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Skullflower: Orange Canyon Mind

Drone rock does, but it isn't. I.e. it sure drones, but it isn't rock. Orange Canyon Mind is Matthew (Skullflower) Bower's follow up to his 2003 release Exquisite Fucking Boredom. Perhaps it should have been called Exquisite Fucking Boredom II because it is.

It is entirely probable that bands like Sun O))) and Skullflower will find an appreciative audience somewhere but it's unlikely it will be found among Sea Of Tranquility's discerning readers.

How hard can it be: You develop several seconds of a swirling electronic sounds. You loop them, and set the loop to repeat endlessly. You grab a few analog instruments (guitar, flute, but no bass) and strike a distorted chord and hold it and hold it, and let it ebb and flow in waves of noise like a spaced-out version of last summer's Cicadas. Now impose a few lines of real instruments, but at mixing time, shove them way into the background. You randomly selected a start point and the number of minutes and seconds you want it to continue. Do this again eight separate times, put them onto a CD, select some spacey song names, and bingo you're a genius.

These tracks don't go anywhere! A few of them have a slight sonic development toward the end the sort of thing a genuinely progressive act like Hawkwind or Tangerine Dream would achieve in 10 bars, or a standard rock outfit would accomplish in about 2 if they ever bothered to indulge themselves in this sort of pointless mush.

You think this description is an exaggeration? Try fast-forwarding to any point in the same track and you'll find there is almost no discernable difference. These pieces have no melody, almost no rhythm, no structure, no composition no point!

If you need an altered-state space-out vehicle, this is it. If your music needs melody and rhythm and structure and purpose, look elsewhere.

Track Listing:

  1. Starry Wisdom (8:32)
  2. Orange Canyon Mind (5:53)
  3. Annihilating Angel (6:55)
  4. Vampires Breath (7:25)
  5. Ghosts Ice Aliens (9:54)
  6. Goat of a Thousand Young (7:00)
  7. Star Hill (8:37)
  8. Forked Lightning (6:44)

Added: October 9th 2005
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Related Link: Crucial Blasts's Website
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Language: english

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Skullflower: Orange Canyon Mind
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-10-09 09:50:40
My Score:

Skullflower's Orange Canyon Mind is an extremely difficult listen. I would have dismissed this as garbage had it not been for the fact that they've been around since the mid-80's and have continuously experimented in the field of drone rock meets avant garde meets tons of distorted electronic soundscapes. Truth be told, after tens of listens with an open mind, I am still of the opinion that filling a 60+ minute disc with eight tracks all loaded with the aforementioned elements is a weird task to say the least. There sure must be people out there who love this band for what they are, but I personally think it's all done a bit excessively and the music is too much out there.

Admittedly, first spin suggested I hated this disc. Second and third spins didn't really change my opinion much. Actually I had a headache listening to it from start to finish, especially when I tried to play it consecutively. So I put it aside for a couple of days only to return to it; I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything vital. Each listen cemented my opinion that this isn't the type of music I enjoy, even though I quite like most of the albums Godflesh have put out, a band Skullflower guys claim they have heavily influenced. The drone factor prevalant on this disc could evoke some of the Sunn O))) stuff, except that Sunn O))) is more of a doom drone band, while Skullflower is on the more electronic side of the spectrum. Their songs are long, and very monotonous, and they have absolutely no hooks, no real rhythm or structure, or even purpose. They just endlessly drone and drone to the point that you may want to know what the point is, but then maybe that's the entire point. Maybe these guys just love to stretch their compositions through endlessly repetitive guitar chords that come through incredibly thick distorted sound waves, guitar feedback, and loops. At times you're not sure if what you hear is what they actually had on mind, as it's a huge load of electronic sound draped over low-key guitar themes and barely audible drum beats. The sound can get immensely static with little no change or variation whatsoever, and they'll stretch the piece into infinity, only to abruptly cut it out and bleed into the next track. Interesting, no?

Thankfully, patient repeated listens enabled me to find some nice moments on some of their songs. Let me try to go through some of them. "Starry Wisdom" is filled with swirling electronic sounds, extremely repetive and droning, and they're looped over and over again. However, I do detect a nice analog synth motif planted underneath it, albeit hard to hear, which shows the guys in Skullflower do understand melody. They just don't practise it. The title track, after the heavily distorted opening number, is like a breath of fresh air, even though most people who've never heard Skullflower would more than probably hate it. There is a more cohesive melody line that runs through distorted chords of white noise and it actually develops into a nice guitar riff, something that is vastly missing on this album. "Annihilating Angel" marries symphonics with industrial music and drones on for a good 4-5 minutes, but it does break into a nice calm midsection that is listenable. The 'windy' guitar work on "Vampires Breath" and the relatively more melodic songwriting on "Star Hill" are also proof that the guys know how to compose melody, but strangely refuse to hone it into their craft. The 9-minute "Ghosts Ice Aliens" simply fails me after all these listens. It just messes with my head, even though I feel their experimentation in freeform jazz and analog sounds could have made for an interesting combination. "Goat of a Thousand Young" is their most chaotic work. It has an industrial tone to it, but quickly slams into an electric machine-sound that feels like someone's drilling your brains out. The word "awkward" would describe it best.

I realise there are fans out there who simply love this type of music. I personally don't think this album is something I could play on a regular basis. I admit it is very experimental, but I just prefer a little bit of more variety in music.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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