By S Hamilton
We behold Albion painted as a vision with vivid Angus McKie like expanse and colouration. Or perhaps a Gen X Bruegelesque. In the distance is the emanation of Spectre. Ashen Dark Satanic Mills unleash spumes of toxic gas and smog. A grim militia, shock troops of Urizen, heavily armed and ready to unleash dogs of war are guarding this rationalistic quotidian circle of Hell. But seemingly they are also intensely in pursuit of the denizens who are on the other side of the painting. The other side is a verdant hedonistic Eden. Pastoral and rustic. But not in the real sense. There are no cartoon like Frisian cows, no battery farms, silage tanks or pylons. This is imaginal country. Solar bright, Lysergic; The people cavort and frolic in the green and pleasant landscape. A sound system temple is the sonic focus. The sacred space, a cluster of camper vans. One blissful reveller rudely gestures to the dark souls, the lower archons on the other side. For there is a huge chasm betwixt them cut or fissured deep into the earth. A rope and timber bridge divides them. Our denizen holds aloft a cutlass ready to cut the bridge between heaven and hell. This is not a moralistic heaven and hell. We see the liminal space that cleaves the Urizenic with the holy fires.
That was simply a description for CD/Vinyl artwork for The Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation from the year 1994. I am not putting forth a scholastic essay on Blake. In my highly subjective view I noticed an Arcadian theme within the rave culture and destination was Albion. That said there was no explicit Blakean philosophy running through the psychedelic revolution of the late 80’s and early 90’s1 Though the spirit was there in the desire to break time and flow into space. Time became compressed and ancient energies were unleashed mixing with the analogue and digital, channelling Blake’s vision and that of his forebears such as the Mad Krew: a name in common with the Brew Crew punks who were a dark element within the nascent scene and not psychedelic Gnostics, reincarnated Electro Diggers, or Levellers. The historical Stuart era Digger crew forsooth the Blakean/Techno future by setting up the original free festival on St George’s Hill in sun lapped Surrey. Obviously opening the doors of perception instilled the need to break away from the mills. One is aware that perhaps the mills were not literally the gyrations of the industrial revolution and the rational age. But in the context of the time, the zeitgeist, the mills had become something new; the City of London and Canary Wharf with its oppressive pyramid and single flashing eye, a symbol of the unrestrained beast known as the free market.
The old post war world was being torn down. Heroin and AIDS were promoted as the doom wages meted out for the decadence of the permissive age. Yet from within those very dark mill’s system and its satellite towns came the illuminated sparks: Shroom, DIY, the Exodus Collective, Sunrise, Tonka, Spiral Tribe. And vibes from the Shamen (with Terence McKenna), Primal Scream, F.S.O.L, A guy called Gerald, 808 State, the aforementioned Prodigy, the Orb, KLF, Ultramarine, verily even Flowered up! Barry Mooncult the trickster angel from Camden Town. Too many to name. A Vishnu like multi-faceted voodoo ray explosion of creativity. Usually mixed to ecstatic perfection by the late great Andrew Wetherall. Alan Moore’s smiley acid face sans blood splatter, the emblem of the movement.
The musical roots were a beatific blend of post punk, trans euro, Afrofuturistic, indie fuzz shoegaze, electro psychedelic black urban Midwestern industrial funky mishmash and not all of the players were blissful and honourable. Mammon was quick to get in there. The money lenders were in the temple from the start. But the desire to break free from the constraints from Urizen was real and tangible. They gathered in warehouses and wasteland and armed with music and mind expanding elixirs and substances they decided the road of excess had to be re-established. As summer approached they decided to turn the voodoo and use analogue and digital as the trumpets heralding a new age. Summerland was beyond the red anti mandala circle of the Orbital. Drink sales plummeted. People raved beyond societal system categories. Not to say that racism and sexism didn’t exist. But less so than in the previous musical cultural iterations. People were people.
Luvah transmuted into Orc and met the full powers of Urizen, fire with fire on the fertile fields of southern England. Northern and Midland cities had their own battles from within. But in this article we must concentrate upon the new Albion unleashed around and just beyond the M25. As we know, Urizenic government won. It was a slow, brutal, strangling victory and ultimately pyrrhic. The brewing industry influenced the state. Cash for questions. Addled people gave up and turned to opioids and cocaine. Jerusalem foundered. In grim up North Manchester, the Hacienda wasn’t torn down. It was turned into flats in a landscape of shiny glass during the millennial age when New Labour worked alchemy on Dam Thatcher’s naked worship of Babylon.
That’s how the battle was won. The Gnostic E impulse and Acid wave was bought up wholesale, prepacked, commercialised, sold out, sucked dry. Spectre ensnared the spirit in nightclubs and licensed venues pretending to be Albion. Sponsored by multinationals and conglomerates. Safe, sanitized, polar sexualised again, dimly sparkly. Ravers became idol worshipers. And the fall also came from within, that deadly shadow being of Urizen with its drug dealers and crime firms. Crack and Smack. Shotguns and machetes. Acid Teds rediscovered the old bloody codes. Some say the lights went out in 94 others claim around 1996 or 97. The real twilight was when the sun went down with the twin towers and Tony Piety Blair backed the war on terror, that reaps so much bitter fruit even today. The Empire never ended. Will Albion rise again? Perhaps not, the Metaverse world is too open to the designs of Demiurge Urizen. Though hope springs eternal; as Bobby Gillespie sings in the cyberdelic Mazdic prayer High than the Sun:
I have tasted, fantastical places
My souls an oasis, higher than the sun, ah
Higher than the sun, higher than the sun…
1 The KLF/JAAMS did include the theme from Blake’s Jerusalem song in the remix of their 91 chart hit It’s Grim Up North. And included it on their BBC TV performance in Top of the Pops.
London Orbital by Iain Sinclair, Penguin Books published 2002
Altered State, the story of ecstasy and acid culture, Matthew Collin 1997
Milton a poem in two books by William Blake circa 1811
Illuminated Dante’s Inferno (not finished) by William Blake 1827
The Unlimited Dream Company by GJ Ballard, Jonathan Cape 1979
Psychedelia Britannica edited by Antonio Melechi, Turnaround Books 1997
KLF, Chaos, Magic and the band who burned a million pounds, John Higgs, Phoenix