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Spiral - The Death Of Billy Jensen CD (album) cover

THE DEATH OF BILLY JENSEN

Spiral

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

2.73 | 7 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Epic tales begin

Chris Boat and Aaron Frale who comprise the duo known as Spiral claim to be "desert born", children of the American southwest's sand and cacti. Theirs is one of the most interesting musical projects I've heard in some time. A sound that comprises heavy prog, psych, space, and doom all in one very strange basket. It sounds like "Saucerful of Secrets" era Floyd mixed with the dark Italian sound troupe Jacula, spinning unspeakable tales from desolate corners of the human psyche. They are prolific and are obviously in love with what they are doing, you can feel it. These guys are immersed in capturing the wealth of ideas currently flowing and it certainly drew me in. They have the same sense of excitement for their project that a boy has for that first Ant Farm, or that Kevin Smith has for his comic books. Infectious and authentic. As with Jacula, not everyone is going to take to the uncompromising sense of independent creativity at work here....these guys are not going to please the bubble gum prog crowd, but for those they connect with, these guys are going to be hugely admired some day.

As with any new discovery that piques my curiosity I try to go back and start from the beginning. "The Death of Billy Jensen" is the bizarre story of a family that "lived for generations birthing exact genetic copies of themselves. Every generation the youngest Jensen (Billy Jensen's little sister) kills all of her brothers one by one. After each kill she becomes miraculously pregnant and rebirths the brother she's just killed. After each of her brothers has been reborn she gives birth to herself, her head caving in as her younger self crowns and so on, until the entire family is renewed." So, how's that for something different?

The music is even more interesting than the wild storytelling. I wonder if these guys have ever heard of Jacula, because minus the Latin sťance chant, they often sound like Jacula reborn. Wide open desolate keyboard landscapes set the stage, from spacey synth atmosphere reminiscent of 60s psych-rock to dirty organ sounds, to some occasional patches of what sound like harpsichord, all drenched in the mood of the piece. Lots of room is left for the sounds to breathe and percolate, I love that, how they don't force too much stuff together into a noisy mess as many bands do. Instead the instruments are given room to be effective. The singing and spoken narrations are told via dry, almost possessed sounding vocals. These will be off-putting to some but I really love the approach....it sounds more cinematic to have vocals that inhabit the characters than listening to some guy simply sing with the usual melodic intentions. These guys crawl right into the bodies of the characters and you feel it. "Dirt" is incredible with vocals that sound like the Goa'uld system lords lecturing their enslaved.

The intensely unique keys and vox are presented over an early 70s influenced (I would imagine) hard/heavy sound with the big basslines and ominous drumming, which I think in a Jacula review I referred to as the "funeral sound." The guitar playing is pure freedom, free from the formulaic expressions heard in so many quarters....here the leads and rhythms are supporting the soundtrack along with the keys, occasionally taking control with heavy riffing, crunchy power chords or spooky leads. In fact in "Jensen's Little Sister" they use lonely banjo notes slowly picked over a sludgy bass line, just wonderful how they explore different ways to put forth the eerie vibe. The last thing I love here is how they tie together the longer pieces with the short three part interlude sequence "Jensen's Theme, parts 1-3", a creepy little earworm which nicely maintains the conceptual feel. Again, attention to detail abounds. I'm afraid there is no happy ending in the closer "Mother", a subdued look at the character's stifled memory expressed with a repetitive and simple keyboard motif and a longing guitar solo.

An amazing debut album for those who like the strange and the creepy, Spiral will become a legendary cult band I suspect. They celebrate that sense of abandon and wonder that few bands inspire in me anymore. Yeah, I love the weirdness factor, but more than that it feels like these guys truly care about creating a world for their listeners to explore.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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