Album Review: Flaming Lips – 7 SKIES H3

Written for SOLENT MUSIC, who fancied showing off the work of one of their graduates. Me.


The opening track begins with the voice of a producer. “Take number one”. Considering the scale of this project, it is just as well that one take was apparently required. That said, due to the chaotic clash of noise and floating ambience, listeners can only imagine that this is a mutated jam session, with no intension of ditching the mistakes. ‘7 SKIES H3’ is the title of Flaming Lips’ twenty-four hour long behemoth track, available to listen to online, or if you were one of thirteen fans to have $5000 to spare could splash out on the monster in its very limited edition, official physical form – a real human skull with an inbuilt hard drive.

Despite its literally cerebral format, it is still digital, and there are probably a few listeners desperate for a song that they could truly touch. It would take at least 100 sides of vinyl to contain the monster. Considering their nutty reputation, it’s perhaps surprising that they didn’t try. It’s also disappointing, as now we may never know what sides of records are called beyond ‘Side Z’. However, they have made a start with the Record Store Day release of 7 SKIES H3 LP, comfortably housing a condensed, fifty-minute version.

Split into ten tracks, it may be easier to swallow. Still, that’s not to say that it’s truly ‘easy’.

‘Battling Voices From Beyond’ is an abrasive war cry, hellbent on opponents standing down to the noise before Oklahoma’s musical army attack. This is followed by the fittingly titled ‘Riot In My Brain!!’, the fusion of a distorted thrash band, screaming, laser noises and harps is so dense, that any concept of rhythm is lost beneath what is presumably the sound of the physical onslaught itself. It almost seems incorrect to assume that these tracks are instrumentals, as anything could be going on underneath.

7 SKIES H3 is at its best when containing the demonic parts to slow tracks and the mass of layers are no longer fighting to be heard, as Wayne Coyne sounds mournful, and creepily plotting during the two title tracks, grainily reminiscing about “I can still taste the spit” from his first kiss, and sinking atmospherically ‘In a Dream’, against the sounds of a brutal storm. However, for each brilliantly uneasy conceptual track, there is a headache-inducing track that gains from being shortened, such as ‘Meepy Morp’ – a horrid surge of noisy synth handsaws, wielded by groaning robotic ghouls.

The lack of this ambience, integral to stretching a track to such lengths, gradually and calmly metamorphosing until Coyne next decides to grainily whine the next verse, is its largest shortcoming. While the chaos may be plenty enough for most listeners, it has the feel of an souvenir, or even advertisement, for the original version, painting the image that this isn’t truly a condensed version and experience for those who don’t have the time, nor enough coffee to last them the night. The LP is the musical equivalent of a poster for sale in the gift shop of the full 7 SKIES H3 gallery.

While it could be simply shrugged off as an RSD collector’s item, when accepted as an album alone (or a poor attempt at a ‘radio edit’ single) 7 SKIES H3 is an intriguing, albeit mind-boggling montage of snippets.


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