The languid flow of Black Moon Circle‘s Andromeda is exceptionally well-suited to the vinyl treatment that Crispin Glover Records (distribution through Stickman Records outside Norway) has given it. I don’t know the pressing numbers for the late-2014 release, but the single LP arrives complemented by a CD in a quality matte/gloss cover with a thick sleeve for the record itself, the vinyl a gold and black swirl (solid gold or black also available) that matches the artwork of the sleeve, the front cover a play on the artwork for the Trondheim, Norway, three-piece’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here). It is a spacious presentation and that also fits with the musical thematic with which Black Moon Circle works on the five included tracks, recorded live instrumentally with guest appearances from Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective (who also produced the first album) adding swirl to opener “The Machine on the Hill,” the subsequent “Jack’s Cold Sweat” and side B standout “Dragon,” and Marius Pettersen, who adds vocals to those of vocalist/bassist Øyvin Engan and guitarist/vocalist Vemund Engan on “The Machine on the Hill” and the 15-minute closing title-track, and the three-piece of the Engans and drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen show marked growth in expanding sound-wise and time-wise on their first outing, solidifying their craft with memorable tracks even as they leave room for the occasional psych freakout.
A guest spot from Heller is never going to hurt in that regard, and even as Øyvin‘s bass makes a rich tonal impression on “The Machine on the Hill,” “Jack’s Cold Sweat” takes the emerging duality in Black Moon Circle and runs with it, a blend of heavy psych jamming and grunge-styled heavy rock resulting in a memorable, heavy feel that’s laid back and exploratory but still reliant on structure to move forward. The foundation for the trio working in this style was laid on the self-titled, but as an opening salvo, “The Machine on the Hill” and “Jack’s Cold Sweat” delve further, and in terms of providing a shifting dynamic across Andromeda‘s span, the lack of synth on side A’s third cut, “Supernova,” winds up making it sound all the more spacious, a subtly shuffling snare from Gulbrandsen and warm bassline serving as the foundation for wafting guitar and the melodic, echoing vocals that wrap the album’s first half on a sweetly jamming note as the guitar leads the way out topped by a few last lines in a progression that one imagines could have easily kept going ad infinitum. On the CD, that leads directly into the near-nine-minute “Dragon,” but a vinyl flip to side B makes the introductory acoustic guitar of the latter track all the more distinct. The unplugged layer turns out to be the hallmark of the song and the theme it moves around, a carefully woven build given added pulse with the third and final synth guest spot. Sooner or later, Heller might have to just join this band.
Repetitions of the lines “I feel the dragon rising/I feel the dragon rising again” make for Andromeda‘s most resonant hook in “Dragon,” the far-back drums scaled to suit the acoustics in the earlier part of the song, coming forward later with a full-breadth kick-in of heavier tones and lead swirl, an engaging payoff topped with fading amp noise that provides transition into “Andromeda,” which closes out. Black Moon Circle‘s Black Moon Circle was structured similarly, with a longer opener and longer-than-that closer sandwiching shorter material, but Andromeda is longer and more developed, and its finale is likewise, the trio’s chemistry evident in the pre-freakout guitar swirl and the assured direction-pointing of the bass and drums. As one might expect, a jam takes off from the soothing verses, and a guitar solo drives home an organic peak that pushes through the last several minutes of the album, Black Moon Circle managing to affirm their songwriting by bringing back the chorus amidst all the surrounding movement. That’s impressive in itself, let alone the solo that follows, but by then their hypnotic prowess is well established. The progression at Vemund, Øyvin and Per show in these tracks (and how they blend them together) is no less fitting than the physical presentation of the album. It’s been a year since Black Moon Circle was released — “Dragon” was recorded earlier, but the rest was tracked April 5, 2014 according to the back cover — and in less than that time, trio whose name that album bears have learned from what they did on that outing and brought a sense of creative development to Andromeda. One can only hope they continue to evolve in such a manner and at such a rate.