Lamp of the Universe

The Cosmic Union

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This debut from the Lamp of the Universe is essentially the collaborative creative efforts of one man -- Craig Williamson, bassist and vocalist in New Zealand's heavy rock trio Datura -- who plays all of the instruments here: acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, synthesizer, sitar, tabla, flute, chimes, finger cymbals, drums, and "rainpipe," to name just a few of the instruments featured. This is one of those paisley-and-patchouli attempts at a "psychedelic" fusion of traditional Indian ragas and space rock, though more often than not, the heavy vibe prominent on many "stoner rock" albums seeps through, teleporting the listener from celestial space back down to the terra firma on occasion. The music itself -- a blend of sitars, tabla, and Laserium-rock guitars -- is fine, as intended, but it's Williamson's zonked-on-pot vocals that tend to be off-putting, so submerged and swimming in a cosmic swirl of echo and sonic frippery that they can't help but sound like the textbook definition of what psychedelic music is supposed to sound like. Still, it isn't even the sound so much, it's the uninspired, love-your-brother lyrics ("In my dream of Love/we cast away all our fears/and Learn to live together...It's time to unite/We are brothers and sisters of one") which fail to connect, like Williamson is trying desperately to interweave a universal message from 1968 that somehow doesn't translate in 2002. Lamp of the Universe is more "bong-hit" rock than raga rock, in other words, and Williamson should probably change the bongwater now and then.

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