The Legendary Pink Dots

Chemical Playschool: Vols. 11, 12 & 13

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Easily one of the Legendary Pink Dots' most ambitious recordings, if not the most overall in the band's history, Chemical Playschool, Vols. 11, 12 & 13 is a three-CD set, each disc at least an hour long or so if not longer. In keeping with the earlier Chemical Playschool collections, the origins of the set were in a series of previously unreleased or incomplete recordings and improvisations. Instead of a straight anthology release, however, Ka-Spel and company made the intriguing decision to use those songs as the basis for new recordings and re-editings of the various tapes, resulting in this mesmerizing monster of a release. Though the discs each have individual titles -- Excess, Where the Hell?, and I Can See Clearly Now (I Think), respectively -- the whole is presented and, given patience on the part of a listener, should be heard as one extended piece. Each CD itself is mastered as one long track, though individual song listings are given on the appropriate sleeves; as a slightly cryptic bonus, a brief unlisted track, an agreeably moody keyboard piece, turns up on the Excess CD. The band as a whole is in excellent form; as has so clearly been the case throughout the Legendary Pink Dots' career, if the general framework for each new album generally remains the same, the results are nearly always artistically gripping and involving. Ka-Spel's cracking, mystically collapsing voice and sometimes unnerving lyrical imagery are in full flight throughout, while such stalwarts as Silverman, Ryan Moore, and Neils van Hoornblower weave musical tapestries drawing on dub, ambient, psychedelia, jazz, space rock, acid folk, and more. A variety of haunting, mysterious photographs and images for the artwork tie everything together further, testifying to the power of the Legendary Pink Dots' enduring musical vision.

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