Soundchecks Music Reviews
Mooch are -
Terry Bartlett: guitar, percussion
Cal Lewin: keyboards, bass
Garry Lewin: keyboards, percussion
Steve Palmer: keyboards, edits, mixes and re-mastering
Phil Watson: percussion
FLIGHT OF THE DUB VOYAGER
review by J.C. Hartley
Mooch were a 1990s' ambient/ trance band/ project led by guitarist and SF writer Steve Palmer, and responsible for a load of music that never heard the light of day and much that is out of print. Flight Of The Dub Voyager is the first of a series of re-mastered re-issues of some of this music.
The piece of music presented here is a continuous track broken into 12 titled sub-sections as listed on the sleeve notes - First Mushroom, Forest Bypass, Plains Debris, etc. However audio equipment doesn't recognise the sections so it's pretty much up to the listener to decide where See Barsuomi segues into Mushroom Hat.
I would like to present this review as a continuous piece of writing broken into various titled sub-sections.
She Loves You, etc
The problem for someone who has been aware of popular music for over 40 years and who remembers when the new rock 'n' roll was, well... rock 'n' roll, is that everything now sounds like something else. A notion behind this album appears to be to take trippy trance music down some of the echoing corridors of rock and this it does very well but I find myself thinking 'oh there's the punctuating guitar from Tubular Bells' or 'there's Eno's tinny glissando effects from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' and then I wonder if this is an intentional reference or just a side-effect of my advanced years, and then I wonder should I be wondering this or just letting my head loll back as it all sweeps over me.
How Many Miles to Babylon?
When our kids were little we chanced upon a cassette of nursery rhymes with fiendishly clever production values. What they did was package standards of the genre like 'Wee Willy Winky' and 'Little Miss Muffet' with suitable vocal and musical performances likely to appeal to parents on a subliminal level, instead of 'The Royal Philharmonia plays Jagger and Richards' you got the equivalent of 'Jim Steinman does the Nursery', big overblown portentous versions of kiddies' classics that, as you negotiated the M6 outside Birmingham, you could kid yourself was proper music. Dub Voyager could be trance for prog-rock fans, similarly packaged.
Part of my problem with this kind of thing is 'when do you listen to it' and this strikes at the very core of my relationship to popular music. I go for long periods when I don't listen to music; I can no longer write while listening to music or I find it damn hard to find a piece of music I can listen to while writing. My kids do homework, revise or engage with MSN with a constant background, I used to be the same; I did an entire two-year HND course to the soundtrack of Little Feat, Talking Heads, The Incredible String Band, The Roches et al. I no longer just listen to music, time's too short; I cook or drive to music but I don't just sit. The spacey environments of Dub Voyager demand empathetic engagement or the artificial envelope of psychedelic association neither of which I can sign up for.
I have grown up despising the kind of reviews that are more about the reviewer than the subject and now I've just written one. This is an accomplished if occasionally pretentious piece of music, it's full of little bits that remind you of other bits. It held my attention while I chopped the onions and peeled the taties but, about half way through, the tabla effects just got too much for me. I got out of drugs when they started being designed and my musical tastes now are a bit retro (I quite like The Streets and my son got me into Sublime) but I wonder who this album will appeal to? Isn't it too 'prog' for ambient trance-ists? Isn't it too trance for progsters? I've read a load of good reviews so I'm happy to accept I'm out of step but, hey, a few lyrics wouldn't have gone amiss, anyone for How Many Miles to Babylon?
for PIGASUS Press