A Cid Symphony

A Cid Symphony

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Any CD that opens with over a minute of country harmonica-backed yodeling followed by an entire 35-second track of silence is bound to be peculiar, even if it was created in a time that hosted more than its fair share of bizarre music. A Cid Symphony certainly wasn't the pop group next door. In fact, there is nothing remotely pop about the group, from their psychedelically derived moniker to the nameless "songs" and original 3-LP, colored-vinyl packaging, and the completely counter-pop, noodling droning of their music -- droning sometimes indescribably beautifully, but occasionally in the pejorative sense of that word. The band is unquestionably of their time, yet their music is unique from any other during the '60s. The most obvious way in which their sound is grounded in the heady, spiritually yearning malaise of the '60s is its complete immersion in Hindustani and Middle Eastern music, with modal, raga-esque scale progressions and a discernibly mystical bent filling the entire first CD and a portion of the second. A Cid Symphony easily conjures an image of college-aged kids who are caught up in the kaleidoscope of social and cultural energy of the period, sitting in a public park completely engrossed in the strangely expressive, foreign music coming out of the instruments they're playing, oblivious to any passers-by. This is actually very close to how the music was actually conceived. Ernest Fuschbach's fluttering dulcimer is the basis of these songs, interspersed with Charles Ewing's flamenco-picked guitars. At times, alongside the Eastern underpinnings, the music is wholly evocative of front-porch Appalachian folk and blues, and the mixture of the two genres mostly works brilliantly, and at least much more successfully than it would seem possible. There are also elements of Native American ceremonial music, Spanish music, and a smattering of 12-bar acoustic blues, especially on the second CD, where A Cid Symphony performs several actual folk-blues songs with vocals, although even these are rarely straightforward. At times the music can touch on a palpable dissonance, while at others it can be so lyrical and innocent that the only way to describe it is heart-wrenchingly romantic or entirely sensual. There is no doubt that this is indulgent music, hopped up with not a little bit of naivete and the sort of self-righteous austerity that is only the province of the young, compounded by the righteousness of the era. It can seem underdone or convoluted in small patches, and after long stretches of undisturbed listening, it can also blend together a bit. By and large, though, a profound and transforming sort of innocence shines through these songs, and A Cid Symphony frequently hit on a groove so beautiful that it is mandala-like in its transcendence.

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