During their time together, it was said that Netherlands-based progressive heavy rockers 35007 were “a state of mind.” That’s fair. A lot of bands have slogans. Looking back on their catalog now, nearly a decade after the 2005 release of their final album, Phase V (discussed here), their discography seems less a state of mind than a world to be explored. Germany’s Stickman Records, which was the band’s label home for most of their tenure, has continued to foster that exploration since 35007‘s dissolution, both in making their studio outings available to those bold enough to find it and in fostering other European heavy prog acts like Motorpsycho, whose legend and catalog seems to grow each year. In a grand gesture of reverence, Stickman has recently reissued three of 35007‘s albums on vinyl: 1994’s Especially for You debut, 1997’s sophomore long-player 35007, and 2002’s Liquid.
Each release is different, and it’s important to remember that we’re spanning eight years of the band, different lineups, a developing approach, but what unites all three is the bleeding-out passion with which the reissues are executed. Not just time, effort and money put into them, but love. It’s evident in the gatefolds of 35007 and Especially for You, or in the way the color of the vinyl matches the album artwork for all three — black and red on Especially for You, white on 35007 and blue on Liquid. These are 180g treasures for a group who, if they’d come along a decade later than they did, would still probably be considered among the forebears of modern European heavy psychedelia. In presentation and in the sound of each of these, the spirit of honoring the band is obvious and palpable, and while that might intimidate the novice or someone less familiar with 35007‘s work, the music itself is so consuming that one can’t help get immersed, first time listener or not.
A quick breakdown:
Especially for You (1994)
Their earliest work. Especially for You only barely represents the ground 35007 would cover and break in their time together. There are flashes of the progressive fluidity their heavy psychedelia would later accomplish on the late instrumental “Water,” which appears here on side C, leaving the second half of he second record to “Slide,” but much of 35007‘s first outing got its personality from its crunching riffs, and while they’d gain a reputation afterward as an instrumental unit, songs here are often distinguished by vocals, and that begins on opener “Zandbak,” which takes an early stoner rock nod and build off it with keys and samples in an nascent showing of experimentalism. The subsequent “Basiculo ad Cunnum” is more indicative of the atmospherics and blend of Krautrock texturing, tonal heft and patience that would develop in their sound, but it too has a younger intensity to it, 35007 figuring out their where their place is even as they come do define it, keyboards factoring in heavily throughout, even as side B’s “Bad Altitude” starts out all riff and swagger en route to one of the LP’s most satisfying blissouts.
Space funk joins heavy rock impulses on the later “U:mu:m’nu:” and “Cosmic Messenger,” hinting at some of the territory 35007‘s countrymen in Astrosoniq would cover in the years to come, and “Slide” closes Especially for You with prog-metal chugging — it was 1994, so Tool‘s Undertow might’ve been a factor in the rhythm and vocal shouts — and a kitchen-sink finale of noise, swirl and sampling. If anything’s a giveaway of the 20 years that have passed since its initial release, it’s the production, since the adventurousness and will toward progression at its heart is still very much evident in what they accomplish. It’s a hard record to dig into without thinking of what 35007 did afterwards, but that doesn’t makes the space-rocking “The Elephant Song” any less enjoyable as the centerpiece of side B, its wanderings both engaging and righteously trippy, buried-deep semi-spoken vocals calling throaty shots atop a deep swirl of lead guitar echo. There are bands out there today, more than a few, who are trying to sound like this and haven’t yet caught up to what 35007 did their first time out two decades ago. That sounds like hyperbole, but it’s also true.
It would be difficult to mess with the low-end fuzz that underscores the breathing tension of 35007 opener “Herd,” and you won’t hear me try. I’ll again compare it to Astrosoniq‘s propensity for opening to a chorus, but it’s really just the tip of the weird futuristic submarine racing apparatus when it comes to 35007‘s second album, also known as Into the Void We Travelled. Issued three years after their debut as their first outing on Stickman, it’s immediately more cohesive stylistically, a bruiser riff in “Soul Machine” finding accompaniment in the keys and psychedelic undercurrents, the two sides playing off each other rather than competing as they sometimes seem to be on Especially for You. Of course, the ambient vibe isn’t absent either, as “Short Sharp Left,” which rounds out side A takes hold with a swaggering, almost Western, guitar line and drum stomp only after a stretch of ambience that picks up directly from “Soul Machine,” making it impossible to tell on the LP where one ends and the other starts. A lot of what 35007 accomplishes on this album is laid out in the first of its four sides, but the thrill of the journey and hearing where the band takes its now-more-solidified approach — be it the plus-sized riffing of “Big Bore” on side B or the subsequent Zeppelin-in-space acoustics of “Vein” — shouldn’t be discounted either.
