It’s been four years since the last album of new music from Phi Yaan-Zek, 2018’s seminal Reality is My Plaything, which was a cosmic stew of complex and avant garde absurdity, and amazing guitar playing. I’m pleased to report that the follow-up, Interdimensional Garden Party, has just been unleashed, and that it follows the blueprint of the previous release in many respects. Phi has again assembled an impressive guest list, many old friends, and some new contributors keeping things fresh, yet satisfyingly familiar. His penchant for writing music which is almost, but not quite, too difficult to play, coupled with a sense of humour begs the obvious comparison with the late great Frank Zappa, and I think it’s a fair point; there are many moments which made me smile on this album as I recognised a distinctly Zappa-like moment, be it a percussive volley or a brass interjection, or simply a guitar squeal.
So the stage is set, and the ingredients are assembled. Does it deliver though? Oh yes, it certainly does. After a muscle flexing Invitation intro, we are launched into the title track. Does anyone remember going to the cinema years ago, and whilst waiting for the film, we had to endure a bunch of adverts brought to us by Pearl and Dean? That music? Phi recreates something disturbingly similar at the start of Interdimensional Garden Party, with Ellie Williams on choral vocals! This is an energetic piece, with a busy rhythm section (Morgan Ågren on drums, Jack Humphries on bass), over which Phi plays some intricate guitar, keyboards and percussion salvos. He bends notes like a demon on the guitar solo, then Lalle Larsson brings in a jazzier element with his electric piano solo. There is so much going on it’s quite dazzling, and a great introductory few minutes to an album which never dips in quality.
Superstar Christobal vs The Archdemon of Time is a comic book style romp bemoaning procrastination!
Reach deep down into your mind
To slay the beast that steals your time”
The music has an appropriate urgency, with rapid fire vocals making deciphering lyrics tricky, but it’s a fun interlude. Sasquatch Stomp follows, and is the first real chance for Phi to stretch out on guitar with some superb soloing, ably supported by Andy Edwards on drums and John Jowitt on bass, who very much put the stomp in the song. Phi’s guitar style is not in any way ‘normal’, and his very individual approach is wonderful to hear. He combines the heaviness with a kind of avant jazz slant, and has thus carved out his own niche in an overcrowded guitar world.
His compositional side is exemplified on a tune like Wickety Wickety, which as the title might suggest, has an absurd side. It has a kind of oompah rhythm not unlike some of Devin Townsend’s songs, which automatically gives it a comedic twist, but then introduces some complex brass interjections to break up the rhythm as they stab and slash. The time signature changes repeatedly, with on and off beat shifts keeping Bryan Beller and Andy Edwards on top of their game. The track builds in complexity like a demented dance which never ends, although it does of course after another bout of guitar madness.
The album’s space segment is entertaining, beginning with Flying Saucery which oozes wonky funkiness with Star Trek vocals, stuttering brass and avant garde breakdowns, held together somehow by Morgan Ågren’s drums, as though he’s the only one who still knows what’s going on! Anomaly Temporal follows with spoken lyrics courtesy of Mike Keneally.
Creates one reality shift
Nine lost by missing stitch
Past into future switch”
Ahem, well the music is just as weird, being almost lounge jazz, but with attitude. My Favourite UFO continues the mood, with treated vocals serenading the UFO thus:
And reappear in Mexico, supra consciousness outflow”
Then “Step inside, realise, that this vehicle is alive!” Yep, totally whacky, but as the song speeds up to disappear in a puff of stardust, Ellie Williams produces some amazing bluesy vocalisations; she is a bit special. Floating does exactly what it says on the tin, and is a marvellous atmospheric piece of late night laid-back wizardry, with a very restrained Marco Minnemann and Bryan Beller leaving room for first Keneally then Yaan-Zek to deliver sinuous blissed out solos to melt your heart. A truly outstanding piece of music, and simple for once!
The Puffball That Ate My Village rounds out the album with circus style absurdity and pomp, with a kitchen sink style production, and another excellent guitar guest in Chanan Hanspal, who duels with Phi in fine style before Ellie Williams, Rob Groucutt and the Puffball Village Chorus sing us out over another intricate and demanding arrangement. And that’s your lot, apart from some strange backward masking right at the end. Why? Because it’s his album and he can, that’s why! I wouldn’t have it any other way, music making should be fun, and when the results are this entertaining, the listener gets the fun too. This will be very close to the top of my albums of the year without any trouble at all. An essential listen from a unique talent who deserves more recognition.
01. Invitation (1:10)
02. Interdimensional Garden Party (7:19)
03. Superstar Christobal vs The Archdemon of Time (3:54)
04. Sasquatch Stomp (5:53)
05. Melusine (6:45)
06. Wickety Wickety (6:28)
07. May the Stars Shine Through You (4:03)
08. Flying Saucery (5:02)
09. Anomaly Temporal (4:41)
10. My Favourite UFO (4:44)
11. Floating (5:38)
12. The Puffball That Ate My Village (13:19)
Total Time – 68:56
Phi Yaan-Zek – Guitars, Vocals, Choral Vocals, Keyboards, Bass, Glockenspiel, Percussion
Lalle Larsson – Keyboards, Piano
Steve Lawson – Bass
Morgan Ågren – Drums
Ellie Williams – Vocals, Choral Vocals
Rob Groucutt – Vocals, Choral Vocals
Megumi Deee-Lite – Violin, Viola
Jack Humphries – Bass
Matt Ingram – Drums
John Jowitt – Bass
Andy Edwards – Drums
Bryan Corbett – Trumpet, Trombone
Giancarlo Trismegistus – Tenor Sax
Bryan Beller – Bass
Mike Keneally – Guitar, Vocals
Ola Olsson – Trumpet
Marco Minnemann – Drums
Chanan Hanspal – Guitar
Ilhaam Selih – Intro Vocals (track 12)
The Puffball Village Chorus – Vocals (track 12)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 7th October 2022