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Psychedelic/Space Rock • Germany

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Prisma biography
Not much is known about this obscure German outfit. Wielding a psychedelic heavy rock not unlike their contemporaries Jane, Prisma recorded this album in front of a live audience in their hometown of Karlsruhe 1977. A strong rhythm section with soaring guitar leads and some bubbly Hammond organ simmering away underneath, this band may not have been reinventing the wheel, but they rock like the proverbial bat out of hell.

The group consisted of Sabine Schäfer (keyboards), Juan "Bully" Aust (keyboards, vocals), Michael Weiler (guitar), Manfred Grötzinger (bass) and Werner Kühn (drums).

Reissued as vinyl only in 2007 by Red Lounge Records

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2.09 | 4 ratings

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 Phantasma by PRISMA album cover Live, 1977
2.09 | 4 ratings

Prisma Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Phantasma' - Prisma (4/10)

Prisma- like the Dutch band of the same name and era- were a presumably short-lived act that fell into the darker depths of obscurity, unknown even to most diehard fans of progressive rock. There is very little written on the web about these guys, and it's not surprising, given that they recorded a single live album before fading out, and one that remained unpublished until getting a release by Red Lounge Records, thirty years after its recording. In other words, "Phantasma" is one of the lost, forgotten, would-be episodes of Krautrock history. Although Prisma's proggy hard rock sound sports a solid chemistry between musicians, it is an otherwise unremarkable, jam-oriented performance gravely wounded by the sort of abysmal, basement-grade recording you only hear on obscure demo releases like this one. There are some musical successes here that suggest that Prisma had potential, but barring its attractive obscurity, we are left with an album that does little to justify a recommendation.

"Phantasma" was recorded in front of a small audience in 1977, in the band's hometown of Karlsruhe. Clearly, many of their compatriots have influenced them; there is a distinct Krautrock style here that pairs often improvised guitar leads with a thick keyboard presence. With two keyboardists in the band, the sounds of the synth and organ can occasionally betray the atmosphere of the early Tangerine Dream album "Electronic Meditation". Although the album is split into parts for the sake of navigation, it is essentially an album- length performance, with the only change being the introduction of vocalist Juan Aust halfway through the album. Although there are a few queues throughout this piece where the band comes together smoothly to share a new rhythm or melodic idea, the majority of "Phantasma" consists of guitarist Michael Weiler wandering overtop with leads that echo the era of classic space rock. Although the guitar occasionally comes across an interesting hook to build upon, the guitar- despite its intention to lead the band's jam- is perpetually overshadowed by the keyboards, which truly 'make' the band. The keyboard ideas also feel sparse in terms of predetermined composition, but the textures are rich (at least as rich as a demo production will allow) and they maintain a pleasant momentum. Prisma are by no means excellent at filling in the gaps between composed sections, but there is a nice chemistry here within the rhythm section.

Aust's vocals, by contrast, are sorely lacking, although this is not entirely the performer's fault. His voice is pleasantly tuneful enough (somewhat reminiscent of Robert Plant at times), but like the guitar, it's as if his melodies are largely improvised. Even if they're not, there's not a moment here where the vocals seem to fit in. Vocals don't tend to bode well for a jam, and they don't contribute anything vital to the band's sound as a whole. Aust's performance could have been even mildly enjoyable however, had it not been for the production. Although the presumably tight budget and live setting are both causes for an understandably weak production, the recording quality is abysmal. By contemporary standards, it's as if someone took out their cellphone to record a concert, and pressed it to vinyl. Even then, however, that wouldn't describe how the sound partially cuts out in places. Aust's vocals bear the greatest brunt of this, going from being too loud to barely audible within a single melodic line. The scratchy production works at times for the band's more experimental, dark passages, but these are fairly scarce. There's no information available on how the band recorded this material, but it sounds like something that a band would have used for their own reference as a rehearsal tape, rather than anything to be released for public ears. Of course, this recording was kept under the pillow for thirty years before Red Lounge picked it up, so that may have very well its purpose.

Prisma's "Phantasma" raises some questions. I am left wondering why this band never got around to recording this music in a more appropriate setting, and why there is nothing left of them, save for this live album. Alas, "Phantasma" is all we have from Prisma, and it reeks of wasted potential. There remain a great number of relatively unknown albums out there that are excellent and deserved much more attention than they received. In spite of Prisma's flair for live improvisation, "Phantasma" is not one of them.

Thanks to Guldbamsen for the artist addition.

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