Upsilon Acrux - "In the Acrux of the Upsilon King" (Accretions 1999, 014)
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
Thanks to Rashad (finally on board the AI express, thankfully), I got to see this San Diego group perform a mind-blowing set in Riverside, Ca. last year, and though this album is now a couple years old, it didn't seem that AI should miss it. Combining great technical ability and psychedelic know-how, tightly-syncopated compositions and improvisation, the group burns it up heavily and intensely with the likes of Triple 0, Zorn's Painkiller, Zappa, Beafheart, Guru Guru, mad free-bop jazzers, '70s avant-proggers and who knows what other crazy cats. The title appropriately references King Crimson, though this is not much along the lines of the quieter or symphonic moments of that first album. Their arsenal is a consistent assault on your regular rock instruments, accompanied by moogs and wacky sax.
The album begins with a brief, extremely complex but impressively fluid number, a template for this facet of UA's sound. "Pythagorean Theory" starts out with some brutal jazzcore then settles into a slow UNsettling grinding dissonant guitar racket. "Fielding Melling" is all over the place, with numerous quirky prog-rock ryhthms and crazy wah-talky guitar outbursts. The mood actually does settle down for a while with the lengthy "Modulation 1", a gradual almost-ambient built-up of keyboards, guitar, soft drum-rolls and rhythmic but ever-shifting chunky synth bursts. The drums don't kick into a complete straight beat till the last few minutes, by which time all the tune's pleasant melodies and themes become fully apparent. "Ornette on Cactus" begins as a psychotic ode to the man, then gets back to their more distinctive full-blown mad prog-rock genius which blends right into "Kayak is Stupor", a more linear creepy-crawly psyche jam, with campy guitar sounds, droney wafting sax and some sickly Nik Turner-ish sax farting. I said linear, but the drums still throw in fills and changes aplenty. "Zerpents" begins with more controlled chaos before launching into a really swell(ing) segment with droning rhythm guitar and a wondrously agile bass-line while the drums keep driving things further and further faster. "The Most Unspectacular Pirate Show n the Middle of the Fucking Desert" is a nice linear jam for only a moment or two before someone starts fucking with the tape, though rather than sounding like the usual cut-up stuff still retains an amazing fluidity which is incredibly original. The last cut is the 20-minute plus "Farbenklang Seven", which begins with start/stop rhythms which eventually fade almost to silence with the exception of the intermittent snare whack, becomes a quiet synth/guitar drone for a while, gets back to a jam with some wobbly sea-sick guitar, drones again, cuts back to another mad persistent composition accompanied by freaky synths, then finally cuts to and finishes with a different jam with more off-kilter background noises and building intensity. We're catching up with these guys, so look for reviews of more recent releases next issue.
For more information you can visit the Accretions web site at: http://www.accretions.com.
Hear the entire album online at the Zu Casa site at: http://www.zucasa.com/.
Contact via snail mail c/o Accretions; PO Box 81973; San Diego, CA 92138.
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg