Monday, November 08, 2004

Nektar
"Journey to the Center of the Eye"
(Dream Nebula/Eclectic)

This issue of “Journey to the Center of the Eye” is possibly a shameless attempt at squeezing a few more dollars out of the Krautrock revival circuit. It features a kooky SACD 5.2 Surround Remix layer, meaning that you can throw this on any SACD ready DVD player (probably not as hard as it sounds) and listen in surround sound. Of course I don’t have surround sound, but my square friend down the road sure does, and the price is more than fair. It’s comparable to when the Flaming Lips’ “Zaireeka” came out, and you always had to plan a big Zaireeka freakout hours in advance, complete with 4 different stereos to get the full quadraphonic effect going. Nektar isn’t even German in the first place, but it’s a common misconception. These English had been jamming about in the same scene that originally bore the Beatles, and after them the Monks and you know the rest. All the psychedelic cross cultural pollination (including meeting and playing with the one and only Vangelis) nourished the combo’s psych bombast in a complimentary way as their music became increasingly more demented.

There is a “Prelude” as their often is with any righteous prog classic. It segues into the fantastic “Astronaut’s Nightmare,” a barrage of archaic organ and building percussion that blasts off as feral psych jamming in the Amon Duul II/ early King Crimson vein. Taff Freeman’s organ throughout is phenomenal in battle with Roye Allbrighton’s metallic/acid guitar squalls. There’s even a “21 Century Schizoid Man” styled fuzz box on the vocal. This gives way to the ethereal melotron-laced instrumental “Countenance,” erupting with charging guitar trills at the finale. Next up are a couple more instrumentals which deftly combine familiar psych traits and pure head ringing in a production that’s about as lysergically charged as anything I’ve heard from 1971.

Throughout this album there is cohesion, from the loose theme of a larger concept to its classical suite-like structure. It all flows together to tell some larger cosmic adventure exploring the looming question of nuclear war and more—not such a far cry from what you Black Sabbath and Necronomicon’s were singing about ‘round then. But there is often a pop appeal too, summed up nicely in the bonus inclusion here of the first Nektar single, “1-2-3-4” b/w “Do You Believe in Magic?” (not the Lovin’ Spoonful song). The former is a funky slice of prog pop with “do-do-do” harmonies, and the latter easily achieves singalong, toe-tapper status, which they would explore more incessantly on later albums, such as the underrated “Down to Earth.” No real surprise then that this debut comes highly recommended to those who can’t get enough of first wave krautrock and acid tainted Brit invasion lunacy. It’s basically what one might expect from a British band formed in Germany in 1969, and that’s anything but predictability. I’ll have to get back re that whole Dolby Surround thing.

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