Special Feature: 180 gram translucent purple vinyl.
- Nada Brahma
- The Beard of Macroprosopus
- Across the Lustre of the Desert Into the Polychrome Hills
- Starry Wisdom
- Pillars in the Void
- The Black Iron Prison & the Palm Tree Garden
Release Date: July 1, 2016
Label: Cargo Records/Small Stone Records
Cumbersome in its title and awaited in its arrival, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting is the second full-length and Small Stone Records label debut from New Paltz, New York, heavy psych instrumentalists It’s Not Night: It’s Space. The guitar-bass-drums trio issued their first full-length,Bowing Not Knowing to What
, in 2012, and were picked up by Small Stone the next year, and since then it seems to have been a process of letting the band’s slow-motion space rock congeal to a point where it’s able to be processed by human minds, which is apparently where we are now. Beaming in from cosmic depths with six tracks — an intro and five cuts between seven and nine minutes a pop — Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting offers sonic immersion and atmospheric scope in kind with a patient, hypnotic front-to-back flow that adds rich tonality to what guitarist Kevin Halcott, bassist Tommy Guerrero and drummer Michael Lutomski accomplished their first time out.
Parts may have been born of improvisations, but the finished product doesn’t feel like a collection of jams. Rather, a series of interconnected pieces correctly positioned to guide the listener through this aural expanse. Spiritualism, contemplation, philosophy, space itself — all of this seems to be in play for It’s Not Night: It’s Space, as the samples in three-minute opener “Nada Brahma” demonstrate and cuts like “Across the Luster of the Desert into the Polychrome Hills” and “Starry Wisdom” answer back. The material is dynamic, particularly so the build in “Pillars of the Void,” but the key is in the motion of the record as a whole, and It’s Not Night: It’s Space succeed in holding their course while showing varied sides of their approach.
They have some help in that regard from Rick Birmingham, who recorded and mixed and who adds fiddle to “The Beard of Macroprosopus” and closer “The Black Iron Prison and the Palm Tree Garden,” but though the expanse they conjure throughout feels wider than something a trio might be able to craft, mostly it’s Halcott, Guerrero and Lutomski here. Should probably go without saying that effects have a considerable role to play in Halcott‘s approach, but ultimately the album is as rhythmically hypnotic as it is otherworldly of vibe. “Nada Brahma” fades in on voices that sound like chanting mantras to ease the way into the expanded consciousness that follows. An acoustic guitar line, bass, percussion and swirl give an immediate impression like the kind of ritual Om might enact, but the samples and emergent lead electric guitar assure It’s Not Night: It’s Space maintain their own direction from the outset. They’ll continue to do so as “The Beard of Macroprosopus” takes hold with a kosmiche push that grows more and more resonant before it pays off in echoing, winding guitar the tension its early moments have built.
Much to their credit, It’s Not Night: It’s Space avoid the trap of loud/quiet trades for the most part that seem to be so core in a lot of heavy psychedelia, and instead offer linear fluidity with movement of tempo and mood, and a depth of mix through layers of rhythm and lead guitar, effects and spacious drumming. Ending with more sampled chanting, “The Beard of Macroprosopus” echoes into the start of “Across the Luster of the Desert into Polychrome Hills,” for which it doesn’t seem like an accident that “desert” made it into the title. A patient fuzz unfolds in the bass beneath manipulated drone and a subtle build of guitar and drums. The central line that arrives past two minutes in seems born of a surf tradition — as is desert rock — and if the “Polychrome Hills” are being represented in Halcott‘s lead in the second half and the deeply satisfying roll that follows, I’d say they’re being done justice.
A cold end brings the guitar intro to “Starry Wisdom” — I’ll assume that’s where the A/B vinyl split is as well, but it’s the digital version I’m reviewing — which spends its first couple minutes in a post-rock stoner nod before opening to more driving territory, locked in in a fashion that a low of Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting has shown little interest in being, but still atmospheric on the whole. A big slowdown and blissout awaits in the second half, but the swing never departs entirely as Lutomski plays between crash and snare to ensure the rhythm holds together until the guitar is left to fade on its own into the start of the penultimate “Pillars in the Void,” the subdued opening of which is perhaps all the more effective for how little It’s Not Night: It’s Space have toyed with minimalism throughout.
True there’s still plenty going on as the track gets underway, but the central guitar figure and drum and basslines are more sparse than, for example, “Starry Wisdom” preceding, and the effect is to enact a linear payoff, then drop back to quiet before unfurling the highlight progression of the album as it moves toward and past the six-minute mark. No less immersive than anything before it, “Pillars in the Void”‘s concluding movement showcases a feel for songwriting and linguistic expression (still without lyrics or samples, mind you) that stands it out from its surroundings. One might think that would leave “Between the Black Iron Prison and the Palm Tree Garden” as an afterthought, but that winds up not at all the case, as It’s Not Night: It’s Space close out with a darker mood and straightforward but still trance-inducing groove, bass and echoing guitar giving an impression like Yawning Man by night early before moving into the Spaghetti West in the midsection and reintroducing Birmingham‘s fiddle as they gracefully build their way into the song and the record’s final push, ending noisy and sudden.
As the material comprises it feels worked over, hammered out, and shaped into what the band wants it to be, it makes sense that Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting might show up four years after It’s Not Night: It’s Space‘s debut, but as a front-to-back listen will attest, time comes to matter little once you dig into that wash and find yourself consumed by it. Fuller in its sound and more clearheaded in its purpose, the album shows definitive growth on the part of Halcott, Guerreroand Lutomski, but manages to do so without sacrificing the exploratory feel that helps make it so engaging and meditative. Similar to the chanting that starts off, the record itself seems to be a mantra. Perhaps It’s Not Night: It’s Space have found wisdom in the stars. - JJ Kozcan (The Obelisk.net May 25, 2016)