Spacemen 3: Dreamweapon (Space Age Recordings)

On the evening of August 19, 1988, psychedelic rock band Spacemen 3 were invited to perform in the lobby of Waterman Arts Center in London, concurrent with a performance of Wim Wenders’ film Wings Of Desire. Selecting a psychedelic rock band to serve as an opening act for patrons waiting to see a movie is a most unusual gig, for the gentlemen of spaceman three, such was par for the course. Performing for 45 minutes, they launch into a heavy drone; lengthy, but not unpleasant. This performance would be released after-the-fact as the live album Dreamweapon, under the title ”An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music.”

As notorious and influential as the band would later become, so too this live set. The response to this release amongst fans serves to illustrate the divisiveness of the group; you either enjoyed the performance, or you found it dull, boring, and a waste of time. It isn’t, of course; it is a playful, thought-provoking piece that shows how indebted to the New York experimental scene of the 1960s the group actually was. Not that anyone really cared at the time; it is rumored that only 10 to 15 people actually attended the whole performance. Also infamous about this show is the fact that bass player Will Carruthers completely neglected to turn on his amp, unaware that he wasn’t playing anything. But the unusual surroundings provided a unique accompaniment; listen closely, and you can hear the sound of people talking, laughing, buying tickets, and announcements from Arts Center employees over the loudspeaker. While this is a drone piece, it is also true ambient music, wonderfully capturing a moment in time most likely forgotten by everyone except the band.

This set features three additional tracks; two of the numbers are solo performances recorded by Pete Kember that are variations of a theme entitled “Ecstasy live intro thing” and “Ecstasy in slow-motion.” The two numbers are steady, headstrong drones that highlight his acumen at composing mind-expanding music. The third track, entitled  “Spacemen Jam,” is a rough, bootleg quality recording of a session between Kember and (purportedly) Jason Pierce.   Although the track has historical import as being an early recording session between the two members, its quality doesn’t rise much beyond that.

Dreamweapon is an enjoyable, compelling set, even if it is not one of the more essential Spacemen 3 releases. It does show a band and its formative years willing to try new things and experiment with sound––something both members have continued to do consistently for the three decades since this recording.

Dreamweapon is available now from Space Age Recordings.

 

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