CS / CD (2012)
Edition of 500 CD
Edition of 150 CS
DROWNED IN SOUND
By way of contrast, Journey Through Astral Projection, the latest release from the prolific Expo ’70 is, in many ways, exactly what you’d expect. That this comment is in no way a negative simply serves to highlight just how consistently excellent Justin Wright’s project has been over the past couple of years. Recorded at the same time as 2010’s fantastic Where Does Your Mind Go?, this is an album that explores similarly rarefied kosmiche atmospheres, without ever descending into the kind of bland new age pastiche that characterizes so many similar transmissions from the US underground. And when Wright’s guitar work is given space to breathe and he sends out sparkling flurries of echo-saturated notes, as on opener ‘Trajectory Rhythms,’ the results are genuinely revelatory. Check out the Immune records website for more details.
Justin Wright tends to the epic fields of kosmiche heaven with a majestic trip recorded during the same sessions as his modern classic from 2010, 'Where Does Your Mind Go?'. Again assisted by Matt Hill aka Umberto, these four tracks, recorded at Black Dirt Studios by Jason Meagher, survey aerial vistas and droning scapes as involving as anything we've heard from Expo 70. Quite remarkably, all four tracks are improvised on guitar, analog drum machine, the Hammond-esque Italian Crumar synth, Korg and Realistic Moog - no overdubs in sight - transposing a flawless, realtime flow of moods and atmosphere straight to tape. On the thirteen minute opener 'Trajectory Rhythms' burbling machine pulses entwine with cyclical, gaseous guitar notes on a slow but steady curve into the unknown, gradually expanding as they ascend until we're almost suffering altitude sickness (or is that just acid belly?) and left dazed and alleviated. Meanwhile with 'Seven Serpents' he calls upon the desert bound spirit of recent Earth records and Terry Riley meditations; curling, freeform-Gospel-like Crumar phrases layer into dense, intoxicating drones. But the most powerful piece is 'Growing Mushrooms Of Potency', where moire synth patterns form grid coordinates across the dark sky, blurred with a head-tilting dissonance until elegant machine rhythms syncopate and sketch out pluming constellations across the mind's eye.
It's been harder and harder to know what to write about Expo 70 records lately. Besides being uber prolific, we've pretty much exhausted out psychedelic stoner space rock thesaurus. Thankfully, this new one changes things up enough to give us something new to work with. Mostly the addition of rhythm, which the band have employed in the past, but never to such an extent. Sure they remain spacey, and psychedelic, and new age-y, and drifty and dreamy, and druggy, and washed out, hazy and gauzy and cosmic and kosmiche, and we could go on, but here, they open up their latest record with what might be their most chaotic and sonically dense jam yet. Starting off all stumbly and abstract, with skittery programmed beats, and loosely strummed guitars, some amp buzz and bits of glitch and random crunch, but then those sounds gradually begin to coalesce, the guitars super reverbed, the rhythms looped and mesmeric, the guitars getting more intense, and more driving, multiple loops and melodies layered, eventually some proper riffs entering the equation, churning beneath clouds of those looped melodies, all the while, that rhythm skitters away, the song getting louder and louder, more intense, easily on of the heaviest things we've heard from these guys in a while, bordering on White Hills / Heads territory there for a minute, before fading back into something much more tranced out and meditative.
And while the rest of the record isn't quite so dense or heavy, the songs definitely display both a cool sort of jammy looseness, as well a penchant for something darker and more dense than usual. "Seven Serpents" minus some spidery guitars is a lush undulating expanse of layered synths, and warm whirling dronemusic, definitely cosmic, and spaced out, minimal, and super mesmerizing. "Growing Mushrooms Of Potency" starts off with a sky full of BBC Radiophonic Workshop / sci-fi bleeps and bloops, before another lo-fi skittery rhythm comes in, and then finally some low slung bass, and some shimmery organ, and we're in full on intergalactic drift mode, dodging stray FX and clouds of celestial glimmer, and then at the very end, the sound shifts, and becomes intensely dark and ominous, like some sort of soundtracky Umberto style creepdrone, which fades out WAY to soon. And then finally, "Heartfelt Moon Tripper" finishes things off with what begins as a hazy big of new age-y shimmer, all glistening crystalline clouds and warm whirring chordal drifts, until about half way through, a dark heartbeat like pulse surfaces, and dense little guitar tangles begin to loop and layer, until the hazy opening layers are shed completely, and replaced with a deep ominous thrum, wound around that sinister pulse, all surrounded by streaks of jagged melody and howling echo drenched sheets of guitar swirl, until a brief bit of Zombi / Goblin like cinematic synthscapery ushers the song to its more ethereal conclusion.
Expo 70 has been releasing Kosmische style drone for knocking on a decade now. That’s ages... seriously that’s a long time. ‘Journey Through Astral Projection’ was recorded at the same time as ‘Where Does Your Mind Go?’ with the able bodied help of Matt Hill (Umberto) on bass and drum machine. Justin Wright locks into his groove with guitar, realiistic moog and crumar (an Italian vintage synth from the 60’s). This sounds sweet! I was expecting some blissed out drones but instead we have a more moogy proggy krauty affair. On the opener the drum machine is very much like Suicide with it’s pulsing fuzzyness and it’s swathed in widdly guitar. Nice! ‘Seven Serpants’ has a more churchy disturbed vibe to it with a wonky sounding organ and that mixed in with a 70’s Italian horror vibe. ‘Growing Mushrooms of Potency’ is a psychedelic sounding hotch potch of organs, moog frequencies and a bontempi style beat. It’s fucking good! The whole CD is actually. It’s a lot more interesting and varied than his other albums I’ve heard and overall it’s his most cosmic and psychedelic. So if you fancy 52 minutes of psychedelic funtime then get on the magic bus. Strong work indeed!! - Rating: 5 ...according to our Phil on 30 January 2012.
