Dangerous Minds is proud to serve as host of the debut stream of the entire new Blue Orchids album, The Once And Future Thing. Blue Orchids was formed in 1979 by guitarist Martin Bramah and keyboardist Una Baines, who in addition to being founding members of The Fall, were, accordingly, among the first members OUT of that band’s infamous revolving door lineup. Though the band, initially, was of a piece with most of the era’s spiky, rough-at-the-seams post punk-music, Bramah set his new group apart from the Fall by replacing Mark E. Smith’s speed-and-ale-fueled ravings with a more melodic and starry eyed psychedelia. The band further distinguished itself by serving as the backing band for no less an outré rock goddess than Nico.
There’s a straight line to be drawn between the Orchids and much of that strain of unadorned pop that followed through the likes of the Vulgar Boatmen and the Feelies in the ‘80s, Pavement and Sebadoh in the ‘90s, and in the lower-fi expressions of the British indie explosion of the ‘oughts. Bramah has kept that band going intermittently since the release of its debut LP The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain), and the band’s output from 1980 to the early 1990s can be sampled on the collection A Darker Bloom.
In between stints with the Orchids, whose lineups have shifted almost as much as The Fall’s, Bramah has returned to The Fall (for like a year at the end of the ‘80s); recorded the wonderfully folky solo album Battle of Twisted Heel, released on CD in 2008, and soon to feel the sweet kiss of vinyl in a 2016 reissue; and formed the more roguishly gritty Factory Star, which at times featured members of—surprise surprise—The Fall. It was Factory Star that morphed into the current incarnation of Blue Orchids, and Bramah was kind enough to talk to DM about the new Orchids work and his musical identity-shifts.
There’s an ongoing theme—what’s in a name, a rose by any other name—both Factory Star and Blue Orchids were mainly vehicles for my songwriting and for collaborating with the friends who were involved, but it was December of 2008 when I started Factory Star, I wanted a fresh start without the baggage of Blue Orchids, and it ran for five years, but then there was a demand to hear the old Blue Orchids songs. Blue Orchids is a name with history, so it was easy to resume. It’d be a bit bloody-minded to drop it—I struck out with a new name for a few years, now I’m back to being Blue Orchids. I’ve used a few names over the years, I had a band called “Thirst” in the late ‘80s, I kind of swap and choose as I feel like it, and sometimes it’s kind of nice to pick something back up again. It’s like putting a different coat on.
With the new Orchids, I wanted to get back to what I knew best. I kind of cast it off for awhile, then you get that space and reassess it, and you can come back to it with a fresh take on it. I wanted to get some of the classic ingredients in there, things that were musically original to Blue Orchids in the first place—the more psychedelic themes. I always liked ethereal kind of angelic backing vocals and heavy keyboards, a strong poetic element in the lyrics. I put that hat back on and I started thinking that way again.
After the jump, hear that new Blue Orchids album…