Sunday, June 21, 2015

Quintessence - 1971 - Dive Deep

Dive Deep

01. Dive deep
02. Dance for the one
03. Brahman
04. The seer
05. Epitaph for tomorrow
06. Sri Ram chant

- Shambhu Babaji / bass, acoustic guitar
- Dave Codling / rhythm guitar
- Shiva Shankar Jones / lead vocals, keyboards, hand drums
- Jake Milton / drums, percussion
- Alan Mostert / acoustic & electric guitars, bass
- Raja Ram / flute, chimes, bells, percussion

On the very same day Island Record’s boss Chris Blackwell went down to the basement where Quintessence used to rehearse, the band got a recording deal; with their distinctive sound, blending Eastern, Rock, Psychedelic and jazz influences, fronted by a lead singer (and keyboard player-Shiva aka Paul Jones) with a charismatic stage presence, spiritually and technically close to Jim Morrison ( himself also an assumed fan of the band) and with their incandescent Light show, the band was famous for electrifying their live audiences;
To capture that excitement on tape must not have been very obvious, but the fine eclectic vibes of Dive Deep, the 3rd and last album of the original line-up, solidified the conviction I had that Quintessence were one (more) of the unfairly forgotten and truly original bands of that period (late 60’s early 70’s).
To imagine Quintessence as a bunch of Hippies strumming acoustics with congas, percussions and chimes backing, flute chirps and the eventual sitar drone would be misleading; yes they also use those instrumental settings but their rhythm section of 2nd guitar(electric), bass and drums can be solid and propulsive and with the lead guitarist(Allan Mostert) venturing into fuzzed psych solos, the Rocking shuffle of the title track with its Jazzy flute solo was predestined to be a winner, and if you feel idealistic , you’ll be graced with their singing about universal/timeless truths: ”Dive deep into your mind if want to find the germ of true love”…
Other times, as on the 1st part of the fantastic “Epitaph for Tomorrow”, they are close to Symph Rock, with organ fuelled refined chord progressions and gentle flute, and as the singer grows ever more powerful it turns into a lively tempo West Coast styled jam (Airplane/Dead come to mind) with agreeing guitar solo, that fades into a final Free time part with delay treated flute, controlled guitar feedback and reversed tapes effects;
On “Dance for the one”, a mystical atmosphere slowly builds up behind the delayed/stereo field dancing flute playing, as mellotron beds, aleatory bass fills and toms, fill the background, and introduces a poignant two tones “deity” praising hymn , where a duo of reverb drenched and fuzzed electric guitars chord slashes and tortured leads add bursts of energy a top a feverish, jagged mid tempo rhythm; next, and opening with flute and hushed vocals like a peaceful shamanic ceremony, with sparse bass and guitar, “Brahman” is enriched by vibraphone colours, and its intense, tension building circular pattern is fed by double tracked flute and more vibrant chant/singing;
“The Seer” evolves from an acoustic guitar/flute pattern with a delicate swinging bass/drums pulse, discreet mellotron and vinas, vocal harmonies and more trademark double tracked flutes;
OkOk, don’t leave yet, because without Western instruments and enlisting the help of some musicians from that huge Asian subcontinent country, they finally pay tribute to their Indian influences with “Sri Ram Chant” (only track not written by the band) with chanted M/F vocals with mantra styled Indian lyrics, violin and shenai drones, tamboura and tablas and the flute contributing to the contemplative (and relaxing) mood.
It took me long years to get my hands on this album, and while Dive Deep (the track) didn’t pale next to E.L.& P. or Traffic tracks on the “El Pea” sampler, therefore igniting my curiosity for Quintessence (which probably wouldn’t have happened to the 13 years old I was if other track album had been included), I must admit that the album was an unexpected experience, but the initial bewilderment soon changed into very satisfactory amazement!

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