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Published: 2004/04/27
by Brian Gearing

Spirals in Hyperspace – Ozric Tentacles

Magna Carta 9067-2

It's no coincidence that Ozric Tentacles reference the enigmatic pseudo-existence affectionately termed "hyperspace" in the title of their umpteenth album since 1985. The sounds are so digitized, so synthesized and electric that it's hard to decipher exactly where they came from, though it was probably somewhere in the basement of IBM headquarters. Some supercomputer that's been called Bob or Jim or Fred one too many times one day finally figured out how to be creative, and this, Spirals In Hyperspace, is the result. How exactly Ozric Tentacles got their grubby English hands on it is debatable, but that’s beside the point. The real point is that Bob or Jim or Fred or whatever-its-name-is really likes Zappa-style fusion and modern electronica beats, but despite its admittedly staggering accomplishment, it and all its technologically superior buddies have a long way to go before they’re creating all of our art for us.

"Chewier" starts the album off with a perfect example of the stiff, digitized byte-candy that saturates the entire album: the rapid-fire beats and Satriani riffing are impressive, but the song is just too busy, even for fans of guitar god self-indulgence. Following a similarly frenetic pace, the follow-up title track throws in a significant dose of organic Eastern sounds, but like most of Spirals In Hyperspace, there’s just not enough humanity to make it appealing to anyone outside of a very tight digi-geek circle. Things eventually slow down a bit on "Slinky," but the same artificiality pervades even the better tracks on the album, despite valiant attempts at a slightly more soulful sound on the phenomenal, Indian-inflected "Zoemetra," jazz-rockish "Oakum" and soft, plush "Akasha," all of which are inexplicably placed at the end of the record.

Ozric Tentacles have never paid much heed to criticism, which is one of the reasons they've become the de facto godfathers of post-Floyd British psychedelia, but someone should let them know that the synthesizer's long, slow trip to the musical junkyard ended when the opening chords of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" first shredded through the airwaves over ten years ago. Spirals In Hyperspace carries a certain amount of nostalgic value, but like that old Flock Of Seagulls record collecting dust in your vinyl collection, it probably won’t find its way into the favorites rack anytime soon. Like most career acts that fall flat, Ozric Tentacles will eventually find another toy that everyone wants to play with, but for now, they’re stuck in hyperspace playing with that weird Bob or Jim or Fred kid who’s just a little too stiff for the Jones kids.

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