Sunday, 10 January 2010

Nick Riff - Photon Shift

I started work on this review last weekend, put it to one side when even Cornwall was enveloped in a lovely covering of snow on Sunday (though it really didn’t produce as much snow as the time frame suggests, even though for the first time I can ever remember it snowed continuously from 8am through to late night), and then came back to finish the review off this morning. After I’d done some tidy up work on files that were littering my PC’s desktop. Fatal error there because as best I can see, I managed to delete the original review before loading it into blogspot. That’d be one of those ‘aargh’ moments, then.

Nick’s a positive veteran of the space rock scene. ‘Veteran’ in that he’s been playing music since the mid ‘70s, releasing his first single with hard rock band Serpent (“influenced by Hendrix, Sex Pistols, UFO and Cheap Trick”) back in 1978 and going on to play with various bands before deciding to pursue a solo career that yielded albums in the UK on the fabled Delerium and for Cleveland’s garage rock imprint Sonic Swirl. ‘Positive’ in that despite dropping out of sight for a large chunk of the noughties, he’s recently returned to the music scene, revved-up and committed to an on-going series of releases on his Riffdisc imprint, of which Photon Shift is the third. And ‘positive’ again, in that he’s also playing live and recording with Freak Element, his ever-changing, peripatetic band who have a free bonus disc, Music From Another Dimension, included with the first three hundred orders for Photon Shift.

Nick has very kindly sent me both discs, though I’ll concentrate here on talking about the highly-charged and exciting Photon Shift, which kicks off loud and proud with the fuzz-laden ‘Edge of Time’, all meshed sounds and studded with Nick’s righteous railings against the corporate state and the generation that ‘worships junk technology’. Like all the other tracks here, it’s extended, trippy, dynamic stuff and totally deserves a place amongst any self-respecting space rock enthusiast’s collection.

It’s easy just to hear Nick’s music as one sprawling head trip, loaded with cosmic gusto, spaced-out and psychedelic and completely thrilling in its verve and atmospherics. But then, there’s also a highly intelligent counterpoint to the freakzone sounds and that’s his opinionated, challenging in a thoughtful way, lyric writings. So he does make use of the standards of the psychedelic movement, “If you leave your body use your thoughts instead, no ending to forever, that’s what the mushroom said,” he writes on the eastern-flavoured ‘Symbiont”, but he’s also talking about stuff that’s highly relevant, often in a quite touching manner. The most laid-back moments of the album, on ‘Already Gone’, are an effective and affecting rumination on extinction that has both the despair of what’s been lost and a contrastingly hopeful expression that the next generation might be better custodians of what’s been left; a quite lovely song.

‘Already Gone’ is one of the quiet pauses in the album, along with the play-out number, ‘Halls of Amenti’, a broodingly low-key piece, and the title track, a brilliant and beguiling jewel of song-writing, all swaying, heartfelt, charm. The surrounding tracks are generally punchy and energetic, with a brilliant sense of groove, often danceable and put together to be played all the way up. ‘Glowing Bowl’ is a real pounding wall of sound, lyrically and musically pulling the listener “Higher and Higher.” ‘Symbiont’ is classic psychedelia that has the spirit of the genre, both musically and literary, rippled through it; ‘Mindflow’ an expansive nine-minute trance piece.

Absolutely great stuff, get this CD and quick!
Update! Don't be quick... be really quick... the bonus CD is almost sold-out!

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