Cloud over Jupiter with John Shirley — Short Stories for Tall Aliens
(Bandcamp no#, 2019, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2019-12-28
Rock music infused with science fiction is nothing new, going back to the 60s, with plenty of examples offering varying levels of success on both musical and science-fictional levels. There has been good music with bad science fiction, bad music with good science fiction, and everything in between. For this Cloud over Jupiter release, Jerry King is working with well-known SF author John Shirley, who is generally associated with the cyberpunk genre, though he’s written in other styles as well. And he has a long history in music as well, going back to a punk band called Sado-Nation in Portland, Oregon — and he also wrote some lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult. Short Stories for Tall Aliens sees him working with Jerry King and such luminaries as Dave Newhouse, Paul Sears, Bret Harold, and Pete Prown. Musically, the album is quite solid, covering a range of rock styles from heavy to more atmospheric, with hints of space rock and classic 70s music. Guitars, keys, bass, and drums provide creative backing for Shirley’s vocals, which are more or less spoken with occasional concessions to melody. While the lyrics are good, his declamatory style might be the deciding factor on whether listeners go for the album, as they are quite prominent when present. There are lots of great instrumental passages in and around the vocals, uniformly enjoyable and full of great touches, whether on synthesizers or guitars. For myself, it took a bit of getting used to, but the music is so good I got on board. This is science-fiction themed music that is intelligently done all around, not descending to the comic-book levels where much SF gets stuck in music (or movies, for that matter). So I say give the album a chance, learn to live with Shirley’s voice, and enjoy the great music.
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more