Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Magic Lantern / Hop-Frog Kollectiv - Underwater Dynasty / Somba (URCK Records LP)

Here's another digital promo I got from Carl Off of Hop-Frog Kollectiv. URCK Records (Unified Research for Chemical Karma) just put out this tasty split between his own unit and Long Beach psych monsters Magic Lantern. That each side is comprised of only one work allows the unit's to both stretch way out, a trait which gives the Kollectiv ample space for their exotic excursions while allowing Magic Lantern to take it nice and easy and enter some territory as rich as the slow jams on their recent Not Not Fun and Woodsist LPs, but with enough time to submerge entirely.

I'll start with the Magic Lantern side, though I'm not so sure there is a side A or B here. The whole record stems from the mutual admiration both of these groups share for one another, so it only seems fitting that every side is a first side here. That the music speaks to that is even more remarkable. "Underwater Dynasty" starts off with some slow and drifting percussive stuff that veers into the same waters as member Cameron Stallones' Sun Araw but with the weird creeping factor of members William Giacchi and Stunned head Phil French's Super Minerals project. The instrumentation here is perhaps the main indicator of the sound. Ukelele, guitar, flute, piano, bells, hand drums and voices splay out beneath the shimmering shallows and bask in the sunlit tides here, totally removed from any sense of riff-driven direction. All of the sounds bleed out over each other in a warm wash of sound that is tropical to the core, but rich enough so as to not fall into the same category as much of the other work that has been tapping into that aesthetic recently. Parts of it almost sound like a blissed out Don Cherry circa Brown Rice, only with Florian Fricke at the production helm. The whole thing just never stops, taking psych folk guitar lines and weaving them with flute exchanges and jingling atmospherics until it all rolls upward into a cavernous realm of bell shards and echoing rhythms. It all feels highly composed and organized without being stiflingly so. As together a psych workout as these guys have concocted yet--mellow, mystical and mysterious.

That Hop-Frog's side isn't a disappointment after Magic Lantern's really speaks to the strength of the unit and the sincerity of correspondence between these two groupings. In fact, "Somba" fits right in next to "Underwater Dynasty" as it concocts its own batch of world music fried zones for morning basks and late night come downs. Comprised of core members Carl F. Off, Jeremy Morelock and the aptly named Hermit the Flog, the unit again takes relatively obscure instrumentation--in this case, Yanqin (Chinese dulcimer), ruan (moon guitar), been, electric guitar, midi guitar and flutes. I don't know what half of those are, but the whole thing writhes along to an accordion like progression and hammered chordal textures that continue their outward expansion as they head out into open sea. Apparently "Somba" is the name of these three clans in the mountains of the Sahara who believe that the dead are continuously among us, influencing the outcome of things which is exactly the kind of creepy yet mystic vibe that this work exudes. Spces are created as parts come and go, allowing for these miniature pockets that create some beautiful moments. After stripping itself down to just bells, the work rebuilds itself, this time from a guitar (the moon one perhaps?) that creates a folkish melody with cosmic connotations. Really together and genuinely worldly--each of these instruments is so easily identified with specific regions that their combination really creates its own space, and with the time they have to stretch out--over 20 minutes of it--Hop-Frog prove themselves to have plenty of ideas and a strong and organized approach that continues to evolve, devolve, and evolve again. That the piece can go so many places without losing any sense of continuity is impressive in itself, but it's the consistent creativity that keeps the piece afloat in details.

It's a totally great split, equally suited to Sunday wake-and-bake sessions or Saturday night zone material. As calm and pulsing as it is, none of the material here ever slips into any easy category, instead allowing the works to unfold as they will with composure and delicacy, but not without balls.

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