Beasts of Paradise

 

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review: STEREOPHILE March 1995

BEASTS OF PARADISE

Nobody Knew the Time, Bay-area band Beasts of Paradise's debut EP, is that pop rarity: something entirely new that sounds as if its roots go all the way back to the neolithic. (A full-length album of all-different material will be released later this year.)

The seven Beasts--five women, two men--among them play dumbek, double bass, didgeridoo, organ, bagpipe, and "homemade one-string rebab," among other exotica. But the arrangements on this entirely acoustic CD are built around the twin poles of Imhoff's concert harp--Imhoff seems equally at ease in both folk and conservatory styles--and, on four out of five tracks, the floating, haunting voice--sort of Bulgarian field-voice crossed with British/American folk and East Indian melisma--of Eda Maxym. Sounds like high-gloss world music, no?

Not at all. Nobody Knew the Time (produced by Kenneth Newby, whose own Ecology of Souls is equally unclassifiable; (see Stereophile June 1994) is most reminiscent of the best of the spacious, raga-influenced rock that San Francisco produced almost 30 years ago when former acoustic folk combos like the Airplane, the Dead and Country Joe dropped acid, plugged in, and changed pop music forever.

The difference? This stuff is more interesting, better played, and acoustic.

It's a unique CD that opens with an unromanticized evocation of the hunter/gatherers a few millennia back--"Throw another potato on the fire/My hunger has no bounds tonight/Sing me something you learned as a child/Sit a bit closer to the firelight"--and ends with a cover of the Buzzcocks "Why Can't I Touch It?" The fact that the sound is dark and warm, and mixed deep and spacious, makes it all but irresistible.
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Beasts of Paradise CD NEW!! Beasts of Paradise This five song primer to the group's eclectic vocal, percussion, and world music sound is packed with color, vocal acrobatics and poetic lyrics.

Cover art/photo illustrations by Charles Rose.

Additional design concept by Eda Maxym

Liner notes from Beasts of Paradise:

1. Nobody Knew the Time + Kent/Gordon/Maxym/Imhoff + Geoffrey Gordon - dumbek, Zambian drums, percussion, Inuit throat singing + Barbara Imhoff - harp + Nancy Kaspar - double bass + Stephen Kent - didgeridoo, shakers + Eda Maxym - vocals + Kenneth Newby - Inuit throat singing + Jai Uttal - dotar 2. Limehouse Chambers + Imhoff/McQuesten/Trimble + Lyrics D. Trimble + Geoffrey Gordon - dumbek, tablas, percussion + Barbara Imhoff - harp + Stephen Kent - didgeridoo + Eda Maxym - vocals + Kalonica McQuesten - organ, toy piano + Peter Whitehead - homemade one string rebab 3. Safe Love + McQuesten + Lyrics by K. McQuesten + Geoffrey Gordon - Zambian drums + Barbara Imhoff - harp + Stephen Kent - didgeridoo + Lynne Miller - bagpipe + Kalonica McQuesten - vocals + Peter Whitehead - frame drum 4. Falling + Imhoff/Maxym + Lyrics by E. Maxym + Geoffrey Gordon - percussion + Barbara Imhoff - harp + Nancy Kaspar - double bass + Eda Maxym - vocals 5. Why Can't I Touch It? + Shelley/Diggle/Garvey/Maher + Original Arrangement by Imhoff/Trimble + Geoffrey Gordon - dumbek, snare drum, percussion + Barbara Imhoff - harp, fuzz harp + Nancy Kaspar - double bass + Stephen Kent - didgeridoo + Eda Maxym - vocals

All arrangements by the Beasts of Paradise

THANKS: Robert (Nobody Knew the Time) Anthony, Alan Biggs, Jeremy Brooks, Patti Clemens, Oliver DiCicco, Egan DuBois, Ann Keeler Evans, Joe Fajen, Christian Jones, Anah K, Dean Kamei, Stephen Kent, Albert Mathias, Pamela McCleave, Claude Palmer, Marc Ream, Charles Rose, Misha Saez, Joseph Savage, Libby Seifel, Eszike Tarics, Vince Thomas, Lorainne Thompson, Steve Yamane.