By: Matt Butler
Tranquonauts | facebook |
Released on September 19, 2016 via Lay Bare Recordings
It is said that John Entwistle, the bass player in The Who, used to hate playing ‘Magic Bus’ live. Because while the audience were sent into raptures for 10 minutes or more by Roger, Pete and Keith’s improvising and stretching the song into a psychedelic journey, Entwistle had to play a single note for the entire duration.
So with this in mind, you have to feel for Paul Crick, the bassist on this collaboration known as Tranquonauts, as he essentially plays two riffs for all but the climaxes of this 40-minute trip. It’s great for us as listeners – we get to find out what happens when a high quality stoner rock band join forces with a psychedelic guitar virtuoso: two hits of 20 minutes’ worth of bluesy, spacey jams, ideal for sitting motionless and staring at an airbrushed painting of a fantasy cosmos. But for Crick… man, this would have taken some discipline.
Seedy Jeezus is the band, making waves in their native Australia for their band of stoner rock which references the likes of Cream and Sabbath, whereas Isaiah Mitchell is the star guitarist, best known as the mind blowing Fender-wielder from the Californian instrumental psych rock outfit Earthless.
And the two entities, who recorded this on separate continents to coincide with their tour together, complement each other like they were meant to be: Mitchell knows when to let loose or hold back (his subtle phrasing and minimalist soloing near the start of the second side is an ideal example of ‘less is more’), while the band are given ample opportunity to display their own chops.
The first side (I’ll call it a side as this is exclusively a vinyl release, limited to 500 copies, so get in quick) is called ‘The Vanishing Earth’ and begins with a bass riff that is ripe for matching with a mammoth guitar. But the expected monster riffs never arrive. Instead we’re led into a shadowy world, first by a five-minute fuzzed-out guitar solo, which then evaporates, rendering the atmosphere progressively darker.
Mitchell’s guitar sneaks back in, increasing in volume and complexity before it retreats a little into the background, allowing us to get back into the groove of the rhythm section. The fuzz returns for the crescendo that builds to a supernova climax (which gives the bass player three minutes to enjoy a different riff).
Side two, ‘King of the Lepers’, begins with a sample of a man explaining the perils of peyote before a bluesy riff fades in, with accompaniment from some spooky keyboards. If a criticism must be made, it is concerning the spoken bits, which return later in the song: the creeping bass riff and sparse guitar work are enough to tell us this is a tune for mind expansion without someone interrupting to talk about their girlfriend’s face appearing to melt because of their over-indulgence in hallucinogens.
The keyboard accompaniment and blues-based riff brings to mind The Doors (thankfully minus the facile poetry), until around the seven-minute mark, when Mitchell turns on the overdrive. The guitar alternates between this and the relatively mellow sections, which maintain the melody with a stab or vamp here and there, in the same way that Miles Davis used to make the silent parts of his solos as important as the bits he played.
The volume and tempo are raised for the finale, which transforms into an MC5-style cacophony, aided by the sound of a plane crashing. It’s quite a finish – and it is a very satisfying one, befitting the scope of such an ambitious project. Because let’s face it, putting out two songs of jams, which span the entire side of a full length album and making it even listenable, let alone enjoyable, is a tall order. And they’ve pulled it off.