Special Features: Produced by Billy Anderson.
- Silent Pictures
- Coming Down From Outer Space
- Laser Headlights
- Red River
- Infinite Skies
- Center of Everywhere
Release Date: April 17, 2015
Label: Svart Records
San Francisco riff pioneers Acid King put out their last album, III, on Small Stone in June 2005, which means that the April release of Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere — their fourth full-length and first for Svart Records — is just two months shy of exactly one decade later. The entire climate for heavy rock has changed in that time, a generational shift that has seen stoner riffs go from the fodder of empty barrooms to headlining major festivals, and to say that Acid King‘s return has been awaited is to understate it. The trio have played new songs live for some time, and a new album has been in the works for at least six years, but to actually have it materialize is, particularly for fans — and make no mistake, I’m writing as a fan of the band — something genuinely special after so long. And as much as the story of the album is that it finally exists, one could just as easily read it as the reunion of one of heavy rock and roll’s most successful collaborations; that between Acid King and producer/engineer Billy Anderson. If Lori S.‘ guitar tone is a gift from the gods of fuzz, Anderson‘s production is the means by which it’s translated for human consumption, and neither is less essential to the ultimate success of Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere than the other. Together with drummer Joey Osbourne and bassist Mark Lamb, Lori oversees nearly an hour of languid, lava-flowing riffage on Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere‘s eight tracks/54 minutes, and the four-minute “Intro” isn’t done before the album engulfs the listener in a wash of gorgeous tonal warmth that only recedes with the last feedback of “Outro” about an hour and a galaxy later.
Twenty years on from their debut, Zoroaster, and 16 post their landmark sophomore outing, Busse Woods — for my money among the finest stoner rock records ever made — it’s hard not to cast Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere in hyperbole. Its spacier moments, like the penultimate semi-title-track “Center of Everywhere,” or the howling post-intro opener “Silent Pictures” lend atmosphere to the unbridled sonic heft of Lori and Lamb‘s tones, and the vocals play into the laid back, echoing sphere brilliantly, layers swirling around each other as though laced one into the other, the mix huge and warranting excessive volumes. “Into” feeds into “Silent Pictures,” which feeds into “Coming Down from Outer Space” a shorter cut at under six minutes but one of the record’s most essential and commanding hooks — setting up the full-album flow that continues for the duration, songs as immersive as they prove memorable over repeat listens, the choruses simple and subtle in the wash of heaviness, but speaking on an almost subconscious level as the nod unfolds. “Silent Pictures” wails and careens, seems to have little flourish but is brilliantly psychedelic, and the biker-movie rollout of “Coming Down from Outer Space” is nothing if not classic Acid King, Osbourne‘s swing and crash propelling the more grounded verse and chorus, leading to “Laser Headlights,” which seems to find some compromise between the two positions, solos at its midpoint and conclusion serving as mile-markers for just how far into the cosmos the three-piece have ventured so far, beacons for a subspace message back to command HQ. The second half of “Laser Headlights” beams (get it?) with dense, fossil-fueled riffing, and though they end cold and sudden, maybe to signal a side or LP switch, the shift into “Red River” is no less fluid than anything before it, which is to say… what was I talking about? — Exactly.
With the next three tracks, the aforementioned “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and “Center of Everywhere,” Acid King push Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere over the line between victorious resurgence and masterpiece. Between them and the subsequent “Outro,” they comprise a second half of the album that expands the breadth of spaciousness established on “Silent Pictures” and “Coming Down from Outer Space,” making offerings of unfuckwithable groove and all-that-is-right-in-the-world vibe that move seamlessly one into the next. Each piece is distinct within the whole it creates — “Red River” marked out by a particularly resonant vocal performance and choice basslines, “Infinite Skies” by its thickness, hook and later solo work, and “Center of Everywhere” by its bubbling nebulousness — but the real pleasure lies in being carried across the duration by the smooth and engrossing overarching feel of the material. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere becomes almost like two albums in one, in classic 2LP style, but even taken in a linear format, its entirety more than satisfies. “Center of Everywhere” is perfectly placed as the (pre-)conclusion, its nod is expansive and a slow-moving swirl makes a fitting complement to “Intro” and “Silent Pictures,” slamming to a halt as it wraps with just Lamb‘s bass remaining to fade out before Osbourne‘s drums lead the way into the final jam of “Outro,” a refrain of “Intro” that underscores both the full-album intention and just how effective Acid King are in pulling off that intention after a decade away. I’ll say flat-out that Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere is the best record I’ve heard so far in 2015, and that Acid King‘s return isn’t just a win for them, but for the style of heavy they helped establish years ago. With almost a second-debut’s spirit and freshness, it offers a vital look at a band not so much readopting a form as pushing forward boldly to top it, and its reach has the potential to span distances even greater than those its tones create. A complete, front-to-back triumph. Recommended. - The Obelisk (www.theobelisk.net)