Plucked from out of the cosmic ether and joining forces for Tranquonauts — maybe the name of the band, definitely the name of the album, possibly also the name of the sleepiest ’80s Saturday morning cartoon ever ported from Japan in order to sell action figures — the pairing of Melbourne heavy psych rockers Seedy Jeezus and Isaiah Mitchell isn’t overbearingly obvious. It’s not like the Earthless/Golden Void guitarist and the Aussie trio of guitarist/noisemaker/graphic artist Lex Waterreus, bassist Paul Crick and drummer Mark Sibson hang out on weekends, what with living on different continents at all.
Together with keyboardist Matt Murphy, the collaborative unit Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell execute two 20-minute instrumental vinyl sides, flowing and jammy-feeling, with a story told in seven words across the two titles “The Vanishing Earth” and “Escape Through the Rift.” Hard to be more concise than that, and for two tracks — which check in at 19:57 (opening with the longest song; immediate points) and 19:17, respectively — given to such open-feeling flow and which show no concern with getting anywhere other than as far out as they can go, presumably through that rift, that efficiency speaks to some underlying purpose.
When the release of Tranquonauts through Blown Music and Lay Bare Recordings was announced here, the B-side had a different title, “King of the Lepers,” so it’s not as if these things have been thrown together haphazardly, and the same goes for the sonic makeup of the tracks themselves. While the prevailing vibe drips from being so coated in lysergic ooze, there always remains a sense of intention behind the interstellar exploration in these pieces.
That’s impressive on its own, but becomes even more so when one factors in that Tranquonauts was recorded on two separate continents as well, with Waterreus, Crick, Sibson and Murphy working in Melbourne and Mitchell in California. The two groups have some history together, having shared a stage at Freak Valley in Germany on separate Earthless and Seedy Jeezus European tours and met there, but for not having actually gotten in a room to play, “The Vanishing Earth” and “Escape Through the Rift” are remarkably cohesive, with Murphy‘s keys adding Woo-esque flourish beneath washes of lead guitar early in the opener, bass and drums ensuring the structural integrity of the material remains intact even as it seems most likely to come flying apart later on.
Sibson and Crick turn in showcase performances on both “The Vanishing Earth” and “Escape Through the Rift,” the latter of which begins with a description of a peyote trip sampled by Waterreus. Not so much for the flash in their playing, but for the class of it, how they balance pushing the jams forward with giving the guitars room to ride out the extended solos as the keys bring an added sense of dynamics and melody.
Likewise, the mix — Waterreus edited, Jason Fuller mixed and mastered — is gorgeous. “The Vanishing Earth” consumes with its depth, emphasizing the hypnotic repetitions at play, but it never gets boring or seems to lose its direction. The guitars step back late in the opener to some degree, and keys and effects come forward in a building wash that seems to signal the approaching end, and they ultimately finish quietly, setting up the drift to come on side B as the patient beginning of “Escape Through the Rift” gets underway following and coinciding with the aforementioned sample.
Here again, Murphy‘s keys shine, but the jazzy bass and guitar interplay accompanying isn’t to be undervalued. As one might expect, the two inclusions on Tranquonauts flow together pretty well — there’s no way they couldn’t given their makeup, frankly, unless the record was a complete failure — but there are distinctions in personality between them nonetheless. The opener takes a more active approach, has more push, particularly in its second half, while the closer holds to its subdued swirl into its organ-laced midsection and beyond, feeling even more psychedelic for it.
Granted, as they move through minute 14 and beyond, the freakout emerges until finally layers of what sounds like jet engines overhead bring the song to its conclusion, but even that is a gradual process — you’ll note a kick in the pace of Sibson‘s drums at 15:39 — and in the context of the prior jam, it feels like a natural progression from one to the other. Guitars and keys get fairly maddened by the end of “Escape Through the Rift,” but one assumes our heroes the Tranquonauts make it just in the nick of time and live to battle the forces of, what, squares?, for another day on some other planet, as amp noise rounds out the ending of the LP bearing the same name.
From Waterreus‘ holy-crap-inducing gatefold artwork, to the deluxe edition of the LP including a heavy rock-themed board game, to of course the songs that comprise it, Tranquonauts is a record that’s so clearly driven by the love of its creation that, if one can get down at all on the most basic level, it’s hard not to be won over by it. Will this be the first and only adventure of Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell under the Tranquonauts banner? Seedy Jeezus served as the backing band for Mitchell‘s recent solo tour of Australia, so it would seem the plot only continues to thicken. If this is a one-off, though, it’s one bound to be treasured by those fortunate enough to snag it while the snagging’s good.