VINYL REVIEW: KALEIDOSCOPE (2019) | PERFORMED BY: BROKEN LAMPS | RELEASED BY: ELECTRIC NERVE MUSIC & TWO HEADED DOG | AVAILABLE: NOW
If Broken Lamps' debut cassette, Turn Signals, nodded toward library music, this project – composed and performed by Eric Bowr – is explicitly "a modem library record." Turn Signals was, at its heart, something more horror-influenced, looking to the likes of Fabio Frizzi, and relying more on Bowr's synthesizer work to create the sonic pallet.
On Kaleidoscope, however, the multi-intrumentalist was "inspired by the works of composers like Bruno Nicolai and Piero Umiliani" to create "a sonic vibe throughout the record that is reminiscent to early giallo, ‘70s exploitation and Euro cult soundtracks." Combine that with Bowr's use of period instruments and recording techniques, and the end result is something much funkier and fuzzier.
The album kicks off with the harpsichord chimes of ‘Strange Seasons’, which immediately goes into a wonderful bass line that's complimented by the further rhythmic weirdness of ‘The Serpent and the Sparrow.’ There's some excellent fuzzed-out psychedelic guitar on ‘Halls of Time’, as well, but the first side of the LP is all just building to ‘Room 411’, where everything comes together into a full freakbeat freakout that screams for go-go dancers and lava lamps.
It's intensified when the record gets flipped and the needle drops onto ‘Heaven's Devils’, which has some absolutely frantic wah-wah guitar. Not content to rest on the laurels of those magnificent tracks, however, Bowr drops in some Jethro Tull-worthy jazz flute on ‘Siegfried's Atomic Hat’, before the bottom drops out of everything and the listener's presented with ‘The Ritual’, a darkly-arpeggiated punctuated with random bongos that's the absolute inverse of what one might've thought the second side was building towards.
It's a magnificent swerve, and represents just how perfectly the Broken Lamps project emulates library music: whereas there was usually some general theme, occasionally, one did get a kaleidoscopic release such as this. Kaleidoscope lives up to its name by taking certain thematic elements and working them out thoroughly, but also giving the listener something completely unexpected as an amuse bouche before returning to the thematic elements of ‘Strange Seasons’ in the album closer, ‘Aperture’.
As with its predecessor, Turn Signals, this is an album for every mood and setting. Keep the volume low, and it's cocktail music, but if one chooses to boost the volume up a bit, there's a full-fledged dance party to be had. From the cover art to the music to the excellently-worded description on the back of the album jacket, Broken Lamps' Kaleidoscope is, truly, a modern library record in every sense of the term.