all in their hearts.” John provides us a distopian setting for the introduction of some of the most influential Jazz musicians for generations; Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Kenny Clarke – creativity spawned from traumatic periods. A gesture to the long-heralded relationship between creativity and suffering. Enter Jack Kerouac, and the narrative unfolds into what formed the Beatnik generation.
War on Drugs is a smokers delight, launching a middle finger up at the slogan, whilst humorously drawing parallels between vegetarians and our insatiable desire to declare a war on plants, before inciting some revolutionary mindset with impeccable unease. Things settle down somewhat with the psychedelic lulls of Sitartha that holds your hand on a little journey. Far out.