April 9, 2012

Dark Star

The best item on this year's Record Store Day list is Grateful Dead - Dark Star: Europe '72 Olympia Theatre LP 180gm/Features 40min. "Dark Star."

There. That sentence has now been written on a current-music/not-jam-band site. A possible second sentence could be: "Massive nomadic hedonistic subcultures will never rise up around Bon Iver and Oneohtrix Point Never and follow them from town to town." Or: "the editor of Pitchfork is a Dead Head, though you have to dig pretty deep to find proof." Neither of these sentences would begin a long beautiful description of "Dark Star." Such a passage would take years to write, or months or weeks. Mark Richardson calls the song "the most legendary platform for improvisation in the band's repertoire. Originally a song of pop song length found on an early studio album, 'Dark Star''s chord structure and loose, flexible rhythm gave Garcia the space he needed to explore his most experimental guitar ideas. A good 'Dark Star' is constantly moving but never turns completely abstract; its power comes from seeing how far out it can go without turning into complete chaos. It could be melodic, grooving, harsh, or noodly; ultimately, it's the Dead jam as process piece." Which should be edited this way: "the most legendary platform for improvisation in the band's repertoire, Ooriginally a song of pop song length found on an early studio album single." The way he described it in the last two and a half sentences is probably how a lot of people would described it, which is why those two and a half sentences should be deleted.

"Dark Star" is the mothership of all spaced-out trip songs. If you like to freak out on freaky music, you should buy this record. Jerry Garcia once said something like: It's impossible to describe music. Mark Richardson writes: "Given their contradictions and unfashionable air, it's hard to know how things will go when you're talking music with someone and the Dead come up, no matter how much you have in common otherwise." Fashion is one reason why music can't be described, especially this kind. There has never been another song like "Dark Star" and there never will be. It's rock band as poly-encephelonic psychic being. It has no script and very little plot line and it lasts 20 to 45 minutes. But, as Richardson says, "never turns completely abstract" or "into complete chaos." It's a miracle, really, a mutation on the evolutionary chain.

The other night the Dead's previous holy shit RSD release, the 4LP Europe 72 Vol 2, was played in a Victorian house in the Deep South. It contains a rare pairing of "Dark Star" and "The Other One," the other legendary Grateful Dead improv vehicle. Below are the last four minutes and thirty-nine seconds of it, which is mostly a drum solo. Ninety seconds in, Squeek attacks.

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