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GREATFUL DEAD the music never stopped Blair Jackson Plexus,London (c) 1983 by blair jackson ISBN 0-85965-075-8 436w

In April [ 1975 ] Phil Lesh and electronic music wizard Ned Lagin put out SEASTONES, an album of experimental "electronic cybernetic biomusic," in the words of a Dead Heads newsletter.

Lagin and Lesh made several appearances at Dead shows before the "retirement," opening the second sets of their final week at Winterland with a section of apparently formless electronic cacophony- high tweedles, rumbling bass notes that vibrated the entire hall, waterfalls of swooshes, bleeps and assorted noises that defy onomatopoetic description.

The album is considerably more sophisticated than what the pair could manage live, however. On the LP, Lagin performs his compositions on a huge battery of synthesizers and keyboards, including such experimental instruments as a then-revolutionary digital-polyphonic keyboard developed by E-mu systems, a custom setup by electronic music pioneer Don Buchla, an Interdata 7/16 digital computer (used for processing the music), and scads of other high-tech machines. Lesh's bass during this era was a futuristic marvel to behold, as well a fully electronic bass developed by Alembic that allowed him to independently process the signals from each string of his instrument.

Lagin, who has degrees in music and molecular biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hoped to create "music as metaphor for thought," and the results are often impressive, haveing the character of a great intelligence seemingly functioning on its own, as different patterns unfold, one after another.

Helping Lesh and Lagin on the record are Garcia, whose electronically altered guitar fits in perfectly, percussionists Mickey Hart and Spencer Dryden, and singers Grace Slick, David Crosby, who sing anti-melodic lines buried under many layers of electronics.

It's an often intriguing record that lacks one major element: heart. It is probably the most inaccessible single work involving members of the Dead, and it drew a decidedly mixed reaction from Deadheads.

Phil Lesh, for instance, recalled a performance by him and Lagin drew an openly hostile response from one German audience: "German audiences, when they don't like something, whistle. They started whistling because they didn't like it, so Ned just picked up on the whistling and started fucking with them-he made his synthesizer start to whistle, and he whistled along with them. Pretty soon, they were whistling with him and they didn't even know it. He has that kind of sense of humor."

There was even some impatience with Lesh and Lagin's electronic onslaught at Winterland, a bastion of Dead loyalists, but for the most part the fans seemed to enjoy having their brains drilled. pp. 160-1


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