8 Feb 2015

The Holy See - Music from the TV Series "Osiris"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Another lost gem from the vaults of audiological archaeologists Villa 9, the soundtrack to 1969's supernatural detective series OSIRIS gets its first glimpse of sunlight in over forty years. OSIRIS (Operation Sinister; Investigation, Research and Intelligence in the Supernatural) lasted just one series and was by all accounts a mind bendingly lysergic action show, pitting our groovy protagonists against vampires, ghosts and various interdimensional and extraterrestrial beings, all backed by truly far out and funkadelic house band The Holy See (from which Simon Magus would emerge to later create some of the 70's most unsettling and creative soundtracks for the likes of 'Goatman' and 'Mary'). Think Patrick Macnee’s The Avengers in space tussling with Frankenstein whilst gorged on microdots and you still wouldn't be close. The OSIRIS team, composed of Kensington Gore (playboy, adventurer and master of dark magick), Olivia Sharp (computer expert and telepath), Chester Droog (astral projector, pan-dimensional traveller and drummer in his band The Cosmic Droogs), Maya Midnight (CIA operative, expert in martial arts and TNT, and thanks to her grandmother, a high priestess of Voodoo) kept Britain safe from supernatural threat for only a short time but, thanks to Villa 9's extensive archives, we can relive the sounds if not the sights of this cult but iconic programme.
The soundtrack to the show is similarly and appropriately psychedelic but it is also subtle, sophisticated and expertly woven together. Opener 'Theme from OSIRIS' is a case in point; John Barry-esque harpsichord provides a nostalgic and thrilling centrepoint atop a growing symphonic backdrop of atmospheric electronica. The sound of tabla begins 'Agent Midnight' before a groovy flute enters and flits in and out of a deeply funky bassline; there is at heart here a kind of hip, sinister edge to proceedings as befits the nature of the show, a kind of spectral swinging London vibe. 'Olivia's Dream's sci-fi drones and shimmering glassy notes echo the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's tape experiments of the era, haunting and ethereal yet also tangibly threatening. 'The OSIRIS Incident' reprises the motif from the show’s theme as fairground organ and strolling bassline enter, Will Campbell's choppy wah wah guitar creating a expertly controlled groove over the hum of futuristic whirring whilst keyboard notes pick out an ominous and mysterious refrain. The track slows, becoming yet more filled with analogue dread and then is whisked away with on a tractor beam sound effect into nothingness. Reminiscent of Dudley Simpson's classic 'The Tomorrow People' soundtrack, this track (and the album as a whole) is equally ground-breaking and immersive; the layers of instrumentation creating a delicate and pervasive mood and atmosphere that is cleverly and subtly built upon for maximum effect on the listener. 'Demi-God', an interlude of backwards sitar, serves as a segue into the equally Eastern tinged 'The Love Infinity', a choral moog wig out amongst Isaac Hayes basslines and wild Hammond organ solos. This has to be heard to be believed; it is ambitious, unafraid, unrepentant and massively enjoyable. Next, ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’s backwards tapes and reverberating glockenspiel are utterly unsettling and otherworldly; a hugely effective musical piece of disorientation and altered perception. 'Dimension Chase' with its hints of both Hawkwind and Amon Duul, is krautrock motorik deluxe, a syncopated tambourine beat keeping time for the fuzzed up organ and howling guitar notes that swirl beneath. An album highlight (and there are numerous) this is a dark as midnight piece of 60’s beatnik cool that Harry Palmer himself would be proud to have playing as his theme music.

'Psychic Children' changes the pace, resonating and chiming electronic sounds merging with flute in an acid tinged symphony of sci-fi horror.  Suggestive of soundtracks to other such sinister children's TV classics as 'Sky' or 'The Changes', or indeed the more adult 'Quatermass Conclusion', this is a masterfully arranged and emotionally charged piece. 'Magick Mirror's cosmic harp tentatively suggests at something hidden,  just out of the line of sight before 'Party At The Electric Freakout' is just that; a full blown psyche freak out. On a bed of Jay Darlington's virtuoso Hammond and vintage synths, Will Campbell's guitar screams across the speakers, pulsating bass lifting g the entire song off the ground heavenwards. Modern purveyors of psych wig outs Goat would give their left arm to groove like this. 'The Mind Machine' utilises Delia Derbyshire-style sound effects which peal and chime discordantly, evoking the nostalgic sound of TV space travel for all those of a certain age. 'The Venice Assignment' returns us to the haunted harpsichord, from which an angelic choir of keyboards creates a cathedral of sound that grows and builds until...ominous silence. 'The Electron Cloud' in turn utilises treated percussion and sound effects which then lead into Bootsy Collins style flanged bass, reminding us that there may be monsters in this show but the Osiris team are there to deal with them in the most funky way possible. Mellotron strings weave around the beat to create something at once hypnotic and trance like whilst also disquietingly on edge and unusual. 'End Title Theme (Voyage Eternal)' starts with echoed glockenspiel before Chester Droog's drums lead into piano and sepia tinted minor keys which take us into the midnight thrill and danger of the Carnaby Street London of films and TV shows such as 'Performance', the brightly coloured swagger of ‘Ace Of Wands' and again, the sinister and unusual ‘The Tomorrow People’.

This is an exceptional soundtrack to what by all accounts was an inventive and original show (perhaps too much so for some audiences, given its short run). This music has been lovingly crafted and woven together to paint a particular mood and aura that is both bohemian, swinging, psychedelic and, at times, sinisterly hip. A musical tapestry of sorts, it links its full on acid funk tracks by way of unique and atmospheric electronic interludes; the overall result is an impressive suite of futuristic and thrilling found sounds, electronica  and psych freak outs. Take a trip....to where OSIRIS are still protecting the nation from interdimensional threat in the coolest way imaginable.

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