Something Old / Something New

    Damaged Bug/Trans-Siberian Orchestra

    Issue 31

    Album: Bunker Funk

    Artist: Damaged Bug

    Release: Castle Face Records, March, 2017

    As the needle drops, Bunker Funk oozes through the speakers and brings me back right where Damaged Bug’s 2016 album Cold Hot Plumbs had left me. Dazed and wanting more.

     


    I ordered the Hazed and Dazed edition (only 300 printed) and was pleasantly greeted by the fluorescent slim green that covers LP1 and the translucent window washer fluid blue of LP2. Also, Side D has an etching, though no songs. Multi-instrumentalist (and California based Castle Face Records founder) John Dwyer became a familiar name to me for his art (check out his new book Exploded Globes, which documents the hundreds of handbills, fliers and tour poster he has created and printed since 1999) and the familiarity of his most popular band Thee Oh Sees. In the liner notes of Bunker Funk, John is credited for playing: synths, vocals, guitar, bass, mellotron, omnichord, flute, drums, saxophone, conga & bongos, percussion, electric bag pipes, crickets and moisturizer. It’s printed, so it must be true! There are three members to this “full-time side project”, and the amount of off-kilt rhythm and syfi-synth caught me off guard by bringing a large spectrum of instruments to the recording. This is no easy task, and the more you give Damaged Bug a chance, the more you’ll train your ear for (hopefully) many more adventures into the strange and odd. Listening to this band i often think of the weird and abstract art from the pulp fantasy books of the 1960s and 1970’s. Look up images of Frank R. Paul for a better visual.  Bunker Funk has the magic to transform any room where played into a warm damp cave. This may be a reason Bunker Funk was also offered as 200 print run of glow in the dark double LPs.

     

    Castle Face Records has one of the most competitive album releases out there. Super-limited vinyl runs, in more than a couple styles per release, which all look equally scrumptious to a vinyl collector like myself. These limited runs sell out immediately, and usually before I get a whiff of what CFR just released.

    Bunker Funk, as an album and listening experience, never becomes too much to handle in one dose. The album crawls and slugs along from start to finish creating its own atmosphere. After first listen I wanted to throw this new offering on again and again to see what I missed from my previous listen. There are some serious jams on this release as well. Side B’s “Gimme Tamanthum,” starts with distorted guitars and a camp fire like chant and settles into a saddle of flute riffs with fuzzed out tribal drumming. This is then followed by an instrumental track “No One Notice The Fly”. The lyrics are out there, the sound is funky and the production is calibrated. John Dwyer has created one of the most exciting record labels and the sound of Bunker Funk correlates perfectly.

    Favorite Side of the Album

    LP 2, Side C

    10. Mood Slime

    11. Liquid Desert

    12.Unmanned Scanner

    13. The Night Shopper

    —Dan McCauley

    ####

    Albums: Beethoven’s Last Night, Nightcastle, Letters from the Labyrinth

    Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra

    Releases: Atlantic Records/ Republic Records, 2000-2015

    I love classical music. I love rock. I love big, powerful, beautiful sound. I love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO).

    Like most of their fans I first became aware and enamored with this musical force because of their Christmas recordings which I loved for both their sound and content. There is an awful lot of original Christmas music and wonderful remakes of Christmas classics from which to listen.

    I then discovered that they had non-Christmas albums and in order to narrow things down that is my only focus here.

    There are currently 3:

    Beethoven’s Last Night

    Nightcastle 

    Letters from the Labyrinth

    Let me pluck out just one listing from each and then let the reader/listener come to their own conclusion about the sort of unique sound this group creates.

    Beethoven’s Last Night, released in 2000. From the 22 listings I chose the opening overture.

    It opens with Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata and uses it to weave together his Ninth and then Fifth Symphonies. It ends with a roil of thunder which touches the story told that there was a clap of thunder, Beethoven picked himself up off from the pillow, shook his fist at heaven and fell back on his pillow….Dead!

     

    From Nightcastle I have picked out the first piece from the 2nd disc called “Moonlight and Madness”.

    This is a magnificent fusion of classical music with a mature, complex, powerful creation of contemporary rock instrumentation. It opens with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and transforms itself into an edgy powerhouse of sound, fury and glory.

     

    Lastly there is their recent album: Letters From the Labyrinth.

    A little different, less cohesive album. Many of the listings require the listener to listen through a song to get to the musical payoff. I sometimes skip one or even 2 songs.

    From this disc I have selected “Mountain Labyrinth”.

    This song opens with strings and synthesized organ leading to an exciting opening which very rapidly builds into a loud drumbeat/guitar chord driven version of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. Wonderful.

     

    I think it should be about the music first and the sound 2nd. But if you have a chance to reproduce these recordings on something big,  I think you will be in for a real treat.—Fred Schwartz

    [TSO founder Paul O’Neill passed away at the age of 60 on April 5, 2017.—Ed.]

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