Melodic Energy Commission are a Vancouver, Canada based band who released their first two albums in 1979 and 1980, with ex-Hawkwind synth/electronics maestro Del Dettmar in the lineup. These albums were both reissued on one CD in 1997. For detailed information on the band’s background I would encourage you to CLICK HERE to read the 1999 interview I did with founding member Don Xaliman. Fast forward to 2004 and the band released a third album – Time Is A Slippery Concept. And 2013 brings a new Melodic Energy Commission album – Wave Packet. Still with the band, or at least making appearances, are Don Xaliman, George McDonald, Paul Franklin, and Randy Raine-Reusch. And rounding out the lineup are numerous guests, including Bridget Wishart and her magical EWI.
After several listens I have to say this must be the most spaced out combination of Jazz and World Music I’ve ever heard. Melodic Energy Commission bring together Jazz, and ethnic elements, from Eastern to African, often in the same track, and there’s a prominent alien presence throughout. The opening track, Ambiguity, sets the tone for the album with its bass, drums and varied ethnic percussion keeping a cool groove moving, as jazz trumpet take the melodic lead, all surrounded by spacious soundscapes, drones and other effects to create a spacey, ambient Jazz-World Music vibe. Crop Circle Crafters consists of intense, soaring melodic violin, searing acidic yet ambient guitar, didge-like drones, and space synths, all propelled by ethnic percussion and rock drumming. At almost 9 minutes, Trees On Water is the longest track of the set and exemplifies the Ambient Jazz-World Music flavor of the album. We’ve got beautiful dulcimer and flute leads, an Indian sitar-ish feel, and bass lines that have that fretless feel that can be felt deeply and intensely in the chest and cranium. And all this occurs surrounded by a peaceful space-ambient drift. I love the way all manner of percussion on this album is elusively in control of both the rhythm and entire mood of the pieces. Other highlights among the 10 tracks is Attached By Gravity, which is playfully intense with a combination of Eastern influences, off-kilter Jazz, acidic guitar, and a cavernous deep space atmosphere. Tidal Nomads blends symphonic space with playful Folk-Pub rocking acoustic guitar. And Molecular Reorganizer is an electronic space excursion that meanders, soars, howls and drones, accompanied by call-to-prayer flutes and the sense that some kind of chamber ensemble in space is warming up.
For this listener, the magic of Wave Packet is the breadth of contrasting elements that come together so seamlessly to create a difficult to describe marriage of the Space-Ambient, Jazz, World Music and Psychedelic realms. Unlike past Melodic Energy Commission albums, Wave Packet is all instrumental (except for some brief chants), so the focus is completely on the music. And it’s beautifully recorded so be sure and listen with headphones.
For more information visit the Melodic Energy Commission web site at: http://melodicenergy.com
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz