Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Spectrum - Songs for Owsley

Year: 1996
Genre: Psychedelic

On this excellent EP, equally inspired by 1960's LSD chemist Owsley Stanley and 16th century philosopher/writer Francis Bacon, Spectrum shift away from guitars to focus entirely on making music with vintage keyboards and synthesizers. The odd music they create feels like it occupies two places in time simultaneously. The music could easily be Francis Bacon experimenting with some arcane device in a 1598 laboratory, or a bizarro psychedelic theremin jam in a Hell's Kitchen basement circa 1969. Being created in 1996 the music is neither of these things but the musicianship here is so imaginative and committed to the premise that it feels like anything but mid-90's neo-psychedelica.

There is a great experimental novel by Steven Beard called Digital Leatherette in which an alchemist uses this weird mystic energy tube to view and communicate with different times and places. This album feels like the background music for an imagined night when Owsley and Bacon accidentally tap into that energy tube and communicate back and forth arguing about the nature of the universe.

1. Owsley - Sonic Boom's vocals on this track sound like the demon offspring of a Crash-like fuck session between Jhon Balance and Genesis P-Orridge after the musical head-on collision of Coil and Throbbing Gristle.

2. Liquid Intentions - An instrumental track that sounds like it should be the score for an episode of Doctor Who directed by Stanley Kubrick.

3. Feels Like I'm Slipping Away - This track is the most traditional song on the EP and the closest to Sonic Boom's usual territory. Essentially a drug haze narrative of consciousness slipping away once and for all. Getting so far out you can never come back in. The music these whispered vocals are set too is amazing. It feels like the band are trying to recreate what they imagine slow-motion LSD crash-pads in the 60's were like. The beautiful part is that what they imagine (utilizing modern production techniques) sounds so much cooler than the real thing ever could.

4. Sine Study #1 - Okay with liner notes that are taken directly from the instruction manual of their vintage Synthi Hi Fli 256 Sequencer you have to expect a track like this. It is a six and a half minute tone poem, Spectrum putting their instrument through its paces, and it isn't very interesting in a dramatic musical sense. That said this one would be a nice song to play when you are sweating out a fifth of whiskey in a claustrophobic apartment staring at circuit boards under black lights.

5. The New Atlantis - Vocoder readings of Francis Bacon's writings on imagined Atlantean technology set to synth freak-outs. Ever time I hear this track I think to myself, ' It doesn't get any better than this!'

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