Mickey Hart, drummer extraordinaire of the Grateful Dead, kicks it old school and new on his latest album Superorganism, collaborating with such talents as fellow Grateful Dead member Robert Hunter (lyricist), Sikiru Adepoju (percussionist), Crystal Monee Hall (singer), Joe Bagale (singer and multi-instrumentalist), Greg Schutte (drummer), Gawain Matthews (guitarist), Reed Mathis (bassist), and Jonah Sharp (keyboardist).
Mickey provides the dynamic and flexible rhythmic backbone to lyrics-centered songs that range from soulful rock to protest songs to trippy ruminations, all colored by the decades of the 60s and 70s. The album is technologically cutting edge due to the fact that Mickey donned a cap with sensors that recorded his brain waves and heart beat, which he then translated into his drumming rhythms. Ever a (re)searcher, Mickey is looking for the connection between the brain and music, hoping to harness the therapeutic effects of rhythm on the aging process. Check out Mickey’s Music Therapy research in conjunction with Dr. Gazzaley at: http://gazzaleylab.ucsf.edu/gazzaley-hart-collaboration.html
Album opener “Falling Stars” is filled with ebullient, changeable rhythms and percussion, squiggly electronics, and sharply emphatic androgynous vocals. Mid-way through the tune a guitar solo breaks out in a low blaze, while the singer grittily grimaces through the line “…falling star of mine.” Mickey’s drum work plugs away on the slow-paced “The Sermon”, like a train chugging towards its destination, mirroring the squelchy keyboard notes, occasional bluesy guitar riffs, and the singer proclaiming in a preaching tone “I do believe / to give is to receive.”
Mickey and company bring in 70s funk for “I Want It Back”, with the singer earnestly and defiantly declaring “You can’t give away / what’s not yours to give / It’s my life to live.” The verse, chorus, verse structure of the song is broken up by interludes of clacking and clattering drum acrobatics and an ending that brings in hand drums, keyboard notes, and guitar riffs.
“Rage On” (Maybe in a nod to Rage Against The Machine’s social activism? Maybe not?) brings on the industrial noise and a more modern sound with its choppy rhythms, growling sonics, and electronic blips. The lyrics are bleak at the start, with the singer intoning “There is no daydream.” before imploring a rallying cry of “Give me courage.” in the face of adversity. The more experimental “Mind Your Head” is a fun brain-expander, with the line “Living in my drum dreams…” an apt descriptor for Mickey. Tying into the relevance of rhythms on brain function, the spoken sentence “A happy brain’s a good brain.” floats though the subdued yet quick skittering and tinkering of electronic blips and bleeps.
360 Degrees Productions