T echnicians of the Sacred by Ozric Tentacles (Madfish)
Ozric Tentacles have never been a band to be pigeonholed. Yet there’s no other band that sounds remotely like them. They originated as a jam band and organically evolved from DIY performances at early raves and communal dance parties out in the fields of England and into the dance clubs. The Ozrics transformed their hippy inclusive philosophy into a space rock/dub/jazz/electronic/progressive sound. They refined their approach through the decades using live drums, bass, guitar and keyboards along with various exotic instruments and programmed sounds and beats played on synths.
Technicians of the Sacred is the latest score to your cosmic revels, a journey through altered headspaces. It is also Ozric Tentacles’ 21st studio album and first double album since Erpland came out 25 years ago. Each track is an extended jam of several parts, making for an epic listening experience. The High Pass introduces the festivities with a flourish of fluttering synths, an acid line squelches through, a funky bass enters, then another vista appears and the dance party begins in earnest. There’s some cool Steve Hillage-like guitars amongst the synths, birds cawing, a soulful guitar part and heat rises into the sky as the dancers sweat it out. Far Memory is an exhilarating combination of soothing synth sequences and rousing electric guitar flights. But the first three songs seem to be getting you ready for the truly weird and wonderful Changa Masala. Deep bass and spry drums hold down exotic keyboards, wind instruments, wordless vocal chants and fast-picked acoustic string instruments. The chants and mass amounts of instruments assail your ears as if you’re in a crowd of people all speaking different languages, yet they all flow into a danceable rhythm. On Zingbong the band use fewer sounds for the first half: a dubby bass percolates, hand drums spatter and clash, lulling you into a peaceful mood. Then electric rock guitars make themselves heard, changing the energy, and the parts come and go, creating a hypnotic effect.
On Disc Two’s Epiphlioy the grooves deepen, sole original member Ed Wynne riffing on acoustic guitars, keyboard and other string instruments, including good old distorted rock guitars. Brandi Wynne funks it up on bass, Silas Wynne gets spacey on keyboards and Balazs Szende drums out the ever-changing rhythms. The song flows from one story to the next, like a picaresque journey around the world. The Unusual Village is a slow and mysterious number with chirping birds and scratchy textures at the beginning, Brandi’s bass dancing sensually in the background, Szende playing strange percussion, Ed swoops down with spacey electric guitar, the scratchy sounds return to the fore and slowly sink into the dubby morass, birds chirping again. Smiling Potion has a prominent synth that sounds like a growling cat you’d hear ready to fight outside your window in the middle of the night. Electric guitars screech by, then the beat drops out to audience applause and builds up again into a propulsive dance number with handclaps, cheers, loopy effects and hand percussion. Rubbing Shoulders With the Absolute starts out with a lush, mellow groove, a drunken keyboard and woozy bass stagger in, and the vibe gets upbeat and tropical. A few minutes later, Ed’s guitars get you jumping in the air, trying to grab the stars. Zenlike Creatures features a straight-forward drum beat and tight rhythmic patters for Ed to riff over, joined by Silas’ keyboards and more, dancing around each other playfully, then Szende changes up the tempo, flutes flutter, acoustic guitar textures float by tones change and Brandi funks it up on the bass. Before the song ends you realize you’ve worn a ditch into the field you’ve been dancing in, but the band has brought you closer to the cosmos in the past 90 minutes. Such is the transportive nature of Ozric Tentacles as heard on Technicians of the Sacred.
(by Bret Miller)