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(50:50, ‘Electric Sorcery’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Three Eyes 6:20 2. Horpus Richter 5:38 3. Deeper 4:30 4. SOB 4:00 5. The Urge 8:37 6. Konsequench 4:53 7. Little Warrior 4:43 8. Year of the Eel 3:22 9. Apparition 3:23 10. Inkriminated 5:24 LINEUP: Derek Campbell – vocals; guitar; harmonica Micah Carbonneau – drums (+ guitar – 6, 7, 10, bass - 10; vocals – 7) Luke Laplant – keyboards; electronic wind instruments; baritone saxophone
Prolusion. Hailing from Lyndonville, Vermont, in the north-eastern USA, ELECTRIC SORCERY are a trio of musicians who have been performing together in various local bands since the late Nineties. Besides their own original compositions, they also perform cover songs by such acts as Frank Zappa, Santana and King Crimson. As the title implies, “Electric Sorcery II” is their second album, released in 2009 like their self-titled debut. Both albums feature very distinctive artwork by local artist Erin Inglis.
Analysis. A creative take on the time-honoured rock staple of the power trio, Electric Sorcery are one of those bands that progressive rock fans may very well find divisive. Though rooted in classic psychedelia (as their cover artwork clearly suggests), they are not afraid to cross over to musical fields that hardcore proggers may perceive as antithetic to their favourite genre – a forward-thinking attitude that may lend them genuinely progressive credentials in the eyes of the more open-minded listeners. Indeed, their second album displays all their potential for innovation and genre-bending, with some genuinely remarkable moments. Unlike many of the albums I review, “Electric Sorcery II” impressed me right from the first listen. Though not perfect or even particularly cohesive, I could detect a quality in it that might best defined as true originality. Granted that nowadays it is anything but easy to actually ‘invent’ something as regards music, there is a freshness and spontaneity to Electric Sorcery’s sound that is often lacking in more conventional prog releases. This might be put down to the offbeat nature of their instrumentation, Derek Campbell’s warm, expressive vocals, or the unorthodox influences sported by their compositions – it is nevertheless a heady, highly listenable concoction that sounds light years removed from the by-numbers offerings of so many highly regarded bands. Though Electric Sorcery look to all intents and purposes like a classic power trio, their most distinctive feature is the absence of the bass guitar, which is replaced by synthesizers except on one track, Little Warrior (possibly the most accessible song on the album), where it is played by drummer Micah Carbonneau (who is also responsible for the vocals). On account of this factor, the guitar and drums find themselves very much in the spotlight, bolstered by synths and occasional sax inserts – as well as the unusual contribution of electronic wind instruments to lend fullness to the sound. Half of the tracks are instrumentals, which focus on interesting, varied structures rather than gratuitous displays of technical brilliance. While listening to the album, it dawned on me that there was no strongly detectable imprint coming from individual bands or artists – something highly infrequent nowadays. While some passages here and there can bring other acts to mind, the overall impression points to a very personal approach to composition. Reggae is by far the most noticeable influence on “Electric Sorcery II”, and the one that may look most incongruous in a progressive rock context. With the exception of Rush on tracks like Vital Signs or Digital Man (which have drawn their share of flak from purists), hardly any classic prog acts have incorporated elements of the Jamaican genre into their music. However, Electric Sorcery manage to pull it off, and quite successfully as well. While SOB is probably the most strongly reggae-oriented number – peppered by an energetic burst of sax, then turning into a brisk, exhilarating ska pace in the middle before a liquid guitar solo – the style rears its head in a number of other tracks. Ultra-eclectic opener Three Eyes is introduced by distorted, punky guitar chords, then morphing into classic rock a la Allman Brothers Band before the reggae-based second half; while the jammy, guitar-driven Horpus Richter, mingling psychedelic rock with reggae and electronics, reminded me at times of Rush’s later instrumentals, in conception if not in actual sound. Sunny, laid-back closer Inkriminated boasts a harmonica solo and a guitar section redolent of Eighties King Crimson – an influence that also pops up in the funky, electronics-laden Year of the Eel, a slinkily dynamic number enhanced by stunning drum work. As this is a relatively short album for today’s often overblown standards, there are no epics, though the eight-minute The Urge definitely veers into that territory, at least in terms of structure. Starting from a psychedelic base complete with swirling organ and wailing guitar, it builds up to a crescendo that throws in funky licks, almost punk vocals and quieter, more melodic passages – a mixture that made me think of a genuinely innovative outfit like Living Colour. Obviously, as it often happens with albums of such a strongly eclectic bent, “Electric Sorcery II” suffers from occasional bouts of patchiness (more evident in the longer tracks) – which, however, do not mar the overall strength of the musical offer. This is a fine release from a band that deserves to expand their reputation beyond the confines of their home turf.
Conclusion. Colourful and bold like its cover, “Electric Sorcery II” showcases the considerable potential of a very intriguing band brimming with unconventional ideas. The album is highly recommended to all those prog fans who still believe in the original meaning of the word ‘progressive’. Those with a more traditional mindset, on the other hand, might not be overjoyed by the ‘intrusion’ of such genres as reggae and ska in a vintage psychedelic rock context.
RB=Raffaella Berry: July 26, 2010
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