Web of Mimicry Secret Chiefs 3 : Book M (US,2001)*****
I was already impressed by "Eyes of Flesh / Eyes of Shame" (1999)***°°, for its incredible contrasting middle eastern rock, with heavy breakbeat samples, and with a great Ananda Shankar interpretation. After that I was a bit puzzled by their 'collage' based trilogy. This release is worked out even better than the already fantastic first mentioned release. It's a perfect mixture of middle eastern folklore music with some kind of metalguitar- effect touches, and some perfectly mixed breakbeats. It's total effect is as if a UFO machine takes over control of the middle eastern-and-beyond heritage of music. Everything is instrumentally played very powerfully, very correctly and with clear and fantastic contrasting effects, rhythmically and melodically interesting and with lots of tension. There seems to be a joke in the liner notes : "the recording began in the year 1378 and ended in the year 2001". I find this release with no doubt one of the best middle eastern rock items I know of.
The CD has three recorded parts that fluently go from one part into the other. The first section (called "observance of the word") of 4 tracks are my favourite part, as a perfect mix of middle eastern rock with modern production. The second part ("engagement of the sword") starts with "Horseman of the invisible",and continues with "Combat for the Angel", where the rhythms sound like bursts of military armament while the violin has an improvisational outburst. This is the most aggressive piece of the album. Second part is middle eastern music heavy rock mixed with more modern club techno beats (Zulfiqar III), followed by "Siege Perilous", a medieval Saltarello, sounding still very modern in its mix, with straight forward playing. With saz, tar, dumbek, percussion, violin,.. "Dolourous Stroke" is the last, short, part, and is very aggressive again. This piece is darkly energetic with a more chaotic filmic mix, with the "rock'n roll" underneath. The last part of 4 tracks, "Ritual of the cup" as more exotic, with zither, with some extra heavy brass, not losing a certain temper with a filmic thriller / horror effect. Also the to be following middle eastern tunes have a horrifying now or never effect, and a certain underlying tension, possibly of discontentness towards the most focused world's perspectives and tendencies. A great surprise is also the great version of an Ethiopian melody, called "Safina", complete with brass, funky guitars, and a bit more drumming rhythm as in the original, and with a certain additional remix effect (fragment). Great ! A recommended release, and a very talented group. -More recent release is reviewed further down.-
Web of Mimicry Secret Chiefs 3 : Book of Horizons (US,2004)*****
This is again an item from Secret Chiefs 3 who do justice to the complexity of music in general, no matter where it comes from: inspiration from the Middle East (Afghanistan,..), from 70’s orchestrated popular filmmusic, exotic surf, or even doom metal, up to contemporary music, with even touches of the avant-garde. In the final mix, all these inspirations show themselves in an energetic, multi-coloured, ever widening explorative musical expression, showing an energetic and often very new, but still, recognisable sound, which is a thrill to hear for the open minded “real” music lover. I don’t think the concept makes it difficult music at all, although it’s not meant for those who take things too easy. It is exactly small-or narrow-mindedness which perhaps is the only thing that can keep more from loving this music. It’s so filled up with the detail I’ll describe more some of my impressions.
On “The End Times” we hear acoustic guitar, electric piano and ‘musical saw’ nicely playing the entry for a track which idiots would too simply define as being “exotic”, played with santur (-Persian siter instrument-), esraj (-an Indian instrument between saringda and sitar-), sarangi, harp, bass and percussion.
This is followed by one of my favourite tracks, “Ishraqiyun –The four” played with a middle eastern rock touch, and with great complex arrangements, with Middle Eastern percussion & drums, rabab (-Afghan / Indian string instrument-), saz, esraj, viola, microtone guitar, electric bass and keyboards. Like “the 3” a bit later, this is how I prefer to hear middle eastern mucic (into modern standards) ! It has all the best of it, with a portion of Indian and Western music ideas, perfectly in blend, with respect to and for the best strength of the performance of the original tune.
After a filmic (partly world-)electro-acoustic track called “The indestructible drop” we hear something completely different with “Exterminating Angel” : an extreme over-the top doom-metal track, with touches of classical arrangements -they seem to have derived from Penderecki and Arvo Pärt-. Yes, why not ? Every track seems to have its own symbol and esoteric signs interconnected with each other, and that’s how the music feels as well : it goes from one area to another, but still is very connected, comparable to the chambers in a house.
“The Owl in the daylight” after that, has some kind of very well arranged neo-metal orchestrations, and some Rock-In-Opposition aspects fused to something else -if you like. Difficult to figure out everything which is happening at the core, without listening very carefully, and without an in-depth attention.
“The Exile” is partly a keyboard and guitars orchestrated piece, close to what Gothic often attempts but hardly ever succeeds in obtaining much expressiveness. So here the result is much much better excluded, in combination with some ‘Western’ filmmusic.
On “On the Wings of the Hoama” we hear a very advanced conceptual mix of what has world music elements (Indian & Middle Eastern), contemporary music, usual arranged filmmusic as well as avant-garde filmmusic, with a kind of avant-garde middle eastern rock fragment in it, with some surf rock inspiration, etc, in all its fragments still hanging well enough together.
This will go fluently over into “Book T: Exodus”, a very nice Morricone like arrangement of an Ernst Gold track, with a surf guitar touch held at the background. (Guests here are William Winant, Jesse Geere, and others..).
“Hypostasis of the Archons” after that, has again aggressive doom metal inspirations, as brilliant and expressive and as composed as the other tracks. It is supposed to be written by “The Ennemy” (withHesse Quatro, Jessica Kinney, a howling singer called Unhuman and a “composer” called, almost symbollically,The Ennemy). This gets the illustration of a traditional Islamic figure of a devilish figure wrapped in fire and with knives (-forgot his name-).
“The Electrotheonic Grail Dove” is a short contemporary classical fragment.
“The 3” after that is a brilliant Afghan (?) tune adaptation played somewhat with a middle eastern rock touch, and with great complex arrangements, like middle eastern percussion & drums, santur (-Persian siter instrument-), rabab, electric bass, sitar guitar, clavinet (-which is a kind of electric piano with the sound of an electronically amplified clavichord-), and 'add’l daf' (-whatever that is?-). Like I said before, this is middle eastern rock at its best!
“DJ Revisionist” is a combination of very exotic surf with contemporary music and electro-acoustic fragments (-like background firework, experimentally mixed sounds,...-), with middle eastern orchestral and band arrangements, ... Filmic in a initiative way.
“Antropomorphis : Boxleitner” then, is another great mix of a kind of loaded orchestrations, that would also fit well to the better metal, with electro(nic)and other rhythms, with filmic inspiration, and touches of surf bass and, how shall I name this..more fuzzed sounds, with even more middle eastern touches here and there and perhaps even some kind of dancerock to it.
“Welcome to the Theatron Animatronique” has a brilliant filmic orchestration recalling some 70’s movies with an assiociation of sounds to a funfair. It also has a great arranged choral part.
The complete core is captivating from start to end ! In times where different musical elements are often nothing but exploitation, this is a serious work of art. It's modern enough, and it is aggressive and refined enough to blow away the most artificial prejudgments and expectations from any critics.
I repeat that this is brilliant work. With “Book of M” (reviewed a bit above) or is also a must-have.
The references to this recording on its own are interesting as well. Responsible for this recording and group are composer/producer Trey Spruance (Mr. Bungle) who composed most of the material, Eyvind Kang, composer, viola/violinist (he played before with Sun City Girls, Neti-Neti Band, Bill Frisell ,Laurie Anderson ; studied with Michael White and the Indian Dr. N. Rajam , and has now a solo record on Tzadik), Danny Heifetz (Dieselhed, Mr. Bungle), Shazad Ismaily (Nels Cline, Barbez, Brian Eno, Air, Elysian Fields), William Winant (avant-garde percussionist, who cooperated with John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Keith Jarrett, Anthony Braxton, James Tenney, Cecil Taylor, Steve Reich, Jean-Philippe Collard, Frederic Rzewski, Ursula Oppens, Joan LaBarbara, Kronos String Quartet to Sonic Youth, Yo Yo Ma. He now is percussionist for John Zorn’s Chamber Ensemble Xenakis ; he himself covered music varying from Pauline Oliveros, Karlheinz Stockhausen, to Souxie and the Banshees), Phil Franklin (Barbara Manning, Sunburned Hand of the Man), John Merriman (Cephalic Carnage), Ches Smith (Theory of Ruin, Good For Cows), Unhuman, Ursula Knudesen with her musical saw, with on "DJ Revisionist" : Timb Harris, Ches Smith, Jennifer Cass, Rich Doucette, and on "Electrotheonic Grail Dove" also Tom Smolens.
Web Of MimicrySecret Chiefs 3 : path of most resistance
-in history and in presence- (US,2007)****°
Secret Chiefs 3 gives the best example what to do with music which belongs to the whole world, and proves can make the best music with it thanks to skilful interpretation. I thought I needed to order two albums instead of one (because the postage remained the same), so I added this one to the order of the latest SC3 release, not expecting it would add so much more to the previous albums, but it does. The first 7 tracks come from albums I already had, but these tracks are also not only most of my favourite tracks ; they are compiled into an even better and more accessible, new compilation. Also two interpretations of the, for western collectors most famous Indian composers, Ananda Shankar and R.D.Burman are included with great interpretations (of which one of both I haven’t heard yet). Also included is a super fast Roman gypsy wedding music track with brass and heavy metal bass (“Ciocarlia”), and an even better version of Middle Eastern/breakbeat heaviness of “Jabalqa/Jabarsa” which replaces the already brilliant version I knew from before. But also some filmic orchestrated tracks (the opener and “owl in daylight”) are included. The bonus tracks are also unknown to me. They reconsidered a Christmas song and two Beach Boys songs including “Good Vibrations”. In some way they are interpreted in a Residents-alike, I-do-what-I-want-with-it versions, but, different to Residents, they didn’t replace it with much alternative seriousness of new ideas or took the material a bit light so that the original happy lightness of them are not replaced with humour but with dark cynicism, something which for me does not compensate enough musically for what they do with it. Never the less if you only want to check out one SC3 album from before the John Zorn album, this is the one you should take.
Tzadik John Zorn's Xaphan -Book Of Angels volume 9- :
Secret Chiefs 3 : plays Masada Book Two (US,2008)****°
One of the busiest men in the music business with no doubt is John Zorn. Like Sun Ra I think hardly anyone could afford a full discography. In 2004 he wrote over 300 tunes for his ‘Masada’ projects (which started early this century recorded under different Masada names). Some of the best players were introduced some melody sheets with 16 bars of music which they were asked to interpret (previous ones include Bar Kokhba Sextet, Koby Israelite,Marc Ribot and the Masada String Trio). “Book two, the book of Angels”, sounds like a perfect destiny and commitment for Secret Chiefs 3, who interpreted and performed this section, of which I wonder how much it was built from their own ideas, with the restrictions given. Trey Spruance is credited for the arrangements of John Zorn lyricism and rhythmical complexity. It’s filled up to detail with surf and progressive rock and spaghetti Western flavours, with Middle Eastern rhythmic complexity and Arab orchestrations, Ethiopian grooves (3), Balkan swing touches (10), and several other dance/musical forms of rhythmic touches blended with the other collages. While before, Secret Chief 3 switched worlds quickly as if showing different floors and layers from reality, now, more than ever before, they keep more comparable consistent arrangements together. But even then we have many surprises of unexpected worlds, like for instance the sad wordless heaven-beaming-up provoking voice with guitar, organ / orchestration / piano / slide guitar / harpischord and what else on the intro of “Bazakiel”, turning then suddenly in tune, until a different filmic hit atmosphere is provoked with it. There are some heavy guitar touches on “Bezriel”, a track which including some other crazies, wahwahs and funky things in the rather Middle Eastern rock mix. Also “Labbiel” keeps on surprising, despite a sort of complex rhythmical drive, an orchestrated line in it, some vocal and guitar improvisation, all the intersections remain complex and rewarding to follow. “Balzerith” is more a sort of slightly funky / rather progressive jazz/jazzrock with a bit of brass into it too, while keeping the other (rather Middle Eastern) flavours within reach. And on “Omael” we hear an incredible Balkan/gypsy-interpretation mixed into the really complex and -wide in range of influences- arrangements.
This is highly recommended. It is also one the most accessible SC3 release and perhaps the best starter for them to date ! Brilliant mastership & ideas!!
Web Of Mimicry Ishraqiyun : "Balance of the Nineteen"
/ The Electromagnetic Azoth : Ubik (US,2007)****'
Side A of this single presents Secret Chiefs 3 as Ishraqiyun as a live version session of the group (with 2 members missing).
Here the group consists of Eyvind Kang on viola, Shahzad Ismaily on bass, Ches Smith on drums, Trey Spruance on piano, keyboards, saz, percussion and Rich Doucette on sarangi.
Like the group name and cover suggest the music has some Arab /North African / Middle Eastern association. It is as if it presents a filmic but still rock associated well produced version of a traditional, with respect to it, an original mixture typical for the talent of the band.
Side B, “Ubik”, associated with The Electromagnetic Azoth is a brilliant rhythmically collage-like moving electro-acoustic mix based on an inspired solo performance by guitarist Bill Horist, a recording which on its own sounds like a terrific sound meditation.
