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Nektar - Journey To The Centre Of The Eye CD (album) cover

JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EYE

Nektar

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.71 | 231 ratings

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4 stars Definitely one for fans of early Floyd, this album is a feast of spacey sounds in a kind of accessible Krautrock vein.

"Journey" is a somewhat uneven effort, but credit has to be given to Nektar for blending all these elements on their debut album in what is clearly an honest attempt to find and establish their own sound.

The prelude has smatterings of Saucerful of Secrets and Meddle all over it, and the title Astronaut's Nightmare would suggest things like Astronomy Domine and Set the Controls...

However, the music of Astronauts nightmare is more akin to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", but carrying a soupcon of early Hawkwind and Focus (the riff from "Hocus Pocus") and maybe even Deep Purple and Uriah Heep.

Countenance takes us into more ambient territory, with some quite wonderful keyboard sounds and intriguing guitar/bass interplay. I am reminded once again of Saucerful of Secrets - but this time the final part - in two things; the step-descending chord progression and the constant build-up aspect. You can practically hear Roger Waters vocals chiming in over the top.

"The Nine Lifeless Daughters..." comes in with a bit of a jolt, sitting more in Iron Butterfly land, but with an insistent driving riff that carries the Nektar hallmark of individuality. The piece builds towards a kind of swirling frenzy - at one point I was almost expecting it to slam into an anthemic Trance hook - then dissolves into "Warp Oversight", a starlit piece of texture exploration that boldly goes around black holes, and may even deliver one or two revelations. Around 2:20 the feel is a little lost with a thumping drum and bass intrusion, but fortunately it returns - and delivers a wonderful "heartbeat" accompanied passage that seems to foretell "Dark Side of the Moon" in a way.

Then Bam! The Dream Nebula Pt 1 crashes in, with columns of sound framing delicate and often edgy textures. The vocals are a great demonstration of the fun that can be had armed with but a single copycat tape loop, and contribute to the overall texture wonderfully. Pt 2 seems somewhat hesitant at first, by contrast - and the vocals sound quite Bowie-like.

The guitarist then gets busy with the copycat, now that the singer has tired of it, and constructs a neat solo passge that continues the Bowie-in-space feel.

"It's all in the Mind" carries some really cheesey lyrics - "My mind goes round like a roundabout", "Darker than darkest night", "My mind expands to a great degree - a feeling that must be free" - but fortunately it is also positively dripping with Mellotrons. Pwhoar!!!

Some really great textural experimentation is interspersed with some really unfortunate riff experimentation, but the build-up to the guitar solo and beyond is quite wonderful, marred only by a return to the textures and riffs from before the solo - full points for formal exploration, but null points for some of those riffs.

"Burn Out My Eyes", a seven and a half minuter, features loads more Mellotrons, and an ice-cool slow groove that carries the song along to a passage of starts and stops that I find somewhat uncomfortable. Fortunately the song goes through many episodes of development that maintain the interest throughout, and not only does it never get boring, despite the constant changing, it also remains engaging.

"Void of Vision" has a rather wonderful almost atonal feel to start, and the song parts are rooted in Barret-style psychedelia and the Beatles. The "atonal" passage is re-used as the song structure reveals itself, but where the bridge should be is a real surprise, and a lovely smattering of vocal harmonies that show Yes how it should be done.

These are carried into "Pupil of the Eye", such that the ending of one song and the beginning of the next are completely blurred. This is quite wonderful until the awful riff around 1:40ish and the section that follow it.

"Look Inside Yourself" (title inspired by Uriah Heep?) is a nice, short, Mellotron drenched affair - in fact, we get two Mellotrons - what more could you want?

"Death of the Mind" shares an apocalyptic vision with the re-interpretation of the "While my Guitar..." variant that we were treated to in the early bars of this album - and the song is given a nod and a wink through the lyrics "Although my eyes are gently weeping " - I get the distinct impression that this album, indeed, perhaps this song inspired the mighty Necronomicon Opus "Tips Zum Selbst Mord".

I therefore feel a little cruel in awarding this album less than the masterpiece I offered to Necronomicon, especially since this is a less amateurish sounding effort. However, despite the more polished compositions and arrangements - and, indeed those Mellotrons, I find it to be more derivative and pretentious, and has too many moments where the promise does not match the delivery.

On the production side, I'm not sure if it's just the presssing I own, but the bass is not as clearly defined as I'd like, and has little presence - indeed, the instruments as a whole lack clarity,there are a number of times where the drop-ins are not only audible but frankly intrusive, and it's a tribute to the band that the music itself outshines the production.

And so it is that this is a most excellent addition to your Prog music collection - and one that will either switch you straight onto Krautrock, or put you off it completely - until the next time you listen to it, at which time it's sucker-toothed tentacles will pull you into the cosmic void inside your mind's eye.

Or something.

SOLID 4/5

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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