31 January 2014

Brian Auger's Oblivion Express - 1972 - Second Wind

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

Despite what the name would suggest, this is actually the third album from the Oblivion Express.  The actual second album didn't really catch my attention, but I've been grooving to this disc.  The band has a new vocalist/guitarist in tow on this one.  The jazz fusion and Cambridge psychedelic/prog flourishes are still in effect, but this album makes a few moves towards the Led Zeppelin/Black Sabbath sort of 70's rock zeitgeist as well.  This results in a notable drop on the Trip-O-Meter from the first album, but the group keeps their chops strong.

"Truth" and "Second Wind" are the rockingest tunes to be found here.  There are some fine guitar leads from what must be a Les Paul cutting through the British funk, and Auger takes the license to ramble all over his organ since he doesn't have to sing anymore.  In between are plenty of lite-jazz grooves which keep making me think of when Spinal Tap is forced to unleash their jazz odyssey.  Fortunately, Auger's doods can play a lot better than the Tap and keep the tunes floating above the wanna-be-posh, sleazy nightclub atmosphere.  Think red satin stained with a few cigarette burns.  I think it might sound a little like the early Jeff Beck Group, but I've honestly not listened to enough of that to be sure.

Not quite the standout of the first album, "Second Wind" is a fine specimen of its time and place.  This is the kind of group that seems to have had the record-tour-record routine down.  You've got some prime strains of jazz rock and a touch of the heavier stuff being played by pros.  It doesn't really have the psychedelic spark that really sets me off, but when you're on the third album of early 70's British groovesters 'Brian Auger's Oblivion Express,' you probably don't expect that coming in anyway.

22 January 2014

Brian Auger's Oblivion Express - 1971 - Brian Auger's Oblivion Express

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

I first caught sight of this one back in college.  I headed over for a party at a mate's apartment and he'd just snapped this one up at a boot sale (yes, I'm from the redneck American south, but now I live in Japan and I feel like going with the Brit English).  I couldn't figure out if the cover was a joke or not - the graphic design seemed goofier than hell and the look in ol' Brian's eyes seemed to display some kind of trickery.  And the train's coming out of his chest, man.  Did we actually play the thing?  I can't remember - I hope I didn't insult the poor chap.

Anyway, we probably should've played it, although I was still working on my doctorate in the psychedelic and I may not have gotten it at the time.  Dang if I don't now, though.  This is some prime psychedelic jazz rock, with some deep meat and grit festering in the grooves.  Triangulate the Canterbury with contemporary Floyd and a healthy dose of Miles Davis' fusion experiments and you've got this.  Well, there's a touch of 70's bare-chest Brit blues yelping, but most of this stuff is instrumental anyway.

Auger was probably, like, the eighth most notable rock organist in England at the time, but that's still pretty good and he's backed himself up with a pretty spectacular band, with the rhythm section deftly riding the rails of the Oblivion Express and guitarist Jim Mullen shining through as the MVP with some awesome Cream-inspired soloing.

The instrumentals that bookend the album is the real gold here.  "Dragon Song" and "Total Eclipse" open the album and come pretty close to filling in the album side with some heavy riffing in a jazzy context.  A few years later, with instrumental wankery having taken center stage and record production getting more hi-fi shimmer, these tunes probably wouldn't have fared so well, but 1971 seems to have been the time and place for the Auger Express.  The side closes with "The Light," one of the two vocal numbers, but side two's "The Sword"  is a far better vocal showcase for Auger.  I wonder if the modern sludge rockers "The Sword" named themselves after this track?  "Oblivion Express" end the proceedings, taking us back to the rockin' fusion world of the first two tracks.

I'll have to apologize to Anthony for giggling at his Brian Auger's Oblivion Express vinyl all those years back.  This nicely breathes in the psychedelic exhaust of the late 60's while suggesting some of the fusion and prog routes that rock would barrel down in the 70's.

09 January 2014

Dr. Schluss' Best of 2013

I guess I'm a little late on the uptake for this, but it seems like you can't assess the year until it's over and done with.  Also, I'm lazy.

For those of us willing to dig, the world of psychedelic music has rarely been better.  While the major labels are continuing their slow ossification and death, the indies had a lot to offer and there are plenty of diamonds in the rough if you're willing to make your way through the wide world of self-released music.  It's only a matter of time before 'groovy' reenters the world of accepted speech.  Even some of the blockbusters like Kanye West's "Yeezus" had some trippy sonic curveballs to toss our way.

