Chemystry Set
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Chemystry Set


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"CHEMYSTRY SET - The Last Real Experience"

The first description I read about Chemystry Set and their music was that they are a San Francisco band with a unique approach combining funk, jazz, rock, folk, Zairian rhumba, Kraut-rock and Latin rhythms. For a moment, I thought, why narrow your focus--grin… The reality is after listening--hey this isn't a bad description for a one sentence approach. Another short description listed them as an anarcho groove rock band. I had to hear their recent work for myself. I contacted them and set up the opportunity to listen to their most recent release, "The Last Real Experience".
The group is made up of a variety of talented musicians: Sven Eberlein on guitar and vocals, Patty Hughes playing keyboards and singing vocals, Baba Njhoni picking at the mandolin and lending vocals, Dickie Ogden playing the drums, and Joel Oppenheimer filling in the bottom with his bass. The band is quite visible across the southern area of California and I am quite envious of the local patrons who get to see them on a regular basis.
The opening tune and title track, The Last Real Experience, begins with a woman's voice speaking in Portuguese through a filter that sounds like a telephone [maybe it is a telephone--grin]. The band overlays the opening dialog and a rock/jazz beat with a world sound lent by what I believe is a banjo in the mix. Clever keyboard and guitar fills create interest while the bass and drums create the rhythm. The vocal harmony reminds me of the early mixes of vocals of the Jefferson Airplane but with a jazzier and more polished feel. Yet the whole is very loose and fun!
Walk opens with a bouncy Supertramp sort of keyboard riff but quickly all similarities to that band change as the tune evolves into a pleasant tune about life enlightening for the subject with his walk through the diversity of earth's inhabitants. Drummer Dickie sets the pace like a metronome and the band manages to keep an exact pace but in the same moment keep the sound free and evolving. The guitar work flows like it was made of rubber.
Salaam starts with an ancient sound you might imagine in an eastern temple. Guitar builds this song into a melodic round giving the listener a musical picture of an open bazaar of life where the listener can receive the many rewards of their labor. It is full of many bouncing micro solos and integrated instrumental and vocal textures.
Think opens with an acoustic guitar riff expanded with light percussion and bass. A jazzy feel builds to rolling song with multiple movements somehow all sown together. It then twists and warps to a driving rocker before dropping back to a loose jazzy pace. The vocals describe a unique view of how we think and interact with what we learn and forget. A great slide solo with a slinky sort of texture dresses the middle of the song.
Follow The Idiopath features very intricate interplay between guitar, keyboard, bass and percussion while the voices play on top. There are interesting turnarounds and stops. Listen, read the lyrics, listen, think--you will get it.
Now And Right Here opens with a Brubeck timed bounce created with percussion and piano. As the song builds you are drawn into the menagerie created by the words. Other instruments build and swell far in the background. Then it twists into Leading The Saint. Stinging guitar sets the dark mood of the song. You can feel the despair.
Yeller is a bluegrass tune with guitar, bass [might be a washtub bass], voice and banjo. A couple of yeh haw's and we are foot stomping and romping through a song about a girl that makes this fellow's beer taste better.
Seed For A Dream speeds along with rapid drumming and a fast pace set of riffs. Psychedelic guitar solos romp on top of all. Patty takes the vocals.
Ghost Of Flesh features the piano and voice of a young guest member of the band. It is a fun close to the CD.

The Chemystry Set is fun, intriguing listening and a highly recommended purchase. They surprise me with new details every time I listen. Drop by their web site at and read about their band as well as link to where you can sample some of their music and pick up their latest disc. The Chemystry Set has a short, fun, and informative video available using Windows Media, click here to view it. Enjoy! ~ steve ekblad - - - Steve Ekblad

"Chemystry Set"

A band was playing outside Amoeba Records, on the corner of Haste and Telegraph. There were five of them, unplugged, playing upbeat, rhythmic, jammin' funky, happy sounding music. Finally, here was the new creative, colorful and refreshing vibe missing at the Park! Here were some 90's voices speaking their minds.

