Special Features: Limited to 500 copies on grey vinyl.
- The Loop
- Stardust (The Picture)
- Astral Hitch Hike
- (You Will) Live Forever Now
Release Date: November 10, 2017
Label: Sulatron Records
The discography of German heavy psych trio Electric Moon is a confusing thing, filled with atemporal reissues of limited prior works, live albums that could easily be studio affairs, varying editions, and so on, mostly if not completely all released through founding guitarist, synthesist, electric sitarist, keyboardist, general-swirlmaker and recording engineer Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt‘s own Sulatron Records label. Accordingly, I could be way off in saying so, but I believe Stardust Rituals may be the first proper Electric Moon studio full-length since 2011’s The Doomsday Machine.
Is that possible? I don’t know anymore. They count it as their fifth album either way, and it follows behind several of the aforementioned reissues — including one in 2016 for The Doomsday Machine — and a bevvy of live offerings like last year’s Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum, 2015’s Theory of Mind , 2014’s Mind Explosion, 2013’s Live 2012 1 & 2, etc. If indeed it has been six years since the last time they tracked a full-length not onstage somewhere in Europe, one could hardly accuse them of being lazy with that time, however languid and flowing their sound might be and certainly is on Stardust Rituals.
The album presents three extended cuts and one shorter piece very much built outward from the core of jamming between Schmidt, bassist “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and drummer Marcus Schnitzler that has to-date been at heart in their approach, live or otherwise. Over the past five-plus years, their material has driven toward an at-times raw glimpse of their creative processes, with as little filtering of the view as possible, and while the movements that comprise Stardust Rituals‘ 45-minute stretch come across as more song-minded, they also maintain that acid-drenched sensibility of exploration, emerging all the more spacious and triumphant for it.
And really, with material so clearly geared toward vibrancy in the first place, the line between what’s live and what isn’t would seem to be pretty fluid in the first place. True, Stardust Rituals doesn’t have breaks for applause, but even as Komet Lulu‘s vocals roll out echo-and-swirl-buried verses as part of the overarching drift of second track “Stardust (The Picture),” an obscure but definitively human presence, the feeling is one of spontaneous kosmiche combustion — nebular gases swirling into a cohesive stellar motion, rotational gravity taking hold to bring the listener into the song’s orbit.
Also it’s spaced out. “Stardust (The Picture)” is a centerpiece for the molten flow set up over the course of Electric Moon‘s first three tracks, which most likely comprise side A of the vinyl. They begin with the dug-in space rock progression of “The Loop,” which is arguably the most “song-ish” of the album as a whole, with a synth figure at its center and a forward rhythmic push made subtle through the classy, jazzy intertwining of Schnitzler‘s drumming and Schmidt‘s guitar lead circa three minutes in.
It’s in “The Loop” that Electric Moon will almost shock those who’ve followed them the last several years, because even before they turn to the Hawkwindian thrust at the beginning of the eight-minute track’s second half, they very purposefully establish a course distinct from the live offerings that have led up to Stardust Rituals, and that impression continues into the rolling low end that begins “Stardust (The Picture)” — an early instrumental version of which, titled just “The Picture,” appeared on both Theory of Mind and Mind Explosion.
Its inclusion here, and in this more complete, vocalized form, still far-reaching and adventurous but with a firmer intent behind it, speaks to the amorphous nature of Electric Moon‘s work as a whole and the meta-level on which their fluidity operates. It’s not just about being open in terms of willing to jam out for 20 minutes at a clip. It’s about being willing even to change the definition of a song itself from what it was to what they want/need it to be to best suit a purpose. They break their own rules once again with the sitarized “Astral Hitch Hike,” departing the structured consciousness of the longer opening duo in favor of 4:40 of instrumental psych-prog vibing — just in case you might think it safe to know what to expect.
Sitar continues to meander, wrapping itself around an initial bassline, at the launch of closer “(You Will) Live Forever Now.” The finale, at 22 minutes, is just about as long as the first three pieces on Stardust Rituals put together, and it seems clearly meant to consume all of side B on its own. It definitely is consuming, or at very least immersive — a subdued flow is underway almost immediately but brimming with patience, flourish of synth adding to a rich atmosphere that provides a stage for when the vocals arrive after we’ve waded about four minutes deep. It’s a dream. All of it. The tone, the drift, the vagueness of the voice. But Electric Moon thrive in that dream, and though it’s by no means in any rush to get anywhere, there is a build happening and it is linear. Layers are added to the whole one at a time, the guitars making a noteworthy arrival near six minutes, and Lulu and Schnitzler provide an absolute solid foundation on which this liquefied push takes place.
There’s a sense of pickup and tonal thickening about three minutes later just before the vocals return — in layers — and a fuller fuzz soon grabs hold and moves “(You Will) Live Forever Now” into its next phase, noisier and denser but still remarkably vast and open feeling. They’re not yet halfway through, but this movement will get them there and come to a head just before the solo that starts at about 13:30 and runs until it comes apart at about the 15-minute mark — drums and bass holding steady as the guitar quietly rights itself. That process sets up the last verse (or verses, because who knows where one ends and another begins) and the shift into the closer’s apex for Stardust Rituals as a whole, which starts in earnest with the arrival of Mellotron at 18:49 and continues to develop until the fadeout that begins in the last minute leaves only the keys and residual echoing swirl behind.
Electric Moon may be in large part defined as a unit by what they accomplish live, and that feeds even into Stardust Rituals as well, since much of what has become these songs has its foundation in that raw creative process noted earlier, but if their return to studio work demonstrates anything, it’s that their sound has little interest in limits of any sort, be it those of listener expectation, or of genre convention, or whatever else. The prevailing warmth they exude throughout these four tracks is as unmistakably their own as any of their live improvisational work has been, and in reminding their audience of that, they’ve only made themselves a richer sonic experience for those fortunate enough to take them on. Whether one puts it on and gets lost in its outward gone-ness or stays with its twists and turns every step of the way, the path through the solar system that Stardust Rituals blazes is nothing less than a joy to follow. - The Obelisk (TheObelisk.net)