Review

BLUE EFFECT Conjunctio

Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
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5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
There were two great early prog rock bands that emerged in the former Czechoslavakia in the city of Prague, capital of the current Czech Republic. MODRY EFEKT (or Blue Effect) began merely as a blues rock band but displayed meagre progressive touches on their debut “Meditace (Kingdom Of Life)” whereas JAZZ Q PRAHA formed all the way back in the early 60s were predominantly inspired by the late 50s avant-garde jazz greats such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and the great Sun Ra. While MODRY EFEKT managed to release their debut album the same year, this collaborative effort between the two groups would be JAZZ Q PRAHA’s debut appearance and the album had such an impact on both bands that it would forever steer their cross-pollination efforts into entirely unforeseen musical arenas. This album is unusual in many ways.

First of all only the first and last tracks are the only collaborative efforts that feature both bands playing together. The second track is a MODRY EFEKT only affair and the same goes for JAZZ Q performing the third. Secondly, this album came out all the way back in 1970 behind the Iron Curtain where almost every aspect of an artist’s creative process was controlled by the state. It is an astounding miracle that these two bands could have created something this utterly wild and complex at this early stage of progressive rock’s history when many of these tracks remind the listener of contemporary and future acts. Most likely this is because the album is entirely instrumental with no lyrics so censorship was unneeded since there are no references to politics. This music is insanely advanced and is one of those crazy complex prog albums that will require many jazz, prog and classical appreciation classes to master any intelligible understanding on much of the album’s run.

The album is only 39 minutes and 45 seconds in length but the beginning track “Coniunctio I” swallows up 19 minutes and 15 seconds of its real estate. This is by far the most demanding track on the entire album as it begins with screeching saxes and erupting organs swirling around in a cacophonous din before it finally cools down into a bass driven groove with a 60s psychedelic rock vibe complete with echo effects and ghostly guitar licks. After a couple minutes or so it turns into a heavy rock sequence that offers a taste of heavy blues rock with a sizzling sax that spirals out of control into free jazz territory along with some kind of whistling noises and frenetic organ counterpoints. Wow! There’s nothing i can think of from this period of prog history that matches the intensity of this track and were only about five minutes in which enters i swear a louder version of Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” which ironically came out the same year only half a globe away (before the internet or even legal access to American music) as a bass groove chugs along and keyboards dance Voodoo rituals around the bass driven campfire. After seven minutes it erupts into a bluesy guitar rock frenzy as Radim Hladík delivers one of the most demanding guitar solos of the era. Even Jimmy Page or Hendrix didn’t get this heavy. After eight minutes it changes abruptly to a pastoral symphonically embellished flute solo that slowly ratchets up the tension into a jazzified melody with an oscillating keyboard effect and some kind of bells. The mood remains placid and subdued for a while as a jazz bass line finally enters and eventually sounds more like hard bop but then a Thelonious Monk style piano run casually strolls into the picture and then goes plain nuts but finally at the 14 minute mark an ostinato bass line hypnotically entrances while a fluttery flute line plays over it but after a couple minutes it ventures into a segment that reminds me of that frenetic part of Pink Floyd’s “Saucerful Of Secrets” before the organ solo part begins. This track is phenomenal! At this early stage it has everything prog all rolled up into one. It has symphonic aspects, psychedelia, dissonance, heaviness, pastoral segments, blues, jazz, classical. Wow! A masterpiece of the ages.

“Návštěva u tety Markéty, vypití šálku čaje“ is performed only by MODRY EFEKT and along with the next track by JAZZ Q PRAHA provides a centrifuge effect that allows the listener to distinguish which elements of the first track were provided by each band. It also allows a break in the freneticism and over-the-top complexity with a significantly more light-hearted bluesy rocker in a psychedelic rock framework that utilizes a beautiful flute to weave a melody like a fluttering butterfly through the track’s shorter six minute time run. If you are familiar with MODRY EFEKT’s debut then you will realize that the blues rock, the melodies and the psychedelic parts of CONIUNCTIO are in their camp and this second track provides all of those musical elements and creates a beautiful flute dominated psychedelic rock track that also becomes heavy with guitar and soloing. In fact, it sounds a lot to me like many of those Focus tracks such as “Eruption” on their second album only with more erratic rocking parts.

“Asi půjdem se psem ven“ is solely performed by JAZZ Q PRAHA and like the MODRY EFEKT track gives an insight into which aspects of CONIUNCTIO belong to the band’s signature sound. This track is straight out of the jazz playbook which starts off somewhat straight forward but soon spirals out into avant-garde jazz heaven and reminds me a lot of some of the space jazz that Sun Ra & his Space Arkestra were pumping out in the mid to late 60s. The time signatures of each instrument all exist in their own musical world and the combo thereof results in a cacophonous din that apexes in a frenetic John Zorn type of saxophone frenzy a good decade or so before he was assaulting eardrums with his own similar style.

“Coniunctio II” continues the collaboration of the first track but is completely different. It begins with a sumptuous flute melody but is backed up by a jarring dissonant guitar counterpoint and quickly picks up and becomes a rather Hendrix-esque guitar jam type sound with a Tullish flute accompaniment and at this point is the most normal sounding track of the album. It remains jammy sounding but ratchets up the tempo, dynamics and finds more instruments joining in until it reaches a cacophonous crescendo but at the heart of it remains a bluesy rock jam despite all the horns whizzing away at light speed.

CONIUNCTO is one of my favorite albums ever to have emerged from the old Soviet dominated Eastern European block. This album titillates not only in a musical sense as it simultaneously pleases and assaults the senses but is fascinating to experience such a great work from the “forbidden” part of the world where the likelihood of a prog masterpiece emerging was virtually nil and only mere months after King Crimson, East Of Eden, High Tide, Marsupilami and other British prog bands were getting started. This album also shows the strong promise of collaborative efforts. Often these sorts of projects end up becoming watered down but the two bands found the right dynamic synergy to push each other further, the results of which steered MODRY EFEKT’s path more towards jazz and likewise JAZZ Q added more rock elements when they would finally release their debut three years later. This one is an absolute under the radar masterpiece. Be warned though that this is nearly a 10 on the progometer as it is dense, complex and often impenetrable especially when the JAZZ Q elements are on full steam. This album has all the elements of early prog rolled into one package. It’s heavy at times, it’s pastoral and symphonic at times, it’s psychedelic, it’s jazzy, it’s bluesy. It can be highly melodic with happiness inducing hooks or it can be dismally frightening with dissonant avant-garde jazz outbursts. One of my faves.
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