The Strangest Secret and Sun Ra Research

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The Strangest Secret is a Santana-like jazz-rock whatzit that's very Woodstock-era and drenched in wah-wah guitar.

John Hinds and Peter Hinds

Reviewed by Mike Mosher

Monday, November 8 1999, 9:52 PM

Ahh, the art of psychedelic jamming. John Hinds and his brother Peter are serious practitioners of this craft on John's CD The Strangest Secret. "What Happened" (Part One and Part Two)" is a Santana-like jazz-rock whatzit that's very Woodstock-era and drenched in wah-wah guitar. Its two parts bookend the rubbery "Inner Workings of a Question." Along with a variety of short cuts, the fulsome "Receptive Emptiness" frames the long composition "A Walk in the Woods." This twenty-two minute centerpiece of the CD brims over with the early-1970s sort of spacey, intense fusion that exploded all over following the success of Miles Davis' "Bitches' Brew."

Other compositions fall into other genres. "Foot Steps" is two-and-a-half minutes of big important rock about to happen and "Metal Shards" seems to be cut from the same loaf...that is, perhaps a few minutes later on the tape from the same session. The two-part "Omni Kinetic" surges along like jazz-tinged speedmetal. Hey, isn't that Motorhead's Lemmy pictured beneath a lingerie model in John's center-spread inside cover collage?

Some music here suggests science fiction cinema. "Up in the Air" puffs out radio blorps as artfully obnoxious as Lou Reed's 1975 LP Machine Metal Music. "Nothing Repeats" spreads atonal sheets of cacophany punctuated by ray-gun electronics like missles in a video game, a pendant to the militaristic acid rock of "A Short Dream." "Observations" is an electronic reverie; "Particles" is a reference tone with harmonics, electronic crickets of a summer night on Mars.

The tracks "Ray in San Jose" and "The Answer Man" (I'd swear he was KFJC-FM radio personality Nancy Reagan) are moments of street recording like those Captain Beefheart conversations on Trout Mask Replica. "Looking in a Cage" pulses along with a very manic piano assault, culminating in vocal bedlam as maddening as Charenton Asylum with its captive Marquis DeSade.

Sometimes the brothers go muy pop. "Containers" clickety-clacks along while "Is" sounds like a cowboy acoustic guitar soundtrack. "Remember" could be the backing track for a sentimental Cowsills or Davy Jones-fronted Monkees hit. "The End" is jazz sleepily remembered by a hotel band somewhere in Palm Beach.

Composer John Hinds plays guitar, bass, keyboards, piano and miscellaneous percussion, while his Peter hinds plays the drums. Yet these Jet Age brothers live in a suburban town most famous for being the on the descent path into San Francisco International Airport. Something is hiding beneath the surface of this CD. What really makes the Hinds brothers tick? Two words: Sun Ra.

Peter Hinds publishes Sun Ra Research, dedicated to the wisdom of the astronomically-inspired jazzman Herman "Sonny" Blount (1917-94) a.k.a. Sun Ra. Sun Ra's words and those of his musical collaborators in the Myth-Science Solar Arkestra are transcribed directly from interviews with the eager Hinds boys. The Hinds booked the Arkestra's 1986 and 1987 west coast tours without taking a cut of the tickets, but then as always kept the tape recorders rolling and the questions popping after every show.

Boasting "over 1300 pages of Sun Ra Research since 1995", the 'zine's published interviews make pretty good, if uneven, reading. At times the discussions get political, which provides some of the most interesting moments. In a taped discussion during the hearings that put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, Sun Ra riffed on the possibility the pubic hair Thomas found on his can of Coca-Cola was actually an element essential to an African love charm in which Anita Hill was adept. Just a theory, but it sure got me thinking and you can always quote Sun Ra.

The 56-page Sun Ra Research number 38, published September 1999, costs $7 in the U.S. and $9 elsewhere. Meanwhile, though not as provocative as Sun Ra's own legacy of music, The Strangest Secret CD makes spirited instrumental listening while settling back to peruse the astro-musical esoterica transcribed in Sun Ra Research.

The Strangest Secret was released by Omnisonic Records in 1998; Sun Ra Research can be reached by writing to Box 786, Milbrae CA 94030 

Copyright © 1999 by Mike Mosher. All rights reserved.

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