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Bob Drake - Medallion Animal Carpet CD (album) cover


Bob Drake


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4 stars Ever wanted to HEAR production?

If you've ever recorded anything, you know that you can "spin" the sound in any direction you want. A song of middling interest can become PHENOMENAL with a well-orchestrated shift in aural perspective. Production IS the sound - and "Medallion Animal Carpet" is FULL of sound.

It's divided into three parts: Part I is a Suite of original songs that segue together with creative production; Part II is a sequence of strangely-mixed country/folk tunes; Part III is a single song collaboration with Tim Gadd.

Part I begins with "Hideous Shrub." The sound emerges throbbing & pulsing through the speakers like a disturbing creature. Instrumental elements appear & vanish with alarming rapidity. The level of vocal audibility shifts erratically; everything grows erratically. There is a sudden break in the texture for a wheezy synthesizer. Excellent - but keep in mind that all I'm describing is just PRODUCTION - the "song itself" consists of a fairly simple vocal melody over world-beat backing. See what I mean? The arrangement IS the music.

This segues directly into "Crude Internal Organ." Now is a good time to mention: almost all of the lyrics came from a random word-generator. Cool, no? This particular number features an incredible amount of lyrics crammed into a very tight spot, all part of a nice little folk melody.

"Detrimental Robot" sounds like a rock tune demo with the greatest production ever accomplished. The vocals sit very deep in the mix; the guitar sits right next to your left ear. The drums are panned hard right. The bass growls like a demented creature. One of my favorite songs.

"Maybe It's ____" features one of Bob's favorite lyrical techniques: lyrics that you cannot make out, that do not make sense. The tune is a nice one. The lyric sheet reads, "??????". There are some GREAT riffs in here - in this whole album in fact.

"Concrete Husky." Man, what can I say? LISTEN TO IT:

"How Was It" sounds like an acid-techno rave from Hell, with obscure vocals appearing in far corners as if being sung by a crowd of millions outside the rave, only-just audible.

Suddenly it all gets sucked up into "Where There is Nothing" -- lots of scratches become a steady, dark beat filled with strange small intrusions. Then an acoustic guitar kicks in; it becomes catchy. Then it falls apart; then strange vocal fumblings are heard.

It all becomes "Mound": a hummable stomp-folk number recorded to sound like it's being played in the next room while sustained synthesizers wheeze away right in front of you. I love it. A lot. It's a very comfortable tune.

"Bedraggled Things" is a song proper, with cadences pockmarked by microphone feedback. Pretty catchy really - and those violins are HUGE.

Now, my favorite: "Flashy Smog Wolf Person"! It, along with "Do You Hear See Ammonia," moves through some incredible moods in a very short amount of time. The chorus of "Flashy" sounds like an over-zealous bar band playing the best accidental-7/4 groove in existence. "Ammonia" is stringy violin scrapings and old-timey gospel vocals sung from across the room. Brings a tear to your eye. LISTEN TO IT:

Suddenly, we're in "Slab." You could play this track at a club and people would dance to it. Holy cow, this is sweet. It MOVES. There's organ, there's excellent electric guitar soloing, the drums are incredibly punchy beyond belief, indescribable things float on the periphery, and the entire thing holds together in an amazing way.

Then it goes away. It is simply ABSORBED into "One Night," where a nice folk tune takes over. Nothing is distinct; it all melds together. The violins are a bit out of tune in the best way.

Then it's absorbed again, very quickly: "Light Seen in Empty _____" is like a piece of ambient Hawaiian music like nothing you've ever heard.

It all crumbles into "Dehydrated," one of the best guitar jams. But it's not quite *right*. You can HEAR the faders get pushed up about 5 seconds in: the entire instrumental texture pulses with unpredictability. The vocals are yelled as if from another dimension. The vocals are suddenly yanked right into our face as the song ends, and you can hear Bob's startled disbelief as the instrumental floor paneling vanishes unexpectedly.

...To make way for the finale, "I'm Afraid...". A noisy grease-organ fanfare leads to an off-kilter folk tune, interrupted by one final send-off acoustic guitar-strum instrumental. Wondrous!

Part II is less interesting, but nice. Strangely mixed country-folk covers, with a couple originals tunes as well, but not as aurally interesting. REALLY BIG sound, and quite "noise-rock" or "lo-fi." My favorite is "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane."

It all ends with "Dunwich Confidential" - guest artist Tim Gadd strumming guitar and singing about a Lovecraft story, with Bob Drake providing arrangement backing. Pretty memorable, but very short!

Overall, the album is -very- "experimental." It's also incredibly good, and interesting, but not the best introduction to Bob's work. It IS, however, an astonishing document of interest to anyone who has ever dealt in the field of aural sculpting.

Report this review (#478205)
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
4 stars Oddball RIO/Prog music with Bob handling almost all the instruments and vocals. Bob was a founding member of Thinking Plague, but from the mid 90s onward has winged it alone in a good solo career. Some of this album (Part One) sounds like a cross between Yes and Captain Beefheart. Most of the lyrics in this part were created by a random word generator program. (for real). The general mood is that of chaos - massed sounds and voices colliding with each other, but in a rhythmic, ultimately musical fashion. Rhythmic tracks are high in the mix, as are the voices. Various guitar, bass and keyboard sounds fill in the rest.

Towards the end, there's a stretch of old time/hootenanny standards purposely recorded in bootleg-quality; sounds really otherworldly, like someone held a microphone outside of a barn dance in 1920.

Drake has a truly unique way of making music - very intuitive, as if he dreams up the sounds in his head and then uses his recording expertise to match those sounds on a recording. For him, composition of music seems to have little to do with writing notes on paper. Rather, as a self-contained unit, he relies solely on his own instincts, creating unique pieces and albums that feel like nothing less than the audio equivalent of his dreams.

Report this review (#747347)
Posted Tuesday, May 1, 2012 | Review Permalink

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