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Ant-Bee

Electronic Church Music

Review by Gary Hill

Ant-Bee is basically the pseudonym for Billy James. At least it’s his band name. There are a number of high profile guests on this disc including Peter Banks (formerly of Yes and Flash), Gilli Smythe and Daevid Allen of Gong, a number of members of the Mothers of Invention, Jan Akkerman (Focus), Michael Bruce (Alice Cooper) and many more. The music here ranges from RIO-like oddities to more space rock oriented stuff and leans towards Zappa, jazz and Todd Rundgren at times. All in all this is a rather odd, but also quite compelling release. It’s definitely not for everyone, but those who like their music spacey and unique will find plenty to enjoy here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Birth

The main pulse of this piece is a heartbeat, at least early on. That makes it feel like the start of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon at the onset. It works out to something more akin to ambient world music from there. It is spacey and tasty and has some hints of early Hawkwind. Gilli Smythe of Gong guests here as does Bunk Gardner of the Mother’s of Invention.

Living
Michael Bruce (of the Alice Cooper band) guests on guitar here. It’s actually a cover of a song from the first Alice Cooper album. Other musicians, besides James, on this are Bunk Gardner and Rod Martin. This is very much a psychedelic rocker with a bit of Hawkwind and more mainstream progressive rock built into it. The jamming later is very much like Hawkwind.
The Language Of The Body
At first it seems like weird bits of found sound along with some freeform and loose experimental music makes up the motif here. After a time one realizes that the spoken/scat vocal line isn’t truly found sound, but rather the vocal line. It shifts after a time to some seriously RIO (but yet low key and ambient) weirdness. More bits of sampled vocals come over the top making one think if Pink Floyd again. Then weird processed (helium-like vocals) are heard as some saxophone wails. Mothers of Invention members Don Preston, Bunk Gardner and Buzz Gardner all appear on this song. In addition to James, Daevid Allen (Gong) rounds out the lineup on this track, providing the vocals.
Eye Of Agamoto
More traditional progressive rock at first, this turns more jazzy at points. Looking at the lineup here, one sees that James is joined by Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, Buzz Gardner, Motorhead and Jimmy Carl Black, who were all in The Mothers of Invention with Frank Zappa. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are definite references to Frank Zappa here. But nods to groups as diverse as Univers Zero and Renaissance also appear. An instrumental, this works through a number of varying sections and elements, taking the piece in some intriguing directions.
The Guff (Hall Of Souls)
Gilli Smythe returns here, but Peter Banks (Yes, Flash) also joins James on this number. Experimental ambience topped by female vocals, this is strange, but also very cool.
Mallard Flies Toward Heaven
Based on a down home sort of acoustic guitar and washboard arrangement, this is odd, but also intriguing. It’s basically a blues tune turned spacey – much like some of the blues treatments Hawkwind has done at times. The guests on this piece are Zoot Horn Rollo and Rockette Morton (Capt. Beefheart’s Magic Band).
Ant-Bee's Sunday Supper
This is a very short piece that’s just barnyard sounds along with a spoken voice (Michael Bruce).  Those barnyard sounds are actually chickens and this is a nod to the old rumor about Alice Cooper ripping the heads off chickens.
Flutter-Bye, Butter-Flye
Coming straight out of the previous track and starting with the same barnyard sounds. This moves out into a psychedelic number that’s tasty. Michael Bruce guests here, and so does George Scala.
Endless Journey
Starting with a countdown to liftoff, this is, by definition, space rock. It’s also quite organic and sedate. Peter Banks returns here providing guitar. Mike Logiovino and Humpback Whale also appear along with James. It is very ambient and a bit weird, but also tasty. This is quite a long piece covering a lot of territory. There’s a clip of Armstrong’s famous moon-landing speech later in the number.
The Light
This really fits the album title. It feels like some kind of church music for a space age congregation. It’s a bit weird, but also cool. Alesssandro Pizzin and Cor Gout both show up on this one.
Mannah
Some serious acoustic guitar jamming (provided by none other than Focus’ Jan Akkerman) makes up this piece. It has some sections that are quite Spanish in nature. Around the three-and a half minute mark other elements enter and it resembles King Crimson at first. Then it moves into even different directions. Vocals come in later bringing a world music texture.
Psalm 23
More real church styled music leads this off. A distorted, processed reading of the Psalm is delivered.  Artemiy Artemiev guests.
Hallelujah
Peter Frohmader appears here. Electronic music accompanies Gregorian chant. It works into a bouncing kind of percussive melody movement, but overall doesn’t change much from the basic musical premise.
The Wrath - Part One
World music merges with the sounds of a donkey. In some ways this has an almost Hawkwind-like sound to it. It definitely features a lot of sound effects, a storm and more animals joining in as it continues. There is something akin to a world/tribal music meets choir music to end the piece.
Secrets Of The Dead
Space music, world music and psychedelia merge on this number. It’s cool. Bruce Cameron guests.
Pennies From Heaven
This is just a short Groucho Marx clip.
The Wrath - Part Two
Echoey sound effects and voices merge here. It’s a weird piece with a lot of looping. Gilli Smythe is on this cut again. War and other sounds come in later, merging with church singing and other voices. This is an unsettling piece.
The Lord's Prayer
Computers and other sound effects create the backdrop here. There is a computerized telling of “The Lord’s Prayer,” through a voice simulator.
Angels
This is just a twenty-five second piece. It feels like chiming at the start and more like a saw at the end.
Don't You Ever Learn
This is a cover of a Todd Rundgren song. The resemblance probably comes naturally. The vocals on this are somewhat soulful and, bring in a lot of Zappa because they are performed by Napoleon Murphy Brock, who sang with Zappa. Moogy Klingman plays keyboards and he was the keyboardist on the original keyboardist on the Rundgren recording.  There is a definite Frank Zappa-like section around the minute and a half mark. Again, that’s logical because Mothers of Invention alums Don Preston and Bunk Gardner also appear. It turns more Rundgren-like again later, and is shifted towards stranger sounds as it continues. ZAD McGough and Jack Dougherty also appear on this piece.
Re-Birth
World styled vocals start, but it shifts out towards ambient, RIO-type prog from there. This resembles Gong quite a bit. That makes sense when you consider that both Gilli Smyth and Daevid Allen appear on the number. It gets louder as it continues and then moves out to real space with the vocals, seemingly pained and echoey, driving it.
Final Benediction
This is just a short bit of a child singing a benediction.
 
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