Friday, June 12, 2009

Universal Congress of EP (SST 1987)

I'd never heard of Universal Congress of until I read Dave Lang's
SST records story. Dave writes:

"All three [Universal Congress of] discs are very different, though for starters, one can't go past their self-titled debut. A simple instrumental quartet, it's your standard gtr/gtr/bs/dm set-up, though each player is used to his maximum potential, creating a mind-bending array of organic, twisted, psyched-out, and I'd be tempted to go out on a limb here and say that this is one of the greatest, most hideously ignored independent-rock masterpieces of the '80's. Unfortunately, it was just released at the wrong time in history. Believe you me, if this was released today, in a world obsessed with weird-assed psych obscurities, '70s Miles Davis, free jazz and the odd Krautrock disc here and there, you'd have to avoid the stampede of hipster-geeks leaping over the counter at the local record store trying to get their hands on this. Recorded in a day and basically consisting of one, long track split into three sections, this is the type of "psych monster" all those vinyl-loving obsessives in the hinterlands wish they could create.

There's "Certain Way (Part One)", which starts with a creepy, echoing drone that builds to a dense wail within a few minutes until the rhythm section comes in and Baiza hits the wah-wah pedal and bends his strings whilst the others churn out a steady, yet "free" base of Can/Ash Ra Tempel proportions. When Baiza dives his guitar through the middle, you'd swear you were stuck listening to Miles' Agharta or Big Fun, it's that good. Things turn and sway for 20-odd minutes 'til it quietens down again for some reverb-soaked noodling, and then it's time to flip it over for Part Two. The proceedings are more chaotic here; drums are thrashed, bass strings broken, and the guitars really create an almost Hendrix/Sharrock-like racket. 15 minutes then it's up. Following that is "Chasing", part three in the "concept", if you will; a perfect comedown from the previous ear-bending noise, and somewhat resembling Fripp/Eno's great No Pussyfooting LP of '74, it's a laidback acid-guitar masterpiece that totally reeks of bong-hit jamming gone mad, yet stays totally focused as an ending coda to the previous two numbers. Like I've said, Universal Congress Of's debut is the pleasant surprise of the SST catalogue, and if it was released today I have no doubt they'd be the current fuss of the underground rock cognescenti. I'll stand by that claim."

I'll second Dave Lang's opinion, this is a great album, and an easy recommendation for those who enjoy Miles funk collective.



  2. Gettin' late to this...never is too late. Thanx!

  3. Acid guitar masterpiece! Gotta have it! Thanks a lot!