Special Features: 25th anniversary edition. Limited to 500 copies on multicolor marble vinyl. Includes a psychedelic power pyramid. Back covers of this release, 'Distortions' and 'Gravity Zero' can be combined into one big picture.
- What You Want
- Do It Allright
- You Keep on Falling
- Lost Intensity
- Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Release Date: November 26, 2015
Label: Krauted Mind Records
German outfit Vibravoid are a hard band to keep up with. Since their 2001 debut was released on CD in 2000, they’ve gone on to become wildly prolific, working with labels like Nasoni, Sulatron, Fruits de Mer and Herzberg Verlag. In 2011, the Düsseldorf natives had their busiest year yet, with three 7” singles/splits, their second live album recorded at the Burg Herzberg festival (their 2010 set was also released last year), and the Minddrugs studio full-length on Sulatron (CD) and the Greek imprint Anazitisi Records (LP). Between that, their stake in the Timezine print fanzine and their affiliation with the ultra-retro Chenaski clothing line, the band has so much happening at any given moment that it’s hard not to get lost somewhere along the way. Even their lineup is nebulous. There’s no info included with the Minddrugs CD in that regard, except that the guitars, bass, mellotron, “stylophone” and theremin are played by Vibravoid, and depending on where you try to find the info, they’re either a trio or a four-piece, the only consistent member of which seems to be band founder/guitarist/vocalist Christian Koch. This can be frustrating if, say, you’re a stickler for including that kind of information in your reviews (cough cough), but ultimately, it stands in accord with Vibravoid’s propensity for mind-bending. Everything they do is steeped in a swirling, surreal psychedelia. What’s most surprising about Minddrugs is the varied forms that psychedelia takes.
Arguably, Vibravoid are best known for the kind of upbeat, late-’60s psych pop that hones in on the era before ballsy riffs took over in rock and it was more about the organ, the swirl, the echoes and the danceable feel. Even unto 2008’s The Politics of Ecstasy, that was the core of their style, and though those elements show up on Minddrugs as well, Koch and his fellow players are not at all limited by the confines of pop. In six tracks’ time, Vibravoid eases their way from the friendly garage fuzz of opener “Seefeel,” on which the vocals echo their verses and choruses bordering on indecipherability, to an epic closing rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” which comes in at nearly 23 minutes and boasts expansive sections of effects play, tripped-out singularities and, finally, cosmic triumph. In between the two extremes, cuts like “What You Want” and “You Keep on Falling” (the latter released as a 7” earlier this year) offer balanced space rock/pop, the 12 minutes of “What You Want” seeming to pass quickly through its undulating midsection jam for the strength of the hook surrounding, and shorter excursions “Do it Allright” and “Lost Intensity” offering deconstructed and surprisingly abrasive noise and subdued, well-executed sub-drone atmospherics, respectively. Minddrugs is every bit the journey its title and artwork suggest, but even as “Do it Allright” devolves into a long fadeout/in that immerses the listener in painful static and echoplex noise, one doesn’t get the sense they’re out of control or unaware of what they’re doing.
That section is short, but it might be the biggest misstep of Minddrugs, which is otherwise pleasant on the ear, no matter how far out it might go. “You Keep on Falling” revives the mood with a more modern Eurodance undercurrent topped with Koch’s echoing repetitions of the title line “You keep on falling from side to side,” and an unrelenting riff that’s seen skillfully through an improvised-sounding effects melee from which it emerges unscathed on the other side. By reviving the chorus, Vibravoid maintain a songwriting element and keep the indulgence(s) in check. Smooth transitions help make the whole of Minddrugs, and especially “You Keep on Falling,” sound natural and all the more potent, and “Lost Intensity” provides worthy, if somewhat dark, lead-in for “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” Long-held high-pitched organ notes rest beneath artsy bass and guitar plucks/strums, and the whole thing has a creepy horror vibe that seems to want to comfort at the same time it pulls the strings to unravel your subconscious. The bassline also has a kind of mystery-movie feel, but in any case, the word “cinematic” would seem to encompass the idea. At a bit under three minutes, it’s more substantial than the average intro or interlude, but it does serve well to set space between “You Keep on Falling” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” executing a required mood shift from the vibrancy of the one to the space-worshiping grandiosity of the other.
As it’s done in many cover incarnations throughout the years since its initial inclusion on Floyd’s 1968 sophomore outing, A Saucerful of Secrets, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” revels in its grandeur. In the hands of Vibravoid, it is the quintessential extended psychedelic rocker. One can easily imagine it taking up a whole LP side and blowing the minds of beardo baby boomers back in the day, but here it does just as well, starting with crashing waves and keeping some pop elements almost in spite of itself as it swoons and revives and follows a long drum march into a fade of mellotron/echoplex surreality. Just after 12:30, the trip takes a dark turn, with screams of string scratches echoing through and a wash of noise that finally brings back the central guitar line. It’s hardly a comedown to reality, but Vibravoid make it smooth anyway, keeping the overlap of effects atop the song’s third wave as it slowly redevelops the momentum the first had built, Koch stepping in with a verse as if to signal final arrival. They close on that classic guitar line, some “stylophone” and a gong sound and leave the last minute of Minddrugs to the same ocean sounds that began “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” what may have been eons ago. As staggering as the closer is in its scope and final impression it leaves, Vibravoid don’t rely completely on the cover to show their personality throughout Minddrugs. Rather, they extract from the ether a variety of psychedelic twists and forms and, with a core of high-grade pop songwriting, set about exploring a universe of lysergic dimensionality. Specifics of Minddrugs may be hard to track down, but the mission of consciousness-expansion remains clear, and Vibravoid’s loyalty to classic psychedelia is all-encompassing and brilliantly captured here. - H.P. Taskmaster (The Obelisk December 27, 2011)