Mad Music - Mad Music Inc

by Alexander Segall Rating:6 Release Date:2012-11-06

1977 was a bit of an interesting year. Apple was founded, The Sex Pistols were fired, and The Clash released their debut album. Led Zep pulled in 76,000 punters in one night, and Fleetwood Mac released Rumours - classic rock was slowly dying, with punk rising from the bloated ashes of the corpse. And Boston, which in the 80s and 90s would be the East Coast's hardcore homeland, birthed a mysterious, detail-less LP called Mad Music Inc.

No track names. No numbers. No pack drill. Just harps, guitars, keyboards and pseudo-classical new-age soundscapes. Your hi-fi enthusiast would have had a stereoscopic wet dream, musos and prog-heads would have proclaimed the second coming. Many a post-rock and post-punk album starts with a pretty figure such as you might find on the 11 tracks here, although the distinction between them is as close as pointless. This is a 36 minute haze of ambient mood, where you feel like you're in the floating midsection of a folk-rock song, where all the drums drop out and you might get the moody bit, before Sandy Denny comes back in.

Occasionally, there are washes of very heavy bass, almost prefiguring dubstep (but not as rhythmical). The monster length of track three - well over nine minutes, and over twice as long as anything else here - still feels manageable, as there's not much different about it. The pretty finger-picking, some very harmonic-sounding guitar plucks over the top, and keyboard washes in the background, are reminiscent of pre-Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd, without the feel of English pastoralism.

Even more infrequently, there's a voice - never saying anything distinct, just singing pure notes over the soundscapes. You can hear early roots of what would birth Sigur Ros. Keeping you on your toes, of course, Mad Music slip in some sitars, like the good 70s experimentalists they are. To avoid lulling you into a false sense of security, track four gets all Stevie Wonder, whipping out the Moog and dropping the funk. If Isaac Hayes walked in the room, I'd be less than surprised. Then tracks five through to seven remember where the keyboard player had his synths, and they go back to the flute-based twinkly folk, ending out with a dark wash of deep staticky noise.

Track eight almost sounds like Chopin, if not as bleakly romantic, as do tracks nine, ten and eleven. Seemingly, the geniuses - or charlatans - behind Mad Music got a bit bored, and noodled on the keyboard for about 10 minutes before getting out of the studio. While not boring by any means, Mad Music Inc is a brilliant album to put on in the background. There's nothing here that broke much ground - it more than likely made a few people scratch their heads, kick back and fall asleep. Mystery aside, then, it's a not particularly interesting album, with a few stylistic quirks. Perfect Sunday afternoon fodder.

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