Ozric Tentacles are a British Psychedelic Rock instrumental band that have gained a reputation as one of the most influential bands to emerge from the UK’s festival scene, going on to become stables at Glastonbury and other major Rock festivals throughout the UK and Europe. They formed during the Summer Solstice at the Stonehenge Free Festival back in 1983 and have just released their fifteenth studio album, and first in five years, ‘Space for the Earth’ through the Kscope label on 9th. All seven featured tracks were written, programmed, recorded and produced by founder and band-leader Ed Wynne at Blue Bubble Studio in Fife, Scotland. The album was mastered by Adam Goodlet at Re:Creation Studios, UK. The striking album artwork was inspired directly by the seven tracks and realised by arboreal artist Kitty (Twisty-Trees) with help from Ed and cosmic artist Ivy.
Throughout their thirty-seven year career there have been approximately thirty musicians that have passed through the bands ranks at one time or another, with Ed Wynne being the only constant throughout! The current line-up features Wynne on guitars/keyboards, his wife Brandi Wynne on bass/keyboards, their son Silas Neptune on keyboards/synthesiser and Balázs Szende on drums/percussion. ‘Space for the Earth’ is a poignant album in the bands career as it features guest appearances from several former band members including co-founder Joie Hinton on synthesisers (1983-1994), co-founder Nick “Tig” Van Gelder on drums/percussion (1983-1988), ‘Jumping’ Jon Egan on flute/kaval (1987-2005), and finally Paul Hankin on percussion (1985-1991, 2013-2015).
The band were originally formed by Ed and his bassist brother Roly - who tragically died in 1999 - along with Van Gelder and keyboardist Hinton in the summer of 1983. Apparently the name was a joke suggestion for possible names for alien breakfast cereal! According to Wynne, "'Ozric' is an old Viking name meaning 'divine energy', and 'tentacles' is a silly word to put on the end”. Their initial plan was to just play free festivals, where gigs were often spontaneous and with fluid line-ups. After a couple of years of constant live work and several line-up changes later, they began to get serious and started to release home-made and live recordings on cassette and sell them at gigs. Between 1983-1989 they released six cassettes, ‘Erpsongs’ (1985), ‘Tantric Obstacles’ (1985), ‘Live Ethereal Cereal’ (1986), ‘There Is Nothing’ (1986), ‘Sliding Gliding Worlds’ (1988) and ‘The Bits Between the Bits’ (1989). All are now available on CD.
The Ozric Tentacles sound incorporates a variety of musical styles from Funk, Jazz Fusion, Dub, Reggae and ambient music all fused together in a maelstrom of Psychedelic Rock! Wynne’s guitar playing is highly influenced and inspired by that of Steve Hillage and Gong. The vast majority of their songs are instrumentals. As Ed Wynne says, this is because, "I've never really liked vocals. Words always get in the way, make everything too specific. Our music is more about creating moods and giving the listener the chance to get whatever they want out of it. Music is better than singing." There are a couple of exceptions such as ‘Dissolution’ from the ‘Pungent Effulgent’ album and ‘Iscense’ from the ‘Erpland’ album where ‘Jumping’ Jon Egan provided the vocals.
In 1989, the band started their own label, Dovetail Records, ‘Pungent Effulgent’ being their first album to be released on CD and vinyl. This was followed by the double album, ‘Erpland’, in 1990. In 1991 they managed to achieve the top spot in the UK Indie Chart with their single ‘Sploosh!’ from the album ‘Strangeitude’. In 1993 their ‘Jurassic Shift’ album reached the Top 20 of the UK Albums Chart and No. 1 in the UK Indie Chart. Their reputation as a formidable live act continued to escalate throughout the 90’s and 2000’s, which saw them regularly being featured somewhere on the bill for most of the major Summer festivals. They also continued to release a steady stream of interesting and well received studio albums including ‘Arborescence’ (1994), ‘Become the Other’ (1995), ‘Curious Corn’ (1997), ‘Waterfall Cities’ (1999), ‘The Hidden Step’ (2000), ‘Spirals in Hyperspace’ (2004), ‘The Floor's Too Far Away’ (2006), ‘The Yumyum Tree’ (2009), ‘Paper Monkeys’ (2011), ‘Technicians of the Sacred’ (2015) and now, ‘Space for the Earth’ (2020).
As well as being the main driving force and writer of all Ozric Tentacles material, Wynne managed to find time, along with Joie, to form another band called ‘Nodens Ictus’. Formed in 1986 as an occasional side project and exclusively focused on synthesiser based music. They have released three albums to date including ‘The Grove of Selves’ (1987), ‘Spacelines’ (2000) and ‘The Cozmic Key’ (2017). If all that creativity wasn’t enough, Wynne also went on to release a critically acclaimed solo album in 2019 called ‘Shimmer into Nature’.
The new album ‘Space for the Earth’ comprises seven instrumental tracks spanning forty five minutes. The production on the album is warm, crisp and bright with crystal clear detailed definition and expansive resonance. A pure delight for the ears! The first track ‘Stripey Clouds’ is a sensational trance inducing audio extravaganza! Opening with gradually building exotic influenced synthesised sonic layers before leading into a complex, percolating and stabbing rhythmic pattern. The wandering melody meanders through the aural ether ebbing and flowing with the interconnecting rhythm patterns and tempos. Wynne's signature fast paced echo drenched guitar scale runs, intermingle with lush synth layers. Paul Hankin’s tasteful conga playing augments the track nicely, with sweet atmospheric flute adding pastoral overtones. ‘Blooperdome’ has an instant infectious beat with bountiful splashes and splooshes of programmed electronic noise textures in abundance. Cascades of sound gurgle in a vortex of swirling and swooshing elements creating a relaxing hypnotic dreamy ambient vibe.
The best track on the album ‘Humboldt Currant’ is a full-bodied all-encompassing adrenaline fueled musical journey that transcends beyond the outer planetary realms of the cosmic galaxy! All this vibrant mayhem is anchored by an infectious funky groove that pops and pings with excitement! Multiple layers of overlapping synthesiser textures explode in a tsunami of intoxicating waves of sound, with insistent stabbing guitar chords slicing through the maelstrom adding to the ferocity, eventually subsiding to gentler and more smooth flowing melodic runs that calm proceedings down, creating clear pockets of light from the ensuing furore. Wynne’s dexterous ascending and descending guitar scale runs, add to the exhilaration and intensity of the track making it quite an epic workout. This is a well crafted track full of interesting twists and turns and an abundance of electronic pings, dings, swirls and swooshes to blow your mind! Transcendental indeed!
‘Popscape’ features a mini reunion of three of the original band members, Wynne on guitar, Hinton on synthesisers and Van Gelder on drums. The start of this track sounds a bit like 'On The Run' from ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Pink Floyd! A repetitive incessant trance inducing rhythm predominates with multiple layers of screaming and squelching guitar effects adding much zeal and zest! Frequent undulating squeaky noises interject between fiery oscillating waves of squawking and squealing electronic soundscape. Quite a trip! ‘Climbing Plants’ is a soothing mellow track with an amalgamation of synthesiser block phrases and octave runs that intermingle between intricate rhythm patterns, interspersed with interjecting tip tapping break beats. Ebullient ornate guitar phrases from Wynne trickle delicately through the ether creating a relaxed chilled vibe.
‘Space For The Earth’ is awash with a vast spectrum of colours and shades, a glorious melting pot dripping with a cornucopia of tantalising sound collages and polyphonic textural layers. This track takes you on a euphoric spiritual journey into the outer reaches of space and time! The open vastness of the sound engulfs the senses and opens up consciousness to a higher level of interpretation. The long serving Egan provides some beautiful and uplifting flute melodies that elevate the feel good vibes. Sit back, relax and let your mind melt into visceral flutters! The last track on the album ‘Harmonic Steps’ is swamped in more spacey sounds and throbbing synths that weave and wander over tripped up crazy rhythmic tempos and alternating grooves. Intense melodic guitar arpeggios run riot over the manic roller coaster of electronically generated waves of radiant energy. An invigorating and intoxicating ride!
If you are already a fan of Ozric Tentacles, then you won't be disappointed with this album. It doesn't stray very far from the tried and tested formula of previous albums, containing all the musical twists and turns you would expect from them, but it is also fair to say that this is possibly their best sounding album in years. If you are new to the band then 'Space for the Earth' is not a bad place to start.
Steven C. Gilbert