Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble

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Band Name Primus
Album Name Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble
Type Album
Released date 21 October 2014
Produced by
Music StyleFusion
Members owning this album11


1. Hello Wonkites
2. Candy Man
3. Cheer Up Charlie
4. Golden Ticket
5. Lermaninoff
6. Pure Imagination
7. Oompa Augustus
8. Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride
9. Oompa Violet
10. I Want It Now
11. Oompa Veruca
12. Wonkmobile
13. Oompa TV
14. Farewell Wonkites

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Review @ hack

15 February 2015

...a fun spirited psychedelic rock album...

Primus hasn't been very consistent with their album releases in recent years. There have been some line up changes and Les had taken on some side projects as well. Their 1999 release, Antipop, peaked at #44 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. That was a "funkenstein" of an album, which seemed to infuse some soul style music into their unique sound. Then over a decade later in 2011, Green Naugahyde peaked at #15 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. That album took on a more modern electronic approach to their brand of funk rock. Drummer Jay Lane quit the band in 2013. So the previous drummer, Tim Alexander, came back to reclaim that spot. This current CD, Primus and the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, came with a sticker that says: "A twisted re-imagining of the 1971 classic". So this approximately thirty-eight minute release is a cover album to the forty-four year old soundtrack of the movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. So will they update this classic soundtrack with some contemporary funk rock?

Drum beats don't always seem to be present in these compositions. It's usually subtle with a low profile, but he does get his turns to show off. The cymbals are crashed with interesting patterns, while the drums are typically played with simple rhythms. The cymbal playing complements the marimba music, the marimba music complements the drum beats, and the drum playing complements the bass music. The Candy Man starts with the rhythmic drum beat patterns showcasing multiple tones, with methodical cymbal crashing, all played with echoes to give it a psychedelic ambiance. The effect is very reminiscent of the drum playing of Nick Mason with late sixties era Pink Floyd. The musical arrangements become circular, with each instrument taking a separate moment to stand out in the spotlight. The guitar hits a short psychedelic riff, the marimba takes us up to cloud nine with some dreamy melodies. A bizarre noise is being made by the upright bass, which sounds like a mooing cow. Les' vocals change up with varying tones, from speaking to shouting. The lyrics are about the love that an artisan confectioner puts into his premium products.

Les Claypool is an avid participant in the performing arts. He directed and acted in a 2006 film, entitled Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo. His acting abilities are also apparent in his vocals for this album. He takes the dramatized songs and vocalizes the lyrics with his version of how the different characters sung them in the original movie. Sometimes he uses a lower vocal strain that's distorted by the throat with an exaggerated southern drawl. In the four Oompa Loompa songs he uses funny voices, with higher pitched vocal tones for a humorous effect. Golden Ticket starts with an almost catchy melody, which is soon embellished with hypnotizing marimba notes. It seems to be a slow paced sleepy song, but then it suddenly breaks out with more vibrancy. The lyrics are about Charlie finding the last golden ticket, for a tour of a chocolate factory, inside a candy wrapper. Les' vocals start sounding pretty weird and so does his funny bass playing. The intricate bass rhythms sound psychedelic like Roger Waters with classic Pink Floyd.

The bass music sometimes plays a subtle role, while the other instrumentalists display dazzling solos. In eight of the fourteen songs, Les plays an upright bass. It's the largest and lowest pitched string instrument of the viol family and may be plucked or bowed. Les uses this instrument to stir up some psychedelic disorientations that are artistically profound and at a bizarre level of technicality. During the Ooompa Loompa songs, the upright bass drives the music with odd time changes. All four of those songs progress weirder and stranger, up to the last one. Pure Imagination opens with a funny sounding introduction ; "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...the chocolate room". Les changes his vocal presentations very humorously, kind of like how Frank Zappa used to do. The refrain goes "come with me and you'll see a world of pure imagination", this is an anthemic song to this soundtrack. The guitar music starts with simplistic high note plucking and he breaks out with a psychedelic guitar solo towards the end of the track. The bass plucking has a late sixties aesthetic, which is consistent with sixties era Pink Floyd. The marimba adds some colorful melodies with an Asian Indian flair to it.

Larry Lalonde (ex-Possessed) creates many uncanny sound effects with his fret board. He picks the guitar with mysterious and spacey riffs like Syd Barret. Sometimes he strikes a note and holds it in suspension for a prolonged few seconds in time. Occasionally conventional guitar leads are resounded with echoes, which recalls the classic David Gilmore era of Pink Floyd. The Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride is a short song that runs for about two and a half minutes. It starts with some chopping chords played from the cello. The upright bass music sounds moderately choppy as well. The guitar licks sound somewhat distorted with echoes, and some reverberating effects. This musical composition is chaotic and strange, like the odd sounding songs are Pink Floyd-Ummagumma. The suspenseful lyrics say; 'There is no way of knowing, which direction we are going, or which way the river is flowing.

This album features the Fungi Ensemble, which is made of two specialized musicians. They both appeared on Claypool's second solo album, entitled Of Fungi and Foe (2009). Mike Dillon plays the marimba, which is a percussion instrument similar to the xylophone. He sometimes steals the spotlight with stunning solos, that command attention. Sam Bass plays the cello, which is bowed like a violin. He plays some whining notes and sometimes adds a lot of depth to the more bizarre moments. I Want it Now is the only Primus song with guitarist Larry Lalonde on lead vocals. He sings it soft spoken yet still masculine, considering that this song was originally sung by the female character Veruca Salt. The lyrics are about the incredible demands of a spoiled brat little brat little girl. The guitar melody is simple and repetitive. The marimba music chimes in with dreamy notes that fit well and are an integral part of this musical composition. The cello joins in with mysterious rhythms, which sound middle Eastern in character.

The original Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory movie was recently aired on TV. So I watched it and paid careful attention to the soundtrack. The music was of the light symphony genre, with a modest sixties style, and presented like a vaudeville sing and dance routine. Primus hugely hyped up their rendition, and seventies styled psychedelic rock. They seem to have borrowed a lot of ideas from the classic Pink Floyd song books. But instead of using keyboard music, they used the marimba and cello music, which worked out well for what this is about. Of course it has the patented Primus sense of humor. It's a fun spirited psychedelic rock album, which rocks out pretty good.

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