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The Dragon Experience

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Album Review

As a former drummer for the obscure electro-pop band Images in Vogue, a founding member of Skinny Puppy, and an alumnus of such other entities as Doubting Thomas, Tear Garden, and Download, cEvin Key has certainly amassed enough vault material to merit a generous odds-n-sods retrospective. But that's not really what The Dragon Experience is, although it does bring together tracks that were originally recorded long ago and not previously released. The raw material for these mostly instrumental compositions was originally written and assembled in preliminary form in 1984 and 1985, but none was ever shaped into a final version until Key pulled it all together again for this album. He collaborated with fellow Skinny Puppyand Download member Ken Marshall to put the finishing touches on these tracks, and the result is both interesting and, for the most part, surprisingly gentle. Key and Marshall must have done some fairly extensive retrofitting on this stuff, because none of it sounds like a product of the mid-'80s. The glitch-funk atmosphere of "Maniac Shuffle" is up-to-the-minute, while the spacy, arrythmic ambience of "Chamber" sounds like a cross between Brian Eno and Bob Ostertag. "Destructor Beam," with its heavily processed spoken word samples and aggressive minimalist synth percussion, comes closest to the electro-industrial sound of Doubting Thomas. The album's most serious misstep is its closing track, the extremely overextended (at over ten minutes) "Ambient Fruit." Overall, not bad at all, though not earth-shakingly wonderful either.

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