Wherever You Go, There's the Guitar
Steven Wray Lobdell's mysteriously-named group follow their two albums of brain-cleansing psych-rock with this interim album, a collage of live performances from the band's Spring 2002 tour, containing primarily interpretations of material from those albums as well as Lobdell's solo album "Automatic Writing by the Moon." Add in three new songs, and you've got an album wherein, from the eastern melodies of "Solar Aquarius" through the pure Hendrixian leads of "Blue Cloud", it's all about the guitar.
Lobdell's trademark sound is a fuzzed-out, heavily-compressed guitar signal, warm and almost old-fashioned. It's his style that's unique, blending Krautrockish leads with fearless explorations of noise and atmospheric soundscapes. No doubt there's a heavy debt to "Electric Ladyland"-era Hendrix happening here, evident in his blend of thick sonic tide and clear lead fingerwork. But you'll also hear elements of Guru Guru, Ash Ra Tempel, and even Skullflower on this album.
"Solar Aquarius" offers eastern-tinged guitar set floating by insistent drones until it takes flight, while "Apocalypse Greeting Card" opens with a gorgeously thick guitar lead which then veers off to create waves of distorted splashes and static. The atmospheric interlude continues into "Lids of Pot," a brief, appropriately-fried collection of strange, delayed guitar sounds, tinkling bells, and metallic clunks and clatterings.
"Mellowed for Over 80 Million Years" is one of the new songs, 10 minutes of slowly-building scuzz based on a lazily insistent rhythm, deep wah-washes of fuzz, and head-opening guitar leads. This piece is one that will find you lying on the floor watching the dust motes float in the air above you, guided by the loping drums, wide bass, and intricate guitar filigree. It merges into "Uranian Wind," a pretty little interlude before "Loop 03". The dense, dark guitar and bass undercurrent is initially promising, very heavy and noisy. The song begins to solidify as an analog delay grabs and loops the guitar sound, but while the rhythm builds, things sort of peter out instead of taking off as expected. It's a little disappointing, perhaps the only let-down on the album.
The way that "All Mystics Are Numbered" kicks in is a perfect example of what I expected from the previous song. It's solid and heavy as the groove emerges from a cloud of guitar drone, a fast-moving rhythm, space rock in truth. The listener is kindly rewarded with some intense wah-guitar acrobatics while the drums and bass keep it all moving. The rock revival continues with "Blue Cloud," initially more Skullflower than Hendrix: super-thick droneish spume, but halfway through Lobdell takes off into the stratosphere with fuzzed-out leads that leave no doubt of their heritage. It's beautiful stuff.
After the album ends with the guitar's dying analog delay warble, you'll find yourself wondering where the hell you are. But it doesn't matter much. Just hit ‘play’ again.
By Mason Jones