Flying off the laurels of their previous album, Tripomatic Fairytales 2001, the German duo Jam & Spoon took very little time off before crafting and releasing the sequel later in the year. Don't expect this to just be a continuation, however, as this isn't your typical sequel. Gone are the energetic jams that made the duo a hit in the trance community. Instead, Tripomatic Fairytales 2002 veers completely off the path of its predecessor tread by dropping into far more ambient and less danceworthy territory.
The fairytales begin with Hermaphrodite, a brief intro filled with a strange tale told in French of wizards and a two-sexed being by a mysterious young lady as muffled strings and other haunting sound effects work their bitter, ambient magic. This leads into N.A.S.A. Nocturnal Audio Sensory Awakening. A deep but low-key bassline plays throughout this equally serene twelve-minute adventure as new elements creep their way in over time, though not always simultaneously appearing. Short choir chants, the ruffles of a soft wailing electric guitar, the pluck of a distant piano... After some time in this state of relaxation, a far more brittle synth gyrates its way into the forefront to awaken us a bit more before the song goes full-on reggae. If you'd listened to Tripomatic Fairytales 2001 first, you'll find this to be a jarringly unexpected twist of musical direction. Perhaps the song's a bit stretched out — okay, it's VERY stretched out — but for an evening on the beach, this could work well.
LSD Nikon, aside from being a name for a camera that uses drugs instead of film, is also a sultry and sleek sound collage, mixing strange womanly wails and other sampled strings, interspersed with the sound of a a camera taking a photo. You'll listen to it once, think it's odd, then move on. And then you'll be a bit confused by The Future Is In Small Hands as Hans Helmer Sauer, the vocalist behind a few of the tracks on Tripomatic Fairytales 2001, sings quite upliftingly about the past with unsatisfying lyrics about how "there used to be..." when the world was great and a land where everyone was happy. It's slow, just like the rest of this album, but these vocals are very out of place. I guess Jam & Spoon were following a sort of new-age pop vision, but it certainly didn't feel like Jam & Spoon.
For greater serenity, Salinas Afternoon is a great place to look for the sounds of raindrops, flowing water, and some relaxation-worthy synths. Sadly, it's interrupted by some fellow on a public announcement system that jars the experience a bit by talking a slight bit about ponder who or what Buddha is.
Another long tune is in store with V. Angel. Is Calling, which begins by focusing more on the calming aspect of making a telephone call, apparently. After the 2:30 mark is when the song gains a bit of structure and substance with stronger, fuller synths and a slightly buzzing bassline to counteract it. Beyond this, it's a nonstop journey through a space-laden sound trip, and only after a while does anything extra show up: a lady ooo-ing, some deep pizzicato plucks, the wafts of a lost pan-flute, but these are superfluous to the primary repose this track brings. While it didn't need to be over ten minutes long, it is, and hopefully the listener gets some calming from it. This is joined with the one-minute Words And Dana, a spoken word track that describes someone's face. Glad we got that out of the way.
Ancient Dream puts a repeated muffled piano track over symphonic strings and a single light shaker as its percussion. Over time, additional piano plucks and other ethereal elements add to the pleasant atmosphere of this track. This one's rather beautiful and actually feels as though there's something to it. I could get a massage to this. It's only ruined near the end by loud and relatively obnoxious clapping. That shouldn't be there; get out, hyperspeed clapping. And in I Saw The Future, we did indeed see the future, and it's electronic. This beast of a lengthy tune sounds closest to Jam & Spoon's more danceworthy offerings, jousting with a poppy arpeggiation as pads, shakers, and other miscellaneous oceanic sounds all compete in an aural triathlon. There are the occasional chanting vocals, but they are not the primary focus here. For some reason, I can't keep my ears closed shut to this song — it's a bit infectious, though again, it's far, far longer than the actual material needs. This could easily have been a four-minute track.
We're not done with the future yet! In Castaneda Future Illuminations, this short burst of energy pulls from Buddhist meditative chanting as its main source of inspiration (not surprisingly, given the artistry on the front cover). It's not certain which Castaneda they're referring to, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's Carlos Castaneda, who wrote of spiritual power and shamanism.
And then I groan. Those corny vocals are back in Secret Kind Of Love, backed by piano chords and other haunting sounds of relief and pleasure. Although the instrumentation itself isn't without merit, when blended with the vocals, I'm reminded of every movie parody of a lounge singer in a burgundy velvet suit and accompanying ruffly tuxedo shirt trying to croon love poetry to a drunken busty woman at a table near the stage. Overall, it's a cornball moment on the album, one I'll try to sneak past to get to a World Of X-T-C. This album closer is far more uplifting and bouncy, a far cry from anything we've heard up to this point. There are a variety of vocals here as well, but they seem to work well with this trancy tune. Even some funky reggae lyrics from MC Mikey Romeo sneak their way in here! Seems like our expedition through quietude has ended. All we can do now is enjoy a fine beverage feeling the warm breeze of the seaside and sucking in that sweet energy around us.
It's a trip. It's a strange trip. It's an occasionally boring trip. It's a tripomatic fairytale. And that's how we're supposed to take it and accept it. Is this a great album? Not particularly. Is this pretentious? Somewhat, but if you can get over that, you can find an interesting album to put on if you want quiet, relaxing background music or if you want to take a little time to yourself to meditate. I'm sure the dreams will be fancy, bizarre, and coated with splattered paisley patterns.