Passing Phase Music, 2017
Review by Kent Manthie
Hello everyone, all you groovy indie merchants and fanatics (except religious or reactionary types!). Nice to finally be back among the living. All the backstories on that stuff would take up a tremendous amount of space and, well, no one really wants to read about it anyway.
Main thing: my girlfriend and I recently moved just outside of Phoenix, AZ from San Diego, CA, where both of us have been living since, well, about 2000-01 for her and 2002 for me. We both didn’t care much for San Diego, although we both had lived (years before we’d even met) in Los Angeles and she was born in San Francisco and grew up in Larkspur, in Marin County and I happened to have lived in San Francisco from January, 1996 to May, 2000.
OK, so on to the music: what we have here is what is Lee Negin’s putative swan song, entitled Final Notes. I say “putative” because that is what he has told me via emails, etc. – that it’s taking up more and more of his time, because, although no one wants to be part of the band (or that guy) who “sold out” to “the man”, e.g., signed a contract with some evil, corporate superstructure which company is typically a diversified concern, owning a variety of companies, one of which just happens to be a record label and, since the owners are less-than-interested in music, per se; they are, as Zappa put it so well (though he was goofing on the whole “hippie culture” and the commercial appropriation thereof), We’re Only in it For the Money – that sums up these scavengers pretty well.
Anyway, giving some of the reasons Negin’s getting out was, though I could be mistaken) is that it takes up so much of his time, etc. – but what gets frustrating about that is the lack of recognition by either a larger fan base and/or he wishes he could prick up the ears of the vultures who sometimes show up at clubs to check out “new talent” around town. I really hope that this hasn’t gone into any of his decision-making process.
OK, the music: Lee Negin worked damn hard on this album. It just ended a few minutes ago. I’d been listening to Final Notes while I began this review, so as to hear it again so as to be able to comment accurately on it.
One thread which kept coming through was a shiny, sleek, silver thread made up of ambient sounds which are pure bliss.
It’s a great album to listen to – and, please, don’t any of you take this the wrong way, but this is the perfect soundtrack for reading to. One thing about reading: it makes time fly by. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately; reading a variety of different subjects: a lot of French and Russian novels (I re-read Nausea, for the 4th time; I read, what is my favorite novel I’ve read, so far, by Dostoyevsky, The Idiot. A superb work; I simply couldn’t put it down until I was so sleepy that I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I also read a trilogy of Samuel Beckett novels as well as re-read his wonderful play, Waiting for Godot, of which I never tire.
Well, it’s when I’m reading books – more often, when reading nonfiction, that I’ll listen to music, though relaxing, perfect background music which doesn’t distract me or compete for my attention. And that is what I meant when I wrote that Final Notes seems like a great album that I can appreciate very much while at the same time the book in which I’m absorbed.
Absorbed I surely was…by Final Notes, that is. It begins with “Satya Yuga”, a soothing, relaxing atmospheric number which reminds me a little of those relaxation tapes one can buy; you know, “environmental” (ambient) “music” and/or an ambience of sitting on a lonely stretch of a beach, or, maybe “alcove” is a better term: a place right at the sea where there’s no one around -nobody but you and some scattered big rocks, tall, jagged, brown, pitted 5-ton boulders, upon which waves intermittently crash into. A couple minutes into it, you start to hear these sharp little sounds, not jarring or anyway taking away from the vibe. They sound like the sounds you’d hear in video game arcades, back in the 80s; specifically, I’m thinking of games like Galaga/Galaxian (they were both, basically the same game, weren’t they?) or maybe Tempest, or possibly even good old Asteroids. The beeps and “zounds” from the synthesizer or maybe even a “found sound” of stuff from an arcade do make for a nice touch, I must say.
And all that is just for the opener! After that 8 & ½ minute tune, there’s part 1 of “Now/Here”, a 3 minute electro-splash that lulls you even more into Negin’s fabulous web of sounds. “Now/Here” has a reprise which ends the album.
There are a bunch of other titles too, like “Translucent Ebb & Flow”, “Glitch in the Program” and my favorite name for a tune on here: “Lee in the Sky With Donuts”! That’s a hilarious take on the Beatles’ psychedelic phase. Probably a bit of an homage as well, since, when you think about it, the Beatles were such pioneers in many ways back in the 60s. Besides Brian Wilson’s unbelievably amazing songwriting and the Beach Boys’ beautiful way of harmonizing, made The Beatles and The Beach Boys two of the most remarkable bands of the 60s. I know that’s a pretty strong statement to make, especially considering all the great, fresh, innovative music that came out in that decade. But, when you break it all down – at the very least, Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band were both one-of-a-kind albums that were often imitated but – and this still stands today – never duplicated. Even Paul McCartney expressed awe at Brian Wilson’s talent for great songs. But at around the same time, Brian mentioned how he thought Paul or Paul and John were terrific songwriters themselves.
So, OK, back to Final Notes. I just wish I had been able to get this review out somewhat sooner than I have. The past 5 or so months have been some of the most hectic months in many years for me. Right now, I’ve got a lot of those things behind me and so have the time as well as the motivation and inspiration to get writing. If I’ve piqued your interest at all, I hope you’ll visit the website: https://www.passingphasemusic.com; it’s there you can listen to some of Lee’s new stuff as well as shop around for his past catalog. I hope you’ll buy this new one, Final Notes, too.
One other thing: Lee recently uploaded a few new videos from Final Notes as well on You Tube, so be sure and give them a look. In the meantime, I will put one up on the very next post.
Also – I hope you like the new look of Independent Review. I thought that, since I’ve been on a bit of a “hiatus” that it would be appropriate to come back with a brand new “theme”. Let me know if you like it (or if you don’t) by writing any comments you may have and don’t be shy: let it all hang out, as far as the comments go. The more the better! -KM. (Below: Lee Negin in a top-secret testing lab)