It’s been 15 years since the last new Brainticket album – Alchemic Universe, released in 2000. Fast forward to 2011 and Brainticket founder and ship commander Joel Vandroogenbroeck teamed up with members of Farflung and Pressurehed, plus Abby Travis on vocals to join the Cleopatra Records sponsored Space Rock Invasion tour that brought Brainticket, Nektar and a solo acoustic Huw Lloyd-Langton to the U.S. I caught the tour in Cleveland I am not exaggerating when I say that Joel and company put on one of the best live performances I have ever seen (CLICK HERE for some YouTube videos). I also had the opportunity to interview Joel, who indicated that he was hoping all the activity and visibility would result in an album of new material.
It took almost four years but it’s finally arrived. Vandroogenbroeck isn’t joined by the musicians who accompanied him on tour in 2011, but instead we have the excellent Hedersleben, the same band who backed Nik Turner on this past year’s U.S. tour: Nicky Garratt on guitar, Bryce Shelton on bass, Jason Willer on drums, Kyrsten Bean on guitar and vocals, and Kephera Moon on keyboards and vocals. Maybe this is Cleopatra Records new Space Rock house band? And of course we have Joel on organ, piano, synthesizers, sitar and flute.
Past, Present & Future includes 9 tracks and clocks in at 75 minutes of music. The album opens with the two part, 30 minute Dancing On A Volcano. The band lay down a funky rocking groove over which either Bean or Moon take on the Carole Muriel role reciting otherworldly spoken word narratives, which alternate with spaced out Prog-Kosmiche keys and bubbling synth effects. Near the end of part one we descend into a darkly contemplative passage with classic Prog and spacey keys, a beautiful flowing flute solo and trippy guitar. It’s like a combination of early 70s Brainticket, Meddle era Pink Floyd and even a wee bit of Genesis. Part two starts off with freeform jamming and sound exploration before launching into a reprise of the Funk-Rock that opened the set. But this time we’re in more overtly Prog infused Space Rock territory, with head boppin’ and hip shakin’ grooves that leave plenty of room for jamming exploration by the individual musicians. About halfway through we transition to a dreamily introspective theme, with flowing soundscape waves, heavenly keys, lulling atmospherics, and an Ambient-Jazz vibe. And when the flute takes the melodic lead it feels like the deep space Jazz soundtrack to some 60s film. Absolutely fantastic. If these 30 minutes were the entire album I’d be satisfied. But there’s more…
Joel’s magic sitar leads the way on the Psychedelic Space-Raga rocking Reality of Dreams. Proto Alchemy is a majestically plodding Space-Prog instrumental with a cool combination of doomy bassline and Jazz jamming keys. Riding the Comet starts off like the perfect theme song to an old sci-fi TV show, before morphing into a good time swinging slab of cosmic dancefloor fun. East Moon consists of grandiose, concert piano led symphonic rock. Singularity alternates between high intensity Space-Prog with alien efx’d spoken word and hypnotically dreamy melodic segments. Egyptian Gods Of The Night Sky has a Book of the Dead type narrative theme, with music that is both Psychedelically dreamy and hauntingly dissonant, making for an alluring blend of Kosmiche and Avant-Prog. Finally, Brainticket Blues is precisely that… sultry Blues with a jazzy cosmic edge.
In summary, Brainticket 2015 mines territory that will be familiar to fans of the 70s albums, but have not contented themselves with a mere retro experience. Vandroogenbroeck has collaborated with an ace ensemble of musicians to create music that draws on the past but is heavily informed by many of years of experience since. I think its damn good.
For more information visit the Cleopatra Records web site at: http://cleorecs.com
The CD is also available from Amazon.com
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz