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Dead Angel #38, September 1999


Abunai! -- THE MYSTIC RIVER SOUND [Camera Obscura]

I first became aware of this band because of my ranting appreciation of Nisi
Period's SOON THE LOVE BALLOON WILL POP in one of the back issues.
Apparently one of the members of that now-defunct band is currently doodling
at the keyboards in this band, and he informed me so.  As I read up on the
band and this album, I finally became intrigued enough to buy the damn thing,
and guess what?  It's brilliant.  Not only is the music (prog-psych-pop-
something) stellar, but the packaging and concept are amazing as well.
Here's the scoop -- the album is packaged as a psychedelic answer to the
NUGGETS compilations, centered around a handful of Boston bands like The Sea
Monks, Abunai!, The Red Baise, The Seven Seals, Spectrowax, North End
Molasses Disaster, and so on, complete with lengthy liner notes detailing the
scene from which all these hitherto-unknown bands bands evolved.  Of course,
this is all essentially a giant put-on -- Abunai! is the swirly voice behind
every single track -- but it's a good put-on, a well thought-out put-on, and
I definitely approve of the amount of effort and imagination that must go
into something like this: The liner notes abound with bizarre claims of of
Earth-2 doppelgangers and sly inside jokes that are probably vastly amusing
to progophiles and totally impenetrable to anyone else, and the whole thing
is kind of a clever parody of earnest English folk and psychedelic
compilations...strangely enough, it makes me wonder what it would sound like
if Abunai! were to cover in its entirety the FOLKWAYS box set in their own
psychedelic style and issue it with equally convoluted liner notes...
there's probably a nod to Fahey in there somewhere too, given his penchant
for twisted fake notes on his early albums...

Fortunately for those too imaptient for this kind of stuff, you can listen to
the album without knowing (or caring) about any of this.  The twelve tracks
on here are all uniformly excellent, and all just different enough to make it
plausible as a compilation of different bands from the same scene...but at
the same time, the band's sound is unified enough to make it work like an
album as opposed to a scattershot compilation.  The "sound" here largely
encompasses early Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Fifty Foot Hose, maybe Fairport
Convention, and tons of British folk-psych bands whose names I can't think of
right this moment (so sorry), with occasional forays into more modern
fuzzdeath and vaguely punkish elements.  Lots of phased guitars, space echo,
delay units, flangers, and other woozy efx make for big beds of floaty sound
over which Abunai! rock to varying degrees of heaviness.  The "best" tunes
(the ones I like best, anyway), are the more mid-tempo ones crammed full of
strange guitar efx and solid four-on-the-floor drumming, like "Barbara Allen"
and "Learning To Ask" (which also has pretty, melodic guitar bits as well),
"Sweet William", "Can't Always See" (driven by a heavily delayed ping-pong
bass line and swirly keyboard bloops -- most hypnotic and otherworldly, mon),
"Toast" (delay-line ching-ching guitar riffing and everything but the kitchen
sink piled on top of it, sounds from another dimension are go, daddy-o).
Everything is pretty much top-notch, tho -- unlike a lot of prog/psych bands,
Abunai! don't get bogged down in endless jams, and while their songs are
absolutely stuffed full of weird sounds (how the hell do they manage to play
so much stuff at once?), the songs are also intensely structured, so the
tunes are all actually going somewhere instead of just waffling.
Swankness abounds.  I await more...
                                     - RKF    

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