Pulling the Rug From Underneath You

Lee Negin

Groundless, 2015

Review by Kent Manthie

Whoops – looks like I missed this release, which may explain the confusion, in that this should’ve been reviewed before Terminus, which is Negin’s most recent release.

Groundless came out after The Cheeze Chronicles, Vol. V and before Terminus.

So, now that I got that straightened out…After the magical, sorcery of electronica wizardry and just plain fun all-around, for that special music lover who likes the challenge of a beautiful, mystical potpourri of your gift-wrapped commercialized world as seen through a looking glass, down a rabbit hole, as told by a bigger-than-life, sensual, musical kaleidoscopic, day-glo dossier, Lee Negin, who likes to keep busy, both in real life as well as in the output that are his albums, whipped up a shorter, five-tune album, Groundless. Here we slow down a little, as if Cheeze Chronicles was a circus-like atmosphere, where all is not necessarily what it seems and there never seems to be a place in which one can just hit “stop”, to step back or make a sandwich or whatever: no, once in, you’re as good as trapped in one of those “hall-of-mirror” funhouses at a carnival. The whole metaphor of “Circus” would work even better if I could borrow a song title from Genesis (when they were still good, i.e., pre-1974), “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging”, that is, if I’m on the right track and, if, in between the bitchin’ computer-love of Cheeze Chronicles was/is not only the fabulous “technopera” Negin set out to score, but, I was right in interpreting at least certain things in it as not-polemic, but a sticking-your-tongue-out at way-too-serious marketing departments, who micromanage every jot and tittle in the most banal of children’s toy commercials.

OK, so, let’s cut away from the grand technopera house in the midst of downtown circuit-board city and jump-cut to the chill-out room in the quieter, not so brightly-lit, but more-densely-packed (or so it seems from the outside) edge of downtown. That would be the upper-floor, beyond the multi-colored beaded “curtain” which leads one into the darkened, dimly-lit “Chill-Out Room”, upstairs from the all-night sushi house, downstairs (just whisper the password and you’re whisked over to a hidden spiral staircase that brings you to this place where dreams start or finish). Once inside the “Chill-Out Room” is where your ears start to pick up, then grow accustomed to the music that is Groundless. A serene, ambient, ethereal, electron-fueled wow place, for the “now!” face.  While sauntering through the place, i.e., making your way towards a table, grabbing the chair and sitting down, you are struck with some smooth cuts, like the one which starts out Groundless: “Forever (Never Never)” and “The Shadow Play”.  The music really has a sedating affect on you and, even before your drink comes, you’re feeling mellowed out; but euphoric, not sleepy.

More than just synthesizer-developed nuclear telephonics, there is also, as in the title track, some twangy, low note playing, guitar which, quite nicely, complements the textured, ambient dream machines.

As to its identity or notion, I’d say that a place like the “Chill-Out-Room” might be thought of as an “after-after-party”, where, at each stop along the way, the crowd gets thinner and thinner; people start to go their own ways, some head for their cars, others to try and catch one of the last trains home for the night, maybe one or two pick up a piece of love on the way, et cetera. So, by the time whomever’s left gets to the front of this all-night sushi house, there may be only a handful of souls left, ready and willing/hoping to get to what they’ll remember as the best part of the night.

Later the next mid-morning, when you’re shuffling around at home (first of all, how and when did I get home?), while you’re waiting for that pot of coffee you just started, to finish brewing, you think to yourself, “Wow, that was really a perfect night last night. I don’t think one could ever ‘plan’ something like that in a million years” and you’d be right. Spontaneity is the mother of the best, most surprising, exotic happenings. Then, again, while pouring your first cup, you again say to yourself, “…and-and-and…that MUSIC!! Oh, wow, that was heavenly. It’s all coming back to me now. Was I in heaven? Or some extra-dimensional cube? Now that I think about it, where was that music coming from?” It seems that this was so extraordinary (the music), so mesmerizing and so mystifying, that you don’t actually remember seeing whence those beautiful sounds came. Was there someone physically present who was playing it or was this spherical music emanating from some grand PA system, sonically surrounding you and at the same time, embedding its synthetic DNA into you, as if a benign virus?  One thing, though, that serves as a reminder of the party, is this song you can’t get out of your head, which turns out to be “Last Gasp”, and when you try to get the thing out of your mind, the next one to take its place is that title track, as well as its sequel, Groundless2.

You dwell on this for a period. Then, one day, while surfing the internet, as people were wont of saying once upon a time, you come across the answer to this question, which, it seemed, might be a question without an answer, as if some type of koan. There it is: what you’ve been thinking about. It is Groundless. A January, 2015 release by Lee Negin. But there is one particular part of that album which has really stuck in your mind: the final track: “(Elegy for) The Last Ship Leaving”, which really is a great finale for this album: smooth, exotic, translucent and luxuriously beautiful! Enjoy the trip. -KM


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