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Retrofiles #1: Pontius Pilate, Sounds From The Foyer (Seaball Records, 1970)

Although the psychedelic sixties were over by 1970, nobody told Pontius Pilate. The brainchild of Haberdashery bassist Felton Duby, the band consisted of Duby, Miles Ibsen on vocals, Piter O’Leary on guitars and sitar, future Lesbo drummer Biff Greel and blues legend Earl Bolls on keys and flute. Drenched in LSD and reeking of homegrown pot, Sounds From The Foyer is blacklights, lava lamps and tie dye.

The band was the calculated gamble of Seaball, the progressive record label founded by one-time music producer Jimmy Iodine and former Anus Face drummer Am “Nio” Tic, who married up the remains of two of their defunct bands (Justinian Plague and Pig Knuckle Sandwich) to form Pontius Pilate in a last ditch attempt to salvage the label.

Playing at first only small venues on the Sunset Stripe, band members honed their talents on tiny stages in front of even tinier crowds but soon, with the aid of powerful hallucinogens, began writing bizarre songs and drawing ever more bizarre followers. Hoping to cash in on the burgeoning Christian scene, the Pilate’s music referenced everything from popular stigmata to overlooked ablutions while their live shows featured pre-recorded baptisms and eulogies.

Kicking off with “People Of The Universe,” a reverb-swamped military drum pattern is echoed by booming bass while distorted piano and guitar swirl and screech, fighting Ibsen’s monotone recitation. Exactly what the song is about is hard to say; as is the case with most of the record, the lyrics are often indiscernable, the voice existing mostly as another instrument and not a focal point.

The broken bluesy howl of “Frozen Ashes On The Windowpane” stutters and clomps, clavinette swirling like some roller coaster calliope before distorted flute and backward sitar announce the lean squeak of “Subatomic Timescale.

Secret Brainwaves From The Planet Venus” is a showcase for an early model Ploog synthesizer, the layered soundscapes passing from one side of the stereo spectrum to the other. In fact the whole record sounds weird, a grand and twisted opera of musical horrors both shiny and rotten; a funhouse ride in and out of nightmares and fantasies, some Earthbound but most of the intergalactic kind.

Half poetry, half drivel, and not at all half bad, Sounds From The Foyer rocks and rolls but mostly it lollygags in jolly giggles and trippy wiggles, nursery rhymes creepy and cursory times sleepy.

Its never having been reissued makes it extremely hard to find, but check moldy old basements and streetcorner yardsales.