Mooch ship commander Steve Palmer created Blue Lily Commission years ago as a vehicle for his more ethnic oriented interests. His latest album, Undrugged, is different from its predecessors, though veteran Palmer fans will be well accustomed to Steve defying any expectations. Undrugged was created with all acoustic instruments… over 100 of them… and just for fun I’ve included the list below.
Percussion, flutes and strings dominate, and there is a lot of experimentalism in the form of percussion and ethnic stringed instruments cranking out steady clatter jams to the tune of inspirational flutes. At times the music has an orchestral feel, like we’re attending an ethnic flavored Psychedelic theater performance with an avant-garde twist. A good example is Inside The Temple, which features lightly rattling percussion, tense soundscapes, spectral vocalizations, and dreamy horns and drums.
There are spacey excursions as well, like Melancholy, which uses I don’t know what from the list of instruments to create synth-like soundscapes while cosmic flute wails and a Spanish flavored guitar lightly plays. And Afrotubes, with its clattery and somewhat toy instrument sounding yet steadily rhythmic percussion, and noisy yet pleasantly hypnotic kazoo like melody, distant zen flute, and dreamy atmospherics. I like the rushing cosmic wind and horn instrument tension of Gyptian. We’ve also got meditative drone pieces, with lightly strumming strings, flutes, chanting vocals, and rumbling atmospherics. Steve Dinsdale from Radio Massacre International guests on a couple tracks, as does the voice of Karen Anderson, which is especially lovely on Tubular.
Some of the music reminds me of the soundtrack to the 2013 Jim Jarmusch movie Only Lovers Left Alive, which had some of the most mesmerizing and strikingly different Eastern flavored Psychedelic music I’ve heard. But I’m also at times reminded of the The Residents, an analogy I never dreamed I’d ever employ with Steve Palmer music. Charango could, and NOT because of its length, be one of the off-the-wall ditties from The Residents’ Commercial Album set of 60 second tunes. But mostly it’s the ethereal tribalism of The Residents’ Eskimo album that comes to mind at times.
My favorite track of the set is the album opener, the 13 minute Indogroove. Strumming acoustic and shimmering acoustic slide guitar ride the crest of a flowing drone wave. The guitars jam away like we’re sitting around the Burning Man campfire as the drone continues its slow crawl. Soon a pair of flutes join in with enchanting leads, and when the Blues guitar switches to playing lead a harmonica joins in. The music, like so much of this album, has a minimal quality, but there are lots of pleasant melodies and an overall sense of free-wheeling tribalism and atmospheric drift throughout.
In summary, this is one of Steve Palmer’s more experimental works, but don’t let the ‘E’ word frighten you. It’s a challenging yet accessible set, and the kind of music that rewards multiple attentive listens.
For more information visit the Music Zeit web site at: http://www.musiczeit.com
CLICK HERE to go directly to the Undrugged album
If interested, Steve Palmer will make you a hand-made, hand-printed CDR with recycled card cover. Email him directly at email@example.com
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz