Vocokesh - "Paradise Revisited"
(Drag City 1998, DC136CD)
From Aural Innovations #5 (January 1999)
I have known and admired the music of Richard Franecki for 18 years, starting with his work in F/i, who he left for solo work in 1989. I've got all of his solo works so when I heard I would get the opportunity to review his new release I couldn't restrain my enthusiasm. Now I face the dilemma of how to review the music, since it is both great and terrible at the same time.
Certainly, as both Synthesist and Guitarist, Rich has developed quite an individual sound on both instruments. His synthesizer work throughout is rich and vibrant with a wealth of interesting ideas. His Guitar work is a decent approximation of "Space Ritual"-era Hawkwind and "Yeti"-era Amon Düül II, and he expresses his ideas with both grace and confidence.
Where the problems arise are on the band tracks... drummer Jan Schober stinks, and his musical inability drags every track on which he appears The guy can't do a simple pressroll, his rhythmic sense is unsteady so he is reduced to uncreative bashing. The work of the rest of the band (which is simply arresting) is diminished.
A prime example is track 3, "the Circle is the Square", chords of which have been in Franecki's vocabulary for about 15 years. Schober's rhythm is so bad the track is played at half the tempo of the original. Rich's fine Synthesizer obligato can't even save this track. Please guy, get yourself a Drummer.
On the up side, "One Brief Glimpse" is a great display of why this guy is one of America's premier Synthesists. Here he creates a rhythmic Gong-like drone, over which long notes are stated, as white noise boils up like steam from the grates on a city street in winter.
"Quest" works with similar sounds, the synthesizer both reacting to and treating what sounds like bowed sawblades, then rhythms from a Drum machine are treated, phase-shifted and a string melody floats in on top, progressing into a lush orchestration with strings, plucked piano frame, and pretty bits of Acoustic Guitar and Dan Electro Electric Sitar (?), Electric Guitar just giving in little Bass Drones and accents.
"Paradise Revisited a & b" opens and close the CD, and both tracks display Rich's KrautRock roots... once again, everything else is in place and done exquisitely. But Schober's banging on "A" really forces the track to the bottom, whilst on "b" he is replaced by both Drum loop and Drum machine, proving that he can be dispensed with.
Interestingly enough, Franecki left F/i in 1989 to pursue "more experimental sounds" than that band was performing; I hope he doesn't consider Schober's playing Experimental. This guy has been on almost every VOCOKESH release, and he's just NOT GETTING BETTER. And Richard, who's been described by his former band mates as America's Conrad Schnitzler, is too good a musician to allow someone unprepared to slow him down. Most SpaceRock fans will find his work interesting, and "PARADISE REVISITED" is more than worth having. Just skip the tracks with Drums
Reviewed by Doug Walker
Vocokesh - "Paradise Revisited" (Drag City 1998, DC136CD)
Stylistically-speaking, Paradise Revisited is absolutely right on target. Lots of tasty guitar styles and electronics galore, sprinkled amongst a selection of crunchy spaceborne riffs. Could be retitled Space Ritual Revisited, frankly. Of the seven tracks, only "The Circle is the Square" did I find to be uninteresting and monotonous - an additional instrument (e.g., sax, flute, violin) would have really helped here. Both halves (a and b) of the title piece are highlights; for comparison sake, pick your favorite Hawkwind track from In Search of Space or Doremi. "Dusk in the Garden of Vocokesh" went a little overboard on the noise and sound effects, though had a very nice hypnotic section reminiscent of Neu!'s "Hallogallo."
It appears that the recording was done live in the studio, followed by some overdubbing. Hence, you never expect the performances to be entirely perfect, and some tracks will inevitably go on a bit too long. Such is the case here, as I think a bit of fat could have been trimmed off. (There's something to be said for the old way of doing things, where the LP format limited artists to choosing only the best material for release.) So with a bit of editing and some better drumming in places, Paradise Revisited would have been one of the best releases in years. As it is, it's definitely worth owning. I'll stop short of weighing it against F/i's Helioscopium - but how nice it is to have two space rock groups in Milwaukee now!
Reviewed by Keith Henderson
Vocokesh - "Paradise Revisited" (Drag City 1998, DC136CD)
On their latest release, Vocokesh serves up heaping does of heavy, droning, acidic spacerock, and floating ambient soundscapes. The music is primarily the work of Richard Franecki (ex-F/i) who plays guitar, electric sitar, dulcimer, bass, and electronics. Franecki is joined by Jan Schober on drums and percussion, and John Helwig plays bass on three of the seven tracks.
The disc opens with "Paradise Revisited a", the beginning of which contains an eerie organ melody, synths, and spacey guitar lines. About three minutes into the tune a steady drum beat comes in and the guitar starts to crunch while the organ and synths continue. Franecki's psych guitar solos slowly against what becomes an enormous wall of intergalactic drone. The rhythm and beat of the tune remains simplistic, but it's power lies in the intense and somewhat disturbing atmosphere that is created. The spirit of F/i is much in evidence though Franecki's guitar leads are psych influenced whereas F/i's music has become more metallic.
"Dusk In The Garden Of Vocokesh" is a lethargically ambient piece that begins with a busy conglomeration of electronics and wood block sounding percussion. Acoustic psych guitar soon joins and meanders along in a sort of drugged out other-world manner against ocean wave synths and the prominent percussion bits. "The Circle Is The Square" is a heavy rocker which again reminded me of F/i. Heavy psych that is droning, but will carry you away to unexplored realms. These guys make simplicity sound so good. Eight minutes of repeating riffs and rhythms that sound and feel great against a wall of orchestral space textures.
"One Brief Glimpse At The Face Of Oblivion", at 17 minutes is the CD's magnum opus. Another ambient track with an intense atmosphere includes some freaky synth work that makes this sound like an industrial version of Tangerine Dream. The last several minutes consist of crunch guitar and psych riffing. Lots of good music and ideas here but I don't think the song's length is justified. Chop off about seven minutes and it's a killer tune. "Quest" and "Paradise Revisited b" are interesting pieces in that they introduce Middle Eastern flavors. The later is the stronger tune and a bit on the abstract side. It's heavenly electronics and seemingly found sounds, clangs, bangs, and bells make for a weird trip. Overall a very strong set that works hard at working with both the heavier and more ambient sides of spacerock.
Contact Vocokesh at PO Box 27421; Milwaukee, WI 53227.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz