Exposé Online banner

Mormos — Great Wall of China
(Spalax CD14540, 1971/1997, CD)

Mormos — ...The Magic Spell of Mother's Wrath...
(Spalax CD 14541, 1972/1997, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-07-11

Great Wall of China Cover art...The Magic Spell of Mother's Wrath... Cover art

In some ways, Mormos can be seen as an American equivalent to the Incredible String Band. They have a similarly free-wheeling take on folk music, infusing it with flower-power enthusiasm and disrespect for conventions, rendering it on a variety of instruments from ancient to modern. There are no real overt psychedelic touches except the general attitude. The band was originally from Illinois, but worked in Paris playing festivals and recording these two albums for the French CBS label (along with another in collaboration with singer François Béranger that I haven’t heard). And while it could be argued that the singers in Mormos actually have better voices than Robin Williamson and Mike Heron in ISB (with the glaring exception of the really grating crone-on-helium performance on “The Crimson Uniform”), to my ear the music is less successful. Many of the lyrics have a very dated ring to them, with lines about seeing “the hand of your brother.” Some of the musical arrangements are inventive, featuring recorders, balalaikas, cello, bongos, and tambourines. The style is often a kind of pseudo-medieval balladry, but touches on ragtime blues occasionally, as many bands did at the time - though in some ways, this music sounds more like it would have been at home in 1966 Greenwich Village than 1971 Paris. The original LPs apparently drew ridiculous prices on the collectors’ market, but luckily the late-90s reissues provide a less-expensive way to experience a really obscure corner of music history. While I can’t fault the quality of the players, the music just never gels for me, leaving it a curiosity rather than a recovered classic.


Filed under: Reissues, 1997 releases, 1971 recordings, 1972 recordings

Related artist(s): Mormos

Latest news

2018-06-05
Koenjihyakkei Seeks Funding for New Album – It's been quite a few years since the last new studio album by the amazing Koenjihyakkei. Now they are preparing Dhormimviskha for worldwide release, and they're asking fans to pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign to help it happen. » Read more

2018-05-14
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more

2018-04-05
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more

2018-04-04
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more

2018-03-01
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Various Artists - A Bead to a Small Mouth – Each track on this compilation integrates spoken text and sound manipulation, with results both mysterious and captivating. On "A New Dress" Nurse with Wound layers shifting, hypnotic metallic tones...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues