Posts Tagged ‘Kosmiche’

Tengger – “High”

After records on Must Die and GuruGuru Brain, South Korean family band / drone wizards Tengger land at Beyond Beyond is Beyond. The band has two records out in short succession in 2019, Spiritual in March on Extra Noir, and Spiritual 2 in June from BBIB. Like the previous release Spiritual 2 centers on the harmonium, voice and toy instrument drones of itta and Marqido, drawing on the traditions of Kosmiche travelers skirting the skyways before them. Mustering memories of Cluster, Michael Rother’s (recently reissued) solo works, or French Canadian floaters Harmonium, the first song seeping out to the public, “High,” sparkles with a serene burble. If the band hasn’t been on your radar yet then this is a good chance to grab a US release from the meditative duo. Spiritual 2 is out June 7th.

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Michael Rother – Solo

Odds are if you’re familiar with Michael Rother round about 2019, its from his work with Neu! or Harmonia. If you’re digging deep, perhaps from his short stint with Kraftwerk. This month, however, the light gets shown on Rother’s tight but enticing catalog of solo works as his label Groenland issues them in the box set SOLO. The tone in his works always captured a sense of wonder, but with Neu! there was also a feeling of modernity as well. Following his move to the smaller hamlet of Frost, in Northern Germany and his connection with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius to form Harmonia, there slipped in a bucolic calm, but also (often to Rother’s chagrin) a formless float that wasn’t tethered to the heartbeat hum that had been his bedrock.

In 1976 the members all looked to solo ideas and Rother embarked on Flammende Herzen, which kept the calmer shades and lush atmospherics of his country surroundings but added in a bit more backbone than Harmonia had offered. This could quite rightly be attributed to excellent contributions by producer Conny Plank and Can’s own Jaki Liebezeit, but Rother’s vision was sound even without his ringers. The resulting album revels in natural wonder, working effervescent rhythms and Rother’s dewy guitar leads into an album that’s a soundtrack to the sun.

Surprised by its success Rother dove back in with a renewed confidence and a bigger budget, given that the solo album was outselling any of his previous works at home. Sterntaler follows much of the same feelings as the first LP before he broke new ground with ‘79’s Katzenmusic (inspired by his love of Cats) incorporating a less restrictive beat and a wider palette of instrumentation than before. While the record doesn’t exactly inspire mewling, its another instrumental dip into the blissful end of the pool, albeit now with a looser handle on the sticks and sequences. Quite sadly for audiences, this blissed trip would also be his last with Conny Plank at the controls. As he slid into his last, and quite frankly darkest period for ‘82’s Fernwarme, he’d leave behind his veteran producer in the process.

This last album in the set still retains Rother’s deft hand on the strings and synths, but turns a bit darker and away from his pastoral times, centering more on life in Hamburg than his idyll out in Forst. Jaki remains on the drums, giving the album another rhythmic tie in – looser still like Fernwarme wound up, but the record doesn’t capture the bliss as well as some of the others. The set’s rounded out with new live cuts and remixes, along with some soundtrack work, but its thos core four albums that make up the true meat of SOLO – a complete picture of Rother’s imprint on the guitar world bound up in one fine form. If you’re a fan of any of his other bands, not to mention other German Progressives like Ashra, Manuel Göttsching, Tangerine Dream, then this set seems like a solid place to spend a little time.



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Thee Open Sex

After some great tapes and a release on their own Magnetic South Records, Bloomington’s Thee Open Sex bring their hypnotic sound to Sophomore Lounge. The new LP tumbles headlong into cosmic synth with a German Progressive punch. Still anchored by the core duo of John Dawson and Tylor Damon (Damon/Dorji Duo, Circuit Des Yeux), the pair augment their sound with the help of members of Burnt Ones, Creeping Pink and Call and Response House Band. White Horses is a meditation on a theme that covers both sides of the new release. Creeping and claustrophobic, the record drops out into minimal space with a core of repetition offset by a grinding drive doused in drone.

The band brings in further help from Kosmiche master in his own right Cooper Crain, who helped the band record and mix this crusher. With Crane guiding the shading on the LP the band takes the listener through the twists of a towering build. They start out in calm space as they ease into “Pt. 1,” rolling steady strums against a steady lap of percussive patter. The tension mounts over the course of the track, but it’s the flip where they let loose the power of the White Horse. By the end of “Pt. 2” the band has fully whipped the universe into a sonic froth, engulfing the listener in a psychedelic storm that threatens from all sides. Its almost a relief when the chaos clicks to a close, the clouds part and sun trickles in at the seams of madness. Recommended listening at maximum volume to really hammer home the heights of tethered tension on this record.



