It really doesn’t matter if you’ve been away for a long time. Ozric Tentacles never stopped playing, releasing records or popping up at random outdoor festivals or, dare we say it with a straight face, ‘happenings’ that pot-mangled, bean-munching types have accidentally organised in some muddy field somewhere.
If Somerset’s finest space rock jam band ever had a heyday, it was at the fag-end of the 80s, when a combination of disenchantment with Thatcher’s crimes against fun collided with a particularly good batch of mushrooms and the virtually unmissable (and extremely loud) arrival of rave culture. That a band such as this, with their seemingly archaic and artistically redundant blend of rambling, improvised psychedelic rock, curiously authentic dub and squelches and skitters of underground techno, could have any kind of relevance to the world of youth-approved fads and “the cutting edge” seems as insane now as it did then, and yet the sound that Ozric Tentacles make remains annoyingly irresistible.
The Yum Yum Tree is probably perceived by its creators as a distinct and unique work within their alarmingly vast catalogue. To the rest of us, regardless of recreational drug intake, recent or otherwise, these eight beautifully played experiments in sonic pupil dilation could easily have been outtakes from any of the band’s countless past albums. It could be reasonably argued that no one really needs more than a handful of Ozric Tentacles records and once you’ve stuck Erpland, Pungent Effulgent and Strangeitude – classics from the aforementioned golden age – on your iPod, you may feel that enough space has been taken up by such ethereal bluster, but even though the temptation to dismiss The Yum Yum Tree as just another album is occasionally overwhelming, there are enough moments of brilliance here to make this the best thing the band have committed to tape since Jurassic Shift in 1993.
Echoing the syncopated backwash of 1991 single Sploosh!, opener _Magick Valley _cheerfully blurs the lines between the Ozrics’ trademark sound and the fidgeting trance of their Eat Static alter-ego, as samplers are prodded with joss sticks and forced to comply in a spiralling dance of undeniable fruitiness. Like most Ozrics tunes, it’s a bit bonkers but strangely mesmerising. Similarly, the pulsing bass and air-tight snare cracks that drive the delightfully woofer-friendly Mooncalf along are strongly, and almost certainly deliberately, redolent of mighty crowd favourite Ayurvedic (from 1989’s Pungent Effulgent), before the whole thing spins off at an tangent toward some other fuzzy and oddly compelling horizon instead.
The fact is, you never really needed to be mashed off your box on cosmic fruit pastilles to enjoy Ozrics. Their world exists to be dipped into during those moments when tightly-crafted songs and beginnings, middles and ends just seem a bit, you know, square. So dip away. And avoid the brown acid.