When last we checked in with German heavy psych jammers Electric Moon, they had released the limited live recording, Flaming Lake, on guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt’s own Sulatron Records. Like the rest of the trio’s output, that album was comprised of massive, extended space rock jams, recorded live and venturing out into improvised reaches where few dare to tread after someone’s pressed ‘record.’ Their follow-up, released either by or in cooperation with Nasoni Records, is the studio full-length The Doomsday Machine, an album that pushes their already expansive sound into new territories. The jam is the center of what they do – always. The interaction and chemistry between Schmidt, bassist Komet Lulu (who also handles vocals and the band’s gorgeous hand-drawn artwork; the cover for The Doomsday Machine is a painting by Ulla Papel, her father) and drummers Alex and Pablo Carneval remains the core of the band here, though since it’s Alex on the opening title-track and Carneval on the other four inclusions, I’d hazard the guess that the first song is the newest and the remaining cuts are older – Alex replaced Carneval on drums last year. In any case, Electric Moon’s überjams have taken on new and engaging personality here, whether it’s Komet Lulu’s bass shining through on the heavy grooving “Stardust Service” (19:46) or the darker, near-Ufomammut tube-driven push of the final moments of “Doomsday Machine” (19:37).
If you didn’t note those runtimes, I’ll repeat them: “Stardust Service” is 19:46 and “Doomsday Machine” starts the album off at 19:37. “Kleiner Knaller,” the second cut, is the shortest by far at 5:17, and “Spaceman” follows at 13:17 and closer “Feigenmonolog” tops out at 21:44. Electric Moon jam until the tape stops. Their sound is warm, their methods helping to set the new-European space rock tradition, and increasingly, their songs are becoming pivotal within that sphere. The Doomsday Machine (also the name of a Star Trek episode) is the best yet of their work that I’ve encountered – limited live CDR releases abound and are quickly sold out – thanks in large part to Komet Lulu’s vocals, which, while utterly spaced out and often buried under a heap of effects, amp noise, distortion, etc., help ground the songs and let you know that there are people in there somewhere making this music and it hasn’t just emanated from some kind of portal to another dimension. Left to your own devices alone with the stonerized otherwordliness of “Feigenmonolog,” you might be inclined to believe otherwise. Schmidt’s guitar is a multi-directional typhoon of tone, and this material, new or old, seems to warm its way from out of the speakers. Sleepy grooves meet with interstellar building – see “Kleiner Knaller” – and periodic but still unpredictable freakouts remind that you could wind up anywhere the band wants you to be on a given path. The music is potent, smells like outside, and shines a brighter light than either the title or the cover would have you believe.
Although, for what it’s worth, while each of these songs holds basically enough substance for an album on its own – “Kleiner Knaller” being no exception in that regard for its shorter time span – it’s “Doomsday Machine” itself that’s the real standout, boasting not only the highlight vocal performance from Komet Lulu, but a kind of less-outwardly-crushing answer to what has become modern space-doom – bands like the aforementioned Ufomammut, or earlier YOB, or Mühr, or even some of Conan’s demolitionary positioning. Electric Moon touch on these ideas tonally, and seem to be well aware of exactly how they’re using these methods to enhance their own approach rather than capitulating to let the tone hold power over the pervasive sense of musical freedom that seems to be the crux of a lot of what they do. The Doomsday Machine is a stronger album for spending this first 20 minutes (I think it’s safe to round up to the nearest minute) on this kind of exploration, as it opens up the listener to hearing other intricacies throughout the ensuing tracks. For an outing that hits and passes 79 minutes long, it’s not an easy thing to hold the attention, and I’ll gladly admit there are times in listening that I’m utterly lost within what Electric Moon are doing – I think that’s the point – but when the trio wants to, they pull you back from whatever trip it is they’ve sent you on and remind you just who it is in charge.
And rest assured, they are in charge. Schmidt, Komet Lulu and Alex (though it’s true for the later material with Carneval as well) are in total control here, even when they’re not, and in case you’ve been wondering, that’s the difference between brilliant heavy space-jamming and fucking around. With songs floating around the 20-minute mark, they’re never going to be everybody’s thing, but even the ambient noise section (plus gong) in the second half of “Doomsday Machine” speaks to the fact that Electric Moon are undertaking a process of development, and their extensive documentation of that process in the live and studio albums they’ve released (at least nine so far) since getting together in 2010 is both bold and admirable. Schmidt may have been known for his work in the project Sula Bassana from which he takes his stage name – or vice versa – or for playing with Zone Six, but Electric Moon might just grow into his greatest avenue of contribution to heavy psych to date. If anything, The Doomsday Machine affirms that there’s more to what they do than improvised riff-mongering, and sets the stage for future space-bound forays still to come. The material is still creative in the immediate sense of sounding spontaneous and natural, but Electric Moon clearly have something behind the perceivable spark igniting these songs. I can’t wait to hear what they come out with next and I’m glad to know that, given their prolific nature thus far into their tenure, I probably won’t have to. Psych on.
Tags: Electric Moon, Germany, Nasoni, Sulatron Records