Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Journey to the West

Some years ago, as a young enthusiast of the d-i-y cassette tape scene, I improvised a piece on my reed organ one moody Summer afternoon, called 'Journey to the West', and credited it to The Mystic Umbrellas. 

The name had come about when I visited Glastonbury in pursuit of the Arthurian Mysteries, in the company of my friend G J Cooling. There was a fine rain in the air. 'Well, here we are,' I had said, as we got off the bus, 'in quest of mystic enlightenment'. 'And an umbrella,' added Mr Cooling.

The piece was, remarkably, accepted by the Deleted Records label for inclusion on their Deleted Funtime tape (1980), sub-titled 'various tunes by various loons'.

A dub remix, once compared to ‘Augustus Pablo meets The Orb in an abandoned country house’, was issued on CD by Waterden in 2004.

‘Further to the West’, a new re-imagining of the original piece, was devised by the enigmatic musicians Watch Repair and issued as a CDr and download on Aphasic Ear in 2017.

Now Mark Lancaster, one of the original co-producers of the tape, has made a 'Journey to the West' video to accompany the dub version of the piece, true, as he says, to its mood of 'antiquarian trip-hop'. This promising genre has not quite caught on - yet. 

(Mark Valentine)



  1. At first I thought the whole history of "Journey to the West" was simply a jape, but the video and the reed music are certainly real and impressively eerie. And quite enjoyable too.

  2. Thank you, Michael. Wait till I find my other release from back then, a 20 minute long recording of a Cornish foghorn . . .

  3. Cornish Foghorn sounds interesting…

  4. I found my copy “The Watch Repair” presents “Journey to the West” which has a nice bundle of goodies included. I wish I knew how to upload photos here, there were some postcards along with a detailed description by Mark dated October 2014 of his adventures with the Mystic Umbrellas. Also found another CD of the Mystic Umbrellas recording entitled “Langton Freeman’s Summer-House Tomb.” Glad these weren’t lost recordings so we experience their original sound.