“The now legendary ‘Abbey Road’ version of The Isness was the originally conceived version before last minute wholesale changes resulted in new tracks, different mixes and/or edits appearing in a wholly different order for the commercial release of The Isness in 2002. The ‘Abbey Rd’ version had been initially promo’d to ecstatic reviews, receiving an unprecedented 6/5 stars from Mixmag ‘it’s like a beam of white light from heaven’. This is the first time the Abbey Road version has been officially and commercially available.
The band themselves the Amorphous Androgynous (a psychedelic supergroup conceptualised and produced by the Future Sound of London) are said to have always regretted the last minute changes to the album, the creation of which took five years from 1996-2001…”
So reads the blurb for the 2018 Isness Record Store Day reissue. In various Facebook conversations, Gaz spoke to fans about the album, and more than once mentioned regretting the changes made, citing the overly loud mastering as the cause of the perceived “masculine energy” that led to his initial desire to change the record. It seems that, at least partially as a result of these conversations, this original version of the album was planned for its first ever official release. Of course many promo CDs have been picked up by fans over the years, and Hypnotic infamously
released 2,500 copies to get rid of their stock released 2,500 copies by accident in 2002. But as the first band-sanctioned release of this mix of the album, it’s a key moment.
Gaz was pretty forward about there never being a ‘definitive’ version of The Isness, right back in 2002, when talking in interviews about there being at least 20 mixes of the album. There was talk of them reworking it for a release they were truly happy with in 2008, going so far as to appear in press releases, but nothing ever saw the light of day. The 2012 FSOLDigital reissue of The Isness & The Otherness appeared to be the final word on the matter, until 2018. As a staunch supporter of this mix of the album and a general disliker of every change made to the final mix, this release made me very happy.
And then it came out, and it only turned out to be another bloody version. It’s mostly the same as the 2002 ‘mispress’ version, but there are changes. WHY?! ‘The Mello Hippo Disco Show’ loses its string outro, ‘Osho’ runs a minute longer, ‘The Galaxial Pharmaceutical’ lacks the “I love you” ending, ‘Divinity’ includes new vocals and arrangement in the final minute, ‘Her Tongue is Like a Jellyfish’ lacks the orchestral intro (an actually crime, surely?), and ‘Meadows’ features ‘The Seasons Turn‘ over its extended outro. ‘Yes My Brother‘ is also missing, and ‘Go Tell it to the Trees Egghead’ features later in the running order. And ‘Divinity’ and ‘The Galaxial Pharmaceutical’ return to their 2001 titles of ‘Little Miss Divinity’ and ‘Galaxial Pharmaceutical’ respectively.
There’s more bizarre stuff in the art and credits: in line with 2010s releases, production is credited to Amorphous rather than FSOL; meanwhile, Stone Freshwaters has been completely usurped, the album being engineered by Yage ‘for EBV’. If this isn’t jarring enough, these credits are written in microgramma, and appear alongside the curves and EBV logos. EBV has never appeared on any psychedelic-era Amorphous release before this point. The catalogue number is also a Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ TOT one. It’s like FSOL tried to get its greasy hands on the album while Amorphous wasn’t looking.
Running to just shy of an hour, and with some loud, dynamic and thoroughly un-ambient music, it’s perhaps a bit much to fit on a single slab of vinyl, and there has been a fair amount of discussion about how it sounds. A lot of fans think it’s thin and sibilant, while Gaz has said it sounds great. I don’t actually own a copy yet, so I’ll leave it to the ears of the record’s owners to decide.
Since its release, a non-RSD affiliated repressing has been issued, and this mix of the album is the one available from the Amorphous Bandcamp page, even when ordering the CD of the ‘final’ version, just to ensure any new fans get a taste of the Isness confusion. This album wouldn’t be the same if you knew which version you were going to get.
Credits, as ever, on the track pages.
Release date: 21st April 2018.
A1. Elysian Feels
A2. The Mello Hippo Disco Show
A3. Goodbye Sky (Reprise)
A5. Galaxial Pharmaceutical
B1. Little Miss Divinity
B2. Guru Song
B3. Go Tell it to the Trees Egghead
B4. Her Tongue is Like a Jellyfish
B6. High Tide on the Sea of Flesh
B7. Goodbye Sky
Written and produced by The Amorphous Androgynous.
Engineered by Yage for EBV.
Mixed at The Galaxial Pharmaceutical East London UK.