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Kundalini: Asylum for Astral Travellers *

Album Notes

Virtuosic and innovative playing characterizes the debut release from Swedish progressive rock trio Kundalini. Named after the "fiery power that lies in the chakra at the root of the spine," the name turns out to be a remarkably apt description of the band, with its implications of unusual mastery and control of energy. Serving as a showcase for multi-instrumentalist Arne Jonasson (Holy River Family Band), Asylum for Astral Travellers covers a surprisingly vast amount of musical terrain and does so in an energetic and authoritative manner. The opening track, "Squirrels Nest," reminds one of Béla Fleck & the Flecktones until the eruption of a wicked fuzz guitar in the middle passage. "Calusari," "Hedgehog in the Rain," and "Dali's Hambo in Short Skirt" recall The Grand Wazoo and Lather-era Zappa at his most elegiac. "Garden Gnome Business," a down-and-dirty marriage between punk rock and metal elements, sounds like the business is a drinking spree coupled with an intent to trash every sacred inch of the yard. Kundalini is able to transcend the usual sonic realms of the progressive rock trio, creating an exotic soundscape with the augmentation of unusual instruments -- to Western ears -- from Tibet and India, such as the saz, the cumbus, the mey, the zarna, and the navelur, all played by Jonasson. Drummer Patrik Sundqvist and bassist Gunnar Olofsson prove they are not just along for the ride. Sundqvist's volcanic drumming switches rhythms, time signatures, and styles with an ease that would put most four-to-the-floor rock drummers to shame. Olofsson has a deceptively simple style. He firmly grounds the music with his rock-solid basslines, embellishing with tasteful and creative licks that have substance and relation to the song at hand. Kundalini is a supergroup in the truest sense -- a creative marriage of immense talent, innovative instrumental songwriting, and a willingness to explore uncharted musical terrain through breathtaking and inspiring improvisations. One wonders how future releases can live up to, much less exceed, this most promising beginning. ~ Joe Pettit, Jr.


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