Originally released circa 1968 in an edition of 500 copies, the lunacy contained within the grooves of this Canadian mindfuck is perched somewhere midway between the outwardly bound trajectories of their contemporaries in both The Nihilist Spasm Band and Intersystems, with intuitive and screw-loose outsider psych improv moves crashing headlong into lividly blurted sound poetry in a way that also calls to mind the touched-in-the-head maneuvers of Fire & Ice, Ltd (not to mention a raft of contempo freak folk practitioners...). Bissett is far better known as a poet (phonetische and otherwise) than musician and his spew here is what really tugs this in the direction of the aforementioned head cases in Intersystems.
"recorded in 1968 by pioneering sound-and-concrete poet bill bissett after arriving in vancouver from halifax, the album finds his sundry gang of poets, visual artists, and musicians in th mandan massacre constructing a perfectly lysergic backdrop for their lead agitator's possessed delivery: growling like a streetcorner doomsday prophet, jabbering like a preacher speaking in tongues, and repeating single lines until they become smeared syllables of sound. ... there are three basic modes on awake in th red desert: bissett unaccompanied; backed up with the kinds of out-rock incantations that groups like sun city girls and the no neck blues band would summon decades later; or warped with tape loops and buchla synth by massacre member and engineer wayne carr." - jesse locke
"backed by a band of interesting musicians (a few of whom went on to straighter afterlives), bill bissett created an insane mass of sound, comparable to what mayo thompson’s red crayola was doing in texas around the same time, laced with heavy fugs overtones. pure freaked sonics, created while stoned, for an audience that was similarly blasted, and was willing to decode what was going on using the very best acid logic available. if you don’t feel your teeth wiggling while this plays, i suggest you may never feel that particular feeling. in your life. bill bissett is still going today, and we heartily suggest that anyone who digs this album runs out and tries to nail down one or another of his wonderful books before the sun sets." – byron coley, 2019