South of Reality, out now via ATO records, is a surrealistic intersection of psychedelia and prog rock fused with radiant aural interludes, and throwing down chunks of funk for good measure. The follow-up to 2016’s Monolith of Phobos, the sophomore release from Les Claypool and Sean Lennon showcases brilliantly contrasting flavor palettes that will leave the listener putting this masterpiece on auto-loop.
The opening track “Little Fishes” features Claypool’s trademark growly bass styling, soon giving way to an immersion of savory, progressive meanderings. “Blood and Rockets – Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons,” is the first track from the duo that is unmistakably (John) Lennon in its execution and flowery falsetto.
South of Reality on the whole is unmistakably Beatles-esque with Merseybeat melodies floating throughout, however that arrival was unavoidable but pure in its derivative vocal constructs and instrumentational borrowings. The approach here seems to be, instead of ducking The Beatles’ sunny harmonies and tonal abundance, the duo has wholly embraced what is arguably the most influential and timeless sound of all time; but took it a step further, pouring them into the Claypool blender to churn out what is an early Album of the Year candidate, of any genre.
From an influence standpoint, it goes beyond Fab Four-ism. The title track, “South of Reality” smacks of Chris Squire-infused bass chops, alternating between ambitious double-time beats–a nod to the Yes Fragile era, in both tone and texture—and orchestral soundscapes. Also detected throughout the release are intermittent tinges of Syd Barrett.
Claypool and Lennon began their collaboration in 2015, after Lennon’s project, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, opened for Primus. Shortly thereafter, the Lennon Claypool Delirium released their debut LP. The current release was the brainchild of a week-long bout of experimental jamming recorded on their phones, with each going off afterward to construct arrangements born of those riffs.
The duo’s website describes the second album thusly, “South of Reality is an expression of our upside-down times, offering listeners both an escape from modern chaos and a filter through to which to embrace it… It’s the record Dr. Seuss would have made if Harry Potter and Nietzsche were his drinking buddies, and it’d be produced by Dr. Teeth.”
Lennon added: “Les and I have been cooking up some wizard juice to take the edge off as we sit back and watch reality unravel. This album is the soundtrack to the demise of the world as we knew it.”
Not unlike The Beatles, it is clearly apparent who the primary composer is on a given tune, however, both multi-instrumentalists offered tweaks and suggestions on each other’s compositions during the tracking process. Pretty much every cut on South of Reality is defined by a balance of opposing strengths, serving as departure points leading the listener on a journey from 1969 to 2019.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium embark on a three-week tour beginning April 10, 2019. For a full list of upcoming dates, head to the band’s website.