Tradition, ‘Captain Ganja and the Space Patrol’

Posted by on September 11, 2017

BKV 009 Captain Ganja

Bokeh Versions, 3.31.17

“Out of the cosmic factor, between the years 1952 and 56 anno Domini  / A combination of celestial forces collided with the spiritual powers of nature / to bring forth, tradition.” With that invocation began the fateful adventures of Captain Ganja and the Space Patrol, undertaken by London-born reggae-dub troupe Tradition in 1980, presumably after developing space-weed and some sort of adaptive ventilation system. For all who thought that journey might have successfully concluded in the 1980s, we have the Bristol-based laboratories of Bokeh Versions to thank for resuming Captain Ganja and his crew’s vigil, reissuing the album this spring in collaboration with the band’s own Bass 1 imprint. The album and label are a significant pairing though, a keystone in the whole arc of Bokeh’s interests — according to Bokeh proprietor Miles Opland, Captain Ganja also anchors an informal trilogy of releases in the band’s catalog.. For listeners that value a true range of dub, it feels like a high-bar and a promise of more to come.

Mostly instrumental, Captain Ganja flew a bit under the radar at the time of its first release, even considering its backdrop was the far reaches. It is undeniably atmospheric, but lush and almost indulgently so, but rarely slow and never sedate. Subtle washes and tone-play, and a menagerie of field recordings, give most songs a bit of extra magic, juxtaposed beautifully with the band’s instrumentation to conjure a unique spin on the loungey, “space age jazz” palette. Space isn’t all weed and fun though, some of the a-side’s standout moments really deliver thanks to a still playful sense of darker theatrics, as with the beautifully tinged crowd and commotion sounds on “Alien Circus” or the mysterious movement of “The Creepy Crawl.”

The b-side takes a steeper tilt into space, with the exotic dawn vibes of “Morning on Mars” and the bright shuffle of “Planet Play  Laser Games,” all demonstration of the good use Tradition put their early Roland sampler to on these albums. Thanks to that bit of kit, most of the album has a distinctive fringe of conscientious sample work. According to Bokeh, “one of their early 45s led the BBC to approach them about contributing to the Dr. Who soundtrack, Capital Radio did likewise for the Hulabaloo theme. Neither saw fruition and this facet of the band’s sound is easily forgotten [even] by diehard fans.” That vein through their recordings was obscured in the early 80s, so we’re particularly grateful to Bokeh for their work giving it center stage, even if they can’t magically conjure an alternative dub soundtrack for Dr. Who… no matter how much we might wish (right guys? maybe?). Looking back on some of the material they might have had to compete with though, if anything it’s easy to imagine Tradition’s work seeming too genuinely weird to land as “Weird” then.

In the 2000s, the band reconvened and began recording again, though their new work is in a much different register — I reckon someone should still make them a Facebook page ASAP, considering the difficulty in Googling about for a band called Tradition. Given current events, it might also be worth remembering that Tradition participated in the influential Rock Against Racism tour in the late 70s. The impetus then was Eric Clapton’s notorious statements supporting xenophobe Enoch Powell, a prototype for brinksmanly figures like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. Hopefully they’ll be around long enough to consider tying something like that in with a second stint aboard the Space Patrol.

In the meantime, Space Patrol is sold out at the source, but available to download via Bandcamp — and of course some copies are kicking around Discogs.