By: Jamie Jones
Blown Out | facebook | bandcamp |
Released on February 15, 2016 via Independent
It’s hard work keeping up with Mike Vest. It feels like every time you finish a review of one of his litany of projects you look up and find he’s released something else. After kicking off the year with the excellent Temporary Infinity, as part of Haikai No Ku, he’s already onto his second 2016 release with Blown Out‘s Celestial Sphere. If that wasn’t enough he’s already got a Melting Hand record (something of a psych supergroup with members of Terminal Cheesecake and Luminous Bodies) ready to go, just released a solo guitar record under the name Lush Worker – and right on cue we’ve just been sent Blown Out’s Live at Supernormal for consideration. It’s a crazy pace he’s setting and by all accounts this is just the warm up. Unless you’re planning on climbing Everest and writing your Ulysses at the summit this year then Vest’s output is going to make you feel pretty lazy.
If you haven’t heard any of Blown Out’s stuff so far then it goes like this: rhythm section John Michael-Hedley (bass) and Matt Baty (drums), long time collaborators in Khünnt and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, nail down a groove while Vest sets a course for another dimension and gradually slips the surly bonds of earth. With that power trio set up Celestial Sphere does bear a cursory sonic similarity to the other 2016 Vest release, Haikai No Ku’s Temporary Infinity, but whilst that was a carefully curated wall of guitar noise designed to unsettle and oppress, Blown Out are a much more upbeat prospect. Legend has it the band got together after bonding over Hendrix bootlegs. The influence shows – Michael-Hedley and Baty function well as Vest’s Band of Gypsies, knowing just when to ramp things up and dial it down while he does his thing, like only he can.
They like to keep it raw – Celestial Sphere was apparently recorded one day and dropped onto Bandcamp early the following week to fund their upcoming European tour. Of the three tracks, numbered ‘Phase I – III’, the first and longest part is the best, the kind of lengthy psych jam that drags you so deep into its murky reverb saturated tones you start to wonder if you’ll ever find a way out. They seem so far gone you wonder if it’ll end – and ask yourself, “why should it?” The incessant groove laid down is one that could happily stretch out into infinity, with Vest’s guitar droning and wailing on like it’s being dragged through a wormhole from another galaxy. ‘Phase II’ picks up the pace slightly – the slightly burnt out production makes it sound like there’s a wild party going on in another room in your house that you somehow can’t seem to find. The final ‘Phase’ clocks in at around 4 and a half minutes and feels oddly short – Blown Out aren’t a band that usually edit themselves and as it fades out you start to appreciate that lack of brevity. It feels like it barely gets warmed up before it’s drifting away.
Blown Out have the perfect band name – they almost review themselves. It sums them up their aesthetic so well I feel like I’m wasting my time trying to do better. They bring to mind that kind of acid-bleached heavy psych of Mainliner and Les Rallizes Dénudés and all those other wild-eyed guitar wielding psych shamen who seem to exist in a different space time to the rest of us. This is turning into something of a golden era for psych in Britain – we’ve got Gnod, The Cosmic Dead, Mugstar, Teeth of the Sea and Hey Colossus all at the top of their game right now – and that’s just a selection off the top of my head. Mike Vest has a got a decent sized record label’s worth of bands of his own to add to the list – Blown Out, with their turn-up-and-jam ethos and reliably wild, loose and free style, might just be the most pure straight-up heavy psych band of them all.