Saturday, January 23, 2010

Root Boy Siena

SIENA ROOT – “Different Realities” CD ’09 (Transubstans, Swe) – Does anybody remember Face Dancer? Hey, at least the Baltimore / Maryland readers should. They were a killer local hard rock band who had their heyday back in the ‘70’s and used to absolutely crush covers by everybody from The Who to Jeff Beck. Well, they also had a wealth of great originals that led to 2 psychotically-overlooked albums. In one of those gems, they made the point that “When the music starts, I can’t stand still.” That might be a great mantra for Sweden’s SIENA ROOT.

See, while a lot of bands are content to establish a style and then beat it into holy shit with each successive album, that’s not how the SR boys roll. Through their previous 3 records (and a single), they’ve begun with an early ‘70’s base of warm & heavy guitar and swirling organ, then dolloped it with vocals that effuse all kinds of soul (albeit, it seems, different singers on every release). From that, they’ve extrapolated into extended song structures and open-ended jamming, never knowing the meaning of resting on their laurels. This ever-moving tapestry positively explodes on “Different Realities.”

The new SIENA ROOT disc is composed of 2 lengthy pieces. (Not to fret, ye of oughties-little-patience, as they have bee sub-divided into shorter sections). The first of these, “We,” is surely grounded in hard rock but not so simply. Just take the opening section, “We Are Them” as an example. This 10+ minute opus begins with a building, upward spiraling movement that mirrors the rising of the sun over a panoramic landscape. The hues painted by the instruments invoke a dawn that detonates into day around the 4-minute mark. Heavy Strat chords that are at once Hendrixian and modern dance together and we’re off on a journey. It’s a voyage that passes through the pensive oasis of “In The Desert” and into the Truth-&-Janey-like riffs of “Over The Mountains” before coming to rest in the sweeping “As We Return,” a movement hinting as much to Amon Duul II as it does to the Zeps.

And now, my friends, the music has truly started and SIENA ROOT has some ants in their pants! To say that the album’s 2nd sprawling piece, “The Road To Agartha” is adventurous would be akin to calling Leif Erikson’s trip a jaunt across town. Heralded by the power of opening section “Bairagi,”The ROOT dive headlong into a deep exploration of Indian music. The hypnotic rhythms & traditional voicings of this instrumental vision may seem as though they’d be jarringly out-of-place but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, by the time we get to “Bhimpalasi” and the music has been distilled to merely percussion, you’re attention will be rapt. It’ll stay that way as the rest of the band rejoins the fray, through “Shree” and “Jog,” where heavy rock melds with the traditions of thousands of years in a stirring conclusion.

In all, “Different Realities” is surely everything the first word of it’s title defines and I’m certain there will be an element of past fans who find it “too much,” at least on first listen. My only hope is that those of you who don’t “get it” at first will at least give it a few shots. The rest of us already know: When the music starts, you can’t stand still. Masters Of Reality

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