April 08, 2013
I often wonder what Hawkwind think of the contemporary psyche scene. They were a troubling nerdy sci-fi offshoot of the Groundhogs and prog-rock. Yes played along for a while but even they couldn’t keep up with Hawkwind’s ever-expanding space-weirdness. And what of their soporific bastard offspring spawned of a stoned evening recording with Amon Düül? Do Hawkwind ever wonder just how far from them the likes of Gnod or Bong have really gone? I’m sure they’re proud of the resurgence of genuine psyche in the first decade of the new millennium dredged from the mud of the post-industrial British north. The forgotten and sadly ignored With and The Radiation Line, Moon Unit and Macrocosmica. The north English/Scottish psyche bands are a phenomenon, and finally they seem to be coming good. Gnod are storming to general recognition through sheer hard work, and Glasgow’s The Cosmic Dead aren’t far behind. And what of Glasgow? In the winter it hardly gets light and in the summer it hardly gets dark. The culture capital of ‘North Britain’ at least until 2014 is the hive of an underground network of primitive throwback bands all harking towards the Sixties and Seventies imagined paradise emanating from the superb Monorail records and the 13th Note Cafe. There are death metal bands, there are doomy post-Sabbath do-gooders, there’s even an essential bunch called Los Tentakills who are perpetually teetering, Italian Job-style on the edge of lapsing into full-on MC5 parody; and there is a tendency to drift into weirdness late at night, with discussions of lost cosmonauts, the specific details of Mercury rockets and loving re-spins of The Faust Tapes. At the centre of this sub-basement are the hyper-prolific spacerockers The Cosmic Dead. How prolific? Howzabout the release of a live album, a buncha bootleg cuts and a full-on studio album in the same month as their Euro tour (inc. Roadburn date), and the re-release of their 2010 underground classic Kosmik Tape on CD at long last?
So here’s the lowdown. Live at the Note is released by Stabbed in the Back Records. Orbiting Salvation is an immediate bandcamp self-released sort of odds-and-ends thing, not unlike Psychonaut from 2011 which was stunning fun. And Inner Sanctum is a new ultra-limited pea-green cassette in a handmade cover (on Evil Hoodoo records of Sheffield), it’s sure to get a re-release and it’s pure rock and roll artifact perfection. They’re also re-releasing the Supertrip first cassette as a CD, and that full-on euro tour beginning and ending in hometown central Scotland. So the question is, can you think of a harder working band in music today than the Cosmic Dead? Three new albums, a re-release and a Euro tour in the same month? I can’t. And it isn’t like their Kosmische Amon Düül baiting is easy. No sir, just look at all the Scotrail-slow tedium pumped out by psyche bands around the world that just clogs up yer ears with muzak, the Cosmic Dead are the real deal, and quite possibly the cure for what ails us. All of their music imposes a pace on your life, which isn’t the pace I have in my life most of the time. It’s not a record, it’s a holiday, just slap on the noise-cancelling headphones and drift off for about an hour.
Inner Sanctum is a beautiful piece of work, composed of four songs of almost equal length. An opening siren-blast indicates the Cosmic Dead aren’t going off exploring the outer limits of electronic incomprehension like Gnod, they’re staying with the same hyperbolic dronerific spacenoise as always. Guitar sound isn’t a buzzsaw but static and the drums impact with a certainty like pulsar recordings. There is more movement throughout, a thick groove which removes it from the more bloated work of Bardo Pond and Faust. It’s certainly on a more far-out orbit than a lot of their stuff, and nowhere near as near to the knuckle as Live at the Note.
Live at the Note chronicles the live performance of the 19th of January 2013, forget your joss sticks and just come loaded for bear with as many crystals for spiritual and metaphysical protection as possible. Stuffed to the gills with wailing dark psyche like someone let a bat into the basement of the Note, and it got all tangled up in a clump of fiber optic cables and took in a few good lungfuls of whatever was being passed around and spent the rest of the evening drifting lazily around the periphery of the room keeping the good vibes going. It definitely tips some sort of hat to the reverb-reinforced Deutsche brethren, but it’s in a lysergic league all of its own.
Phew, I’m tired, hombres, and I’m only two thirds done with the latest release from Cosmic Dead. Help a brother out and listen to their bandcamp exclusive Orbiting Salvation for yourself, it’s free to those who know, very expensive to those who don’t. Try it because it is superbly good in a backwoods smoky lazy Sunday kinda way, the soundtrack to a lazy hour or two of repeat spins sitting in the sauna sweating out the last of the cheap whisky, the good speed and the bad vibrations; and because it’s the one most likely to ambulantly slip under the wire and make a break for the trees without anyone noticing. If you spent all night getting absolutely wasted on Live at the Note this’ll be the perfect AM comedown, and if you miss it, it just might disappear. Go forth!
This prolific Kosmiche cosmic wagon train is gaining momentum and speeding downhill fast, you better hop aboard before there’s a whole weekend’s worth of releases to chew through. If you’re only just catching on you’ve already got a bunch of homework to do on this Glasgow four-piece because I can sense they’re going places, and they’re going to keep going. I’ll be asking them exactly where at the end of the month when they drop into Edinburgh, keep a look out for that interview.