I’ve got to say that one of my favorite things about the current music industry is this strong resurgence of jam band music and culture that’s been going on for the past several years. As someone who wishes they had been alive to witness the explosion of psychedelic rock, progressive rock, and the jam band scene in the ’60s and ’70s, I am extremely happy about the genre’s relatively unimpeded longevity. After the Grateful Dead’s disbandment in 1995 as a result of guitarist and frontman Jerry Garcia’s death, the band Phish stepped in to fill the gap. Although they never achieved quite the amount of success and popularity that the Dead had, they certainly helped to keep the scene alive for the next decade. They were also an integral part of the rise of large-scale music festivals in the modern era. If you think about all of the festivals that host yearly events now – Bonnaroo, Coachella, Camp Bisco, Rootwire, Lightning in a Bottle, All Good, Wakarusa – the list goes on and on.
Dopapod is a group that is quickly rising to the forefront of the jam band scene. Born in 2007, they recently released their third studio album, Redivider, on 12/21/12. The entire record was recorded in a barn at Tyrone Farm, a solar powered farm in Pomfret, Connecticut. Despite the fact that it was released less than a year after their previous album, Drawn Onward (side note: if you haven’t picked up on this yet, the band really likes palindromes), there is nothing about Redivider that gives away any sense of rushed preparation. As a matter of fact, the entire thing is pure, musical gold.
So this is now the second album I’ve featured in the past week that was made over thirty years ago. As a matter of fact, this very first album from the soon-to-be iconic group Santana, was released forty-four years ago in August of 1969. Think about that for a second. You may not have even been alive when this album came out – I certainly wasn’t. To put this in a bit of context for you, The Beatles would release their swan song record, Abbey Road, about a month after Santana debuted. Led Zeppelin would release Led Zeppelin II about a month after that, and Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma would hit record stores the following month, November. All of those classic rock records your parents listen to? Yeah, this album precedes most of those (not quite all of them, though). The question is, why am I going so far back in time with these album reviews? Why not focus more on the newest releases?
Well first of all, over half of my posts feature albums from the past two years, so I certainly wouldn’t say I neglect the newer material. As a matter of fact, I pride myself on keeping up with the latest and (hopefully) greatest from each and every artist I follow. That being said, it’s simply impossible to fully appreciate the extent of how far we’ve come as a musical society without acknowledging our heritage. We’ve all come to accept this as fact – it’s why we always want to know the origin story of all our beloved superheroes, or why we study history in school. By learning from the past, we can understand much more about the present, and we can use such knowledge to better prepare for the future.
I’ve always thought of the term “music blogger” as being somewhat restrictive. It seems like such an unimaginative term for an overlooked cornucopia of enlightenment. It is, unfortunately, far too easy to become numb to the everyday processes of searching for new music, weighed down by the sheer banality of it all. On the other hand, I have witnessed an uncomfortable number of music bloggers fall victim to the competitive, quasi-political nature of the cutthroat world they live in. I believe it is essential to leave both of these attitudes behind. Rather than a “music blogger,” I think the term “aural adventurer” might be more appropriate, or perhaps even “sonic expeditioner.” Why do I remain passionate about finding new music? It’s about the journey, not the destination. This is a core philosophy that applies to the world of music as much as it applies to life itself. The other night, I walked out the door with nothing but my iPod and a pair of Sennheiser headphones, eager to embark on such a journey. As my legs took me across the beautiful campus of the University of Miami, I retreated into my mental space – my inner theater – and embraced the sonic landscape that was beginning to form.
The album of choice for the night was Square Pegs Round Holes by Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, a band which I had never heard of before. I stumbled upon them quite by happenstance, thanks to the wonders of the Internet. The first words used to describe the group that I read were “improvisational progressive rock band.” Boy, did that get me excited. I knew from that moment on that I owed it to myself to at least check out some of their music. Approximately 67 minutes later, I found myself in a state of amazement as the full splendor of Square Pegs Round Holes sank in.
Album artwork for To End the Illusion of Separation
The concept of the psychedelically-charged jam band has been around since the 1960s. Groups like the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd kicked off a revolution that would soon become a major chunk of America’s musical history. Since those times, there has always been a strong-minded, passionate group of musicians and music lovers that have kept the genre alive and allowed it to evolve into something new. Today, a movement of new musicians has been combining the jam band mentality with modern technology to create a style of music dubbed “jamtronica,” or “livetronica.” Papadosio, a band formed in Athens, Ohio in 2006, has been on the forefront of this movement for several years now. They approach the genre with a strong songwriting background, which they use to incorporate melodic vocal harmonies and heartfelt messages about the unity of mankind. Last Tuesday, the band released a double disc album, To End the Illusion of Separation (T.E.T.I.O.S.), featuring 20 tracks of new material. Spanning the course of two full hours, the album is their most diverse effort yet, and it takes the listener on a whirling journey of transcendent emotion, spirituality, and euphoric release.
One of the simplest ways to describe T.E.T.I.O.S. would be to consider it as a complete musical experience. In other words, it’s a full, two-hour experience that travels through an eclectic collection of uniquely-orchestrated soundscapes, arranged in a manner that allows for a natural progression from beginning to end. In many ways, it is comparable to a feature-length film. Many, many words could be used to describe the true emotion that Papadosio’s music evokes, yet its true nature lies in the listener’s personal experience. It is musical therapy at its finest; all of your real-world problems seem to fade away as the band’s creative voice resounds through your entire consciousness.