Review & Track Premiere: Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time

gone cosmic sideways in time

[Click play above to stream ‘Deadlock’ from Gone Cosmic’s debut album, Sideways in Time. It’s out April 12 on Kozmik Artifactz.]

Between their moniker and the title Sideways in Time for their debut album, one would almost expect Gone Cosmic to be some noise-soaked psychedelic jam band, plugged-in, tuned-in, turned-on and drifting into oblivion. Well, there’s some noise in “Deadlock,” and “Misfit Wasted” on sides A and B, respectively, but even those longer tracks follow a structural pattern, and on the whole, the Calgary-based four-piece are far more songwriting-based than it might appear on the surface. That’s hardly a detriment to the Kozmik Artifactz-delivered LP, which comprises eight songs and 46 minutes that certainly have psychedelic elements at play, but are perhaps even more likely to make an impression with their more straightforward aspects. Most immediate among those is the vocal performance of Abbie Thurgood (The Torchettes), who from opener “Dazed” onward surges to the front of the mix alongside the alternatingly fuzzed and scorched guitar of Devin “Darty” Purdy (Chron Goblin), the gotta-hear-it bass tone of Brett Whittingham (also Chron Goblin) and the punctuating drum work of Marcello Castronuovo, whose snare distinctly reminds of the first Kadavar record.

Even in the moments when Thurgood steps back from the fore, as in the early going of “Deadlock” or in the mostly-subdued closer “My Design,” her presence remains significant, and she comes through clearly and proffering soulful melodies in the modern-classic fashion. That doesn’t necessarily relegate the rest of the band to a supporting role — guitar rules the day by the end of “Faded Release” and the subsequent “Turbulent” that leads off side B is almost entirely an instrumental in an Atomic Bitchwaxy modus, wrapped around a winding riff that also gives the rhythm section a due showcase. The songs, then, are varied enough to carry through the progression of the whole album, but still well drawn together around the performances and the production of Josh Rob Gwilliam at OCL Studios about a half-hour outside of town, in a more pastoral setting befitting the record’s naturalist vibe.

That production immediately helps the band make an impression as “Dazed” starts off the record at a bounce, smoothly hitting into its first verse and chorus on a sharp-edged mover of a riff with dat-bass-tho nestled in underneath and a flourish of keyboard — I think — melody just beneath that counters the riff and feels like a sonic easter egg waiting to be noticed. The solo section kicks in after a sudden stop at the midpoint and then does so again, seeming to add layers as it moves through, all the while effectively grounded by the bass and drums as Thurgood makes her way back in before they finish and start the process all over on “Deadlock,” which is the first of three tracks over six minutes long. The others — “Misfit Wasted” and “My Design” — are both on side B, but the clear intent of putting “Deadlock” second is to show how far out Gone Cosmic are ready to go. And they go pretty far.

gone cosmic

Purdy‘s guitar howls in kind with the vocals, and there’s a definite atmosphere being constructed, but Whittingham and Castronuovo effectively hold the proceedings to ground and lock in a real-world groove that’s consistent even in the break in the song’s second half before it explodes back to life and finishes, like the opener, with a guitar solo. “Siren” follows at about two minutes shorter and lands with a mellower vibe thanks to a well-percussed but ultimately subdued flow in its verse that of course sets up a more full-on surge during the chorus but ultimately moves from its final solo into last, softly delivered verse ahead of “Faded Release” at the end of side A, which begins in likewise eased-in fashion only to burst to life as it rounds out, the full brunt of its impact hitting in before the two-minute mark and emphasizing the dynamic at work on the part of the band, the guitar holding sway over much of its second half as would seem to be Gone Cosmic‘s modus. They make it hard to argue.

Jet engine guitar introduces the shuffling “Turbulent,” which, again, is the closest Gone Cosmic get to instrumentalism, taking some cues from Earthless along the way as the guitar stretches out for its solo near the midsection. Thurgood adds a few quick lines amid the effects breadth, but the boogie soon resumes its fuzzy shove and, somewhat unsurprisingly, a solo closes out and leads the way into the atmospheric launch of “Misfit Wasted,” which is a highlight and the longest inclusion at 7:10, a point at which the nominal ‘going cosmic’ seems to be taking place. The vocals croon over languid guitar and gradually lead the build toward a more solidified riff, which takes hold at 3:30 and drives the softshoe-ready push thereafter, more righteous bass and drum work underscoring the procession as a lead transitions into feedback and amp noise to close. The penultimate “Bear the Weight” sees fuzzier low end come forward with airy guitar and layered vocals as Gone Cosmic use the second half of the LP to its traditional purpose in branching out their sound.

In that way, it’s a fitting setup to “My Design” at the end, which stays quiet for most of its 6:28 but still offers a suitable payoff, as the band subtly shift their structural approach while keeping the craft at the center of their focus. They end, of course, with a guitar solo that cuts to silence, and in so doing offer a reminder that as cohesive as Sideways in Time is — and it is — it’s the beginning point of their exploration, not the conclusion. When and where they might end up in terms of sound is hard to say, as they could easily end up playing one side or the other between the psychedelic and more straightforward classic songcraft in their work, both, or neither as they move forward. Most important of all, they’ve given themselves the ground on which to build as they do progress, and they’ve given clear signals of their intention to do precisely that, offering clearheaded and memorable material all the while.

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