This is a very complex album to be reviewing. It may well be beyond my grasp, but I will try to tell you what is going on in this disc as completely as I am able. Doing so will involve a couple sizable quotes from other sources, so forgive the wordiness of this review. I’ll review the style and sound first, then explain the concept.
The style of the music could well be called progressive world rock. It takes the elements of classic progressive rock and marries in world sounds from varying cultures and ethnic styles. There are a lot of sounds you would expect on a progressive rock album, guitars, drums, bass and keyboards. Added to these are fairly common extras like a violin and sitar. From there it gets fairly exotic with elements of African or Asian traditional music and vocals among others. The result is a really different sound that is quite catchy. Those who are seeking a more culturally diverse music will find this disc vastly pleasing. Whether or not you agree with the political stance of the disc, the music itself is very enjoyable. The varied vocal and instrumental styles work well together and flow from song to song in a very good way. The music does not sound forced, but works since the songs were written around the traditional elements so that they might be the center of the song rather than an after-thought. Fans of progressive rock and world music alike will enjoy this disc.
The concept of the disc comes from the writings of Noam Chomsky, a very frequently quoted political activist and speaker. The disc takes snippets from his speeches and writings and incorporates them into the music as a kind of anti-globalism art form. The liner notes include this little snippet from Chomsky:
“A vast move towards a kind of totalitarian system in which highly concentrated, unaccountable private power determines what goes on and nobody has a word to say about it, and for the most part, nobody knows anything about it. This is a business-run society.”
The disc protests the ignorance and indifference with which upward mobility is pursued. It is an anti-capitalist statement that mourns the loss of cultural variety it tries to display to the listener. Jim Matus says this about the concept of the disc:
“At the end of the 20th century, I stand slack-jawed in horror in view of the dramatically increasing domination of the wealth and resources of the planet by a smaller and smaller segment of the population. This, coupled with the almost complete disappearance of functioning democracy as a result of new international structures of finance and trade, has systematically lowered the standard of living for the majority of people. The Western World of patriarchy, technology, and militarism is holding a gun to the head of the Third World. The Third World is on its knees and blindfolded. In the next 25 years, this imperialist system may destroy every last remnant of indigenous culture.”
“By design, capitalism will seek out and destroy these people and their unique ways of interpreting reality and replace them with uniformed consumers of what amounts to a pre-programmed American diet. Having allowed this to happen as a result of ignorance and indifference, we as Americans are as guilty as the Germans in World War II who blindly followed the marchings of Hitler. It's out of our control and we don't even know what it is that we don't know. What is it? You'll never find out by reading the New York Times or watching CNN. The media is owned by these same
corporations that hold the cue cards for pundits who introduce meaningless, hypnotic phrases like 'Big Government' and 'support our troops' and serve to perpetuate the system. Even the music industry is now a part of this global market whose sole driving force is profit.”
“The music on this record, in some abstract way, represents, in my mind, a model for interaction with Third World indigenous people. By preserving the culture and extracting samples, we can study it. Instead of changing and dominating their systems of order, we can adjoin and build onto them and create a new civilization using the best from each. Hopefully the music we've created here does something like that. It attempts to collaborate in new ways using technology (sampling) thereby keeping the original music intact. Starting from there, we've reharmonized and rearranged the original without destroying it, and tried to create something new using Western musical systems and high-powered aggressive timbers and rhythms. The result being the weaving of a musical/mathematical partnership. A vast geometry. Hyperdimensional, ancient geometry.”