One Track Mind: Ozric Tentacles, "Armchair Journey" (2006)

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By Pico

Sometime early on in the life of this site when I penned my first review of a progressive rock performance, I mentioned something about listening to prog rock perhaps a lot more than I write about it. Since we started up more than three years ago, only 12 posts have fallen in the “proggers” category; this one is #13. Compare that to the 273 articles under “jazz” and it’s pretty clear it’s time some attention gets paid again to this artier side of rock.

On Tuesday, there’s going to be a sampler CD of prog rock by bands from countries like Sweden, Brazil, Hungary, Israel, Italy, France, Canada, The Netherlands, and as you would expect, the UK and the good ol’ USA. It’s called Prog From Around The World, put out by Magna Carter Records, the same folks who earlier this year trotted out the debut CD by supergroup OHMphrey that lived up to its promise.

Prog From Around The World culls together recordings by Magna Carta artists past and present and provides a cross-section of the kind of music this label specializes in. Prog rock comes in a multitude of flavors, from the Canterbury Scene to neo-Prog. This compilation favors the progressive metal and other heavier styles of prog, and if that’s up your wheelhouse, here’s a way to get enlightened about some of the lesser-known practitioners of that sub-genre from all corners of the globe. Myself, I’m more partial to the more subtle, jazzier side of prog. That’s probably why my choice track from this collection is the spacey “Armchair Journey” by Ozric Tentacles.

Ozric Tentacles has never achieved the level of fame and following that fellow Brit acts Yes, King Crimson or Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but with 29 albums to their name in just twenty years and none by any major record label, they’ve become an industry onto themselves. They thrive on vocal-less, electronically-textured psychedelic grooves that seems influenced by Gong. Sometimes they pull off their unique formula better than other times. “Armchair Journey” nails it pretty well, though.

It starts with a bang that ushers in a colorful splash of layered electronic textures that’s ambient and hypnotic. As the drums emerges from the initial cloud of synths and gets rather busy, Ed Wynne’s bass alternates from single notes in wide intervals to a steady rumble, which modulates that groove. Wynne’s guitar cuts through the smooth soundscape surgically like a Dremel, and along with the samples, take the music well outside the realm of New Age and into a zone occupied mainly by the Ozrics. This entire time, the song is played in a single key, but the lack of song structure enables freedom in other areas. The nebulous synthesizers and samples conjure up a dreamland , while the drums and bass devote themselves to the tight rhythmic pulse.

“Armchair Journey” is just groovy, man. In both senses of the word.

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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