Cult Classic: Pyramid-Pyramid.

Although Winston Churchill’s said: “it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” in the context of Russia, what’s become one of his most famous quotations can just as easily be applied to Robin Page’s Pyramid Records which has been the source of heated debate for over twenty years. This debate continues to the present day, with the two sides firmly entrenched in their believes about what has become one of the most controversial record labels in the history of modern music. Adding fuel to the fire was Pyramid’s eponymous debut album,  another album that is shrouded in mystery.

That is something of an understatement, as nothing whatsoever is known about the group Pyramid, even  their lineup when they recorded their debut album Pyramid. Speculation even surrounds when Pyramid recorded the thirty-three minute epic that features on their eponymous debut album. It’s claimed that Pyramid was recorded by Tony Robinson  in Cologne, around 1975 and 1976. However, even that is disputed by those who despite the Pyramid Records’ story, and claim that the music was recorded at a later date and is part of some elaborate musical hoax.

This might seem far-fetched, but each Pyramid Records release is forensically examined in an attempt to prove or disprove the story of Robin Page’s Cologne-based label. No doubt this will the case with Pyramid, with musical armchair sleuths poring over the album and its sleeve-notes for clues in an attempt to unravel the mystery of Pyramid Records.

The Mystery Of Pyramid Records.

Pyramid Records was founded by British expat Robin Page, in 1972 who was forty and one of the leading lights  in the burgeoning Fluxus arts movement. He had moved from London, England to Cologne, in West Germany in 1969, which had been his home ever since. However, Robin Page wasn’t the only expat who was living in Cologne during that period.

Cologne was also home to Tony Robinson, a South African, who had travelled from his home in Cape Town, to West Germany to work with the legendary Karlheinz Stockhausen, the Godfather of modern German electronic music at the WDR Studio. This was akin to serving an engineering apprenticeship, and would serve Tony Robinson well in the future. When he left Karlheinz Stockhausen’s employ, Tony Robinson went to work at Dierks Studio in Cologne, which was where the future Mad Twiddler met Robin Page.

By then, Robin Page was a successful and established artist whose work within the Fluxus movement was regarded as  groundbreaking, daring and ambitious. One of the trademarks of Robin Page’s work was humour, which he used to challenge what was regarded as good taste within the art establishment. Before long, Robin Page’s paintings found an audience, and became particularly sought after. This was what Robin Page had dreamt of, and worked towards ever since ‘he had left’ art college in Vancouver. His new-found success and financial security allowed Robin Page to work towards fulfilling another of his dreams, making music.

Robin Page was so serious about making music, that he had invested some of his newfound fortune in building a recording studio. This wasn’t a luxurious state-of-the-art recording studio that was situated within a fashionable part of Cologne. Instead, the studio was in the basement of what looked like a derelict building. It was an unlikely place for Cologne’s newest recording  studio, and where the nascent Pyramid Records first album was recorded.

It was then pressed by a Turkish entrepreneur, who just happened to keep his cutting lathe within the same building. Although the lathe was often to used to produce bootlegs, it was able to cut what became PYR 001, Pyramid Records’ first ever release.  Robin Page then commissioned a local student to design the album cover to PYR 001, which was released later in 1972. Robin Page had just made with the release of Pyramid Records’ first album.

Just like many private presses released in 1972, Robin Page had only a small number of copies of PYR 001 pressed. He decided to press between 50 and 100 albums, which became the norm for Pyramid Records’ releases. Some of the albums were sold in Cologne’s art galleries and clubs, while Robin Page gave some of his closest friends copies of PYR 001. This included one of his one newest friends, Toby Robinson, the future Mad Twiddler.

Robin Page also managed to persuade Toby Robinson to provide the material for Pyramid Records’ second release. Toby Robinson’s recordings featured sounds that were bounced from one reel-to-reel tape recorder to another. After he had an album’s worth of material, a master was cut, and between 50-100 copies of PYR 002 were either given away to Robin Page’s friends, or sold in Cologne’s art galleries and clubs. However, there was a problem with the label’s first two releases.

Over the next few years, the master tapes and the last remaining copies of PYR 001 and PYR 002 were mislaid, and  it was as if the two albums had never existed. This was something that those who were keen to disprove the existence of Pyramid Records  seized upon at a later date.

During 1973, Pyramid Records released PYR 003 and PYR 004, but incredibly the master tapes and remaining copies of both album were lost in the mists of time. Forty-five years later, it’s as if Pyramid Records first four releases never existed. This would later provide more ammunition to those trying to disprove the very existence of Pyramid Records.

The first Pyramid Records release to survive is believed to be PYR 005, which is the Cozmic Corridors’ eponymous debut album. It’s one of just eleven recordings that remain in the Pyramid Records’ vaults. These recordings were made between 1974 and 1976 and include Pyramid’s eponymous debut album Pyramid. 

The Further Mystery Of Pyramid.

