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Igra Staklineh Perli - Inner Flow

Igra Staklineh Perli
Inner Flow

Released 1993 on Kalemegdan Disk
Reviewed by aether, 01/07/2010ce

IGRA STAKLINEH PERLI – Inner Flow (1976-79, Kalemegdan Disk)

In the early nineties a young German, Thomas Werner (and his wife, Vesna) took it upon themselves to document as well as disseminate the rock music of Yugoslavia. Long before Drugi Nacin were a hip name for beat compilers like Andy Votel to drop, Werner was beavering away releasing long lost and ultra-obscure experimental and psychedelic-progressive rock items by bands such as Igra Staklineh Perli and Tako on his label, Kalemegdan Disk. Two sets of recordings by Igra Staklineh Perli (“The Glass Beads Game”):"Inner Flow" and “Soft Explosion Live” became his flagship releases. And what a way to start! Known generally as Yugoslavia’s premier space rock pioneers, Igra Staklineh Perli are, however, no mere Pink Floyd copyists, even if that band is obviously very close to their hearts. Moreover, although I.S.P. were active from 1976 on into 1980, it’s the Floyd of 69/70’ that’s the most telling influence here.

Although most of “Inner Flow” is made of home studio recordings, it’s as much the rudimentary recording quality that impresses as the quality of writing. What emanates from the vinyl grooves is best described as a wonderful amalgamation of the very best of Can and the 69’ Floyd. In fact, (and I don’t wanna get the Seth Man too excited, here) but in parts, they sound like Can rewriting the More soundtrack (listen to “Magic Mashine[sic]” and “Lake of Lily” in particular). Werner himself describes the music of I.S.P. as “spherical psychedelic Rock music,” giving further insight into the wonderfully spatial nature of much of this music.

It seems ISP were very much about creating “events” at their shows, involving specially designed light shows, costumes and masks etc. This, to me, sounds like overkill, as there is arguably enough fascinating detail and solid foundation in their music to get them by ‘unadorned’ (certainly in stage costumes at any rate!). The musical quality barely lets up over the duration of the album, reaching some delightfully intense creative peaks throughout.

The opening track is split into three movements - “Flow Access,” “Hotel Wave” and “Magic Mashine” [sic], - which takes up two-thirds of the first side and was recorded in 1978. The opening section, “Flow Access,” for example, is a real slow burner of space rock atmosphere. Through some dread (al)-chemical procedure, it seems the band channel the very soul of Rick Wright and his searching Hammond organ style, mixing it with the ethnic-psychedelic side of Can’s muse.

Indeed, with the Can-like vibe to the forefront, and all these mentions of Inner Flows and Access to Flows, I’m wondering if Can’s 1976 LP “Flow Motion” was something of a major influence? Of course, I don’t want to make light of the band’s own creativity here; these guys were working and contributing to the late seventies East-European Rock scene in their own very viable way.

Tense Voodoo bass rhythms underscore the opening piece, “Flow Access”, almost Marimba like in timbre, the pace quickening as crusty synthesiser and organ washes obscure everything in a sort of swirling, cloying mist. Reaching a climax of sorts, the track lies there in a brief post-coital calm, as distant keyboard drones and repetitive woody bass begins the same circular dance over again. Edited criminally short, the track could provide ten minutes worth of aural bliss easily without sounding overcooked for a second! Kudos must be given here (and throughout) for the bass player’s minimalist humility, precision and economy (the fantastically stage-named, “Drakula,” - Draško Nikodijevic). The hypnotic and repetitive style of the bass lines gives most of the track a trance-like atmosphere and steady build, and manage to groove at the same time. {His woody Holger Czukay bass sound must have him down as a Can fan, although I’m not certain to what extent their work was available to Yugoslavians at that time}.

A cod-orchestral and impressively cheap sounding organ/keyboard pumps out a mock classical piece. Thus begins “Hotel Wave” which appears to be the obligatory space rocker’s ‘Saucerful of Secrets’-inspired 4-chord heavenly ascent. All swirling synthesisers and arpeggio guitar parts lacing the texture in an oily Pompeii-era Gilmour-esque tone. The classical riff appears again and the track resumes for another quick trip round the stratosphere. Guitar and organ curl cautiously around each other and there is even some Saucerful-like ooohing an aahhing.

