Nebula & Lowrider, Split (1999)
A full 17 years after the fact, it’s hard not to romanticize a release like the 1999 split between California’s Nebula and Sweden’s Lowrider. Hard not to look at the Arik Roper cover art — so goddamn righteous as it is — or to hear the (mostly) Jack Endino production on Nebula‘s tracks or the blatant post-Kyussism of Lowrider‘s “Lameneshma” and not say to yourself, “This is when stoner rock was stoner rock.” That designation is ultimately meaningless. Aesthetic was no less malleable back then than it is now, and the “stoner rock” of the mid-to-late ’90s was nothing if not part of a changing face of underground heavy that was already around for a quarter-century at that point and persists now, nearly 20 years later — still changing, still remaking itself, still moving forward. That, however, does not preclude a release like this one from representing a special moment within that process.
Issued in April 1999 by MeteorCity, the split followed roughly a month after Nebula‘s Sun Creature EP on Man’s Ruin Records — the tracks from which would be compiled with those from this release and a couple new songs on 2002’s Dos EPs, which I’ll feature around here one of these days, no doubt — and only about four months before their debut album, To the Center (discussed here), came out on Tee Pee. Meanwhile, for Lowrider, it served as an introductory moment for what must’ve at the time seemed like a next step in the kind of desert rock worship that Dozer were offering on their earliest records. And listening to the sweet fuzz proliferated on the instrumental “Upon the Dune,” which closes out the release, maybe it was, but in context of the time of its arrival, they had yet to follow it with the watershed moment of 2000’s Ode to Io (discussed here) and were just a new band paired with a Californian act that had some dudes who used to be in Fu Manchu in it.
Yeah, it’s weird to think of Nebula that way as well, both because as they went on through To the Center and subsequent albums like 2001’s Charged, 2003’s Atomic Ritual, 2006’s Apollo and 2009’s Heavy Psych (review here) they’d craft their own legacy so distinct from that of the band from whom they brought on board bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano (now guitarist/vocalist in The Freeks), and because over those same years the lineup would change so much around guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass. Since their sort-of-breakup in 2010 (see here and here, in that order), Nebula‘s name has been the one that seems to be more glaringly missing from the constant roster of reunions. Think about the bands from that same era who’ve come back. Some like Fu Manchu never left, but to have Dozer, Spirit Caravan and indeed Lowrider at least get back to playing shows and Nebula continue to be MIA, the attitude-laden swing of “Anything from You” and “Back to the Dawn” feels all the more like a vacant space since no one else has been able to capture it in quite the same way since their fadeout. I’ve heard rumors of various sorts about the state of the band and some of them just kind of make me sad, but in these tracks they hit with maximum vitality and their absence makes appreciating them seem all the more worthwhile.
With social media in its relative infancy at the time, at least compared to how it’s swallowed our collective current horror-show reality, the number of people who picked up on what Lowrider were doing with their included four cuts was probably nowhere near where it should’ve been. You could easily say the same of Ode to Io a year later, but here they revel in an even warmer production than on the subsequent debut. One can hear the difference from the start of “Lameneshma” and in the fuzz-laden nod of “The Gnome, the Serpent, the Sun.” They were, like Dozer, Colour Haze and a select few others, years ahead of their time, and though much of the impact and enduring influence they’d have would come from Ode to Io, in hindsight, these songs became a kind of complement to that. Sure, they were released first, but no question that “Shivaree” and “Upon the Dune,” when taken as the other crucial (and just about only) component in the Lowrider catalog, add something to the mix that makes the LP an even richer experience. How no one has done a complete discography release with these tracks, the album tracks, the version of “Lameneshma” from Lowrider‘s 1997 split 7″ with Sparzanza (review here) and any other odds and ends is well beyond me.
I’m also still hopeful that one of these days will bring word of a new Lowrider studio release. It’s coming up on four years now since they started doing sporadic festival gigs — they played Desertfest in 2013 (review here), will do so again in 2017 (info here) — but that remains wishful thinking on my part until something is confirmed. Nonetheless, like with Nebula‘s songs, Lowrider‘s inclusions on this split seem all the more precious for the relative dearth of public material they’ve issued compared to how vast their influence has been. It would’ve been hard to recognize this as a milestone at the time — 1999 was like The Year of Magical Riffing — but it was, and as worldwide heavy continues its constant outward expansion, it’s all the more reason to dig in and get a fuller picture of from whence that comes.
As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.
Speaking of magical, I took this past Monday off work, and it was absolutely incredible. A real day off. No travel, no running around in a panic doing weekend errands that I know I won’t be able to do during the week, no dragging my ass off the couch to clean in the limited daylight hours. Just sitting on ass, listening to music, writing, and hanging out with The Patient Mrs. To say it was everything I want my life to be — with the recognition that I’d have chores to do eventually — would be underselling it. I felt genuinely refreshed as a human being in a way I rarely, rarely do.
So nothing else to do but dive into stuff like the Top 20 Debuts list that went up yesterday, last-minute album streams and fest writeups and putting together back end of the impending Top 30 — which, spoiler alert: actually goes to 50 this year — that’ll be posted on next Tuesday and become completely overwhelmed all over again, right? Right? Right.
Oh and then the week after Xmas is the Quarterly Review. Who decides this shit?
If I didn’t so much enjoy the process of grinding myself into the ground, I’d almost think maybe it wasn’t good for my general sense of well-being.
I posted on Thee Facebooks about a sponsorship deal for the site. It’s happening. Starts in January. More info to come.
In the meantime, here’s what’s in the notes for next week, all tentative of course:
Mon.: Review/full stream of the new Necro, new video from Bright Curse.
Tue.: The Top 30 of 2016.
Wed.: Sgt. Sunshine review.
Thu.: Surya Kris Peters review.
Fri.: Either a track premiere or album stream from Larman Clamor, still TBD.
There’s a lot of news already to catch up on as well, which is good because I expect it’ll be a light week with the impending holiday and all. All the better as it’s more time to set up for the Quarterly Review and get that rolling. Did I mention I’m thinking of adding a sixth day this time? Well I am. We’ll see.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and I hope you’ll please take the time to check out the forum and the radio stream — and if you haven’t yet, to enter your best-of list into the 2016 Year-End Poll. Thanks again for reading.