Ant-Bee (Billy James) is a multi-instrumentalist and producer who is often revered for his forays into early mechanisms of progressive-pop and rock. Known for cutting-edge productions, featuring members of the Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart's Magic Band and Alice Copper's ensembles, Ant-Bee's first album since the 1997 release Lunar Music, depicts an ingenious mind on the loose. Hence, Electronic Church Muzik takes spirituality past the boundaries of common ideologies via nods to early psychedelic music and offbeat sidebars that yield rewarding results, spanning an abundance of opposing angles, unanticipated detours, witty stylizations and harmonious theme-building jaunts.
The program teems with oddball movements and surrealistic pop. On "Living," guitarist Michael Bruce (Alice Cooper) dishes out crunching hard-rock chords for a trip down memory lane, sparking notions of late '60s San Francisco. Here, Ant-Bee's layered vocals summon a trippy afternoon in Haight-Ashbury. Moreover, a good portion of these works are devised with memorable hooks and quirky interludes. Ant-Bee uses the ancient, but beloved, mellotron to great effect and at times, elicits imagery of the fabled British Canterbury progressive-rock climate.
Indeed, these 22 tracks impart a compelling storyline, brimming with captivating and uncanny inferences to religion via choral vocals and uncanny treatments. Whether its guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo's (Captain Beefheart) acoustic Delta blues voicings or ethereal settings that parallel early King Crimson or Jade Warrior, the diversity and persuasiveness of it all, tenders a cavalcade of mind-bending frameworks.
Ant-Bee dissects dreamy segments with odd soundscapes, and morphs a sanctified rendition of electronica amid tape manipulations and choral reconstructions during "The Light." Legendary guitarist Jan Akkerman (Focus) turns in a virtuoso acoustic guitar performance on "Mannah," where he fuses classical music with jazz improvisation and bluesy riffs, keenly augmented by Ant-Bee's mellotron and percussion accents.
Other regions of sound and scope present sitar-driven pop-rock, sparking remembrances of sitar god Ravi Shankar's entrance onto the pop scene back in the '60s and '70s. And on "Don't You Ever Learn," vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock (Mothers of Invention) delves into soul-pop, interspersed with ex-Zappa alumni, saxophonist Bunk Gardner, keyboardist Don Preston, and Moogy Klingman (Todd Rundgren's Utopia) assisting with a few cosmic burnouts along the way.
Ant-Bee enlivens years gone by with a nouveau slant, where metaphysical aspects, religion, and wily theme deconstructions align for a near flawless brew of highly entertaining form factors. In the days of rehashes, artist tributes and reunion bands, Ant-Bee resides within the upper echelon of modern day rock-based pioneers.