Here's my top ten for the year to get your mind flowin':

10. Tideland - Lull
Speaking of the endless jungle of Bandcamp, this is a choice pick that I reviewed last month,  While little here is groundbreaking, the shoegazing tones would have fit in perfectly with the Creation Records lineup of the early 1990's.

9. Cut Copy - Free Your Mind
Coming through like a technicolour, Madchester, dancefloor freight train, this is one of the most dancable releases of the year.  Cut Copy sheds some of the strict 80's adherence that they practiced on "Zonoscope" and lets their freak flag fly.

8. Chelsea Light Moving - Chelsea Light Moving
I was sad as anyone to see Sonic Youth fly off into splinters a few years ago, but if we keep getting releases like this, I suppose I can deal with it.  2012 gave us a sterling effort from Lee Ranaldo (who also released a pretty decent album in 2013), but 2013 was Thurston Moore's turn to step back into the limelight.  Most of the Sonic DNA is intact, but Moore pushes his new project even further towards hardcore punk rock blasts of sound.

7. Thundercat - Apocalypse
Gracing the cover with one of the more insane hairstyles I've come across, Thundercat's 2013 release is not quite electronic, not quite R&B, but most often a strange yet seamless fusion of the two.  Plus, there's enough warping sound to bounce your head around in the washing machine for a while.

6. Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
This elusive electronic duo peeks their head out of their hollowed out missile silo/laboratory/doomsday shelter for the first time in years for this updated soundtrack to the secret life of plants.  The focus is very much on the atmospherics this time around, but that's what BOC does best, so not much is lost.

5. Jacco Gardner - Cabinet of Curiosities
Aside from a tasteful upscale in recording clarity, this album could've come right out of the British psychedelic folk-pop scene in late 1967.  The song writing is of the highest caliber and the chord progressions often take the most wonderful of unexpected detours.

4. Glasser - Interiors
Bjork hasn't released an album that really grabbed me since "Vespertine," so Glasser nicely fills in the void here.  No one is going to convince me that Glasser doesn't sound a whole lot like Bjork at her prime, but Glasser stakes out enough ground of her own with impressively crystalline electronics and fantastic arranging skills.

3. The Field - Cupid's Head
This Kompakt Record mainstay is getting quite skilled at creating impressive ambient soundscapes that hover and float a few meters of the dance floor.  Each of these tracks will take you on a fantastic journey through the core of electronic psychedelia.

2. Julianna Barwick - Nepenthe
Relying mostly on multi-tracked, reverb-soaked, impressionist recordings of her voice, Barwick took up residence in Sigur Ros' swimming pool to create her best album yet.  It fact, this pretty much scratched the itch that the yesr's actual Sigur Ros album mostly failed to scratch.

1. My Bloody Valentine - m b v
I worked my way through the release day internet foibles, and hit the play button with some trepidation to have my first listen to the sounds of the Valentines 22 year hiatus.  It really blew my mind, though, once I realized that I dug this new slab of vinyl from the gods of shoegaze even more than their 1991 classic, "Loveless."

As usual, I'd be honored for you to dig into my compilation of the 2013's best.  Also as usual, I tossed on a few of my own tracks.  I recorded a bunch of Beatles and Beach Boys cover tunes to trick my four-year-old daughter into listening to something I recorded, thus the Glaze of Cathexis track is my recording of the Beatles "Revolution."  She thought a mouse was singing with me on the high parts.  I know I haven't aired out any of my electronic project, Damaged Tape, recently, but I'm still working on new music for that here and there, and I've included one of the tunes that will eventually show up on the next album.

Track list:
1. Glasser - Design
2. Boards of Canada - Slow Earth
3. Jacco Gardner - Where Will You Go
4. Thundercat - Heartbeats + Setbacks
5. Glaze of Cathexis - Revolution
6. Cut Copy - Footsteps
7. Chelsea Light Moving - Sleeping Where I Fall
8. Julianna Barwick - Crystal Lake
9. Tideland - Carved in Mine
10. The Field - Cupid's Head
11. My Bloody Valentine - wonder 2
12. Damaged Tape - Incredyble Tryp