Astro & Suzuki Junzo - Cosmic Blues Experience
(plunk's plan CD) Keith Boyd 02.07.07
I suppose you could write several books about Blues music. There are probably as many ways to approach the topic as there are authors who are willing to try. You could do a history lesson and start with Africa . You'd probably follow that line through the introduction of those two great nation nullifying forces; Slavery and Christianity. The music that resulted from this meeting was a blend of African call and response mixed in with Church music and then shaped by the dislocation of the Slave trade. From what we know of the time the music was a mixed bag of field hollers, work songs and early gospel music. From there it's just a hop, skip and secularizing jump to Blues proper and then onward to the various regional flavors and styles. So that's one approach. Another might be to examine the development of those various regional styles and what made them unique and who were the major personalities involved. I suppose another approach might be to consider the social and emotional impact Blues music had on it's generating and target culture, namely; Southern rural Black people. This approach would examine lyric content for signs of the concerns and psyche of the audience and performers. So, what does all of this mean? Does having several hundred books examining Blues music really get us any closer to the true deal? By knowing the history of a given phenomena I suppose we gain some vicarious experience and perspective but I would put forth that to truly get under the skin of the Blues you need to go deeper. I'm not going to argue Black and White issues here. I'm a white guy looking on a culture that isn't my own. So with that being said I'd still like to put forth my insight as to what gives the Blues at least a part of its vital heart. It's what I'll call "The Plaint".
The Plaint is a notion that underlies so many artistic endeavors that it can be oddly invisible at times. The plaint's more visible cousin is something that surrounds us daily; the COMPLAINT. While a complaint is mundane, the plaint is elevated. The Book of Psalms is one Plaint after another. Most forms of protest are based on a plaint one group has with some established norm or rule. The essence of a plaint is a deep longing of the heart for something or other. It could be a woman. It could be health. It could be spiritual freedom or a release from the bondage of poverty. Like the old song says, "It could be spoonful of coffee. It could be a spoonful of gold..". Whatever the plaint is about it is deeply felt and wished for. Given this small piece of the inner core of what makes the Blues the Blues, we can pull back our focus and consider other music in this light. Given that the phrase, "The Blues" is mainly concerned with people shouting out their particular lament I suppose it is fair to consider Astro and Suzuki Junzo's new CD, "Cosmic Blues Experience" as a real Blues release.
There are no 3 chord, 12 bar stompers here. You won't hear anyone talking about the crossroads, gambling, love gone wrong or booze. All of the trappings of Blues music are absent here. What fills in the void they leave is a scorching, white-hot lament for the universe. It all starts off with a longish passage of jigsaw puzzle sound pieces. They emerge, expand and float in space for a bit then succumb to the next tone. These scattered bits are a trance inducing visit to the intergalactic space port. They are beautiful in and of themselves and show surprising restraint considering what comes next. I love the length of these tracks. There are only three of them and two come close to the twenty minute mark. It takes this kind of length, I believe, to achieve the backdrop and storyline if you will, that pulls the listener along. Yeah, I know, I love Punk Rock too. I love that kind of brevity and to the point stuff but we need room for everything these days don't we? If not we run the risk of just gliding over the surface of things. So suspend your disbelief and let these sounds wash the bad karma from the folds of your brain. The overall effect of this disc is that of an enormous build. The spacey tendrils start colliding more frequently and the music takes on a propulsive and at times aggressive tone. Track two, "Galactic Joy" takes this musicy element and puts it out in front. With the addition of drums the track comes on like The Velvet Underground pumping away on the riff from the Batman show while heavily medicated at a gig in a Lower East Side alley on Mars.
So how is this "Blues" music? It's all in the margins friends. There is a tremendous longing to be heard on this disc. It's the plaint of the Earth dweller looking skyward and wishing for flight. It's the cry of the infant pulled from inner space to this cold, cold world. It's the long slow motion notes pulsing and crawling outward in search of anything or everything. This is a Cosmic Blues for the Microcosmos of your mind.