In this form we hear continuations with beer flowing in glass, and a few splashes of water, bizarre but beautiful harmonies with exploring notes on prepared guitar, which are built up in rhythmic pulses.
The guitar sound like a range of instruments, from guitar to dulcimer to something more industrially metallic, in a way this evokes some tones I associate with what I have heard on Einsturzende Neubauten’s “½ Mensch”, but here it is like being presented in a remixed form and a different reshaping and ever changing remix. At different times the rhythmical evolutions get a more ethnic-like format, while elsewhere electronic bass rhythms appear. Also floating are some words or whispers, or harmonic sonic baritone vocals.
The whole track is rhythmically enough to be called “modern music”, and not just free avant-garde, inhabiting the ear-driven composition sound meditation. 1000 copies only.
Web Of Mimicry Secret Chiefs 3 Traditionalists :
Le Mani Destre Degli Ultimi Unomini (US,2009)****
I always look forward to every new release by the Secret Chiefs 3. They told me already beforehand they were going to split their different approaches in different style games, different groups or different projects. This seems to be the first album of this kind. What were very attractive were their inspirations from Italian movie scores (not only Morricone). This 70s scene especially was creative with certain elements and arrangements, a combination of better rock music (like Goblin) with light suspension (which for Goblin was especially really magical-frightening/horrifying at times), some observational sensuality, and classical-arranged touches (like from Bruno Nicolai), including some contemporary classical tensions. It is all these sort of arrangements which are expressed here, for a fictive horror movie, having touches and elements of several of the composers (and rock band) they admire. I don’t feel the fictive story becoming a new reality but the style exploration itself surely is an utterly convincing soundtrack. The amount of effort that the musicians put into the concept is enormous (12 musicians of which more than half of the instruments are played and arranged by Trey Spruance). Guests include Laurie Goldstein (cellos) and Hans Teuber (flute).
Web Of Mimicry Secret Chiefs 3 Traditionalists :
Satellite Supersonic vol.1 (US,2010)***°
The previously released singles are compiled on this CD. Unfortunately like this you miss a bit the conceptual context of some of the separate products, which gave a visual, material-bound surprise, like the so called Turkish single from Ur or the fake German Kraut single. Not having this entry, the CD creates like this a new plainly musical context. Most tracks are exotic mixtures of Middle Eastern musical themes with improvisations of electric electronic, zither and guitar improvisations. Often this is collage-like, and a bit confusing how these elements hang together outside the improvisational context ; it is a bit more difficult to take out the different contexts and inspirational fields, falling apart in concentrations. One track (6) was clearly influenced by a filmic setting like some of the Italian 70s movies. Track 7 is a different, less surprising, interpretation from the brilliant “Book Of Horizons” album. Very interesting are a few contemporary viola orchestrations which are added on a few tracks. Not a must)have album from the band but a welcome completion.
Web Of Mimicry Secret Chiefs 3 : Book of Souls: Folio A (US,2013)****’
I must be mad still ordering any music from the US. I just wanted one CD, but because the postage was 22 dollars to send even one CD, so I added two more EP’s I didn't have yet. the counter says “Ping”. This is already 54 dollars in total! When the postman finally rang at my door, he told me I had to pay 22 euros extra. “Ping” the counter said again. So, in fact for just wanting to have one CD, I lost 70 !! euros. Bloody hell. What’s wrong with these systems of US postage and then the additional so called “import taxes”?? I have made a complaint at the costume service, asking why they charge 22 euros extra for a package of less than 25 euros of value, but as expected they never responded.
Luckily for me, the album, as usual, is very good showing all the recognisable powerful arrangements of SC3. We have two tracks based upon a Middle Eastern theme, enriched with electric, heavy effects, good hammering drumming and certain small electronic sounds. Then we recognise a perfect tribute/reference to the music of Goblin with some filmic prog-rock arrangements based upon electric guitars, drum, electronics and a filmic piano theme on top. Then we have another Morricone Western reference, with for the first time a song to it, sung by former Mr. Bungle colleague of lead guitarist Trey Spruance, Mike Patton. This alternative version of Jacques Brel‘s “La Chanson de Jacky,” once had been popularized in the United States by Scott Walker, here in a different context still remains convincing. The arrangements of each of the tracks are very well composed with lots of changing of their instruments, different divided sections, and powerful orchestral elements (including flutes and bassoon). In between are a few small TV commercial electronics of themes, mixed with a few riffs from metal music origin, which are nice extra contrasts liming/connecting or bridging the tracks together.