Et Cetera: Et Cetera
Et Cetera is my favorite album. That's my standard reply to that common question. I still remember the circumstances under which I first heard this 1971 LP, which sprang from the febrile minds of German keyboardist Wolfgang Dauner and his gifted accomplices—guitarist Sigi Schwab, drummer/percussionists Fred Braceful and Roland Wittich, and bassist Eberhard Weber. A musician buddy had told me about Et Cetera and its awesomeness, how it was his favorite record of all time, but advised that I should wait till I was peaking on acid before hearing it. Best advice ever.
My mind lysergically altered, I absorbed a disciplined yet free-ranging splay of astonishingly vivid sounds unlike any I'd ever experienced. Each of the five tracks pricked my ganglia in different, strange ways. Attempts to classify the sounds proved futile, but something extraordinary was flowing out of the speakers. After one listen, I had to agree with Matt (both of us had heard thousands of albums by some of the most innovative bands at that point). A decade and many sober listens later, this opinion holds.
Et Cetera is finally getting reissued on CD, bolstered with informative liner notes, after being out of print for nearly three decades. Brain Records rereleased it on vinyl under the title Lady Blue in 1980, but since then it's been exceedingly rare, often selling for large sums on eBay. While those inflated prices are ultimately worth paying, it's nice to have Et Cetera available at relatively affordable import prices.
The disc's opening piece, "Thursday Morning Sunrise," screams out of the gate with bizarrely honking synth emissions, instantly riveting, like the fanfare of some momentous pronouncement by a being from a superior race. If it resembles anything, it would have to be first-LP Kraftwerk (the one Ralf und Florian don't ever want you to hear): a mind-fucking conflagration of prog rock, free jazz, and experimental electronic music. "Lady Blue" saunters in from another universe altogether; it's a baroque, astral-jazz ballad cum stunning acid-dream monologue about a desperate dame who will "burn holes through you." The song boasts an unspeakably gorgeous chorale that cascades like angel sighs. "Milkstreets" is like some ornery space-jazz composition that Sun Ra jettisoned for being too weird, its chords grotesquely distended, its rhythms spasmodic and clattering. It's as if the musicians have discovered their arms and legs are gangrenous, and they have to finish the piece before their limbs become useless.
The album—and your life, really—peaks on the 16- minute "Raga." It's one of those tunes you want played at your funeral if you have a really grandiose sense of self (I guess I do, because I want this thing blasted at 11 when I kick it). The intro finds Schwab plucking a majestic motif on his sitar that conflates within it incomparable bliss and melancholy. Weber and the percussionists dredge a stoic, galloping rhythm that's positively Shakespearean. Dauner chips in soaring, Don Cherry–esque trumpet. The piece—which is masterfully improvised—breaks down and builds up, spans genres and continents, and never fails to intrigue. Each musician has his moment to shine, but Schwab ultimately steals the cut with his Shankar-overshadowing sitar tickling. This may sound like hyperbole, but it's really understatement.
The CD's three bonus tracks don't scale the astronomical heights of the five LP songs proper, but the nearly nine-minute "Kabul" is an eventful addendum to Et Cetera's noisy, spacey, avant-jazz peregrinations. "Tau Ceti" sounds like a glassy-eyed meander through some of the more amorphous passages in Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, while "Behind the Stage" is jittery, jazzy psych rock that's the exclusive province of Et Cetera.
And so on. You'll know when you get there.
Et Cetera is distributed in America by Forced Exposure (www.forcedexposure.com).