Monday, April 09, 2012

Alpha Omega (Steve Maxwell von Braund) 1976

Alpha to omega means from beginning to end, since omega was the last greek letter. This must have been a common (pretentious) saying back then because so many progressive bands or albums have the same title. I haven't heard someone say it since I was in university, which was a long time ago, and I doubt any person on the street would understand if the saying was used in ordinary conversation, although I think I'll try it later this week, just to get that " wha? " In fact, human brain size as measured by anthropologists has decreased of the order of 10 percent since cro-magnon times (about 30,000 years ago). Moreover, neanderthals, who died out in competition to humans, had larger brain volumes than our species. Is this reduction a consequence of better organization on the premise of more efficient energy use or improvement of maternal and fetal outcomes at birth -- given the large energy requirements of the brain and large size of the human head? We must at least entertain the possibility that compared to hunter-gatherer times, it is possible humans have become less intelligent in some respects-- perhaps for ex. our memories, because the lifestyle of the pre-neolithic people required a huge amount of mental power, remembering social groups of up to 100 individuals, remembering foods to eat and not to, prey habits, etc. And in agricultural times, intelligence was not in favour for many reasons. We see this in domesticated animals (such as cows) that have lost a great deal of ' intelligence' compared to the wild counterparts, thank god for them. Temporally continuing on, is it possible humans could devolve? Of course, particularly in the setting where less energy is available for the brain (i.e. food), or perhaps the world really does overheat to the 4-6 degrees (I mean in 100-1000 years) currently predicted in 'business as usual' scenarios, along with a fracturing of the ecological niche a group occupies. Because for one thing neither in this world nor in any previous society, has pure intelligence been rewarded. A very interesting study along those lines was carried out with birds, selecting the more intelligent ones in certain tests, they were tagged, rereleased, and it was seen they were not able to outcompete the stupider ones-- on the contrary. I would go so far as to say, the only time it was rewarded was when homo sapiens was in competition with the other hominids all over the old world, 100,000 years ago. The observation that the poor have so many children is as true today as it was 500 years ago and goes a long way towards explaining why poverty is still with us to an evolutionist. With the long perspective of geological time, a million years from now, it may be seen intelligence was indeed an evol. error, since it committed its holder to a very short species lifespan and doomed a large part of the biosphere in the process. Instead of asking why more species aren't more intelligent, as is usual to ask today, the question can than be, why should it ever evolve since it is an evolutionary dead end. Although this is heresy to a physicist or mathematician, it is common sense to the biologist.

I am very happy to present this new rip from master shige of Alpha Omega, an album whose style is impossible to pin down, in fact I would say it's sui generis. You might even call it chamber fusion, to make a new genre. It always reminds me of Italians Orch. Njervudarov's brilliant classic. Especially the first song's riff really recalls the angularity of their album. Notice that although Steve Maxwell plays all keys, the composing (which is the ne plus ultra of this work) is credited to John Bellamy. I don't find much information about him at all, I would like to know if he composed more or if this is his one-off masterpiece. Another good point of reference would be the midnight madness phase did, or fusion quartet comprovisations, very composed jazz rock incorporating a lot of orchestral-style elements. When I listen to some of his guitar riffs, they are so chromatic and fast I have a lot of trouble following the notes, of course I'm not a professional musician, but I have no problem with standard radio fare. Consider for ex. the title track, starting with a dzyan-like guitar riff repeated in different keys, then the bass keeps going up and down by minor seconds as the others riff on top. I guarantee no other fusion record from the period has such an oddball chart. It sounds improvised, but I doubt it is. Or consider the track Dawning, with perhaps the oddest melody in all fusion history, played by a guitar and a sax an octave apart, sax with great wah-wah effects. Only in the last acoustic song do we get some more 'conventional' songwriting, with its straight-up E minor.
Or consider the first track, after the drum solo, the re-intro guitar riff is first played a minor 3rd above on the keys, but then again he plays it a minor 2nd above-- I'm like, "Could it be--?" is it a mistake? it couldn't be, it's the same riff but a half-tone above. Totally against any god-fearing compositional rule there. Then near the end of same song, he plays a D octave up in the pattern: duh dee duh duh dee, a dead giveaway that he had a classical education, which almost of all them did back then, of course. I want to thank master shige again for this incredible-sounding new rip, despite the slightly scratchy record, I love you bro (and your work). And finally, I won't even get into the crazy guitar solos Bellamy plays, which are so off the blues scales or any scales they are functionally atonal in the Arnie Schoenberg way.
And I would love to say, John Bellamy, if ever you read this, please comment and tell us more! I love this work of yours.

A1 Constellations 9:32
A2 Silent Voices 6:33
A3 Sundance 5:56
B1 Alpha Omega 8:40
B2 Dawning 9:25
B3 Reflections

Bass – Tony Hargreaves
Guitar – John Bellamy
Percussion – Ray Dick
Saxophone – Dave Brown
Synthesizer – Stephen Maxwell Von Braund*

Finally check out the band picture, esp. the madonna-like smile on Steve's face-- chemically induced or not? My wife would say yes, she would say the same about the music. I love the side-part on the bassist's long hair, that's a classic.

Priority: 1
(I know someone is going to disagree)

track 5

track 6


Tristan Stefan said...

thanks again to master shige, great job


RickK said...

this looks interesting. thanks for sharing. very cool cover too.

Maitre D. Morgan said...

Thanks TS, with this album You touched my soul. 'My Cup of Tea'. ;-}

Shige said...

Hi,dear friend ,Tristan.
I am very happy that you introduced this miracle-like gem to all over the world.

snakeboy said...

I def think the keyboard player had a few toke. :-)
Thanks for letting us hear this great music.

Anonymous said...

Cybotron was really a great band but this album is...stunning!

Thank you so much, man !!!


Anonymous said...

A wise man's opinions and comments are always informative and inspiring to bystanders !
Evolution and devolution in an evolutionary dead end! Interesting point, indeed ! Maybe physicists would accept that the conservation law of universal intelligence which means some get smarter while others move on the opposite way. This model might explain some phenomena we observed in the evolution consequence. Just saying, never mind !
Love this album and the voice-over (in writing off course) ! Thanks a lot, Shige & Tristan !

Tristan Stefan said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one to love this work.

Szusza said...

I played in a band here in Canberra, Australia with John Bellamy....sometime around the late 1990's. We were playing covers at a Scottish wedding! I played bass. Ta for the post, love, Szusza

Ray Dick said...

Hi Tristan,
Good job! One of the most generous reviews I've seen :)
BTW the pic is John smiling, not Steve. And yes, it was not only Howard having a few tokes :)
peace and love,

Tristan Stefan said...

Wow, many thanks Ray...

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