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Published: 2006/05/14
by Jesse Jarnow

Really Don’t Mind If You Sit This One Out – Mushroom

Four Zero Records

Without so much as a website to their name, the Pat Thomas-led Bay Area collective, Mushroom, successfully emanates an aura. After that, everything is gravy. Maybe even literally, assuming one can use the word "gravy" to describe the residue left by an aura. But gravy it is that holds together Really Don’t Mind If You Sit This One Out, a collection of live cuts recorded during the band’s first year-and-a-half of existence, in 1997 and 1998.

Mushroom's music is wide, abstract fusion in the crunchiest, most cosmic sense. Few moments of Really Don’t Mind would sound out of place on one of Miles Davis’s early ’70s albums (putting aside, of course, the lack of trumpet). More than half of the album’s six cuts run well over the ten-minute mark. There is little pre-arranged structure to hold onto, and track names like "The Reeperbahn," "Why Do German Agents Have Brain Damage?" and "Philip Seymour Hoffman," seem more like listening guides than reasonable explanations for their contents. The artwork is beautiful, song titles lettered in tightly jumbled ’70s pop-art clouds, with mysterious drawings throughout — all fine advertisements for the weirdness within.

For the sub-packet of humanity intrigued enough to listen, it's this weirdness that must sustain them at first through the opening 18-minute "Klonopin." During much of the quiet improvisation, the chattering crowd and their clanking glasses are as loud as the band, like a humming ambient counterpoint (more aura, of course). The jam, of course, works out alright, but it takes a while to get there. Its follow-up, "Kyle Loves a Funny Bunny," with squealing guitars dancing with Graham Connah's synth squalls, is more to the point (though, at 11 minutes, the point is kinda moot, and not really the point at all). If you can dig that, you can probably dig Mushroom.

The music, seemingly shaped by drummer Thomas, undulates like a Frank Gehry building. While the jams are long, to be sure, and sometimes progress very slowly, there is little mindless noodling. During the last few minutes of "Philip Seymour Hoffman," keyboardist Michael Holt begins a lush mellotron solo, plays through his melody once, and begins to harmonize with himself in an upper register (or maybe it's Erik Person's flute, which means it would have to be Dan Olmstead's guitar entwining with that melody before it can get stale, and then helping bring the song to a gentle fade. It's all very considered, from the choice of having a mellotron there to begin with, to its just-right placement.

Like the fungus itself, in either its edible or psychedelic forms, Mushroom isn't for everybody. But they are very good and very peculiar. Perhaps you will even see God.

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