Unlimbo... & more

by Jerry Kranitz

Uploaded to Aural Innovations: December 2003

Based in Wales, Unlimbo play a spaced out brand of psychedelia in the vein of Ozric Tentacles and other UK festie bands, but also including healthy doses of tripped out Reggae, Dub, and... ROCK!!! Formed in 1995, Unlimbo grew out of an earlier band called Beneficial Gene. The lineup has been fluid to say the least, starting with 7 members, dropping to 4, up to 6, further up to 8... and so on. But the "core four", as David Unlimbo describes them, are Prof Dave Pankhurst on drums, Chris 'Higher-Synth' Muggeridge on synths, 'Groove-Guru' Lyndon Izzard on Bass and David Unlimbo on guitar and synths/samplers. The band have released four CD's to date: Nine Lives, a live album from 1997, Prahna Fish from 1998 (see AI #10), See What You Think from 2000 (see AI #18) and Unlimbits from 2002, plus some singles and contributions to compilations.

Unlimbits (Polygraph Music 2002, POLY004) is the latest to find its way to the Aural Innovations offices, and is a tasty collection of tracks taken from jams, live shows and outtakes that David Unlimbo put together in the period after See What You Think was released. The CD has 16 tracks, though many of them are short transitional bits. The opening track, "Undersun", is the longest and one of the best. It's a very cool driving cosmic space rocker with beautiful grooving rhythms, pulsating psychedelia and Unlimbo's indelible stamp. Kind of like the Ozrics with vocals. "Nurlled" is a whimsical carnival-like tune. "FlyFishLive" is another highlight track, consisting of potent power space rock with body-in-motion rockin Reggae rhythms and a killer psych rockin groove. "ThanksGnite" is a dancey Eastern influenced space groove tune that I enjoyed. And dig that psych-O-delic DUB on "Bub-a-Dub". "Pat Chats" is a totally cosmic piece with mind-bending space-proggy atmospherics and sci-fi narration. The song segues smoothly into "Old Glass End", an excellent space-Reggae instrumental. Really beautiful stuff. "Satchsquash" is one of the heavier rockin tunes of the set, and sadly way too short. And "Airbreak" is a throbbing slab of spaced out liquid psychedelia. HYPNOTIC!!!

Celestial Mechanic (Polygraph Music 2002, POLY007) is a solo release from Unlimbo/Beneficial Gene guitarist David Unlimbo recorded during periods of Unlimbo downtime. The music incorporates many of the same styles and influences that Unlimbo does, though Celestial Mechanic makes heavier use of keyboards. The album opens with "Dreamery", which consists of funky guitar and rhythms backed by swirling Ozrics styled synths. A real psychedelic dance party in space tune. "Empsta" begins with a nice combination of freaky Ozrics space synths and lulling atmospherics. But it quickly launches into a pounding rave-in-space groove, with various voice samples and orchestral bits adding color and intensity to the mix, along with ultra cosmic synth work. "Fear For Reason" is a similar track that I enjoyed. And I like the cool jazz grooves on "Pahgoska".

"Halogem X" features some wild and fun combinations, with DJ bits, dance grooves, ripping guitar and bubbling electronics. More of the album's heavier guitar sounds are to be heard on "Abracadubra". "Ambana" is a groove laden space rocker with an Eastern vibe. And the Eastern influences go into orbit on "Galkoshan". Just dig those Indian stylings over the heart pounding Dub beats. Ditto for "Lickety-Split", which incorporates Indian sounds into a Reggae and atmospheric stew. And "Orbit" is a gorgeous 10 minute journey into the cosmos, with lush proggy keyboards, spaced out synths, alien dance beats, robotic melodies and fun voice samples. Caution: Your mind WILL leave your body!! I'll give this a highest recommendation to fans of Ozric Tentacles, space grooving dance vibes, all manner of festie psychedelia, and of course Unlimbo. Definitely one for the headphones. And David reports that he's currently mixing tracks for his second solo album.

