29 September 2010

Damaged Tape - 2010 - Beyond the Astral Labyrinth

These electronic tunes had a nice, long gestation period, and I'm pretty happy with the final results. I wanted to get away from the 'four-on-the-floor' house sort of beats that I used a lot on Psychedelic Anthropology and focus more on the 'sonic sculpture' concept that I had back with Electric Ocean. Of course, with a completely different set of instruments and recording equipment, this music is hopefully its own entity. Although several of these tracks were quick and painless, several of these tracks (especially the instrumental ones) were originally intended to be part of a collaboration and intentionally left half-finished. But after more than a year and a few shifts in perspective, I finished them up mostly with the help of my Juno 60 synthesizer.

The concept for this album originally involved Scott's (the other feller in Damaged Tape) exploration of Japan's Izu peninsula. Unfortunately, I didn't necessarily get around to finishing all the tracks that involved those ideas, plus the cover to Glaze of Cathexis' The Golden Konbanwa already sort of got that idea down visually. This means that Scott is far better equipped to talk about the conceptual nature of these recordings. Here's what he has to say:

Inspiration for this spoken word came from free-associative thoughts in quiet times of
the night and day, and the only necessity was to just listen and be receptive to
our innate intuition.

Of this I feel-
delving into the collective subconscious is like descending into a deep well within a well,
accessing information from those shimmering purple-black waters reflecting
the glints of diamond-chip stars endlessly beyond. In this journey of metamorphosis
and transcendence, the wisdom and insight gained belongs to all, as this wisdom
and insight, shrouded in profound, sacred mystery, is an innate and inseparable part of us.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your comments concerning these songs (good or bad), and if you want to repost, please let me know! It always makes my day.

Track List:
1. Dimensions Untold Of (5:12)
2. Bamboo Hollow (4:08)
3. Amphibians of Time (4:03)
4. Lexicography of the Universe (2:41)
5. Crystal Forge (4:15)
6. Conflux of Reality (3:53)
7. Infinity's Quest (5:14)
8. Mind if the Vortex (2:28)
9. Endless Ocean (4:48)
10. A Desert of Cobalt (5:19)
11. The Cosmic Election (2:35)

Listen to Me:
Damaged Tape - 2010 - Beyond the Astral Labyrinth (full quality)
Damaged Tape - 2010 - Beyond the Astral Labyrinth (256kps)

Rust - 1969 - Come With Me

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

Although hailing from Germany, Rust definitely does not fit under the krautrock umbrella. This is full blown psychedelic garage rock in the vein of the Electric Prunes with a bit of British psychedelic production madness thrown in for good effect - it's very much in a 'summer of love' sort of mindset. I'd say early Traffic is another good comparison of the sounds found here. The performances are pretty top notch, but the real ace in the whole is the songwriting. Rust's tracks are extremely well written and pretty catchy overall. If these guys had been from the States or Britain two years earlier, I bet they would've become a major concern.

This album stays pretty strong throughout. My favorites include the west coast garage rock blasts of "You Thought You Has It Made" (complete with ridiculous vocals effects!) and "Delusion," while "Please Return" and the title track do the best job of going for that early Traffic vibe, and "Find A Hideaway" actually finds a very groovy balance between the Byrds, Love, and the Jefferson Airplane. It may be the best track here.

Despite the creepy, gothic, and somewhat terrible cover art, Come With Me is a pretty technicolour slab of psychedelic rock. Although it doesn't quite bat with the A-list, it certainly is undeserving of obscurity and plays better track-by-track than a typical album by the Electric Prunes or Chocolate Watchband (not to slight those still great bands).

Don Cherry - 1972 - Organic Music Society

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Don Cherry was one of the more notable jazz trumpeters, often appearing as a collaborator or sideman to jazz greats like Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane in the late 1950's and 1960's. On this album as bandleader, Cherry guides the music into world music sounds on the first LP while working on the more avant-garde side of acoustic jazz on the second. You'll hear echoes of Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, and Albert Ayler among others on this album, but Cherry is still able to bring together a singular and fascinating vision of his own.

The opening track claims to be a northern Brazilian ceremonial hymn, but there are plenty of other world music hints here as well such as Indian drones and Tibetan percussion. The track is a slowly building chant which is supported by a growing percussion section and the 'ceremonial' claim of the title certainly comes across as accurate. "Elixir" gives us a full blast of tribal percussion framed by a flute solo and Indian-inspired violin (although the violin playing does comes across as a little scratchy). "Relativity" is a two part suite which unfortunately repeats the basic bass line of "Elixir," but does continue with awesome percussion and adds in some chanting that finds space between the contemporaneous chants of Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra, and a bit of speaking in tongues.

You really don't hear a whole lot of Cherry's trumpet on the first LP, but the more jazz-oriented second disc features more of his playing (and I'm guessing that's him on the flute as well). For most of this disc, the band drifts in and out of several tunes, coming across as a group of far-out jazz cats having a 3am jam in an opium den. Although not quite free jazz, this music is very improvisational sounding, but in a very gentle and drifting way as opposed to the harsh, confrontational sound that 60's and 70's avant-garde jazz can often dish out. The closing track, "Resa," is separated from this motif. It sounds like a live recording (although a perfectly listenable one), and edges a touch in spots towards Albert Ayler's free jazz swoon.

This is a fine late night record for those of you interested in the trippier side of jazz. While not an absolute classic, there are some wonderful sonic colors to discover on this LP, and the cover art definitely puts a nice bow on this package.

