Year of Release: 2004
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9067
Total Time: 68:16:00
I'm not sure why it is, but my impression of Spirals In Hyperspace, Ozric Tentacles' 22nd release* (and their debut on the Magna Carta label), is that this is a more "mature" release than past efforts. Not that there isn't a playfulness here, some whimsy, and lightheartedness ("Plasmoid" and the warm, tango-istic "Zoemetra," to name two), but ... it just seems more "serious." I think of them as creating more trippy, psychedelic, quirky instrumental sonicscapes than can be heard on Spirals In Hyperspace. Sort of. It is trippy, it's instrumental and they are sonicscapes of a very space-rock sort. (Though I have Jurassic Shift and The Hidden Step, neither has been listened to in ages.) The sonic effects that can be heard throughout certainly suggest this isn't a band creating dry, flat electronic music. There's a lot of life and buoyancy to the pieces, all packed with energy. There are world music touches here, too, which to me is what gives it its "maturity."
Every piece can be said to be have perpetual motion, something is always happening. Keyboards and synths are the most prominent, as they are used in layers - both as lead instruments, backing instruments and those special effects. Though much warmer, I thought of latter day Tangerine Dream often ... by way of comparison in terms of genre, and mostly with "Slinky," a... well, slinky, funky, slow-groove piece with swirly keys, lightly percussive keys (I think of a cogs turning), sparse drumming (programmed) and atmospheric, spacey guitar. Why, even though the programmed drums sound programmed (here and elsewhere), they don't sound programmed in a bad way. That is, they are a perfect fit for the music they inhabit and there aren't any of those annoying clipped edges.
Next to the keys and synths (Ed Wynne, and on some tracks Seaweed (Christopher Lenox-Smith)), the next lead instrument is guitar (Wynne again) - shimmery, glittery leads weave in and out and around the keys and synths. Of course, drums - both real and programmed - and bass - real (Brandi Wynn, glide bass on "Chewier") and programmed - give the pieces their bottom end, their depth and grounding. All these elements leap out in the opening track, the throaty, throbby "Chewier," which like the album's title suggests, evokes images of space - and zipping through a hyperspace well. If it were the theme music to some sci-fi series - and because it's on my mind at the moment and there are lots of bloops and blips, I'm thinking something like Doctor Who - it'd be just a tad edgy. There is certainly an edge to it any way.
The title track is a piece that is a mix of throbbing bass; frenetic percussion; floaty, airy, sometimes softly tinkly synths; and often fiery guitar leads that sometimes edges very near fusion. Middle-eastern motifs rise up briefly, but are subsumed by the main rhythm. The dark "Plasmoid" throbs along, digitized frog-like sounds giving the piece some strange otherworldliness; an alien, watery, arboreal world where the only thing that makes sense is the plant life, even those grow in odd shapes. The synths almost seem to speaking in some alien voice, listen close enough and you can almost understand what they are saying... at least on an interpretive emotional level. At 5:17, it's the shortest track on the album (other than "Chewier," everything else ranges between 7 and 10 minutes).
Because Wynne is so prominent - in addition to the above, add in programming and "mind colours" - this year's model of Ozric Tentacles might really be called Ed Wynne with guests. Perhaps that's always been the case, I don't know. But here on Spirals..., it's nearly all Ed. "Oakum" is the one track that features most of the rest of the band. "Oakum" was originally released as fan-club only single in 2001, though I don't know (and haven't seen) whether this is the same or a different version. Here Schoo (Stuart Fisher) guests on drums (he's also on "Chewier" and "Zoemetra"); Seaweed provides synths and bubbles "Oakum" (and kindling to "Chewier"); John Egan plays ney, blul (flute-like instruments), duduk (oboe) and silver flute (here and on "Zoemetra"); and Zia Geelani contributes bass. It's the kind of track that meets what I expected; guitar cries, bends, gurgles and sings; drums and bass throb; keys swirl and float about... and something, or someone, vocalizes throatily. There are even ethnic-music touches here and there.
Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudi guest on guitar and additional synths (respectively, methinks) on "Akasha," an undulating track with both dark and light textures, giving the piece depth. There's an energy there that even while the piece mixes in calmer elements (those shimmery keys), the percussion and bass serve to give the piece a heart-pumping pace. It's a dynamic that keeps one on edge.
Merv Pepler programmed drums and employed "samps 'n' stuff" on "Psychic Chasm," a piece that is much calmer than earlier tracks; Pepler's drums give this piece a much stronger ethnic presence. And though programmed, are very warm. The "alien voices" return here, though not quite as "chirpy" as on "Plasmoid." Something has happened in that watery, arboreal world; a feeling of a chaos pervades.
"Toka Tola" is very synthy, almost synth-pop-y; present again is Wynne's guitar, and though the leads are nice, it's the synths that have the attention (except for the solo about halfway through). It is probably the most staid track of the album. Pleasant, but lacking the edginess that makes the other pieces more interesting to listen to. I guess I'd say it's bland and faceless. It does take on a darker cast about three quarters of the way in, but doesn't quite manage to get quite dark enough, to me at least.
While it's hard for me personally to say whether this is the best - or worst - OT release, I really like it and think that it's overall quite strong. It's certainly good enough that you'll come back to it, whether you are a long time OT fan or not; I'm not sure how long time OT fans will approach this, however. Headphones are required to get the full sonic effect - and production is top-notch. If you use as merely "background music," you'll miss a lot of what's going on, but it can be enjoyed that way, too.
* There are 24 if you count the recent "best-of" collection and the unauthorized Swirly Termination
Chewier (5:26) / Spirals In Hyperspace (9:51) / Slinky (8:39) / Toka Tola (7:46) / Plasmoid (5:17) / Oakum (9:03) / Akasha (7:27) / Psychic Chasm (8:44) / Zoemetra (7:23)
Ed Wynne - guitar, keyboards, mind colours, and programming on all tracks
Schoo - drums (1, 6, 9)
Seaweed - synths and bubbles (6), kindling (1)
John - ney, blul, duduk and silver flute (6, 9)
Zia - bass (6)
Merv Pepler - drum programming and samps 'n' stuff (8)
Brandi Wynne - glide bass (1), spikes (5), and tea (8)
Steve Hillage - guitar (7)
Miquette Giraudi - additional synths (7)
Tantric Obstacles (1985/1994)
Live Ethereal Cereal (1986/1994)
There Is Nothing (1986/1994)
Sliding Gliding Worlds (1988/1994)
The Bits Between The Bits (1989/1994)
Pungent Effulgent (1989/1990*)
Sploosh/Live Throbbe (12-inch single) (1991)
Afterswish (comp.) (1991)
Live Underslunky (1992)
Jurassic Shift (1993/1998)*
Vitamin Enhanced Ozric Tentacles (6 CDs) (1994)
Arborescence (3-sided LP w/extra track) (1994)
Become The Other (1995)
Curious Corn (1997)
Spice Doubt - Streaming A Gig In The Ether (ltd ed webcast live CD) (1998/2003)
Floating Seeds (remix album w/var. artists)(1999)
Waterfall Cities (1999)
The Hidden Step (2000)
Swirly Termination (2000)**
Pyramidion (ep) (2001)
Oakum (Ozric fan club only) (2001)
Live At The Pongmasters Ball (CD/DVD) (2002)
Spirals In Hyperspace (2004)
Eternal Wheel, The Best of Ozric (2004)
The Floor's Too Far Away (2006)
The Yum Yum Tree (2009)
Nodens Ictus - Spacelines (2000)
*CD has extra track; **not an official or recognized OT release
Genre: Psychedelic-Space Rock