Phil Miller – guitar, guitar synthesiser
Doug Boyle – guitar
Pip Pyle – drums
Fred Baker – bass
With special guest Elton Dean – sax
Thanks to Aymeric Leroy for these files.
Phil called me to ask if I would join In Cahoots for a couple of gigs in France as Pete Lemer was unavaliable. I had three thoughts; ‘Yes’, ‘Yes’ and ‘Two guitars, bass and drums. OK The Beatles line up play Phil Miller music. Intriguing’.
I was already familiar with pieces like ‘Above and Below’ and ‘Underdub’ from Jamming around with Phil but I now had a nice thick pad from the In Cahoots song book that represented some serious homework. None of Phil’s music is easy to play and is designed more to caress the ears than fall under the fingers. With a lesser composer I might have felt resentful at the many feverish hours spent trying to figure out fingerings, odd meters and harmonic quagmires within the staves. Phil would adopt his faux sadistic, wild eyed cackle when presenting some of his more fiendish patterns but in reality sadism was not in Phil’s nature. His intentions were purely musical and if there were challenges, then for some of us that’s our idea of a good time.
This recording is from the second gig on this jaunt. The venue was an isolated chateau style building some distance from civilisation but nonetheless well attended. I remember Aymeric sitting at the front, jealously guarding his stereo mikes and trying to hold them down against the sonic boom from Pip’s kit that inevitably dominates the mix here. It’s not that we weren’t loud. Just that Pip was louder.
One of my favourite performances here is Ed Or Ian ( E Dorian geddit?) that utilises one of Phil’s favorite ballad devices of taking us through dark and ominous undergrowth before leading us out blinking into full sunlight. Calyx also has this quality. Music can be allegory and without second guessing Phil’s intentions (but knowing the man) the message I get is that life can be perplexing but there is always hope and optimism. It’s in the contrast that lies the meaning.
Phil wrote Delta Borderline for me and this is the only time it was played live and recorded. Fred gets properly down and dirty here and I would have been most disappointed if he hadn’t. In fact I would have filled his bass case with mayonnaise and spread vile rumours about his personal hygiene. Fred’s personal hygiene is in fact, excellent.
The set ends with some free improv featuring Elton who had most agreeably turned up just to join in. There’s no mistaking the piercing wail of Elton’s horn and his playing on Phyrigian Blues is typically unfettered and utterly gut wrenching.
Phil, Elton, Pip… They may be elsewhere now but the gifts they left for this planet will echo down the decades ( and centuries if I have anything to do with it). Hope you enjoy this unique interpretation of this timeless music.