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Urdog - Eyelid of Moon

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Artist: Urdog

Album: Eyelid of Moon

Label: Secret Eye

Review date: Jun. 27, 2005

As all writers know, words are risky business. They’re so damned specific. Unlike music, every word is spelled one way, and means basically one (or two) things. So you’ve got to be really picky and careful when selecting which ones to use. The same goes for spoken words. Talking is tricky. Speechwriters, public relations people, lyricists – they all have to proceed with total, tactful caution. Otherwise something dumb will get said and the public will pounce.

This is precisely the dilemma when sizing up Urdog’s organ-soaked wank-psyche. There are only about eight lines of word-oriented vocals on the entire 36-minute album, but they are by far the worst musical moments. Which is a shame, because otherwise Eyelid of Moon is a cleverly assembled third-eye journey, shimmering with piping antique organs, cosmos-marching drums, and hash-addled guitar rituals. But every time, just as Urdog’s gypsy magic begins to spiral and deepen, pedantically intoned (and far too cleanly recorded) ’60s cliché lyrics cut in, shattering the trance. Fortunately, their mystic ambitions necessitate the songs be long, which means there’s still some nice untainted stretches of instrumental sorcery, but the words hit like bright lights turned on in a stoned room: everything suddenly looks hideous, and the mood is killed dead.

Nowhere is this uncomfortable phenomenon more pronounced than on “Robur, The Conqueror.” Following a lovely, languid, slowly churning introductory meditation (“Nepenthe”), Urdog settle into a gracefully hypnotic, two-chord organ groove, tinkling trills of toy piano on top, while eastern guitar notes chime, threaten and swirl like smoke. Then, just as the eerie repetition begins to sink in and unfold its complexities, dispassionately read (and lamely literal) lyrics swoop front and center in the mix, breaking the spell: “Flying through space in our alloy ether-ship, the uncharted 7th world / topographic intuition, expansion of consciousness.” Urdog’s jarring didacticism makes them seem less a band of maverick mind-explorers than a bunch of sci-fi obsessed 7th graders dressed up as “hippies” for Halloween, aping psychedelic tropes they were too young to experience for real. A few measures of restorative instrumental noodling later, things get wackier, and worse: “We touch down briefly, make contact so sweetly, the earth-bound kin folk await our first word, our demands are simple and easily rendered, 4 dozen egg sandwiches and a flask of coffee.” Then, with any semblance of higher-purpose musical intensity good and ruined, they enter into a weak organ frenzy and mercifully end the song.

It wouldn’t even be such a shame if it weren’t for the fact that Urdog’s actual music is incredibly good. The interplay between the trio is subtle and organic, shifting gears, tempos and moods with wonderful fluidity and nuance. The wordless “Path of the Meridians” particularly shows Urdog shining, a beautifully breathing vignette of feudal countryside folk, all lonely, old, forlorn guitar, gentle wind and Jeweled Antler ambience. And “Ani Nie Ma,” with the exception of a couple of disastrously prominent and poorly written stanzas, channels an awesome alien trance, with creeping high organ squeals, thumping midnight percussion, and – the greatest rarity of all on Eyelid of Moon – mesmerizing, inscrutable singing. Urdog’s lady-friend lent her voice to a few tracks, and here she goes the deepest, chanting the otherworldly title over and over while Arabian snake-charmer rhythms coil and dance venomously.

By Britt Brown

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