SECRET CHIEFS 3 — Second Grand Constitution And Bylaws: Hurqalya (review)

SECRET CHIEFS 3 — Second Grand Constitution And Bylaws: Hurqalya album cover Album · 1998 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The debut album by SECRET CHIEFS 3 had been an all out battle over a stylistic approach with borrowings from previous Mr Bungle tracks, sneak peeks of future Bungle and a dash of Trey Spruance’s wild ass freakery from his side project Faxed Head not to mention the plethora of influences that included but not limited to Arab traditional music, Bollywood, surf rock, electronica, avant-prog, psychedelia, jazz and well a big whopping mix of pure avant-garde. With all these genres duking it out possibly with no thought into a future of this side project, not only would SC3 become Spruance’s main gig despite one final Mr Bungle album in the making, but it became a passion and on this sophomore album SECOND GRAND CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS: HURQALYA, the project coalesced into a more stable mix of different musical elements that would become the template for which future SC3 albums would revolve around.

With Mr Bungle on hold due to Mike Patton’s commitments to Faith No More (with Trey Spruance contributing guitar work on 1995’s “King for a Day... Fool for a Lifetime”), Spruance sallied forth on the next phase of his true love which took the elements previously displayed on Mr Bungle’s track “Techno Allah” from the “Disco Volante” album and turned the idea into a veritable band project. And while the debut album was basically four members of Mr Bungle exploring Bunglish ideas into more extreme territories, on SECOND GRAND CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS: HURQALYA Trevor Dunn didn’t return and was replaced by William Winant who covered the massive sprawl of instruments that included kanjira, timpani, snare drum, cymbals, ankle bells, hammer dulcimer. Likewise Trey Spruance increased his duties to include guitar, mandolin, bass, organ, synth, keyboards, trumpet, baglama, zither, programming, tapes, chorus vocals and Danny Heifetz expanded his percussion to include drums, tambourine, shaker, finger cymbals, dumbec.

With all these new instruments HURQALYA has an exponentially richer sound spectrum than “Bylaws 1” and that’s not all! Fellow Bungler Bär McKinnon appears as a flautist, Paul Dal Porto plays sitar, Eyvind Kang joins in on violin and erhu and there is a hauntingly beautiful vocal appearance by Laura Allen on the Arab pop meets Bollywood track “Mera Pyar Shalimar.” The album is decidedly more Middle Eastern focused with instantly catchy Arab melodies but strangely juxtaposed with Indian instrumentation, surf rock, breakcore, psychedelia, drum and bass and even a touch of trumpet mariachi style all wrapped into an Ennio Morricone styled sort of spaghetti Western type of cinematic approach. SC3’s second album in affect sounds like one of the first attempts to make a spaghetti Middle Eastern experience and in the process creates one of the most unique albums i’ve ever experienced even different from the band’s other endeavors.

The album is begins and ends in an epic fashion. “The Rose Garden Of Mystery” provides a soft acoustic guitar arpeggiated melody that builds instrumental counterpoints while setting the mood for occult practices on the Silk Road. In between the tracks are centered around surf rock with electronic effects (the “Book T” tracks) while tracks like “Renunciation,” “Jabalqa,” “Mera Pyar Shalimar” and “Jabarsa” are clearly rooted in Arabic musical styles that take the melodic approaches of traditional Arab music, add some bellydance type of grooves and fortify it with strange sound effects, breakcore and progressive time signature complexities. The result is a compelling tapestry of pan-continental styles of music that had hitherto never found themselves so intricately woven together in such perfect splendor.

While the first nine tracks are fairly accessible, the final two are the most difficult but easily skipped for those who don’t wish to take the meditative journey into the sandstorm laced noisy journey that takes place on “Beyond The Mountain Qaf” which eschews all musical traditions and unleashes the most experimental noise rock and Krautrock stylistic approaches completely with wind sounds, rain and other field recordings. The track morphs into the closing “Hurqala” which brings back an Arabic melodic and even climatic epic score. Like Lawrence of Arabia meets Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The track continues with variations on the main theme but then drops out leaving several minutes of silence before making a reprise with a new variation as if a final desert theme finds closure to the mystic journey that was just experienced.

SECOND GRAND CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS: HURQALYA was not only my first experience with the SECRET CHIEFS 3 project but even to this day after untold hundreds of listens to this exquisite album still remains one of my all time favorite albums and in my book sits equally well with the following “Book M” and “Book Of Horizons.” These three albums find SC3 in perfect form with all the elements carefully crafted. The most amazing thing about this album is not only the beautifully crafted composiitons that stew the slices of disparate genres into a world gumbo but the amazing production job that creates an even more dynamic experience with no detail left to chance. The timbres, tones, dynamics and cadences all correspond to a more intricate storyline that is unaccessible but mysteriously perceived. I cannot think of too many albums that are so brilliantly designed and this will most likely rank high on my list for a very long time. Perhaps my only complain is the several minutes of wind and silence that end the album before a brief little reprise of music but it’s easy enough to push stop at any time so in no way affects my overall score. PERFECT! MASTERPIECE!
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