Cromagnon: Cave Rock (2009)
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It would be a travesty of justice to suggestas some critics havethat there is only one stand-out track on this historic reissue of Cromagnon's only full-length release, Cave Rock. That track is "Caledonia," which is no doubt a magnificent song. For almost four-and-a-half minutes, the inner ear is treated to a priceless amalgam of Celtic music: the moaning bagpipes, dark and throbbing electric guitars, and relentlessly militaristic drums came together in a song that was so far ahead of its time in 1969 that it still sounds fresh today. But that song was not all that Cromagnon was about. The group was retro but looked forward; a band that dove right on top of the wave of anarchic protest that came out of the late-'60s. If that time was defined as a flower-power, peace-not-war era, Cromagnon came right out and told it like it was.
So what was it? Then, as now, Cromagnon's exposé features the hypocrisy of society in the urban landscape. The pretense of living the bourgeois lie is all-pervasive throughout the record. "Ritual Fest of the Libido" is a classic representation of the pretense of sexual respectability, ignoring the savage sexuality of "the house on the hill." In many respects, the band's ironic name enables it to hold up a mirror to the very society that spawned it. "Fantasy" and "Genitalia," with their maddeningly all-pervasive sirens and cracked mutterings, make song-sense in an oblique sort of way, although singularly lacking in defined melody. This is much like the work that Karlheinz Stockhausen composed later. "Fantasy" even predates some of the '70s protest work in rock, with its chants of "freedom...freedom from The Man."
And then there is "Crow of the Black Tree," in which a gentle strumming develops into a full-fledged, almost Andalusian rhythm, while featuring eerily noirish chanting with bass and a splash of cymbals that rises and falls like a goose-stepping Fascist march. There are almost ten minutes of this Dawn of the Dead premonition music, which is not only revelatory, but quite inspired.
It is hard to imagine what possessed a band not just to imagine, but to reflect, this reality as far back as 1969. Suffice to say that members Austin Grasmere, Brian Elliot and The Connecticut Tribe were courageous enough to see things as they really wereand are, in many respects, even today. More than anything, there is music here, not just a conceptual presentation of the '60s. Perhaps this is why it has endured so many decades later.
Track Listing: Caledonia; Ritual Feast of the Libido; Organic Sundown; Fantasy; Crow of the Black Tree; Genitalia; Toth, Scribe I; First World of Bronze.
Personnel: Austin Grasmere: lead vocals; Brian Elliot: lead vocals; The Connecticut Tribe: background vocals, sounds.
Record Label: ESP Disk
Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde