Dharma Son Collective - "We're Not The Only Spirits Awake"
(Apartment 8, 2007)
From Aural Innovations #38 (January 2008)
The Panebianco brothers from Pennsylvania are back with another set of their free improvisational avant-space-psychedelic jams. One thing that struck me right away when I put on the CD was that the track lengths are much tighter. Just under 20 minutes is the max for this album, which is unusual for these guys who are prone to taking off and letting it go for 30-40 minutes at a pop.
"Appleseed Metropolis" is a three part jam that begins with a bouncy psychedelic intro of liquid guitar, organ and tabla/shaker percussion. Then after a couple minutes an eerie voice starts to speak, accompanied by a weirdly efx'd sitar sounding instrument and drones, and then a dual guitar and varied percussion jam ensues. It's very trippy and reminds me of Dave Tor's Mynd Muzic and Earcandy albums. But it also has experimental elements and struck me as having a Residents meets Amon Düül feel. They also surprised me with a more traditional down 'n' dirty bluesy rock 'n roll segment, though it's a surreal form of rock 'n roll because it's accompanied by ethereal psychedelic atmospherics. Very interesting. "Autobash Soundtrack" is another three part piece, starting off as a very Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd sounding psychedelic song. I think this might be the first time I've heard actual singing vocals on a Dharma Son Collective track. These guys are just full of surprises. After a while there's a scene change and we're in free-improv avant-garde funk-bluegrass territory. Really wild stuff and some very interesting instrumental contrasts that glom together nicely. The track is rounded out by a whimsical acid-psych jam and a deep space finale.
Those are the longest tracks. The 13 minute "Cornfield Necropolis Hymnal" is next and kicks off with spaced out guitars and effects, creating a very cool supernatural space-psych atmosphere. Like Hawkwind doing the soundtrack for a Dario Argento horror film. It's eerily melodic and has a cinematic feel, while still being completely spaced out and freaky. A bit different from the usual Dharma Son Collective jam, and probably the most "composed" feeling track I've heard from them yet. "Decemberous Hollows - A.C.P. Reprise" features more ultra trippy psychedelia and includes even more vocals. But the vocals are brief and the music veers off into a dreamy but rocking jam. There's more of that standard rock guitar, but again there's all kinds of strange happenings swirling around behind it. The album ends with the relatively short "The Bowlegged Dream", a toe tapping freak jam that brings the album to a smooth close.
In summary, the album is very loose and freeform in the trademark Dharma Son Collective spirit. Lots of very interesting ideas throughout the album, some of which the band flesh out nicely. Others fizzle out a bit, though even in these cases the band just soldier on until settling into a new idea and groove. And while the musicians still need to work on fluidity and flow during their free jams, I must say that this is the most interesting and controlled music I've heard from the Collective yet. From the first album the band has tried to synthesize multiple influences, which has tremendous possibilities but just as many pitfalls. And on this album they're doing a much better job of developing their musical ideas, and the thematic transitions are handled with more finesse. For creativity and enthusiasm I give these guys an A+.
For more information you can visit the Dharma Son Collective Myspace site at: http://www.myspace.com/dharmasoncollective.
Email at: DharmaSon817@aol.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz