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Brainticket - Cottonwoodhill CD (album) cover





3.79 | 172 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars There are some strange musical releases have emerged since the dawn of the recording industry but some are certainly stranger than others. It's always a fine balance, that is to find an utterly alien way of expressing oneself through the possibilities of sound and another matter completely to keep the alienating feel while adding just the right amount of elements that entice the listener to experience it unto completion. While formed in Switzerland with a diverse grouping of different European musicians, BRAINTICKET was the brainchild of Belgium born Joel Vandroogenbroeck whose study of classical and jazz went astray as the psychedelic 60s hit full force, leading him into temptation which ultimately led to the forbidden psychedelic fruit that led to his Krautrock infused band BRAINTICKET. The debut COTTONWOODHILL was famous in the psychedelic scene that the original LP sleeve carried the following warning: "After Listening to this Record, your friends may not know you anymore" and "Only listen to this once a day. Your brain might be destroyed!" While that may have been a nice gimmicky exaggeration and perhaps more true in the year 1971 when it was released, it does however portend to the listener that they are in for one demented, explorative and crazy piece of work.

By some COTTONWOODHILL is one of the trippiest records made of the era, however such claims are subjective of course depending which lysergic pastures one would graze in but unorthodox i believe is an adjective upon which everyone could agree and COTTONWOODHILL retains a distinct identity that sounds neither derivative nor copied decades after its release. It remains an utterly unique specimen tucked into myriad displays of psychedelic free form expression of the era. The album is essentially three tracks with the first two "Black Sand" and "Places Of Light" existing in a more "normal" plane of psychedelic and progressive rock that sounds like they could have even been playing on the stage of Austin Powers' warehouse in late 60s London. The tracks are surprisingly rooted in funk rock with a groovy bass, heavy drumbeat and prominent organ dominance with guitar licks adding the extra touch. While the album is filled with vocals, this isn't the normal type of vocal rock album as the vocals are never straightforward and directly sung. On the contrary they either emerge through the din of a processed electronic effect or are more commonly doled out in spoken narrative form especially by the psychotropic ranting freak outs of Dawn Muir.

While "Black Sand" is a heavy funk rocker, "Places Of Light" is light-hearted 60s sounding affair with Vandroogenbroeck cranking out pleasant flute melodies and keyboard runs. Muir begins her spoken word philosophical rants on this track and in a way the two openers are merely there to whet the appetite for the three part "Brainticket Suite" which takes up a whopping two thirds of the album and utilizes the same frantic groove for the majority of its duration. This groove is the combo effect of Vandroogenbroeck's hyperactive funk organ and the loop effect of Ron Bryer's guitar in sync with Werner Frohlich's slap bass guitar which serve as the anchoring foundation but pretty much everything else is fair game as everything from gargling water sounds, to atmospheric turbulence that sound like spaceships taking off to the seductive vocal rants of Dawn Muir come and go as the hypnotic groove creates a trancelike effect as all the accoutrements whizz on in a frantic flurry of activity. It is in effect an entertaining and skillfully crafted construction of order and chaos very much in sync with the visual imagery of the album artwork.

Upon my first experience of COTTONWOODHILL i was a little disappointed as i didn't find this as "trippy" as i had hoped it to be. There's something about the continuous and unrelenting groove loop that keeps this from taking me into the true lysergic lands of total escapism, but i have to keep reminding myself that this was 1971 when this came out and even so is still very much rooted in the 60s psychedelic scene that it was only a baby step removed from. It's better to look at this one as the mixing of not only the most psychedelic rock of the era but also of the ostinato musical elements that much of progressive rock was utilizing in order to allow various musicians to solo around. In this case, it's not the musicians who are doing the soloing but rather the sound effects, spoken word freak outs and collage of incessant swarms of noise that are the focus however the never changing groove loop with ever changing everything else is quite unsettling at first! While BRAINTICKET would continue to record with an ever changing lineup conquering new musical arenas with every release, COTTONWOODHILL sounds like no other, neither in their own canon or in any other band's for that matter. An utterly unique musical statement at the peak of psychedelic musical freedom. One that should be experienced to be believed :)

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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