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(37:31, Shark Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Trouble in the Skies 1:02 2. Hover & Land 2:58 3. Gurgblah Emerges 1:51 4. The Villagers Retreat 3:33 5. The Search for Zidrakong 2:38 6. Zidrakong the Sorcerer 2:58 7. Heroic Robot Warrior Octatroid 1:18 8. March to Battle 3:39 9. Octatroid Must Rest 3:41 10. Octatroid Reaches Mt. Meldagar 5:27 11. Octatroid Climbs Mt. Meldagar 1:41 12. Octatroid Vs Gurgblah 3:56 13. Peace Returns (2:51) SOLO PILOT: Joel Lee – all instruments
Prolusion. The US outfit TRIP LAVA is the creative vehicle of composer and multi-instrumentalist Joel Lee, who carries out all compositional and instrumental duties on his albums himself. He made his debut with "Oddball in the Corner Pocket" in 2007. Since then he has been signed by the local label Shark Records, which released his second production "Octatroid" in the spring of 2010.
Analysis. Instrumental concept albums can be curious affairs, where the connections between the conceptual story and the instrumental displays can be hard to trace and frequently require a fair bit of imagination. It will usually help to have the album booklet nearby to follow events, and while the latter is very much the case with this latest endeavor by Joel Lee's Trip Lava project, this is a conceptual piece which is easy to fathom without the help of the booklet. But the additional information comes in handy when trying to decipher the ongoing events. I presume that the story that encapsulates the events in this case is directly or indirectly inspired by a certain brand of movies that are, or at least were, popular in Japan from the ‘50s and onwards. In these flicks you had either giant robots or giant monsters set up to battle each other, with a more or less fleshed out story prior to the action. In this case we have an evil robot arriving on a UFO, a village in distress, a sorcerer who conjures forth a heroic robot champion, a battle that follows on top of the mountain and – of course – a happy ending to the proceedings. The music suits this setting perfectly. Basically we're dealing with an ongoing conceptual score divided into 13 chapters on this occasion, one epic composition clocking in at just over 37 minutes in length. What sets it apart from most other such productions is the stylistic expression, where words like challenging, avant-garde and futuristic really come to their right. Set in a distinctly lo-fi arrangement, we're treated to a rhythm driven construction, where energetic and often frantic drums and percussion take the main seat, with a bass guitar appearing now and then to support those excursions and add touches of melody. Lighter, freaked-out guitars will occasionally add in some melodic morsels, but more often than not ‘the six-stringer’ is too busy delivering atonal textures to blend in with the fluctuating dissonances and fragmented noises, served up by what appears to be a variety of electronic instruments. Noisescapes, atonal textures and dissonant sound layers set in disharmonic motifs in distinct electronic arrangements is probably a good summary of events. In style, I'd probably think that experimental avant-garde is a suitable placement, and while the frequent and constant use of electronic textures defines the album, the bass, drums and guitar sued firmly place it within a rock context – more futuristic than psychedelic on this occasion, and probably more experimental than progressive in a classic understanding of these expressions. Whatever you might call it, the album is a carefully planned and executed affair, where I imagine that every single second has been crafted with a defined purpose.
Conclusion. If someone ever compiles a list of the most freaked-out music ever created, I'd say that Trip Lava should deserve a place on it due to his second disc. "Octatroid" is an album to be sought out by those who fancy truly challenging music, people looking for music that will challenge their conceptions about what music is and who generally find reason and meaning to material the average music fan would describe as noise. Fans of artists like Magical Power Mako, Amon Duul and others of a similar nature are the ones I imagine will find it easiest to decode this material, and is my recommended target audience for this production.
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