Magic Mushroom Band / Magic Frantic Mushrooms

Process of Illumination

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Released just before Spaced Out (Magic Mushroom Band's commercial break, of sorts), Process of Illumination first came out as an LP on the group's own Fungus imprint. The Mushrooms are here at the top of their psychedelic game, rocking playfully on all cylinders, without a hint of the techno vibe that would begin to seep into their sound starting with their next album (and culminate in the spin-off project Astralasia). Process of Illumination is still all about cheerful melodies, bouncing beats, far-out guitar solos and a carefree attitude. The obligatory cover song for this album is the Beatles' acid anthem "Tomorrow Never Knows," given here a rather lukewarm reading -- Kim and Garry lose themselves in the atmosphere of the song and forget that the original worked so well because of its haunting melody, here all but abandoned. But every other song is pure psychedelic bubblegum delight (except maybe "Smile," a bit weaker). "Burning Like the Sun," "Don't Be Afraid" and "I'll Be Your Friend" would have been radio-friendly hits if psychedelic guitars had been more popular in the U.K. at the time (it was still a few months before Ozric Tentacles and Porcupine Tree would manage to claw their way out of the underground). "Halcyon Daze" stretches the group's instrumental muscle in style, without breaking into the hypnotic trance scene of later years, while "Kaleidoscope" provides an excellent showcase for the group's pop lightness (you can hardly write a catchier chorus than this), and inventive mood-setting. This album may not be as innovative as Spaced Out, but it is consistently good and has aged very nicely (although the 2004 Voiceprint reissue could have used more assurance in the bass range). A good place to start.

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