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Superluminal Pachyderm - Oddities CD (album) cover

ODDITIES

Superluminal Pachyderm

 

Eclectic Prog

4.00 | 2 ratings

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progaeopteryx
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Superluminal Pachyderm, the one-man project created by Ken Robinson, spent no time twiddling his thumbs, and released his sophomore release, Oddities, a mere four months after releasing his debut album, Lexicographic Lint. With such a short time span, one would expect Oddities to sound much like its predecessor. In some ways it does, but there are remarkable production improvements in mixing and recording. Robinson composes all his music for Superluminal Pachyderm on a computer using Making Waves sequencer software and Goldwave sound editing software, which at the time were mid-priced software alternatives to Cakewalk and others.

In the liner notes, Robinson claims inspiration from ironing boards, microfiche readers, and clothes hampers. If I were to sum up Oddities in seven words or less, those would be good choices. So welcome to Superluminal Pachyderm's world, a Carrollian land of strangeness and oddities...

Oddities begins with a variety of echoing human sounds (pops, wahs, the word "start") and leads into a spoken poem called Bags of Pens. No, this is not like the spoken poetry the Moody Blues scattered across their albums. It is more in the realm of a weird postmodernism. Following this strange intro is The Soliloquy, an almost psychedelic pop number with some really strange distorted guitar work, echoing pianos, and odd lyrics lacking any meaning. There is a bit of backmasking in the middle section and the drums are a simple, programmed beat, but not a distraction.

The title track is next and has a drum machine feel very similar to Genesis' Mama, except it is slower. It almost seems like a ripoff, but the song sounds nothing like Genesis, so I'll label this as an inspiration. It isn't in anyway as dark as Mama was, but seems more attune to the previous song, The Soliloquy. Parts of it have a real spacey feel with spacey synth atmospheres and echoing vocals. Other than the similarities to Genesis' Mama, I found this to be an enjoyable listen.

The next track is another spoken poem called End of an Era. The voice is distorted and echoed and the theme is the demise of the dinosaurs. This is followed by The Leviathan and I wondered if it was about a dinosaur based on the poem lead-in, but the lyrics just don't make sense. A recurring theme in the song is the brushing of teeth. Musically, The Leviathan fits the neo-progressive genre, but the nonsensical lyrics are so unordinary for this genre. There is a middle section with French lyrics, and these also make no sense at all. There are lots of eerie synths scattered throughout the song. About the only downside to this song is that the programmed drums are too repetitive and could use some more drum rolls to mix it up a bit. A strange piece, and one of the better ones Robinson has made.

I'm having difficulties at finding words to describe the next song called Cliff of Cotton. It's mostly noise, but there's structure to this noise. It's very eerie and every now and then you here someone saying "what?" There are many distorted voices but most of them are inaudible. Experimental indeed. Another spoken poem with echoed vocals follows called The Pants Treaty of 1707 where I guess a country used popcorn as a defense and lost. Okay.

Idiot! is in a neo-prog/radio-friendly vein, except no radio station on earth would call this mainstream. There is another lyric in this song about popcorn freezing the oncoming revolution, but no mention of a pants treaty. I suppose one could loosely assume that this "idiot" was a member of the aforementioned nation in the previous poem, but as I have noticed, you can't really assume anything with Superluminal Pachyderm. It's just one long weird ride of eerie, computerized music, with some really strange guy singing about who knows what.

The next track, Pre-Potholes and Pre-Peas is an intro the the following song, aptly called Potholes and Peas. It is an assortment of sound effects and eerie synths. It then leads into a conversation between a high-pitched voice and low-pitched voice. The high-pitched voice wants a bouncy top-ten hit and I assume the low-pitched voice is Robinson being himself and eventually giving in leading to the following dance-like number.

Potholes and Peas is the only song on this album that makes sense in that it is a cohesive story about someone in a supermarket who hits a pothole with his shopping cart causing its contents of toothpaste, tea, and peas to fly into a lady's hair. Musically the song begins in an almost Mike & The Mechanics fashion then sounds like something Al Yankovic and Thomas Dolby might come up with. Very little in progressive terms, but a hilarious track well worth the listen.

From pop rock, Superluminal Pachyderm, goes completely progressive with the next seven-part, 15+ minute epic called Ghonk. Again, we're back into some eerie synths and weird, nonsensical, echoed vocals. Robinson actually has an interview on the Superluminal Pachyderm web site that covers what this song is about and it makes no sense at all. Apparently there is something called Ghonks which prevent odd things from happening in the universe and cause it to balance. In Robinson's universe, I can't imagine anything is balanced. It's just strange, followed by more strange, and then even more strange, ad infinitum. And that's what this song is. I'm not even sure what subgenre it could be classified in. It's sort of like a combination of psychedelic, neo-progressive, and even a small part metal. The eerie echoing piano that runs throughout the song is simply beautiful. There is one lyric that sticks out in my mind: "We will drop little tori into your bowl of milk, there is nothing you can do." Cheerios anyone?

Oddities is a remarkable improvement over Lexicographic Lint, especially since there were only four months between releases. Even the almost-spoken vocals have improved considerably, though the use of echoes are constant throughout the album and maybe a bit overdone. The programmed drums are done well, with mostly military precision, but often lack the variety a real drummer would have provided. A lot more progressive than Superluminal Pachyderm's debut, but still needing a good kick in the pants in energy. If you like weird, plodding albums that make absolutely no sense, this one should be a must-have. For the rest of you, Superluminal Pachyderm could take a bit getting used to, is an acquired taste, and may give off an amateurish vibe because of the way it was made entirely on computer with sound samples. I ranked Lexicographic Lint with a rounded-up 2.75. Oddities gets a rounded-up four stars from a 3.5, with the caveat that this isn't for everyone. Oddities is quite odd indeed.

progaeopteryx | 4/5 |

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