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Master Musicians of Bukkake - Totem Three

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Artist: Master Musicians of Bukkake

Album: Totem Three

Label: Important

Review date: Jun. 3, 2011

Get your mind out of the gutter, sonny. The Master Musicians got their yuks (or yucks) out of their system on their first album back in 2005. Instead of overtly snarky titles like "Enter The Wang," the Master Musicians have cloaked themselves in quasi-ceremonial trappings. Totem Three winds up a trilogy of albums steeped in Eastern cosmology. They’re more concerned with a moment in time than a particular faith; "Bardo Sidpa" comes from Tibetan Buddhism and Timothy Leary, "In The Twilight of Kali" from Hinduism, but both refer to the end of a cycle of hedonism in a way that resonates with contemporary Western sentiments that hold that we’re really fucked, hegemony is slipping from our cultural grasp, and it isn’t coming back.

Totem Three ups the percentage of exoticism compared to its immediate predecessor. There are fewer heavy guitars (chef d’orchestre Randall Dunn has produced Earth, so he knows a bit about heavy), so when they do roll in on “Illuminating The Ten Directions/Mahur,” they count for something. Instead there are more floridly dramatic strings and atmospheric ney, each enshrouded with sufficient reverb to signify otherness. There’s also plenty of massed chanting, with the pipes of Sun City Girls/Alvarius B’s Alan Bishop positioned near the front of the choir.

But an affection for SCGs-style ethnographic forgery won’t necessarily sway you to the side of the Master Musicians. Dunn has the resources to make things sound widescreen in a way that the Girls never could, and while I don’t mind hearing this stuff played with drums that don’t sound like cardboard boxes, Dunn’s non-Eastern references feel obvious, even stodgy. The climactic “Failed Future” opens with fairly stock ’70s/’80s synth sounds; if you know Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream, you’ve heard it before. And when the tune finally cuts loose after an extended keyboard bath, it’s with a scream and drum freakout straight out of Pink Floyd circa “Careful With That Axe, Eugene.” The effect is more corny than cool, more Indiana Jones than Holy Mountain.

By Bill Meyer

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