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Published: 2004/08/27
by Jesse Jarnow

Glazed Poppems – Mushroom

Black Beauty 72005

The arrival of Mushroom – fully formed – into my life, with the release of their two-disc psychedelic jazz epic Glazed Poppems came as a minor surprise. Somehow I missed them before. The ever-shifting Bay Area collective pull the psychedelic into the realm of the hipster. There’s more than a little smirk in their double-gatefold miniature-vinyl packaging filled with pop-art abstractions of ’60s pin-ups. And that’s not to mention song titles like "(Hats Off To) Bert Jansch" and "Tonite Let’s All Make Love in Oakland." But it’s the music that makes the sale.

Divided into two loosely thematic discs – London (pastoral psychedelia) and Oakland (more urban grooves) – the music is spacious and easy. And though Oakland might be more rhythmically aware than its British counterpart, both share an unhurried ease. Though bolstered by a basic skeleton of fusion essentials – gritty organ and/or electric piano, hypnotically pulsing drums – the textures of the album blossom with a variety of charming (and alluring) instrumental voices. Matt Henry Cunitz brings a half-dozen keyboards – a Mellotron, a Wurlitzer, and electric harpsichord – to the mix, that melt into the mix with the greatest of subtlety.

If there are song structures, they are hard to perceive. The music is spacious and winding: the kind of background music that ennobles everyday tasks simply by cohabitating the same space. From moment-to-moment, the album is perfect, but it's hard to point towards any larger form that Mushroom seem to be adhering to. For music that seems mostly formless, Mushroom play with an utterly focused determination. An example is disc's two's centerpiece, "Tonite Let's All Make Love in Oakland."

For the bulk of the track's 11 minutes, the music ambles along lazily, as Erik Pearson's streetwise sax and Tim Plowman's flickering Neil Young guitar hang out atop a bed of Brian Felix's Rhodes. The track changes occasionally – a new keyboard, an extended drum fill – but never dramatically. Around the nine-minute mark, they begin – a good a time as any? – to build to the song's lightly fractured finalOn one hand, the form and execution seem a little tossed off. But, on the other hand, it's pretty cool. Mushroom frequently manages to play at a numbing crawl without losing an ounce of cool. Nifty trick.

The album closing "Running Wild and Looking Pretty (Theme Song for DJ Kitty" is extremely casual, but so stylized – like a say-nothing conversation between a pair of self-conscious teenage greasers – that it propels itself on a bed of pure charisma. Mushroom might be said to do the same on this lackadaisically glorious statement.

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