Jay Tausig – The Trip Around The Sun

Or, to give it its full title:

The Art Of Ed Unitsky And The Music Of Jay Tausig

A Cosmic Journey Through The ZodiacThe Trip Around The Sun

One of the reasons I got into this reviewing lark was to satisfy an addiction for the new, the unheard. Well, this guy has made me realise that there are never going to be enough hours in the day, days in year, or years in a lifetime to do much more than scratch at the surface of the music that is out there. OK, I kind of realised that the hours and hours of music released every year, even within a genre, far surpasses the time available to any one individual to experience even a modest percentage of it. However, Jay Tausig alone alone has a discography that makes me go “woah!” A casual glance at his website reveals he has made 7 albums since 2004, as well as numerous appearances on various tribute albums, the first being 1995’s VdGG tribute Eyewitness, to which Jay contributed three songs. I bought this album when it came out, but in those pre-internet days it was difficult to find out who these mostly obscure artists were; Jay included. The fact that this appears to be the first generally released music by Jay is ironic in that until now he had disappeared under my radar. There may well be serendipity involved.

Anyway, rambling aside you may wonder why releasing 7 albums in 7 years is such a daunting prospect, and it is because added to that is his 2012 magnum opus (and if ever that phrase was justified it is now) The Trip Around The Sun, which as you can see from the listing above so far comprises 6 full-length albums, each dedicated to a sign of the Zodiac, and obviously there are 6 more to come! On top of that there is Jay’s third solo album Delirium scheduled for release this year. So much for the slacker new-age generation, then, eh? I’ll let Jay explain the writing processes involved:

The writing process for this project could be described as “Record as I Write”. Getting the initial energy of a performance is very important to the way it ultimately flows, and sounds. Much of this music is built up from complete performances on any one given instrument…usually improvised and intuitive. A great deal of this is First Take.

Also, about 50 % of it is written “on the spot” this year, as we go. Whenever delving into other material from the last few years, the “timestamps” on the file allow me know when a particular song was recorded…because capturing the essence and feeling of any particular sign has turned out to be the ultimate focus and goal. The Guests are usually doing their work during their “Birth Sign” as well…Synchronicity is one of the things that makes so much of this project unique and special.
It’s a journey, not so much a collection of songs, but an intuitive, highly focused, music and art road map to the myths and properties of the 12 Astrological signs…

So there you have it; the music on these albums is ever-expanding in a way akin to our universe, and you can leap in anywhere you want and trip off to your heart’s content, which is just as well, as I doubt anyone is going to sit through all 12 instalments in one sitting. Recorded in the gorgeously named Studio Lemuria in Nevada City, northern California, Jay has composed and played nearly everything and is a more than capable drummer as well as a guitarist and keyboard player. He probably made the tea too. Assisting him throughout the series are various vocalists, such as “Rhi-Jenerate” and “Thom World Poet” to name but two who contribute singing and spoken word interludes linking the star signs to the cosmic wonderment, all in a suitably otherworldly fashion. Thom writes some of the lyrics, as does Keith Waye, but if I were to list all the movers’n’shakers we would be here all night! Contributing his trademark visually intense artwork throughout is Ed Unitsky, and this alone is a trip in itself.

The first thought that makes itself known to me, as I sit here typing away with part 6 Cancer – Shell of Silver and the Beehive Heart blasting away is how on Earth…or indeed in Space… can anyone write so much music in what appears to be a relatively short time and not run out of ideas? Well, I’m just going to have to immerse myself in the far-out world of Mr Tausig to find out, am I not?

Let’s rewind to the beginning, Aquarius. After the sultry-voiced intro from Ms Rhi-Jenerate, written by Remy Kiehn-Lindsey, as are all the cosmic astrological pronouncements, Uranus starts things off with a gentle space rock vibe that hots up into a percussion led charge through the dark matter. Jay plays all the instruments on this first album, from the bass-led thunderingThe Eleventh Hour to vibraphones (?) on Water Bearer he shows a fine ear for melody and subtlety as well as psych wig-out, the latter writ large onAmethyst. Then there’s the complex math-rock extrapolations of the title track The Revolutionist, and we’re only half-way through the first album!

Other names you might recognise helping Jay out are Billy Sherwood & Bridget Wishart (Pisces), who contributed to the writing of and play on the 8 minute space-prog mini-epic Twisting The Tail which has touches of Yesswimming with Gong, like a couple of playful dolphins. Lovely! Now, Let’s Focus On The Fish that follows is a fully-formed song of deft subtlety that gently scatters off in all directions in the middle in the manner of a disturbed shoal, before reforming, led by a simple organ-riff. Although not at all stylistically similar, and Jay’s voice is not at all related, I can somehow imagine Arthur Brown singing this. West Coast vibes with some nice clarinet from Bridget and acoustic guitar inform Vast Ocean Dream (Reprise) and this album has already taken a turn off the highway of space-rock. Strangely, the Reprise appears before the first version on the album but both are fine examples of blissed-out acid-folk. On Fins And Scales we change tack to feature some rather fine soaring guitar reminiscent of Be-Bop Deluxe era Bill Nelson. It’s the melding of styles to the themes of each star sign that works so well, and stops the project from being repetitive, as the aquatic nature ofPisces washing over the listener testifies.

