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


Third Ear Band


Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

3.46 | 57 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While initially forming out of the ashes of a band called Hydrogen Jukebox, percussionist Glen Sweeney switched gears to form THIRD EAR BAND, which was created to improvise Indo-raga type droning effects with freeform instruments that swirl like insects around the percussive drive. The band found success as they signed a three record album deal with Harvest Records. The debut release "Alchemy" displayed a totally unique form of musical experience that was part Indo-raga, part Medieval folk and part schizoid avant-garde bizarr-o-rama weirdness. Despite the completely freaked out nature of the album, this was the late 60s, a time when Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart were finding their day in the sun, and THIRD EAR BAND offered yet another mind altering musical experience to the impressive legacy of the era.

The second album, simply called THIRD EAR BAND continued the freeform improvisational setting of the debut album albeit in a slightly more accessible form, if accessible is the right word. By that i mean that this eponymous sophomore release is more structured and more tamped down by a steady percussive drive that sound to me like some sort of talking drums having conversations with one another. There are only four musicians. Percussionist Glen Sweeney, Paul Minns alternating between oboe and recorder, Richard Coff alternating between the violin and viola and Ursula Smith exemplifying her best cello torturing skills, however nothing on this second release is as far out and startling as the debut.

While eponymously titled, the album is affectionately called "Elements," that being due to the fact that it contains four tracks referencing the main elements of the Earth from antiquity. Those being of course: "Air," "Earth," "Fire" and "Water." Each track presents a musical motif that generates the overall vibe of the corresponding element. Therefore, "Air" is somewhat quickened like a vaporous gas with a heavy percussive drive and loose woodwind and string structures that are as formless as the clouds in the skies above. "Earth" is more grounded and sounds more like a Middle Eastern oasis stop with Arabian musical scales augmented by a rather Celtic sounding fiddling session that ratchets up ever slightly until it is fully caffeinated by the end of its near ten minute run.

"Fire," as expected is, well, fiery. This is the most avant-garde track on the album. While it utilizes the same steady percussive drive, it presents a cacophonous series of counterpoints like flickering flames in a campfire. The oboe provides an incessant drone while the recorder bounces around like a cauldron of popcorn at a movie theatre. Likewise the violin and cello are screechy and buzzing around each other like drunken bees on psychedelic honey. "Water" ends as the shortest track (just barely over seven minutes) and provides a nice relaxing counterpoint to the frenetic nature of "Fire." The drone enters and sustains uninterrupted for a long period. It is joined by ocean waves which i assume are field recordings. The percussion enters but is far gentler than any other track. Likewise the strings and wind instruments join in harmony as they gently unify to create a melody. This one offers a strange Celtic vibe with Medieval folk as the oriental influences have dissipated.

While far more adventurous than the average rock band of the 60s, "Elements" does tame down THIRD EAR BAND's bombastic display of their debut "Alchemy" quite a bit. Although staunchly avant-garde, this one has a smoother and more mature display of the musical flow. While some may deem this too repetitive or even dare i say, boring, i find this to be quite meditative. It has a passive beauty with the complexities shining through on the dissonant freeform counterpoints of the strings and woodwinds. It's also easy to hear how THIRD EAR BAND's improvisation style built on droning rhythmic flows of percussion were antecedents to the electronic pioneers of industrial as well as the more artistic angularities of post-punk especially in the no wave world. While not as adventurous as the debut, this one has a charm all its own in how it flows in a more controlled fashion. Another great album by THIRD EAR BAND.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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