While the following record Songs Of Experience was already featured here, the previous venture lays the groundwork of engaging instrumentation and the ability to compound layers through sound. It begins with shrills on the strings that essentially act as a horror film’s score but then erupts into beauty based on the over 40 credited musicians on the record.
Stretching over seven tracks and 27-minutes, the trip is short but worthwhile for the way that Axelrod can conduct this sporadic expression of noise into a digestible and palatable adventure. With the opening track “Urizen,” Axelrod uses abstraction as his greatest ally to confuse the audience, then pulling the rug out from under them to bring in a groovy sense of gratification. The instrumentation that follows after the anxiety attack becomes these horn placements and a percussive bounce that is both explosive but also able to be reserved at moments.
Perhaps when Axelrod is shrieking is when he is at his finest. Taking a slower approach with the following piece “Holy Thursday” has a similar key structure to Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” but the production here is closer rooted to jazz than rap. The percussion on “Holy Thursday” is a powerhouse with fast fills and breaks even though the general instrumentation is sluggish and drained. Still beautiful, Axelrod has this fantastic ability to pit conflicts within the instrumental of his tracks to form clear cut differences in atmosphere. One corner is a striking cobra while the other is a lingering grizzly bear; both who are still monumental.
Song Of Innocence is an entirely instrumental album which relies on the players to the tell the stories rather than a vocalist, and through Axelrod’s direction, the uplifting nature on “Merlin’s Prophecy” becomes an initiative dance toward these final moments on the record spent on “The Mental Traveler.” It is a perfect segue from a guitar solo that is ripping through the diverse underlay to then being stopped dead in the tracks by a glimmering and intimidating course of action.
“The Mental Traveler” is less of a progressive stance and more of a rock n’ roll tribute where the low-tuned guitar is proud as a centerpiece. Almost as if the instrumental was being played on a mountain, the range here of the resonation is almost thunderous. Even while being a simple chord run, the stoned fingerings that follow are simply outstanding. “The Mental Traveler” then switches on a dime and becomes this build-up where a minute and a half of near-silence cascades into a pouring over of noise.
Capturing Axelrod’s twisted sense of sound seems impossible as the wide variety in each of his records continues through each listen to unlock more and more pieces of the puzzle. From the funk grooves of the 1960s to the rocking format of the 1970s, Axelrod is a complex producer of warped landscapes with always grand finales.