I found out later, after talking to Set member Sven Eberlein (guitars, vocals), that Chemystry Set first began experimenting several years ago at a place called the Hayward House in the Hayward Hills. Their goal was, and still is, to gather artists, writers, musicians and other kindred spirits together to inspire each other and create through the power of shared expression.

The songs on their CD, Life in the Underground, are about searching for meaning, exploring different paths, moving together, survival, transformation and community. Same thing as the People's Park crowd but with a present time energy.

It seems to me they have the concept that the present world order has raised them in darkness, has forced them underground. But, by banding together and nurturing their individual seeds of creativity, they are now ready to germinate and grow into the light of something different.

Chemystry Set is very likable, not only because they play good tunes, but because they put out a sincere vibration of trust in each other and in the possibility for human understanding and compassion. Check them out! - The Psychic Reader - Kirstin Miller

"How we became Setheads" - Scott Coldren

"Chemystry Set Experiment has been turning out well"

Sometimes you simply have to pipe down. I just can't shake the image of smiling hippie children frolicking down a hill while listening to Chemystry Set. Or an elderly, beanie-wearing, bearded Irish beatnik I once knew who, in a warehouse full of longhairs and urbanites, insisted on playing his cool jazz between CD's of disaffected grunge and angry hip-hop. It was his refuge and he did his best to take the rest of us there (maybe just to pipe the young punks down).

Chemystry Set piped me down.

In a good way, of course. The band sounds like they should be boiling their cool, sociological observations and tales on a Berkeley street corner. Beginning as an experiment among friends at a house in the Hayward Hills, Chemystry Set is now out sharing their thing with club fans in the East Bay and San Francisco.

Beside the vocals, drums, guitar and bass, the eight-member band features mandolins, piano, tamboura and kitchen utensils - whatever it takes to get the job done. It's the sort of thing that prompts people to dance in public. There's a trace of the spirit of bands like the Grateful Dead in their music, but it doesn't cross the line into too much space jamming - though there's definitely improvisation, with members feeding each others new grooves and things born from experimentation.

Some sounds vibrate between open-air jazz and old Genesis-type progressiveness (Peter Gabriel Genesis, not 1980's "Invisible touch" Genesis). There's a free groove that doesn't give away where the song is going next. All in all, it's a great vibe.

Did I just say "great vibe?" Well......."Have a nice day," while I'm at it. Honestly, and this comes from someone who once equated music with hitting things as hard as possible, that's OK. It works. I don't think anyone would say they don't need some good vibes. Certainly not my friend from the warehouse. - Contra Costa Times - Tony Hicks

"Cobblestone Below My Feet"

This is positive, uplifting music. It’s good for your soul. And yet, when you listen to the words, you begin to realize that what you’re hearing are warnings embedded in these beautiful melodies. Warnings that we as a human race need to rethink what we’re doing, reexamine who we are, and reestablish a better way of living because this world and this life are the only ones we’re going to get. Now, that may sound fairly cryptic, but it’s not, because following these warnings are reminders that hope does still exist and it’s not too late to embrace it. And we can begin by looking inward and reflecting back to the world around us in order to affect positive change.

Am I reading too much into all of this? Is it naïve to think that an album can change how you feel about the world around you? I don’t think so. The things you choose to be passionate about and draw inspiration from should stir your soul; they should be potentially life-changing. Too much of our existence is filled with shallow, plastic imitations of life that are being marketed to us by people who are not interested in our well-being. At this particular moment in time, when it feels like we live in an age where optimism is a rare commodity, Chemystry Set is here to remind us that it’s not too late, that there are still ways to improve things, and that you really can draw life-changing inspiration from music that genuinely matters. Yes, it really is as simple as that. Buy the album and see for yourself. - Scott Coldren, The Virtual Soapbox

"Chemystry Set – Cobblestone Below My Feet"

This eccentric, fun disc made me remember why I first fell in love with the Grateful Dead – at least until late in the band’s life, the Dead always tried to give you something no one else would or could.

