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Brainville - The Children's Crusade (1999)



Brainville is a Canterbury scene supergroup based around Hugh Hopper (bass) and Daevid Allen (guitar) — both formerly in Soft Machine.

The band started as a quartet with Pip Pyle (drums) and Mark Kramer (keyboards, producer), touring the US and UK in 1998. They released a 1999 album called The Children’s Crusade. Reduced to a trio, Brainville: Live in the UK, released as by “Daevid Allen with Hugh Hopper and Pip Pyle”, came out in 2004.

The band, now Allen, Hopper and Chris Cutler (drums) operating as the Brainville 3, played shows in 2005-6. This line-up played at the Canterbury Festival in October, 2006.



I'm sure everyone is aware of how many different tastes can be found among PE members...those that love Rush, those that hate Rush. Those that think Spock's Beard are formulaic, those that don't care. There are 1001 different opinions about every prog band, each of their albums...even of each solo or drumbeat. Sometimes, we don't fully grasp what it is that we are listening to, and draw the conclusion that we don't like a particular piece of music only to find out months or years later that we were really missing something. Then again, some albums just suck.

This is the difficulty for me in reviewing Brainville's The Children's Crusade...I don't know if it is as bad as I think it is, or if I just don't get it. I primarilly review this recording because I haven't found many people on this site who have even heard of it.

This Shimmy Disc recording released in 1999, and promised me great things when I first found out about it. The line up sounded awesome: Pip Pyle, Hugh Hopper, Daevid Allen, and (Mark) Kramer! The Gong, Soft Machine, Hatfield & The North pedigrees were impressive, and Kramer's modern production touches (he's worked with The Butthole Surfers, GWAR, Bongwater, Galaxy 500, and Urge Overkill) sounded like this should be a neo-Canterbury classic. After several listenings I find this not to be the case. There is no denying that there is some fantastic playing to be found here, but it is sporadic and not up to previous recordings by the various musicians.

I will briefly review each song, as I listen to it:

"March of the Goodbyes" is the first track, and (to me) not a very good opener at all. It seems directionless.

"The Revenge Of Sparticus" is far better, with nice dissonent jazziness.

"The Children's Crusade" Hmm. Very free form, yet problematic in that everyone's simultaneous soloing throughout the entire piece obscures the vocal passages. There is a point about 2:30 into the song where everything could have collapsed into cohesion and would have made this a good tune...but it just doesn't happen.

"Alphaville Beach" is very noisy and aimless noodling until around the 3:00 mark of the song. At this point it begins to sound like a band playing a song, instead of four musicians wanking...unfortunately, this only lasts for a minute or so before degenerating into tuneless noise for another 3 minutes. Instrumental.

"Goodbye Mother Night"...possibly my favorite song on the disk, Daevid Allen's vocals are appropriately whimsical yet dark. Random sounds of children playing, and a subtle and jazzy bass/drum pattern floats in the background. Eventually, some moody glissando guitar kicks in to end the number. A high point on the recording.

"The Killing" again begins with a noisy freefrom jam...acid jazz in the agressive Zorn style (but not as good), meets noise rock. And while there are interesting moments, they are few and far between. Instrumental.

"Useless By Moonlight" is again more structured, with Allen's vocals carrying the song. The few vocal songs to be found here seem so drastically out of place with the instrumentals, and would have been better served on a Gong or solo disk.

"The Fall of Colonel Kong" is yet again an instrumental. It seems as though these pieces are just so underdeveloped. I wouldn't be surprised if half of these were recorded improvisations. Some groups can pull spontaneous creation off, Brainville can't...and if this is a structured piece, it is either way over my head or not very good.

"The Revenge Of Clair Quilty" is by far the most structured song on the entire disc...it is also the most well produced. I have to wonder if the band ran out of money after recording this song (and perhaps 1 or 2 others), and threw the rest of the disc together to fill it out. It is remeniscent of trilogy period Gong (but not nearly as well produced), to the point to where I could picture spaces in the music for space whispers and synth bubbles. About 3-1/2 minutes into the song, it threatens to break down into chaos, but wait! It doesn't! It waits for another minute before it does that...and this time the chaos, noise jams, and soloing is much more focused. At six minutes, the song begins to lose its focus...it becomes a spacey freejam, in the vein of early Pink Floyd (think Ummagumma), but much noisier.

"Brain Villa Eclipse" is another of the good tunes to be found here, and perhaps the most rocking tune. It's dark, driving, vaguely sounding like Hatfield & The North's darker moments.

"Merkin Muffley's Lament" is a 1-1/2 minute piece of heavilly effected guitar and random voice and chant overdubs which seems to close the album out far better than "March of the Goodbyes" opened the album.

I am sure someone in the PE community absolutely loves this disc. I am not that person. In fairness though, I would say that if I was putting together a prog compilation disk there are three or four songs that might find there way on to it...and even then I wouldn't put more than one song on any given compilation. There are good moments to be found, but they are too sporadic to justify listening to the disc all the way through for. There is a point where great musicians get so far outside that they sound like amature musicians...this describes at least 1/2 of this disc.

I also find that every time I listen to this disc in it's entirety, I get a headache...the only recording in my entire collection which does this, and it happens every time.

I hate to write a negative review of any piece of music, and look forward to reading a positive one by someone else...maybe that reviewer might bring up a few points to help me better understand this piece of uh, art. (progressiveears)

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2 komentarze:

Ankh pisze...

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Anonimowy pisze...

Nazwiska mówią same za siebie. Osobiście na podstawie tego co słyszałem, a słyszałem sporo, twierdzę że 99% tego w czym maczał palce Daevid Allen to muza godna uwagi a około 50 % to rarytasy. Płyta GONGa - "LiveE.t.c" to obok "Yeti" AMON DUUL II, najmocniejszy kandydat do"żelaznej porcji na bezludną wyspę (z prądem)" :)

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