Monday, July 2, 2012

I'd Love to Turn You On #60 - Ozric Tentacles - Strangeitude

Following in the footsteps of bands like Hawkwind, Gong and Pink Floyd, Ozric Tentacles fuse classic prog jamming with modern technology and some dancier beats hitting upon a golden formula for mind transportation. Formed in the early 80’s around the festival scene in England, this classic lineup of the band (which has changed countless times in the ensuing years, founder, guitarist, songwriter Ed Wynn being the only constant) produced one of their most satisfying albums in 1993 with Strangeitude. Ozric Tentacles’ basic formula has always been long instrumental pieces that could be loosely categorized as “space-rock,” allowing for lots of guitar solos, weird keyboard effects and a complex tapestry of world-music influences that keep their songs endlessly interesting.
Right about the time of Strangeitude, Ozric Tentacles played their first Colorado show in Boulder. The only reason I knew about them was that I owned a record store. They were a strictly underground phenomenon known almost exclusively in England. But here they were, setting up a mountain of audio-visual equipment at the Fox Theatre. Before the show when I heard a loud scream from the back of the hall. It was more a bellow or roar than a scream, and it didn’t indicate distress but joy. Suddenly a group of about five hairy, fragrant, suspiciously ebullient young men ran towards the stage growling like bears, and the band jumped from the stage and they all embraced and roared and exchanged tales of the road. A-ha, they have a serious following. These guys, it turns out followed them from the last gig they played, and were now “on the bus” as it were. My anticipation started to grow, as I realized this band was really serious about both putting on an amazing stage show, and about living in some kind of idealized hippie dream state. My kinda band! What I saw that night literally blew me away. In front of a very small crowd they launched into a two and a half hour marathon of cosmic instrumental rock that pulsed and throbbed to a hypnotic, frenzied light show. It was far edgier than what might be considered jam band music. This was not that. This had roots that went from early 70’s synthesizer based music all the way to the latest dance beats coming from the nascent house scene. It is telling, in fact, that many of the early members went off to form various dance bands, most notably Eat Static.
That show was a high water mark for me personally. I was so jazzed up I made sure we carried a large selection of Ozric Tentacles and do to this day. Their music hit on so many areas I was interested in; rock, improvised jazz, reggae and wrapped them up in such an appealing package of clever writing, brilliant studio chops and superb musicianship. The bow on the package was their over-the-top live show. Throughout the years I have enjoyed many of their albums and concerts, even as their personnel and stage show evolved. I always liked it all, but I hold a special place in my heart for Strangitude. It is their tightest album because they recorded it in someone else’s studio and were under time constraints, and it shows in positive ways. Each number boasts a crisp performance, and the details - the percussion, many layers of keyboard and weird sound effects - are all neatly placed in a wide stereo mix. The new two-disc version of the album available now has a great sounding re-master of the original album and a second disc of wonderful live performances of much of the album material. A great deal!
As I was doing some online research about the band for this piece I learned that not only had they moved to Colorado a few years ago, but that their home/headquarters/studio/archive/warehouse had all recently burned to the ground in the High Park Fire. This was a weird synchronicity indeed. I hadn’t thought of them in a while, and had gotten reinvigorated about their music while listening to Strangeitude repeatedly in the last few weeks, and then to have it all brought home in such a weird and tragic way…well, buy this CD - you won’t regret it.
- Paul Epstein

1 comment:

Billy pilgrim said...

AGAIN, I want to thank you for the many types and styles of music and literature you brought to my attention ........
Keep up the good work Ep....

Sincerely ,
Billy pilgrim

P.S. National Ep day may 30th.... :)