Review & Full Album Premiere: The Spacelords, Water Planet

the spacelords water planet

[Click play above to stream The Spacelords’ Water Planet in full. Album is out Oct. 20 via Tonzonen and available to preorder on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.]

As one might expect for a record comprised of three sprawling heavy psychedelic instrumentals, atmosphere plays a large role in The Spacelords‘ fifth studio outing and second for Tonzonen Records, Water Planet. But it’s not the whole story. And from the underlying progressive melodies in Hazi Wettstein‘s layers of guitar on 11-minute opener “Plasma Thruster,” it’s clear there’s a plotline being followed at least to some degree. No doubt that Wettstein, bassist Akee Kazmaier and drummer Marcus Schnitzler (the latter also Electric Moon) are following naturalist cues throughout “Plasma Thunder” and the subsequent “Metamorphosis” (11:52) and “Nag Kanya” (19:35) that round out the 42-minute offering, but Water Planet has none of the willful clumsiness that often found in spaced-out records based on pure improvisation.

There’s songcraft at work here, however little it might have to do with traditional verse chorus structures. The record, which follows the band’s similarly-minded 2016 three-track long-player, Liquid Sun, and 2014’s Sulatron Records-released Synapse (review here), greatly benefits from that directed sensibility, whether it’s the initial engagement of the opener or the manner in which “Nag Kanya” seems to solidify around its funky wah to push toward the album’s apex and then recede back into fluid drift to send the audience off into space one last time. Rest assured, there’s plenty of exploration still being done in this material — I’m not sure there would be much point, otherwise — but the overarching vibe is expressive as well. These aren’t just indulgent jams.

Perhaps to an unschooled ear, that doesn’t serve for much of a difference as the sampled launch countdown ignites the swirling effects and core bassline of “Plasma Thruster.” At a certain conceptual point, jams are jams, and fair enough, but while The Spacelords still have a sound molten enough as to draw readily on the chemistry between WettsteinKazmaier and Schnitzler, the fact that it also gives them someplace to go sonically seems huge in comparison to other space rock LPs playing to the other side of that equation. This distinction is perhaps evident nowhere so much as in “Metamorphosis,” which is the centerpiece of the three inclusions and presumably the side A finale of the vinyl.

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Almost set to pure drift, its 12-minute stretch is hypnotic in the extreme, and yet, after about four minutes in, there’s a subtle turn from Schnitzler on drums, and as Kazmaier‘s bassline holds steady and the effects wash continues to unfold, Wettstein‘s guitar shifts into the next movement of the track. It’s such a small change, and it may indeed have been recorded live, but it comes across like The Spacelords knew they were going to make that pivot, as well as the one after that brings the song into even airier, post-rocking territory, and their knowing what’s following any given moment makes it that much easier to go with them along this path that, once again, still allows for much trance-inducing, purposeful wandering and spacious vibration.

Whatever commonality of theme may persist between Water Planet and its predecessor, the three inclusions of which were similarly broken down with two extended cuts on side A and one even longer one consuming the entirety of side B, there is a notable uptick in production value on the newer record, which makes the effects churn from Wettstein and Kazmaier and Schnitzler added synth all the more immersive. This is especially true throughout “Nag Kanya,” the rhythmic march of which is topped by a sustained drone that does much to fill out the sound, and to go back further and hear early work from The Spacelords on their 2010 self-titled debut or its 2011 follow-up, Dimension 7, it is plain that their progression has involved not only the move toward clearer intention in their craftsmanship, but also a fuller manner of presenting their material on the whole.

This, in combination with a lineup that feels further coalesced than it did on Liquid Sun, which marked Kazmaier‘s introduction to the band, stands Water Planet apart as The Spacelords‘ most realized full-length to-date. One can’t help but wonder if having this solidified base (bass?) beneath them, the band won’t feel freer their next time out to indulge a bit more improvisational wanderlust, but even if they continue to refine their methods with another liquid-theme three-songer, the obvious drive toward growth that shows itself on Water Planet will no doubt yield further forward progress. That is, there’s invariably more ground for The Spacelords to cover — a consequence in part of having a sound so vast — but between “Plasma Thruster,” “Metamorphosis” and “Nag Kanya,” nothing to argue against their being ready or willing to keep heading outward into the uncharted and, in the process of incorporating new elements and touches amid their already established modus, making that ground all the more their own just as they do here.

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One Response to “Review & Full Album Premiere: The Spacelords, Water Planet

  1. […] The full streaming premiere of the new The Spacelords’ new album Water Planet is now online along a lenghty review via The Obelisk […]

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