Originally released a decade ago in 2006, the second album from Terraplane, Into the Unknown, stands as another prime example of a record that would probably have a much different history if it had come out during the age of social media. It was the German trio’s follow-up to their rawer 2006 debut, Psychedelic Wonderland, and its brand of heavy psych/desert-influenced rock may have just been a couple years ahead of its time, putting it in a similar position to outings by others which, if they were arriving new today would likely garner a much wider-scale response than when they initially did. The climate, as it were, has changed. That can be seen too in the case of Terraplane.
Their eight-song offering arrives on limited-numbers colored vinyl courtesy of Electric Magic Records, an imprint headed up by the band’s former guitarist, sitarist and keyboardist Christian Peters, better known these days as the frontman of Samsara Blues Experiment. I won’t equate the two acts by any measure — their sounds and lineups are different, and they’re trying to accomplish different things entirely — but thinking of them side-by-side, the one existed in a much different content than the other currently does, despite the shared personnel. A decade ago, the “vinyl revival” had barely started compared to where it is now. You see what I mean. Point is that while Into the Unknown isn’t a recent album in the sense of having been put to tape in the last year or two, it’s relevant both stylistically and in terms of a record worthy of the due it’s being given.
Into the Unknown received a 2007 release, CD and LP, through the esteemed Nasoni Records, and while the tracks retain their balance between stoner riffing and heavy psychedelic vibes, there is an overarching freshness to the new vinyl as well. The sides break up more or less evenly time-wise, with five cuts on side A and three on side B including the extended closing title-track, and as the intro “Fair Warning” reaches the end of its sample culled from the Lyndon B. Johnson political ad in which a little girl and everything else get nuked, “Orange Salvation” seems to provide the answer to what “Fair Warning” was heralding: a mushroom cloud of riffy fuzz from Peters on guitar and Christian Oelke on bass, pushed forward by Jens Vogel‘s swinging drums.
An instrumental, “Orange Salvation” further leads the way into side A, which develops its groove with the low-end start to “Once I was You,” the first song to feature Oelke‘s vocals, which fit well with the desert rock vibe of the song overall, the guru lyrics prefacing more expansive instrumentalism to come almost immediately. “Moonflower Blues Pt. II” is mellower, lightly strummed rhythm and wah-drenched lead guitars intertwining in the patient opening two minutes before the verse kicks in. There’s a build at work, and “Moonflower Blues Pt. II” hits an apex on the far side of its halfway point, but even that has a laid back mood at work behind it. The subsequent “Mantra” closes side A and is perhaps the most effective blend of impulses Into the Unknown has on offer, a simple, memorable hook playing out over a stretched Kyuss-style riff with psychedelic flair, Oelke handling rhythm guitar while Florian Furtner steps in on bass. Its extended run is a direct mirror to “Into the Unknown” at the end, but that song is held in reserve as the grand, sitar-laden finale, and rightly so.
Prior to, side B provides Terraplane with ample opportunity to get weird as “Lower” strips away the psych of “Mantra” for blown-out vocals and a rawer shuffle in its first half that slow and spreads cosmic as it makes its way through the second, a rolling groove taking hold that it feels like could probably just keep going. Fair enough, but “Black Mystery” is the real turn, with acoustic guitars in full-twang for a countrified two minutes that retains an offbeat sensibility thanks to the echoing verses overtop. And if by the time they get to “Into the Unknown” itself, you’re not sure what to make of where they might be headed, the tantric jamming of the closer is bound to prove even more surprising. It is an engaging surprise, however.
More than on any other piece included, it’s easy to draw a line between Peters‘ work snailing the wah and layering in sitar here with what he’s done in Samsara Blues Experiment, but “Into the Unknown” has a different, formative spirit, spoken word recited over already-expansive trippery in the song’s first half that opens even wider to a fuzzy, slow-rolling subspace that peaks after halfway in, recedes to minimalist vibing, crests again and ultimately recedes on a fadeout to end the song and the album. The digital version offers bonus tracks recorded at various points — the quick “Dancing in the Fire” from the same session as the record itself is a standout — but on the LP, the core is what’s offered on the two sides of the original tracklisting, and that’s plenty of room for Terraplane to make their case a decade later for being underappreciated. Which they do and then some. It may be a few years yet before people start talking about heavy rock of the pre-social/pre-streaming days of the late-’90s and early-to-mid aughts as a lost era, but as Terraplane‘s Into the Unknown reminds, there was a lot of heavy going on at that point rife for another look.