CULANN 2018 - 6TH ANNUAL REVIEW - GONZO DIVISION

(Chris Herron)

The wind whipped and roared in eddies around jagged peaks thousands of miles high, snow drifted on its wings and clung to everything; the enormous mountaintops, the sparse, bony limbs of trees and the frozen whiskers of a lone figure. The hunched silhouette of a traveller as he trekked through a large valley in the snowclad and majestic hilltops, crowned with dazzling peaks and offset in the centre by an intensely-coloured turquois lake. The water shone and shimmered like an emerald among the alabaster peaks and the surrounding hills were incandescent with grace and tranquillity.

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The air was so fresh as to be penetrating; it could be smelled as well as tasted and felt, up here, nature was palpable and you were one with it, without the aid of mind-bending hallucinogens, the energy prevails. The smell of pine hung tantalisingly on the air and a distant, rhythmic thudding slowly ebbed into hearing. The hiker focused on the sound and homed in on it.

Sound travels further in the mountains, and after a few more miles hiking, the thumping became louder and cracked harshly through the trees, echoing off the slopes and bouncing all around so that it seemed to be coming from everywhere. A small tendril of dark smoke urged through the treetops and clawed its way through the low pressure air to the peaks and purple skies above, the smoke looked frozen in time, and the traveller made his way toward it, until he came upon a small ramshackle hut built into the slope. There, a figure was chopping wood.

A hirsute figure, his hair covered him like foliage where he had let it grow from his head and face down to his waist. Somewhere beneath all those snaking black hairs was a pair of furtive dark eyes. He was chopping his hundred and twentieth log of the day as the messenger approached him and asked ‘Vilhelm Johnstone?’ The wood-chopper looked misty-eyed for a moment.

‘Vilhelm, now that’s a name I have not heard in a long time, a long time…’ he mumbled, distractedly. The courier handed him a flaxen envelope, sealed with wax, which bore a purple owl’s head for an emblem. Vilhelm took the envelope and opened it, when he peered inside his beetling eyebrows lifted in surprise, he stood in a catatonic trance for a few long seconds. Eventually, he turned to his hut, 20,000 feet high in the Himalayas, to gather his things for the long journey ahead. ‘Wait there,’ he said to the emissary, ‘I’ll get you back down.’

Across the scorching heat of the equator in Western Africa, a lone traveller wrapped in rags treks across a hot and dry but humid landscape, where the grasslands lay liminal to the rainforest, in a

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typically tropical region named Gabon. Through the lingering scents of burning dry grass and the spices of the braiis and the sweet flora, the traveller follows directions to a group of small huts made from bent saplings and overlaid with wide, flat leaves. Around the huts members of local tribes are working or languishing in the heat. He focuses on one small group, smoking and drinking around a campfire, and one particular individual, who sits by the fire, cooking bushmeat and chewing the local hallucinogen, Tabernanthe Iboga , a local root bark, and berating a young local boy on the intricacies of some obscure subject.

Like the rest of the tribe he is painted black and white with a paint made from clay and dried plants and flowers. He is naked except for a pair of weatherworn denim shorts, but he is recognisable by his mohawk and the tattoos scrawled badly across his body, visible where some of his paint had flaked off. The messenger approaches him as he tears some flesh off an unidentifiable chunk of charred bushmeat and chews it. ‘Mr. Herron?’ The deranged-looking figure cocks an eyebrow at the newcomer and accepts the proffered envelope, taking a swig of the local palm-wine, he breaks the waxen seal and looks inside, pulling out a purple ticket, his face splitting into a wicked grin, showing off his crooked, nicotine-stained teeth. Draining the rest of the local beverage he rises to his feet, then staggers, loses his balance, and sits back down.

‘I need to go, but first I’ll need to wait for this Iboga to wear off… Man, I’m tripping balls…’

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*********************

Up the banner, they had received the call, and one week later they met, on a balmy summer’s night, in the fuliginous backstreets of Glasgow city, for their traditional annual night with Culann. Herron still had some Ibogaine he had smuggled into the country, and they chewed it thoughtfully as they headed to the 13th Note…

(Vilhelm Gonztone)

After returning to the well-worn pavements and seas of Top Shop clone-kids all with matching haircuts, swarms of irate vagrants with a million stories for why they all need 40 pence each, drunken lunatics with their crack-whores, spouting aggravated spoiling verumble at every passer-by between arguing at the top of their voices at each other so cunts in Korea can have a listen... and seagulls, hundreds of fucking seagulls... everywhere... just seagull after seagull after seagull after Steven Segal after seagull...

We hailed from the other side of the world like a couple of misfit Mad Max extras from some beguilingly odd extreme ends of polar wilderness, sporting our own variables of obscurity from our adventures, Herron with Capgras Syndrome and me with Isolated High-Altitude Psychosis... However, we scrubbed up well for the event, especially with it marking 2 years since our last collaborative assignment... We waltz in the door like movie stars, our ladies on our arm, and some old friends in tow - including my oldest friend and an original member of my first band “Smoking Monkey” - Ross, so this was already set to be an experience, like awaiting the Corona, post Solar Eclipse... or the Cavalry, post apocalypse...

