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Cipher and Decipher

Review by Gary Hill

As always, some people will “get” Copernicus and some won’t. Personally, while I like some of his material better than other stuff, I am in the “get” category. Basically the music is more or less psychedelic meets progressive rock and his vocal deliveries are spoken and shouted, bringing it more into the neighborhood of performance art and even punk. This is a strong album from Copernicus, but probably not the best. Still, even something mid-level in the Copernicus catalog is pretty darned good.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Into the Subatomic

A percussive crash opens this and Copernicus comes in with a snarled delivery. Music comes in behind that and builds out as he continues his impassioned rant. The jamming gets pretty inspired and powerful after a while. Copernicus starts screaming later.

Free At Last
Starting rather mellow and slower, this builds out with more of a “song” sort of delivery. That is to say that Copernicus delivery has more of a musical feeling to it at times. The soloing in the cut is awesome, too. Saxophone later brings a bit of a space rock meets fusion vibe. This is one of the coolest tunes from Copernicus ever. The music actually has a bit of a Pink Floyd feeling at times.
Mud Becomes Mind
Some weird scat singing opens this cut and holds it for a time. Percussion joins that. Then acoustic guitar rises up and there’s a bit of a world music feeling as the scat singing continues. Copernicus delivers one line over that. Then the scat singing drops away and a jazz meets free form sound takes the music as Copernicus continues. This one gets pretty crazed as it builds outward with space rock, jazz and punk all merging.
I Don't Believe
Weird keyboards start this off, serving as the backdrop for the early parts. It builds out quite slowly with more of that space rock meets jazz and free form sound approach. This gets into some quite strange territory.
Matter Is Energy
There is sort of a funky, jazzy vibe on this cut. From there, though, it works through quite a few changes. It gets pretty strange at times, and drops to especially sparse sounds at points.
Sparse, spacey weirdness opens this number. The arrangement stays reasonably sparse and mellow. It does work out to a bit more “rock song” oriented arrangement later. There are some soaring musical moments amidst Copernicus’ shouted lines later.
Infinite Strength
There’s a killer proto rock sound to this one. It’s definitely one of the more “song” related cuts here. It feels a bit like The Doors meets space rock and jazzy early progressive rock. Larry Kirwan gets some vocals in this tune and there are some great instrumental moments here. This is a highlight of the set.
Where No One Can Win
Slowly building, this is spacey music. It’s got some middle Eastern elements in some of the musical passages and there’s a cool rhythmic vibe that is sort of subtly presented throughout the piece. The building process on this is rather freeform, but also seems to make sense and have some kind of reason to it. When the majority of the music falls away later, those Middle Eastern elements really drive the remaining sound. That section takes it to its end.
Step Out of Your Body
Weird psychedelic sounds serve as the backdrop for Copernicus’ early lines. It gets into more powered up and energized territory as it works out later. There’s almost a Dixieland vibe as it continues.
The Cauldron
This is one of the strangest pieces here, and that says a lot. It’s quite freeform and rather bizarre. Yet, it’s also somehow rather catchy. It is also the longest piece on show at almost fifteen and a half minutes. Around the seven minute mark it works out to a more pure progressive rock kind of jam, but it’s still very odd and spacey. When it gets really powered up around the ten minute mark, this thing really grooves.

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