Review Summary: Only listen to this once a day, your brain might be destroyed…
On its packaging, Cottonwoodhill
boldly claims that the record has the potential to deteriorate one’s grey matter and completely change them as a person. These hefty statements, plus the surreal nature of the music, led to its surprising ban in several countries. Times were different in the 1970’s, it seems, when the biggest things people had to worry about was musique concrète inspired krautrock. In a similar manner, Brainticket’s drug influenced record hasn’t aged too well, as much of the shocking elements of this album are hardly flabbergasting to listeners who have stuck their toes into the fertile pools of experimental subgenres. Still, there must be something to to be said for this album; at the very least it can be respected as a somewhat early avant-garde project, surely influencing some artists later on down the line.
As can be seen, or heard in this case, by many artists from the past, influence and importance doesn’t always result in art that holds up. Also, Cottonwoodhill
isn’t exactly the most important album in any of the genres it dabbles in, be it krautrock, psychedelic, noise music, or jazz rock. This being said, the album still feels quite inventive and bold, taking on a demented sense of pride and confidence. The first song, titled “Black Sand” exudes this with a psychedelic sense of swagger, complete with early 70’s guitar leads, a smooth, jazzy bassline, and weighty distortion placed on the vocals and percussion. Similarly, “Places of Light” has a robust groove to it, featuring a heavy use of the pan flute and treble-based percussion. Both these songs, while being a bit dated, are nonsensically smooth and interestingly composed, wearing their jazz influences on their sleeves.
Making up less than a 4th of the album, these two songs are over in just a bit over 8 minutes. The other 26 minutes are taken up by “Brainticket I” and “Brainticket II,” which make up a music suite named after the band. This medley is built on a repeating guitar melody, with continuous percussion and regular usage of foreign instrumentation and unconventional samples, such as water flowing, crashing objects, someone brushing their teeth, and classical music. This strange segment of music slowly becomes an experiment in the absurd, walking a thin line between psych rock and musique concrète, feeling dizzying and hallucinogenic. The execution, despite being somewhat interesting in its choice of composition and abrasive implementations, reaches the obvious limits that arise when using a continuous loop. Interest and engagement becomes uncomfortable and grating at times, especially when featured vocalist Dawn Muir is screaming into the microphone and various auditory agitations are relentlessly playing over the constant looping.
When analyzed, one can see how Hallelujah Records thought the unceasingly cacophonic noises of Brainticket’s debut could cause the faint of heart to leak gray matter out of their orifices, as its many simultaneous effects and ideas are somewhat headache inducing at times. On the other hand, much of what this album does is interesting and innovative for the time, even if it’s a bit hulky and rough around the edges when compared to its contemporaries and modern experimental. This nonsensical feel, however, makes the experience unique in its own right. Love it or hate it, it is at least an interesting experience