Sproton Layer - With Magnetic Fields Disrupted. 1970 USA

Sproton Layer - With Magnetic Fields Disrupted. 1991 New Alliance. Archival recordings from 1970. Also released on LP

CD reissue: 2011 World in Sound (Germany)

LP reissue: 2011 World in Sound (Germany)

Release details: Neat little archival release from New Alliance, a subsidiary of SST, and a long way from anything you would expect from the label. No doubt it obtained a release due to the Mission of Burma ancestry (Roger Miller). In doing research for this title, I discovered it was also released on LP, and perhaps even more surprising, it was reissued by Germany's World in Sound on both formats.

Notes: Back in February/March of 1998, while still a "road warrior" consultant, I had a gig in San Ramon, California, which included a corporate apartment there. So every Sunday night, like clockwork, my wife would drive me to the airport and I'd make the flight from Denver to Oakland, usually arriving by around 9:00 PM local time. As soon as I sat into the rental car, the first thing I did was turn the radio dial to KFJC, certainly the most interesting radio station one can hear in this country. They played all sorts of experimental/progressive music, and it was usually a learning experience for me. The catch was I had limited time to hear it. Since the station is based in Los Altos Hills (closer to San Jose), their range was somewhat limited. Once I crossed the East Bay foothills, into the area of what is known locally as the Tri-Valley, the signal would be broken and ultimately lost.

One evening, in that 20 minute period, on came this pretty incredible psychedelic album with fuzz guitar and trumpet (?!). Since most of what they played was modern, I was very intrigued by what I was hearing. My only fear is I would lose the signal before knowing. But I caught a break, and needless to say by now, it was Sproton Layer. No other explanation was offered. I said to myself: "Well I got to get me this new group called Sproton Layer!" lol. I started doing research on the internet, and lo and behold Wayside had it in stock, with the explanation that it was an archival release from 1970. That certainly makes sense! But why would Wayside have it? Because the ever creative Roger Miller, was not only in Mission of Burma, but also the avant prog band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, a band who was on Wayside's own Cuneiform imprint. Amazing how all these things fit together sometimes. I bought it immediately, and now it has come up for a revisit. I'm not sure I've heard this album since 1998!

Anyway, if all the above bores you, suffice to say Sproton Layer will not! The band hailed from Ann Arbor (University of Michigan) and the music is a highly creative post psychedelic album, just prior to the progressive movement taking hold, and the trumpet adds a fresh layer of sound not typically found amongst the fuzz guitar blasts. I often say that 1970 is the American confused year both musically and socially - and Sproton Layer is the perfect representative of that era.

If you've gotten this far into the review and you're reading about a psych band from 1970 with trumpet, what might be you thinking? Yes, that's correct, the "psych monster" C.A. Quintet of Trip Thru Hell fame. And the results are remarkably similar. The only difference is Sproton Layer never released an LP in their day. Because if they did, it would also cost over $1,000 today. With ample availability (I think the first press is still around even), this is an easy recommendation for fans of late psychedelic and early progressive rock. This album is still criminally unknown.

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