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Trance Rock Saved My Life

The recent releases by Akron/Family, Feu Therese, Moebius and Cloudland Canyon use their hypnotic tractor beams to pull me back from the abyss

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by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: September, 2006
Kraftwerk's brand of man - machine - music was always a little too tepid for me, where as this stuff has a pleasing mechanical ardor to it.
by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: September, 2006
Kraftwerk's brand of man - machine - music was always a little too tepid for me, where as this stuff has a pleasing mechanical ardor to it.

In as much as any outside force can save a person, trance rock has always been the sturdy railing on my rocky mental ship, and given its resurrgenceeverywhere lately, I imagine I am not the only seasick sailor hanging over it to christen the fishes with all else that proved indigestible. Here are a couple records whose skyhooks extend from my iPod to the grinning Katamari Damacy-style Buddha prince chuckling on his Technicolor cloud:

Akron/Family
Meek Warrior
(Young God)

This Brooklyn-based cadre serves as Motivators to me; the fire dance whoop and holler they inject into their play-it-forever psyche-rock. They are what would have happened if the Magic Band had staged a mutiny over Captain Beefheart and pointed the Bounty to the sun. Each subsequent record finds the scope of the group more vast, but where this kills most projects, it only serves to make them stronger. The nine minutes of "Blessing Force" is the perfect amalgam of the band - starting mid tribal drumbeat, running amok through noise, high classic psychedelia and skronking free jazz, and ending at a hard stop. The rest of the record never hits that peak though. 'Gone beyond" is comprised mostly of those words and some strident guitar work, while the title track sounds starts out a cult choir is practicing in a wind chime store during an earthquake, devolving into a strident folk ballad. "Lightning Bolt of Compassion" with its canticle guitar work and narcotic croon brings this ship of fools back into the harbor where the hard exoticism of "The Rider (Dolphin Song)" awaits to circle your neck with poisoned lei's and empty your wallets, and then set fire to the dock. Personally, it's the tracks like this one and the first that show this Family's strengths and you get the feeling that these are mere excerpts from longer jams. Their placid material is nice, often superb, but my wandering eye opens wide to their voodoo freak-out. I could listen to a two-hour, continuous descent into sheer madness from this group.

Feu Therese
Feu Therese
(Constellation)

Feu Therese travels the slick highways of Krautrock, crafting their kundalini engine from synth precision and caveman rhythms. The opening "Ferrari en Feu", in tribute to the late electronic music icon Luc Ferrari, is an ever-ascending array of computer flares, shooting and shooting but never exploding, serving to cleanse your palate for the clean-room jams on the rest of the record. Each song seems to be built out of a basic loop into which the group releases nano-robotic agents to gradually transform everything. "Mademoiselle Gentleman" has a grand motorik jaunt that is interrupted first and overtaken later by glorious racket guitar and laser sounds. "Tu N Avais Qu'une Oreille" is a more song-ish affair, with the most satisfying vibrato guitar since "How Soon is Now?" "L'Homme Avec Coeur Avec elle" is a glorious high speed boat ride through the harbor under the hypnotizing array of a skyline. These very clean, stylish excursions works so well, where
similar work by Stereolab often falls flat - they know how to build drama in their subversive recursions of simple themes. Just beautiful, what I wish ambient pop music was actually like.

Cloudland Canyon
Requiems Der Nature 2002-2004
(Tee Pee)

This release is just that - a release. Each song here is built on a complicated groove, whether it be the twinkling jangle of "Clearlight Intry" or the clock chimes of "Carolina Foxtail/Sea Chirp" or the almost-new-age dynamo hum of "Coastal Breathe," over which the members of the band chant and mumble their lyrics, and the results are perfect. There is a definite lo-fi, hissy patina to this work that keeps it uniquely human. "Holy Canyon (vanquish)" is the culmination of all their facets - moving seamlessly from internal quartz groove to hornet-infested groove rock to cinematic vistas in its five minute run. I've been listening to this record a lot, when the 10,000 other records I have are all boring me to bits or insulting my intelligence or trying to sell me something no one wants, this records acts like a firehose blast, blowing the rabble right off my path.

Moebius
Nurton
(Blue Pole)

And with all theses sloppy blowjobs being offered up Krautrock, what better way to close out with a new release by one of its originators? Dieter Moebius was a founding member of Cluster, one of the groups that made distillations of progressive rock along with Kraftwerk and Eno and the rest that get props for ironing out the lumps, but Moebius was there on the ground floor. The blurpy-bleepy bits on Nurton do sound rather dated, but in a charming way. There burble and bleat in rather pleasant arrangements. They would make a great sound track to an IMAX film about tumbling satellites or cell division. The surface here might shout Tangerine Dream, but bubbling under the surface is the precision genius of Milton Babbitt. Kraftwerk's brand of man-machine-music was always a little too tepid for me, where as this stuff has a pleasing mechanical ardor to it. Its electronic music that is neither geared to the dancefloor, the bong or intellect, its almost like a folk music for the era of machines in which we are squarely sat.

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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