Island of Lost Minds



by Rumpelnostran USER (7 Reviews)
January 4th, 2008 | 6 replies

Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A rather heavy and experimental offering, utilizing some extreme dissonance due to clever usage of quartertones, plus interesting riffage. It's like marmite...

This can be called Buckethead’s most radical album when it comes to harmony, and I’m positive that nobody will object, whether they love or hate this record. The first tour-only, released around the time Cuckoo Clocks of Hell also saw the daylight, is one of the freakiest albums I have come across during my searches for good and interesting music. Island of Lost Minds is a definitely love-it-or-hate-it type of disc, since obscene dissonance is like marmite, but I fell for this unusual treat and return rather often to lick some more from the jar inside of one of the most perused record cases on my album shelf, and I’m never disappointed by what Big B had to say here. If you think differently, I do not disagree, but hopefully my ranting will generate at least one more Island of Lost Minds Fan...

Music wise, the most striking aspect of this disc, as mentioned before, is the harmony. One gets clubbed over the head with a barrage of dissonance from the very first second of the opening track, and the relentless bludgeoning continues pretty much throughout the whole album, with ‘rests’ filled by scorching rhythm work. I’m positive that Buckethead used quartertones to generate the wall of noise at times, even though my handicapped European ear is limited to hearing semitones (quartertones are used to great effect in Asian music, as well as some folk bits from Turkey, and even the best ears that are not accustomed to that type of sound have a hard time). The reason for my hypothesis is simple – the dissonances encountered here are a punch in the face to the entire well-tempered system. The result is disgustingly fascinating... a pretty good example would be the opening of “Lobotomizer” or the ‘chords’ near the beginning of “Vacuum Tube Implants” – have you ever heard anything like this in western, semitone-dependant music? Let me guess... no? Whoa, am I a mind-reader or what? Plus, Big B used quartertones before – just go and check out “I Love My Parents” from Giant Robot NTT (100% free legal download from this site). That is neither standard E nor standard Eb tuning – his axe is a quartertone down. So, if he was already aware of the quartertone’s existence, he could have wondered why not take his experimentation a step further and murk up the harmony with intervals utilizing them, baffling the entire western hemisphere and a fair part of the eastern one as well? Another possible option is that Buckethead’s axe is simply out of tune, but the genius of the man made me exclude this...

Of course, Island of Lost Minds isn’t merely the numbing harmony, but everything else in between. The songs do not shock when it comes to structure, since the focus is clearly on the notes being played, and freaky Inbred Mountain-ish jumps coupled with the baffling sonic output would have been definitely overdoing it – chances are that even Zorn wouldn’t bear a record like that. The rhythm guitar is of the rather heavy variety, and occasionally becomes infested with the quartertone virus to breathtaking effect. However, the riffs are not as omnipresent as on Big B’s other heavy releases, they leave more room to draw breath, even if the ‘breath’ is a dissonance barrage. Even if the record isn’t as obviously heavy as Cuckoo Clocks of Hell, the rhythm parts do serve their purpose and are way more varied – from truly heavy (“Lobotomizer”, “Skull Scrape”) through grim, sinister (“Shock Therapy Slide Show”... a true highlight, most likely Buckethead’s sole grimmest offering to date) to... groovy (part of “Korova Binge Bar”). Even if the harmonic assault remains more-less consistent, the riffs gladly guarantee some diversity – a blissful change from other hard-hitters, where the rhythm parts sound very alike.

This album is not exactly solo-full, but I’d have nightmares if a lead would have been placed on top of all the freaky dissonance... gosh, even the thought makes me shudder! However, the guitars responsible for the obscene harmony often play melodies together, often utilizing seemingly accidental polirythms, making the ride an freakier experience still (a nice example: “Island of Lost Minds”, about two minutes in). However, there is a very nice melodic bit in “Viravax”, even if it rides the vast majority of slow solo clichés – a true breather from all the painful, even if very original dissonance.

Wrapping up, this is a madly original record that is both loved and hated by parts of the ever-growing Buckethead fan base. The sheer genius of the presented harmony haunts listeners (both those enthralled and engrossed) for weeks, and the ride is neatly supported by good, varied riffage. Of course, the disc has its secret cookies... there are surprises tossed in there – a bit of “Lobotomizer” feels like some deranged almost-shuffle, “Korova Binge Bar” features the melodic ancestor of “King James” and “Nottingham Lace” hidden inside, plus the world’s most effed up rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” lurks within “Mud of the Gutter”. Have fun.

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user ratings (52)

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 17th 2008


Album Rating: 3.0

pretty interesting record if you ask me.

March 30th 2009


One of his best albums, definitely one that showcases his writing ability better than the others. Very good review, very thorough but also very entertaining.

October 29th 2010


Album Rating: 2.0

Great review and interesting bit on quartertones. I'll give the album another listen or two, but thus far I am obviously not in the "love it" category.

May 28th 2013


Is it bad that I consider this album to be accessible? In any case, I'm loving this so far.

May 28th 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

buckethead review = instapos!

May 28th 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

damn this album rules

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