Monster Island


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AllMusic Review by Bryan Thomas

Back in 1963, John Sinclair -- poet, musician, political activist, rock promoter, band manager, blues and jazz historian, radio host, and writer -- wrote an essay, in a small 5x7 student notebook, while under the influence of peyote. In addition to the essay, Sinclair (who later spent time in prison on a marijuana charge) had also written a series of poems. This notebook was found, years later, buried within a box of Sinclair's writings, by Cary Loren of Destroy All Monsters while Loren was researching the collection of John and Leni Sinclair at the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor, MI. In the fall of 2000, Loren assembled the various members of Monster Island and other musician friends, including Matthew Smith (Outrageous Cherry) on piano; Aran Ruth (Outrageous Cherry) on bass; Eugene Strobe (the Witches) on vibes; Efe, Kevin, and Warn Defever (His Name Is Alive) on percussion; and "special guest" Jeff Grand on guitar. In one take, this ensemble recorded 33 minutes of improvisational music to accompany Sinclair reading his own essay as a spoken-word free-form vocal track. The long take was split into two 16-plus minute sections titled "Realizations of Peyotemind" and "Peyotemind." Two additional Monster Island improvisations -- "Ganges Dawn" and the 11-minute "Eternal Now," both recorded earlier, in the summer of 2000, with a slightly different lineup (adding Davin Brainard on percussion and Otto Kontrol on something called a "rebab") -- were added, though neither piece is too significant. Both were recorded as an homage to pianist Alice Coltrane. To round out the CD, Loren and company also include a live performance of "Monk in Orbit," taped June 5th, 2001, at the Detroit Contemporary gallery, featuring Erika Hoffmann (Destroy All Monsters) on harmonium, and Len Bukowksi on bass clarinet. Peyotemind is an interesting, if not essential, countercultural artifact, at best.