Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Comic Wow’s New Album is Pure Psychedelic Genius

A couple of weeks ago we invented a drink. We call it Drano. It’s very simple, Tropical Fantasy Blue Raspberry soda and vodka (hey, when there’s torrential rain outside, sometimes you have to make do with what you have in the fridge). It’s the perfect drink, both visually and tastewise, for the new Comic Wow album Music for Mysteries of Mind Space and Time. Playful, tongue-in-cheek, sometimes silly, often ridiculously psychedelic, it’s 1960s-flavored, cinematic rock instrumentals in the same vein as the Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack or XTC’s Dukes of Stratosphear project. And it’s pure genuius: it could be a stoner soundtrack to a long-lost low-budget 1968 Cypriot detective film. With an absurd collection of every rock effect from the era – wah-wah, reverb, echo, melodies sputttering up dubwise into the mix only to retreat seconds later, or panning across the speakers and then back – it works equally well as satire and homage to psychedelic excess, especially because the tunes are so catchy. With a museum’s worth of vintage keyboard patches, banjo (?!), guitar, bass and drums, it has the same kind of WTF, out-of-the-box creative quality as the Peruvian chicha music from the 70s we love so much.

The first track is typical: a distantly Pink Floyd-style melody but with honkytonk instrumentation that telegraphs the ornate art-rock majesty that will appear soon. The second track is also basically a country melody, starting out with banjo and then morphing into an oscillating electro keyb song and again. The unselfconsciously amusing, swinging Jazz Computer assembles an impossible series of electric piano layers, blippy, bouncy and reverberating – and is that an Omnichord? Another track sets woozily oscillating Dr. Dre synth over Penny Lane piano – it’s ridiculously catchy and ought to go on longer than it does.

The next one takes what you can do with a clavinova to its logical extreme and then suddenly morphs into a trippy late 90s style interlude – with a vocoder. After that, a spy theme emerges gradually from a clubby techno vamp with fake horns and Spike Jones effects, switches to a brief, off-kilter Beefheart guitar-and-drums interlude followed by an Alan Parsons Project sequencer-and-synth segment. A march titled Encore Electronics Flute Fax starts out just plain hilarious and then gets ominous and dramatic, then goes for even more laughs with a flute-driven early 70s style chase scene. Chimp on a Pew reaches for trippy menace a la the Electric Prunes, a feel they take to the next level on Minor Hexagons. The longest number is Water Music Treadmill, a one-chord jam that mines dark, thumping, hypnotic Black Angels ambience. The album closes with Meet the Vampeatles which is just plain sick, a tv theme as written by Jeff Lynne and done by the Bonzo Dog Band, maybe. It’s out now on Asthmatic Kitty.

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November 1, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: 900X – Music For Lubbock, 1980

If you can get past the absurdity that laid-back, dub-inspired synthesizer instrumentals might have the faintest relevance to Lubbock, Texas, whether in 1980, before or afterward, this album of playful chillout soundscapes might make you smile. The obvious question is why the party/parties responsible for these nebulous, sometimes western-themed tunes didn’t pull a band together to play them. They’d sound good with tremolo guitar, accordion, and pedal steel maybe, and of course a real rhythm section. But you know how much more it costs to record a real band, especially with the drums. And obviously that’s not the point of all this –  its quirkiness would be lost along with the occasional LOL little tweak that hits you just to see if you’re paying attention. At first listen, this could be some trendoid thinking that a bunch of loops and basic programmed beats could be a substitute for the real thing – Friends of Dean Martinez it’s not – but a closer listen reveals it as more likely the result of several wee-hours bedroom sessions with a little herb, a laptop and a sense of melody matched by a sense of humor. Obviously, this was made for an indie audience, i.e.  the Black Moth Super Rainbow crowd, but could also extend to a more diverse, less rigid listener base.

A couple of tracks set blippy little Casio tunes over moody, swooping organ. A couple others introduce a dub feel, one with an actually effective, trippy electronic drum breakdown, the other, the aptly titled Sunscape doing it with an echoey electric piano loop. The cinematic Everything Feels Temporary works its way up from blue-sky southwest to a soul vamp with oh-oh vocals, funky guitar and bass patches. The next track layers an amusingly awful, cheesy 80s fake brass sound over atmospheric string synth. The closest thing to rock here is the utterly psychedelic 101805 with its various layers peeking around the corners of the mix. Pass out to this with your headphones on. It’s out now on Asthmatic Kitty.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment