The Flaming Lips - 7 Skies H3

by Rob Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:2014-06-23

7 Skies H3 saw its first release in 2011 as a limited edition of 13 flash-drives embedded in a real human skull costing $5000 a piece. Truth in marketing almost assured. They were purchased from hometown Oklahoma's Skulls Unlimited International, Inc. According to the website: “Skulls Unlimited International, Inc. is committed to providing legally and ethically obtained natural bone osteological specimens as well as the finest replica bones and skulls for sale to the educational, medical and research communities”. I wonder whether the ethics committee were on sabbatical at the time. Even so, the med students can always work on the replica ones, right ?

7 Skies H3 is now being released on CD in 50-minute edited form , shorn down from its original 24-hour length, a process of extraction and reduction by producer, Dave Fridman. The long version can be streamed via a dedicated website: http://www.satelliteheartradio.com/24/ . It'll whet your appetite while you await the band's new release Electric Wurms, out on August 19.

7 Skies H3, in short form, was available on vinyl last Record Store Day, followed by a digital download. Wayne Coyne told Pitchfork that it was intended that the 24-hour version be played while you were engaged in some other activity. He suggested integrating the experience with a mushroom chow down with your mates. For those not wanting to trip the light fantastic, the 50 minute edit is the only accessible route to 7 Skies H3.

Arguably, however, the entire Flaming Lips experience is best augmented by some form of inebriation. The last time I saw The Flaming Lips, I was awestruck by the (now renowned) visual aspect of the concert. The music almost didn't matter, brilliant as it was that evening. Coyne emerged from the rainbow coloured projection of a skinny hippie chick, via a chute strategically placed in her spread-eagled nether regions. He then did his now legendary space walk in a large bubble ball spinning out of control over the crowd. Fireworks, streamers, dry ice, pastel coloured lighting affects. You can't watch all that straight.

7 Skies H3 is clearly at the experimental end of the band's works, not radio-friendly like Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Nonetheless, with one exception, the beautiful rendering of ambience and space-rock makes listening much easier that you might expect. The nightmarish timpani jackhammering symphony of 'Riot in My Brain' will, however, jolt you out of your slumber in the rudest manner, like Stravinsky and the Third Viennese School gate-crashing an Italian aria recital. The coda which follows 'Riot in My Brain' - 'Main Theme' - arrives as sharp relief.

Earlier track 'Battling Voices From Beyond' shares the same propulsion as 'Riot..', but is more conventional, and might easily be mistaken with Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, except that it's much better. The ultimate track, 'Can't Let It Go', is a really beautiful progressive/ambient piece comparable to the best of early Floyd.

7 Skies H3 has garnered faint praise in some quarters. Perhaps the transition from 24-hour curio piece to 50-minute tone poem was too great for some, but for me there's real cohesion. Its a different beast altogether, and one that was worth taming.  

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