Buried Treasure Gets Born in Space

I wanted to make sure I heard UK prog instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri‘s follow-up contributions to their Last Day of Summer split/collaboration with Treasure Cat (Underdogma) before writing about their 2007 self-titled debut on Sound Devastation Records, because the first thought in my head on listening to that full-length was, “Man, these drums are dry.”

And they were. 2007’s Sons of Alpha Centauri was recorded live over two sessions between 2005 and 2006, and even after going through the album a couple times, I kept coming back to, “Can I get a little reverb here?” And in fact, I extended that to everything — the guitars and bass too, but still most especially the drums, and most especially the snare.

Finally I realized where this expectation came from. Prior to hearing either the Treasure Cat split or the self-titled, I knew Sons of Alpha Centauri principally by name and from their Yawning Sons collaboration with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce. One thing about that record: it was drenched in reverb. I’m not going to say the drum sound on the first offering is perfect (any production issues are cleared up by the split, it’s also worth noting), but taking away my prejudiced expectation, I felt much less like something was missing from the sound of the band and was able to get into the record with no problem.

There’s plenty of it to get into, too. Sons of Alpha Centauri is 67 minutes long, a monster of an instrumental album, rife with riffs and clever turns. Groove isn’t the primary focus — Karma to Burn‘s an influence, but this isn’t trying to be Karma to Burn — but it’s there nonetheless, and as Marlon King‘s Tool-ish guitar line opens “(Battle at) the Forts,” it’s clear Sons of Alpha Centauri have a diverse range of inspirations. I was surprised to find more straightforward material on the split, like “Under Surveillance,” which goes so far as to include cowbell (very un-prog; not at all a complaint). Not sure if they were just rocking out for the sake of accompanying Treasure Cat, which boasts in its lineup guitarist Will Mecum of Karma to Burn, but it worked for them. The strong rhythm section of bassist Nick Hannon and drummer Stevie B. — the lineup is rounded out by Blake on “textures” — prove adaptable to either approach, so bonus points there.

Doesn’t make much sense to say it, but of the two, I’d recommend starting with both. Some of the production issues on the self-titled might give a mistaken first impression, but the songs are still definitely worth hearing, and the Sons of Alpha Centauri cuts on the split with Treasure Cat go a long way toward confirming those actually were production issues, rather than something internal with the band itself. Plus, the three Alpha Cat tracks on Last Day of Summer — that’s Sons of Alpha Centauri and Treasure Cat put together — are stellar. As a way of getting introduced to the band before either tackling their latest split 7″ with Karma to Burn or impending new album, you really shouldn’t hear one without the other.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply