Don my headphones, chillax with a cider, and prepare my eardrums for a new album from our local purveyors of space-rock goodness; Cracked Machine is a wild ride….
There are few occasions when mellowed music truly suspends me in the moment, when it just exists in the air like oxygen and totally incarcerates and engulfs my psyche. Jah Shaka and ambient house rascals the Orb both achieved this a couple of dusks at Glastonbury, but the same with likewise happenings, I confess I was intoxicated on matter maturity caused me to long leave in my past!
The issue for any reborn psychedelic-head is pondering the notion, will it ever be the same again, will music and art tease my perception to quite the same degree. The sorry answer is no, unless your intransigent mate slips something in your drink. Yet it’s not all despair, with a sound as rich and absorbing as Cracked Machine, it’s doable without drugtaking shenanigans.
They proved this at the most fantastic day in Devizes last year, which was that bit more fantastic, when what was intended to be a bolt-on feature became the highlight of DOCA’s Street Festival. Funded and arranged by Pete and Jacki of Vinyl Realm, the second stage highlighted everything positive about local music; a historic occasion we’ll be harking on for some time yet. I nipped away briefly after Daydream Runaways stole the early part of the day. But where the lively indie-pop newcomers had roused the audience, I returned to witness a hypnotised crowd and a mesmerising ambience distilling the blistering summer air. Smalltalk was numbed, as if the area was suspended in time. A doubletake to confirm we were still perpendicular, sitting in deckchairs or slouching against a wall on the corner of Long Street and St Johns and not slipped through a time vortex to a Hawkwind set at a 1970 free-party love-in. I was beyond mesmerised, but not surprised.
For this is how it was with their impressive 2017 debut album, I, Cosmonaut, the soundscapes just drifted through me, as I causally drafted the review, reminding me of a smoky haze of yore, giggling in a mate’s bedroom, listening to Hawkwind’s Masters of Universe. Youth of my era though, were subjected to electronic transformation in music, which would soon engulf us. Rave culture cut our space-rock honeymoon short, though, Spaceman 3 were a precursor to the ambient house movement of the Orb, Aphex Twin and KLF, others changed their style, like Frome’s Ozric Tentacles merging into Eat Static, and a perpetually changing line-up for Hawkwind appeased the older rock diehards.
I love I, Cosmonaut, it manages to subtly borrow from electronica and trance, only enough to make it contemporary, but keep it from being classed as anything else other than space-rock. I felt their second album, The Call of the Void avoided this slice of Tangerine Dream, and submerged itself totally in the hard rock edge; bloody headbangers! Therefore, it’s a refreshing notion to note newly released Gates of Keras bonds the two albums and sits between them perfectly.
Again, there’s little to scrutinise as it rarely changes, it meanders, trundles me to a world beyond wordplay, as these completely instrumental tracks roll into one another, gorgeously. A Deep Purple styled heavy bass guitar may kick it off, yet the opening track Cold Iron Light takes me to the flipside of Floyd’s Meddle, with seven and half minutes of crashing drums and rolling guitar riffs. Temple of Zaum continues on theme, Ozrics-inspired funkier bassline, and we’re off on the drifting journey, splicing subtle influences. The Woods Demon, for example, stands out for particularly smooth almost Latino guitar riff, making it my personal fave. Yet Move 37 is heavier, upbeat, like the second album. Low Winter Sun is sublime blues-inspired, imagine Led Zeppelin created Satisfaction rather than the Stones, if you will.
Recorded back in November, this is eight lengthy soundscapes of pure bliss, and will guarantee you a safe trip. A signature album for a lonely lockdown of dark, yet emersed in a time of Tolkien-esque vibes and mandelbrot set fractal posters. If this was released in the mid-seventies-to early-eighties every spotty teenager would be inking their army surplus school bag with a biro-version of Cracked Machine’s logo. As it is, age taking its toll and all, I have no idea if this still happens, but doubt it. None of that matters, here is a matured era of the genre, only with a glimpse of how it once was. Nicely done.