Very little is known about Pyramid’s eponymous debut album, which like so much of the music recorded and released by Robin Page’s Pyramid Records, is shrouded in mystery. All that is known is known about Pyramid, is that they recorded their one and only album in Cologne around 1975 or 1976. Just like the majority of albums recorded for Pyramid Records, the recordist was Tony Robinson.

Joining Tony Robinson for the recording of what later became Pyramid, was a group of musicians whose identity is now unknown. Some of them were thought to be familiar faces, who had played on previous recordings for Pyramid Records. There’s also been speculation that some of the musicians who played on the various Pyramid Records’ recordings were members of well known Krautrock bands and had to dawn a cloak of anonymity. Sadly, nobody will ever know for sure the identity of the musicians who played on the various Pyramid Records’ recordings including Pyramid.

The musicians that recorded Pyramid were attempting to follow in the footsteps of The Cosmic Jokers, who had recently released two albums. These albums were the result of lengthy jam sessions which were recorded by Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser of the Ohr label. However, the Pyramid jam sessions were recorded by Tony Robinson.

He joined the musicians that would later become known as Pyramid at Robin Page’s Cologne studio, as the group embarked upon their first recording session. Setup in the studio were drums, bass and electric guitar for Pyramid’s rhythm section, which were augmented by a Hammond organ, mellotron, Mini-Moog, Fender Rhodes and Tibetan bells. The members of Pyramid put this impressive musical arsenal to good use during the recording of what became the first part of the lengthy genre-melting jam Dawn Defender. It took at least one further recording session to complete Dawn Defender, which lasted thirty-three minutes.

During Dawn Defender, the music is lysergic and spacious as Pyramid take the listener on a mind-blowing, magical mystery tour. All the time, the music ebbs and flows as Pyramid throw curveballs and spring surprises. To do that, they put their impressive musical arsenal to good use, and deploy a myriad of effects that adds to the trippy, otherworldly and spacious sound that gradually unfolds during thirty-three magical and mesmeric minutes. What follows is a captivating fusion of avant-garde, electronica, Krautrock, psychedelia and space rock, while Pyramid draw inspiration from everyone from Agitation Free, Amon Düül II, Ash Ra Tempel, to Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and unsurprisingly The Cosmic Jokers. The result was a truly ambitious, innovative and imaginative multilayered soundscape that is akin to a musical tapestry that was woven by Pyramid during just a few short sessions. It’s full of  bubbling, dark, dramatic, dubby, eerie, futuristic,  hypnotic, lysergic, otherworldly,  rocky and sci-fi sounds that became part of what’s one of the most ambitious tracks that was recorded  for Pyramid Records.

Despite having recorded what was an ambitious, genre-melting album, Pyramid was never released by Robin Page’s Pyramid Records. It became the latest album that was shelved, and never saw the light of day for twenty years. For Robin Page and everyone involved with the recording of Pyramid, this was a missed opportunity, as nobody got to hear the innovative thirty-three minutes Magus Opus, Dawn Defender.  Sadly, later in 1976 Pyramid Records closed its doors for the final time.

Robin Page had founded Pyramid Records in 1972 with his newfound wealth, and set about fulfilling his dream of making music, and before long, he had decided to take this even further by releasing other people’s music. This he had been doing on a small-scale for the best part of four years. However, Robin Page didn’t see music as a way to make money, and instead, his actions could be construed as a mixture of benevolence and small-scale philanthropy. Maybe Robin Page wanted to highlight and champion new and exciting music, including music that other labels wouldn’t release. This he continued to do until he decided to emigrate, and start a new life in Canada.

With him, Robin Page took Pyramid Records’ master tapes and the remaining albums that he hadn’t sold or given away to his friends. Robin Page left almost nothing of Pyramid Records behind in Germany, and before long, it was as if the label had never existed.

That was until twenty years later, when Tony Robinson approached Virgin Records with some of Pyramid Records’ master tapes. This resulted in the release of Unknown Deutschland-The Krautrock Archive Volume 1 in 1996. Later that year, two further volumes followed, and Pyramid’s eponymous debut album was released for the first time in 1996. Collectors of Krautrock were keen to add the album to their collection and the album soon sold old. Since then, it’s been out of print and almost impossible to find.

Pyramid is one of the many cult classics that were recorded during the Krautrock era. Sadly, this hidden gem which it is thought was recorded in 1975 or 1976, and was belatedly released in 1996 never found the audience it deserved. Since then, Pyramid has become something of a cult classic. However, like the other albums released or recorded by Pyramid Records its authenticity is the source of heated debate by the earnest aficionados and self-appointed and often pompous experts of all things Krautrock. 

Despite the debate, Pyramid features a truly talented group of musicians whose identity is sadly unknown, as they showcase their considerable skills on the genre-melting thirty-three minute lysergic Magnus Opus Dawn Defender.

Cult Classic: Pyramid-Pyramid.

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