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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Fluid Minds

The (as) Mixtape

Review by Travis Jensen

Every once in awhile, an individual artist or band of talented musicians come along and change the pace for what may be the mainstream for music at the time. Some become the forefathers of a certain style of music and become legendary; Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Bee Gee’s, Metallica and Nirvana just to name a few. Although Fluid Minds aren’t legendary…yet, they do have a style of their own that could catch fire and become the band to follow for the next several years.

For those of you who are familiar with the popular late night television show Adult swim, you may not be aware of it, but in all probability, you have heard some Fluid Minds music. This particular TV show has what are called “bumps”, in which musical clips are run. These “bumps” feature several of the group’s demos. For those wanting a taste of this intricate ear-candy, you can go to CDBABY.com to get yourself a copy of the latest album, or their first CD,  Love in Analog which also comes highly recommended by yours truly or just check them out  fluidmindsmusic.com for a free live album download.

The driving force behind this Midwest magical trio is John Gray. Although he and his counterpart Frank Clayton had been jamming together for many years prior, the band didn’t come together officially until May of 2005 when Boston native Christian Rogala completed what would become the missing link in the Fluid Minds machine…a very well oiled machine I might add. When I first heard The (as) Mixtape, I tried to put my finger on exactly what I was listening to. Was it rap, jazz or funk? Was it a combination of all three, or was it something from another world in a distant galaxy? I wasn’t exactly sure, so I listened to it some more, and what I did figure out is that it was like nothing else that I had heard before. It is very mystical and yes, very “fluid” as well. I went into some form of musical transcendental meditation, if you will, as one song went into the next.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Edge Of The Sky
I particularly love the combination of musical styles in this track. There is a soft-core rap element here that mixes with a hypnotizing chorus that seems to bring the use of various instruments towards the pinnacle of their intended use. So far, I’m very impressed and my mind is already at ease…I’ve found my comfort zone.

Thank You
This one is definitely different than the first, with more of a “club-vibe” to it. It is more upbeat and appears to have some live clips mixed in. However, the vocal style is still the same, which also takes the rap element and combines it with the softer contrasting vocals that give it a necessary balance to keep it from becoming redundant. 

The Owls
If you liked the last track, then this one will please you as well. My guess is that this was one of the Adult Swim “bumps” as the show title is mentioned in the lyrics. What I like about this cut is the use of bass guitar and percussion that takes us to the end of the song. It’s a creative way of integrating a diverse musical style with something that isn’t typical or predictable.
1000 Symphonies
This one seems to grow, and becomes more powerful as the lyrics seduce you into becoming part of the song. The natural flow of the song lets you drift through its entirety with ease, where at no time are you disturbed by anything harsh or abrupt.
See The Light
I love the beginning of this one. I suppose if I had to place a setting on this song, it might be for a love scene in a movie. The female vocals and repetitive chorus probably lend itself to that particular image in my head.
Trip Out
This one is an instrumental, but has the potential to be something more than that, almost as if you could plug in your own ideas and thoughts to form your own version of a mental image of what the lyrics might sound like. The techno-core vibe to this one is really creative, kind of like if you were to become a character in a strange video game or cartoon.

JB Kinda Thing
I guess this is the point in the album where it’s time to get the funk out! The bass guitar and horns really bring out the fun side of the band where it seems like they are having an impromptu jam session. Is this a tribute to James Brown? I’m not sure. What I do know is that this is a nice break and change of pace for the middle of the road in the CD.

This Song Needs More Cowbell
An obvious spoof from the SNL episode of Will Farrell as the cowbell-playing stooge as a member of Blue Oyster Cult. This song is another instrumental that seems to focus on rhythmic horns, a subtle driving beat and a well-balanced percussion backed up with keyboards. I do agree with the song’s title, as what is an instrumental without a cowbell?
Yeah Yeah Yeah
This is a very soft, relaxing song…something to get a massage to, perhaps. So I guess I’m questioning the song’s title, as I was expecting something much more exciting.

Shoop A Loop
I like the abstraction and bending of the notes on this one, which makes what should be a calming song into something which is almost surrealistic, kind of like a Salvadore Dali painting. However, the rhythmic qualities tie it together as something very calming through what may appear as dissonant.
Chitown Seasons
There are only two seasons in the Chicago land area; winter and road construction! However, I’m sure that this song doesn’t reflect either of those, as it puts you in a different frame of mind that is the complete opposite of either of those harsh conditions. This is like a journey to another planet in a low-rider. The somber qualities are what really make this one different than the others; I just wish it was a little longer.

Bucktown Breathes
The piano crescendo intro to this one is very impressive. It’s kind of like what could be a background score for a classic horror film.
Center Of Attention
This is part two of the last song, where the vocals then break the piano keys in half, yet continue into something different, almost as if you are ascending towards the sky. I particularly like the background distortions in this one as the number continues. Then it’s back to earth again, as the piano takes you to the enigmatic end.
Shadow
I really like the beat in this one which is matched by the vocals that follow very tightly to it. However, just as I’m getting into it, it ends abruptly.
All Our Favorite Shows
This one has a really fun and exciting feel to it, kind of like a throwback to some of the mainstream punk-rock songs from the early 1980’s. Adult Swim is also in the lyrics, which seems to reinforce that particular segment of the band’s popularity.

 
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