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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Sound Strider

Intrepid Travels

Review by Gary Hill

This EP is described as a tribute to Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and each song has links to that (most of the time through spoken samples at the very least). The notes to this set demonstrate a problem with a lot of modern music. A quote from those notes says “All 4 tracks are written at 115BPM.” Well, that’s a huge mistake. Doing two songs in a row at the same tempo is never a good idea. It’s one of the cardinal rules for creating an album that’s interesting, vary your tempos. If you don’t, no matter how much the melodies are changed, everything will feel the same and it will be boring. For that reason, it’s a great thing that this is only an EP. A full album all at the same tempo would be mind-numbingly boring to the point of inducing sleep. This one definitely suffers from that, but it’s pretty impressive that it’s not more redundant than it is. Each track taken by itself, though, is better than it is taken in the context of the set. This stuff is far better as background music than it is as something to listen to intently.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Stakes

Rhythmic, chirping, techno electronica is the backdrop here. There are samples including JFK campaigning and more. This has enough melody to keep it interesting and would be great in a dance club. It’s a bit too repetitive for intense listening, though.

Menlo Park
The notes for this track tell us that, “all vocal samples come from original audio recordings of Ken Kesey’s first government sponsored LSD experiences in the Menlo Park research facility.” One might expect some really psychedelic music given that basis. There is some of that, but overall this has a real groove to it. It’s more of a driving, accessible tune than the opener was. It has some cool melodies and is one of the highlights of this EP. I like the dreamy section that ends it.
Childhood’s End
Electronic, trippy sounds make up this. It does feel a bit like a psychedelic experience. It’s rather sparse and alien. While it goes on too long and is one of the most odd pieces here, it’s also one of the most effective somehow. It lends another bit of variety to the set, too.
The Limit
By this point the lack of variety in the tempo is really getting a bit maddening. That’s a shame because in a lot of ways this spacey piece is one of the best here. The fact that it’s possible to catch that from it amidst the sea of sameness is really a testament to the quality of the piece.
 
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