Primordial Undermind

Universe I've Got

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After dissolving the band's Boston lineup and heading westward, Eric Arn and guitar cohort Brian Craft re-assembled another lineup of Primordial Undermind in a city with dozens of sprawling, psych-touched peers: San Francisco. Their first album recorded in the new surroundings (and their third overall), Universe I've Got, although recognizably Primordial Undermind from the opening notes onward, strays from their previous recordings in some intriguing and rewarding ways, not the least of which is the prevalence of more defined song structures. Songs such as "Simple Yes I Know" drone less and pulsate more, thanks to increased definition between instruments and resolute song structures that are able to give way to tidal waves of extended psychedelic jamming, but ultimately are better able to harness them as well. The result is music that is less sloppy, but still messy, sprawling, and amorphous. The album benefits from much more spatial texture as well. Instead of a one-dimensional wall of guitar shrapnel, feedback, and noise, Primordial Undermind has either opened up or found spaces within their music that add dimension, increasing the mystery and portentousness that cloak the songs. There are surprises, too, such as the intense folkadelic of "Telling Psycopaths": four minutes of strummed acoustic guitars and violin with nary an electric amp in site. Here, Arn shows that if he had to carry a song vocally, he could. In all, where You and Me and the Continuum was immediate and could swallow a listener with its bad-trip momentum, Universe I've Got is more properly enveloping. If not a more direct blow to the head, the album is easier to get lost in because it has more nooks and crevices -- and, hence, atmosphere -- than before. Plus, in the beautifully brittle, modal guitar lines and song themes, there is an even deeper metaphysical bent. Arn's vocal presence may not be much more frequent, but it is more confident. The addition of Doug Pearson's eerie violin playing also adds another instrumental focal point; in "Hypomorphic Array" and "Jean to Sloan," it floats above the music like some omniscient guide trying to make sense out of the gorgeous cacophony.

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