You know, just before I reviewed this album, Stephen Malkmus borrowed it from me. It came back with what looked to be a coffee stain on it. He was adamant that he wasn't the one who spilled coffee on it, but he wouldn't say who did. All he'd say on the matter was "Zurich
is stained, and it's not my fault".
Hilarious indie rock jokes aside, this is another live album, this time recorded in Zurich, Switzerland. It’s got plenty to recommend it over Warszawa
though: For one thing, while Warsawza
sounded okay, here the production is excellent for a live album. I suspect a lot of studio post-production (at very least the songs segue too well into each other for there have not been a lot of editing going on), but that’s fine because it doesn’t seem to really be meant as a “conventional” live album. Additionally, the turntable showcase tracks are still there, but they wear out their welcome less quickly when alternated with tracks that focus on the rest of the band, and just sound more dynamic thanks to the production.
As with the previous album, this is almost all new material, although this time it seems less improvised. Bits of past songs do get interpolated into the set though, mainly Metatron
material, plus Buckethead’s solo composition “Giant Robot”. I am probably giving Transmuttion
the asterisks of recommendation, but this album is a close second: it’s just really good at showcasing the band’s instrumental talents without ever feeling overly self-indulgent.
Ekstasis, Transmutation 5 (Ascent)
On this very ambitious album, Praxis manage to fit two thousand and four different covers of Arrested Development’s hit single “Tennessee” onto an eighty minute CD, and let me tell you, the results are extremel- Okay, I think you’ve gotten the idea that if a Praxis album title has the name of a place in it, it’s a live album.
This is their first live album recorded here in the greatest nation of all time, and is also the first to not feature any turntablism. This is of course because all turntablists are unamerican America-haters who hate America. By coincidence, Buckethead happens to be using more of the finger-tapping, Tom Morello-esque technique that also appeared on that album though.
In addition to it’s lack of communist record-scratchers, this album feels a bit more like a full live performance instead of a collage of highlights, though that may or may not be the case. The production is just as strong as on Zurich, and like that album it’s mainly new compositions (though “Bent Light” is an alternate version of “The Interworld And The New Innocence”, Buckethead’s “Night Of The Slunk” shows up, and a couple of other tracks seem to be variations on Buckethead solo tracks). There’s also a great instrumental take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” that highlight’s the band’s psychedelic rock influences.
While Buckethead continues to get most of the musical spotlight, Bill Laswell and Brain get to show off their musical chemistry a little further with the bass/drums showcase “Chopper”, and the majority of “Broken Fractal” is a Brain drum solo. The album mainly focuses on their rock side (even moreso than Zurich because there aren’t any hip hop tracks), but “Optic” features a slinky reggae rhythm and “Chopper” and “Magus” both showcase the fusion jazz aspect of the band a bit more.
In conclusion, Praxis were a terrific live band. Fire up your time machine, go back to a few years ago when they were still together and performing concerts, and see them today! Although I guess you wouldn’t be seeing them live today, you would be seeing them live several years ago. Either way, see if you can bring me back a T-shirt or something.
: Machine Gun, Optic, Bent Light