Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Cosmic Dead: The Cosmic Dead Début Review

Nik Turner might be touring with legendary space rock heavy-weights Hawkwind once again, but The Cosmic Dead are here to show that 
[inter-]stellar music might be closer to this point in time than you might of first thought. - Review by Daniel Sharman.

Released in: 9th May 2011
Genre: New Age Death Psychedelia
Record Label: Cardinal Fuzz, Paradigms Recordings 
Medium: Double Vinyl, CD, Digital Download
Recorded at: The Moonshaker

From the outset, this début captures all of the wild, visceral impact of a wilderness psychedelia record, but repackages it in a brand-new, space rock-drenched form. The album features a number of musicians, but all of the vocal and guitar work is delivered by cosmic mainstay, James T McKay, whom, much like the rest of the album's musicians, understands the importance of playing just what the jam calls for - gentle and nuanced at times, forward and blatant at others. Drawing heavily from space rock icons of yesteryear such as Hawkwind and Gong, whilst simultaneously remaining fresh and unique in light of its contemporaries (e.g: Electric Moon, Mugstar, Carlton Melton, etc.), The Cosmic Dead's début LP brings a whole new brand of moribund excitement to the psychedelic rock stage.

The album kicks off with 18 minute opener, The Black Rabbit (a possible Jefferson Airplane reference?), which starts off with a synthesiser raga of sorts (once again reminiscent of Carlton Melton), one which provides a gentle start to the album whilst also giving it a feeling of levitation. After this three minute introduction drums, bass, and guitar explode into the mix, now accompanying the floating synthesiser work. The guitar playing is wild and unruly, throwing distorted licks up from the grounded arena of the bass and drums into the air so they may sit next to the work of the keys. Additionally, the guitar work on 'Black Rabbit' is somewhat more planned than on the other tracks, all the playing being performed around a central melodic theme. Near the end of the track, bass and drums are also allowed time for experimentation along with guitar and synth. 

Moving onwards, the album's second track, Spice Melange Spectrum, seems to adopt a more conventional length when compared to the débuts other track's. Moreover, 'Spice Melange Spectrum' is perhaps the most intriguingly titled track of the album, receiving kudos from for its implementation of obscure, French vocabulary. McKay's use of Wah on this track is used fruitfully to create whirling sonic landscapes, once again driving home the feelings of levity and etherealness. This guttural guitar work should have immediate appeal to fans of Ripley Johnson's playing on the early Wooden Shjips records, and also Nik Rayne's playing on the latest Myrrors release, Solar Collector (review here). 

The track's third album, Infinite Death of The Godhead (another intriguingly titled track), returns to a more familiar duration (13:44 minutes). This track is more focused on the power of the bass and drums, especially in combination, and appears to be almost minimalist in their repetitive, droning attack. Furthermore, vocal drones are provided by McKay himself, giving validity to the previously made Gong comparisons. Also, thanks to the continuing onslaught of the bass and drums, McKay's guitar playing is given the chance to take on a slightly more spaghetti western edge with waving, sinuous chords working their way in and out throughout the song, aided by classic surf lines of sharp, short bursts of twangy, reverberated action.   

Lastly, clocking in at 40 minutes, 'Father Sky, Mother Earth' (the title 'Mother Earth' further evoking notions of the aforementioned wilderness rock connotation) constitutes half of the 80 minute runtime of the album, and so demands an analysis on the merit of its duration alone. The track is a delicately jammed out closer, utilising a great, panning synthesiser sound throughout to give the track a true feeling of levitation. The track also relies greatly on the inventive work of bassist, Omar Aborida, to give structure and tonal nuance to the lengthy instrumental, the bassline ranging from a repetitive, driving sonic-propellant, to a droning, fuzzy backdrop. The drumming on the track is of a similar nature to that of the bass, providing a range of percussive voices, whilst still perpetuating a composed, unintruded atmosphere. This instrumentation creates an ideal stage for the once again, classically psychedelic guitar work and vocals of McKay, which makes use of a full range of effects, giving the album's ending a familiarly rock and roll feel. 

Critic's Comment: This may be a dense, lengthy review of a lengthy album, but don't believe for one minute that this début's content is anything but light and ethereal. This album is a perfect example of how focusing on producing the music that you want to create, with no concerned thoughts for conventional standards such as condensed duration, is perhaps the best way to produce quality music that will remain timeless and enjoyable no matter how many times it is played. Do yourself a favour this Saturday and sit back, eat a banana, and enjoy this one hell of a record.

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