Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Vas Deferens Organization & Brad Laner - Transcontinental Conspiracy (Niklas Records, 2011)

The reissue of the classic album by one of the most overlooked and underrated bands of the 1990’s on the Polish label Niklas Records brings not only the remastered material but also bonus tracks unheard on the original recording. In fact, every track on the album is so multi-styled, multi-layered and hard to describe it would take a paragraph for each track to even briefly describe the variety of sounds on the CD.
            The opening “First Plane Not to Plummet Seaward” stars with a bang: a bitchin’ old school hip-hop beat perfectly suited for a horrorcore rapper paves a way for the amphetamine tribal madness that comes after the distinctly “urban” intro. Everything in VDO’s music is soaked with a specific, surreal sense of humor – the distorted melody among the tribal madness seems to signify that it’s more of a parody of all the “tribal” psychedelic records than the actual “serious” ritualistic psychedelia. In case you didn’t realize the album was released in 1996, there are some mad jungle (or drum’n’bass, if you will) loops replacing the tribal drumming. After a short, quieter interlude the high point of the track (if not the whole album) comes: an electronic, glitchy madness set to a dancefloor-ready, post-punk beat, like the funkiest moments of late 70’s NYC scene meeting the dark experimentalism of This Heat.
            The nearly 4-minute “Monk Fish Liver Transplant Plate” might seem small and insignificant in contrast to the massive compositions before and after the track, but it’s still packing a nice punch of Oriental/synthesizer weirdness, seamlessly blending the tribal loops playing “normally” and reversed. The following 20-minute monster of “Last Few Days in a Land of Happy Dreams” summons surreal demons with distorted dreamy vocal loops somewhat in the style of Amon Tobin’s “Nightlife” (even though Amon Tobin’s Permutation will be released two years later). The explosions of low-frequency bass are set against almost unpenetrable walls of frying synthesizers, like the hyper-amplified sound of an egg frying or the sound of a tape completely melting from the endless sped-up processing on reel-to-reel. Again, the Amon Tobin implications appear (I wonder if Tobin ever heard Vas Deferens Organization?), with a looped jazz sample co-existing with bend glitches and bursts of noise. The jazzy interlude then reaches a low point, retiring to relative quiet with sparse drumming and finally it ends with a mangled and truly Dadaist sound collage of speech samples.
            Named simply “T”, the penultimate track on Transcontinental Conspiracy can be considered the “heaviest” track on the entire album, if by “heavy” we consider the sheer psychedelic power and ability to disorientate the listener. Beginning almost too “traditionally” to be considered Vas Deferens Organization material, the track unfolds like an extended psychedelic rock jam taking extensive cues from krautrock weirdness (I think I can hear a snippet of some kraut classic in the mix, possibly Guru Guru?), blending processed electric guitar carnage with field recordings (sounds of water pouring into a vessel) and towering, cavernous bass textures.
            The finishing bonus track “Scheming Foils” is almost “poppy” by Vas Deferens Organization standards: the vaguely oriental synth-driven jam goes into a whimsical transformation and finally becomes a soothing, ambientalized math rock jam featuring almost jazz fusion-like synth structures. The very end of the track is the last roar of the album, with a wild, distorted guitar solo piercing through the ambience.
            Transcontinental Conspiracy is a must-have for all fans of 1990’s experimentalism. Truly a band of open-headed professionals intended for truly open-headed listeners. The 2011 reissue gives a chance to open VDO for a new generation of listeners to whom the work of this Dallas (whose members are responsible for the mesmerizing Mutant Sounds blog) unit was completely unknown and whose music was, until now (hopefully?), known only to a close circle of hardcore weirdo psych enthusiasts.


Gatfrey said...

NICE REVIEW!!!!!! I really want to check this out now!!

Jack said...

Sorry to complain, do you know where we can order this from a English website, my Polish is not that great. Cant find it

Anonymous said...

You can buy it from here, it's the link to the English version of the online store which distributes it:,alb_id,27974,Transcontinental-Conspiracy,Vas-Deferens-Organization