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Secret Chiefs 3 | Book of Horizons | review | alternative | Lollipop

Secret Chiefs 3

Book of Horizons (Mimicry)
by Daniel Lukes

It's no secret that the key to a band's vision and creativity is that they often reach beyond the sum of said band's individual contributors, and such was the case with the now apparently defunct Mr. Bungle, a uniquely imaginative band who've left all too little in their wake. In Bungle, it was the mystical, otherworldly leanings of guitarist/keyboardist Trey Spruance (who also worked with Mike Patton on Faith No More's King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime, and is known by Bungle obsessives as Osama Bin Spruance, due to his ongoing interest in all things Middle Eastern) which, set against Patton's earthy cynicism, leant their 1995 opus Disco Volante its volatile, dramatic, exploratory edge. Now, set adrift to roam the territories he's always been lured by, Spruance's current outlet, Secret Chiefs 3, are a very different beast indeed. Here on his fourth album since 1996's First Grand Constitution and Bylaws, Trey's customary eclectic spirit is still intact, and Book of Horizons traverses everything from minimalist Musique Concrète to lush lounge exotica to raging death metal to Spaghetti Western noodlings to Middle Eastern strings and Danny Elfman-esque atmospherics, aided by a host of outlandish cohorts and instruments. There's everything from sitars to Tibetan gongs to glockenspiels to mridangams (!?) on this disc.

In accordance with his usual flair for overcomplicating things (this is a compliment by the way), Spruance assigns different musical tasks to seven separate imaginary "bands" (Forms, Ishraqiyun, Traditionalists, The Electromagnetic Azoth, Holy Vehm, Ur, and one named only by a star-shaped symbol). The overall effect is akin to the imaginary soundtrack to an uncanny, Burroughs-esque parallel universe where gumshoes mix with Arabian mystics, cowboys, and aliens in search for the Ultimate Truth. Music that is at times plaintive, harsh, witty, baffling, and thrillingly alien. However, it must be said, devoid of sparring partner and foil Mike Patton's ability to give Spruance's otherworldly musings a human mouthpiece, Book of Horizons is, alas, no Disco Volante and does sometimes feel like a story without a protagonist or narrator. But pointless quibbles aside, Book of Horizons is still one hell of an outside-the-box journey into sights and sounds from far and deep into the imagination and a fascinating antidote to the often stultifying dearth of vision and ambition in so much rock music today.

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