Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Secret Saucer – Four On The Floor / Oresund Space Collective – Sleeping With The Sunworm

If this were a version of the 'Twelve Blogs of Christmas' ... and I'm not saying it is mind you ... then if the first gave to us one really good album that wasn't space rock in any way then the second ought to bring us two stonkingly good, meat-and-potatoes, nuts-and-bolts, something-and-something-else, honest-to-goodness 'proper' space rock bands and their recent releases. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you your friends and mine, Secret Saucer and Oresund Space Collective.

Secret Saucer have just released their fourth album, Four on the Floor, with guest appearances from saxophonist Greg Klucher on 'Celestial Spigot' and the always excellent Nick Riff who provides lead guitar on 'Time Spent Out of Mind'. We know the Hawkwind connection; Steve Hayes played in Hawkwind tribute band Sun Machine, tour-managed (I believe) their 1997 US dates and filled in as part of the Strangewind ensemble that performed at Strange Daze '98 in place of the advertised Hawkwind slot when Dave Brock and Ron Tree were denied entry into the USA.

It's always fair to note that there's a lot of Hawkwind influences in what Secret Saucer do; as Scot Heller notes on his review of their new record, there's certainly a bit of 'You Shouldn't Do That' about the kick-off track, 'Time Spent Out of Mind' which I'd place as being as much influenced by the Brock, Chadwick, Davey renditions than by the early 70s versions, though Scott is also absolutely right to note that there's just a suggestion of that number about this track and that it absolutely has its own identity and goes off into its own driving rhythms and patterns. Continuing that theme, though, 'Lunar Pull' has a Hawklords, 'Free Fall' feel to it and, like some other moments scattered around this record, has unexpected vocal contributions where we're used to Secret Saucer being an instrumental band. They still are, in essence, but they're pushing things a bit here, trying out other approaches, and very welcome that is too.

So that's the key Hawkwind influences, and there are others, but whether they're challenging classic HW, having something of the Hawklords to them, dipping their toes into electronica Hawkwind or having some of the pace and vitality of the 'Trio' era, Secret Saucer still always give us something bright and contemporary, really 21st Century sounding compositions. Klucher's sax playing on 'Celestial Spigot' is light and delightful, 'Awaken' is a pastoral, bucolic song with a wispy, fantasy lyric delivered in an ethereal way – not really my bag to be honest but effectively realised with gentleness and sympathy in the playing and a real juxtaposition to the more definitively space rock parts of the record – and the title track is a brooding electronic number. 'Daedal' plays with Eastern sounds ... all this and an eleven minute interpretation of 'A Saucerful of Secrets' as well.

What this album is, it's smooth and slick with the heavy parts never bulldozing over the intricacies and the cleverly brought together melodies and backgrounds embellishing the bass and drums. Blog followers, if you love your space rock enough to regularly pick over the side paths and meanders that I've worked through over the entries here, the albums that aren't quite space rock but could be perceived to be aligned to the genre or the more expansive approach that I've taken with including psych-pop, goth and industrial records, then Four on the Floor is bread and honey to you, proper, real, smart and fresh space rock and you need to get this pretty damn quickly.

Talking then of Scott Heller – and trusting that regulars here follow his blog as well since he covers much of the same field of music that I do here but much more promptly and in far greater volume of reviews – it's another point where I've been remiss recently since Scott has kindly sent across burns of the multiple Oresund Space Collective records that have been released during the last couple of years but, though I've listened to and enjoyed them all, print deadlines, sleeve notes and other tasks have meant that I've been slovenly in updating and progressing this blog and among the items I'm still to write-up are those newest OSC releases, though I've written about the band on previous occasions of course.

To at least begin to rectify that, the second of our albums for review on this entry is OSC's Sleeping with the Sunworm, a record which appears to have had a fairly long route to becoming available since the notes that arrive with it note that it was recorded at Black Tornado Studios in Copenhagen during October 2008, mixed there in January 2010 and then finally mastered in February 2011 and released as a limited to 500 copies Digipack CD.

"Totally Improvised Space Rock" declares OSC's website front page; clicking through and looking at the band's news page then I'm mightily relieved to discover that this is in fact a timely review after all as it seems that the actual release date is 1st December and copies are now available. But, yes, totally improvised they proudly declaim their work and long-time admirers will know that's the essence of what they are all about. Sleeping with the Sunworm is divided into three 'Parts' but like their other work it really runs together as a single elongated suite of music, loose and improvisational but never to the detriment of them appearing to go somewhere with their riffs and patterns. What Scott and his Danish and Swedish fellow musicians produce – time and again- is free form soundscapes – not the easiest thing for a reviewer to get to grips with and lay down a description on the page or screen for – but always music that draws you into their head space, that takes you out on a expansive trip (in many ways). It's not about writing up the 'Parts', indeed you feel that such designation is really cut for convenience, for ease of accessibility, since the Parts blur and meld into one another, but, as with the Secret Saucer release it's really about telling everyone that these bands who are our friends and fellow enthusiasts across the ether and into the downloads and samples and vinyls and discs are out there playing their hearts out for us, delivering us, that phrase again, proper space rock. Here's to them in 2012!

No comments: