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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

First Band From Outer Space

Impressionable Sounds of the Subsonic

Review by Gary Hill

If you believe the hype on these guys they are from outer space. Well, even if that is true, I don't think they are the "first band" from outer space. Let's see - that might be the Star People, but since then there is also Kosmic Horror. But I suppose the name The Second or Third Band From Outer Space was taken. Well, naming game aside, if you like old Hawkwind (Space Ritual era) you should love these guys. While that isn't all of their sound it's probably a good three-quarters of it. Thrown in a bit of Sleep, some Pink Floyd and even a little Jethro Tull and you've pretty much got it. The thing is, these guys do it really well. There isn't a bad song on the disc. If space rock was a more popular genre, these guys would be huge because they have the genre down quite well. I should also add that unless I'm mistaken they do songs in three languages, Swedish, English and Spanish. Maybe they should have named themselves the First Tri-Lingual Band From Outer Space. For more information check out their site or Record Heaven's.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Novaja Zemelja
This starts with what I think is real whale song. That said, I wouldn't be completely surprised to find that it is actually synthesized. In any event, this serves as the pattern for the ambiance that starts off the music portion of the track. Eventually, though after moving through in these rather sedate ways the music turns more chaotic and a bit heavy. After a segment of seemingly interconnected meanderings we hear the sounds of a baby crying added into the mix. This works through after that goes away with a more percussive type jam. Then about mid song it bursts forth into heavier space rock a bit like Hawkwind. This segment combines crunch with space and even some jazzy tones for good measure. The Hawkwind sounds are more prevalent later. This is quite a cool piece and guitar, keys and even flute get to solo from time to time. Yep, I said flute. There are moments where this feels a bit like Hawkwind meets Jethro Tull. There are also points on here where I would really believe that Hawkwind's Alan Davey was playing the bass. It drops back to Native American sounds with chirping keys for a short the outro that pulls it straight into the next number. They manage to pack quite a few changes into this dynamic piece and it does a good job of serving as the disc opener.
Utan att veta
This one powers out as hard-edged space rock. If there were Tull leanings on the last one, they are on the verge of tipping over here. Granted there's still plenty of Hawkwind in the mix, but I can't imagine a more complete synthesis of the two bands' sounds. While the previous piece was an instrumental, this one has vocals. They are definitely serviceable vocals, but the lyrics are not in English. This one is quite a potent prog rock/space rock number with a good number of changes and some great textures. The jam that takes it late is a killer with a definite Space Ritual era Hawkwind sound. This serves to pull it to the outro.
Mean Spacemachine
Weird sound effects and a countdown to liftoff gives way to a jam that is once more all Hawkwind. From the chugging chord progression to the keys sweeping over the top, this one is straight out of the vintage Hawk-catalog. The lyrics on this one are in English and they talk about a spacecraft. This has some more technical types of riffs here at times, but overall this could seem like a missing Hawkwind cut from the Lemmy era. In fact, the bass on this one feels a lot like Lemmy. The distorted vocals later lead me to think of Sleep, though. This then turns into a cool chugging crunch-fest with sweeps of keys over the top of it later on. I like this one a lot. There are some suitably psychedelic segments on this one, too. The lead guitar solo segment is just about trademark early Hawkwind. A spoken word section tells about the band's adventures later on.
Impressionable Sounds of the Subsonic
The early modes of the title track is a very pretty and melodic motif. This one doesn't have much of that Hawkwind sound in this portion, but there are hints of it. Overall it's a pretty progressive rock ballad movement that feels a bit like David Bowie's "Space Oddity." The lyrics (again in English) are based in a science fiction theme. That's something you don't see in music as much as you used to, and I rather miss it. It shifts more toward the harder rocking Hawkwind-like textures later. This turns almost metallic later on, but the keyboard jamming over the top of it is still firmly in the Hawk-camp. This moves through a number of odd changes later. It is one of the most dynamic cuts on the disc, and also one of my favorites. At over ten minutes in length it's also one of the longest on show here.
To Be Seen as the Underdog
A pretty guitar ballad like approach starts this off and the Hawkwind textures come in on top of this. The vocals (English once more) remind me a lot of someone, but I can't place whom. The acoustic guitar truly drives this one and even manages to get in some rather bluesy riffs. This is another of the standouts, but really there aren't any weak tracks here. This one is the briefest on the album at just about five and a half minutes. It does feel a lot like one of the more ballad like cuts on Doremi Fasol Latido or another album from that period of Hawkwind.
Grona Hander
The sounds of a storm (which ended the last number) start this one off. Then a short period of weirdness gives way to a jam that feels like stoner metal. As the flute kicks in the Jethro Tull meets early Hawkwind sound is back. Some cool wah guitar gives it a great retro texture. This one sees the return of the Swedish vocals. Later spacey keys with just percussion take over with some spoken loops thrown over top at times. This jam almost feels like Hawkwind adding a touch of Kraftwerk. This eventually turns into an all out percussion solo. Think of the drum solo segment of Iron Butterfly's "Inna Gadda Da Vida." Now add in some Hawkwind like keys. All right, you've got the beginning of this section down. Now add in some Native American chanting and you have the next movement. Take away the chanting and we're back on track for the next portion. This comes out of there with another early Hawkwind type jam, but the percussion is still all over this. Spoken loops come and go. After those loops cease this just flails on in total early Hawk-tradition. A false ending gives way to ambient keys. Then a burst of sound starts what feels like an incredibly slow early Hawkwind rendition of doom metal. Then it eventually moves out into another new jam that eventually moves it into the next number. At over thirteen minutes this jam is the longest on the CD.
Todo Pasara
If I'm not mistaken the lyrics to this one are in Spanish, making this band a very multilingual outfit. I speak a little of that language myself and what I managed to catch sure seems like it - and the title is in Spanish. This one starts as sort of a variant on the sound of the last piece, but mid-track it drops into an instrumental break out with tribal percussion. This is worked and reworked gaining intensity as it carries onward. It wanders through a number of changes in a fairly open and very organic sort of jam. This eventually crescendos to bring it to the next track.
Mission Completed
This instrumental is a mellower jam that feels like part of the track that came before at first. Then after a time it explodes out into a proggy jam that's a bit heavier with a definite triumphant texture. This moves through then crescendos leading one to think the track is ending. Instead, ambient textures with a Native American feel come into play. The band set down this new path by working on these themes in variants for a time. After a while working through this it feels to me like it's shifted towards the more ambient spacey moments of Pink Floyd's music. Then it feels once again like it's about to end. A new jam that's got elements of Floyd merged with a little Nektar and those Hawkwind-like keys comes in. This eventually transforms almost completely into a bluesy rock jam. And you can tell that the band are on a new trip. This one carries them through til eventually backwards-tracked instrumentation takes it. After a while this moves out towards ambient textures that finally end the album - but what a ride it's been.
 
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