battered by the sonic weight of the guitars
Ah, the delights of reviewing... You know, now and again you get to hear a record by a previously unknown band that knocks you off balance; a recording that leaves you wondering how on earth no-one else has noticed this.
Such is true of Earthling Society's two LPs, Plastic Jesus... and Albion, which we received, completely unheralded, this last month. These two records are, in a word, utterly brilliant and I advise you to hunt them down without delay. And, if you consider yourself a fan of Krautrock and psychedelic space rock I'd say they're well nigh essential.
As an LP, Plastic Jesus is much more brooding in tone than its relative; the opener, Council House Mystics is an uneasy truce between growling Chameleons style guitar and a Damo-era Can shuffle groove. There are two Kosmik Suites on this LP (showing that Earthling Soc's colours can be firmly pinned on the Kosmiche mast of Dieter Derks et al).
The first suite starts of jauntily enough; a queasy synth takes us back to Gong's mid 70s releases (or at least the 70s "shout about Pepsi" advert) Once the vocals enter all is changed and the band are effectively paying homage to 7 Up. It is jangly, meditational (despite the jauntiness of the playing), and groovy. The music soon begins to work up a head of steam in the second part of the suite with a formidable guitar work out which judders to a halt... preparing us for Plastic Jesus, a slobbery, sludgy instrumental which dovetails nicely with the follow-on track, Psychick Sunday (Hallucinations in the Airscape) This track seems to play a similar role to The Bogus Man on For Your Pleasure, as the beat informs all the instruments around it, and lends a melancholy air to proceedings. It's also similar to a couple of Associates instrumentals, most notably A Whiter Car in Germany.
Girls Talk is a standard, but pleasant West Coast Psychedelic cut. But what really holds the attention on this LP though is the Kosmich Suite 2. This is a tour de force, a piece that tries to out-Ash Ra Ash Ra Tempel. Ginnungagap is classic Jenseits era 'Tempel, beautiful wafts of phased guitar soothe the listener and take them ever upwards, preparing them for the space-age epic that must surely follow. As it is, We're Not Gonna Make It comes as something of a shock, as the music really shifts up a gear and enters true Hawkwind territory. It's just on the acceptable side of bonkers to be honest, but its enthralling stuff. Ragnarok (or is it Mimir's Spring? At this precise point 9 minutes in, I don't know, I'm still battered by the sonic weight of the guitars) at once becalms, and then prepares us (I'm sure) for another bout of space rock. Which comes screeching in on a darkened cloud, (imagine it in your mind's eye, gentle reader). This must be The Black Heart of the Sun. Things do calm down considerably, and for a while we're back in As Ra Land again. Things end with a (thankfully) meditational work out...
All in all it's a tremendous listen. And, after all that, you get a live bonus track!
As to Albion, well, I have to say this is a tremendous release, much more spacey and varied than Plastic Jesus...; in some places it is even more gripping. The opener, Black Witch is a menacing cracker; it's as if the Cosmic Jokers had jammed with 17 Seconds era Cure, just for the crack, like. Heart of Glass is brilliantly slothful and moody and there's a definite feel of King Tubby here amongst the Cosmic Jokerisms. For a full on prog-rock record there's a hint of eighties romanticism too, Bragg's romanticism, that of the Chameleons, or the Smiths. The title track seems to pull these yearnings into a coherent sonic whole. Albion is a brilliant lament, complete with wailing guitars and fizzy synths.
As soon as you hear the warbling guitar and flute you know that the following track, OutsideofIntime is obviously space-bound. Whispered vocals only confirm the theory. This song invades Ash Ra Tempel or Walter Wegmuller territory again, but please; take heart. Constant referencing of Ash Ra Tempel or Walter Wegmuller is a very good thing indeed. Beltane Queen continues the folky space groove feel; it's a classic meditational piece, enlivened by pattering congas and a reedy flute. In contrast When it all Comes Down is a sassy, streetwise affair, the vocals are very much in the school of Damo and the weak wa-guitar lends a seedy charm. A fabulous washed-out guitar strum ends the track.
As is de rigeur with Earthling Society LPs, we get a behemoth clocking in at around 15 minutes to end proceedings. Universal Mainline starts quietly enough; a voice runs through a sad sounding couple of bars, accompanied by a piano and radio interference. The track develops onto a beautiful high-altitude cruise which dips and sways in volume during its lifetime. A warped, slightly groggy guitar sound ends matters. A truly fabulous album.
Get these LPs.
Words: Richard Foster