Alpha Centauri is the self-released debut EP from Charlottesville, Virginia, space rockers Corsair, and my, they certainly do have their riffs in order. The instrumental opener “Skykrakken” is an efficient introduction into Corsair’s blend of classic ‘70s prog and modern heavy riffery (so yeah, a little like Mk II Deep Purple), but it’s with the next track, “Beware, the Black Fleet” that the release really takes to the sky, the song opening by making a dirty deed out of a certain AC/DC riff while soon unfolding into NWOBHM-style guitar harmonies from six-stringers Paul Sebring and Marie Landragin.
There’s a hint of Clutch in the groove of “Beware, the Black Fleet,” but Corsair’s vocals, performed on this track with a classic rock recklessness that reminds me of Oscar Cedarmalm’s work in Greenleaf, put them in a different arena entirely. Both Sebring and Landragin handle vocals, as does bassist Jordan Brunk, resulting in a varied approach that’s best set to work in a catchy chorus, but just as effective changing it up with Bowie-isms on “Last Night on Earth.” The guitar solo after three and a half minutes helps bring that song into the context of the rest of Alpha Centauri, but it’s a pretty striking difference between the two tracks preceding and this third. Neither song sucks, though, so it works out.
The last two tracks on the EP, “Space is a Lonely Place” and “Starcophagus,” are longer and no less accomplished. There’s more Deep Purple, plus some Captain Beyond and King Crimson to be found, and though “Space is a Lonely Place” is somewhat riffier than “Last Night on Earth,” it’s with this track that Alpha Centauri really gets its flow moving. The production of Lance Brenner has maintained a natural feel throughout, but “Space is a Lonely Place” feels otherworldly nonetheless, with its more drawn-out soloing and tempo switches. At just over seven minutes, it doesn’t have quite the same immediacy as “Beware, the Black Fleet,” but it might be Corsair’s most striking moment anyway.
Transitioning smoothly into “Starcophagus” — the guitar harmonies of which remind subtly of Corsair’s fellow Virginians, Valkyrie — Alpha Centauri ends as it began: a spacey instrumental. There is a brief spoken word part at around 3:45, but by and large, the song is meant as another showcase for the work of Sebring and Landragin. They are, it’s worth noting, up to the task. Their playing shows personality and technical prowess both, and in the rhythm section, Brunk and now-former drummer Leigh Ann Leary display apt discretion in letting the high end shine when it should. Alpha Centauri is done in under a half-hour, but it’s more than enough time to see and understand Corsair are onto something with their developing sound. As they blend pieces of classic prog, space and stoner rocks, they’re only going to find out the result of combining these elements is an approach all their own. They’re not there yet — this is a debut — but I hear nothing on Alpha Centauri to suggest the four-piece can’t make that happen, and perhaps sooner than you’d think.
Oh, and just because no space rock review is finished until someone says it: Hawkwind.
Charlottesville, Corsair, Unsigned bands, Virginia