Various Artists — Tripwave 2: Collection of Modern Russian Psychedelic Music
(Trail Records 018, 2016, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2017-02-10
This “Collection of Modern Russian Psychedelic Music” concentrates on one particular aspect of psychedelia, namely the side that leans towards space rock rather than concise, catchy, rock tunes. In other words, more Steve Hillage than Strawberry Alarm Clock. There are a couple of familiar names (Ole Lukkøye and Polska Radio One) and a slew of new ones (Ciolkowska, Rada & Blackthorn, Bowl of Knowledge, Sonora, Cosmic Triggers, Dead Man Tell No Tales, and Kamni), but the style is consistent enough that all of this music belongs together. Ciolkowska gets us off to a good start, and their distinctive feature is the prominent use of ukulele in the arrangement. Yes, ukulele, not exactly an instrument you think of in space rock. But they make it work in a tune that grooves along nicely and features some heavily effected guitar playing, and it’s not doing the kind of corny strumming the uke is known for, instead acting as a mandolin or other acoustic stringed instrument might. Definitely a band I need to check out. Rada & Blackthorn give us a lengthy rocking tune that alternates sections of heavy riffing with throat singing drones. There’s also a female vocalist, RAda, and some may find her spacey vibrato a bit off-putting, though I find it suits the music well, providing a tonal contrast to the electric guitar. Bowl of Knowledge then gives us “Ganja Yoga” (I think we know where their interests lie), which starts out with some interlocking guitar parts, then moves into a slow reggae-inflected groove. Sonora’s track moves toward Meddle-era Pink Floyd, though with a female singer; Cosmic Triggers present another slow-grooving track with spaced-out female vocals; Dead Man Tell No Tales takes us towards 70s hard rock territory; and Kamni presents a jangly minor-key Floydian dirge. The Ole Lukkøye contribution is an excerpt from their excellent Dyatly album, and Polska Radio One’s tune is from their Cosmos Inside release on Trail Records, both of which have been reviewed previously. While there are some similarities between the tracks on this compilation, there is enough variety to show the Russian psych scene as a vibrant and interesting corner of the musical world, with quite a few bands worth further investigation. Ciolkowska and Rada & Blackthorn in particular are good discoveries.
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