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Ozric Tentacles - The Hidden Step CD (album) cover

THE HIDDEN STEP

Ozric Tentacles

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.96 | 133 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars For their ninth proper album, `The Hidden Step' would be a kind of final moment before the digital programming began to consume the sound of the Ozric Tentacles more fully, a direction that especially began to emerge on their superb previous album `Waterfall Cities'. If anything, `The Hidden Step' from 2000 took a step back again from being constantly dominated by the electronics, and in addition to their expected colourful psychedelic space-rock fused with ethnic sounds, it included ambient, new-age and even symphonic elements that had rarely been employed by the group on much of their previous discs.

Opener `Holohedron' is an instant showcase of founding Ozrics member Ed Wynne's wailing Joe Satriani-ish electric guitar tearing through trickles of rising/falling electronics, subtle pulsing bass and low-key programmed beats. The propulsive title- track `The Hidden Step' keeps up the momentum, Zia's rumbling relentless bass and Rad's skittering drumming racing behind a range of Seaweed's gurgling and contemplative electronics. But it's `Ashlandi Bol' that proves to be a real diversion for the band, a dramatic and ravishing Eastern-themed synth piece permeated with mystery, where a majestic symphonic theme twists and turns seductively as wisps of John Egan's flute twirl around and glissando guitar eerily cries from the ether before a frantic and fiery acoustic finale. `AraManu' is a low-key and drifting ambient piece that still offers strong musical themes with the lightest of delicate programming and carefully groaning electronics, the littlest of New Age traces to its dusty desert atmosphere and very subdued acoustic moments.

Side two's `Pixel Dream' instantly brings back the liveliness powered by bouncing hypnotic bass and snappy drumming, and there's real moments of happiness in the constantly joyous electric guitar bursts and lightly uplifting synth noodling before it breaks down into a funky electronic jam in the final moments. `Tight Spin' is a chill-out of cool slinking beats and the lightest of electric piano shimmers with fizzy effects that slowly grows into a dangerous and wild electronic meltdown with harder dance beats pounding behind deranged acoustic guitar shambling. The band then bravely closes on a final impossibly subtle ambient piece, `Ta Khut', mixing mellow and mystical synth caresses weaving throughout Middle Eastern/Gong `Shamal'-era meditative intrigue with woodwinds, chimes and placid acoustic guitars.

Rad and Zia left the group after this album, and the classic string of consistently great Ozrics albums somewhat ended here, despite all of their albums since holding terrific moments. But `The Hidden Step' boasted strong compositions, sleek production and cool playing, and it definitely helps that this one was a welcome single vinyl length meaning it stayed punchy and oddly focused for such an eclectic group. It offers some fascinating musical diversions that make this particular album from them stand out in their discography, and it's a fine send off to the departing drummer and bass player from the best era of the Ozric Tentacles.

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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