Ozric Tentacles :: 05.27.09 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA
However, this was certainly not the case for the band’s tour opener at The Independent, where there couldn’t have been more than 200 fans (probably less) in attendance to witness a mind-fuck of a show. Experiencing the weird and wild sounds that pored off the stage, I felt like I was in on a well-kept secret. The type of music this band makes cannot be found anywhere else. The songs Ozric Tentacles craft act as windows to other realms, ethereal and evocative soundscapes, which may function as escapes from this world or journeys into the inner mind. The music is blatantly and unabashedly hallucinogenic, swimming in bloops and bleeps of shimmering synths. And above it all shines the masterful fretwork of virtuoso guitarist Ed Wynne, the brain and master craftsman of this wonderful music and a guitar god in his own right. Ed, who has always been the bandleader and main songwriter/engineer, is currently the only remaining original member of the group, which has had a multitude of line-up changes over the past few years. For most of the 2000s, Ozric Tentacles has been solely Ed’s project, though this has hardly affected the quality of the music at all, as the band’s newest album, The Yumyum Tree, can attest.
The current lineup of the Ozrics live band is comprised of Ed Wynne on guitar, synths and pre-programmed tracks, his wife Brandi Wynne switching between bass and synths, his son Cyrus Wynne on keys and synths, and monster drummer Oliver Seagle. At first thought, the idea of a Wynne family band seems more convenient than musically adventurous, but the powerful live show quickly proved that this incarnation of the band delivers. It is true that Ozrics’ live approach has changed dramatically over the years. Speaking with some die-hard fans that saw the band during its heyday in the ’90s (when they were able to pack The Fillmore), some disappointment was apparent at the loss of past band members, most notably “Jumping” John Egan, who fronted the band until 2004 as a shamanic stage presence of sorts, dancing and twirling around on stage and playing an assortment of foreign wind instruments. His presence was surely missed, but to first-timers, the show delivered on its own terms.
The band took the stage looking like a family of shaggy troubadours from another realm. They wasted no time diving right into Ozrics’ deep catalog of prog-fusion compositions, starting the set with “O-I,” a multi-faceted track from the 1989 album Pungent Effulgent. Experiencing Ed Wynne live it is impossible not to conjure up the image of Eddie Van Halen on acid, which his appearance and sound both fit. Right away, Ed’s guitar was right in your face with his trademark reverb-soaked shreddage exploding out of thick, Arabic-tinged, proggy grooves. I’ll admit, even for a somewhat well-versed Ozrics fan like myself, identifying individual songs was very difficult, but this was completely irrelevant, as an Ozrics show plays out as one long journey into the band’s own ethereal universe.
For the majority of the show, the drum and bass drove the songs with thick, strange grooves, often in odd time signatures. Brandi was laying it down thick the whole night, with Oliver beating the shit out of the skins, churning out high-energy breakbeats non-stop. Over all this continually washed bubbly, spiraling synth waves, which set the weird, ambient mood, which permeated everything. Everyone generated these mysterious noises as all band members were constantly fiddling with mysterious knobs. After a barrage of complex, face-melting compositions, including the rocking 1990 classic “Erpland,” Ed strapped on an acoustic and brought it down a bit. The next few songs showcased his fascination with world and Middle Eastern music and his mastery of the harmonic minor scale. This foreign element is a large part of what makes up the Ozrics’ unique sound, and is yet another reason why they have no musical equal.
Post show, I had the privilege of some small talk in with Ed and the family, and learned that they have just made the move from England to Colorado. This is huge news, as it means that the States will be seeing much more of Ozric Tentacles than ever before, as they have only toured the U.S. once every few years or so in the past. Despite how unknown the Ozrics are Stateside, they are really the originators of the modern electro-jam band, and it seems silly that they’ve opened for bands like Particle and Lotus when those bands probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for what the Ozrics did 20 years ago. For any fan of Bisco, STS9 and the like, I strongly recommend checking out some Ozrics, as they are capable of blowing minds in ways that many lesser, more popular American bands simply cannot hold a candle to.
Jambase | Strangeitude
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