Exposé Online banner

Tea & Symphony — An Asylum for the Musically Insane
(EMI TOCP-7753, 1969/1993, CD)

by Mike Ohman, Published 1994-08-01

An Asylum for the Musically Insane Cover artThere's not two albums like this in the world (with the possible exception of the band's second album, Jo Sago, not yet out on CD). Tea and Symphony were a trio of Jef Daw (guitars, flutes, cello), James Langston (lead vocals, guitars) and Nigel Phillips (keyboards, recorders, mandolin, percussion). Together they made acoustic music so outrageously weird it's almost unbelievable. It's hard to say what's more disturbing, Langston's evil, cackling vocals (which stylistically resemble Phil Judd on the first Split Enz album), or the ghoulish diminished tonality running through many of the songs, even present in the vocal harmonies. Only a couple of tracks have real drums, most of the percussion consists solely of hand-drums and cymbals operated by Phillips. Strawbs bassist Ron Chesterman sits in on a few tracks, but most of the songs are bass-less as well. What I'm trying to say is that Tea and Symphony's sound is basically stripped-down and claustrophobic, at least for the first half, consisting mostly of two guitars and hand-drums over which Langston caterwauls zombie-like. A few songs feature recorder and flute, and the opening song "Armchair Theatre" pierces you straight between the eyes immediately with its liberal garnish of odd sound effects, kazoos and unusual percussion. The second half has a couple of longer songs ("Terror in My Soul,” "Nothing Will Come of Nothing") to which Phillips contributes organ, piano, tympani, and harpsichord. Only the bluesy "The Come On" has a typical rock arrangement, featuring the rhythm section of fellow townsmen Locomotive. That's the track they apparently used to promote the album, but the thought that they actually expected radio stations to play anything from this album is more bizarre than the music itself. Musically only one thing even remotely resembles it, the drugged-out folk of Witthuser & Westrupp, yet Tea and Symphony truly inhabited an alien world all their own.

Filed under: Reissues, Issue 4, 1993 releases, 1969 recordings

Related artist(s): Tea and Symphony

Latest news

2019-02-21
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more

2019-01-31
Keyboardist Ingo Bischof R.I.P. – Keyboard player Ingo Bischof, best known as the longtime keyboard player of German band Kraan, passed away on January 29th, 2019. Bischof was born January 2, 1951 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and joined Kraan in 1975. » Read more

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Laren d'Or - War of Angels – The same veiled (an under-promoted!) Hungarian label that is teasing us with Talizman, and After Crying, now goes to the other side for a symphonic keyboard recording by Laren d'Or. A solo project?...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues