The evening before the Hampshire Jam 'proper' a group of musicians (with the approval of the organisers) got together to play new music. There were seven of them in total but only three would be on stage at any one time. One musician would leave (to come back later) to be replaced by a fresh pair of hands. I suppose this is a similar idea to the Cosmic Smokers sessions or even the event that that meeting paid homage to, the original Cosmic Jokers. The musicians featured on this double album are: Dave Gurr and Xan Alexander from The Omega Syndicate; Jez Creek from Astrogator; Steve Humphries from Astrogator and Create; Brendan Pollard from Rogue Element; John Sherwood from 4m33s and Stephan Whitlan- so quite a line up!
On the back of the artwork 7 phases are mentioned. Each phase refers to a new change in line up but they do not relate directly to the individual tracks here (all twelve of them). The index points are just put there to identify when there is a significant change in the music. Electronic twitters aren't exactly an original way to start a track but they certainly work for me. And these are especially good twitters! It doesn't take long before a tinkling percussive sequence starts up, soon to be followed my a more substantial melodic one and a real cracker it is too, sounding all rather 70s TD. A steady rhythm comes to join the pulsations then a lovely delicate little melody. A more substantial lead line flashes forth. The mood becomes much darker on the back of a very deep rumbling pulse. A menacing slow rhythm joins it, a sequence being heard very low in the mix. A moody lead plays over the top which is just spot on. I found myself closing my eyes as I blissfully floated along with it. This really is a very impressive opener. The Second Part commences moodily, a deep throbbing sequence starting real low. Mellotron comes to join it then the sequence mutates taking us to Berlin School heaven once more. The pace quickens as little dreamy lead lines shimmer away, adding that last finishing touch. If anything this is even better than the opener.
The Third Part starts with more mellotron, this time sounding all rather melancholy. Another sequence starts low in the mix as a dysonesque lead strikes up accompanied by deep organ sounds that again reminded me of early to mid 70s Tangerine Dream. This Incredibly moody stuff continues through to the beginning of the next part. A rapid exciting sequence imparts a sense of real attitude. The Fifth Part takes things on with a feeling of menace as the sequence gains added oomph then morphs to become rather metallic. The sound of an owl can be heard then another sequence and tron become the main features whilst meandering leads fill the middle ground. The sequences start to play against and off each other. The Final Part of the first disc presses the Mellotron into even greater flourishes as mournful pads build to quite epic proportions. Again, two sequences duel against each other. The pulsation depart and we begin what I thought was a slow wind down but with two minutes to go the track erupts again finishing energetically.
The Second Disc starts, of course, with yet another sequence, a really nice mid 70s sounding one. Strange animal noises wail underneath. Low bass thuds add to the tension as we go through all manner of sonic stabs, mellotron choirs completing another extremely exciting homage to the golden era of analogue sequencer based music. The leads become increasingly euphoric in a rather Wavestar sort of way, getting the second disc off as impressively as the first. The Eighth Part begins with gorgeous ethereal wordless vocal pads. A delicate melody adds to the gentle, serene atmos still further then fades away. This time we have to wait about ninety seconds for the sequence to arrive. It is a sedate one providing a little gentle movement whist a second comes to join it- then a third bass one, rising and falling through the sea of pulsations like a whale breaking through the surface only to plunge down to the depths once more. Things become increasingly complex and exciting as we go- almost reaching overload but just staying on the right side of manic mayhem!
The Ninth Part gets underway with a slow relaxed rhythm giving space for some lovely mellotron flute to weave its gorgeous spell. Tinkling percussive piano adds to the beauty still further all topped off with groovy organ. Loved it. Part Ten continues on in a similar mood but is a meandering little number featuring tron strings until a sedate sequence gives a little structure. More mellotron is used but this time of the flute variety. We now get to the much meatier Part Eleven which brings back tinkling electronics then a period of float until things take a darker turn in the fifth minute. Subtly, it all becomes rather tender. A slow chugging sequence starts up but doesn't set the world alight.
The Final Part has a rather meditational quality as pulsation and loops mix. It then becomes a little more abrasive using a similar style of sequencing to the previous part. So, to sum up, there is some very fine music here, especially on the first disc and first half of the second. Good value for money. (DL)