The Equal Ground

When one thinks of '70s krautrock kosmische bands, one tends to think of longhaired, stone-eyed evangelists living on the edge of some wilderness, camped out with their synths and tape machines and drum circles, trying to pierce the veil and record the consequences. To say that these "songs" (jams, whatever) are long is a bit of an understatement, as well as wild and frayed.

That's not to say that the three tracks that make up A Multicolored Infinity Of Vibrations are not long, or wild, or frayed. But there is a feeling of restraint, of self-control and good taste at work. Receptor Sight seems to know exactly what they're doing.

Receptor Sight is based around on a pair of brothers from a small rural community in Northern California. For A Multicolored Infinity Of Vibrations, the brothers Roffeld recorded in a small cabin on the edge of the wilderness, using a bunch of creative and experimental mic-ing techniques, like using the kitchen as a reverb chamber. There is no artificial compression of any kind in order to give the proceedings a live air. These recordings were then mixed in an intuitive and improvisational way, to create an attractive symbiosis of the analog and digital, that is constantly shifting and morphing, making it ideal for headphone sojourns.

The opener "The Spinning Cube: Part One" starts off with some trance-y, twang-y middle-eastern sounding acoustic guitars, with temple gongs, buzzing synths, and ritualistic percussion creeping in, building up the intensity. The bottom suddenly drops out, and you are immersed in a world of distant echoes and alien choirs, only to have the original recordings creep back in. The feeling is of a portal being opened, and being granted a glimpse of another world, only to quickly return to reality. This is what it might sound like if Stanley Kubrick's monolith were unlocked by analog synthesizers  to reveal its secrets.

"The Spinning Circle: Part One" also reveals what is so special about A Multicolored Infinity Of Vibrations. It's long, hypnotic and repetitive, sure; but the guitars are still catchy and memorable; the beats stomp; the synths are properly eerie, and it is expertly paced and mixed. Here we have a mixture of the experimental and the accessible that bodes good things for Receptor Sight.

The lull is broken on the title track, sort of. Starting off with haunting, delayed guitars, a quick skittering jazz beat adds a light and airy propulsive momentum to the track. The dam bursts, yet again, and you are again submerged in a cosmos of Doctor Who synths, only to have the drums and cosmic organs creep back in. It's the sound of rushing headlong into deep space, of unrepentantly climbing on board the mother ship; of embracing the unknown. "A Multicolored Infinity Of Vibrations" has a light and deft touch, but rocks at the same time.

The band claim psychedelic '70s German bands like Faust, Can, Popol Vuh, and Tangerine Dream as influences, and the band has a lot to offer fans of those bands. In addition, I'd like to add trance-rock warriors like Grails to that mix. For those looking for a mixture of ritualistic acoustic jams, experimental electronics, mixed in an attractive and creative way, look no further. For those looking for a way to combine the best of improvisation and composition, the possibilities of computers with the tangibility of analog, look and listen here.

This gets my vote for space jam ritual of the summer.

Cycles and Connections, the second album by Receptor Sight is an interesting mixture of various influences put together in a soundtrack type form. Imagine a bit of early floyd, a bit of brian eno and coil, mix that in with rush, can, sonic youth and the japanese noise masters of the acid mothers temple. now lay back in a candle lit room, crank up loud and listen to the various experimental sound creations, layers of melody, and enjoy.

Cycles and Connections is an interesting collection of meditative instrumental compositions that defy classification. The best way to describe the unique qualities of this album is to take you through it track by track.

The music begins with "Flying Towards the Hole" an uninhibited tribal beat that intensifies as it changes. The beat is accompanied by a number of sound effects that blend naturally into the unpredictable progression.

Next, "The Basal Ganglia Forest" brings us into a formless work of middle eastern style guitar and acoustic percussion (the liner notes do nothing to explain the instrumentation so I can only guess they used a small set of bongos here).

After a brief interlude of ambient noise we are plunged into the surprising  "Fourth Song." This track is the first thing the album presents in the way of a conventional progressive rock song with its electric guitars and driving beat. Even this song breaks up the form though; about half-way through the action begins to rise. Soon after it falls, and twists and turns until it evaporates into a cloud of sound.

"Slowed Down Thumb" is collection of chimes and other small percussion (sticks, blocks, etc.) that puts one in mind of a Philip Glass composition (with the keyboards removed).

This is followed by "Bagel and Green," the highpoint of the album. This lengthy track has a jam band feel to it. It has much more structure than anything we have seen thus far. Still, it mutates a number of times. It begins with a deceptively simple melody, and once you think you've nailed down the pattern it changes. The album ends with "Escape Velocity/ The Receptor is Open," a swarthy mixture of dark sounds. A low drone lays the foundation for a collection of percussion, strings and watery noises. The track ends with a brief moment of intensity which fades to silence. Even when it's over you're not sure it's over.

I found myself enjoying this album much more than I had expected, because it purposely defies the human mind's desire for repetition. These ever changing compositions have a way of disturbing and comforting simultaneously. I know many listeners will try to pigeon-hole Receptor Sight as "stoner music." Call it what you will, this album can serve a variety of creative purposes.

Reviewed by: Jared Brown

It's been a while since I indulged my taste for ambient, atmospheric musics - a la Tangerine Dream, SteveRoach, Robert Rich, etc., etc. And so, when I first heard the debut from Receptor Sight, I was pleasantly surprised (I had not yet read the bio that accompanied the disc), since so much of what I've playing these days has ranged from progressive rock to progressive metal. If done right, music like this enfolds you in its embrace and carries you along on a journey that is both calm and turbulent, dark and light, lulling and energizing. And that this Northern Californian duo uses no synthesizers or computers to create the music, is actually quite a bit different from where those artists are today. In the bio, the brothers Roffeld - Greg and Steve - note that on this release they play everything from "salad bowls, Tibetan bells, tape machines and controlled feedback to [...] drums, percussion and guitar..." Steve goes on to write in the bio/press sheet, "All sounds are slammed onto analog tape with free-form experimentation and no rules. Then everything is mixed spontaneously, as if the mix itself was a song."

Each piece on Undogmamind moves through several movements, such that trying to say any one piece is this or that is futile. For every section with mid-tempo percussion, there's another where it's almost frenetic - though not in a metal sense. The music shifts from atmospheric to what we might call tribal, which is just an imprecise way of suggesting warm, rhythmic percussion made not only on analog drums, but more than likely by human hands slapping against the tightly drawn skin. And saying tribal, well, does one mean Native American? African? The clansmen of Scotland, perhaps? Or should we just use the "cop out" of "ethnic"? Or "third world." If anything, Receptor's Sight music is a mix of both (sorry, no Celtic here). I've mentioned Steve Roach and Robert Rich above, but along another track, we can also mention Djam Karet, especially where the first track "Levitation" is concerned. "Levitation" starts the album off and reminds me in an abstract way of Djam Karet.

Silvery, jangly percussion, deep bass, and ringing guitar are at the forefront  enjoying a mid-tempo, almost hypnotic rhythm of the drums. Though, like a Djam Karet piece, that only describes part of it. There is a section at about the 11-minute mark has a feel of "instrumentalists waiting for something to happen or some guidance," they're noodling about waiting for the last of their number to get his/her act together so they can play. Of course, then the bassist shows his irritation by plucking deep, angry notes - like a fist slamming into a palm. By fifteen minutes in, the band slowly start up again. At 17 minutes in, percussion picks up the pace while (possibly) a didgeridoo moans mournfully.

The percussion that opens "Alobar's Journey" reminds me of that brief bit that opens Blondie's "Heart Of Glass," which, interestingly enough, describes the sound itself - as if one is drumming on glass. Within short order, we can hear where Alobar's journey has been - Australia, India and the Middle East, the forests and jungles where peoples unspoiled by the modern world still reside, maybe even into the "heart of darkness" itself (oh, just a thought that came to mind at one point, a flash of a boat floating up a river, jungle either side, danger lurking from the shores - yes, I know that's a scene from Apocalypse Now (and, more or less, Conrad's Heart Of Darkness).

"Collapse Of The Wave Function" begins like that little bit at the end of "Penny Lane" where, out of howling tones and frenetic percussion you hear "cranberry sauce" (or "I buried Paul," for you conspiracy theorists). Only, take that moment, before the voice appears and stretch it out and apply a little contrast. A few minutes later, it is almost like the silence of night, were you can hear the distant drone of noise (the blood in your ears, maybe) but nothing's distinct (or, heard another way, like something grinding against a spinning stone).

This shifts again to light drumming, sparse chiming percussion and subtle guitar.The intro to "Lucid Entry" is raw and intimate - like you are right up tight next to the acoustic guitar, watching each string vibrate as it is plucked. That doesn't last for long, as we find ourselves at a seaside town, frigid and abandoned, just the clanging sound of a lone church bell ("for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee"). Under this, you can hear the wheezy, howling wind. I'm guessing the band envisioned the SF Bay, but I see more Nova Scotia. Though the music livens up, with percussion and delicate, chiming steel stringed guitar, the cawing of seagulls suggests (or what sounds like seagulls) that the only signs of life are those very birds. But, as with the other pieces, there are also moments where it is extremely subtle, even more so than where it started out, where ambient becomes the descriptive word.

There are so many moments that I thought were great, some rhythmic drum pattern I found to be, well, cool (I especially liked the first part of "Levitation.") It's not specifically mentioned on the site, CD, or bio, but I sure detect, too, the sound of a digeridoo, which seems now to be almost expected in this style of music. And yet, it doesn't feel like the token appearance. The production on this album is very warm, comfortable. The pieces are long, and in some sections, perhaps a little overlong (as mentioned specifically above with "Levitiation"). Overall, though, it is a good CD, and sure to appeal to fans of electronic music and the instrumental rock excursions of Djam Karet.

Rating: 4.5/5

© Copyright 2003