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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dragon Tears

Turn On Tune In F*** Off!!

Review by Bruce Stringer

With Bad Afro Records continuing to release some of Europe’s coolest modern-retro psychedelia, it comes as no surprise that Dragon Tears further pushes the boundaries with a new take on the Peace and Love banter. This is the band’s third album, and features members of On Trial and Baby Woodrose, of which future releases will be named under. The music has echoes of Pink Floyd, the atmospherics noises of early Hawkwind, the vocal delivery of Monster Magnet and electric keyboard passages, which would undoubtedly remind one of The Doors.

Utilizing modern technology and superb production work with a late 1960s musical mentality, the lyrics claim to be of a doomy nature although much of the pronunciation is lost in the effects.It doesn’t seem to detract, at all, as the album is much easier to digest as a piece of post-modern art than a datable message consisting of mere lyrics and music.  The CD artwork is difficult to describe but if one were to imagine a beach party in a mustard gas attack it would probably look something like this! And, remember: before pressing “play,”  turn on, tune in and f*** off!

The integrity of the project remains throughout the CD and is a real shame that this does not extend to a complete album (although the running time of 37:13 makes it not much under the length of an LP and seems to be formatted with an LP release in mind).  Bad Afro Records label has its niche and maintains a high standard of output that makes it one of the most important record companies in Europe today.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Two Tongue Talk

As opener, this freak out number has a great groove thing happening and achieves instant “head nod’”status. With an electro-fuzz, tremoloed guitar riff launching this hail-back to the psychedelic golden age, the Floydian similarities don’t end with the sound effects and Barrett-like lyrics. With the use of echo and spacey noises alongside the rockier rhythms one might suspect a closer lineage to Kula Shaker than early Pink Floyd because the riff work is more evident and the tempo a little more accelerated. Lorenzo Woodrose has a distinct vocal timbre, which one would probably expect in a 1970s hard rock band, but it’s the use in a space-psychedelic format that illustrates the mixtures of styles and that Dragon Tears have created something refreshingly new. And, if that’s not enough, the band builds down to a feedback guitar ending that segues straight into the next number.

No Salvation
This is a Syd Barrett-like stomper! Just think “See Emily Play” meets the Doors, with swirling tone generator noises. It seems to be a continuation of track one and the heavily reverberated guitar solo is reminiscent of Huw Lloyd-Langton’s fretwork from the seminal Hawkwind album, including the Arabic-inspired modal meandering. The vocals are “call and answer,” typified by the 60s vocal groups, and there is almost a volatility occurring as the instruments seem to be soloing against each other, building tension and then release.

Described in the promo kit as “groovy doomsday funk”, one might feel that this might be the tongue-in-cheek Danish humor which makes them such loveable characters because the song could best be described as retro-modern psychedelic pop – and a great example of what the 60s should have sounded like.

My Friend

Bringing the levels down a touch, “My Friend” approaches a more emotive and expressive position. Acoustic and slide guitars (with echo box – of course!) create a spacey Bowie-esque feeling of lift off. It is more raw and dynamic than the previous songs, although there are no drums. Maybe it is the simplicity that stands out; maybe it’s the great production sound. Either way, the sound effects seem very Space Ritual but the song is more of a modern folk rock number, where the backwards piano and space axe outro deliver the listener to the next song.

Time Of No Time
Picking up from where Kula Shaker left off, “Time…” begins with a cyclic sitar loop and a killer high-register bass riff. The rhythm section is tight yet open thanks to the hanging hi-hats, and the vocal effect is like something from the Yardbirds’ experimental material from Little Games. As the piece develops there is a hint of George Harrison’s spirit as the sitar follows the vocal melody into oblivion. The mantra-like obsession that perpetuates involves various musical motions, which include ethnic percussion and sonic acrobatics of the more recent school of electronics. The track manages to reach oblivion at a mere six minutes after more Lloyd-Langton-like axe work and a return of the son of the cool bass riff. There is also a hint of Rick Wright’s organ playing from the More-era of 1969.
William
“William” begins with an apparent tip of the hat to Rush’s “Xanadu” (Is that Neil Peart on tubular bell?), before creating a moody atmosphere of ambient reverbs and delays, moving noises and instruments, void-like darkness and minimalist light. The nightmarish hues are painted with a Floyd-ish-ness – just think Umma Gumma – and the simplicity of percussion sounds like something from their underrated soundtrack works. The vocals retain an attitude, which makes Lorenzo Woodrose quite listenable, with the intensity of Monster Magnet and Lemmy.  The track moves along at such a pace as to draw one in to the elements which move about in the mix. The Kula Shaker bass playing is there again and the Gilmour slide sounds flash about with echo-driven ambience.

Still, playing on the extended mantra of repetitive, yet subtle, riffs, the timeless quality is deceptive, as you don’t actually realize until too late that this song actually clocks in at just over the 13:00 mark. There is something to be said for musical material that grows and develops over such a long period – especially in this era of short attention spans – and manages to retain keenly observed interest.

Mennesketvilling
Sung in Danish, here is an interesting track, which (again) segues from the previous and contains all the bells and whistles and backward guitar solos that one might crave. The introduction is probably a little long but when the song actually arrives it has a meatier, doomier mood than others on this impressive release; it’s more of a death march than 60s pop extravaganza. The mixture of forward and backward instrumentation is like brooding ear candy and the fact that it’s sung in a language other than English is a moot point as it is the atmosphere first and foremost that makes this work.  The ending follows in the steps of the CDs conceptual makeup and gradually diminishes into a distant snowstorm of noises, effects, spoken words and – eventually – silence.
 
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