By Jeff Fitzgerald
From Aural Innovations #20 (July 2002)
My Ozrics CD's tend to go into hibernation over the winter. I think that's because Ozric Tentacles are a summertime band to me. Some people put on the Beach Boys in the summer, others, hot sun rock n' roll like Fu Manchu (ok, I do listen to both of these too), but to me, the Ozrics have that trippy, sunshiny, festie vibe that makes them perfect to listen to when the warm breezes of summer dance across the meadows and sunlight sparkles on the waves washing up on crowded beaches.
Having been together now in one form or another for about 20 years, Ozric Tentacles have an impressive discography behind them that shows no signs of abating anytime in the near future. In fact, for neophytes just getting into the Ozrics, it can be quite daunting.
Where do I start? Which albums are the good ones? These are questions I remember asking myself when I first discovered the band. Well, the short answer is, all of them are good. That being said, I thought I would do a rundown of their albums to help those just getting into the Ozrics deciding where they should start, and once started, where they should go. Of course, every fan has his or her personal favourites, so keep in mind, that in the end, this is just one fan's opinion. I happen to know that my opinion differs on occasion from the fanbase at large (Curious Corn never really grabbed me like it seems to do to other fans), but I will also try to inject an element of objectivity into this, based on what I have heard others say. So here we go...
Afterswish 1984-1991 (1991)
This collection compiles some of the best tunes off the Ozrics' early cassette releases. True, all six of those early albums are now available on 3 compilation CD's, but if you're looking for more of an introduction to the early sound, rather than something totally comprehensive, this is your best bet. This was my first Ozric Tentacles CD, and is still one that gets a lot of spin time in my CD player, even though I have all the original six on CD now.
Waterfall Cities (1999)
This is, in my opinion, the best of the latter day Ozric's albums, and also features my favourite cover art by Blim. The album is a near perfect merging of the classic Ozric sound with the band's increasing interests in techno and electronica. Sultana Detrii is one of their best (and spaciest) reggae tunes. Ch'ai? has a thoroughly delicious East Asian vibe happening.
Live Underslunky (1992)
In my opinion, the best "official" live album ever from the Ozrics. I say "official", because the Ozrics have no probs with people taping their shows, and there are hundreds of taped recordings out there, but for those who want top sound quality and a great selection of tunes, you can't beat this.
As it's title might suggest, this is one of the more eccentric Ozric CD's. The title track is one of the weirdest pieces they've ever done. But every other song on here is an Ozric classic, and most of them turn up often in the live sets. Among my favorites: the rhythmic freakout of Sploosh, the both spacey and acoustic Saucers, and the surrealistic title track.
Pungent Effulgent (1990)
This album is nearly as strong as Erpland. I only put it here because after getting Erpland, you may want to explore other phases of the Ozric discography before returning to the sound of the early 90's. Every track is strong, with a nice balance of mellow, upbeat, spacy, and heavy sounds. O-I is a great bit of trippy fusion with nifty acoustic guitar work courtesy of Ed and Phalarn Dawn is one of my favorite ambient pieces by the Ozrics. The real amazing classic on this album though, is Ayurvedic, an 11-minute masterpiece that is all over the place, from psychedelic space rock to deep dub grooves.
Become the Other (1995)
This was the first album after the departure of long time drummer Merv Pepler and keyboardist Joie Hinton to pursue their ambient/jungle/techno project Eat Static. It's ironic then that this album, more than any that preceded it, embraces the rhythms of the techno underground. Don't get me wrong, this is still pure Ozrics, but unlike so many of their other albums, it did actually take them in new directions. My favourite off of this has to be Wob Glass, which has the coolest bass line I've ever heard. The title track is one of their best mellow numbers (although it does get kinda raunchy about 2/3's of the way through thanks to some searing guitar-work from Ed). I really dig the eccentric Blim cover art on this one too, which references past Ozric album covers, as well as Eat Static.
Tantric Obstacles (1985)
You can't really go wrong with any of these early Ozric's recordings. Packaged on one CD now with Erpsongs.
Live Ethereal Cereal (1986)
As mentioned above, this has some great early live material on it, but the sound quality leaves a little to be desired. Packaged on one CD now with There is Nothing.
Sliding Gliding Worlds (1988)
Many fans feel this is the best of the original Ozric cassette releases. It certainly is closest to the sound they would develop at least until the mid-1990's. Packaged on one CD now with Bits Between the Bits. (Seven tracks from Sliding Gliding Worlds also appear on Afterswish.)
The Bits Between the Bits (1989)
The final cassette release was actually a compilation of leftovers from the recording sessions of the first five cassette releases. Some interesting stuff, but definitely not the place to start. It is, however, packaged on one CD now with Sliding Gliding Worlds.
Jurassic Shift (1993)
One of their most popular albums, but by the time I got to this one, I didn't really hear anything new on it.
Has the lovely electronic ambient excursions of the title track and Dance of the Loomi. Al-Salooq is one of their most engaging Middle-Eastern influenced pieces. I always thought that this CD made a nice companion album to the more unusual Strangeitude.
Curious Corn (1997)
This one seems to be a favourite amongst fans, but for some reason it has never really grabbed me. While there are some great moments on it, the songs feel unfocused. This album is also a little unbalanced in the sense that everything is upbeat and heavy, with no mellower tracks, and no acoustic guitar to be found, two things I always like to hear on Ozric albums. I gotta admit though, Papyrus, Oolite Groove, and Oddentity sounded great live (live versions can be heard on Spice Doubt).
Spice Doubt (1998)
A live gig performed over the Internet, this was originally limited to 7500 copies. It still seems to be available, so maybe they were just talking about the versions with the flippy floating fish packaging. It's a good latter day live document.
Floating Seeds (1999)
Not actually a real Ozric's album, this is a CD of remixes done by various other artists. While a few of them are somewhat interesting, including System 7's remix of Sunhair and Hallucinogen's remix of Pteranodon, most of the album fails to capture any kind of Ozrics feel because the re-mixes tend to eliminate a lot of what makes the Ozrics great. We're left with a collection of mildly engaging techno tracks. Not recommended.
Swirly Termination (2000)
An album with a somewhat confused history. Check out my full review of it by Clicking Here.
The Hidden Step (2000)
This is perhaps their most Middle Eastern influenced album, and includes some fine acoustic guitar-work as well, but I don't find the songs to be quite as exciting as those on past releases.
This was actually an EP, featuring one new studio track (the title track), which is a pretty cool tune, and 4 live tracks that represent the last work of drummer Rad before his departure from the band.
Pongmaster's Ball (2002)
A brand new double live album that I haven't heard yet. I'll let you know when I do!
Well, there you have it, my rundown of the Ozric Tentacles discography. If you're new to the band, you can't go wrong with any of the stuff from the first two categories. And if you can, be sure to catch them live! For those of you who are long time fans, hey, feel free to disagree with my choices. These are largely just my opinions, but I hope it made for an interesting read.
For all the juicy details from the Ozric's themselves, you can visit their web site at: http://www.ozrics.com.
Mike Werning's excellent, long running fan page used to be the band endorsed official home page, and they still promote it on their new web site. Check it out at: http://www.geocities.com/ozrictentacles_web/.