[Click play above to stream Øresund Space Collective’s Visions Of… in full. Album is out Dec. 9 and available to preorder now.]
By their own count — and we’ll just have to take their word for it — Visions Of… is the 23rd release from Danish space-jammers Øresund Space Collective since their beginnings a decade ago. Not bad for 10 years of near-constant work. This latest studio 2LP comes from the same sessions as the amorphous outfit’s last two albums, the droning Ode to a Black Hole (review here) and last year’s 3LP Different Creatures (review here), and is reportedly the last of the material the group put together in Oct. 22-24, 2014 at Black Tornado Studio, improvising, playing and recording live, as always. What’s really remarkable about the trilogy as a whole is how Øresund Space Collective has been able to take material recorded within three days of each other and use it to sculpt three releases from it, each with a vastly different personality.
Duties might change depending on the jam in which they happen to be engrossed, but the personnel is essentially the same throughout the whole session with the lineup of keyboardist/synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller in the captain’s chair alongside drummer Alex, bassist Hasse (also guitar, African drums), guitarists Mattias (also pedal steel), Jonathan (also violin, theremin and bass) and Mats (also bass, percussive acoustic), keyboardist/organist Jonas (also guitar), and keyboardist/synthesist KG, and yet Øresund Space Collective seem to don different personalities like planets orbiting the same improvisational star. Coming off the droning Ode to a Black Hole, with Visions Of…, they hone a funkier and markedly jazzier take.
Nothing’s universal (pun not intended, reconsidered, then intended), but that’s the impression Øresund Space Collective give in general across Visions Of…, beginning with the sprawl of the 42-minute opening title-track. At 42:12, “Visions Of…” is not only the longest song on the album that bears its name as well as the leadoff (immediate points), but second only to “20 Steps Toward the Invisible Door” (45:13) from Different Creatures as the longest piece from the session as a whole. That might be enough to make it a landmark on its own, but runtime is far from all the track has going for it, lurching to life around intertwining guitar and bass with an initial sense of foreboding that soon enough gives way to a varied wash of color, a bustling of smooth psychedelic exploration that builds and, like the best of Øresund Space Collective‘s output, finds its way as it goes, honestly portraying the roots of creation in the chemistry between the members at play and the textures they weave working as one.
The vibe that develops is bound to be immersive, but there’s dynamic to go with all that hypnosis, so that whether you want to chill and let it flow — I do — or sit and measure out every turn they make, the results are no less satisfying. There’s no shortage of dreamscaping across the considerable breadth of “Visions Of…,” but highlight solos pepper through and at times seem to lead the way through this liquefied plane, and though it’s not until they approach the 30-minute mark, when Jonathan‘s violin enters the serene sort of fray, it’s a special moment worthy of the emphasis it’s given here as the title and opening track. If these are the visions Øresund Space Collective are looking to cast, then they’re no less vivid than the Franz Waldhör painting that adorns the front cover, the two doubtless intended as complements. It is among the more lush proceedings the band has undertaken, and as such it takes a few minutes for them to pull it all apart at the end, the process beginning with a swell of volume and crash after 39 minutes in, and culminating in residual swirl and fading space noise that loses not one beat in being met by the snare roll that starts “Above the Corner.”
Here’s where Visions Of… really gets down. Maybe part of it is coming out of the farflung kosmiche of the title-track, but the movement that “Above the Corner” seems to commence feels rawer, funkier than just about anything I’ve heard from Øresund Space Collective. “Above the Corner” (16:17) and closer “Around the Corner” (11:03) are two parts of the same jam — though, admittedly, two different-sounding parts — and the CD release divides them with the shorter, more percussive “Piece of Seven” (8:35), but the spirit of flow coming out of “Visions Of…” is never lost, especially with “Above the Corner” unfolding so fluidly and with such swagger in its guitar interplay. Space noise complements — jabs of theremin, maybe — but the prevalent theme is wah and guitars and bass alike are happy to partake, leaving the organ, keys and drums to ground the affair while the others go for a walk.
By the end of “Above the Corner,” Øresund Space Collective have thoroughly funked out, and the switch to the rhythm-minded “Piece of Seven” (part of the seventh jam of the session, according to the CD liner) does well to break up the two “Corner” pieces, drums and percussion leading the way as the psychedelia wraps itself around and oozes in all directions, synth, keys, prominent bass and so on following the rolls and circulations of the drums, which start in with snare in the second half seemingly as a sign of winding down, though in reality it’s a while and a whole lot of cymbal crashes before they actually get there and when they do, the last remaining, held line of keyboard is met by a swirl and wah-bass return from “Around the Corner,” reprising the funktitude of its predecessor almost immediately and continuing to build on it for an initial few minutes until a guitar solo begins to lead the way into a more definitively space rock push. It seems to be the drums that finally decide on a straightforward thrust and everyone else joins in around that, but by five minutes in they’re all on full go, and they continue to work around a swinging gallop of one kind or another until “Around the Corner” caps its final build, crashes its last crash, and rounds out in a last wash of fading synth.
To say that at that point it’s been a hell of a trip is probably understating it. Visions Of… offers not only reinforcement of the spontaneity at heart in the conceptual mission behind everything Øresund Space Collective do — the explorations they undertake — but of the vitality they’re able to bring to the actual sessions in the same room with each other, the feeling of bringing the audience into that space (not to mention actual space), and sharing the heart of their creative processes in such an unadulterated, unfiltered form. Though they won’t play live much, they’ll reportedly be hitting the studio again in 2017, and while one can never be sure who might show up for any given session with Øresund Space Collective, it seems only fair at this point to expect the perpetually outbound motion to continue, because even if they could at this point, I don’t think Øresund Space Collective would have it any other way.