Boomkat Product Review:
Freedom To Spend unearth a cosmic slow-burner, originally released in an edition of 25 tapes way back in 1986. Uplifting outsider sounds that echo the guiding influence of Sun Ra and Moondog, foreshadowing future private press free experimentation form the likes of Sunburned Hand of the Man, Vibracathedral Orchestra et al.
There's a brilliantly unhinged anarchy to 'Communion' that immediately grabs your attention - whether you've come across the Universal Liberation Orchestra before or not. The Midwestern act originally assembled in 1980 as a five-piece, and were known as the Cleveland Collective before slimming down to a duo helmed by brothers River and Tom Smith. Under the name Universe, they released two LPs - the folky "New Day" in 1984, and politically-charged x psychedelic "Open Season" in 1985 - before seemingly disappearing into obscurity. But their story didn't stop there, the brothers followed up with 'Communion', a private press cassette release that's been carefully repackaged as part of Freedom To Spend's newly minted uncommon¢ series.
‘Communion' is refreshingly contemporary in its approach to genre, the brothers clearly had an interest in everything from canyon folk and liberation jazz to kosmische and prog, and this passion animates 'Communion' with an unshakeable spirit. The opener sounds like Moondog assisted by cheap keyboard vocal hits and Hawaiian easy listening dollar bin xylophones. Moments later, we're in a cosmic prog wormhole with 'Cycles', sounding like a private press answer to Cluster's rhythmic throb - all beatbox loops, fuzzy fractal synths and improvised impressionist flutes. 'Crosscurrents', in turn, is a skeletal meditation led by piano and bells that inhabits a space between 1970s TV themes and Alice Coltrane's weirder devotional jammers.
Instruments and ideas are swapped out here without too much precision - in the best way - Tom Smith claims he could play almost anything; he had guitar lessons in his teens, but grew bored quickly and tried "whatever suited my fancy". River on the other hand was a keen poet, who did workshops across Cleveland before becoming a clinical psychologist and running for congress multiple times. It's this meeting of political motivation, art and aptitude that makes 'Communion' such a fascinating and absorbing listen - the brothers were out on the fringe of the US musical spectrum, but made music that addressed the eccentricity and audacity of US life. It's an attitude that we hear vibrating through so much music that came later, from Wolf Eyes and Emeralds to Sunburned Hand of the Man and Six Organs of Admittance - and we're v here for it.