Perhaps it’s best to consider all of the albums by Smell Of incense in one sitting, as their styles weave and lace through and back into each other.
Drawing their name from the 60’s LSD induced psychedelic single “Smell Of Incense” by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Smell Of Incense, a psychedelic progressive band, float aimlessly down that same lysergic laced stream, where their music blossoms and ebbs with warm hypnotic musical meanderings and vocal harmonies, in a fashion that implies that they have something extremely important to bely, that the essence of their presentation is one of a guru dispensing life’s keys … though perhaps from a life lived under the influence, where every step, without a guiding hand could be a perilous adventure.
All of their outings are richly laced with unusual stories that may or may not be true, where the melodies and harmonies are woven with tripped-out sounds and effects designed to take you both through elements of the past and into the future at one time.
All Mimsy Were The Borogover released in 1994, was a wonderful initial outing, fusing a range of influences that include a delicate sitar, lightly handled guitars and an ever present organ that both moves the music forward and also acts as a heartbeat, breathing life into an ethereal atmosphere. Most strange is the choice of songs they’ve chosen to cover, including the Incredible String Band, Peter Hammill, and then go on to construct a twelve minute opus based around Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive,” all of which they nearly re-created in their own image, fashion and musical visions.
Released in 1997, Through The Gates Of Deeper Slumber begins with the twenty-five minute saga “A Floral Treasury,” drawing on 70’s influenced Krautrock that is both vast and cosmic, with instrumentation that flows together as a series of breezy effects that include disembodied vocals, along with the use of a Mellotron to hold it all together, where laced with a sort of naive charm that’s designed to induce hallucinatory couch-bound flight. Throughout the remainder of the album, the band manages to enable you to look back at this opening track as some sort of talisman or touchstone, that should remain in sight at all times.
Of Ullages and Dottles released in 2007, takes a most unexpected turn, featuring the poems of Henry Longfellow, Cicely Mary Barker, William Blake, June Campbell Cramer, The Beatles (with “Smoke Pot Smoke Pot, Everybody Smoke Pot …”) and others, and while certainly adventurous, comes off a bit disjointed, with the sense of a patchwork quilt, though the rest of the songs on the album are able to redeem themselves, leaving you with many memorable musical treasures that define and refine their own places within the musical construct.
With A Curious Miscellany being delivered in 2010, we’re presented with a gathering of the band’s non-album singles, B-Sides and demos, along with alternative takes that create an informative adventurous compilation, that in many ways can stand on its own two feet.
On a whole, there is much to like, and I’m sure much that others will find annoying, though that being said, what Smell Of Incense have laid down is not drawn from the past darkly, what’s been strung together here are a series of songs that live very much in their own space and time, merely hinting at the past in order to maintain a constructive wheel, indicating that the music is a process of building on the past, and in so doing, brings that past into the future, where the music resounds with all of today’s technologies and inferences.
If forced to make comparisons, I would say that my first impressions drift toward Caravan and their stupendous album In The Land of Grey and Pink, along with the early sensibilities of the music laid down by Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, along with a much more psyched out Renaissance.
*** The Fun Facts: As to the album’s title All Mimsy Were The Borogoves, Mimsy means: prim, underwhelming, and ineffectual, especially applicable to miserable and flimsy. While Borogove is a thin shabby looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round, appearing to be something like a live mop, first introduced in the nonsense poem “Jabberwocky,” with both words being coined by Lewis Carrol, with the descriptive concepts coming from the book “Alice In Wonderland.”
The album title Through The Gates Of Deeper Slumber is taken from a passage in the book “Magic Study: A Poison Study Novel” by Maria V. Snyder, with the passage reading, “I sent the magician into a deeper slumber, and suing the guard’s desires, I encouraged them to focus on something other than the the horse and rider passing beneath the gate.”
As to the album titled Of Ullages and Dottles, the word ‘ullage’ has several meanings: (1) The amount by which the contents fall short of filling a container, as a cask or bottle. (2) The quantity of wine, liquor, or the like, remaining in a container that has lost part of its contents by evaporation, leakage, or use. As to the word ‘Dottle,’ it subscribes a remnant or unburned amount of tobacco left in a pipe after smoking, though in this case, that would no doubt be marijuana or hash.
Regarding the compilation album A Curious Miscellany, the word ‘Miscellany’ implies a group or collection of differing items, or a mixture.
Photos: © artintodust
- Jenell Kesler
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