The Sea of Alexander von Humboldt is the second recording by Cloud Seeder made up of former members from Thin White Rope and Acme Rocket Quartet – Roger Kunkel (guitar), Steve Edberg (drums/soundtracks) and Dave Thompson on (bass/virtual Moog). Located in Davis, California, the band’s first CD was played in moderate heavy rotation on WFMU (NJ/NY), KFJC (San Francisco area) and others. The album was recorded, mixed and edited in a home studio, while mastering was done by Gary Hobish at A. Hammer Mastering, San Francisco. The group categorizes their latest work as “guitar driven instrumental with found sound ambience.” Similarities can be heard from the likes of Faust, The Books, Brian Eno, Swell Maps and Dick Dale. The songs were largely composed through improvisation. This second recording also features guitarist/violinist John Cypher and a cameo by keyboardist Max Hart.
“In that Shadow Part One” begins with a Moog keyboard, if I’m not mistaken, and author James Baldwin talking about something, if I’m also not mistaken. Rim shots on the snare jazz things up and then the group quickly transitions into a free-form ‘60s acid-psych jazz, rock grooviness – think of Iron Butterfly meets Steppenwolf meets The Who. A pretty wild jam, but enjoyable for all those into sonically driven “walls of sound.” Next is “Maria on the Moon” starts off a bit more subtle and reserved, and progresses slowly further in with David Gilmour-like guitars and a hushed beat on the drums. The band’s sound feels like floating on air as the ending drifts off quieter and quieter. “Caprinae” is an imaginative mix of electric violin, keyboards, free form drums, guitar and muted bass lines. Very improv here. The next track in “Laughing Gas” and it begins with a repeating bass melody, steady rhythm on the drums and a “spaghetti western” and/or ‘60s espionage movie styled guitar. This one had a good vibe to it overall. The band breaks things up midway with a laughing track and then ramp up a heavier sound on guitars and drums.
“C-Beams Glitter in the Dark” lays on the bass-y keyboards with extra synth effects reminding me of some of the work on Bowie’s Low album (which I think Eno had a hand in helping with). This one was pretty chill and ambient. “Buckminster” begins with a peppy little jazz intro and then transitions into a trippy, syrupy ride of psych and free form improv. “Infectious Agent” gets pretty heavy with bass and drums, and I liked this one a lot for that reason. The guitar weaves in and out with guitar solos and at times they sound like they were overdubbed – which was cool. “Headcharge” features a descriptive narration of what it’s like taking ‘street acid’ so yeah, the band gets really improvisational on this tune. “Acids and Basses” as you might think, may be another song about dropping acid – musically, I suppose for some, it may be or, was. Anyway, I enjoyed the band’s funky way of playing – the bass lines, drums, guitars – it all sounded like there were having a good time. There’s even some cowbell!
Next is “The Great Departure” a tune that has a movie soundtrack vibe, kind of one-part film noir, old school western and future dystopian. The highly imaginative style to “The Absence of Small Fish” reflects the abstract title very well, although there is a pretty groovy rhythm between bass and drums which lends the song a steadier beat throughout most of the song. Overall, pretty jammy and improv. The album ends with “In that Shadow Part Two” and it begins with a science fiction movie sound, and then a bit later more commentary by James Baldwin. A bold rock n’ roll style overall with plenty of organ like keys, guitar solos and a tight and funky rhythm section. This number was very enjoyable, and I liked the band’s choice to fade this one out, too.
All in all, The Sea of Alexander von Humboldt is a well-rehearsed and produced album and a likable one as well, for those into free form improv music with styles of psych, jazz and rock.
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