Archive for March 6, 2012

Mawwal – “Sight Up” (Ancient Records 2011)

Mawwal is Jim Matus, formerly “Paranoise” and Sight Up is the third Mawwal album of progressive world fusion. Jim Matus (I wonder if he’s related to Don Juan Matus?) has worked in the studio with Don Cherry and Steve Marcus and performed live with world class musicians Anthony Jackson, Percy Jones, Al Anderson, Gary Windo, and Hugh Hopper.

On to the review. BLOOM FOREST: hippie festival music done tastefully. The male vocals are done by Jim Matus and the female vocals by Jill O’Brien and Laila Salins… “much of the subject matter…was inspired by dreams”. JAJOUKA BETWEEN THE MOUNTAINS: a Jethro Tull vibe on the intro of this, then becomes something more African, Peter Gabriel…the Stephen Haynes trumpet solo. FUN DUU/VOODOO CHILE: more Tull vibeness. I love 60’s and psychedelic music but the bands I’ve been involved with have run in a completely parallel universe to bands like Mawwal, who are psychedelic without any of the post 1977 influences of alternate rock, punk, experimental etc. I always find that a little limiting but I know a lot of Aural Innovations people don’t feel that way. Nice respectful take on Jimi’s Voodoo Chile. SIGHT UP/VETETTEM VIOLAT: “Man is but a god, sight up, All in heaven be blind, ears to the ground” by Jim Matus. I don’t know what that means, I guess it doesn’t have to mean anything, but it sounds cool. Laila Salins vocals, violin by Rohan Gregory…nice groove, very Middle Eastern. My wife loves this album, very conducive to multiple listens…original and well done in every aspect. I MUTE THE BURNING RIVER: djembe intro by Tony Vacca. I’d love to see these guys live to see if they can get this rich and full of a sound!?!? Wish there a lyric sheet. Very dense and lovely…not a boring second. HAPPY ON YOUR FEET GO: some very inspired flute by Jay Gandhi and the two female vocals that complement one another perfectly. EARLY IN THE MORNING: more of the same, like 1974 with much better equipment and production etc…conjures up The Incredible String Band. RAG YAMEN: tabla and guitar…bass then flute…my punk rock friends would prolly sneer at this album but they sneer at my band too so F’em…hippie doesn’t have to mean retro or silly…it can also mean frightening, intense and real. Cool cover photo of the Eagle Nebula.

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Reviewed by Carlton Crutcher

Zone Six – “Live At Sulatron Records Label Night, Fulda, 2011″ (Sulatron Records 2011, STCDR16)

Zone Six was founded in 1997 by German multi-instrumentalist Sula Bassana (aka Dave Schmidt), surely a long-serving veteran of the psychic wars (having a spacerock career dating back to the mid-1980’s), and one of the busiest men in rock, with concurrent involvement in at least two other bands (Electric Moon and Weltraumstaunen), and curator of Sulatron records. The band’s original statement of intent was to play an improvised mix of psychedelic/space, trance and krautrock, something which they have held true to, despite the passage of 14 years and an almost complete change of line-up in that time (Schmidt being the sole survivor from the early days). Indeed, few of the members listed in their current Progarchives bio are still in the band. Nonetheless, they have delivered a stunning slice of instrumental spacerock which surely holds to their original vision.

