While playing guitar for the Lilys in the late fall of 1993, Art Di Furia picked up his favorite astrology mag, Welcome to Planet Earth, and read about a “band of photonic matter” that will envelop the earth and change consciousness forever. It seemed to Art that this explained everything: music of all kinds had been filling his head lately. Sometimes, he’d hear a lyric or a melody. Sometimes he’d hear an entire song with full instrumentation. His dreams featured unreproducable sounds with corresponding colors, and visitations from Jimi Hendrix, Syd Barrett, John Coltrane, and Sun Ra.
He had already begun filling tapes with these ideas. Now he began labelling them, “Photon Band”. But what to do with all this music? He couldn’t bring it to the Lilys. That would always be Kurt Heasley’s gig. In the summer of ’94, Art left the Lilys to form the Photon Band with Heasley’s blessing.
To make his inner musical visions real, DiFuria snared astronomer / professional weirdo Simon Nagel to play drums. Soon, chain-smoking ne’er-do-well Jeff Tanner had conned his way into bass-ing for the band.
The rest is an unending sonic adventure. The trio began to gig, and DiFuria kept writing and recording. So far, the results are five full-length albums and a harvest of singles and comp tracks revealing an eclecticism that continues to expand like the universe itself. The Photon Band’s early tunes sounded like the Beatles with the Who’s rhythm section. But by the time of their full-length debut (1998’s All Young in the Soul (Darla)), they had incorporated influences as disparate as Buddy Holly and the MC5. Expansion continues.
It’s no accident that the Photon Band’s last two albums feature the words “Alone” and “Lonely” in their titles. DiFuria recorded both by himself. 2001’s Alone on the Moon, and 2003’s It’s A Lonely Planet (both on Darla) are so filled with hallucinogenic solitude that they make Syd Barrett sound like a stable, upstanding citizen.
However, on the Photon Band’s new album, DiFuria has abandoned the solitude of outer (and inner) space to come to terms with this world. Appropriately titled Back Down to Earth, the new album features eight outside musicians, more than on any previous Photon Band effort, including N. E. Farnsworth III from Bardo Pond, Dmitri Coats of the Burning Brides. The results are the bluesiest, heaviest, most soulful Photon Band ever. Hendrix’s ghost haunts most of the songs, especially the upbeat trio of songs that start the album. But by the time we reach the blue-eyed soul of the Track 4, “Your Doubt, Your Truth”, and the Monkee’d-up Motown of Track 5, “Where Did the Love Go?”, easy answers are in short supply. Of the remaining cuts, even the uplifting sounding “Whatchagonnado?” offers no solutions. Things don’t end pleasantly; on the album’s closer, “Last Call, Badnight”, it sounds as if our initially optimistic hero has come “back down to earth” in the worst of all possible ways. After a drunken ballet of twitches and stumbles, he has collapsed with a dazed thud.
While our hero may be down, he’s certainly not out. There can be no doubt that as he dozes, he’s dreaming up tunes for the next Photon Band album.
Back Down to Earth (CD) (TBA)