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Ozric Tentacles - Technicians of the Sacred CD (album) cover


Ozric Tentacles


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.85 | 218 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Technicians of the Sacred' - Ozric Tentacles (82/100)

For a band as longstanding as Ozric Tentacles, you would expect them to have had at least a handful of slip-ups over the years. And you would expect wrongly; though certain albums wax inspiration moreso than others, there's not one journey of theirs that isn't worth taking. Perhaps its because the Ozrics have managed to scope out a niche that assumes the most defining traits of space rock, all the while managing to sound completely unique while they're at it. I have said many times before that there's something purely addictive about Ozric Tentacles' sound. Their jams are filled with some of the best psychedelic ear candy around. When you pair that with their jaw-dropping musicianship, well, it's practically a match made in Shambhala.

Techncians of the Sacred is absolutely nothing new for Ozric Tentacles. It's intensely psychedelic-- almost overwhelmingly so. It teeters in the grey area where I'm unsure whether the songs are best described as loose compositions or focused jams. The tone is playful and alien. This is nothing Ozric Tentacles haven't done on albums prior, and in their case, that is exactly what I'd hope to hear on a new album. While some bands are rewarded by their own constant reinvention, this band is so deep within their own rabbit hole it would seem totally contrived if they tried to stir the pot, especially at this point in their career. While calling it a familiar experience probably isn't cause to be excited about Technicians of the Sacred by itself, the fact that they're still making new memorable material with those same strokes should act as testament to what a special band they really are.

Even amid the band's discography, Technicians of the Sacred holds a special place. It's easily their strongest album at least since Waterfall Cities in 1999, and though the band's past two albums-- 2009's The YumYum Tree and 2011's Paper Monkeys-- seemed to go a little too far with the electronic end at the expense of their energy, here they sound refreshed with a totally revived stamina. Considering it's an hour and a half long (their first 2Lp since Erpland in 1990) it's a small marvel they manage to hold a momentum half as well as they do here. Fans of the Ozrics should know well very what to expect. The tracks are generally built around tick grooves and a load of spacey effects to fill one's ears. Like a lot of their best work, you can tell these guys probably had a ton of fun piecing this album together. I hesitate to use the term 'loose' to describe their song structures, but suffice to say, they leave enough room for their atmosphere to breathe, no matter how fast or harrowing a given groove may be.

A lot of the most amazing parts of Technicians of the Sacred manifest themselves when the reins are tightened and the compositions take a more rigid form. While you can definitely tell some stretches were left up to magic and chance, Ozric Tentacles offer frequent reminders that this approach is never because they're trying to mask a lack of songwriting tact. The exotic "Epiphlioy" is easily the best example of Ed Wynne as an accomplished composer I have heard in a long time. The frantic acoustic guitar lick it's based around sounds intensely calculated, and the effect is only intensified when he plays around with and changes it up partways into the song. Other songs are memorable for other reasons. The best Ozric magic usually occurs when they find a great idea and latch onto it. So it would be with "Butterfly Garden" and quite a few others I've gladly remembered from the first listen onward.

It's been another impression I've had for some time that Ozric Tentacles really possess the chemistry and musicianship a band like Dream Theater wish they had. It's not just that they know how to dominate with their respective instruments. They know how to fuse their talents together. It is crazier still that Ozric Tentacles has developed into something of a family band in more recent years, with Ed Wynne's wife Brandi taking bass guitar and his son Silas manning the keyboard. While the main man is as impressive a guitarist as ever, it's always been the keyboards that have drawn me most to the band's sound. The same rings true on Technicians of the Sacred. With the kind of gorgeous sonic textures they emit in the music, I'm sure they could have still made enjoyable music with only marginal attention to depth or composition. It is all to Ozric Tentacles' credit that they've gone the extra mile and created an instrumental space rock album with depth to reward repeated listens.

It seems like a trivial criticism to make, but one of the same things that makes Technicians of the Sacred stand out in the band's career is the thing that may ultimately hold it back. While I don't think anything on this album is weak, the second half of the second disc definitely seems to slow down. Compared to the way the album started, "Smiling Potion" and "Rubbing Shoulders with the Absolute" feel kind of snoozy. The issue of the album's audacious length isn't made any better by the fact that Ozric Tentacles just kind of hang out the same wavelength throughout the album. Whether they're going soft, loud, fast or slow, the atmosphere is always one of quirky tranquility. Then again, would Technicians of the Sacred be such an enticing trip if the psychedelic atmosphere made room for sour vibes? I think not.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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