With the death of David Bedford last year, Britain lost one of its most uncontainable, uncategorisable spirits. One could paint him as a neo-classicist, a vaudevillian, a leftfield rocker, a children’s choirmaster, an incorrigible prankster and an envelope-pushing avant-gardist without any of these imperatives contradicting each other.
An inveterate sci-fi buff with a passion for astronomy, Bedford composed a number of pieces that sought to convey the fearful wonder and yearning infinity of space. Star’s End, originally released on Virgin in 1974, was commissioned and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, augmented by a brace of longhairs in the shape of Henry Cow percussionist Chris Cutler and Bedford’s ex-bandmate from the dissolute ranks of Kevin Ayers & The Whole World, Mike Oldfield. However, this was way above and beyond the crassness of most other ventures combining rock instrumentation with orchestral manoeuvres: you won’t hear anything as vulgar or facile as a riff here.
For a piece inspired by entropy, Star’s End abounds with pummelling, thrilling crescendos and long comet tails, leavened with interludes of tense, abyssal stillness. Bracingly dissonant, it’s unlikely to find a home next to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in your gran’s collection anytime soon, but fearless astral travellers are urged to enter the airlock sharpish.