Alien Planetscapes alumnus and band archivist Richard Orlando has reissued two new sets featuring a sextet lineup of the band from 1990-91, plus his own solo album of new recordings.
Alien Planetscapes – “Radio Special Volume III” (Galactus 2015, CDR)
Alien Planetscapes – “Space Rock Boogaloo” (Galactus 2015, CDR)
Both CDs consist of three lengthy jams, all in the 20+ minute range. The lineup on both is Len Pace on drums, L.G. Mair on bass, John Cordes on electric violin, electric mandolin, synthesizer and effects, John Potenza on guitars, synthesizers and effects, Louis Boone on synthesizers and effects, and the late Doug “Dr Synth” Walker on synthesizers, sequencers, keyboards, digital horn, electronic reeds and flutes, and effects.
I love this “big band” era of Alien Planetscapes in which the musicians improvise at the intersection of Space Rock, Free-Jazz and Prog. There’s a lot going on here… We’ve got high intensity spaced out Psychedelic Jazz-Rock. Funky rolling grooves over which the musicians explore are common. The electric violin rips off screeching banshee licks, creating a Mahavishnu Orchestra in space aesthetic. The keyboard solos inject a fuzzed out Soft Machine vibe, but also a high pitched sci-fi morphed with 60s Psychedelic sound. And the electronics flitter, bubble and soar.
Doug Walker was a Jazz musician who was equally influenced by Space/Kraut bands like Hawkwind, Gong, Amon Düül II and Tangerine Dream and Prog bands with a Jazz aesthetic like King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator and Soft Machine. These influences converged with Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor and electric Miles Davis in a distinctly Alien Planetscapes way on the recordings of this era. The improvisations are completely freeform and exploratory, yet there’s a clear sense of goal oriented control, like a more Jazz disciplined version of Yeti-era Amon Düül II meets Soft Machine with a dose of cosmic Funk and Soul. This is music that has the free-wheeling feel of Jazz-Rock improvisation and the schooled structure of composition.
Throughout the band’s history the Alien Planetscapes roster included a stunning number of musicians. Doug always struggled to find musicians who were both like-minded and accomplished. In a 1998 interview he told me that since 1989 only about a dozen auditioned musicians out of 261 had really worked well within the band. Both these CDs feature a lineup that really gelled and produced some outstanding Free-Jazz inspired Space Rock where multiple diverse influences are synthesized to create a uniquely Alien Planetscapes sound. Doug Walker really is one of Rock history’s criminally under-recognized and under-appreciated visionaries.
In short, if your tastes extend from Space Ritual to The Inner Mounting Flame and In The Court Of The Crimson King, then these recordings are absolutely essential.
Ricardo D’Orlando – “Extensions Through Dimensions” (Galactus 2015, CDR)
The new Ricardo D’Orlando (Richard Orlando) album is his first new solo album in 8 years, which he describes as “an Electronic Experimental Space Rock mashup that will take you on a trip without leaving your sofa. I pointed my Shortwave antenna toward the Stars & the sounds that came back are not of this earth. Apropos really, since the theme here is Ancient Astronauts.”
Extensions Through Dimensions consists of 23 soundscape pieces that Orlando created with synthesizers, shortwave radio, guitar and analog & digital delays. The Ancient Astronauts theme is apparent throughout, as are the sensations associated with solitary space travel and finding oneself on a barren, windswept world. Cosmic droning, pulsating and howling soundscapes combine with subtle sundry sounds and textures and various forms of alien chatter (thanks to the handy shortwave) to create interesting interstellar sound sculptures. Some of the tracks utilize wild and fun sci-fi electronics, some of which get intensely noisy and others sounding like tributes to Louis and Bebe Barron. Among the others are melodic and uplifting reach for the heavens symphonics, meditative ambience, Mellotronic excursions, and spaced out Phantom of the Opera recitals.
Most of the tracks are 1-2 minute snippets though a couple take a little more time and develop beyond the 8 minute mark. Overall it’s a very cool set of deep space and often experimental sound sculptures. If you like this I recommend also checking out Rich’s collaborations with Hal McGee: The Electric Brains (2014) and February Sessions (2013), both available at haltapes.com.
Extensions Through Dimensions and the Alien Planetscapes reissues are available for $6.00 each plus $3.00 each for S&H in the U.S. U.S. buyers who purchase all three get FREE shipping.
Those OUTSIDE THE U.S. should contact Richard for a shipping quote.
Email Richard Orlando at email@example.com to order.
NOTE that all proceeds go to Evan Walker, son of the late Alien Planetscapes founder and ship commander Doug “Dr Synth” Walker.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz