By: Greg Gargiulo
The boundary-bending music of Ozric Tentacles travels in more directions than some might be capable of handling. Jumping around from the depths of obscurity to danceable, head-swaying grooves, their live performances encompass an effusion of sounds, styles, tempo shifts and musical situations not intended for the light listener. In the same style, the Ozrics' CD/DVD Sunrise Festival (Snapper UK) - 11 songs of their distinctive spacey, rhythmic transmutations - makes for a quality, stimulating viewing session, but only for those willing to delve along with the band straight into uncharted territory.
Recorded and filmed in June '07 in the Ozrics' backyard of Somerset, England, the Sunrise Festival has been regarded as one of the smaller yet highly esteemed annual festivals throughout England's countryside. Their headlining set on the festival's second night finds a band that's undergone manifold lineup changes bringing back one of their earliest incarnations (save one member). Merv Pepler (drums) and Joie Hinton (synthesizers), who were with the Ozrics in the early days but departed in '95 to permanently pursue their more electronic/rave-based project Eat Static, return in full force. Founder and nucleus Ed Wynne, as always, appears front and center with his recurring grin on guitar and keys, accompanied by wife and relatively recent addition Brandi Wynne on bass and keys.
Proving that the resulting fusion of members old and new is no obstacle for them, they tear through a collection of classics with near flawlessness, managing to even blaze the improvised "Sunrise Jam" for the first time as though it had long been in their repertoire. "Sunrise" has an intro that could pass for either ELP or ELO , then picks up with a thumping bass as Hinton gets into some knob-twiddling on synths to establish the quintessential cosmic feel that defines the Ozrics. The lead then relays from synths to guitar, over to bass, growing all the while, then finally back to synths to close it out in a triumphant-sounding announcement.
Lighting direction plays a vital part of the DVD experience, with a backdrop of extremely small pyramids (or just large tents) illuminated by multi-colored and constantly changing lights that extend into the crowd to further convey the effect of the Ozrics' fantasy-based world. The lights become significantly more evident during the rapid-paced "Erpland" and even more so with "Eternal Wheel," one of their best-known numbers. "Wheel" immediately creates a fresh, floating sensation associated with the possible passing of one realm of existence into another. The midpoint climax culminates with emanations that sound like they're coming from otherworldly creatures welcoming your arrival. The first half of the bluesy "Jurassic Shift" comes off with an unshakable Pink Floyd-esque appeal, Ed's guitars eerily resembling David Gilmour in what could be an updated and airier version of "Welcome to the Machine." By the end of its 12 minutes, however, it's difficult to remember exactly how the multi-faceted song began.
"The Throbbe," included only on the DVD, does just as its title suggests. Characterized by a Middle Eastern melody that surges and bubbles over with power, the pulsating bass throbs forth in an escalation that sees both Ed and Brandi hop on their respective keyboard setups to feed their booming monster. As the throb builds, some of the DVD's best visual effects are featured, utilizing slow-mo and warping images of band members to psychedelic imagery. At one point, a zoomed-out shot of the entire band becomes highlighted in neon colors, then zooms back into a kaleidoscopic array of sight and sound. As the kaleidoscope morphs and transforms, the music does the same, setting the stage for yet another shred-fest from Ed's guitar. The fitting visuals contributed immensely to the DVD but lacked somewhat in duration, as a non-stop barrage of this sort of eye candy would only augment the experience even more.
Though it's perfectly possible to check out Sunrise Festival casually, say, as background entertainment for a low-key gathering, in order to experience the Ozrics in all their glory, the DVD is best suited for a dark, quiet environment with an unfettered mind and a patient readiness for a sense-tingling expedition.
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