Mickey Hart is currently touring in support of his latest recorded offering Superorganism, as well as celebrating his approaching 70th birthday. I personally have not kept up with Hart’s more recent projects, in fact the last piece I listened to with quite a bit of interest and frequency was “Music to be Born By” (1989- Mickey Hart Collection) ten years ago prior to and during the birth of my son.
Mr. Hart has been busy and moving into new and uncharted territory with his “Sonification”. Hart describes Sonification as a process of collecting light waves dating back 13.7 billion years ago and changing them into sound waves and “having conversations with them”. As I read the information available on his process I kept finding myself having a mental image of a senior hippie wearing a foil helmet while jamming with the cosmos.
As it turns out Hart is, in a manner of speaking, doing just that on his newest recording. Superorganism is the second release featuring the Mickey Hart Band and moves into new territory. For this recording Hart turned to his head for sounds and inspiration. Literally. Yes folks, my vision of Mr. Hart wearing a foil helmet is not at all far from the source and inspiration for this recording. By wearing a cap with electrodes Hart was able to covert his brain waves into sounds and manipulate those sounds and use them to create the music on his latest recording.
Although it is difficult to imagine music being more organic than being created with the help of brain waves, the album has a decidedly more electronic computer sequenced quantized vibe to it. I find this to be quite the departure from one third of the rhythm section of the world’s loosest rock and space jam band in history. Drums and space this is not, rather mostly one chord funky jams with inspirational new age-ish lyrics (several song lyrics provided by long time Dead contributor Robert Hunter).
The recording opens with Falling Stars which showcases the vocal talents of singer Crystal Monee Hall, and sets the tone and groove for the recording. Utilizing vocorder-type effects and many layers of vocal tracks as well as organic and sequenced sounds makes for a driving opening cut. The Sermon follows, another funky song with spiritual lyrics and a swamp groove. A stand out cut is Rage On, which is a Staples Singers on steroids (or brain waves) song.
Superorganism is an interesting mixture of funk, computer music and new age stylings. I can imagine several of the cuts fitting into the New Age radio show Echoes. On the other hand many of the cuts delve more into a funk jam band area with interesting, albeit metronomic grooves. In any case, my guess is that die hard Mickey Hart fans will find this album a welcome addition to their music shelf ( or ipod), whereas died-in-the-wool Deadheads may find it too electronic for their taste.