What I’m quickly discovering about his band I’m going to call the “Asteroid process.” It happened with the Swedish group’s self-titled Fuzzorama debut, and the same seems to be holding true for the numerical follow-up, II, as well. It happens like this: you listen to an Asteroid album, and while you’re in it, the music relaxes you to a barely conscious state. You hear the laid back fuzz tones and feel as though you might melt in them. Maybe you do. And when it’s over, you say to yourself, “Golly, that was pretty good,” and you go about your day.
Little do you know, though, that there are riffs and lines that are going to stick with you. That more and more you’re going to find yourself humming different parts of different songs until you feel you have to listen to the album again. And again. And again. Next thing you know, you’re out to lunch with your wife and all you can do is sing the refrain of “Disappear” over and over again, or think about that one riff in “Fire” that seems to sum up all of II in a matter of seconds. Resistance, as they say, is futile.
Asteroid’s infectious style is in full force on their sophomore album, but their growth is also readily apparent. Listening to a song like “Karma,” it feels as though some of the rigidity of the first record, which maybe kept a song like “The Big Trip Beyond” strictly adhered to a verse/chorus methodology, has spread out. “Karma” opens with a softly building jam, and opens up to some of the warmest tones this side of Colour Haze with a riff that soothes as much as it rocks. II seems less focused on structure on the surface, but it isn’t, the manner of execution has simply evolved. The guitars of Robin Hirse have taken the musical fore in a big way, leading most of the jams and often competing for dominance in the mix along Hirse’s own vocals and those of bassist Johannes Nilsson.
“Edge” was an advance track on the band’s MySpace and the Fuzzorama site (and can be streamed below), and for good reason, as it not only reaffirms the high grade fuzz rock of the first album, but like Truckfighters’ “Monte Gargano,” blends catchy, tight songwriting with musical exploration and an upbeat, memorable pop feel. There are a few seconds of silence between “Edge” and “River,” the moody instrumentalism of which seems to indicate a switch in direction for the second half of II, lyrically tying in the theme of water with “Towers” still to come and spreading their sound even further out into echoing spaces yet unexplored by the trio, drummer Elvis Campbell’s tom and cymbals only adding to the otherworldly vibes. As “River” moves immediately into the bongo-infused “Lady,” the straightforward and heavier riff style takes over and the band reminds what it was about the first album that worked so well without sacrificing any of the advances yet made this time around or apologizing for any changes they may have undergone.
“Lady” gives way to a ‘70s prog vocal/guitar interplay and guitar solo that joins with the opening of “Towers.” So far, that’s three tracks that more or less blend together as one piece of music, and the flow between them is remarkable. “Towers” begins softly with Nilsson and Hirse engaging in the harmonies that are quickly becoming a staple of the band’s approach, asking us what more are we than “A dot on a line or a drop in the sea.” By the time the song is over, I’m ready to embrace insignificance wholesale. No problem.
“Towers” and “Fire” do not meld together via the same congress as “River,” “Lady” and “Towers,” but “Fire” is a strong enough rocker that it doesn’t matter. The song is one of II’s several immediate highlights, and like opener “Garden,” could just as easily have been the advance track like “Edge” was. Some of the band’s lighthearted nature comes through in crowd vocals (I’ll not say “gang” to stay away from the hardcore terminology) and a solo heavy on the wah. This is Asteroid’s bread and butter, and it seems on repeat listens that no matter the directions they may choose to go on any given album, a track like “Fire” is the nest to which they’ll return.
II finishes out in suitable fashion with “Time,” its longest track at 6:12. Here the band further take the late Colour Haze-style noodling approach again, but at a quicker pace, so that you know in listening how the song is going to pick up sooner or later. Right around 2:25, it does, and similar to “Karma,” the transition is no less satisfying for being thusly telegraphed. Ultimately, “Time” demonstrates that not only have Asteroid grown in the sense of adding jams to their music — there was plenty of that last time around — but their ability to add said spontaneous-seeming moments to their song structures is in a developmental stage whereby the transition from one to the next feels utterly fluid and natural. I shutter to use the word “organic,” but man, if this was sitting next to a bunch of those fake-looking, wax-covered apples in the produce department, there’s no question which I’d go for.
If Asteroid set forth the band’s name as one of the brightest newcomers in 21st Century fuzz, then II confirms the potential. Like its predecessor, it is an album whose appeal will only grow with time, and I already have difficulty imagining it won’t be on my best of 2010 list.
In other words, yes, it’s quite good, and yes, it’s highly recommended.
Tags: Asteroid, Fuzzorama, Sweden