Creosote: Smoke And Mirrors CD 2003
ZiaZine – Zia Records, Tucson, Arizona
Taking the credo that “children should be seen and not heard” one step further, ambient music should be heard but not noticed. At least that’s the way it usually works. But the subtext of what’s driving Smoke & Mirrors’ music is intriguing enough to make the music work on either thematic or subliminal level.
To date, they’ve released three albums in 2003, 2004, and 2005 respectively. All three deserve your attention. When alt-rock guitarist Spider Taylor and keyboardist Michael Ely relocated from Los Angeles to Tucson, Arizona, their new digs caused them to evaluate their new music.
They dubbed their instrumental/environmental/ambient group “Smoke & Mirrors.” Their first soundscapes collection, The Perfume of Creosote, is the direct influence of the Tucson, Arizona experience, as every desert flower and spell that has a name gets a musical and titular nod, a kind of “journey Through the Secret Life of Desert Plants.”
My favorite, “The Dance of the Scorpion,” manages to approximate in ambient terms what it’s like to step barefoot on a scorpion. No easy feat. Or feet.
DJ PussPuss – San Francisco Spectrum
Tripped out blissy (almost new agey) guitar driven electronics with an Eastern vibe that grooves along its own path. Perfect for chilling and cruising. My top picks: Surya, The Divine Sun, Inside Saguaros, Mirage, Rattlesnake, Adventures Of The Pack Rat, When The Devil Was A Little Boy, Thunderbirds, Monsoon, The Perfume Of Creosote, Sonoran Sunset, Ring Around The Moon, Night Blooming Cereus & As Heaven Falls From The Sky.
Piero Scaruffi – Author of “A History of Rock Music” – www.scaruffi.com
The 23 desert hallucinations of Smoke & Mirrors’ debut album, The Perfume of Creosote: Desert Exotica Part One (Aural Fixation, 2003), showed a broad range of influences, from acid-rock to electronica, sometimes mixing them in the same piece (Surya covers both elegant world-music and languid metal guitar).
A bit too much on the side of kitschy new-age melodies, it nonetheless boasts the ferocious dance music of When The Devil Was A Little Boy.
After nearly 19 years since Michael and Spider last released an album, they suddenly reappeared from nothingness with an astonishing CD. They no longer play 80s glamrock or punk music, as they once did in bands such as Red Wedding & Hey Taxi!.
Instead they came up with something completely different……. Michael taught himself how to compose and play music on an electric Yamaha keyboard and use a computer program as a mini recording studio.
As Michael no longer wished to sing, and the guitar playing from Spider had become more smooth and sophisticated, you can imagine that The Perfume of Creosote: Desert Exotica Part 1 has little to nothing to do with their music of the past!
The Perfume of Creosote: Desert Exotica Part 1 is a concept album inspired by vintage exotica, filled with all kinds of exotic and rock-based soundscapes inspired by the Sonoran Dessert, the place were Michael and Spider moved to after some hectic years in Los Angeles.
This album wasn’t expected to be a “real” release in the beginning. It was just a recording they made for their friends simply to enjoy……..But after they sent a copy of the CD to Dave, things took a drastic change! Dave, who was already working in the music industry at that time with his own CD import distribution company, decided to create his own indie label.
With Aural Fixation Records Smoke & Mirrors had a label behind them that could promote their CD and spread the word about their heavenly and refreshing ambient orientated album. Up to now Smoke and Mirrors are the only artists that have been released on Aural.
Egbert – Rate Our Music – Rate Our Music
Over time I learned a bit more about the life in Arizona, one of the most beautiful states in America. The nature of Southern Arizona is astonishing and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert is quite surreal and almost impossible to comprehend in music, yet Michael and Spider did manage to do so quite well if I may say so!
When you consider the fact that Michael does not consider himself a musician and hadn’t played keyboards before (except for one time on Red Wedding’s “Fiction Theater”), it almost defies logic, some might call it miracle, when the first thing you’ll hear on the opening track, “Surya, the Divine Sun,” is a perfectly programmed didgeridoo combined with Michael’s eerie strings and complimented by Spider’s sleek and fragile guitar playing. Only then is it clear to the listener that Michael and Spider have chosen another musical path to walk on.
Going through different kind of aspects of the Sonoran Desert you’ll hear a lot of different soundscapes, some of them are inspired by artists like Gary Numan such as the strings on “Tarantulas” or on some level Brian Eno in tracks such as “Thunderbirds”. I’ve been experiencing a lot of feelings during the numerous spins I gave this album. Words or phrases that popped up in my mind were small animal on “Adventures of the Pack Rat”, this intro always give me the feeling that one is going to hear vocals. It’s stupid I know, but that’s just how I feel it 😉
“Petroglyphs and Bones” made me think of something big and dangerous , kind of the same feeling I got with “Monsoon” as it’s real spooky with that haunting guitar sound. “The Perfume of Creosote” made me real dreamy and “Riparian Oasis”, the track that follows, took me really high into the sky due to the high pitched guitar, or how Michael calls it: “magnificent, glass-like, guitar playing with a guitar solo that flows like liquid.”.
Well Michael….I couldn’t have said it better 😉 “Rock Gardens, Swimming Pools and Barbecues” is just like a walk along a trail. This trail ends up at a cave, this cave can be heard on “Turquoise and Copper”. “Ring Around the Moon” is represents danger as it’s easy to hear all those haunting sounds!
The short track “Dance of Scorpions” sounds like a little chaos. “Javelinas” makes you want to follow the leader . “Night Blooming Cereus” made me feel real hypnotic. Finally we arrive at the last track “As Heaven Falls From the Sky” and the whole sphere on this track made me think of Tinkerbell.
The highlights on The Perfume of Creosote: Desert Exotica Part 1 are definitely, in no particular order (besides the order they appear on the CD) “Tarantulas”, “Mirage”, “Monsoon”, “The Perfume of Creosote”, “Riparian Oasis”, “Turquoise and Copper” and “As Heaven Falls From the Sky”.