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Urdog - Garden of Bones

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Artist: Urdog

Album: Garden of Bones

Label: Secret Eye

Review date: Nov. 2, 2004

A trio based in Providence, Urdog take a strongly psychedelic route with their unconventional lineup. Drums, guitar and Farfisa organ give them a definite edge, but lest you fear an overly Doors-ish outcome, rest assured that's not the case. After some self-released material, this album from the Secret Eye label - also based in Providence - covers ground from muscular riffs to space-out swirls.

After a one-minute opener, "A Smoky Narghile," that sets a good pace via a swell repeating riff, the band set some high expectations with "Ice on Water," a nine-minute epic that immediately brings to mind Popol Vuh's cosmic ragas. As steady drums throb under calm, steady waves of fuzz guitar and pulsing organ, the song pauses halfway through, then rises again with thicker organ and vocals that are even more Popol Vuh-tinged. The space-bound song may have precedent, but the execution is terrific and the band remain equal to the task of achieving hypnotic repetition while keeping things interesting throughout.

Things unfortunately stumble a bit after this promising opening. Although "Long Shadows" and "Garden of Bones" are pleasantly calm and spacious, the two together serve to stall the album's momentum that the previous 10 minutes established. The former's chanted vocals float nicely amidst the gentle organ and sparse guitar notes, but the title track, a very slow organ piece, doesn't quite have the meat to hold up over its five-minute length.

The rest of the album, though, is more than able to bring things back. Trance-inducing organ riffs, strong and steady drums, and thickly-fuzzed guitar abound, broken up by moments of calm, gentle xylophone, and occasional wistful vocal chorals. The band have a tendency to build and not quite deliver as much as they could; the build during "Zombie Cloud" could have gone over a very satisfying, cathartic edge but finally holds back.

The last two tracks, "DMZ" and "Triumph," nearly live up to the is-it-prophetic title of the final song. Taking repetition and psychedelic churn for a ride, the band allows the organ to occasionally get playful as a counterpoint to the looping riffs. "Triumph" is misleading at first, with a cute organ melody, but as it goes on, it becomes more and more hypnotic without even needing to get particularly heavy. In that sense it's a bit reminiscent of the best Velvet Underground songs.

When the band gets down to it, Urdog can blend cosmic repetition with a sense of fun in a unique, enjoyable way. If they can get equally adept at combining their potential power with their quieter urges, I think they'll have found an impressive control of dynamics that will really make them stand out. In the meantime, though, it's still easy to recommend this to those heads looking for a rewarding musical trip. I'll also hope for the chance to see them do this stuff live, which should be an equally rewarding experience.

By Mason Jones

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