Friday, January 29, 2010

Nektar of the Ghods...?

Xcavations at 1 of the few known sites of the mysterious, vanished Jehr Mann culture have recently uncovered recordings from the latter 1/2 of what was 1nce known as "the 20th Century."
These recordings date from the Old Year 1977 & were per4med by what used 2 B called a "progressive rock group" -- a musical combo that per4med complex compositions while playing electric instruments. The recordings recently unearthed were per4med by a Jehr Mann-based 4-member combo called Nektar.
The group's background is shrouded in the mists of antiquity, but 1 thing we do know is that the members of Nektar were apparently unappreciated in their homeland of Engh Land, & so they journeyed 4th 2 the alien lands of the Jehr Mann's in order 2 play & record their cosmic compositions.
The recordings painstakingly unearthed by archaeologists were Ntitled THRU THE EARS, & apparently were in10ded as a collection of the group's best songs 2 B purchased & Njoyed by Jehr Mann "fans" of the band -- & by fans worldwide.
The recordings were made on discs of polyvinyl -- only a few 1,000 like them have survived over the yrs 2 pass down 2 us, the descendants of those who lived in the 20th Century. Current technology has made it possible 2 hear these voices from the past, & high officials honored those of us who work here at Back-Up Plan HQ by asking if we'd B willing 2 listen 2 & give R opinions on this music from far back in the dawn of history.
We have 2 admit up-front that some of these sounds Dfeated us. 2 "sides" of these discs Cm virtually impervious 2 analysis -- the side featuring the long composition "Remember the Future" (ironic, yes?), & the side featuring 2 in-concert per4mances by the band. Perhaps it will simply take us more time 2 discover the musical & lyrical meanings contained in these compositions.
The other 2 sides, however, R killer.
The 4 men who comprised Nektar were clearly at their very best when "rocking out." Tho they had room & time 4 more lyrical pursuits as well (C below), from the 1st note of these discs it's clear that high-NRG, high-emotion music was this combo's strength. 1 member of R reviewing team educated in music from this long-ago era called Nektar's "full-tilt" approach "sorta a Focus-meets-Hawkwind kinda sound."
This is clear from the 1st chorus of the opening song, "Do You Believe in Magic." The driving riffs provided by guitarist/vocalist Roye Albrighton build in 4ce & drama until at the Nd his screeching gtr provides much in the way of fireworks. (Apparently this version of the song was edited from what must've bn an in10se 7-min "jam.") Other songs in which Albrighton's gtr is highlighted include the driving "King of Twilight" (good group unison-singing here, 2), & the rocking "Fidgety Queen."
The group was apparently captivated by the eerie MTness of space & the vast distances of space travel. Songs like "The Dream Nebula" & "It's All in Your Mind" mix a distant, icy atmosphere (mainly provided by keyboardist Taff Freeman on gurgling synthesizers) w/ the poignant feelings of the space Xplorers -- a mix as effective as that of Nektar's fellow Engh Lander David Bowie on his eerie ancient lullabye "Space Oddity."
"All in Your Mind" also closes w/ a swirling, screeching mix of guitar & synth that sounds like a spaceship spinning, hurtling helplessly out of control, B4 returning 2 the heavy, ominous main theme of the piece. Did these talented musicians perhaps Xperience space flight & then report the feelings back 2 their "fans" on Old Earth?
On the softer, more lyrical side, Nektar recorded the gentle "Wings" "live" in the studio w/ no additional recording -- & even it builds up quite a bit of loudness.
"Astral Man" is almost as gentle, w/ a simple, involving chorus. The 1 "live concert" recording R team has bn able 2 Dcipher is "Good Day," which is also gentle, poignant & ... yes, "spacey."
Perhaps the best Xample of the way this band could mix the powerful w/ the gentle is on the majestic "It's All Over," which starts out delicately & slowly builds drama using Freeman's dominant keyboards & Albrighton's dramatic gtr Xplosions. Probly overall the best song here, the 1 thing it lacks is a really searing Albrighton gtr solo -- instead the song fades on a long, pretty piano solo by Freeman. Pretty, but anticlimactic.
THRU THE EARS apparently assembled the best works from Nektar's 1st 6 recordings, some of which were apparently available worldwide back in the 20th Century, but only a few of which attained much popularity -- 2 complex, perhaps? According 2 the "liner notes" on the package these discs were stored in, Nektar's original recording-collections were Ntitled JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EYE, SOUNDS LIKE THIS, A TAB IN THE OCEAN, DOWN TO EARTH, REMEMBER THE FUTURE, & RECYCLED. According 2 the notes, Albrighton left the band after RECYCLED, & tho the group soldiered on & recorded 1 more disc Ntitled MAGIC IS A CHILD, their fate remains a mystery.
Reportedly, the last 5 of these 7 Nektar recordings were available 2 listeners at ridiculously low prices back in the 20th Century. But thus far, none of these recordings have survived & found their way 2 us here at the Back-Up Plan. It is only 2 B hoped that Xcavations will continue & that we might someday hear more of this intresting combo & their cosmic music....


rastronomicals said...

Fun approach to your review, Tad. Reminds me of a piece I read once called "Digging the Weans." Familiar with it? Instead of Jehr-Mann-y and Engh-Land, it deals with the vanished capital city of Pound-Laundry . . . .

At any rate, Nektar sound as if they are up my alley, and I'd like to check them out. I went to Amazon and to the iTunes store to see about purchasing a download of Thru the Ears, but it appears the thing was never released on CD.

Based on what you've heard, and based on the information you have showing from which album each track on Thru the Ears was culled, can you recommend one of the original albums? Looks like all six of them are available . . . .

tad said...

R: From what I've read, RECYCLED is sposta B Nektar's best overall, REMEMBER THE FUTURE sold the most, DOWN TO EARTH has the simplest shortest most-pop-like songs, & TAB IN THE OCEAN is sposta B closest 2 Krautrock. I've heard NONE of them all the way thru, just the stuff Xcerpted on THRU THE EARS (which is partly why I wrote that review that way). However: If U've gotta fave 2nd-hand store or a local 1/2 Price Books, U might B able 2 find NE of these CHEAP. It Cms like every time I C copies, I'm broke.... Good Luck! -- TAD.