So, listening to Chemystry Set’s ambitious Cobblestone Below My Feet in the same spirit of openness that made me appreciate the Dead’s Aoxomoxoa or Anthem of the Sun, I realized that Chemystry Set is one adventurously cool (or is it coolly adventurous?) bunch.

The title track veers between breakneck-paced and anthemically soulful (with a guitar solo seemingly influenced by Journey’s “Lights,” and that’s OK by me). “What We’ve Got” simmers into to a riveting jazz-funk duet between Baba Ndjhoni’s mandolin and Patty Hughes’ electric piano.

“One Never Knows” sounds like a good String Cheese Incident jam, only more techno and avant-garde. “Reinheitsgebot” is an even fierier instrumental, anchored by Joel Oppenheimer’s rolling and tumbling bass; Hughes raves on the piano, and Sven Eberlein counters with jabs of guitar.

“Hunger Down” is one groovy number, with a jangly Bo Diddley-esque vibe, heavy on bass and drums. Eberlein cuts loose on guitar over a catchy bubbling bass line, and the song ends on a chant-along jam.

“Tiger On a Roll” is another standout, a ballad that crests and falls, then ends on a powerful electric piano-led jam and finally some pretty, haunting organ chords.

Perhaps the most fun song on the album is "Sait Jamais." It's sung entirely in French and has a slinky, loping feel. The main piano riff sounds really familiar, like a variation on some soul hit from the mid-'70s.

The closing “Zydecongo Stomp” is sort of a trippier Little Feat-type rave-up. I dig the horns – they make it a leave-it-all-on-the-stage finale. The trumpet/guitar combo absolutely screams.

Another listen to this disc revealed how unique the vocals are, such as on “Cobblestone," "Tiger On a Roll,” and the Joni Mitchell-meets-Rusted Root "All of That." And, despite repeated listens, I have little idea what the heck the lyrics mean, but a theme throughout the disc seems to be people taking advantage of Earth’s resources (I think?).

Cobblestone, the band’s fifth CD, has a great communal feel to it. It is boldly genre-crossing and yields new discoveries with repeat listens. - Chip Withrow - The Muse's Muse


Cobblestone Below My Feet is a kick-butt extravaganza of expectations-defying, post-modern wonder.
The louder it gets, the better it gets.

- Steve Forrest, Seven Paws Press


Cobblestone Below My Feet - 2006
Live at the Sweatlodge - 2004
The Last Real Experience - 2003
The Space Between - 2001
Life in the Underground - 1998
Available through



Musicianship tight as an atom, music wild and roaming as the imagination of the unknown. It's like everything and nothing you've ever heard, a screaming reminder that rock is rebellion and must be reinvented each time it's played, or else it's just pop. In almost ten years of defying their own musical boundaries, San Francisco's homegrown Chemystry Set has integrated — yet never emulated — genres ranging from world rhythm, jazz, and groove, to bluegrass, fusion, progressive rock, and punk. Founded on an auspicious evening in November of 1996, the idea was to create a platform that would allow musicians of all different backgrounds and characters to add their own individual blend of skills and energy to the overall mix. Rather than finding any particular style to play, it seemed to make a lot more sense to let everyone's quirky personality unfold and see where it would take us. This way, the Chemystry Set could just stay the Chemystry Set while everyone was constantly evolving and experimenting with all the diverse elements inherent in it. Ultimately, it is the love for music and exploring the unknown together with fellow kindred spirits that brought us together and lends our eclectic orchestra its backbone and character.
In its illustrious life Chemystry Set has toured throughout Europe and the U.S., sharing the stage with artists ranging from Les Yeux Noirs and LoJo to Sound Tribe Sector 9, Tea Leaf Green, and Hot Buttered Rum String Band. 2006 marks the release of Chemystry Set's 5th full-length album (Ogden Park), recorded at legendary Mobius Studio in San Francisco.