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Album Review

the soundcarriers
Harmonium

The Soundcarriers' recipe for success: Record drum beats and pulsing bass, throw into garbage can (a good one), lid it and let the notes and beats bounce around for a short time, uncap it and spread as base for a psychedelic and progrock stew of organ, guitar and voice.

Just a couple of months ago, Norway's Ophelia Hope released a much lighter version of the stew, with less bass and rhythm and keying more on pop, folk and jazz with a cinematic appeal (it will end up in my top albums of the year list) and now the UK's Soundcarriers come along with a bottom-heavy, more rhythm-based concoction and I'm wondering what they're drinking over there. Both bands look to the past, knowingly or not, conjuring up scenes from the late sixties and early seventies but with a 21st Century sensitivity, yet they are a universe apart.

The Soundcarriers suck you in right off the bat on Harmonium, Intro being one of those “here it comes” short and semi-electronic previews to space and prog, but the band adds a bit of exotica to the mix with the following Time Will Come, the reverb and tremolo effects of the rhythm guitar and the sound of piano/organ in the prelude carrying you into a world of Martin Denny two decades past his prime and soaked in Progressive Rock. It is partially the way the organ holds the chords for long stretches at a time, wavering as if through those classic Leslie speakers, but the band has a slight exotic flair as well. So the ride begins. Uncertainty plods through four minutes of slower rock, bass underlining melody, until the band hits an instrumental rock slide, guitar cranking out an intense solo until disappearing and allowing the band to fade into space. A little bit of Prog tripping follows next, male-female voices harmonizing in odd combination in more of a pop-oriented vein, Caught By the Sun being the first real indication of psychedelia, creating a mental picture of lithe young ladies with long beautiful hair and in flowing paisley gowns dancing just to dance. The Martin Denny aura returns with Calling Me, keyboard-induced woodwinds (or maybe it is actually flute) feathering the air above the more bottom-heavy rhythm. The vocal harmonies also add to the aura, the duo effect replaced with three-part harmonies and very welcome they are. Calling Me Reprise is a short deep-chambered study in rhythm section, bass and drums just letting go, which leads into Volcano. Now, I know very little of the Prog Rock coming out of Europe during the early seventies, but I do know Amon Duul II (Wolf City has stood at the top of my all-time favorite list for decades) and Volcano stands up with the best tracks from that band. Electronically garbled voice lays over trance-like rhythm while the band weaves instruments in and out of exotica.


The Soundcarriers in an earlier phase more psych-oriented and very Seeds-like in instrumentation.

Am I boring you? I know. Words are so inadequate, but trust me when I say they go on for awhile longer, tripping through various stages of Pop, Prog and Psychedelia, and it is a trip. An hour long trip, I might add. Listen to this front to back and there is an hour you will never get back, but if you have a feel for Prog and Psych, you probably won't want it back.

One more thing. Falling For You, in case you want to know, is as close to Ophelia Hope as The Soundcarriers get on Harmonium. Light, floating male-female harmonies in a pop setting with melody icing. Ophelia Hope at its heaviest barely approaches it, living on a lighter and more airy plain. Still, the two bands stand next to one another in my ears. They take very different paths to the same place and right now, it is a place my ears love. I doubt that either would mind my mentioning them in the same breath. They would more than likely consider it a great compliment.

Oh, and for those who demand vinyl, it's available. Just follow the links.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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