Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Ozric Tentacles — Travelling the Great Circle
(Kscope KSCOPE564, 1993/2022, 7CD+DVD+Book)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-02-20
This massive set containing an 80-page LP-sized hardbound book, a DVD, and seven CDs (including remasters of the band’s first five regular releases) is something of a 30 year anniversary of what many would agree is Ozrics’ strongest creative period. Wearing their influences on their sleeves (You era Gong, Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, Hawkwind, and Kraan, to name but a few) they consolidated those ideas into a wholly fresh approach, almost purely instrumental, and intensely psychedelic. After six cassette releases that slowly developed their trademark sound from humble beginnings, in 1989 the band released their very first long player, Pungent Effulgent, featuring numerous strong entries like “Ayurvedic,” “Dissolution (The Clouds Disperse),” “Phalarn Dawn,” and “Kick Muck,” not to mention the beautiful swirly psychedelic cover artwork by Blim. The following year, the band’s second LP, Erpland, was released — a double album this time containing timeless classics like “Sunscape,” “Crackerblocks,” “Eternal Wheel,” “Snakepit,” “Toltec Spring,” “Valley of a Thousand Thoughts,” and the title track; three songs per side stretch out to make this one of the band’s most satisfying LPs, but about the same time, both Erpland and Pungent received CD releases, the latter adding a couple bonus tracks. With only a couple weeks of studio time available, the band’s next album, Strangeitude, sounds like the rush job that it was, though the gimmicky “Sploosh” gave the band some much needed radio play, and the album features some real gems like the reworking of “White Rhino Tea” (originally on the Sliding Gliding Worlds cassette) and the amazing title track. With their star on the rise, it was time to release a live document in the form of Live Underslunky, first available on cassette, though it would find a wider release on double LP and CD months later. Featuring recordings from November 1991; the versions of “O-I,” “Sunscape,” and “Erpland” are nothing short of superb, but it’s “Kick Muck” that will have the listener hanging onto their seat. By comparison, the band had their own studio and all the time they needed to create their 1993 studio album, Jurassic Shift, an album that seems to get the band back on track for another masterpiece like Erpland, with strong cuts like “Sunhair,” “Stretchy,” “Half Light in Thallai,” the title track, and “Vita Voom” — another song that garnered airplay for the band. And thus ends the period covered by this set, all five lovingly remastered. If one needs justification for the purchase, just go have a look at the original Dovetail label releases of these — they will no doubt be bronzing away with bit rot and likely won’t play well, if they play at all.
The two additional CDs in the set include Demos & Rarities, which includes four extended tracks, the highlights being “Saucers,” “Weirditude,” and a sidelong slab of “Ayurvedism” that stretches out to a full nineteen minutes. The Remix Disc contains five remixes of “Sunhair” (System 7), “Strangeitude” (Eat Static), “Eternal Wheel” (Zion Train), “Pteranodon,” and “Sploosh” (Simon Postford aka Hallucinogen), it’s a scaled down version (only five tracks) of the previously released Floating Seeds Remixed CD. I’ll be frank when I say that for me, none of these remixes hold a candle to the original versions, though your mileage may vary. Which brings us to the DVD, featuring a complete show from 1991 at the Fridge in Brixton, drawing material from Eprpland, Pungent, and earlier, a couple of the ten pieces are improvs to be found nowhere else. The audio of the Brixton set is quite engaging, and their hyper-psychedelic light show is in top form; my only complaint is that whoever made the video decided to superimpose their own psychedelic drug experience over the entire recording, unfortunately further muddying up the video to the point where one can’t see any detail in the performance, other than flutist John Egan dancing and prancing all over the stage (and not playing flute very much), other players can be seen at times here and there amid the ongoing swirling lysergic haze; I found it more satisfying to just close my eyes and listen and forego the headache of having to watch someone else’s hallucinations. By contrast, the DVD extras feature several clips from larger outdoor festivals and other venues, plus the MTV featured video of “Vita Voom” as well as other goodies. This is one of those cases where the extra features — at least from a visual standpoint — are better than the main feature.
Now comes the book. It’s an LP-sized coffee table style book, 80 pages total, and goes deep into The Ozric’s history, from the beginning, even before the beginning with Ed and Roly Wynne’s childhood endeavors, and how the band initially came to be, as well as a step-by-step through their cassette tape years. Text and images are roughly balanced throughout, offering many informative anecdotes about the individual songs, sessions, and many other details. Photos abound of the band in its various stages through the mid 90s, concert handbills, ticket stubs, and much more. Most of the citations are from Ed Wynne, but all of the other members get their thoughts in regarding the band’s rich and convoluted timeline during this period of growth. Whether one just wants to look at photos, or concentrate on reading the full history of the band to that point, the book is truly the centerpiece of Travelling the Great Circle, and offers many interesting hours of time travel and reading while one listens to the seven CDs packaged within its covers.
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