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CAVE – “San’ Yago”

Over the last few years Cooper Crain has been so enmeshed in his glycerin drone unit Bitchin’ Bajas and busy with production work its hard to remember that the man commanded one of the great prog psych bands of our time. CAVE returns with a new album this year on Drag City, just to remind us how sorely they are needed. First single from the upcoming Allways is a cosmic funk number that digs it’s boots into a groove and doesn’t let go. A velvet bass tugs at the tail of this cut. Crain’s keyboard runs fire somewhere between German Progressive and Italo Library psych. Surrounding it all a tangle of percussive poprocks and some air-cooled vocals help cement this into the kind of soundtrack that’s made to get stuck in the 8-track of your Pacer for all time.

Amplifying the ‘70s vibe, the band has worked up a video that’s splitting time between blurring lights and sepia toned travels through the country’s hot dog shacks and roadside greasy griddles. “San’ Yago” is CAVE stepping back atop the mountain of instrumental psych groovers and picking up their crown from the ash. This one is high on the list of albums to look out for in the second half of 2108.



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Bitchin’ Bajas / DSR Lines – The Encyclopedia of Civilizations Vol 2: Atlantis

Abstrakce Records continues their series of tonal explorations of ancient civilizations. Following the first installment from April of last year which saw Jonas Reinhardt and Jürgen Müller (aka Norm Chambers in full ‘80s synth mode) attempt their take on the cradle of Egypt, the series moves from myths to legends with DSR Lines and Bitchin’ Bajas exploring the lost civilization of Atlantis. As might be expected watery synths rule the day here, at least as pertains to DSR’s side of the split. Working through improvisations on Buchula 200 and Serge Systems synths, Belgian artist David Edren nails the shimmering quality of underwater sounds. This could work handily as a high-minded backdrop to an oceanographic exploration doc, though its just as easy to imagine “Panorama” or “Lineage” as the environmental ambiance of an advanced and submerged people. With “Deluge” Edren scratches through the serenity to add a feeling of rising anxiety – cracks in the glass, tectonic swells or the encroaching poisons of the surface perhaps. Whatever the worry, Edren makes it feel real and immediate, like a civilization running out on their years of solitude and preparing to fight for their way of life.

Cooper Crain and crew take a slightly different tack on the Bitchin’ Bajas side. Rather than capturing the feeling of life from the Atlantean side theirs drops instantly into a burbling scientific haze, capturing the whirring instruments of exploration searching for the legends that pockmarked their illustrated children’s compendiums. There’s a sense of swelling depth – present here through increasingly felt throbs of bass that undercut the sparkling wonder of synths capturing dazzling dials and flashing lights that wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘70s sci-fi epic. The Bajas nail a Kosmiche sense of wonder that’s just as liquid and dazzling as their counterparts on the flip.

Together the two sides make up a gloriously deep and inviting environment that nails its goal of evoking otherworldly enclaves under the ocean. Doing the listener one better, Abstrakce goes for high marks with packaging, adding letterpressed sleeves and a thick booklet exploring the myths of Atlantis for reference. All in all a gorgeous piece that’s proving exactly why the large format is worth the price of admission – physical and tactile to its core.




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LFZ – “Naturalistic”

Drumming up JD Emmanuel comparisons and carving at the heart of Kosmiche float, LFZ (aka Sean Smith) taps the cosmos via heavily processed guitar rather than the genre’s preferred weapon, the synth. Finding some solid overlap with later period Ashra as well, “Naturalistic” is bubbling with a crystalline calm, lulling the listener through hypnotic higher states with liquid licks. Smith notes that, “Where most of Name Plus Focus deals with airy themes, “Naturalistic” is elementally the most earthy piece on the record and is more about conjuring an image or place to one’s mind than the usual emotional abstractions in my work. I visualize an ancient woodland ritual or a lumbering mammal or an insect on the move in the redwoods of Northern California, but the listener should experience the freedom to perceive natural spaces familiar to them.”

The track is locking down a space on his upcoming LP for Casleface, giving them an unusually calm respite in a sea of fire eaters on that roster. Keep eyes out for it July 20th.