The 13th Note... A name synonymous with alternative youth culture in Glasgow since 1997 and carried on by Barfly since around 2001. We had descended upon one of Glasgow's true gems of the underground music scene. I was actually there in 97 when it was a brand new venue to see my friends' band “Orba”... Now some 21 years later - and after a lengthy hiatus 'off the radar' while I recovered from a near fatal respiratory illness and after losing 8 close friends and family members within 6 months of each other - I had descended into a void I could only climb back from alone. I climbed far from the obscurity I had fallen to and found solace and a new found power in myself and with sincere a heartfelt thanks to my partner, without whom I am doubtful I would even be here at all... Shani.

I was finally returning to the scene, reuniting with Chris Herron on an assignment after what must be 2 years out of contact. The importance of such an event signified by the gravity of the previous hiatus, was gratified by one honourably prestigious request to write a review cover for Culann. Being that this was how Chris and I officially began our journey into the darkly bright, twisted matrix of warped sycophantic, psychotic and frantic intertwining dimensions of 'Underground Gonzo Music Journalism'... We had been away for some time, me especially... Technology was not returning to us quickly and so the dictaphone became impossible to use and Chris nearly crashed the car we weren't driving while typing a letter on his typewriter while driving... All is well... No animals were harmed in the making of this current fiasco...

Anyway, tangents... Fuck me, some things never change eh? I apologize profusely. Now to revert your salubrious and greatly appreciated attention back to our main focal point of this swan dive through the collective hive mind of the New Hellfire Club Gonzo Division...

Culann... Still 'Ayrshire's Finest Export' and re-establishing themselves once again as a spear-heading tour de force of the underground music scene, pushing alternative rock to new heights where even the majestic Eagle will inevitably suffer Cerebral Oedema and perish... No one does it like Culann. Such a unique line up of extremely talented individuals – who together – make one of the most engaging, uplifting and energetically explosive live performing rock outfits you are ever likely to see playing the small club circuit around here. Not to put a dampener on any other bands on the circuit of course, but you have to understand just how much of an impact crater that Culann leave embedded in your psyche, your soul, and of course, the one I left in the ceiling last time with my fist...

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Low roof + Culann playing Jerusalem + Drunk Vilhelm = One Man Demolition Crew...

However, it's ok, nobody died... Well not at the gig anyway. Back to the important bit though... A small Leprechaun type being was darting about, just out of sight.... Scurrying between legs, cropping up on backs, jumping from one to another... Ibogaine, after being tee total for 2 years was definitely an experience to behold... “Ignore this terrible drug...” I regain focus on the band as they blast us in the face like a wind tunnel for testing stealth bombers... Evonium is a power house of riffage and searing vocals that cut clear and defined paths right through the walls of sound from the amps behind, towering into infinity in spiralling smoke signals... I fade in and out of memories from the mountain... From my climb back from the void... From the apocalyptic hysteria... Carnage... Struggles... People, trying to get away... I...

VOOOSH! Catapulted back - right into the here and now - with the prowess and posteritous, dynamically-ranging harmonies of the vocals in 'All Reverie'... I am in the middle of the crowd - all singing their hearts out along with the band - and I am deeply moved to see such camaraderie between so many, and to be in that moment. I realized that it was here and now, at this time, I found a fork in the road in my life, one that this time, I was making the choice with. After so many

huge life changing incidents and the pressures of loss and life threatening illness you really do question yourself more, you see the world around you very differently, with more clarity. No longer a slave, I felt freedom coursing through me with a feeling that I was in one of those moments that Chris had talked about years ago, an afflatus. Like an epiphany but deeper or more intense and of utmost importance. I realized I had turned onto the right path without really thinking about that, I had just focused on what was important at the time and made my choices and stuck by them no matter what. It had been a long time to be away and I guess this moment was me awakening to feeling like I had finally, after all this time, made it home... This is one of the effects that Culann have on me, they inspire me and fire up my creative stove and the awe I stand in is mine, but I can't stand there without them...

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Culann have a strong following of adoring loyal fans, and for those who are in the dark, walk towards the light and you might find The Gonzo Division in the pit, right before the band. These guys won The Best Alt Rock Band in Scotland for a reason. They are of a musicianship and kinship rarely seen and have worked hard to get where they are and to keep pushing their music. Get behind them and let's all push and see how far this boat goes out coz I feel like this one is going to dwarf 'The Jahre Viking'...

I was particularly inspired by the words of 'Evonium', chiefly, the final verse with its indelible starkness and poignantly definitive connection with me after everything I had been through, clarity after many years of blurred vision and misguidance, now finding that direction, that focus and determination and courage to define the path ahead with a deeper sense of empathy...

Now I understand, it’s all because I’m from Evonium. Now it’s in my hands...
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