Before Unlimbo formed in 1995 there was Beneficial Gene, a band that was more purely rock oriented, but whose music included a tantalizing mixture of hard rock, progressive rock, space rock, psychedelia and a pop style that sometimes reminds me of early U2. The band consisted of Kev McKenna on synths & vox), Dave Pankhurst on drums, Dan Selmon on bass and David Unlimbo on guitar. Other than some homemade cassettes sold at gigs, Beneficial Gene never released any albums during their 1987-1993 heyday (though an enthusiastic manager almost had 2000 12" singles printed just before the band broke up), but in the past year Polygraph Records has released the Cosmic Debris collection of songs, plus two volumes of Live & Sessions material.

Among the highlights on Cosmic Debris (Polygraph Music 2002, POLY014) is "Several Natives", on which we hear strong elements of what would become Unlimbo, but with a 70's prog-pop sound and feel. "You're Not Yourself", "Flow", "Acceptance" and "Riot City" are all accessible prog-pop tunes, but the songs are excellent, consisting of tasty crashing guitar chords and licks and killer catchy melodies. "Wendy" is the hit single qualifier of the album, but don't let that scare you because it's a damn fine song. "Love Will Follow" and "No Bearance" are blazing punky heavy pop-metal songs that I liked, and "Dead Fire" is similar but without the thrashing punk elements. "Flying Fish" is another metallic rocker, but this one includes head boppin funked up raga rock vocals that bring Dr Brown and other festie types to mind. And "Spirit Of Opening" is an ass kickin metallic prog rocker.

"Earth Rod" is a true standout track and showcases visions of space rock to come. The song opens with cosmic synths and alien voice samples, before launching into a trademark Beneficial Gene rockin guitar and keyboard melody. The song rocks hard, but has plenty of proggy spaced out sections. The band further explore the cosmos on the hard rocking Eastern tinged psychedelic "Release". "The Bloody Mountains" is another one of my favorites with a spaced out progressive rock Celtic groove. "End Of The River" is probably the trippiest track of the set, with dreamy piano melodies, ripping space guitar, various atmospherics, space synths, and didjeridoo.

The Live & Sessions CD's (Polygraph Music 2002, POLY015 & 016) are excellent too and show what a solid unit Beneficial Gene was in live performance. The band really take off on live versions of "The Bloody Mountain", "Earth Rod", "Flying Fish" (I dig that extra keyboard pulse on Vol II), "Several Natives" and "Release" (the version on Vol II has extra freaky synths). The live "Spirit Of Opening" on Vol I shines way beyond the demo version on Cosmic Debris, rockin hard but also taking off into raga psych territory. And "End Of The River", particularly on Vol I, is absolutely stunning, starting out gorgeously atmospheric and then building up to a blazing rockin frenzy, and features some of the wildest didgeridoo playing I've ever heard. There are also a number of songs that aren't on Cosmic Debris, highlights being the rousing rockers, "Gathered" and "My Oil" from Vol I. We're also treated to a few jam sessions that give us glimpse into what sounds like Beneficial Gene songs in the making.

The word from David is that Unlimbo are writing together again, so hopefully a follow up to See What You Think will see the light of day in the not so distant future. And in addition to the upcoming second David Unlimbo solo album, There will be a further two releases on the Polygraph label this winter. First comes from extracts from a six-hour DAT session with only three players: Lyndon, the reliable Groove-Guru on Bass, Ian, brilliant drummer from Lyndons other band, Luna-C and David Unlimbo on mostly guitar and a bit of synth. David reports that the grooves are superb and the atmosphere oozes on this 'best of edits' from an almost continuous session. The second release is some heavy duty tunes from Dead Marines, a band that, given David's description, will be a bit on the heavy side. I can't wait to hear it!

For more information you can visit the Unlimbo web site at: http://members.sniffout.net/unlimbo.
Note that this web site is a bit out of date but you can always reach David Unlimbo by email at: me@unlimbo.co.uk.

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