The Music to Come

Green Milk From the Planet Orange want to start a prog-rock revolution

"Progressive rock is not dead," declares an adamant note on the back cover of City Calls Revolution, the fourth CD by the Japanese trio Green Milk From the Planet Orange. If this record is the only evidence, prog rock is in good shape, despite the fact that the group has the worst ... band name ... ever.

Now on a 40-date tour of the United States, Green Milk is coming to Tucson for a gig June 6 at Solar Culture. Where else?

Unfortunately, we couldn't talk to the band; voicemail messages on the band cell phone went unreturned as they roamed the American landscape.

Although it would've been nice to chat with guitarist-vocalist Dead K for a spell, he may not have been any more eloquent than the group's insanely engaging music. We turned to the group's Web site, though, at which Dead K announced succinctly that the tour "must be fun and crazy," and "Let me say again: Hell yeah, this is the new wave of progressive rock."

Because the band is from Japan and plays extended, impressionistic psychedelic noise rock tunes, some listeners might be tempted to liken Green Milk to Acid Mothers Temple, which has played in Tucson a couple of times in recent years.

But Green Milk goes beyond the droning garage jams and guitar freakouts of AMT. The group's members have done time in everything from grindcore bands to ambient projects, and its songs reach from one extreme to the other.

Such is in evidence on City Calls Revolution, released by Beta-lactam Ring Records of Portland, Ore., and produced, engineered and mixed by American indie-rock impresario Paul Mahajan (Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio).

For instance, the 20-minute opening track, "Concrete City Breakdown," begins with delicate, Pink Floydian celestial sounds on synthesizer before evolving into an energetic, intricate art-rock guitar workout worthy of the likes of King Crimson, Be Bop Deluxe or even Yes in its more ballsy periods.

Oh, to be a teenager smoking pot in the bedroom while listening to this stuff!

Then vocalist and guitarist Dead K--his partners in the band are bassist T and drummer, synth player and vocalist A--indulges in some agitated noise-punk yowling that might be in English or might be in Japanese--it's tough to tell--but like Green Milk's more chaotic excursions, this section has the same visceral impact of the music of such groups as Naked City or the Boredoms.

From there, the composition detours into an extended, blues-based psychedelic guitar solo during which Dead K invokes the spirits of Jimi Hendrix and Alvin Ayler. Then, a hypnotic bass-drum groove frames the sound of a voice ranting in Japanese over a loudspeaker, which to American ears raised in the rock era will always sound like the break in Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" or the classic B-movies that inspired it.

Like the free jazz recordings of the 1960s, the music of Green Milk is a trip--in the more literal sense. The band's music journeys from naiveté through spiritual confusion to the enlightenment of choice, as interpreted by the individual listener, of course.

Which is why "OMGS" and "Demagog" (a mere seven and eight minutes in length, respectively) can sound to some listeners like the percussive, white-noise rants of Public Image Ltd., like Sun Ra's rambunctious space jazz or like the avant-rock experimentalism of Can and Neu!

Finally, the trippy 38-minute "A Day in the Planet Orange" includes all of the above influences, as well as twangy Western guitar, meditative new-agey washes of sound, rising-action bliss à la Godspeed You! Black Emperor, jazz improvisation, confrontational noise rock à la Massacre and Painkiller, modern psych by the likes of Spiritualized and Spacemen 3, classic acid rock, touches of Funkadelic's "Cosmic Slop" and "Maggot Brain" and a musique concrete interlude that is basically the recording of a Japanese phone call.

It's not inappropriate, then, that in the year 2001, for its first album's title, Green Milk borrowed and adapted the name of a classic, early recording (The Shape of Jazz to Come) by pioneering free-jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Green Milk called its CD debut The Shape of Rock to Come.

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