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Third Ear Band - Third Ear Band CD (album) cover

THIRD EAR BAND

Third Ear Band

 

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

3.24 | 24 ratings

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Syzygy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Third Ear Band were unusual in an era noted for unusual groups. The conventional armoury of the rock band was put through all kinds of odd permutations, but there was always something linking prog groups to conventional rock music - an electric guitar, a drumkit, conventional songs - but TEB had none of those things. violin, cello, oboe and hand held percussion played lengthy instrumental pieces which owed more to minimalism and ragas than to the Beatles or the Stones, so it's remarkable that all of their albums made it into the UK top 50 and that they became a fixture on the festival circuit.

This album (sometimes referred to as Elements) was their sophomore effort, and features four long pieces named after each of the four elements. Air opens the proceedings with some wind noises, the four musicians gradually fading in during the first two minutes. This sets the tone for the rest of the album; nobody solos, nobody coasts and the pieces have a mantra like, compelling quality to them. The playing is good from all four musicians. Glenn Sweeney's feverish percussion at times can be compared to some of Daniel Fieschelsher's work with Popol Vuh, another band who were as concerned with vertical texture as they were with linear development. Paul Minns plays the oboe with a surprising range of tone and impeccable phrasing - in some parts he's overdubbed, creating a shenai-like sound as the melody lines chase each other over the rhythmic foundation. Air is as light and breezy as it's title suggests, while Earth starts as a slow paced dance around the Maypole, with piizzacatto strings and plodding percussion, and gradually builds to a dervish frenzy befroe the whole thing falls away and starts again. Fire is a monotonous, dissonant piece that doesn't really go anywhere and takes over 9 minutes to do it, while Water is appropriately the gentlest of the four tracks, featuring another enchanting Paul Minns oboe part over a hypnotic beat and some low viola and cello chords. The album closes with the sound of waves lapping the shore, as it started with the sound of the wind.

Not a masterpiece, but worthy of four stars for being so adventurous in terms of instrumentation and style. Fans of GY!BE and A Silver Mt. Zion may find this interesting, or it could be seen as an instrumental counterpart to Comus' First Utterance. Well worth tracking down.

Syzygy | 4/5 |

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