“Undo” explodes to start out side B prior to the farther-out method expansion of “Big Bore” and “Vein,” but it’s side C and D that seem in hindsight to show where 35007 were really headed, and among these albums, the divide between the two halves of the self-titled is most stark. Songs like “Herd” and “Soul Machine” and “Big Bore” have an experimental or proggy edge to them, no doubt about it, but with “66” and “Powertruth” on side C and “Locker” and “Zero 21″ bled together on side D, the band shifts first into organ-laced ’70s weirdness before moving into head-down prog chug and keyboard interplay on “Powertruth” — listening right after Especially for You, the song seems in direct conversation with parts of “Slide,” but it’s ultimately more straightforward — building to a rushing head before being carried out by its frenetic keyboard line. Similar impulses drive “Locker” and “Zero 21″ — a flair for capturing the “let’s try this” moment — but the closing duo come across most as the moment where 35007 found their niche in a psychetronic (now almost entirely) instrumental blend of heaviness and atmospherics, starting so quiet and patiently evolving the movement over the two songs to the record’s blood-stirring apex. This was a crucial transitional phase in the band, and in terms of harnessing where they were coming from and where they were headed, it brings together the best of both worlds.
Preceded by a 1999 Stickman reissue of Especially for You and 2001’s Sea of Tranquility EP, the 2002 Liquid full-length is as aptly-named as an album can get. Of the three new vinyl releases it’s the only one that fits on a single LP — it is a full 20 minutes shorter than the self-titled and has a printed record sleeve instead of a gatefold — but the expanses 35007 cover across its four tracks more than answers for any “Hey, where’d the rest go?” type questioning that might arise. Liquid is arguably 35007‘s most essential release. Phase V would expand on these ideas and concepts and delve further into ambience, but Liquid was the lightbulb moment in the narrative of band, certainly as pertains to these three outings and overall as well. The tonal warmth in the bass on “Tsunami” or the smoothness of the production, the patience in its completely instrumental transitions and the flow between one song and the next and within songs as well as parts shift into others, it’s fluid, lush heavy psych that’s neither one more than the other in an impeccable and beautiful balance. It made space rock new again, and unlike Especially for You and 35007, it was also clearly intended to be a vinyl release, its four component tracks breaking evenly into two halves and feeding into each other with an audible break between sides A and B.
Flip the band’s name upside down and it spells “Loose,” but I’m not sure they were ever tighter or more coherent than they are here, building with keys and riffs and effects as “Crystalline” morphs gradually out of “Tsunami” to jam its way forward and back again into its own mix, a strong current of synth remaining with volume swells to set a wave pattern from which the guitars, bass and drums burst in for the final stretch, their cold disappearance after the climax seeming to cut short a track that’s already reached toward eight minutes long. On side B, the shorter “Evaporate” recalls some of the progressive metal riffing of 35007‘s earlier days, but like the band’s approach overall, it is more clearheaded about what it wants to accomplish, toying with back-and-forth tension release in what might’ve been a verse and a chorus five years prior but here serve as a means to a more complex end, giving way somewhere in a wash of keyboards to closer “Voyage Automatique” as bass plays the pivotal role of anchoring the proceedings, not weighing them down necessarily, but making sure there’s solid ground somewhere beneath all the open space. Gradually, “Voyage Automatique” builds to a head in a patient linear execution, and Liquid ends with a fading keyboard line that seems to still be exploring, reaching further out from where the band decided to vacate the jam, leaving it and the listener alike to process the data uncovered by all this exploration.
From their beginning, 35007 was a progressive heavy rock act with an individualized take. The fact that they were then able to realize their potential and push themselves further into their own sound made them truly distinct among what was happening in heavy music at the time, and while they’re not around now to continue that journey — members can be found in Monomyth and Neon Twin — reissues like these show just how special their work was. Due reverence, through and through.