Friday, 23 May 2014

The fusion that's Heliocentric (USA,1979)

I really couldn't resist buying this without knowing anything about the contents when I saw the highly attractive surrealistic cover with the metronome oddly flat on the table and thus nonfunctionable, the window showing a reflection of the metronome in front of a sandy path outside and self-referential other window, the blind handle echoing the pendulum, etc.  The artist here is Norm Scutti, who also plays drums.  He is rounded out by Al von Seggern on horns, Jeff Pressing on keyboards, and John Leftwich on bass.  The whole was recorded in March 1979 in San Diego, California, thus, 35 years ago...

The rear features the following little blurb worth reading:

"This album presents nine original compositions with each piece exploring a different musical territory.  The use of untraditional harmonic changes and rhythmic concepts evident in this music evolved from the group's inception.  We began as a group whose premise was aleatory or spontaneous music.  From this grew a sensitivity to dynamic interplay which has resulted in a unique group sound.  This sound together with the writing creates a raw spontaneity in the recording.  With a minimum of overdubbing we feel the loose gut-level funky side of small group playing shines through.  What follows is a brief description of the compositions..."
--Norm Scutti and Al von Seggern

For example, the first track Afferent Connection is described as "contemporary latin-folk in 6/16 meter with solos alternating between all members of the group..."

Ridiculously, the drummer has two spoken tracks at the ends of each side, in which he explains the group, thankfully only for a few seconds.  I don't think I've seen such a curious exposition before on a jazz record and it seems to me quite unnecessary.

Note that the first side is entirely composed by keyboardist Jeff Pressing, while on side 2 there is more involvement from the others.  An entirely improvised track is credited to the whole band ("Town of Dog").

I don't think the spontaneous aspect is very much to the fore here (thankfully I might add, with the exception of "Town of Dog"), rather, the laidback acoustic jazz sound most reminds me of Listen featuring Mel Martin which I ripped some time back, minus those annoying steel drums of course.  Despite the promise of "untrad. harmonic changes and concepts" (i.e. progressive composition) the amount of unusualness evident here is slightly below our stratospheric standards at this late stage in the game where like the jaded and debauched Romans in Petronius' Satyricon, we are always seeking some new unheard chord progression, dissonant interval or rifflike angular melody to punch our jugulars and entertain our palmares-weary receptive auditory neurons and higher cortices...

The spoken prose poem or very short story that accompanies "Town of Dog" is well worth listening to for its amusing plot and subversively surreal changes and original phraseology (but not the improvised music).  I will paraphrase the majority of it but not quote it verbatim, not having the time for it:

"In the Town of Dog there lived six cats.  Two of them, Hibble and Thnork, were employed as wine-sniffers, by the local vineyards.  This, many said, was what was responsible for their chronic inebriation, matted fur, and good-hearted sense of humour.  Though there were those who felt their sense of practical jokery bordered on the macabre.  Let me tell you about one of their exploits.

Douglas, who went to trade school, studying to be a plumber, now enters the story inasmuch as his brother, Frank, tripped over Hibble and Thnork as they were making an important grain purchase for their hogfarm.  What was worse, he was carrying his bombastophone, on which he was a performer of international repute.  Unfortunately the instrument fell, and was cracked beyond repair.  Needless to say, Frank had few kind words for our friends, Hibble and Thnork.  Their escape was via one of the many cubbyholes, cut into the sides of the store and a very narrow one, it was indeed.  In fact, Hibble's tail became entangled by some wiring which had become stuck to the outside of the opening...." 

And this is how the story ends.  Really love it.
Here is a wonderful track called Leaf:

(Gotta love how they employed electric instruments back in the day...  Where is all that electricity now??)

And here is their surreal cat story for those who wish to hear it:


  1. heliocentric mp3

    lossless (limited time only)

  2. Am loving this Julian - curiously unknown to me considering the label.
    Many thx

  3. Could you please re-up the wav please, thanks