This is something of an oddity in the Lol Coxhill discography, but a delightful record all the same. Coxhill was the musical director for this travelling troupe from 1973 to 1975. This is functional music, adapted to the multi-dimensional performances of Welfare State, Welfare State was a nomadic consortium of artists, makers, musicians and performers. As said by John Fox in the liner notes, the WS envisaged themselves as Civic Magicians and Engineers of the Imagination, devising rituals and constructing images for particular times, places and seasons. They travelled throughout Europe with a mobile village of lorries and caravans, creating and animating outdoor events with sculptures, theatre pieces, celebrations, dances and processions. Consisting of 16 adults and 7 children, WS would stop for shorter or longer residences, whenever the opportunity arose to "make poetry concrete".
The record captures the functionality and the ceremoniality of the music, though listening to it one inevitably misses the other sensory elements needed to make it a full spectacular experience, but one might conjure up suitable visual images from the sounds captured on this album, not the.least the front cover pic which reminds me of the cult film "The Wicker Man". Obvious referneces here to medieval ceremonies and rituals and old-age mythology. It might bear some resemblances to what in the UK has become known as the Travellers movement, dating back to the festivals of the 70s and ideas of alternative life styles, ironically at a certain distance from the welfare state, one might think.
As said above, this is altogether lovely. Lots of tracks here which made track-splitting into an ordeal, but perseverance shall be rewarded, they say. Among the troupe, there is a certain vocalist extraordinaire by the name of Phil Minton. Hard to pick out favourites here, but there is a duet of blackbird (?) and soprano saxophone, a splendid piece of pastoral idyll.
The info is a mite too extensive to put here, but there is an info file attached and scans of the back cover for those who want to engage in details. I keep thinking this is a very British record (more so as the liner notes even go to the point of emphasizing that the Ayler tune "Ghosts" has a BRITISH arrangement). So after this one, there will be a very Norwegian record, also rooted in folk music traditions. We'll get to that in a little while.