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3rd Ear Experience

Peacock Black (Vinyl Edition)

Review by Gary Hill

To some degree I really think vinyl is the proper way to hear music like this. Despite what a lot of people will tell you, vinyl has a more open and real sound to it than CD (and certainly digital files or streaming) have. This kind of music seems to jump out of the speakers more when it's coming from vinyl than when it's from another form of media. It may not be logical, but it's true. This reissue of Peacock Black from 3rd Ear Experience is great. The vinyl is heavy and blue. It sounds great and they've given it a new gatefold sleeve. This is well worth having. Since the music is the same as the CD I reviewed previously, I'm including the original overall review along with the track reviews for the various song for the sake of consistency.

What a cool piece of space rock this album is. At times it’s quite electronic and almost strictly keyboard oriented. At other points it comes close to stoner metal. I suppose overall Hawkwind is the most valid comparison. Of course, that’s kind of the territory when it comes to space rock. There are jazzier moments here and much harder rocking ones. The shortest tune here is over thirteen minutes in length. So, each of these four instrumental pieces are of epic size and scope. The lineup for this group is Kurosh Showghi (didgeridoos), Amritakripa (synthesizers, voice), Erik Mouness (drums), Aaron Merc (saxophones), Alan Swanson (keyboards), Eric Ryan (guitar), Robbi Robb (guitar) and Dug Pinnick (of King’s X fame – bass).

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Side A
            
The Surface of Last Scattering

Noisy feedback laden guitar opens things here. The cut builds out from there in a grungy, punk sort of space rock sound. It’s noisy and very tasty. This is energetic and powerful. Like all good space music, the changes are gradually as this pounds forward. At times I’m definitely reminded of Hawkwind, but this is more in line with a lot of the newer space rock outfits, too. It’s got some keyboard bits that lean more towards some of the vintage RIO and Krautrock acts, too. This is a real powerhouse. There are some moments of Middle Eastern sounds built into it. There’s a cool retro sounding bit a little before the five minute mark. Around the six minute mark, there’s a section that seems to have a bit of Jimi Hendrix in the mix. Shortly after that it drops back to a keyboard dominated movement. There is a jazzy kind of space sound as that section continues to evolve. By the eight and a half minute mark it has turned very jazz-like. Yet, some space elements still swirl around this thing. Those space elements rise up to take more control as the cut powers forward. It rocks out more further down the road. It’s kind of telling that at almost fourteen and a half minutes of song, this isn’t the longest piece here.

Side B

     

Peacock Black

The title track is longer than the opener by a lot. In fact, it’s almost twenty three minutes in length. Yet, it’s not the longest piece here. It starts off mellower and more sedate. It grows gradually with more melodic elements accompanied by space keyboards. Drums start to enter and in some ways this makes me think of early Hawkwind a bit. After a time, it drops down to an almost looped kind of thing. I’m not saying it’s looped, because it’s not and it actually evolves, but it gives that sort of feeling in the way it repeats. It gets quite freeform and rather stripped back, too. Some weird echoed female vocals, feeling a bit like a chant or other world music are heard in this after a time. Around the six minute mark it drops down to something like mellow Doors merged with Hawkwind. Those vocals are heard in sort of a sampled way at times as this continues. Some world music melody bits are also heard adding a different flavor to the piece. By around the seven and a half minute mark it’s powered back up into some pretty hard rocking territory. There are bits of Hendrix-like guitar over the top. It gets quite heavy and noisy for a time. Then it drops back down to more melodic space music from there. Around the nine and a half minute mark it’s really dissolved down a long way. It gradually works back out from there. As it builds out there is definitely a stoner metal meets space rock meets world music element going on in the cut. Weird chanting (almost like the sound of some bird or animal) is heard in the mix later. Those sampled female vocals continue showing up as this chugs forward much like Sleep meets some more pure space rock band. Further down the musical road melodic space rock takes over, feeling a lot like early Hawkwind. Around the fourteen and a half minute mark it drops to space keys. It gradually starts to move out from there with some very science fiction like sounds. As the other instruments start leading it back up there are some moments where the drums really shine. Then it drops down even further to space keys oriented stuff. By the sixteen and a half minute mark it’s echoey space music as the main order of business. A minute later a heavy guitar sound that’s very much like something from Black Sabbath or Electric Wizard emerges and we’re into a new heavy jam that’s equal parts stoner metal and space rock. It gradually starts to rock faster and the pounding rhythm section really leads the way nicely. Early Hawkwind is very much a valid reference. After that works through, it drops down to silence and there’s just a little bit of talking going on right at the end.

Side C
                   
Pocket Full of Stars

There aren’t that many albums where the shortest tune is over thirteen minutes in length. This one can be put on that list, though. And, here is that “short song.” There is a sound that opens this that feels like throat singing merged with a jus harp. That sound is typical of didgeridoo. It grows out from there in a pounding, plodding arrangement that’s quite cool. Some guitar solos over the top as this works outward. There is definitely a valid comparison to be made to Hawkwind here. The guitar drives this for a time, but then it shifts out to a more keyboard dominated section after a while. As it continues to evolve it resembles a cross between the Doors and modern space rock acts (at least to my ears). The space sounds swirl over the top as Doors like keyboards lay down the melodies. By around the six and a half minute mark it’s really dropped way down to almost just keyboards. Some guitar comes in tentatively. It gets into some echoey weirdness as it continues. More melodies emerge over the top and this starts to rock out pretty well. There are some heavy undertones at times. The rhythm section really starts to drive it. Then a droning segment a bit like Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” is heard. Around the ten and a half minute mark some cool keyboard lines emerge over the top of this beast. After the eleven minute mark, amidst everything else, there is a guitar based melody that threatens to take over. Yet the keyboards over the top still retain control. Then, after the twelve minute mark it turns to just drums. Space sounds come in over the top of that backdrop and it’s definitely a lot like early Hawkwind. There is a bit of tribal space element to it. That section eventually ends it.

Side D

          

High Lands

A beeping, droning kind of keyboard sound opens this and carries it going forward. Other space elements emerge over the top here and there. Blips and beeps come over the top as this continues. Around the three minute mark a rhythmic part is heard in the backdrop and it starts to build out just a bit. By the five minute mark, the keyboard sounds have begun to get a bit more lush. Some new melodies have been emerging here and there, but it’s still just keyboards driving this thing. By the eight and a half minute mark, it’s still just keyboards, but a number of changes have ensued. There is definitely a mellow, lush kind of keyboard sound driving it in a decidedly space way. It’s past the eleven and a half mark before anything else enters the piece. A driving bass line starts that rise up to more rocking sounds. Then drums tentatively join. After a time the whole thing starts to resemble something from the jammier side of the Hawkwind catalog. There is definitely a space jazz element at play here. It continues a gradual evolution from there. Then, around the sixteen minute mark, it drops way down to extremely mellow, jazzy, echoey space. Some extremely science fiction oriented sounds rise up a bit and threaten to take over. Instead the space jazz builds back out and, in a lot of ways, this resembles something from Hawkwind’s Hall of the Mountain Grill album a bit. A slow moving, more rocking sound emerges after a time with some cool melodies and some bits of spoken vocals barely heard in the mix. It works out from there into a hard rocking space jam that’s quite cool. There are great melodies swirling around in it and the saxophone that we’ve heard throughout a lot of this continues to wail. This really rocks like crazy. Hawkwind is surely the most obvious comparison here, and think the Space Ritual era of the band. This number at twenty six minutes in length is the real epic piece on this disc. It eventually drops back down to very mellow spacey territory to end.

 
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