9 On Bali - Kite Hawker On The Beach

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Audible Cropcircle Collective
Catalog Number: ACC20051
Format: CD
Total Time: 57:46:00

I've mixed feelings about this debut full-length release from this trio (who are all named Dan) called 9 On Bali. Overall, the music is pleasant enough, unassuming and inoffensive. But that's the problem with it as well, as it passes through without leaving a lasting impression. Well, not leaving a strong and sustaining impression. That's the view from a distance - at that distance names like The Moody Blues and Camel come to mind; and it's a bit Canterbury-ish, too. And there were some brief occasions where I thought of Gentle Giant as well. Mostly, it's Camel though. There are weaknesses, at least to these ears, that won't have this group reach those bands' iconic status and stature. And I'm not quite sure that 9 On Bali are trying at all to sound like them -- then again, I'm not sure that they aren't trying ... The band are from the US, from Illinois.

The three Dans are: Dan Susnara - vocals, guitars, keyboards, samples, and percussion; Dan Sweigert - vocals, vibes, kalimba, guitars, bass, percussion, samples and keyboards (also from a band called Star Period Star); and Dan Van Schindel on drums. Various tracks include guests.

The opening piece, "O'Reilly," is a poppy-jazz breezy ditty that features piano and snickering percussion, with occasional appearance of keyboards, including some organ like tones. It's a very low key piece, yet the drums imply energy. It also includes come clever word interplay. However, the most prog minded piece is the lengthy "My Poor Old Blue Projector" which mostly made me think of early Echolyn ... not only in the tone and tenor of the vocals, but also in the use of vocal harmonies... this might likely have come from Echolyn's debut. But this is eclectic, so that's not the only direction this piece goes in and it begins nothing at all like Echolyn ... with tinkling, xylophone like percussion (the kalimba?) that has a South American/Tropical feel; keyboards dart in like attacking birds ... a tart guitar makes infrequent appearances. And at other times, I'm reminded of the Beach Boys, the artier Brian Wilson stuff, with those same harmonized vocalizations. This is, in my opinion, really the only place those harmonies work. Quirky smart lyrics here make me think of Mike Keneally (though much more so on "Trampoliner" ... if Keneally were British...and mellower) ... Elsewhere on this piece we get throaty, distorted guitar (well done and suitably acidic) contrasted with soft beds of keyboards ... here we even get a short reference to the Beatles' "Helter Skelter", though not a direct quote. If everything else on this album were as interesting, this album would rate much higher with me.

Shimmery organ characterizes the simply drawn and fragile "(Radar)," The quirky "The Ballad Of Tony And Angel" is a highlight, the kind of subtly humourous pieces I associate with the Canterbury style ... This ends with some sound effects and sparse piano that lasts a minute or more... that might go on a tad too long. "Everdons" at first ripples like Bread's "If" but ends up like a Camel take on a psychedelic Beatles tune, and then goes off into quite another direction, with lots of kalimba chiming and swirling beside a sparse, taut drum beat. Perhaps RIO-ish in way. No... no, it's Fellini-esque, actually, aided by ending with a carnival-like section.

But then (at track #4) there's distortion-filled "Gist" ... a mostly awful mix of distorted guitars, warped percussion. I mean, I'm all for avant-garde distortion, just not here. See, I liked it in "... Projector"... Although... I do like Susnara's deep vocal tones and it's in those that I think of Camel and of Rain Dances in particular (though Nude nudges at my ear drums as well). Okay, maybe mostly awful was too rash ... but aside from the vocals, this is not a favorite.

Here's the irony, though, given that last sentence above. What bugs me the most is the vocals ... they are very dreary. I don't know who sings lead on which tracks, but I'll assume that he who pens the song, sings the lead... which makes Susnara the better of the two vocalists. Sweigert's then ... goes from ok to quite bothersome. And actually, I felt the same way about Echolyn's debut in the vocal department ... but there was something in the music there that ensared me. Nothing here really ensnares me, aside from "...Projector."

As I write this, having played this a few times, I was thinking - they'd probably do better as an instrumental band ... and what do you know, it's during their instrumental "For Turntable & Orchard" that the thought comes. As elsewhere, it's a jazzy piece, this time incorporating some spacey - as in sci-fi - effects. It is quite interesting and different and unique here. Other samples heard include bird noises, some subtle vocalizations... it's another breezy, tropical piece that brings to mind um... breezes and thoughts of citrus fruit.

Just what does "Arachnid, Apple & Mulch" mean? Oh, not the title, the lyrics... Here's a sample:

An arachnid from the coast of Spain
On a clothesline south of Bangor, Maine
Destinations mannequins explain
And maps obscure
Sunken treasures are a pirate's friend
In your spare time try to comprehend
At your coaxing how all match-heads cease to be

Here it is, it thrives, a helicopter farm
Apple portions gray, displayed too long

... Hmm. Okay. You can hear in this sparse and spacey (as in open and airy) piece some pseudo intellectualism ... something deeper beneath the words. And the poppy, Echolyn-esque, "Triad" is Sweigert's best vocal performance. Buzzing guitar phrases "dirty" up what is otherwise a cheerful and bouncy piece. See, here again, distortion is ok.

So well... ultimately, it's an okay release that will blow by like the breezy arrangements, maybe leaving only vaguely smelt fruity fragrances in the air, but ones that will dissipate and evaporate from the senses shortly afterwards.

O'Reilly (4:01) / (Radar) (1:41) / My Poor Old Blue Projector (12:25) / Gist (3:55) / Frank Of Maryland (1:25) / For Turntable & Orchard (3:53) / Arachnid Apple & Mulch (3:13) / Triad (4:17) / At His Cordial Best (2:42) / Trampoliner (1:45) / The Ballad Of Tony And Angel (6:05) / Everdons (5:58) / Alibis (6:20)

Dan Susnara - vocals, guitars, keyboards, samples, and percussion
Dan Sweigert - vocals, vibes, kalimba, guitars, bass, percussion, samples and keyboards
Dan Van Schindel - drums
Frank Rutledge - electric guitar (8)
Ron Jagielnik - harmonica and slide guitar (3), chairs (10)

Triad (ep) (2003)
Gist (ep) (2004)
Kite Hawker On The Beach (2005)

Genre: Various Genres

Origin US

Added: January 23rd 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.cropcirclecollective.com
Hits: 1417
Language: english


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