The Ozrics have their origin in the UK festival circuit of the early 1980's, jamming ferociously, initially in the lee of a transit van sustained by a buzzing generator, then graduating to the cosy interior of the Tibetan Ukrainian Mountain Troupe's hallowed blue and white striped marquee. I am not certain when they first appeared, certainly 84 if not a year or two earlier. Amazingly on a chilly Monday night in Chelmsford the band managed to re create a large part of the atmosphere of those wondrous festivals. All that was missing was the stall in the corner selling mushroom tea and the intermittent requests for donation towards disease-oil. Just as amazing is the fact that they are still doing much the same thing sixteen plus years on with somewhere between 10 and 15 albums and a number of US and European tours under their belts.
The Ozrics sound on album is probably the closest re creation of the UK festival jam - space - rock sound you are going to hear. Apart from some of the earlier releases that were originally cassette only, all of the albums feature excellent (self) production. My only criticism is a certain sameness and a lack of progression over the course of the albums but there aren't really any duffers and at least you know what you are getting when you buy an Ozrics album. My personal favourites are 'Jurassic Shift' and 'Erpland'. The best of the early cassette release is collected on the 'Afterswish' set although the albums themselves have also been available on CD at various times.
If you have never heard the Ozrics I can tell you that sound comprises typically, powerful bass and drums, heavily effected lead guitar (think Hillage meets Satriani), and masses and masses and masses of synthesisers. Synthesisers sequencing, droning, bleeping (a.k.a. twiddle blips) and providing glorious washes of string type sounds. There is also a flute in there somewhere although you will struggle to hear it live. Overall extremely spacey and capable of carrying the listener into some exciting and dead weird places.
At the risk of being shot down in flames I would suggest that there are maybe three or four key types of Ozric tunes:
- Fast riffy numbers which all seem to be a variation on a theme by Steve Hillage (Master Builder - The Glorious Om riff) played with the velocity and ferocity of Hawkwind.
- Medium paced tunes building from more intricate guitar riffs (often eastern influenced) and occasionally progressive rock ish chord progressions. The best of these feature something approaching Zappe esque development and intricacy
- Deep ambient grooves mixing the eastern and reggae influenced bass themes with trance 'n dance rhythms influence by the dance scene.
- Experiments in ambient and various ethnic styles which appear as interludes on the studio albums.
Monday night's gig was great as it comprised in roughly equal parts the first three styles mentioned above. Some shows I have seen in recent years that suffered a little from too many of the fast riffy numbers and too little of the others.
I don't know the names of all the tracks that they played but Xingu (from the latest Waterfall Cities CD I believe) and Sploosh from Strangeitude were ambient trance highlights, in places very much like the Phish explorations in the same style from 99. Eternal Wheel from Erpland was in there somewhere (may have been the set closer) as was a wonderful Zappe esque track featuring masses of lovely guitar which I hadn't heard before but which I am told is also on the latest CD. These along with other similar tracks were the highlights for me. The less exciting parts of the set were the fast riff fests (including the 'Dissolution' encore) which seem a little direction-less.
As I said the gig was great and for large parts of it I (and I suspect a large proportion of the audience) were transported through time and space to the Ozrics mystical Erpland home. It would be good to see the band graduate to slightly larger venues again though as an extremely packed pub is not the best place for dancing and generally getting ones rocks off.
In short I would recommend that you go see them and treat yourself to a very large slice of psychedelic rock UK style. Great to see one of the few successful independent bands in the country still doing it, staying true to their art and keeping the festival vibe alive.
Oh and by the way the poster in the pub which proclaimed 'for the first time in Chelmsford' was wrong. The Ozrics appeared at the Chancellor hall around 90 or 91 as part of a Stonehenge festival benefit also featuring the Magic Mushroom Band (who later morphed into Astralasia) and a dead brilliant reggae band from the midlands.