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Scenic - The Acid Gospel Experience

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Artist: Scenic

Album: The Acid Gospel Experience

Label: Hidden Agenda

Review date: May. 18, 2003

Meandering Journeys Through Space

Bruce Licher's Scenic returns with a new album, packaged -- as usual -- in a beautifully printed foldout enclosure. Musically, the title does a fine job of encapsulating the feelings herein. Perhaps re-energized by the brief Savage Republic reunion tour, Licher and Robert Loveless lead the band through its signature dry desert sound into a denser, more lush and sometimes more intense style.

The album starts out with a thick, strong sound. "Year of the Bat" layers thick, flowing guitars over a gentle rhythm, dreamy and reminiscent of vintage 4AD work in some ways. The final feeling is of beautiful melodies floating and moving like clouds over the ocean. "Lightspeed" could be the soundtrack to a fast-moving science fiction battle over a desert planet, dense and powerful. The guitar and keyboards blend into a thick layer coating everything in a blanket of sound as the drums and bass pound away and sitar-like notes twang on the top of it all.

There's an overall cinematic flavor to the album, which is nothing new for Scenic, but this time around the sound is fuller. Even when the music is sedate, there's more than one movement within it to occupy your ears and mind. However, there's a disconcerting lack of motion at times here. Many of the songs are very long, and the album as a whole occupies just about as much of the CD as is possible. No doubt this is the sort of music which can stretch out, but I often found myself wishing for either more dedicated editing or more internal development happening.

The title track is 11 minutes of slow, floating sonic textures with delicate, tuneful guitar leads over it. It's a fine piece, but frankly it goes on rather longer than it needs to, in a low-energy style, without much in the way of changes. "Under a Wing," featuring Harold Budd, is a dark, rumbling piano and drone piece, extremely ambient and minimal, but holds to a reasonable length and thus doesn't wear out its welcome.

"The Spheres" sounds like a celestial ode, and indeed it sort of is just that. Heavy layers of synth are laid over a thick bass and drum pulse, with crystalline guitar lines (somewhat reminiscent of Pink Floyd at times) cutting through. The overall sound ends up being something like slow space rock if done by Morricone, and is one of the strongest tracks along with "Lightspeed."

The final, epic track is the 19-minute "A Journey Through the Outer Reaches of Inner Space." I suppose with a title like that you could make a prediction, and indeed it's no surprise to find the song a Floydian, slowly-building space-bound work. Floating synthesizers, occasional drum hits, and simple guitars build suspense for the first eight-plus minutes. The song later begins to get slightly more intense, but remains relatively calm even when the layers grow thicker. Even at its heaviest the piece is still pretty relaxed. Is it too long? That depends on your state of mind, I suspect.

Scenic have delivered a modern sort of space rock here, with more of an emphasis on the space than on the rock for the most part. While I would wish for a more concise delivery, if you're into texture and space, Scenic delivers the goods.

By Mason Jones

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