Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord: Newfound Purposes

Posted in Reviews on July 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord

I’m not sure what other kind of spacelord it would be — at least in the hands of Trondheim, Norway’s Black Moon Circle, but indeed, it’s a Psychedelic Spacelord. All the trip-out you can handle and then a bunch more from there. Enough so that the line, “Sometimes I feel I’m falling out of time… and space,” has a grounding effect. Issued by Crispin Glover RecordsPsychedelic Spacelord is the sixth Black Moon Circle LP in four years, following behind last year’s The Studio Jams Vol. III: Flowing into the 3rd Dimension (review here), 2016’s 2016’s Sea of Clouds (review here) and 2016’s The Studio Jams Vol. II (review here), 2015’s The Studio Jams Vol. I: Yellow Nebula in the Sky (discussed here), 2014’s Andromeda (review here) and also-2014’s self-titled debut EP (review here) and continuing the band’s lysergic outward journey, finding a place for itself amid a crowded subspace field of star-eyed heavy psychedelic explorers via a sense of openness that extends beyond even sheer sonics to the actual band makeup.

Still comprised of the founding trio of guitarist/backing vocalist Vemund Engan, bassist/vocalist Øyvin Engan, and drummer Per Andreas GulbrandsenPsychedelic Spacelord boasts returns from Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective and his magical customized synth box and recording engineer Magnus Kofoed, who contributes Rhodes, Mellotron and Hammond, and a first appearance from violinist Jonathan Segel. It’s worth noting that these are not listed as guest contributions. Dr. Space has been a member for a while now, and Kofoed recorded The Studio Jams Vol. III and played on that as well, so neither is exactly a stranger to Black Moon Circle‘s jammy modus, but as Segel makes his debut with the band, all three are listed as part of a six-piece incarnation: The Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord Family Band.

Okay, the name needs some work, I’ll admit, but you get the idea. The point is that over the last several years as Black Moon Circle have developed aesthetically, growing a chemistry between the brothers Øyvin and Vemund and Per on drums, they’ve extended that development to the actual structure of the group. A sonic reach grown in proportion to the amount of personnel involved. How does one even start to comprehend such a thing? I’ll admit, I don’t know, but if you can get your brain around it, the latest version of Black Moon Circle would like to immediately set about melting that same brain with their ultra-molten, gorgeously-patient and soaking-wet psychedelic flow, as represented on Psychedelic Spacelord by the 47-minute title-track that comprises the entire thing. That’s right. Black Moon Circle have both expanded to a six-piece and put out a one-song album. Ever wonder what it might be like when a band is truly on their own wavelength? Well, next time you need an example, you’ve got one.

In truth, putting aside the human-resources aspect of Psychedelic WarlordBlack Moon Circle have been headed toward the extended-single-track format for a while now. For bands of their sort — and if you don’t yet hold them in the same league as the Electric Moons, Papirs and Øresund Space Collectives of the universe, this record might change your mind — it’s almost a rite of passage when it comes to how vital a group’s jams have become. How far can they go? “Psychedelic Warlord” divides roughly in half to account for the limitations of the vinyl format, fading out at about 23 minutes in only to reemerge slowly after a minute or so of quiet, but it’s not like the jam ever actually stops. It’s just been edited.

Black Moon Circle

So to answer the question, they go pretty damn far. The Engan brothers and GulbrandsenKofoedHeller and Segel dig into hypnotic fluidity that once more finds suitably striking representation on the album cover, the image of which is taken from the oil/light show that accompanies the band live, and which only highlights the energetic approach that remains so prevalent in their methodology.

Remember that Psychedelic Spacelord is a named Black Moon Circle release. It’s still certainly based around a jam that’s semi-plotted but seems to have plenty of room for improvisation along its course, but what the band seem to do after getting that basic foundation established beneath them is build upward. Maybe they were recorded at the same time and the whole thing was done live, or maybe they were overdubbed later, but the vocals have always been something of a standout factor for Black Moon Circle, separating them from the instrumentalists when they want to be separate and finding them joining those ranks in the Studio Jams material. One recalls the 26-minute “Waves” from The Studio Jams Vol. III, and on multiple levels, it can be argued “Psychedelic Warlord” is an outgrowth of the same impulses. But the new offering is distinct unto itself not only for the human presence the vocals establish as they call out between the wash of synth, guitar, bass, cymbals and Mellotron in the song’s second half, but also because of Segel‘s first-time contributions on violin.

Treated with echo to match its cavernous surroundings, the violin is a defining presence on Psychedelic Spacelord and makes itself absolutely essential to the proceedings. That is, it’s not flourish. It plays as much a role as the various keyed instruments in setting the atmospheric breadth Black Moon Circle bring to bear, and while I certainly didn’t listen to their last release and think, “Golly these guys sure could use some strings,” by no means does Segel‘s participation make Black Moon Circle any more over-the-top than they clearly want to be. It brings class and further melodic intricacy to complement the keys, vocals, synth and guitar, and weaves through the extended piece with a grace that only highlights the same in the other elements at play. It makes Black Moon Circle a stronger, more complete band. Do they have room for a saxophone? Maybe. There’s an awful lot of space being created. Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord Orkester: coming soon.

Or, more likely, not. But take it as an indication of just how open Black Moon Circle‘s processes have become over these prolific years. As they approach a half-decade since their first long-player, they’ve not only amassed more of a catalog than some acts get in their entire career, but they’ve successfully managed to capture their will to push themselves forward each time out, as well as the meta-expansiveness that has made them who they are. All of them, acting together. Black Moon Circle may or may not be set in terms of their lineup, and I wouldn’t dare predict what they might do next or where it might go in sonic terms, but Psychedelic Spacelord conjures focus even as it subsumes the consciousness, becoming memorable through osmosis and a joy to undertake for its immersive, extended duration. Six albums in and one still can’t help but think of the potential and the possibilities for what lie ahead of Black Moon Circle. One more indicator of how special a band they are.

Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord (2018)

Black Moon Circle on Thee Facebooks

Black Moon Circle on Bandcamp

Crispin Glover Records website

Stickman Records website

 

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