Smokin' Granny

Sirius Matter

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In 1997, Smokin' Granny had released a cassette that got the group some attention from prog rock magazines and radio shows. Two years later, the North Carolina group completed its first full-length CD, Sirius Matter. Half of it recuperates most of the magnificent Bat Cave session that yielded the cassette (but where's "Hydroglyfik"?). The remaining half-hour is made of a bunch of brand new tunes and improvisations. The album kicks off with three such newborns. "Barnacle Bob's Big Bang Bonanza" is as exciting as its title is silly. An avant fusion workout, it tops anything else the group has recorded. "Neural Pulse" and "Moveable Feast" move closer to prog rock, feeling somewhat heavier in their arrangements. They feature Volare guitarist Steve Hatch (who later became a full-time member of the group). Then listeners enter the Live at the Bat Cave selections, including highlights "Edible Polymers" and "Squid," two pieces impossible to resist. The harmolodics formed by Todd Barbee's soprano saxophone, Brian K. Preston's bass, and David Oskardmay's guitar evoke a funkified Ornette Coleman. The jam "Bhairava" features John Heitzenrater on bassoon and Barbee soloing over a fake Arabic scale. A couple of improvisations and an easier tune, "Road to the Desert," conclude the set. With Sirius Matter (how's that for a tongue-in-cheek title?), Smokin' Granny proved it was possible to take King Crimson's instrumental prog rock legacy and inject it with a sense of partying that doesn't exclude a daring approach to melody.

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