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Drum Circus - Magic Theatre CD (album) cover


Drum Circus



3.78 | 21 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Pure Psychedelia

Now, if you've heard Gong and thought that, perhaps, they were a bit wierd and out there with the hippies - you ain't heard nothing.

Stories of pixies and prostitutes? Sax, flute and percussion mania? Manic male and female vocals? Gongs and tinkly bells?

Sound familiar?

The title track "Magic Theatre" is the essence of "Angel's Egg" - every ingredient is there, except Steve Hillage, the Space Whispers of Yoni and Davied Allen's mad rantings about the Planet Gong and Zero the Hero - but more mashed up and more random seeming. Less organised, yet somehow with its very own free-flowing form that comes from musicians united in their vision. Mostly percussonists, as you may have guessed from the bands' name, and probably united through communal partaking in, er, common things.

Add to that healthy lashings of sitar, and an almost complete disregard for anything as fancy as learning how to play... OK, I take that back - the flautist/saxophonist knows some great licks which show a musical background in jazz.

Despite the overall randomness and lack of academic musical background inherent in the music and composition, the piece never gets boring in the entire 21-odd minutes - it's like a living thing that you can hear breathing as the music ebbs and flows. The textures combine and separate perfectly - there's no feeling of anyone trying to dominate proceedings, as all musicians get down to the business of creating a truly psychedelic work of group expression. Quite frankly, it's amazing how well the performance has been captured, for this sort of music, as the production quality is pretty good - although maybe a tad enthusiastic with the levels.

Side 2 opens with "Now it hurts You" a track that reminds me of Ladytron (the electronic pop group, not the Roxy Music song!) in many ways, with the processed female vocals that lend it an almost 1980s feel a decade early.

The arrangement of the song has the same loose, almost random feel of the title track - but a form of structure does appear to be in place. For all the drummers, the beat is not very constant, and I feel it's over-loose - but the song as a whole is fascinating and gripping to the end - and a real sound of a vision of what music could be like in the future.

"Papera" maintains a constancy in approach and style, until 1:30, when the piece takes a far more structured and jazzy direction that really is later Gong all over. The bass is a little flabby and tends to lose it a bit - but the piece has a few tricks up its sleeve for the ending, which is well composed.

"La-Si-Do" begins with a kind of Latin feel - but the lyrical delivery is dark, and the piece takes on a whole, new, sinister angle that runs through several feelings, including psalm-like chanting.

"Groove Rock" kicks off with the funkiest beat outside of Can, jazz flavoured bass lines and all manner of keyboard and percussion interjections, before the sax takes us on a wild flight. Soon, little conversations take place between keys and sax, keys and percussion, but ultimately, this ends up as a noodly sax solo - interesting and nicely coloured, but rather indulgent and without much drama or musical shape. The ending is a great dissolution into noise, though.

Finally, "All Things Pass" - and alas, that includes this album. Very poignant - and a nice change of mood. It sounds oddly like the band have roped in Jon Anderson on vocal duties, as the music shimmers around before a wonderfully heavy funky groove kicks in to see the album out in style.

In summary, a very consistent album, that throws most of it's tricks into the opening side-long piece, but keeps a few bits and pieces up its sleeve to maintain interest throughout. It's not exactly Prog Rock, because there are essentially 2 styles here; free-form jazz and groove rock. While the case could be made for Indian music because of the sitars and so on, the overall feel of the album is of a consistent set of songs by a band with a vision of psychedelic music that went beyond their predecessors - and the music essentially stays in one place, without truly developing any ideas. The ideas came pre-developed, if that makes sense.

A really great addition to your Prog collection - one that is essential to fans of psychedelia, and probably fans of Gong too - it's a lot more progressive-thinking than a lot of Krautrock, which remained buried in the late 1960s, and it's an interesting curio for fans of the eclectic. I know there are people who will find it unlistenable - but that sort of person will probably not go looking for it anyway - so my recommendation is to those whose interest is still with me after all this waffling.

If you can accept a piece of music as a work of art, then this really is for you - but if you're looking for Rock music, look elsewhere. It's not up there with the greats of Progdom - and you won't spin it more than once or twice a year, despite everything it has going for it.

But I just can't bring myself to give it just 3 stars - it'd be like kicking a fluffy kitten.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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