Pip Proud, Adreneline & Richard and A Bird in the Engine

Ned Raggett

By Ned Raggett

on 10.28.14 in Reviews

Australia’s Pip Proud was spiritual kin to contemporaries like Skip Spence and Syd Barrett: seemingly fragile in presentation, influenced by folk, and revered by posterity for their unique, idiosyncratic visions. Superior Viaduct’s new reissues of Proud’s first two albums, 1968′s Adreneline & Richard and 1969′s A Bird in the Engine, show his reputation was well earned with hushed, entrancing and just-slightly-alien songs and performances.

Hushed, entrancing and just-slightly-alien songs and performances

Adreneline & Richard was itself a reissue, with the Phillips label taking a private-press release from the previous year and adding supplemental backing on a couple of songs. But Proud’s style throughout never wavers — soft, recitative, bemused and reflective. There’s nothing technically striking about his spindly guitar playing, but it has an inviting approach nonetheless. Lyrically, he moves between amusing shaggy dog stories and deeper emotions. A song title like “Into Elizabeth’s Eyes (To Mother Whilst Dying)” calls up more associations in seven words than most could manage over a full album.

On the following year’s A Bird in the Engine, Proud took control throughout. The opening “Marie” has a bright, open feeling, but by the third song, “A Fraying Space,” the unusual arrangement and close-to-the-mic approach sounds like something the Tall Dwarfs might have done 20 years later. There are love-struck sentiments, sing-song rhymes and arresting images like “There Is No Rest”‘s “The small feet of the children/ They burnt and they smoldered.” But the album’s not a bummer, merely one that rewards concentration; both records demonstrate why Proud’s work deserves wider attention once more.