Sunday, 14 May 2017
Review: The Sonic Shamen - Tribute To Lemmy
I hesitate to call this band of like-minded psychonauts a 'supergroup'....that word has too many connotations, for every Cream there us an Audioslave, for every Captain Beyond a Velvet Revolver. However, the fact remains that the line-up reads like a veritable Who's Who of psych/space rock: Fred and Jon (Earthling Society), Martin (Litmus), Vince (Red Elektra 69, Alan Davey) and Dr Space (Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle) along with Dave Anderson (he of Hawkwind, Groundhogs, Amon Düül II), the owner of Foel Studios in Wales where this merry band of heads gathered to 'see what happened'. On this showing, what happened was a superlative set of jam sessions that pretty much acts as a travelogue of classic psychedelia, taking in the spirit of Floyd, Hawkwind, Amon Duul and The Moody Blues. All this happened in November 2015, shortly before the untimely death of Lemmy and so it also acts as a posthumous tribute to him. It should also be noted that some of those present are already partly responsible for two of my favourite albums this year - 'Zen Bastard' and 'From Here to Here' - so expectations were very high for this. (NB. this review is based on the vinyl which has a bit of a different tracklisting to the Bandcamp version)
Proceedings kick off with '7 Or 7 Or Not', a take on Hawkwind's '7 By 7' and is a wonderful swirling psychedelic track that harks back to the seventies. The guitar is reminiscent of Pink Floyd in their pomp - that same rich tone and meandering melody that has soundtracked a thousand trips..it is a lysergic journey that maintains a chilled aspect despite/because of some fantastic playing. The addition of some spacey electronica courtesy of Dr Space gives things an air of cosmic spacerock so beloved of Hawkwind. This is 'grown up' psychedelia - there is no bombastic shredding, just some pure and utter joyful music. This is wonderful. The title of the second track pretty much says it all - 'Sam's Gopal' - another track of spacious psychedelia with an exotic eastern motif care of some clever percussion. It is a track that is more reliant on atmospheres and so is heavier on stellar drones and pastoral guitar but the end product is something in which to luxuriate..beautiful! Thing's turn a LOT heavier for 'Freaky RNR', you can see the spirit of Lemmy looming large over this one with a big shit-eating grin on his ugly ol' mug. This is good old-fashioned rock and roll full of vim and verve and plenty of space rock attitude...like Hawkwind at their heaviest or Motorhead had they joined the jam queue instead of the punk/metal queue. 'Ravi In Space' is a side long number, clocking in at 17 minutes and, as the title would suggest, is heavy on the eastern influences. It takes the concept of Raga and puts it firmly in space, just to the left of Betelguese to be exact. It is another beautifully played and deeply meditative track that lulls and electrifys the listener in equal parts. 'Stoned Dead You're Clever' sees the jamming get heavier but still retaining a control and restraint that is sometimes missing from jam recordings. It takes in classic psych and krautrock but has an identity all of its own while hearing the Earthling Society in its structure and guitar. It is simply brilliant...a masterclass in jamming. 'In The Kitchen' is a short track of 2 guitars taking a flamenco sideswipe at jamming (and at times sounding a lot like 'Pinball Wizard'). For those who invest in the vinyl, it comes with a bonus CD which is the guys jamming with Dave Anderson - it is a gargantuan 74 minutes in length and is simply outstanding and left me speechless with admiration at the sheer level of skill and technique all involved possess.....I would say it is the type of thing to which aspiring musicians should listen, but I get the feeling that it would cause many instruments to be thrown into corners accompanied by wails of "I will never be that good".
We have been truly spoiled this year with the number and sheer quality of new releases....already I have 3 vying for 'album of the year' and I can happily add another to that! 'Tribute To Lemmy' is simply remarkable.....an album of such quality and class it beggars belief. All involved already have many releases and musical notches on their belts and have had more than th eir own share of plaudits but this....this is special! As I mentioned earlier, it is 'grown up' psychedelia..those looking for musical pyrotechnics and thousands of effects should look elsewhere..this an album built on a mutual respect between all involved and a level of experience that has been hard earned. Every player brings something to the party and the result is a triumph of co-operation and communication. Staggering! I would like to think that Mr Kilminster is looking down and raising a glass of Jack Daniels in appreciation. 'Tribute To Lemmy' is available on vinyl from Sapphire Records here and as a download/streaming from the Bandcamp page here and is released on 29th May.