Trans-Europe Expressionism

In Mushroom, a former folkie and a cast of experimenters present their own prog-rock revival

Thomas' music room also doubles as the office for his post-Heyday label work: With Russ Tolman, he operates Innerstate Records, a stateside distributor for the Dutch Inbetweens imprint, and Innerspace, which will release Analog Hi-Fi Surprise. (Heyday still operates, but Thomas left that label in 1992.) Innerspace has also released Money Doesn't Make It, an album by prog-rock legend Daevid Allen (Soft Machine, Gong), on which Thomas and Pearson both contribute. It's a relationship that Thomas and Pearson are eager to learn from, as they did when they found themselves opening for another former Soft Machine member, Kevin Ayers, two years ago. The band will also open for Krautrock icons Faust in November.

Pearson recalls a conversation he and Allen had during a tour of the Northwest. "We were agreeing that ... to watch a DJ push buttons on a PowerBook is just god-awful, boring -- no matter how great the music is, it's just a boring thing to watch. You can see that bands are starting to add musicians into it again, real drummers to play along with the drum loops. The natural extension is to get back to improvis-ing music."

Thomas hopes to expand the Innerspace label to include more than "just projects I have my fingers on" -- to create a haven for people who don't necessarily see "prog" as a four-letter word. "Playing instrumental music makes it a little bit harder to pigeonhole," he says. "Without the vocals, you have a wider palette not only to play from, but for people to listen to from their angle."

Or, as Pearson puts it, "With Jerry Garcia's death, all the Deadheads have to go in a different direction.

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