I know of two things named after Alexander von Humboldt: a penguin and an ocean current. The current flows northwards along the coast of Chile and Peru bringing cooler waters from the southern oceans up to the tropics where it provides a plentiful supply of nutrients for the marine life there. The penguin is now in decline but it thrived in those seas once, feeding on the large shoals of fish that this productive environment supports.
Of course, the Humboldt current is not to be confused with the Humboldt Currant, which the Uxbridge English Dictionary defines as a type of dried grape used in alien breakfast cereals similar to the muesli that enjoys considerable popularity in some parts of our Earth. Here’s a celebration of that fruity ingredient by a band that took their name from the Ozric Tentacles product widely available in off-world supermarkets across the galaxy.
The Ozrics, as their fans call them, were formed in 1983. Ed Wynne (guitar, keyboards), his brother Roly (bass) and drummer Nick ‘Tig’ Van Gelder were playing at the Stonehenge Free Festival with their band, Bolshem People. Joie Hinton (keyboards) joined them for a jam session that lasted six hours at the end of which Ed was asked the name of the four-piece band. Remembering an earlier conversation about alien breakfast cereals Ed replied, “Ozric Tentacles”. And the name remains synonymous with a blend of psychedelic, electronic, progressive and world music to this day.
Ozric Tentacles released six albums on cassettes between 1985 and 1989, and a further 15 albums on CD and vinyl over the period from 1989 to 2015. Their lineup has always been fluid. Ed Wynne is now the only original member and yet the band has managed to retain a consistent identity and sound for the whole of its life. I think we can safely assume that the Ozrics are, essentially, an outlet for Ed’s creative spark. And the current lineup supports that theory; along with Ed on guitars, keyboards and sundry other instruments there’s Ed’s wife, Brandi, on bass, their son, Silas Neptune, on synthesisers, and the unrelated Hungarian drummer, Balázs Szende.
A new Ozrics album, Space for Earth, is due to come out later this year. Humboldt Currant is, presumably, a taster for the forthcoming release. This Currant is an upbeat instrumental with world music voices and prog rock guitar breaks swimming in a funky sea of synthesiser milk. It’s a dish to get you up in the morning, put a spring in your step and send you out into the world ready to face whatever fate has in store for you.
You won’t meet Alexander von Humboldt – he died in 1859. Nor are you likely to bump into any Humboldt penguins, unless you visit a zoo or live on the west coat of South America. But, if you should encounter an Ozric Tentacle or two, please pass on my good wishes and tell them I thoroughly enjoyed my helping of breakfast cereal this morning.