Paul Chain - The Improvisor - Master Of All Times [Minotaur Records - 2017]Master Of All Times is a double CD set worth of work from the Paul Chain project. The release features a selection of eight tracks recorded in 1999, and these offer up the expect creative blend of throbbing 80’s synth scaping, experimental blues rock, and dark, at-times prog bound rock.
This reissue appeared on the Italian label Minotaur Records, who over the years have pretty much exclusively put out releases & reissues relating to Paolo Catena aka Paul Chain, and related groups Paul Chain Violet Theatre & Paul Chain - The Improvisor. This release originally appeared back in 2001 on Andromeda Relics, as a single CD release- so with this new release you get an extra disc worth of tracks from a session done a few weeks after the original session
As we’ve come to expect from Minotaur Records, they do a grand & classy job with this reissue. The two discs come in a fold-out six-panel mini gatefold, & each disc comes in its own fold-over sleeve. There’s also a glossy double-sided inlay card, detailing each discs track listing, & the line-up for each session. The gatefolds design has quite an arty Victorian feel to it- with the front cover taking in a framed flowers, art nouveau patterns, and shadowy female figure design. And on the inside, we get a series of aged black & white pictures of Mr. Catena & Flute player/singer Anna Auer dressed up in Victorian finery- all giving the whole thing quite a distinctive look & feel. Oh, and it's all topped off with Obi-strip.
Both of the two sessions & eight tracks featured over the two-disc are completely improvised, though most still have some sort of traditional & harmonic base- so it never goes all out abstract or noise bound. For the most part, it’s a creative & enjoyable collection, with each disc offering up around a forty minute playtime.
The first disc takes in the five tracks from the original release- for these tracks the line up was Paul Chain- Hammond Organ, Bass Keyboard, and vocals. Anna Auer- Flute. Filippo Rollando- Electric Violin. Erica Scar- Special Effects. Danilo Savanas- Drums & Percussion. This disc opens with the just under eighteen & a half minutes of “Strange Philosophy Of Life”- this begins with a nice doomed & moody blend of piano wonders & simmering electronic violin playing. At around the two-minute mark, a weaving & fairly oriental sounding synth bass line is added to this mix, as well a set drum pattern & a more structured feel. As the track unfolds we get a nice interplay between jamming organ, deep synth buzz, searing ‘n’ swirling elector violin, and scuttling/ratting effects. Later on, we get some wonky wailing vocals from Chain, the occasional flute roll, as well as the already mentioned elements. All in all, it’s great & building opener, and I like the blend of instrumental shades & detail here.
After this, we have the just over nine minutes of evilly groovy “Spiritual Way” which brings together simmering & darkly moody blend of church organ & synth- with the addition of rock drums, electric violin, & dark flute mischief. The remaining three tracks on this first disc, are shorter three-to-five minute work-outs, that move from the dramatic & devilish blend of piano plod & synth slither. Onto Chiming & church organ-laced rock jams- there ok, and pleasing enough in their general atmosphere, fitting well with the other tracks on this disc. Though they do show the limitations of both Chain’s improv skills & the band instrumental prowess, as they are somewhat interchangeable.
The second disc takes in three unreleased tracks from a session a few weeks after the first disc. The line-up for this set takes in Paul Chain- Bass, Hammond Organ, Lead Vocals, Keyboard, Synth Bass. Danilo Savanas Drums. Anna Auer- Flute & backing Vocals. AS guitars. Firstly we get two longer tracks in the shape of “Before The War” & “Listening To Chaos”- the first is built around a dark grooving ‘n’ throbbing synth bass centre, which to begins with has a nice mix of male & female satanic fuelled vocals, and later effective flute & violin interplay( though oddly no violin is listed in the line-up). And the second track is more of wondering & very jammy blend of funk bass groove, eerier piano wonders, and grooving Hammond organ. The second disc is finished off with “The End Of A Love Conflict” which is a mid-paced more straight ahead 80’s dark rock number, with simmering synth plod & sight violin 'n' flute embellishments. The first & the last tracks are great on this disc, though I could really take or leave the middle track- as it really lacks much depth or distinctive character.
If you’re already a full-fledged member of the cult of Paul Chain, this really is a no-brainer, and you’ll enjoy much of what’s on offer here. If you're new to the project & its related off-shoots; but enjoy dark & jam-based rock, with synth edges & dark quirkiness I can also see you enjoy parts of Master Of All Times. But ultimately you might be better starting with another release from the project like In The Darkness for more doom based songcraft, or Violet Art Of Improvisation for more jammy & off-the-wall material...and both of these are also available on Minotaur Records