Fruits Der Mer Roundup - The Honey Pot/Plankton/assorted 45s & EPs album review

UK merry vinyl pranksters unleash wildly diverse December shower

fruits der mer roundup The Honey Pot/Plankton/assorted 45s and EPs cover art

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Since appearing in 2008 with an aquamarine 45 featuring obscure lunatics Schizo Fun Addict covering VdGG’s Theme One and the Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, Fruits De Mer have been building a blissfully irreverent catalogue of space rockers, psychedelic purists and sonic alchemists with a homegrown eccentricity that predicted the vinyl comeback years ago, often on eye-blasting coloured wax.

FDM celebrates its 100th release with a double album by The Honey Pot (led by Icarus Peel and Crystal Jacqueline). After James Lowe of the Electric Prunes remembers 1969, the set launches into the same-titled psych/proto-prog missive, flaunting the effervescent gusto that carries a barrage of originals and covers featuring a panoply of guests, including Pretty Things guitarist Dick Taylor, Judy Dyble on luminescent highlight Sitting All Alone, July on the ghostly Half A Memory, plus Bevis Frond and Buggles’ Bruce Woolley.

Swedish folk rockers Us And Them pull off a label peak with a 10-inch album covering five Sandy Denny songs. Backed by Anders’ crystal backdrops and Tony Swettenham’s Mellotron, singer Britt wins over this daunting challenge by perfectly capturing the late singer’s pure unearthly beauty on haunting versions of Winter Winds and Farewell, Farewell.

Drawn from early FDM releases, the Plankton collection stacks Theme One alongside more obscure covers (Pink Floyd, Eno, BeeGees, Amon Düül II) by roster stalwarts including Us And Them, German psych rockers Vibravoid, Californian psych poppers Sidewalk Society, the Chemistry Set and guests including Mark Fry; all caught in a delicious timewarp.

Sendelica, the Welsh space rockers who epitomise FDM’s spangled cottage industry ethos, could be nearest to breaking out, releasing several albums over the last 10 years and enrapturing European audiences with their Floyd-Crimson-Neu!-goosing slabs of jazz-inflected cosmic rock. The deluge continued in 2016, including studio set The Cromlech Chronicles and now the latest 45 in their series of audacious makeovers sees the Walker Brothers’ Nite Flights churned into a dense ghost ride with Sendelica Acoustica singer Sarah Evans before Astralasia contribute a droning dub mantra.

Then there’s Sidewalk Society’s brown vinyl EP of upbeat 60s Bowie and Action covers or Vibravoid’s epic take on Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Vida. Even if this freewheeling manifesto can permit releases that sound like gatecrashing someone’s acid party where sacrilegious indulgence is encouraged, it’s all part of FDM’s single-minded, universe-building charm. Long may they cock their multi-hued leg against music’s tame restraints and ongoing online castration.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!