It’s with “Magic Mascine” that the LP really picks ups and lifts off into untold galactic spheres. A pastoral organ – half Floyd/half Cluster in its simplicity - winds its way around crying guitar wails as a hypnotic bass rumble powers away endlessly. The searching organ is fantastically pitched against walls of guitar like one of the maze games where you have to find the centre. Then, when you think this cannot get any better, a Damo Susuki-like husky whisper intones something that I can’t quite make out (how Damo!) – and the groove settles into a momentary space-funk. It really does sound like Can having another go at recording the more cinematic parts of Pink Floyd’s More O.S.T. And, as if they have now reached the “Quicksilver” track in doing so, the track suddenly drops into a zero gravity space-scape - all echoes and guitar rattles and abstract organ noise in the distance. It’s some of the finest psychedelic music I have ever heard. Against this, even more creepier and (intangible) vocals are whispered, whilst the music slowly picks up, only to die out again. [If there is a major fault with this LP it is that the tracks – being demos and live tracks - are criminally edited and should have been stretched into a double vinyl release pressed on prehistoric granite].

Side closer “Lake of Lily” is another Motorik powered, psychedelic organ march with more Damo-vocal™ effects and a fantastically angry wah-wah guitar which simply growls, spits, dies, is born again, rants and then roars throughout the track, rather than ‘sing’ in any way. All the while the drums lay out a tribal beat of the most ancient origin whilst the organ is daubed across the track in huge Kandinsky-like washes of brightest liquid orange and yellow – the two most psychedelic colours!

Side Two and a stern, more rockier sounding I.S.P. return with albeit another variation on their trademark guitar’n’organ sound. This one entitled “Drakula’s Dance” has Drakula the bassist employing an almost Zen-like lack of ego with a one-note trance-out that would have Buddha looking for another job! Meanwhile, guitarist Joshua is strangling his guitar again, emitting THE most demented of wah-wah yelps. Occasionally though, out of his instrument can come the purest of notes – like a liquid dart of mercurial nirvana right through your third eye. Other times, his guitar loiters around the edge of the track with malcontent, barking out dark McLaughlin-type phrases. The track finally breaks into a storm of electronic buzzes, only to start again with even more fervour – the one note bass riff sounding now like the very centre of the listeners being.

Relaxing his almost Stalinist-Buddhist minimalism momentarily, the bassist lays down a real corker under the next track, “Inner Flow” – a real 3-note, Jack Cassidy-sounding mother of a bass line. The title track is recorded live and the sound quality is actually better than the demo recordings. “Inner Flow” sounds like an Ash Ra Tempel burn out, with the guitar more akin to Gottshcing’s fuzzy scythe-type sound, than Gilmour’s fatter, oilier tone. Speeding up too soon, the track then drops into another languid pool of organ swoons and glassy guitar wisps of smoke above the surface. Occasional ripples of moog fan out across the track until the track picks the rhythm up again and sets off on part two of the track’s space rock opening. Bluesy guitar scrawl appears on top of a very basic bass and percussion groove, the ever present minor key organ, sometimes reduced to background support, sometimes swelling and wrapping itself lovingly around the rhythms in plangent little phrases.

Eastern drones on organ and guitar open up the final track, “Balkan IV,” as wooden percussion is patted and poked rather dramatically. A gradual slow burn build, all rattling drums and low key spasms of synthesiser, as yet more vocal oohs and aaahhhs are emitted and hang around like some sort of ghostly sonic ectoplasm. Where this Tangerine Dream, a D-minor base of ARP sequencer would enter now, taking the track on a twenty minute repeat-athon, but I.S.P. are more about atmosphere than overkill so the track remains forever ‘becoming,’ trapped in sonic ether, like a curlicue of smoke caught forever in vinyl amber.

In conclusion, and not wanting to labour the point, I.S.P sound like all your favourite space rock/Kosmiche bands – Can, Ash Ra Tempel, even early Popol Vuh at times, brought together to re-interpret the more out there parts of Pink Floyd’s More O.S.T. and their glorious live shows of 1969. Being such a prog rock and jazz fan at heart, I often need a good nudge to delve into some of the more psychedelically flavoured parts of my record collection, but listening to Igra Staklineh Perli is all the encouragement I’ll now need.

PS: The picture supplied is not the cover for the Inner Flow.

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