On Back to Earth, Eat Static is down to a solo Merv Pepler project with, paradoxically, a high level of guest activity, including a serious chunk of Ozric Tentacles' entourage. Of course, the music always was and still is strongly tied to the Ozrics'. Pepler approaches techno just like the Ozrics approach space rock: generously, expansively, with lots of grooves and percussion, and a tendency to infuse the music with Indian and Arabic flavors. That's what happens on Back to Earth. It may not be original (actually, Eat Static has always been a step or two behind trends) but what Pepler does he does very nicely. The guest list includes Steve Everitt (who co-wrote a good part of this album), former Eat Static half Joie Hinton, space guitarist extraordinaire Steve Hillage, and Ozrics guru Ed Wynne, among others. After the straightforward left-field techno opener "Tuned Mass Damper," the album offers its first Oriental-tinged track, "Pharaoh." "Lo-Ride Sloucher" features some wicked synth work from Ed Wynne, while "Flippity Flippity" has a surprising Debussy-era Art of Noise atmosphere. This quartet of tracks forms a very strong first third, but "Epoch Calypso," an overtly and almost aggressively Latin track, throws the album off course. It takes a little time for things to pick up, but the last third, starting with the Hillage showcase "Dune Rider," features some strong contributions and compositions, especially the downtempo "Valley of the Moon," strongly reminiscent of the Ozrics' vintage softer tunes. Back to Earth is a long and uneven record, but it definitely has its good moments. Techno buffs will see it as retro, but Ozric Tentacles fans will feel at home.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture