Ozric Tentacles - "Arborescence" (IRS 72438 29486 29, 1994, CD)
The Ozrics are masters of the hypnotic groove, finding that seemingly endless psychedelic guitar and synth riff, a repetitive - nearly trance-like structure, and then exploring all of its possibilities to some sort of conclusion. The writing isn't particularly flashy, certainly not complex, nor does it have many of the traditional progressive traits. But the music, embellished by plenty of synth dweedling and strong rhythm patterns, is nonetheless powerful, and does take the listener somewhere special if the mind is open and the spirit free.This latest disc Arborescence is no different. The focus is only slightly different from previous releases, so anyone who was looking for some grand scale changes can rest assured that there are no major surprises here. The tracks alternate between power-drive ("Myriapod", "Shima Koto", "Astro Cortex"), more spacey tunes ("Dance Of The Loomi", "There's A Planet Here", the title track), and those with a specific ethnic flavor ("Al-Saloog"). Of course that's the same as all the other Ozrics albums before it - which I suppose means the band is in a huge rut, offering only predictability, or perhaps consistency. Either way, they do one thing very well and that's exactly what they've done here. (Originally published in Exposť #4, p.13, Edited for Gnosis 5/8/01)
Some people joke that the Ozric Tentacles wrote one song that continues on through all their albums. They do have a style that is well established and are one of the very best "space rock" bands. Their sound comprises many influences, including the space rock of Gong and Steve Hillage, Kraan, many world music influences, and electronic music. They package this into their sound and create instrumental pieces ranging from heavy fusion to ambient excursions. More casual fans may just need a few of their albums, while others may want to keep exploring as long as they are interested. Throughout the history of lineup changes, the sound revolves around the Hillage-like guitar playing of Ed Wynne, overlaid by various synth effects, a grooving rhythm section, and the occasional flute meanderings of Jumping John, sometimes supplanted by extra percussion.
Their 1st six releases were originally on cassette: Erpsongs, Tantric Obstacles, Live Ethereal Cereal, There is Nothing, Sliding Gliding Worlds, and The Bits Between the Bits. These albums are very diverse, as the Ozrics were exploring various things that they were interested in. These were originally packaged on CD into the box set Vitamin Enhanced, and later sold separately. Selected tunes off these with a couple new pieces were also released as the double CD Afterswish.
The band then released their first regular LPs, Pungent Effulgent and Erpland. These two, particularly Erpland, encompass what the Ozrics are about in a mature and confident manner, with great production. Strangeitude remains my personal favorite, with their most fusion track "White Rhino Tea" and the techno-ish "Sploosh." Live Underslunky is an excellent live album from this era. Their popularity increased with Jurassic Shift, which continued with excellent production and perhaps a more synth-oriented sound. Arborescence followed with some heavier guitar and some really trippy pieces.
After this album longtime members Joie Hinton and Merv Pepler left to
concentrate on their other project, Eat Static. New members Seaweed and Rad
picked right up on Become the Other, which has many varied pieces a
Erpland and remains on my favorite list. Follow-ups Curious
Corn and Waterfall Cities seem to highlight synth and sequences
more, bringing the band to a more modern sound.
Spice Doubt Streaming is an excellent live-in-the studio recording,
showcasing newer tunes and blistering versions of older stuff like
Sploosh. Swirly Termination was released by the bands former
record company, but contains some excellent work. Floating Seeds is
an ambient/techno remix of Ozric tunes by various artists. Some work well,
but others don't. I've heard better examples of this type of music. Their
newest work as of this writing is The Hidden Step.
|Mike McLatchey||20-Jan-2001||Jurassic Shift|
First listen was certainly impressive as it seems like Ozric have returned to what they do best as typified on Erpland. But, this album is TOO much like Erpland to the point that songs like "Vita Voom" are almost direct rehashes of songs like "Tidal Convergence." I can't help but like the album, but it certainly isn't original or groundbreaking to any extent. But, I suppose I'd rather have them redo Erpland than Strangeitude and I'll go ahead and enjoy it anyway.
(Originally published in Exposť #1, p. 7, Edited for Gnosis 1/19/01)
I will limit myself to review one album by this band, as none of their albums hold my interest very well. Basically they sound like a watered down version of mid-70s Gong with some "world music" elements added. Although interesting passages pop up now and then on Erpland, I find their music too lame to be engaging. This band is very overrated in my humble opinion.
Ozric Tentacles - "Arborescence" (IRS 72438 29486 29, 1994, CD)
With Arborescence Ozric Tentacles have their fifth studio effort in as many years. As usual the texturing of the soundscape remains their focus and their foremost strength. Alarmingly unique in their ability to dress up crude and simple compositions with unbelievably rich synth textures and electronic effects/samples, the Ozrics certainly make up for their lack of songwriting with production and atmospherics. But they've been doing that for 10 years now, and for many longtime fans the formula has grown tiresome.
Some feared that the Tentacles would sell out when they signed with IRS but, in fact, the opposite has happened -- they have set new standards in stagnation. Those who have never heard Ozrics before shouldn't let this stand in their way, though. Arborescene is as good a place to start as any, with the trademark Hillage-like guitar, gurgling and whirling synths, tight (but awfully simplistic) bass and drums, wrapped around rave, techno, African, and Middle Eastern influences. Highly recommended for beginners, but not much to get excited about for those who have been following the band for more than 2 albums.
(Originally published in Exposť #4, p. 13, Edited for Gnosis 4/15/01)
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