Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5
I'm not going to pretend that I know anything about this band other than what I can glean from the album cover. This three person group seems to be working on the socialist model as all three members provide songwriting, keyboards, percussion, vocals, and recorders. They claim that their M.O. is as a chamber-jazz group, which make a certain amount of sense. With retrospect in hand though, that's not quite what I hear.
This strange album to me is the sound of Smile-era Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks drifting away into the lysergic ether (that is to say a slightly more produced Smiley Smile, I suppose). In the wall of keyboards are some serious choir-boy vocalizing and the arrangements are like the various sections of a Wilson production disintegrating, creating but an impressionist blur. While this is a very enjoyable album, it's often difficult to focus in on the heavily echoed vocals, pianos, and organs.
The album starts off at its most accessible with "Wild Bill Hickock Rides Again," which could pass off for a Smiley Smile outtake by the Beach Boys, but for the vocals which hit a much more nasal, cutting tone than the Wilson brothers do. It's a pretty cool piece, evoking the wild west both with it's subject matter and piano rolls, while psychedelicizing the sound with echo and droning organs.
The album then pleasantly clouds up with the sound of multiple electric pianos and choral vocals before reconstituting for the jokey "The Girl From Tarentum." I'm sure the band was going for jazzy, but there must have been too many strange substances hanging aroung the studio.
Side two is mostly instrumental, walking a strange line between jazz and classical. This is the Open Window getting a little more pretentious on us. "Italian Symphony" comes across as a more analog, organic version of some of Frank Zappa's early 80's synclavier experiments , while "Piano Concerto No. 1 In G Minor" is basically some disciplined boogie woogie piano with an organ line working its way through the barrage of notes. "The Priest Of The Raven Of Dawn Curtain Call" is a nine minute suite that is completely strange and tripped out. It could cause you to fear for your sanity if you're into that sort of thing.
The Open Window is not quite an A-list lost album. It does manage to create a very unique sound though (although Brian Wilson is the best reference point), and is certainly worth your while for that. It's pretty extreme for a group that seems to see themselves as a sunny jazz pop combo.