10 September 2010

Khan - 1971 - Space Shanty

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

I've always let Steve Hillage be my primary constant for exploring the Canterbury scene, and the short lived band Khan is another very groovy step on his musical journey. This plays pretty much like a Steve Hillage solo album with Hillage handling the vast majority of the songwriting and most of the vocals. Of course I'd be remiss not to mention organist Dave Stewart, who also played with Hillage on the Arzachel album and never had any thing to do with the Eurythmics (that's a different guy). His organ playing is a perfect foil for Hillage's crystaline leads and he gets a few moments to shine on his own as well. The sound does recall a fair amount of Khan's jazzy prog peers, but I always appreciate Hillage's 'new age Jesus' vibe, and the production here is very crisp and meaty.

Truthfully, the band pretty much fits a comfortable jazz-rock groove and sits on it for most of the album. It all flows very well, but certainly doesn't come across as groundbreaking. Yeah, it sounds sort of like an early 70's Pink Floyd albums, but it has a more positive vibe than those titans of the album charts usually managed. Besides, Hillage's guitar playing makes Gilmour sound like an amateur (although a very passionate one), and Dave Stewart hit some precise organ runs that I don't recall hearing Rick Wright manage. I dig the vocal part of "Space Shanty," as it reminds me of Cheech and Chong's performance at the end of Up In Smoke. "Driving to Amsterdam" and "Hollow Stone" pretty much sound like the same Meddle outtake, but this is a band that you can pretty much just float downstream with anyway. I also dig the acoustic glaze that permeates "Stranded."

While this album gets a D- for originality, the quality of the performances, production, and songwriting make it worth a few listens. Steve Hillage fans especially need to check it out. You would probably be accurate by slapping a label on the front of this that says 'Generic Canterbury Album," but that's not necessarily a bad thing when you could end up with Grand Funk Railroad or the new Justin Beiber album instead.

Buy Me:
Khan - 1971 - Space Shanty

Arzachel - 1969 - Arzachel

Quality: 4 out of 4
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 4

This is an interesting early effort from the soon-to-be members of Egg and 70's space guitar diety, Steve Hillage. Apparently, the musicians more or less threw this together from only a day in the studio, but the musicianship is at such a high level that it comes out sounding far more thought out than its origins imply. They'd also been playing gigs together a year or so earlier under the name Uriel. Still, for a lark this is pretty solid stuff. The music here is right on the cusp between 60's psych and prog, infused with the vibes of the Canterbury scene.

The album begins with several shorter form tracks, the best of which is the opening "Garden of Earthly Delights." It comes across very much like one of Traffic's better psych singles and the balance between Mont Cambell's psych-folk crooner vocals and Steve Hillage's happy, but never quite on key, singing is fun. You also get a pure blast of Hillage's lead guitar work at the end, although you'll find plenty of that on this LP. "Azathoth" starts out sounding like a more gothic Procol Harem before becoming far more unsettling near the end. "Queen St. Gang" and "Leg" are the lesser tracks, with the former being a pleasant but unassuming psych-jazz rocker and the latter sounding like a Cream outtake, although Hillage's attempt to nail a Jack Bruce-style vocal doesn't really hit the mark. This causes the band to de-evolve into insane echoing feedback for the last few minutes of the song.

Side two brings us two, long jammy tracks. The first one, "Clean Innocent Fun," carries on the Cream vibe, but with lots of organ. It's a little derivative, but I'd honestly rather listen to Hillage rip out wild leads on his guitar than Clapton, and the band works up a proto-punk head of steam that Cream was never able to do. "Metempsychosis" is the better of the long form tracks, with the band serving up a sixteen minute psychedelic freakout that would have captivated the heads at the UFO Club in the 60's. Yeah, they recycle a few tricks from early Floyd and the Soft Machine, but I think that these top-notch musicians are able to pull it off a little better (not that the Soft Machine didn't have top-notch musicians too - and the Floyd charming ones). Along with the album opening, this is the one that you need to hear.

Here at the Psychedelic Garage, I often get distracted by ambient and krautrock tangents, but if you need a dose of straight up, pure psychedelic rock, this is a pretty good album to shove into your earhole. It's got a couple of great songs in its grooves, and plenty of full on attacks from one of the better psychedelic guitarists around.

09 September 2010

Vangelis - 1985 - Invisible Connections

Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

Vangelis went through the 80's best known for his blaring fanfares and creating records that sank deeper and deeper into flashy new age. This collection, however, is extremely ambient and an entirely different creature. Do not come to this album expecting any of Vangelis' trademark melodicism. The sounds of the mostly digital synthesizers are very representative of 80's technology, but Vangelis manages to use these tools in a very tasteful way. I'd be lying though if I say I didn't miss the analog opulence of his 70's work.

While the first half is pretty abstract, the second half of "Invisible Connections" is exactly what you would expect to hear walking into a planetarium around 1987. I mean this as a compliment as I thought planetariums were awesome as an elementary school student at that time. There are plenty of lush pads layered into the track and there were at least five moments where I thought the music was about to shift into the opening music of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." This works for me as well since I still like watching that show. The second two tracks, "Atom Blaster" and "Thermo Vision" are more like a digital update of what Vangelis was doing on Beauborg. I don't like them as much as Beauborg, nor are they as groovy as the opening track. I guess when you're trying to create chaos, the binary 0's and 1's of a digital instrument simply don't work as well as analog unpredictability. Still, both tracks are fine as background music to slowly drive you pleasantly insane.

I don't think that this is quite up to the standard of Vangelis' 70's work, especially when compared to the like-minded Beauborg, but this album is worth a listen for fans of this synth master. The second half of the title track is definitely a great one - it's just too bad that Vangelis couldn't keep my attention fixed quite as well for the other three quarters of the album.