Dharma Son Collective - "Kryptic Triptych"
(self-released 2006)

From Aural Innovations #35 (January 2007)

From Pittsburgh, PA, Dharma Son Collective describe themselves as an experimental/avant-garde band that cross psychedelia with the ideals of 60s/70's space rock, influenced by the likes of Amon Düül I & II, Ash Ra Tempel, Can, Soft Machine, Faust, early Pink Floyd, Guru Guru, Acid Mother's Temple, Miles Davis and more. Their first album (see AI #33) was a 2-CD set of freeform jams that I thought was mighty impressive, given that the band includes members still in their teens.

Kryptic Triptych consists of 3 long jams. The 25 minute "Explosion - Phantasm - Unicycle" opens with a spaced out intro reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. The guys get all kinds of great effects out of their guitars, and there's probably some electronics in there too, creating a very trippy atmosphere. In fact, the focus is very much on the creation of sound and the interaction between various sounds and the resulting imagery this conjures up in the listeners mind. Around the 10 minute mark an acoustic guitar joins in, playing a melodic but somewhat dissonant tune, surrounded by all the spaced out happenings. There's also some light percussion and piano and we've now transitioned to a more avant-garde free-improv theme. It gets very dreamy and surreal, with a whimsical Dr. Caligari soundtrack feel to the music, and later some avant-folk elements. Overall this has a strong soundtrack/cinematic feel, and the musicians keep things surprisingly linear throughout and don't get stuck in disjointed transitions that kill the flow.

The 33 minute "The Quasi-European Mausoleum Soundtrack" is listed on the CD as being a 4-part suite. It starts with a simple acoustic guitar melody, percussion that sets a march like pace, and trippy electric guitar. The band soon begin to rock out in deep space prog mode as they develop their musical storyline. Again, great cosmic guitar sounds. And I dig the freaky vocals that remind me of the early Residents albums. Soon the ultra spacey trip guitars return and there's some terrific deep space excursions that put effects to well crafted use. It's not as fluid as the first track, but the musicians are on a steady course and are clearly refining their skills as composers, musicians and audio artists.

The album wraps up with the 18 minute "Jheronimus Undertow", which starts off on a powerful cosmic prog note with symphonic keyboards and strumming guitar, accompanied by freaked out wailing trip guitars. Like the previous tracks the music takes numerous thematic twists and turns, and the band explore their more experimental interests, though the tripped out spacey activity remains in varying degrees throughout.

Throughout the album you can tell that Dharma Son Collective are taking great care to create instrumental multi-part stories and I give them a big thumbs up for creativity and imagination, which is ultimately the strength of the album, and they've clearly progressed since last years Antipodes of Fallout. They do a good job of blending space rock, progressive and avant-garde elements into their music, synthesizing their numerous influences in a cohesive manner (no small task). Overall it might be too much on the experimental side for many space/psych fans, but I can imagine prog rock fans with a taste for the avant-garde finding much to enjoy here. Keep at it guys!

Kryptic Triptych can be purchased through CD Baby at http://cdbaby.com/cd/dharmasonc.
Email Dharma Son Collective at: DharmaSon817@aol.com.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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