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The journey upwards and outwards into oblivion, blasting out into the far reaches of space and discovering the unknown. Insistent beats that help propel yet over time are drowned out by the layers of sound, waves slowly dissipating themselves as they venture further out. Once out there, the spectral, heavenly music begins, that which belongs to the far out churches among the cosmos. Touches of brooding feedback saturate the soundscape, with piercings of noise cropping up from time to time. The sonic concoctions only get more warped afterwards, now twisted by the environs of space to become mangled frequencies, lost and confused out in a dead zone devoid of life. A return to enveloping soundworlds gradually occurs, even if still in the outer reaches, finding a form of acceptance in the unknown.
New studio album from the duo of Justin Wright and Matt Hill, a continuation of the Where Does Your Mind Go? sessions recorded at Black Dirt Studios. Less of a heady/devotional Popol Vuh vibe to this and more of a Swastika Girls/Fripp & Eno feel, with clipped, treated electric guitar bleeding after-images into oblivion while synths whir and pugilistic drum machines kick the whole thing into early-Heldon territory or even some of the recent Ashtray Navigations form. The high keyboard masses have the kind of cosmic grandeur of Nitch’s harmonium works, making this the perfect soundtrack to your next private ritual. Edition of 500 copies.
A rickety, rudimentary analogue drum machine, bumbling like a hobo high on Mexican mushrooms, then runs down a kaleidoscopic corridor. There’s no golden furnishing in sight – it’s all dark hues and overcast charm. Forward-moving directional tendency reaches a crossroads, pulse getting in way of harmonics. Three tracks in, a delayed sonar shined through the recesses of early 80s semi-disco: playing kerplunk with post-punk. Melody, Kraftwerk’s “The Model” – like in effervescence with the shakers, Moog playing alongside, constantly ascends and descends pitch, sending the mind on a psychotherapeutic loopy trip. Sole unknown resolve is comedown. So is this kosmiche music, I hear you ask?
Journalistic mouthfuls spill from freshness impetus; phrases from constriction of the past. That’s where Justin Wright, aka Expo 70, came in 2010 to adjoin the long and short with “Where Does Your Mind Go?”, a highly acclaimed hour culled in one day at Jason Meagher’s studio. Jason’s an artist you’d recognise from “The Time Machine” collaboration on Jack Rose’s “Honest Strings” charity compilation via Thrill Jockey. Expo 70, otherwise, splays out dronescapes with witty resume, as if operating from an electronic spreadsheet; fine details getting boxed into shape as he goes. With “Journeys Through Astral Projection”, Wright’s companion album to “Where Does” – recordings being taken from that session – bedrock certainty sheen cleans up against purring electric guitar, and unwanted contact with percussion, as if a sleight of hand compared to full force, is egg-whisked to offer life in lands besieged by schematic illogic.
In his 2010 book “Krautrock”, complimentarily, Nikos Kotsopolous wrote: “If we rightly refuse to use the term kosmiche to tag the whole progressive psychedelic German music scene, we can reserve it for a musical sensibility that fluctuates between two largely improvisatory poles of interstellar overdrive. On the one hand, you find yourself sucked towards the black holes that lies at the heart of the heaviest jams laid down by Amon Düül II and Ash Ra Tempel: a ferociously intense psychedelic spooge-fest whose disavowal of the usual Anglo-American blues substratum signals a formal transcendence of the planet and its ‘earthy’ music. At the other pole, the kosmiche freespace loses all structural relationship to rock’n’roll, even to rhythm and tonality, and becomes the literally groundbreaking ‘space music’ of early Tangerine Dream and Irrlicht-era Klaus Schulze.” Two roles texturally interplay here: bullheaded raga-ish ambience, and drumwork eeriness overlaid. “Trajectory Rhythms”‘s beats sound feistily monolithic, drilling opening promise against solid brick. Consequently fraught with syncopation swivels timbrally, listener ideas formulate that cosmic roundabouts approach, if not swing, nose and slide.
“Seven Serpents”, on this footing, transposes species folklore – heads popping out of snake charmer baskets – to sonic emulation, serenading the gap between Rock and silent tongues. For all its sprawlingly-weaved scattergun notes, Moog synth propping back into the smogged mood undercutting it, reptilian, scaly animalism means direction is skewed from obstinance. So, it develops a bargain with interbred instrumentation; never discovering how to satisfy itself outright. Placing you in intrigued quasi-assumption, mooching presumptions into a belief of enuui through sound, a noble attribute for Wright’s heavily prolific career. This is one of his brightest releases to emerge from the walls of distortion he’s rifled from 2005 onwards. Attesting darkness and gossamer thinness rarely cross paths in drone-steeped music, and if they do, it’s mainly resulting from sparing employment of features, flattened out to an uninspiring anticlimatism, closer “Heartfelt Moon Tripper” beams in lighter counterpoint theory: if you don’t meet someone where they are, you’re not going to be able to help them. And seeing as preceding tracks walked an undecided tightrope between Earth and space, the cosmic and the natural, Wright’s remainder cards are given out with flair. Now that’s cosmic, man.
- Mick Buckingham for Fluid Radio