Henry Kaiser

Devil in the Drain: Expanded

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Like Frank Zappa, guitarist Henry Kaiser spent a good portion of the mid-'80s fascinated by the sonic wonders offered by the synclavier keyboard. Devil in the Drain, essentially a solo recording, documents some of his early experiments with it and suffers a bit from the dated quality it confers. He often uses it to generate percussive patterns, and even though his tendency is toward jagged and irregular rhythms derived in part from his love of the work of John French ("Drumbo" in the Captain Beefheart band), they sound shallow and lacking in richness. The music centers around a niche Kaiser found comfortable, straddling free improvisation and rock, but doesn't reach the free improv heights of some of his best work (the duo Wireforks with Derek Bailey, for example) or the deliciously impassioned cover songs he would do in the next few years. The title track uses text from a children's book by Daniel Pinkwater and has a dark undercurrent not unlike some of Edward Gorey's work, but musically it drags on for too long. Not a bad album, but one that Kaiser completists will enjoy more than the casual listener.

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