31 May 2015
Ozric Tentacles "Technicians of the Sacred"
Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz
In listening to UK band Ozric Tentacles for the first time, I am hard pressed to find adequate words to describe their sound. Some might take the easy road and call them post rock, a genre that crosses ambient and electronic music with rock and freeform jazz, but that is only a starting point. "Technicians of the Sacred" is their first double album in 20 years, and its release is in conjunction with a European tour and a shorter tour of the US. Opening track "The High Pass" is a musical kitchen sink, tossing in the creepy caws of a murder of crows with mind-bending psychedelic and prog rock elements. The listener is tossed between planes of existence as the band continuously shifts improvisational gears on this 8 minute epic. I hear Asian musical tendrils meshed with hard metal guitar riffs, and somehow these guys make it work. This album has themes based on Mayan astrology; the album is a characteristic trait of the “tone“ in each member’s “dreamspell” (Mayan astrological symbol). The relatively short and contemplative "Butterfly Garden" is a balm to the senses, and the far distant birdsong as well as the song title allude to a strong tie to the natural elements. Each song morphs effortlessly into the next, and before you blink, "Far Memory" is upon you. You are not even aware of songs shifting, as they carry forward themes between each track. It is like watching the clouds drifting slowly by; you notice their size and shape, but it all merges together into a cohesive whole. The high degree of musicianship here is patently obvious, for one cannot play at this level without superb technical and creative ability. Pulsating, expanding and contracting, all these things happen, sometimes all at once.
On some level, this is also meditative music, for your mind will travel along with the music to far distant worlds and new experiences. There are many sonic shadings and moods evident here, but the most prevalent emotion is joy. For how can one play such expansive but wild music without totally blissing out? And "Changa Masala" has dub at its foundation, throbbing at the very center of chanting voices and jazzy synth lines. "Zingbong" starts off as pastoral electronica (listen and see if you agree) with strains of the Far East running through it. The jump to the second disk of this release is also smooth, starting with the intriguing "Epiphlioy". This ten minute excursion into the heart of space is accompanied by lush electronic textures, searing guitar work courtesy of Ed Wynne, and loping synthesizer. "The Unusual Village" has a discordant musical element working in counterpoint to chirping electronic tweets, and then it takes flight. Soaring musical passages carry the listener away, before it links hands with "Smiling Potion". Slippery music to be sure, with its funky electronic grooves and freaky sonic architecture. "Rubbing Shoulders With the Absolute" is more straightforward, with fairly standard bass, keys, and drums. Chiming notes draw you in, while the beat keeps your foot tapping. If singles existed for this genre, this could well be one of them! Expect the musical landscape to change, for it shifts often in this nearly 9 minute song. "Zenlike Creature" closes this 90 minute epic journey, with bucolic programmed flutters and beats. For this rock reviewer, trying to get my arms around this music was difficult, for I hang my hat on vocals and there aren't any here. Music like this is all about emotion, and this album stirred up a plethora of moods. This double album is a crowning achievement for this band after such a long hiatus, and fans of instrumental music, jazz fusion, prog rock, psychedelia, and post rock are sure to enjoy it.
Available on CD here (UK/EU), and here (US), and on vinyl here (UK/EU), and here (US).