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Random Touch: Alchemy (CD/DVD)

The experimental trio's seventh album plus DVD is a showpiece in experimental ambient and psychedelic/trance music with occasional jazz leanings. Much of the work is improvised although the long relationship dating back to 1978 between James Day on Keys and Chris Brown on drums means that is not always obvious. As Brown says, "when we play, its like entering a trance; visual elements and even drama materialise of their own accord as if I've fallen into a waking dream".

Fourteen soundscapes make up the album with the enigmatically titled opener 'Incompleteness Becomes Us' being one of the highlights with its synthesiser mists, stabbing guitar from Scott Hamill and gently ebbing and flowing drum patterns. It's a contrast with the jazzy, almost bouncy, 'Cyborgs of Unlimited Dementia' which follows. These are also typical of the wonderful song titles they concoct.

Brown's jazz background is often evident in his drum style whilst the diversity and free-ranging experimentation is expressed through the hypnotic, dream-like piano and synthesiser work of Day.

Echoes of early Floyd, Klaus Schultz or Tangerine Dream are evident along with 20th century classical composers like Philip Glass or John Cage. I couldn't find the Zappa influence the band's promo material suggested until I followed a link to listen to Zappa's interpretation of the work of Edgar Varese, a lesser known light of the turn of the 19/20th century school of classical iconoclasts. This indeed has some relevance although it is far more aggressive and angular than the material we find on Alchemy.

Many of the compositions (such as "Alchemy of Turbulence") occupy regions of space and time which might only be pierced with the aid of certain mind-enhancing chemicals, while others, such as "Moonrise with Plane", take the listener on a musical journey slightly closer to earth, usually pinned down by Scott's guitar phrasing.

The album does tend to become rather flat and monotonous in the middle although repeated listens in the right frame of mind may bring out submerged elements. Nevertheless it has plenty of wonderful sounds and occasionally surprising twists for which the phrase chill-out was clearly made. The lengthy DVD which accompanies it features various home made video backgrounds to the tracks on the album as well as live extracts and discussion on subjects as wide ranging as car journeys with the kids and string theory. Some of them are really quite neat to watch to the music, especially the ones using natural elements such as flowers, fish, insects etc. Everyday objects throughout the collection take on an eerie other-worldly essence through the use of colour replacement and edge distortion. I'm less sure about the band members various 'dancing like someone asleep standing up' pieces but they're still intriguing and round off the whole package well. I was particularly engaged by the video to "Nocturnal Emissions" which tracks the moon and the activities of an industrial plant through fading and resolving images taken through shrubbery, like the secret diary of a Greenpeace activist with a wonky camera.

Rating: CD: 3. DVD: 3.5

Track Listing
1. Incompleteness Becomes Us
2. Cyborgs of Unlimited Dementia
3. Alchemy of Turbulence
4. Stones Whisper in my Sleep
5. Beneath a dreaming moon
6. Abandon
7. Nocturnal Emissions
8. Crossing Expanses Darkly
9. Insectiva hallucinegenica
10. As above, so below
11. Alchemy
12. Moonrise with plane
13. Bound for escape
14. Intimate friction

Added: May 8th 2007
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Random Touch Website
Hits: 1969
Language: english

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