Monday, 30 March 2009

Carlton Melton - Live In Point Arena CA

The best way of explaining this new instrumental and experimental spacerock ensemble is through their words: “If you got the chance to record and play music in a Geodesic Dome off the coast of Northern California, wouldn't you form a band just for the occasion? Well that's the modus operandi of this strangely monikered band made up of former members of Zen Guerilla and friends, who ventured up to Point Arena (an area rife with Utopian minded dwellings including the Sea Ranch) for this once in a lifetime opportunity. But don't expect this to sound like Zen Guerilla's trashy MC5-inspired garage R&B, instead Carlton Melton experiment with a sound more sonically befitting to the dome's acoustic resonance, Space Rock! Equally krauty, droney, and at times cosmically ramshackle, Carlton Melton channel White Hills, Wooden Ships, Cave, bits of Kinski, Steve Hillage, and of course the less proto-metal leanings of Hawkwind with dual guitars, bass and organ hypnotically riffing through the domed stratosphere.”

So that’s what they have to say about themselves, though their self-released CD-R from their first session at the Point Arenan Dome (they planned another during late March which I assume has now taken place) also speaks volumes for the potential of the project. The music is rough around the edges but presented with an honesty that extends to noting the seven track names as being ‘working titles’, suggesting that the compositions here are in a state of development and flux. You can hear that. Some tracks, like the opening ‘Happy Song’, are state of nearing readiness, if needing further work, whilst others come across more embryonic.

‘Happy Song’ delineates a lot of what I liked about this CD; spacey, ethereal and moody with John Stevernagel’s drawling, laconic, bass setting a pensive tone around which the synths and guitars wistfully embellish the atmosphere. ‘Against The Wall’ moves them into noise freak setting, pent-up vibes like they are straining urgently at a leash and waiting to be let loose. ‘Fucking Funky Shit’ is absolutely what it says (this one’s on their Myspace player currently), groovy and trippy bliss to carry you away on a cloud of drowsy dreamscapes but with an undertone edge of rasping guitar. Less successful, their sonic noise explorations, like ‘Root Ball’, just sound like a band tuning up and waiting for inspiration.

Perhaps that’s just my taste. When they trip-out and take you away, I find what they are doing to be really dreamy and absorbing (‘Full Moon Ridge’ is another great example), when they get into experimental noisefest mode, I don’t think what they’ve got is developed enough for release yet. But there’s enough really good stuff here to be well worth seeking out, log-on to the Aquarius Records page and do a key word search for Carlton Melton.

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