Live Zebulon

Bent Arcana

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Live Zebulon Review

by Paul Simpson

The 2020 release Bent Arcana launched a series of improvisational records made by Osees' John Dwyer and a revolving cast of friends, bandmates, and guests. Live Zebulon, issued in 2022, documents a concert in Los Angeles intended as a warmup for a gig in Holland, yet was powerful enough to stand out on its own. Performed by six of the ten musicians who made Bent Arcana, the set includes material from that album as well as two lengthy takes on selections that appeared on 2021's Moon-Drenched. The original Bent Arcana album inhabited spaces between electric fusion and Krautrock, and these versions are in the same vein, but rawer and more garage rock-like. This is especially evident with the high-speed acid rock blitz "Misanthrope Gets Lunch," which blasts on for a few minutes longer than the studio version, and scorches the entire way. "Oblivion Sigil" features a ripping sax solo by Zebulon venue owner Joce Soubiran, although the track is dominated by its blazing guitars, and eventually tripped-out effects and racing hand percussion. "The War Clock" is a focused jam that starts out tentative and quickly finds its way, with funky keyboards and a bassline that shoots up and down the scales. Finally, "Psychic Liberation" stretches out to almost 20 minutes, yet its first half actually manages to sound more cohesive than the original, letting its simple, inviting bassline shine before the keyboards and guitars swell up. The song continues down its casual path, never getting overexcited but maintaining high spirits, with fractured notes and spaced-out effects occasionally spilling over. The second half meanders out to deep space, with a faint bassline pulse being the only tether to the mothership, until that lets go as well. Eventually the group gravitates toward a rush of rolling, clattering percussion and feedback before drawing to a close. The original records had an impressively vintage sound to them, and could possibly be mistaken for private press rarities from the '70s, but these live performances largely improve on the studio recordings. The band sounds tighter and more energetic, yet they still drive the compositions into unknown territory.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
Bent Arcana Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick