Empty Space Orchestra
If we can’t collectively come up with a new musical style this season, let’s revisit the old ones. Empty Space Orchestra does so with aplomb, recreating the jazz and experimental influences of the late sixties and early seventies prog rockers. There are strange time signatures on this disc, and they ebb and flow faster than chords at a bluegrass festival. The wonderfully named “Brainjar” opens the disc with a bouncy and almost inappropriate dance rhythm. Oddly tuned guitars and a racing drum soon overtake the bounce, and we are soaring with Captain Kirk and Mr. Sulu above a pastel-colored planet full of plush Wookies and large-breasted Drill Thralls.
Trapped in a Windows Media Player prison, “Exit Strategy” paces back and forth, looking for chinks in the User Authentication process, only to be turned back by a persistent demand for an administrator password. The song grows in frustration, pounding harder and harder against the bars and clefs, but never finds release. Slumping to the floor, it hears a Vogon ship pass over, but cannot hitch aboard “Intergalactic Battle Cruiser.” This short piece adds a tinge of electronica to our journey, only to slide back to a furious drum line that dumps us all in a slower, dreamy “El Viento.” Here musicality is supported by a burst of indie guitar and backwards-sounding rhythms that evaporate in the face of the urban aggressive jazz attack in “Get Some.” We’ve wandered into a 1970s Blaxploitation funkster mode — pimps and hos stomp up the street and around the corner, and it’s party time until we miss a turn and wind up in an industrial sector full of clanking abandonment and wilderness reclaiming the polluted ground. That would be the cut “Tiger Puss” — ostensibly jungle, but not without flashing LEDs and a decent 1-bit sigma delta converter.
Ozzy Osborne metal awaits us in “Tennessee Red” and our journey is nearly complete. A delicate piano underlies “The Hanger,” and it might just be a waltzy soundtrack to a cartoon at a film festival. Now you’re ready for “Clouds,” or you think you are; it tricks you with a slow start, but is soon hammering away at a complex and genuinely LOUD guitar convention. There are enough styles in here to teach a composition class, but they wind and twist along, taking the listener on a complete journey. While any one cut on Empty Space Orchestra would stand repeated airplay, this is an album in the classic sense, a collection of tunes that need to be heard in order without pause for commercial interruption. Prog rock may well be back, and there is a generation of new studio tricks waiting to welcome it. I, for one, applaud our new overlords.
Empty Space Orchestra: www.emptyspaceorchestra.com