Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 5 out of 5
Alan Watts was a British proponent of Eastern religions, and not so much of a musician. He nevertheless managed to release a few albums of tripped out instrumentals and spoken word to try and increase awareness of Eastern traditions. This one is a pretty abstract affair of throat singing, chants, drones, and percussion. Only with Watts spaced out spoken words does the music peak out of the transcendental aether. Like some of Sun Ra's work from the early 60's, this music is true psychedelia years before popular music began to explore similar avenues. Unfortunately, some of this album also shares the questionable recording quality of some of Sun Ra's recordings. Still, it's perfectly listenable and a fine soundtrack for your backroom opium den.
The best place to start with this album is probably with the shorter tracks featuring spoken word. "Onion Chant" and "Fingernail Poem" both feature Watts' Eastern-tinged poetry. The former matches Watts with some percussion and fierce chanting while the latter includes some abstract jazz piano playing. Once you've acclimatized, take a plunge into the long-form freak-outs of the last three tracks. I've got a soft spot for "Metamatic Ritual," but the creepy laughing in "Umdagumsubudu" and speaking in tongues in "The End" is worth hearing if you're up for wild chanting. The end of "The End" kind of frightens me.
Although this music doesn't really fit into the realm of rock, the sounds are about as psychedelic as you're going to find. The crazed percussion definitely makes me thing of some of the stuff that Sun Ra was doing around the same time, but the manic chants, Eastern instrumentation, and Watts' poetry help to distinguish this as a wholly unique album.
Alan Watts - 1962 - Is This It