In 74 minutes, you can get on a plane in New York and end up 220 miles north in Boston. The distance Brooklyn haze rockers Eggnogg cover in that time is no less expansive. Their second full-length, Moments in Vacuum (Palaver Records) compiles eight mostly-extended tracks drawn together by consistency in the production that seem to nudge their way into a variety of riffy subgenre classifications. Only “Raking in the Dough” (4:32) and the thickened three-minute noisefest “One Monster’s Confession” are under eight minutes, but Moments in Vacuum is immersive enough to live up to its title and justifies its length by unfolding in two distinct halves. It’s almost like Eggnogg – who made their debut with 2010’s The Three and followed with their Nogg EP – compiled two smaller releases each with an individual mindset and set about making them flow as a whole. It’s not quite a split with themselves, but the album does take a turn in its middle following “Nebuchadnezzar” that is striking on repeat listens. The first couple times through, one might not notice or simply wake up from the trance at the end of 15-minute closer “Rhythmic Past” and only then realize how much of a journey one has made. Eggnogg have a natural sound brought out by the recording job of guitarists Justin Karol and Bill O’Sullivan – the latter who also handles the surprisingly diverse vocals – and as Moments in Vacuum gradually gets darker atmospherically leading to the end, that feel is ultimately what keeps the band on track.
Foremost, they’re heavy. In their more intense moments, as on opener “Magog,” O’Sullivan lets loose gruff shouts from the bottom of a canyon that still seems to be higher than the subterranean tone of his and Karol’s guitars and bass. Drummer Ryan Quinn’s task is made somewhat easier by the repetitive nature of some of Eggnogg’s riffs, but when “Magog” slams into a slowdown after five minutes in and the first of Moments in Vacuum’s several samples is introduced, he’s able to hold the time and pacing together and keep his cohorts from spiraling out of control. Nonetheless, the fuzz is overbearing. Hairy, even. Eggnogg play through an aural fog of unabashed burnoutism that’s a stirring reminder of how long ago we all should’ve dropped out of life. The line “sock it to me” sampled from the tv show Laugh-In ends “Magog” and turns out to be a theme running through the first couple tracks. Eggnogg underscore the groove with “Raking in the Dough,” which is essentially a funk song built around a single progression and strummed-out chorus, but righteously catchy all the same. As the opening verse unfolds with the lines, “I understand/Financial man/Knows what he wants and gets it he flaunts it/Sees it all go to plan” before the repeated chorus of “It’s alright I’m raking in dough,” it’s probably Moments in Vacuum’s most directly blues-based stretch. O’Sullivan carries it with a throaty but laid back vocal, and simultaneous left/right channel guitar soloing leads into stoner grooving that would make Brant Bjork proud. Once again, “sock it to me” closes.
As both “Wheel of the Year” and “Nebuchadnezzar” reach close to 12 minutes, they mark the point at which Moments in Vacuum really becomes hypnotic. It’s a hard album to sit through and analyze on a per-song basis, because the overall experience of zoning out to it is so much a part of what makes listening enjoyable. “Wheel of the Year” starts out with a soft guitar interlude/intro and gradually moves into a riff that could be called slow until Eggnogg really hits the brakes tempo-wise on the album’s second half. Still, the song seems to lurch its way into its last third, which picks up thanks to a fast riff and some Sabbathian beat-keeping from Quinn behind the guitar lead. The swagger Eggnogg pull off at the end of “Wheel of the Year” sets the table well for the sleepy warmth of “Nebuchadnezzar,” which isn’t as fuzzed-out as a song like “Magog” or the latter part of the closer still to come, but no less engaging for its laid back sway. Once again, O’Sullivan suits his vocals to the cause, and though the increase in tempo that comes on later in the song would lead to some structural comparisons between “Nebudchadnezzar” and “Wheel of the Year” – maybe rightly so – Eggnogg take the song to a different place stylistically and Moments in Vacuum doesn’t repeat itself in any way that isn’t intended on the part of the band. Certainly, as “One Monster’s Confession” shifts the feel of the record into something darker and wholly more doom-based, redundancy isn’t a concern. The abrasiveness Eggnogg show there is echoed later in the huge riffing and screams that top the finale, but “One Monster’s Confession” is still probably their darkest moment. Something about the bass tone reminds of the inhuman extremity of Godflesh, but of course the context surrounding is entirely less lucid.
“Cydonia” is much cleaner in terms of tone, and moves fluidly through its 10 minutes with time midway for solos (even the bass gets one) from Karol and O’Sullivan that feel more jammed-out than anything Eggnogg has done to this point. The tone of the rhythm guitar is creepy and dark, but in kind of a cliché metal way, and I don’t think it serves the song as well as something less or differently effected might, but the solos that culminate the lengthy instrumental excursion satisfy all the same, and Quinn’s drums add some straightforward fills to round out the experience. “Cydonia” and the title-track are a well-suited atmospheric pair, separated by the sci-fi sample that starts the latter and an overall clearer feel. For their prior descriptions of Martian pyramids and for “Moments in Vacuum”’s sans-oxygen thematics, Eggnogg never go full-on into space rock, at least at not in the Hawkwindian sense. “Moments in Vacuum” lacks nothing for quirk, however, and that proves to be the cut’s greatest strength. There’s a thoughtful edge to the solo that leads into the last minute of the song – they seem to like adding these things late – that’s a stark contrast to the raucousness of “Raking in the Dough,” and another reminder from Eggnogg just how far out they’ve gone. As the album’s swansong, “Rhythmic Past” keeps the more open atmospheres of the preceding few tracks, but is altogether more spread-out. At 15:15, it follows an effective gradual build that brings in well-mixed acoustics and uses a sample to transition into the dominating plod of the ultra-slow riff that makes up the bulk of the song’s final seven minutes. The doom is absolute.
Interesting about Moments in Vacuum overall is how Eggnogg plays with contrast. Early on, with “Wheel of the Year” and “Nebuchadnezzar,” they set slow against not-as-slow, and later, it’s dark against more outwardly heavy, perhaps best exemplified and best accomplished on “Rhythmic Past.” What’s fascinating about it is that the album itself is built much the same way, beginning with these fuzz rock ideologies and transitioning into something more complex in ambience. Whether or not it was Eggnogg’s intent for the structure of their album to mirror the songwriting in this way, I don’t know, but it adds more depth to an already rich listening experience. The album is dense but still accessible in its stonerism, and only seems to grow in appeal with repeated exposures. It’s classic in its freakoutishness and appealing for its balance of stoner and doom influences, but I’m not sure any of that compares to just putting it on and floating with it. So I’d say do that first and let the rest unfold with time.
Tags: Brooklyn, Eggnogg, New York, Palaver Records