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Tia Carrera | Heaven Hell | review | rock | Lollipop
Heaven/Hell EP (Arclight)
by Craig Regala
Long-ass EP. Three cuts of improvised acid rock trio zonerism. It's pretty much based on the fertile '67-'72 gunk that's best remembered from Mr. James Earl Hendrix wholesale attack on "The Star Spangled Banner" and his commentary on the Viet Nam war, "Machine Gun." As much as this stuff is jammed out, there's nothing watery or noodley about the blasting cap energy and continual groove. Of the three tracks, two are close to 15 minutes. The first, "Heaven," coming in with a languid rhythm you'd hear on a Buddy Miles record, which then builds into a lock solid groove and then notches it up a notch nine minutes in. "Hell" stomps down the same path with a death grip on heavy blues-rock by way of Earth/the Melvins, whacking the first Stooges record with Fred Flintstone's stalagmite club. The last cut, "End of Tape" is three minutes of the same strained-through "big rock ending" shenanigans. The whole thing was cut live. Period. No fixing nothing, no overdubs, no tweaking. It's great.
The groove here isn't any sort of easy way out. These guys are definitely listening and working together to move the music along. There isn't any cruising and wondering "Gee, what's next?" The huge amount of guitar rassling is the melodic structure. This is different than showboat soloing: Although the six string strangle gets ladled on big time, it's just not the reason the stuff exists. The freer and more abstract the music gets, the less preconceived structure there is to rely on, and a much greater chance on it being a useless flurry of notes. This "improvising" is spontaneous composing, the musicians need to listen to each other, build on what's going on and figure out/feel where it makes sense to go.
Generally, improvising in the rock world has meant simultaneous soloing or a full-on rave up. This is generally a mess. A great example of whole band improvising is this James Brown story. Apparently, an extra hour of studio time was prepaid, so the band cut a record based on common vamps, riffs, and knowledge of each other's style and ability, live within that time. So, when James said, "take it to the bridge," he actually meant "I need you guys to play something, make it make sense and then lay out into a bridge and make that make sense, and then go back to the cool stuff you thought up before."
In summation, there's no waste here. In their own way, Tia Carrera are a "free rock" band the way John Coltrane had a "free jazz" band on July 22nd, 1966 in Sankei Hall in Tokyo when he took Rogers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things" for a 57:17" ride. Free jams on their own stuff and covers at their site: It's a fantastic value, being free and all. Mix and match with Hendrix, October Faction, Earthless, Santana's "Lotus," and Ornette Coleman's "Prime Time" band, Mr. John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," and Stinking Lizaveta.