I certainly didn’t make things easy for myself when I chose this album to review at random from the list of those submitted to the Progressive Aspect. The name of the artists was immediately intriguing, as to me it conjured up visions of yoofs in voluminous sportswear careering about a derelict inner city gap site shouting about popping caps in people’s asses and disagreeing fundamentally with the vision statement of their local police commanders!
I was wrong, as you are probably relieved to hear. This release is from one of several outfits put together by Daniel Crommie, an extremely prolific multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer from Portland, Oregon who has the impressive tally of more than two dozen albums in his back catalogue, both as a solo performer and as a member of various bands covering a variety of musical genres, and ‘variety’ is definitely the key word here. In fact had the album been listed as by ‘Various Artists’ I would have been slightly more prepared for its contents.
If you’ve had the undoubted pleasure of reading any of my previous reviews you’ll know that I don’t usually do song-by-song descriptions, preferring to concentrate on two or three representative tracks, but that would be difficult here as you will see.
The opening track, Riff Raff, is a promising instrumental start, with tabla and guitar giving way to some Mahavishnu Orchestra style riffing led by Daniel Crommie’s Eastern sounding flute.
Track 2 introduces the vocals, which thankfully are used sparingly throughout the eight tracks, because they are definitely the weakest component of the album. In the words of the rather unkind old saying D.C. couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket! The song itself is a grungy dirge with distorted guitar and a jazz-funk style bass line.
We then plunge headlong into a Quincy Jones TV soundtrack, all jazzy guitar, bongos and flute, absolutely perfect for watching a world-weary private investigator driving a beat-up convertible back and forward across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s even helpfully titled Panorama Drive. Three tracks in and three different styles so far.
If I was to have hazarded a guess at where the next song would take us I doubt very much whether I would have come up with the first couple of lines of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues delivered in a “gremlins” voice followed by another of D.C.’s unemotional vocals over piano and more jazzy bass. The track also highlights the significant shortcomings of using a drum machine rather than a real live human, contributing to the already flat overall sound of this recording.
By this point I was beginning to wonder what Mr Crommie was on during the recording of this album, and whether some of it might help me with this review. Track 5 is called A Jungle Of Apparitions after all! It kicks off with an Imam calling the faithful to prayer before we pick up again with our p.i. friend on the Golden Gate who is now listening to some jazz-fusion featuring some of the cheesiest synth fills in musical history.
From the California of 70’s television we then head to the Top Of The Pops studio of the eighties for the next two songs which see the band audition, very competently, for the roles of firstly Depeche Mode and then Duran Duran.
One track left then, and so far we’ve had seven pieces of assorted strangeness all clocking in at between three and five minutes, with the only unifying components being a vague jazziness and a producer who believes that every audio sound effect known to man should be employed at least once on any album. How then would you finish off such an offering?
How about a twenty-five minute long collision between mid-period electronic Krautrock, a string quartet and the soundtrack of a travelogue about Cambodia!
Now here’s the strangest thing about this album. I really like it! Don’t ask me for a reason why, I couldn’t give you one. I just do, and so might you dear reader, if you were to give it a listen. Go on, we could all benefit from a touch of the bizarre now and again!
01. Riff Raff (5:05)
02. Trash Can Sam (5:09)
03. Panorama Drive (4:40)
04. City Of Industry (Departure) (3:12)
05. A Jungle Of Apparitions (4:02)
06. No Room To Dream (3:38)
07. Throwing Bones (5:25)
08. Calm Before The Storm/Apophis (25:04)
Daniel Crommie – Vocals, Flute, Synthesisers, Keyboard Samples, Electric Dulcimer, Psaltery & Rhythm Beds
Eldon Hardenbrook – Bass, Synthesisers, Piano, Guitars& Samples
Colin Henson – Electric Guitar & Moog
David Duhig – Guitars
Jon Davis Miller – Guitars
Leslie Gray – Viola, Violin
David Stone – Trombone
Michael Maldonado – Soprano Saxophone
Record Label: Independent
Year Of Release: 2013