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The Legendary Pink Dots – The Maria Dimension (1991)

The Legendary Pink Dots album The Maria Dimension has as Bob Calvert once said on his Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters album, “A magnificent engine of steel and gleam” at its core. I was blown away by this album back in 1991, and felt it was a masterpiece joyfully out of synch with the musical zeitgeist of the time. 23 years on the music still sounds as unique and compelling as it did back then. That said nothing could replace the memory of the first time I played this record on my college radio show. It felt like a sinister interception of a radio broadcast from another planet occupying a space where the Pain teens are hanging with Syd Barrett.

‘Disturbance’ starts the record off with a dense pulsating rhythmic glow bathed in fuzz that hurls us into the inner space of The Maria Dimension. Edward Ka-Spel’s voice rides the shimmering waves of fuzz spinning forth as if we’re travelling deep into a remote frightening corner of the universe where we stop to observe the event horizon.

Now that we are far from anywhere safe ‘Pennies For Heaven’ tells us the story of a plane crash, where as Ka-Spel states “we dined upon the wreckage”. Clearly disturbed by this life where we are constantly under pressure to form and reform ourselves to suit the circumstances Ka-Spel puts forth that “we’re forced to crawl through needles eyes.” The song then kicks into a funerary dirge and then into a militaristic rat-a-tat-tat of the snare, which carries the song to its conclusion.

‘The Grain Kings’ based on the Keith Roberts novel of the same title is a grim mechanized song that sounds as if we are caught inside a corn thresher. To quote the book, “They call them the Grain Kings. Gigantic mechanical monarchs of the wheat-bearing plains…” This song has a very Hawkwind vibe to the guitar keyboards and bass. This is a dark apocalyptic vision of the world where humans are once again enslaved and at the mercy of those who control the food supply.

‘Belladonna’ is the prettiest song on the record and captures beautifully the hallucinogenic haze of being lost in the Maria Dimension. Ka-Spel’s narcotic restrained vocals are set against a delicate acoustic strum.

In fact you could say that this whole album seems informed and bathed in the hazy glow of numerous illicit substances.

23 years later I find the rest of the album to have some compelling moments but nothing reaching the sonic heights of the above-mentioned songs, which ultimately lessens the overall listening experience. This is where sequencing comes in and why it is so critical to creating an album’s overall narrative whether intended by the band or not. The tracks I’ve mentioned above make a far more gripping argument for the Maria Dimension’s dark spacey underpinnings and fit more with the overall package of the album’s floating religious snow globe capsules.

Where The Maria Dimension works best is when the band let their psychedelic fancies fly free. Lyrically this is some of Ka-Spel’s best work as it’s both intimate and claustrophobic. The album feels as if you are being sucked further and further into interstellar space, and while The Dots are still a going concern they have never topped this in terms of depth and coherence.

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