When I was pre-ordering the new Flaming Lips
album The Terror (out mid April), I
noticed a sale on at the band’s website for their last official studio album
(as a group, collaborations aside) on colored vinyl LP and decided to spring
for it while I was at it. Since I already owned the deluxe edition CD+DVD of Embryonic they put out at the time of
release, I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast the
Embryonic was a somewhat controversial release in that the band — not wanting
to repeat themselves after a spectacular trifecta run of glistening, gorgeously
produced pop-prog instant classic albums (The
Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles The
Pink Robots and At War With the Mystics)
— decided to record basic tracks live in their warehouse-like rehearsal
studio. The resultant recording is a fascinating — if challenging — listen
that recalls no less than the first few Pink Floyd albums, early Robert
Wyatt-era Soft Machine, Gong, and several bands from the period which recorded
mostly live takes in the studio and then sweetened and overdubbed as necessary.
Where Yoshimi and At War With The Mystics scale the dark
side of the moon, Embryonic embraces
the DIY aesthetic of a Guided By Voices album.
The deluxe edition of Embryonic includes the album spread across two CDs and a DVD
containing a high resolution 96 kHz / 24-bit LPCM version of the album.
The two LP set comes with the whole album on a
single CD. Go figure.
The DVD and the LP sound really good (and about
the same, all things considered) yet the listening experience is different in a curious but significant manner. While
the DVD sounds about as good as can be expected from this challenging material,
with a somewhat brighter high end, I found the LP a more engaging listen. Why?
Because I had to get up and flip the album every 20 minutes or so — each side
plays as an entity unto itself. So it
became a more rewarding listening experience — I felt like I’d heard four new Flaming
Lips albums over the course of the set vs. just getting one continuous rambling
blur of sound on the DVD. The LP gave my mind a chance to rest and consider
what I’d just heard.
If you are a Flaming Lips fan, but haven’t picked
up Embryonic yet, I would recommend
it as there are some very cool tunes there. I particularly like “The Ego’s
Last Stand,” “Worm Mountain” and “Watching The
Planets.” This music stretches back to their sound in the 1990s,
recapturing some of their early freak flag flying punks-on-acid flavor, yet
with a decidedly 21st century twist.
Its going to be interesting to see where The
Flaming Lips go after The Terror
comes out in April. Embryonic
definitely pointed them in a new direction and I’m on board for the ride.
Perhaps you’ll come along too…
# # #
Mark Smotroff is a
freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in
marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video
games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T
and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine,
Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who’s songs
have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films
and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he’s written.