Monday, July 23, 2007
The Legendary Pink Dots - Under Triple Moons
Collecting many songs from four of their earliest cassette-only limited releases ("Premonition", "Chemical Playschool 1/2", "Kleine Krieg", and "Traumstadt 2"), this collection is an entertaining collection of early synth-pop, presented through the highly individualized and charismatic musical vision of Edward Ka-Spel, the Silverman, and their many companions. I was first introduced to this group by the now-defunct music service Audiogalaxy, which mainly served as a gigantic indie music bazaar promoting underground and/or sub-genre phenomena. Having earlier bought their album "The Whispering Wall" years earlier, I recently discovered upon this 1997 release.
One of the most immediate realities one experiences when first listens to this album is that, while a disclaimer is inserted into the linear notes "that all pieces were recorded on primitive equipment...Do not expect digital bliss, sensurround...", it must be noted that, while indeed sounding a bit dated when compared with later work by themselves and others, these recordings have fared the ravages of time much better than other albums and bands recording during this time (this is partially due to the excellent re-mastering by ROIR Records). Furthermore, while the band seems to apologize for the 'primitive' nature of their equipment, it in no way detracts from the well-crafted structure of the songs, as well as the minute attention given towards the production.
Roughly half of the album consists of the majority of the "Premonition" release, thus most of the songs segue into each other seamlessly. Most of the songs consist of multiple keyboard rhythms, along with various treated samples swimming around Edward Ka-Spel's monotone (yet strangely musical) vocals (on occasion accompanied by heavily vocoded vocals that are usually unintelligible). Drum beats, when they are even present on the song, perform their function perfectly without being overly noticeable or noteworthy. "Splash" is a mellow account of a night of public drunkenness, while the oddly named "Dying For The Emperor" is an upbeat song featuring spacey synth lines (and the classic chorus "We've gotta destroy the aliens, gotta destroy the aliens"). "Oceans Of Emotion" has more in the way of an actual song progression (as opposed to layered keyboard rhythms), with a prominent and slightly groovy bass and drum backbone. Halfway through the album is the album standout "Premonition 2". Beginning with lethargic keyboard chords, it soon shifts to an awesome acoustic guitar passage amidst a backdrop of compelling news samples, dating from the conflict in Northern Ireland, in which the Protestant leader (possibly of the IRA) addresses an unknown audience of their conviction in their beliefs. Truly inspirational. Meanwhile, "Frosty" is a synth-psych freak-out about a paranoid kid who hides himself from the world in...the refrigerator. "A Lust For Powder [Version Apocalypse]" hides within it's already strange sounding interior a veritable mishmash of cut-up samples, bargain store keyboard stabs, and cheap drums placed at random. The song will sometimes dangle a hint of organization for a few precious seconds, only to dash your hopes to the ground as different and new elements arise out of the seemingly endless stream of them (the many different choirs procured is quite impressive).
In short, Edward Ka-Spel has enough stories in this one collection alone to fill several books. He and his group succeeded in portraying a palatable sense of paranoia fueled by psychedelic experiences, illustrated aurally by well-constructed synth-pop. While the age of the recordings is still very apparent, it has retained it's integrity throughout the years (something that cannot be said for the majority of 80's synth-pop musicians...*cough, Gary Numan, cough*). For those new to The Legendary Pink Dots, and their extremely unique and diverse brand of music, I would recommend that you first purchase one of their more recent albums (such as the very good "The Whispering Wall", which I bought way back in 2004) or the "best of" collection "Canta Mientras Puedas". If you are familiar with the Dots, though, then this should serve as an excellent window into their earliest years of existence. Their signature trademarks, which would be radically explored and expanded upon with future releases, can be seen in very powerful form in their songs created by "primitive equipment".
The linear notes end on a positive note, stating that "...brain damage is guaranteed". Thankfully, it is the good kind (if such a thing exists).
"Sing While You May"
Beta-Lactam Ring Records
Unofficial "Flesh Parade" video (not for children!)