Pancake Circus - "3 Whistling Moon Travellers With Report"
(Quaketrap Recordings 2000, 1006)
From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
Pancake Circus is a San Francisco based trio that play what I can only describe as freaky electronic space rap. The band consists of Cellout (linguistic manipulator, analog mage), Thumbtack Smoothie (rhythm decimator, sine-wave architect), and Shaggy Manatee Esquire (assault coordinator, voice box technician). This is their second release.
I can't say I'm much of a rap fan. However, whereas the rap rant and it's message is typically that music's focal point, Pancake Circus seem to simply use it as their vocal style and the wild space electronic music is what makes everything enjoyably interesting and strange. Among the standout tracks is "527" in which the electronics and rhythms are grinding all over the place yet coherent. It's pretty heavy stuff really, incorporating both metal and hip hop influences. "Yeah All Right Now" and "Giant Squid" include deep thudding Bill Laswell styled basslines, with "Yeah All Right Now" utilizing percussion, turntable scratching, and spacey electronics.
One of the purer spacey tracks is "Beautiful Balloon" with it's rapping over a jazzy trumpet sound and wild wavey electro swirls. "Gemini Rainsuit" has cool freaky jungle sounds like birds and other mysterious creatures, along with spacey burps and gurgles and a generally dark eerie atmosphere. I dig the little Sun Ra styled synth freakout near the end. "Ominous" is similar, but much darker and more purely space electronic with growling efx'd voicings rather than rapping. And the closing track, Last Night Shift", really threw me for a loop being a trippy psychedelic electro tune with floating acoustic guitar and acidic wailing sounds, and a... folk-rap kind of thing... it's hard to describe. Give these guys a big thumbs up for being different.
For more information you can visit Pancake Circus at their web site.
Contact via snail mail c/o Quaketrap Recordings; 915 Cole St; Box 135; San Francisco, CA 94117.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz