Supernormal Recordings, a document of Black Tempest‘s (AKA Stephen Bradbury) second-stage headling at the Supernormal Festival last August is just that…and more. It’s a 3-disc tempest itself of the live appearance, plus 2 discs of rehearsal recordings made at his Tempest Towers prior to the festival. My first exposure to Black Tempest was on the outstanding krautstravaganza Head Musicwhere he took on Klaus Schulze’s Bayreuth Return, a seemingly perfect match. Black Tempest builds on Schulze’s work, and approach, as well as others such as Tangerine Dream, Jarre and the Orb to these ears. But that’s not the only eye of the storm. Fans of the kosmische will assuredly be lulled in by the droning lush soundscapes, as will those with a leaning to progressive rock and psychedelia who don’t run for shelter when those definitions and linkages are twisted, stretched and presented as something seemingly removed from where they started. Like the name of the album that carries Bayreuth Return, Black Tempest truly makes head music. As you take in his stew of vintage and modern sounds, you can either immerse yourself and become voyager and co-pilot, hone in on certain sounds and tangents for digressions and digestions or simply let the head gently undock itself from the Mothership (recommended) and ride the modulations and oscillations to your destination of choice. It’s not surprising that your cruise director is shown in the CD booklet wearing a lab coat; Bradbury is certainly a sound scientist and aggregator. Shunning some of the detachment and coldness of similar experiments that arise in less capable hands, there is a constant reminding thread that this all boils down to springing from a very human mind. The live cuts are broken with snippets of Bradbury’s wry humor and wit that not only shore up a snaky amorphous narrative vibe (Tanks But No Tanks, in any variation) but help wind down his cosmic sojourns and bring them back to the original well-spring to be refitted and restocked for more flight.
Tanks But No Tanks :: Black Tempest :: Supernormal Recordings: Live at Supernormal (2011, Black Tempest/Tempest Towers)
Supernormal Recordings, and Black Tempest himself, are hard to pin down, continually shifting and morphing. Bradbury’s nom de guerre itself is somewhat hard to nail down as well. Sounding like the moniker of some heavy-duty metal machine, Black Tempest is surely a nod, and a wink, to Bradbury’s early forays of improvising in that battlefield. There is an underlying ominous and brooding pall that wafts in and out of his work, though it never becomes oppressive or showy in a display of power. In fact, turning things on their ear again, much of that mood is actually given heft by some of the subtler details. Which makes total sense and follows Tempest’s primary (though not singular) choice of using electronic weapons (stage schematic thoughtfully provided) to produce sonic vistas that revel in warmth and a sense of something very human, approachable and universal. If that sounds indecisive, it’s not. This is meticulously crafted and executed material, in both the live goods as well as the behind the scenes run up work. The 2 discs of Tempest Towers rehearsals and groundwork never sound incomplete or unrealized compared to the live outing. Their addition to Supernormal Recordings are as equals, not as afterthoughts, or hackneyed bonus tracks. Each disc stands on its own, but together they give the end-user (and I’ll hazard a guess Bradbury himself) a much fuller appreciation of not only Black Tempest’s lab work, but also of the experience of the festival, for those lucky enough to catch a rare live appearance of our alchemist.
Proxima Beta :: Black Tempest :: Supernormal Recordings: Supernormal Recordings Volume 1 (2011, Black Tempest/Tempest Towers)
Also highly recommended are Black Tempest’s Proxima and Ex-Proxima, both stellar looks into Bradbury’s own hovering eye of multiple storms.
"This show is 110% … one of the most consistently awesome programs we have come across."
The Sunrise Ocean Bender sets sail every Monday morning, 1 – 3 a.m. on WRIR lp 97.3 FM, to find something for your ears, and something for your head … From psych to prog to pop and whatever tributary we can find on the way … and right back around again. There might be a map, but the destination is up for grabs. If it all goes right, we may just get lost. Meet me at the muster station … it might be a long week.