The synergy between man and machine shifted into hyperdrive in either the 19th century, or as far back as the Sumerian civilization, depending upon which side of the bed you sleep with your alien/human intervention theories. Bob Bralove hasn’t been around that long, but the MIDI-pioneer has helped promote the many dimensions of that special relationship between humans and technology since the late 1980s, via his second set spatial explorations with the Grateful Dead, and working with ex-Dead keyboardists Tom Constanten and Vince Welnick on various duo and trio band projects.
Bralove’s use of the MIDI, a musical interface system, allowed the Dead’s instruments to call on an infinite palette of sounds (many of which ended up sounding like plain old synthesizers to the naked ear). These innovations helped propel the Dead’s improvisation forward during the “Drums/Space” segments of their shows. Bralove also helped shaped one the Dead’s more underrated later period works, the sound collage known as Infrared Roses, which featured those interstellar adventures, but edited, tweaked and transformed by Bralove into a beautiful album of sonic weirdness. Don’t know? Get.
Bralove also played in a band called Second Sight, which featured fellow audio experimentalist, improvisation guru, and noted guitarist, Henry Kaiser, and focused more on textual dualities rather than melodic touchstones. This unique band also contained Welnick, collaborations with the Dead’s Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. Bralove and Kaiser reunite on Ultraviolet Licorice to present 14 tracks—in groupings of five, three pieces each, with the lone section containing two—which are actually closer in style to Bralove’s early Dead “Space” work, and therein lies the real interest in this intriguing project.
Kaiser’s ability to get inside the abstract piano and synthesizer shadings provides for a counterpart to what could have been a loose liaison of wayward wandering. Each piece seems to build on the elements of the past, and the album rides along at a steady and confident clip until it reaches the trio section containing “Fast Crystals,” “Elves in the Pantry,” and “Silence is So Accurate.” Bralove and Kaiser seem to dance along together, never quite intertwining within the structure, but creating separate yet equal mind portraits. Elsewhere, earlier on in the proceedings, the inspired duo manages to hit upon some sublime “Dark Star”-type voyages (“Spectral Refractions”), feedback-drenched scenery (“Concrete Nebula”), images of lightning strikes—literally and figuratively as Kaiser races across the neck of his guitar (“Fast Crystals”)—and a lovely dance of bizarre back-and-forth movements within a nebula (“Cyber Stalking Tango”).
Bralove and Kaiser have captured the timeless spirit, groking back to some pre-civilization era, and creative artistry which exists in the odd marriage of man and machine on Ultraviolet Licorice. The adventurous listener should take note, and…well, a bite into these deliciously weird experimental collaborations.