King Black Acid
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Womb Star Sessions , 7/10
Sunlit , 6.5/10
Royal Subjects , 6/10
Loves A Long Song , 6.5/10

Portland-based guitarist Daniel Riddle, a founding member of industrial combo Hitting Birth Family Circus, originally launched King Black Acid as a solo side project, but eventually it became a real band (King Black Acid And The Womb Star Orchestra) with keyboardist Melinda Dicillo, guitarist Roger Campos, bassist Nathan Jorg, drummer Scott Adamo (ex Wipers), percussionist Joe Trump (ex Pigface). The single Caterpillar Blood (Ruckus, 1995) and the posthumous EP Into The Sun (Starseed, 1999) capture their early, raw sound. Their performances were soon legendary.

The real deal, though, was the albumd Womb Star Sessions (Cavity Search, 1995), that contains four lengthy jams: the 10-minute The Wave (with samples of chanting monks), the 18-minute Aloha, the 15-minute Alone On Mars (with a poppy refrain that leads to a demonic freak-out) and the 10-minute Autumn. It was blues-based space-rock, something different from the mighty Oregon school of garage-rock, something that mixed and disfigured Red Crayola, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Doors, Mercury Rev, My Bloody Valentine, etc.

Sunlit (Cavity Search, 1996) offers a gentler, dreamier, dilated sound. The tracks are even longer: twenty minutes for Somethings Must Be Believed To Be seen and eighteen for Headfull. But the third and last track, Think Away makes up for the languor with a 22-minute devastating freak-out.

Royal Subjects (Cavity Search, 1997), the soundtrack for a film that apparently never materialized, refined their atmospheric experiments. While not as wildly original and spontaneous as the previous albums, it achieved a classical sound of sort. The main tracks were structured and well-planned like progressive-rock suites, rather than chaotic free-form improvistations. Except for The 144,000 Member Acid Army (with didjeridoo) and Royal Subjects (both a quarter of an hour), the songs were also shorter. 60 Cycles Numb and Only Wine Will Tell seemed attempts at focusing rather than expanding the mind and recall Brian Eno at his most abstract (but not yet ambient).

King Black Acid broke up in 1997 and the following year they transformed into Starseed Transmission. But then somehow the band reconstituted and released a new album, the sprawling Loves A Long Song (Cavity Search, 2000). The songs (eight of them, each about 10-minute long) continue the metamorphosis towards a more traditional structure and performance, although they maintain Riddle's penchant for hypnotic codas and for contrasting gently-morphing phases with hard-hitting phases, implosions with explosions, introversion with extroversion. Not only School Blood recalls late-period Pink Floyd and Colorado rediscovers the format of the orchestral ballad, but standout tracks Into the Sun and Butterfly Bomb are fundamentally catchy progressive-rock. The album even gains spiritual depth from the celestial psalm, Gentle Collapse, that closes it.

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