Grateful Dead / John Oswald

Grayfolded

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Print advertisements circa Grayfolded's initial unveiling in 1995 read: "Yes, it's really them playing it!" "Them" being the Grateful Dead and "it" is their performance epic "Dark Star." Decades prior to the Beatles' LOVE in 2007 -- which brought the concept of the musical "mashup" into the mainstream -- John Oswald had been creating borrowed tunes for nearly 30 years. His uncanny compositions -- which he terms "plunderphonics" -- are sculpted by morphing and layering multiple incarnations of a song to make a thoroughly unique version. With a quarter-century of live recordings at their proverbial disposal, the Grateful Dead are one of the only -- if not the only -- artists capable of providing the raw material to successfully attempt such an endeavor. Oswald indexed his continuous 50-minute work into half a dozen shorter titles, commencing with "Transilience." Here, there are many strata of Jerry Garcia's voice stacked together, all of which can be heard singing "...the transitive nightfall of diamonds." "73rd Star Bridge Sonata" is a keen nod and wink to Deadheads, who will recognize the instrumental passages out of the highly lauded February 13, 1970, "Dark Star" at the Fillmore East. Garcia noodles around a melody that is strikingly similar to Simon & Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge Song." The subsonic frequencies that Rhythm Devils Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann unleash on "Cease Tone Beam" are otherworldly. The "beam" mentioned in the title is undoubtedly an inference to the low tones that would emanate from a stringed instrument that Hart often struck during the "Drums" and/or "Space" excursions of live Dead shows. "The Speed of Space" incorporates excerpts from the second Garcia-sung verse, beginning with the "Mirror shatters..." lyrics. The conclusion finds multiple Garcias -- from various years -- colliding in an eerie and ominous chorus. The "Cryptical Envelopment" highlights within "Dark Matter Problem/Every Leaf Is Turning" evolve into a thick, maddening percussive stew before landing into the familiar "(That's It For) The Other One." The slight diversion from "Dark Star" is short-lived, as it careens into a dissonant disarray à la the Grateful Dead's electronic free-form "Feedback." Then when you least expect it, Oswald resurrects "Dark Star" as "Foldback Time" compresses the entire outing into a space of just over four minutes. The project was preceded by the equally fascinating Transitive Axis in 1994. In the intervening years, both discs were released as a double-CD set. While it may not be everyone's blend of surreal sonic psychedelics, Grayfolded is well executed and worthy of inclusion in any Deadhead collection.

blue highlight denotes track pick