- Translucent blue vinyl (Limited Edition)
- Taking Off Her Head (Fatso Jetson)
- Flesh Trap Blues (Fatso Jetson)
- Jettisoned in the Rushes... Phase One (Farflung)
- Igneus Spire (Farflung)
Release Date: May 8, 2015
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds Records
The two probably have more in common existentially than sonically. Both Fatso Jetson and Farflung trace their roots back to California in the early ’90s, Farflung having gotten together in ’92 and Fatso Jetson in ’94, and both have endured over the two-plus decades since while remaining consistently underrated at home and abroad. Both are a good distance away from their last full-length — Fatso Jetson‘s Archaic Volumes dropped in 2010, Farflung‘s A Wound in Eternity in 2008, and both have done more of their recent work as splits, Farflung with Black Rainbows on Heavy Psych Sounds and with White Hills on Cobraside in 2012, and Fatso Jetson with Yawning Man in 2013 and with Herba Mate last year. And while recent years have seen Fatso Jetson‘s street cred greatly expanded as a new generation has come up to appreciate their contributions to desert rock and Farflung‘s spacey designs have also caught on more in Europe, it’s still safe to say both are underappreciated by the general listening consciousness. Whether or not Heavy Psych Sounds had that in mind in pairing them up for their new split LP, which boasts two new tracks from each band, I wouldn’t know, but it ties the release together in a way that still allows for the two to have distinct sonic personalities that show through in the material, Fatso Jetson‘s sound having pushed to the roots of desert rock in punk and warm-toned groove and Farflung pushing cosmic Hawkwindy jamming and effects-laden exploration.
Again, there’s more drawing them together in terms of their situation than aesthetic, but listening to the songs back to back, as on a CD or digital version, their split isn’t especially choppy in moving from one to the next. Part of that owes to the open-ended weirdness that has emerged in Fatso Jetson‘s sound, a well-established penchant for quirk playing out now with the inclusion of guitarist Dino Von Lalli, son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew to bassist Larry Lalli. Driven as ever by the sharp drumming of Tony Tornay (who also played on Brant Bjork‘s last record) and quick-turning fuzz riffing, “Taking off Her Head” nonetheless has a punkish undercurrent particularly in comparison to the jammier vibes that pervaded the Herba Mate split. This isn’t necessarily unexpected — one knows better than to expect the same approach from Fatso Jetson twice in a row — but there’s still room in the song’s seven minutes for fleshing out, as they do in a bridge and softer-delivered ending section, the rhythmic shove remaining intact all the while. “Flesh Trap Blues” has more swing and swagger, but keeps a bizarro thread going with the effected opening lyrics, “Yes I need it/You don’t want it/I can’t have it/I can’t even try,” running backward and forward at the same time before the instrumental buildup begins. In its groove and shake, “Flesh Trap Blues” plays to the band’s strengths, but tonally and structurally it fits with “Taking off Her Head” as well; it just happens to be that Fatso Jetson at this point can pull off whatever shifts they want and make it work. Call it an earned luxury 20 years on from the release of their first album, Stinky Little Gods.
If you’re wondering, Farflung‘s debut LP, 25,000 Feet per Second, also came out in 1995, but they’re not yet 30 seconds into the 12:53 “Jettisoned in the Rushes… Phase One” before the mood has undergone a significant shift, gong wash, tense guitar and synth marking the beginning of an expansive instrumental surge, vague whispers pervading in an anything-goes progression, elements arriving unannounced, staying for a while and then splitting again, synth, Mellotron, various guitar swirls and so on showing up over a drum beat mostly straightforward but subtly changing tempo from one movement to the next. But for the overarching fluidity, one might be tempted to call it collage, pieced together, but given Farflung‘s history, I’ve no trouble believing they could make “Jettisoned in the Rushes… Phase One” happen at will. The closer “Igneous Spire” — still longer than either of Fatso Jetson‘s tracks but seeming short after its predecessor at 7:55 — has classic Hawkwind-style thrust and more straightforward verses. It wouldn’t be right to call it grounded, because it’s space rock, but it’s less experimental despite the swirl, the various turns of echo and the moment in the second half of the song where the whole thing seems to break through some cosmic barrier and arrive at an open, empty space populated by tom hits, residual synth and sparse guitar, residing there for a minute or so before picking back up for the final surge, which is given added drama by string sounds and a combined forward motion, all parties setting the same course and bringing “Igneous Spire” to a satisfying if sudden end while avoiding smashing into any asteroids along the way.
At a vinyl-ready 34 minutes, the Fatso Jetson and Farflung split is a relatively quick listen, but it travels a significant distance in that time between one act and the next. It doesn’t quite solve the issue of both groups being due for full-length releases, but it’s an engaging front-to-back pulse and offers something different in each piece from each band, so for the already-converted, there’s nothing to complain about in taking it on. It might not be the most obvious pairing on the surface, but it makes an appropriately peculiar kind of sense by the time it’s over.
- The Obelisk