The Flaming Lips (1997)

Before Zaireeka, when was the last time a band had an idea that was just plain self-evidently genius and completely unprecedented? Who knows, but it had been a long while indeed.

This could arguably be counted as an art piece, performance theater, and a veritable scene, which is weird considering it’s just four discs of music. The brilliant twist to it was inspired by some actual artistic gatherings Wayne Coyne brainstormed, wherein he had different car stereos primed to play different pieces of the same composition like a symphony, with friends and attendees being the performers. This introduced the element of randomness, since it was impossible to sync playback perfectly. A simple idea, but taken to grandiose extremes. Shades of Brian Eno. Well, the same principle applies here. Ideally, the owner of Zaireeka will get together with friends and assemble four stereos. Upon inserting the discs, hopefully they’ll all play at the same time and provide some incredibly inventive DIY surround sound.

The logistics of such an idea ensured that it wasn’t remotely feasible for the future of music. Speaking of which, unfortunately, the music is very secondary, devolving into sound effects collages and hippie jams, but this is such a cool album in theory that it doesn’t even matter.

For tamer sonic experiments that are still quite novel and unique, I would check out one of the band’s masterworks, the 1999 opus The Soft Bulletin. It was sort of the compositional culmination of Zaireeka’s fits and starts.

Key track: “Thirty-Five Thousand Feet Of Despair”

See also: The Soft Bulletin – the Flaming Lips (1999), Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – the Flaming Lips (2002), At War With the Mystics – the Flaming Lips (2006), Embryonic – the Flaming Lips (2009)

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