Guardian Alien - Spiritual Emergency [VINYL] - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Guardian Alien - Spiritual Emergency [VINYL]

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2014-01-27

“The whole universe is a model contained in my head which contains a model of my head, so I have two heads…” This snippet of pitch-shifted rambling, which opens the freaked-out space-rock jam ‘Mirror’, gives you a good indication of what to expect of Spiritual Emergency. Basically, get ready to explore the musical outer-limits.

Guardian Alien is the project of experimental New York drummer Greg Fox, erstwhile member of Liturgy. He’s put together a troupe of talented musicians for this third collection of improvisational work, and the results are often stunning. Most impressive is Fox’s drumming, showcased on the album’s first track, ‘Tranquiliser’, where he glides through fiendishly complex African polyrhythms while abstract voices loop in the hazy distance, occasionally creating further rhythms for his drums to bounce off, and guitars noodle and jam lazily over the top.

The result is incredibly dense and yet somehow light and airy, like catching snippets of music while walking on a sunny day. Useful touchstones would be Brian Eno and David Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Ital’s Hive Mind and Stockhausen’s ‘Gesang Der Juenglinge’, although really it takes those and makes its own thing out of them.

Third track ‘Vapour’ repeats the trick of ‘Tranquiliser’, only this time its African beats and burping vocal loops have a distinctly quirky, almost danceable edge to them. The following number, ‘Mirage’, is an immediate contrast: it’s six-plus minutes of unspooling guitar fuzz and feedback, echoing cries sloshing about in the sludgy backwater. It brings to mind both the extreme stoner-noise of Swans and the experimentation of Fripp & Eno’s seminal (No Pussyfooting), but it’s also the least interesting track here.

The album’s final number and title track is a 20-minute odyssey, which begins with another rambling monologue about cosmic mind-expansion before kicking into a jam that, quite brilliantly, sounds like 60s proto-synth duo Silver Apples given a hefty dose of speed. Fox’s manic jazz drumming is overlaid with random electronic squiggles and pulses while a guitar scratches out a punky one-note solo. The whole thing sounds thrillingly raw and live.

After building to a frenzy, the rhythms become more hypnotic, with echoing, mantra-like chants and Eastern-flavoured guitar lending a suitably transcendental feel to the music. However, while the synth sounds remain continually interesting, ‘Spiritual Emergency’ definitely tips over into self-indulgence, especially once some woman starts wailing needlessly over the top and the band build to yet another extended, noisy climax.

This slightly disappointing ending aside, Spiritual Emergency is a fascinating and engrossing listen. Brave and iconoclastic, and showcasing some startlingly good musicianship, it’s unlikely you’ll hear anything else quite like it this year. 

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