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Mushroom - Hydrogen Jukebox (1999)


Hailing from San Francisco, Mushroom freely admits they're krautrockers at heart - right up my alley. From what I can tell, this is their second true release, though strangely there seemed to be two different versions of their first album ("Alive and in Full Bloom" is the one I have) on Inbetweens Records in the Netherlands. But already they've started to tweak their style, picking up where Neu! left off in 1975 and are now headed into uncharted territory.

The album opens up with "Elliott Smith," 13 minutes of hypno-krautrock rhythms colored by Canterbury-style electric piano from Michael Holt and Erik Pearson's flute. Lead guitarist Dan Olmstead, a new addition to the band, throws in some light full-scale runs here and there. Perhaps a bit long-winded, but it really doesn't get boring. "When the Shit Gets Tough to Face, The Tough Get Shit-faced" (a great title, perhaps Caravan-inspired?) opens up with a cool Steppenwolf-style choppy blues riff, which leads directly into interweaving lead lines on piano, guitar, and bass... very nice. Gliss-guitar and mellow synths chime in later on, making this one of the spacier Mushroom tunes. It's not hard to see what band inspired "McDonald and Giles," though it sounds more like 'funky krautrock' to me as opposed to King Crimson. Nonetheless, the band wanders through 16 minutes of sonic exploration (and Patrick O'Hearn's bongo solo!) atop the varying pace of the rhythm section. By the end of the track, all six join in doing their own thing but in a very controlled and directed fashion. The latter portion of "Hydrogen Jukebox," including a seven-minute reprise of the opening track, fails to hold my interest entirely, though they show adeptness at backmasking Neu!-style in "Still Waiting."


I find Mushroom to be an adventurous group, with a talented rhythm section and a keen sense of exploration by the lead instrument players. Growth is evident through the merging of Canterbury music (say, Soft Machine) with their own brand of neo-Neu! (perhaps redundant, eh?) base rhythms. With some members moonlighting by collaboration with Gong's Daevid Allen (as the University of Errors), I look forward to more fine output from the Fungus Amongus (No wait...that's by a different 'Mushroom'... don't be fooled like I was). (Keith Henderson)

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