Muthas of invention: five genre-defining artists you may never have heard of
1. Cromagnon – Caledonia (1969)
This is perhaps the most (in)famous rock anomaly, and it’s become somewhat of a holy grail in hoarier metal circles. For decades, the story of Cromagnon was wrapped in mystery. Some folks claimed their album, Orgasm, was recorded at a commune run by a tribe of hippie cave-folk in Connecticut. Others swore the band was an early incarnation of weirdo art-rockers The Residents or cut-up kings Negativland.
The truth is, Orgasm was recorded in New York City on Thanksgiving day by a lower-tier garage-pop band called The Boss Blues. Their contract was up at Buddah Records, and they were itching to try something more experimental. The idea was, given the extremes of the day – Jimi’s fuzz freakouts, The Who violently smashing their gear to bits – what would music sound like 10 years on, in 1979? Free jazz label ESP-Disk liked their pitch, and let ’em loose in the studio for one day. The songs were improvised on the spot, and a good portion of the ‘instruments’ on the album are sticks, stones and broomhandles.
Not all of the album is as gorgeously violent as Caledonia; a lot of it as navel-gazing as 60s stoner rock gets. But for this one song, they went fully balls-to-the-wall, in a way that no one in that era had done before, or after. Caledonia is Satanic cave-rock, a terrifying, discordant battering ram of bagpipes, metal-banging, and a skin-crawling witchy hiss that predates black metal by 20 years. It sounds like the craziest thing Celtic Frost ever did, but really, it’s just a bunch of hippies goofing off.