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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Ozric Tentacles

The Floor's Too Far Away

Review by Steve Alspach

The Moody Blues came up with a song called "Veteran Cosmic Rocker," but if you really had to name someone to fit that category, it would have to be Ed Wynne. Ed, with wife Brandi (credited with bass, synth, and "stuff" - she's a "stuff" virtuoso, I tell you), drummer Matt Shmigelsky, and with contributions from Merv Pepler and Tom Brooks, have put together the Ozrics' umpteenth (or umptieth - they may be in triple digits for all we know) album. "The Floor's Too Far Away" shows how Mr. Wynne is yet to tire of space rock, and a close listen to this album will unveil lots of little nuances that can keep the listener's interest and not let it wander off. Or go ahead and wander - maybe that's the whole point of this kind of music, and if so, I don't think Ed will mind.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Bolshem
Opening with what sounds like a ship's horn against the lighter call of birds, Bolshem slowly gathers steam, and it's not until the three-minute mark that the track finds its groove. As a synthesizer bubbles away in a series of 64th notes, the guitar plays very slow lines and the drums are content to lay back and keep company. The result is an interesting counterplay of busy versus relaxed. 
Armchair Journey
Matt "Metro" Shmigelsky keeps a busy hand on the ride cymbal and his playing, similar to Terry Bozzio or Simon Phillips, gives this song a '70's-fusion punch. The song for a long while is content to drift, but when the bass picks up the cue from the drums, there seems to be a response. This cut doesn't sound too frantic or rushed.
Jellylips
A sampled voice snippet morphs into a rhythmic pattern on this funk-tinged workout. Ed Wynne performs the lion's share of work with guitars, synths and drum programming.
Vedavox
This is the odd duck on the album in that it's the shortest tune (at 2.51) and it has distinct eastern feel, much unlike the other songs that seem to function in 16-bar phrases. There is some syncopation through the song and the percussion sounds much like a tabla.
Spacebase
Pretty much what you expect when you think Ozrics: 9.36 of "fire up the rockets and see where we go" music. The piece starts with a synth bass line and syncopated drum pattern, and the keyboard effects kick in over the drum pattern - not so much stating a melody but setting the mood. At 3.05 the guitar takes center stage, and the drums then pick up the pace before pulling back. Four minutes in the drums play in a more straightforward pattern over a squeak-boing-boop synth line. Wynne takes the charge again, but then a simple keyboard line comes into play to counter the guitar's punch. Spacebase then finishes in a spacey swirl of keyboard effects.
Disdots
Metro lays back on the drums on this one, and if not for the interesting forest sound effects, this would make a good candidate for an action movie or urban cop movie soundtrack. Then halfway in, the guitar comes through, slicing its way amidst the bird calls. Synthesizers often sound like crickets in the trees. Metro picks things up and plays on his own level, seemingly unconcerned with the goings on while never venturing far off the beat.
Etherclock
Starting with a hypnotic 13/8 pattern with a complementary guitar riff, Etherclock steers clear of the synth and guitar effect overkill, letting the song breathe a little on its own. Finding a hard-driving 4/4 groove, Etherclock then goes more into the swirling synths and buzzsaw guitar fills.
Splat!
Not named after my diving board technique, "Splat!" is a full-throttle workout. Metro Shmigelsky takes the lead on this (figuratively) with his nimble drumming, laying down a lively beat, complete with the off-beat hi-hat pattern.
Ping
"Ping" works as a closer for its interesting selection of fretless bass and acoustic guitar as two of the featured instruments. While the song still manages to rock in places, the first part is a bit subdued, as well as the end.
 
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