Boston's Abunai! formed five years ago and has been quietly but steadily accumulating an international fan base since its 1997 debut, Universal Mind Decoder. A mind-bending homage to the members' diverse influences (Byrds, Pink Floyd, Richard Thompson, Amon Duul II, even "Maggot Brain"-era Funkadelic), it was followed a couple of years later by an even more literal homage. The Mystic River Sound purported to compile a dozen extinct proponents of the psychedelic underground Bosstown sound, with Abunai! adopting such memorable musical façades as North End Molasses Disaster and the Merrie Shyrwode Rangers. Round Wound, however, deliberately eschews consolidation. None of that "two steps forward, one step back, a half-step sideways" guff, which plagues self-conscious young bands. These guys stride into a whole other dimension.
The 79-minute set's 21 "tunes" flow and segue with a seamless, subversive aplomb and is the result of hours upon hours of Abunai! jams being labored over after the fact in the editing and mastering stages (not unlike producer Teo Macero's work with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew or how Can recorded on its first few records). In some instances, parallel jams were mixed together, yielding entirely new compositions whose tonal and textural layers were the result of sometimes-complementary, sometimes-clashing passages meeting. On paper, it would probably be meaningless to sketch out the 21 tracks' details, and besides, the whole effort has a distinctive live vibe that oozes spontaneity and inner-eyelid ambiance. Think a collision between Floyd's "Careful With That Axe, Eugene," Hendrix's "1983 (A Merman I Shall Turn to Be)," Hawkwind's Doremifasolatido, Can's Tago Mago and Quicksilver's Happy Trails. One minute a furious frisson of fuzzed-out fretboard pyrotechnics is spraying sparks in all directions. The next, a serpentine organ motif rears, accompanied by Eno/Pere Ubuish synth squoinks and squiggles. Then the band plows into a luminous Velvets/Feelies groove-drone, arching its back during peaks, then furrowing down low in the valleys, all the while assorted guitars and keys painting colorful flourishes around the edges. This is all accomplished in a lighthearted, fleet-footed manner, clearly not the efforts of retro-fixated lab scientists despite the music's obvious vintage touchstones. Dynamic tension is the order of the day, with mini-catharsis after catharsis the wonderful end result for the listener. And, no doubt, the band itself during the original jam sessions.
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Incidentally, Round Wound comes housed in a thick poly bag envelope with art inserts designed to make it look like a pack of guitar strings (logos like "best possible jams" and "good gage" -- that's right, "gage," as in "hemp," not "gauge"; song titles including "740XL," "LT.TOP.HVY.BTM." and "2CT-7"). Nice touch, that.
Speaking of packaging and design details, the Deep Mu Flux EP is a three-song, see-through clear-vinyl, lathe-cut 10-inch whose very hand-pressed nature dictates it be a super-limited edition (here, a minuscule 100 copies; lathe-cut records have grown in popularity in recent years on the vinyl collectors' scene). More jammin' on the frim-fram for Abunai! here, true to the spirit of Round Wound and recorded live at the Deep Mu Zoo in '99. Grab it while you can -- contact www.cameraobscura.com.au to see if copies are still available.