Boomkat Product Review:
Compiling both albums released by Canadian psychedelic rock group, Syrinx, between 1970-1971
“The two instrumental albums that Syrinx issued in the early 1970s sound little like the psychedelic music prevailing Toronto’s rock venues at the time, and are even further removed from the electronic tape experimentations spooled by a younger John Mills-Cockell.
Instead, the path of Syrinx whimsically veers away from the dominant mode of ‘70s subculture, charting surprising commercial success. Tumblers From The Vault presents their entire recorded legacy, reviving the story of Syrinx and sharing their memorable, mind-bending melodies.
The musicians behind Syrinx were composer and keyboardist John Mills-Cockell, saxophonist Doug Pringle, and percussionist Alan Wells. All three were young veterans of the Toronto creative scene by the beginning of 1970. LSD played a supporting role in their artistic pursuits, but equal guidance also came from Mills-Cockell’s studies at the University of Toronto and Royal Conservatory of Music, where he established an ad-hoc, DIY electronic music course in the school’s basement.
Syrinx’s self-titled debut arrived in 1970, followed in 1971 by Long Lost Relatives, which is highlighted as the first album on Tumblers From The Vault. Between the two albums, Syrinx became a vital part of the Toronto music scene, with Doug Pringle’s loft serving as the central node for impromptu performances and the group’s collaborative activities. Syrinx also started receiving high profile work, first for television, film, and dance, and then for orchestra. One commission culminated commercially in “Tillicum”, the unforgettable theme music for pioneering reality television show Here Come the Seventies. As a standalone single, “Tillicum” would climb to #38 on Canada’s RPM charts. The most eventful assignment came from the Toronto Repertory Ensemble’s conductor and composer Milton Barnes, whose solicitation inspired the powerful orchestral suite Stringspace.
The studio version of Stringspace for Long Lost Relatives is a near faithful version to the live performance, the Toronto Repertory Ensemble offering the same sweeping, deeply engrossing symphonic support. (An original live version also appears on Tumblers from the Vault on the third LP, along with other rare and alternate Syrinx gems). “Tillicum” also appears on Long Lost Relatives, a nod to the group’s new visibility, and perhaps an assertion that Syrinx was part of the trailblazing new world that their television theme song signaled.
Syrinx’s music is more than a faded strain in Canada’s consciousness, but has never expanded universally. One modest task of Tumblers from the Vault is to reinstate Syrinx to their place in the wider canon of groundbreaking music so their story can be appreciated beyond the limits of Canadian notoriety. Another task is to simply have this music heard again, which is an endeavor made less difficult by the fact that the most defining quality of Syrinx’s music is its timelessness and agency.