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Taj Mahal Travellers – August 1974

It’s been a hell of year for out of print Japanese psych classics. With Black Editions firing on all cylinders there’s plenty to love from the depths of the PSF empire but Aguirre’s creeping in with a classic of their own. The Belgian imprint has rounded up the cosmic float of Taj Mahal Travellers’ definitive album, August 1974, in all its double-wide glory. The band, known for their eclectic live performances and outdoor improvisations, took to the studios at Columbia Japan for four pieces stretched over four sides, each a deeper dive into electronic quaver, echoplexed violin, growled drones, and charring feedback. The record stands at the apex of Japanese improv and its tendrils wrap deep into the following decades’ younger players as one of the main influences of the new psychedelic front. Though it’s clear that the band had a heavy link to their German Progressive counterparts around the same time, effectively taking up the far east version of Kosmiche on this record, they give the proceedings a distinctly Japanese bent, taking what they’d acquired from a few EU tours and bending it to their will in the studio setting.

Aside from this record the only other official document from the band while active was July 15, 1972 a live recording from Sohgetsu Hall in Tokyo that got the official treatment as their debut. Following August 1974 the band would break ties, with most of the younger members dropping away from the scene and violinist Takehisa Kosugi continuing his journeys through experimental circles, even winding up with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as musical director for a while. The spectral howl of the band’s heavy hitter rears its head as an influence in psychedelic circles to this day, so its great to have this back in an official capacity on the table. Highly recommended for fans from Ash Ra to Acid Mother’s and everything in between.




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Vive La Void

Most know Sanae Yamada as one half of Moon Duo, where her synths butt against Ripley Johnson’s guitars for a hypnotic grind that’s forever indebted to the German Progressives that came before them. During endless hours on the road with the Duo Yamada began work on a tangential venture, one that’s still buzzing with Kosmiche life, but taking on a much more introspective bent than Moon Duo. Vive La Void comes as an apt title for her solo work. The eponymous LP on Sacred Bones floats in a psychic ether, sandwiched between planes as it were – with insistent beats pillowing a steady pulse of synth tones and Yamada’s trapped under glass vocal delivery giving the project a dreamlike appeal.

The rhythms beg movement, a dance, a twitch even, but their contrast with the spectral vocals makes for a record that’s at odds with itself. Vive La Void is constantly pulling towards the calm float of sensory deprivation but forgetting to lock the lid on the capsule. The boombox grind from the outside ekes its way into Yamada’s dream and she and the listener are suspended in time watching the lights and imaginary dancers spin around us, partitioned by plexiglass just out of reach. As such her album takes on a slightly sinister quality, detached and appalled at the situation. Her alchemy makes for a standout debut from VLV, placing this far from side project status and well into the realm of dream pop purveyors of the highest order.




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Cool Maritime – “Sharing Waves”

Cool Maritime blends the rippling strains of Kosmiche with the mossy, woodsy intimacy of field recordings. In the video for the title track off his upcoming LP, Sharing Waves, Sean Hellfritsch builds the perfect scene, utilizing his “lunchbox” modular synth in the hazy morning woods far from the concerns of the rest of humanity. The track, like the bulk of Cool Maritime’s work, is reflective and peaceful – a virtual volume knob for the screaming world outside clamoring for attention. The LP, his second for Leaving Records, promises a full-time dropout from the din, but in the meantim this is a nice little respite from mounting angst.

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Tim Blake – Crystal Machine

Those of you reminiscent for a bit of laser Floyd might want to thank stynth wizard Tim Blake. Following a tenure in Gong and just preceding one in Hawkwind, the artist ventured out to dip into solo synth float and struck up a collaboration with French lighting designer Patrice Warrener, adding lasers and lighting effects to his live show as psychedelic spectacle. The two dubbed their working symbiosis Crystal Machine, and the name doubles as the title for Blake’s first solo album, now remastered and expanded with live bonus cuts by Esoteric Recordings.

There’s definitely a burble of the old German Progressives foaming underneath Blake’s work, but you’d unearth more clues looking to his time with Gong. On albums like You or Angel’s Egg Blake created a heady heatwave of synth that’s never stuck on its own ingenuity. He continues that tradition here, riding psych opuses for optimum enjoyment rather than mere Rick Wakeman levels of tech wizardry. The album winds up a bit uneven given that portions of it are live, but considering that was how this particular portion of Blake’s career was inspired, it makes sense that he’d capture himself in the element with Warrener’s light show fueling his direction. He’d follow this up with a proper studio album, New Jerusalem, before heading on to his run in Hawkwind. It’s an artifact of its time, but well worth checking out for fans of Tangerine Dream and their ilk.




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