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Phish - The Siket Disc (1999)

Trey Anastasio - guitars, vocals
Jonathan Fishman - drums, vocals
Mike Gordon - bass, vocals
Page McConnell - keyboards, vocals

Phish's The Siket Disc, named for engineer and mixer John Siket, contains improvisations performed by the group in the late winter and early fall of 1997 at sessions for its album The Story of the Ghost. Originally available only by mail order from the band, it was given a retail release by Elektra shortly after Phish announced that it was going on an indefinite hiatus in the fall of 2000. The release was some indication that the band and its record label would endeavor to keep the pipeline filled during Phish's absence, however long that might be. But as an addition to the group's catalog, it was slight. Theoretically, a band like Phish finds its greatest moments of inspiration in the formless, spontaneous interplay between the players, but that interplay is also conditioned by the song, and even the overall concert or album, in which it is contained. On their own, these nine examples of Phish's improvisatory style don't sound like much, though they range from guitar solos to ambient sounds. For fans, who can provide the context for themselves, that's fine; but a more general audience is likely to find itself wondering when the tracks are going to coalesce into something, which of course they never do. --- William Ruhlmann

The Siket Disc is an interesting little piece in the Phish catalog. It is not an album, per say. It is a group of studio jams recorded during 1998' Story of the Ghost session. They exhibit the glossy and yet sublimely organic sounds heard on that recording, but contain no vocals and in fact no actual compositions. Do not let this stop you from giving is a spin or two, however, because the music contained therein is captivating and unique. In otherwords, it is the pure and unfiltered Phish aesthetic. It is not an essential Phish album, however. It is definitely geared towards the aphishianado or the collector, and not the world at large.

The jams were extracted from hours of jamming and polished up by producer John Siket and Phish keyboardist Page McConell. The resulting music is a snapshot of Phish doing what it does - create improvised music that can often stand on its own as a singular piece of music. An example would be the swirling "What's the Use?," a listening experience which has been characterized as thawing out of permafrost after a cold winter. It is perhaps the most cohesive piece on the album, but the intoxicating "My Left Toe" provides an interesting entrance into the experience. After "What's the Use?," the disc wanders a bit; several pieces along the vein of "Fish Bass," which is nothing more than drummer John Fishman playing with the bass and its effect pedals for a minute and eleven seconds, dot the short "song" list. Bassist Mike Gordon can be heard talking into a telephone over the bubbling "Quadrophonic Toppling." "Insects" is a crawly, tingly jam that after a minute actually begins to sound as if mutated insects with drums and guitars are buzzing around your head. The closer, "Albert," is very pretty and a nice end note to a strange experiment by a band that carved out its career on defying music industry conventions.

I wouldn't reccommend this album for Phish neophytes - instead, get acquainted with Phish's post-1997 sound. Doing this will put this album into context, as it was recorded in 1998, shelved, and then released in 2000 (perhaps to ease the news of the hiatus). For the Phishhead, however, get on it! (source)

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