Kerry Chicoine (aka Kerry Kompost) ex of Mars Hollow crops up on his songVernal Equinox playing sax, guitar and bass on Aries – The Fire Within which is a varied album, moving from the hard riffage of opener Aries Ignited to the whimsical space-rock instrumental Focus And Flame, which has a Green eraHillage feel to it, to the fluid and funky guitar of Bill Berends on Aries Fire Horse. Some nice violin on this album is contributed by Cyndee Lee Rule, a classically trained violinist who has played with everyone from Dave Kerman to Nik Turner and most points in between, along with being a member of Spirits Burning, as is Bridget Wishart.

Taurus – Roots Of The Earth is full of some great dub reggae melded into space rock, with a guest appearances by the suitably named Natty Congo, who lends his throaty proclamations to Glorious Dub, and sundry others on this fine album. Space rock goes Rasta on Ode To Venus amongst swirls of ‘erb an’ t’ing…sorry I and I are getting a bit carried away. For someone who says this is his first skank with de reggae, Jay has got the sinuous bass riffs and the reverb guitar chord-chopping on the off-beat down like a seasoned pro. So far, this is my favourite album of the series; I’m almost dancing, which for me is pretty radical. Contributing drum programming to Glorious Dubis Steffe Sharpstrings, a name no doubt familiar to fans of free festival stalwarts Here & Now. I haven’t listened to much dub since the days of The Clash, and it sure brings back some memories; now, where’s that Blackbeard LP? Stoned reggae rhythms permeate this album like a warm embrace, and boy, is it smoky in here! Yeah, mon indeed.

Gemini – The Chaos And The Calm promises some good contrast but doesn’t quite deliver, and maybe misses an opportunity for a dose of schizoid aural delights. There are only 6 tracks on this 80 minute album, and the closerTwo Sides To Every Coin part 2 is 43 minutes long! Kicking the album off,Two Sides To Every Coin part 1 at a mere 12 minutes fades in from some far-off galactic outpost, meditational chanting over more strung-out guitar hints that we have latched on to a trip that has been going on for aeons, A Mass In ∞ if you will, and this is how the album continues. Mirabel, while still strung-out gets more dissonant with some good sax squawking leading the way. Chaos And Calm tends more towards the latter than the former, but features some really good ivory-tinkling for all that. Two Sides To Every Coin part 2 is a gigantic Om Riff, Jay’s spoken and Kimberley Bass’s sung lyrics flitting in and out of the mix as synths swirl and occasional saxes blow looooonnnng notes. This is the kind of thing that would make perfect listening on a train journey across a hot foreign landscape, blissful as it is, yet eerie at the same time.

On Cancer, the first instalment of the two-part song Shell of Silver and the Beehive Heart mixes a distinctly angular Hammill vibe with solid riffing and melodic keys in a manner that gets me headbangin’ like the old days…well it would if I wasn’t afraid of putting my neck out; a really good and unusual take on the given space-rock template. Jay’s admits that Hammill was a big influence on him in his website notes to the aforementioned Eyewitnesscompilation, and that is no bad thing at all. The second part is more conventional slow-paced space-rock with some nice guitar work by Jay, whose acid-tinged and rough-edged style contrasts nicely with the highly melodic nature of the synth-led backing. This is probably the most “prog” of the albums so far, and on Shelter a quirky bass line takes the languid astral guitar along a different path from the one you might be expecting. That song is one of many on the project where Jay plays everything, and while “one-man-band” pieces can sometimes be a bit flat, that certainly is not the case on The Trip Around The Sun, a project of consistently high production values. A soulful vibe permeates everything, and The Trip has a lot of heart too.

There are many moods and styles covered in the first 6 albums that have so far been released and enough good ideas and imagination to hold ones interest which is a feat in itself for such a long piece of work.

Hopefully my “pick’n’mix” review has whetted your appetite, and you may be wondering how much what will in all probability end up being around 14 hours of music is going to cost? Well, during 2012 for a mere $30 you can subscribe to the whole lot as downloads, which sounds like a bargain to me. There are a load of goodies thrown in too, follow the link to Subscription details for more info.

Album list:

Aquarius – The Revolutionist (1:00:03)

Pisces – Vast Ocean Dream (1:12:08)

Aries – The Fire Within (1:11:09)

Taurus – Roots Of The Earth (1:12:14)

Gemini – The Chaos And The Calm (1:19:08)

Cancer – Shell Of Silver And The Beehive Heart (1:15:24)

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