This album from the well known avant-garde composer and multi-talented instrumental collaborator is a collection of previously unreleased studio material from an 8 year period since 1988. Although taken mainly from leftovers in Mike's own album recordings it does additionally encompass tracks from Inhale, a collaboration with Lyle Workman, and Mike's input to the 156 Strings acoustic Cuneiform compilation as well as some soundtrack work for the USA's Court TV. Despite the "leftovers" tag, the quality of the work is unmistakeably Keneally.
The short, eerie opening synth/drum piece "2CTV" is, as implied, extracted from the Court TV soundtracks from 1999. It is followed by a crumbly acoustic guitar-accompanied lament inspired by the Iraq invasion. This and the next one are two of the longer of the 21 pieces on the album. "Feelin' Strangely" develops into an extended sustained electric guitar solo from Mike and a wild finish bringing Boz Scaggs into Mike's target range, completed by Rick Mussalam on wah-wah pedals for the exit. Li'l is a lively guitar-led track with a real mix of time signatures and some brilliant bass and drumming from Bryan Beller and Nick D'Virgilio. Backwards Deb is an alternative version (with vocals sung in the third person rather than first) of the same track from the "Dancing" album with Beer for Dolphins, a good solid complicated rock song this one which wouldn't have been amiss on an early Spocks Beard album.
Multi-instrumentalist Lyle Workman appears on Inhale, with Mike confined to vocals. This song is from Lyle's album Tabula Rasa and contains a languidly breathing rhythm, replete with orchestral string layers and soaring guitar chords, and finished off with a really freaky outro. The freakiness continues into the next track "4$" a strangely compelling soundtrack-like brew of bells, squeaks and strings which behaves kind of like one of those toys-getting-out-of-the-attic-at-night films; although it turns out to actually be an homage to Seamus, Mike's dead guinea pig, hence the squeaky bits! One could certainly imagine this work choreographed although you may not want to take Mike up on his sleeve-note offer to dance the whole piece himself! A grungy uncut version of Skull Bubbles (from Dancing) comes up next before the strange bit of nonsense, "Stop for red flashing light". "Lonely Man" is a lugubrious, Harry Nilsson-like song which often left me expecting the phrase 'making whoopy' to appear – fortunately it doesn't.
"Selfish otter" is arguably the best instrumental composition/impro on the album with Evan Francis' mean sax accompanied by marimba, fuzzed guitar, percussion and squeezed trumpet impersonating one of Frank Zappa's jazz-influenced pieces, in the era of the Grand Wazoo. That might even be Evelyn on the "Concise Piano Statement" which follows! The stuttering scale collapse which is "AeroDef" separates us from the first of two references to Dr Death for the Court TV series, an eerie London fog-evoking piano piece. Although nothing to do with the previous track it is illuminating that Mike chose to put "Thou shalt not kill" here" – it is in fact an extract from the 19 guitarist album 156 Strings mentioned earlier.
The album closes with the appropriately titled "The ending of things", a reflective acoustic guitar accompanied song drawing on Jeff Buckley influences. Other highlights among this intriguing collection are the melancholy "Never ever wrong", an ode to divorce, the unusual percussion in the snippet of "Unused Ham", the "Paloma" piece, actually played on the Indian instrument, although the Americana-inspired arrangement wouldn't give it away and the second Kervorkian piece, if anything (and rather unfairly) more dripping in blood than the first.
For those who are new to Mike's work this is a good compilation of sorts as it means that, if you like it, you don't end up buying so many of the tracks again on the original studio albums – perhaps a rather better marketing tag than issuing it as unreleased things, rarities and allsorts?
2. Feelin' strangely
4. Backwards Deb
5. Bubble Creek
6. Never ever wrong
7. Unused ham
8. I heard about what you said
11. Skull bubbles
12. Stop for red flashing light, Part One
13. Lonely man
14. Selfish otter
15. A concise piano statement
17. Kervorkian 17
18. Thou shalt not kill
20. Kervorkian 17
21. The endings of things