The Zone Six line-up put together for what must have been a very memorable gig at the 2011 Sulatron Records Label Night employs the slightly unusual concept of having two basses, handled by Komet Lulu and Paul_Pott, respective members of Electric Moon and Vibravoid. Rainer Neef plays ripping psychedelic guitar throughout the album and Modulfix provides synth-noises, while Dave Schmidt opts for the drummer’s stool this time around. Just three long tracks are featured on the resultant live recording, which stretches to seventy minutes in length. Stoned Washed begins its 21 minute journey with menacing drones, which are gradually built up using the two basses (one distorted, the other clean) and effects-heavy guitar. The closest musical touchstones are perhaps a less-chaotic Acid Mothers Temple or heavier Spacious Mind. The even-longer Timmee (almost 34 minutes in length) goes through a number of phases according to the chemistry between the musicians, getting really wild around the twelve minute mark, and collapsing in on itself about five minutes later before re-entering the fray for another glorious freakout. The emphasis throughout is on guitars and bass, although the distorted sounds are so entwined that it can be disorienting trying to single out which instrument is playing what. At 22 minutes, the bass/basses start grinding out what could be the middle riff of Hawkwind’s Time We Left jam, with Neef’s guitar lines echoing those of Dave Brock circa 1973. Set-closer Isotoxick is comparatively short at “only” 14 minutes, and is probably the most restrained, with Schmidt focusing more on cymbal crashes than pounding beats, although the basses retain their heaviness throughout. All in all, a great come-down track at the end of a really intense album.

With fantastic cover-art taking its themes from classic ’60’s psychedelia (via Vibravoid), this live album is a limited edition of only 100 copies, so it will not be around for long. Fans of guitar-heavy improvised spacerock need to check it out quickly before it becomes lost in space.

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Reviewed by Pat Albertson

Guilty As Sin – “Psychotronic” (G.A.S Productions 2011)

One could hardly imagine thrash-metal trio Guilty As Sin pandering to their audience or sticking to one genre. Who would have thought there would be a place for King Crimson-style Frippery and ambient keyboards on a thrash-metal album, or trumpets and eastern sounds lined up alongside hardcore punk?! Psychtronic, the U.S. band’s fourth album since coming together in 2008, contains material that is likely to alternately thrill and alienate almost any listener, regardless of their musical taste. The band consists of Zak Ovoian on drums and “vocals” (not even the most generous could refer to him as “singer”!), guitarist Dan McAdam and bassist Ryan Dilberian. Other credited contributers include a brass player, belly dancer and cigar supplier! Not your usual thrash/punk line-up, that’s for sure.

Psychotronic opens with one of those ambient synth passages so beloved of spacerock bands, and it’s given the self-explanatory title of Start Transmission. So far, so good one would think, until the following four tracks rip out of nowhere in the space of about one minute apiece (Into Dust, the shortest, is a scant 45 seconds in duration). They sound near-identical, although Destroyed Reptoid 1.0 does feature momentarily melodic guitar lines in between the “verses”, and will be either musical heaven or hell, depending on the listener’s liking of GBH-style hardcore punk or Anthrax-thrash. Those more in the market for psychedelic spacerock are best advised to skip ahead to the sixth track – Addicted To Cyanide – which, at seven minutes, is as long as all the preceding tracks combined. The change in style is almost absolute as the band morph into King Crimson/Toolesque math rock, with a hint of Rush at their proggiest. Godekli Tede makes use of Middle-Eastern scales (perhaps necessitating the employment of the belly dancer listed on the CD cover), albeit put together in metal fashion, before substituting guitars for a muted trumpet and hand drums, in an extended coda that manages to be both ambient and pounding. This is followed by the frantic high-speed instrumental When Machines Eat Flesh, calling to mind the progressive metal of Dream Theater and Arjen Lucassen. Album closer and title track Psychotronic lingers for twelve minutes (a third of the total album length) and consists of a spacey guitar jam referencing Hendrix’s Third Stone from the Sun and showing that these guys really can play when they have a mind to. This is overlaid with the sound of a 45rpm Dalek played at 33, before winding down into a bizarre three minute electronic outro unlike anything that precedes it, eventually fading out into nothing.

Psychotronic is a game of (at least) two halves, and is therefore extremely unlikely to please anyone in its entirety. Thrash metallers will love the first few tracks, everyone else will almost certainly run a mile. Those who enjoy mixing up prog-metal and mathrock will prefer the later tracks. Unfortunately, there is not enough material of either kind in the album’s 36 minutes to encourage most listeners to want to seek it out.

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Reviewed by Pat Albertson