30 November 2013

Sea Train - 1969 - Sea Train

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out 5

Word up is that this is the next iteration of the Blues Project, which went through a kaleidoscope of line-ups in its proper history.  We hear a tinge of jazz rhythms and country music bending through the prism of psychedelic styles.  I imagine that this is the music that the bikers in 'Easy Rider' would have heard in the desert compound if those folks at a touch of electricity - it would certainly do better than "Do Your Ears Hang Low."

Really, the band blows most of their wad on the opening, band-naming, title track.  It glides on some fine perlocating bass, mild funky percussion, and a well-controlled variant of the city horn blast that Blood, Sweat, and Tears or Chicago were aiming for.  I dig the harpsichord baroque go-go dance of "Portrait of the Lady as a Young Artist."  Hell, they even manage to fit in a reasonable fiddle, which I typically consider a no-no in rock or jazz.  I used to play cello in the orchestra, so I always felt the violins were a little screechy.  I was down with the violas, though.  Rondo strips down the vibe to acoustic guitar and comes out as a winning, folky track.  Some of the other stuff is probably a touch over arranged.

This slots in with a lot of the other albums that sit on that unstable precipice between psychedelic chamber pop and 70's singer-songwriting.  With the proper professionalism in place, a band vibe, and the vapors of the Blues Project wafting through, this is a pretty respectable effort.  It's not quite firing on all cylinder, but the ones that are functioning are pretty colourful.

The Litter - 1967 - Distortions

Quality: 3.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

This slab from these Minneapolis psych rockers is typically viewed as an absolute garage rock classic in the vein of the Chocolate Watchband or the Electric Prunes.  I'm not really one to argue with that.  There's plenty of fuzzed-out guitars and rhythm section pounding to please the engroovied masses.  Like the Watchband, the Litter weren't really too keen on composing tunes - at least not at this point.  Thus, we've got some impassioned wailings on luminaries like the Who, the Yardbirds, and Cream.  No, none of them are really on par with the originals, but this is right on target as the kind of thing you'd want to hear at full blast shaking the floorboards of a psychedelic house party.

The key track, "Action Woman," is an absolute acid rock classic that has graced choice positions on both Nuggets and Pebbles compilations.  They didn't write it, but it's undeniably their tune.  Outside of that magma intensity splatter painting of balls-out psych rock, I dig their take on the Who.  As I mentioned before, they don't manage to displace the originals, but they do give a damn fine gritty American boot-stomping vibe on "Substitute" and "A Legal Matter."  The seams show a touch on their attempt at a 'rave-up' on "I'm A Man," but again, in the right context and frame of mind it's a rollicking time.  The originals on here don't really shine so brightly, but they work well as 60's album cuts and ultimately fit in on the more positive side of 'filler.'

I think a lot of people show up at the psychedelic garage for this kind of thing (although I like to think they ultimately stick around for the ragas and drones), and this is an immensely pleasurable example of a hard rockin', psychedelic time.  If you haven't crossed paths with the Litter and you've already consumed your essential 60's rock, then you're gonna have a good time here.

15 November 2013

Paul Haslinger - 1998 - Planetary Traveler

Quality: 3.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

I don't know, I guess this is where the Berlins school road of electronics comes to a dead end.  Paul Haslinger is an alumni of Tangerine Dream, and the results do peek out on this soundtrack album.  There's just enough of the old school and shades of engroovied darkness to catch my attention, but there's a lot of digital new wave and orchestral blunderbust gumming up the works as well.  Still, Haslinger is keeping it more real than the Dream themselves have since something like 1986.  Maybe this all works better if you're hearing it while gazing at 90's CGI on a massive Imax screen over at the local science center.  You pick up the high chrome-based cassette tape in the gift store and it sound noticiably worse in the tape deck (sorry, I'm dating my analogy).  Unfortunately for the travelers, it seems that this was actually one of those gift store VHS 'trip' videos, but it looks like I was spot on about the Playstation 1 quality CGI.

The shorter tracks fair the best and will more likely appeal to the psychonauts out there.  "Lhodwi (frozen Chaos)" and "Dilgan (Burning Life)" are reasonable sound paintings in miniature, while the closing "The Remains of Time" fairs well with a few extra minutes.  I guess "Entropy" is like the new-jack funk that they play in discotheque.  There are a few tracks that make me want to instantly de-rez the digital orchestral. Tracks like "Traces of Infinity,"  "E'iah" pounds you over the head with that damned 'orchestra hit' sound.  It may very well be a real orchestra, but it's still that damned 'orchestra hit' sound.  "Dharmok (Bridging the Gap)" suffers from a touch of that as well, but the other 80% of the track is gliding ambient soundscapes.

I'm not quite sure why I'm reviewing this to be honest.  It's right at the tail end of that period when every musician with some cash in their pocket was going as new and as digital as possible, and just before folks figured out that the analog stuff actually sounded a lot better (I believe Moog Cookbook was just starting to make that point on an indie label in 1998).  I probably just have science center nostalgia.  We have this in Atlanta:

Fernbank Science Center

And I've been trying to take my daughter to the science dome recently, but circumstance keeps getting in my way:

Saku Children's Science Dome for the Future