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Volcano the Bear - Classic Erasmus Fusion

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Artist: Volcano the Bear

Album: Classic Erasmus Fusion

Label: Beta-Iactam Ring

Review date: May. 13, 2006

If it was posited that Volcano the Bear has now achieved its most fully realized project, the perfectly relevant question could be raised: What didn’t this transcendentally madcap assemblage realize before? Each of the band’s full-length releases has been almost completely different from the last, maintaining only a down-and-dirty DIY approach to various world folks musics and a love of non-sequiturial juxtaposition.

Classic Erasmus Fusion is certainly the group’s longest project, clocking in at almost 90 minutes over two discs. However, length does not imply meandering or any lack of concision; even the 12-minute “Erasmus: The Queen’s Dentist” follows its own “logic,” the lower melodic line fades, the upper augmented by more and more reverb until several lines emerge from it. In fact, the album is incomprehensibly tight, each sound seemingly irreplaceable, like the sustaining percussive thwacks that interrupt the sweet vocal-inflected drone of “See Me Now.” That track alone could serve as a primer for the album as a whole; Captain Beefheart’s “long loomin’ notes” are constantly placed in new perspectives, moving over the soundstage as the volume drops and increases with sickening suddenness. Rain begins to pour, a raw-powered flood similar to Country Joe’s water-drops in “Grace,” as a harmonium brings slowly evolving beauty to the flood.

This is one of the rare fully-loaded moments on what is, by and large, a spacious recording. The reverb'd interjections in the title track, presumably clarinets, create space around the room-ambient percussion and winds as they chant and dance. The zither and chimes that introduce “Russian Milk” exude tranquil beauty, while the low hoots that open “The Merry Potter” are redolent of some other-worldly ceremonial invocation.

When the band plays, or exhorts, as in the miniature “Baltic Minor,” they still resemble no one, save maybe the Residents in their earliest incarnation, and they never had quite the command of tape manipulation and effect placement exhibited here. This is a stunning disc by a band that simply must be experienced to be understood.

By Marc Medwin

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