Paul Silbey floated up from the downtown NYC music scene and posed a more puzzling question than “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” How could there be a post-punk record that came out before there was punk?
The young Paul was a formally trained classical pianist who performed at Carnegie Hall, but wound up a corporate shill. His piano was tuned a little too tightly and when the strings snapped, he found himself lifted up by the Buddhist bird, Garuda, to find a new life as a cosmic folk-music guru. He formed the Collective Star in 1973 and put out the mind-humming avant-garde LP Music of the Mantric Wave, Vol. 2 in 1974.
The following year, he came out with what could possibly be one of the worst psych records ever made, Garuda. But that’s like calling James Brown the worst ballet dancer in the world. While the band was coming from a psychedelic state of mind, their rock-jazz-dance hybrid was coming from a DIY aesthetic that made them sound like something from 99 Records—except they were five years too early. Their protoplasmic disco explosion on side one will certainly remove the crust from the third eyelid (side two is a live concert recording that is closer to the first LP).
Paul and singer Patti Nolan bob and weave their way through this quirky rumble in the jungle like escaped convicts who are chained together, but don’t always agree on the direction they are headed in. Whereas the vocals can be atonal and over-enunciated Paul’s percussion-heavy arrangements are full bodied. The twitching junkyard band is held tight by the constant grooves the rhythm section of Bob Riley (drums) and Jim Crozier (bass) lay down. Lyrically, the content couldn’t be further from the post-punk world of detached disillusionment. Silbey’s self-realization trip hits you like the stench of patchouli in a stuck elevator. But it’s precisely his earnest beliefs coupled with his innate inability to sing that strikes the right chord with his tofu-jerky disco and propels this gem to greatness.