Saturday, 17 November 2007

Mooch - Dr Silbury’s Liquid Brainstem Band

Dr Silbury’s Liquid Brainstem Band
Ambient Live Records 2xCD

SF Writer and musician Steve Palmer has been recording under the Mooch by-line since the early 1990s, releasing a series of ambient and psychedelic space rock albums in-between his literary endeavours of which this formidable collection is by far the most ambitious and challenging. At its heart is the concept of the quantum jukebox through which Palmer has assembled alternative versions of his band, a sort of multiverse exploration of Mooch – some very similar to his own vision, others far away from the original. To achieve this, he’s gathered an impressive collection of collaborators, including former Hawkwind vocalist Bridget Wishart, Spirits Burning and Noh Poetry Records guru Don Falcone and the dazzling electric violinist Cyndee Lee Rule.

The results are something of a Curate’s Egg, varying from studied jazz based psychedelia and world music through baroque piano and art-school experimentalism and on to some seriously heavy rock, not all of which successfully strikes the target. “Silver Violet Flame” is a delightful and melancholic rumination and “Eight Spokes” an engaging ethnically charged improvisation. “Sandman” on the other hand, predominately Palmer’s instruments with Wishart providing sax and vocals, is disappointing because it’s so nearly right but just fails to find its hook and is the clearest demonstration that a little less material developed over a tad more time might have been the way to go. That said, it’s a substantial and neatly presented package and some time invested in sorting the perfect from the ‘almost there’ still leaves the listener with a well-realised achievement. Palmer comments that he’s always regretting his ambitions exceeding his techniques, but in pushing those boundaries there are certainly some fine instances here where he’s succeeded.

Mooch at Myspace
Ambient Live

Stephen Palmer

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