Review & Full Album Premiere: Sons of Alpha Centauri, Continuum

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Sons of Alpha Centauri Continuum

[Click play above to stream Continuum by Sons of Alpha Centauri in full. Album is out June 1 via H42 Records and Cobraside Distribution.]

Much as one hesitates to use the word ‘unique’ generally, I can’t think of anything quite so fitting to describe the path that’s led UK instrumental four-piece Sons of Alpha Centauri to Continuum, their second album. Released through Cobraside Distribution in the US and Canada and H42 Records in the rest of the world, the eight-track/39-minute sophomore offering — the sophmoffering? — arrives some 11 years after Sons of Alpha Centauri made their self-titled debut (discussed here) and follows a period of multiple collaborations with US-based acts Karma to Burn and Yawning Man — I still regard Yawning Sons‘ 2009 album, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), as one of the finest atmospheric desert rock albums ever made — as well as splits with A Death Cinematic and Hotel Wrecking City Traders/WaterWays (review here). They also played Desertfest London in 2013 (review here) and have regularly played out, so as I’ve said before, it’s not like the four-piece have been sitting on their ass for the last decade plus.

They just haven’t been putting out Continuum, which is something that guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, drummer Stevie B. and keyboardist/synthesist Blake — actually credited with “textures” — at last correct, bringing together a slow motion whirlwind of patient and progressive instrumentalist execution under the direction of producer/mixer Aaron Harris, formerly of Isis. In returning to work in the context of a full-length, Sons of Alpha Centauri don’t see unaffected by how they spent their intervening years, and one can hear the reach of Gary Arce‘s desert-setting guitar tone from King on “Interstellar” and the A-to-B straightforward heavy rock of Karma to Burn on “Solar Storm” and intermittently early on in 11-minute closer “Return Voyage.” The missing link, then, would seem to be Isis, but with Blake‘s textures on keys, synth, loops and presumably somewhere in there a laptop permeating so much of the record and giving King time to breathe on guitar, there’s plenty of post-metal vibe as well.

Sons of Alpha Centauri, then, would seem to draw from the environments in which they place themselves, and that’s kind of the ideal purpose of collaboration in the first place. More importantly, they sound comfortable shifting the balance from one side to the other and the other, which gives Continuum an all the more multifaceted style. At the same time, there’s a marked sense of momentum that takes hold as intro/opener “Into the Abyss” patiently takes hold, part Vangelis, part Isis, leading directly into the starting drum roll of the subsequent “Jupiter,” which in turn will give over to the more straightforward “Solar Storm.” Even here, the fuzzy, careening central “verse” riff is backed by a consistent layer of synth — not quite a drone, but an ever-present ambient melody — that fills out the sound and adds to the proceedings what the band are ultimately right to call texture.

Sons of Alpha Centauri

There are many ways an instrumental band compensates for a lack of vocals. Lead guitar is one. Not compensating at all has arguably worked for Karma to Burn since, well, since they nixed the idea of a vocalist after their first record. Some others fill out arrangements with varying instrumentation. Sons of Alpha Centauri‘s approach, I suppose, is most like the latter, but the four-piece are more subtle about it than many. Blake‘s work on Continuum might be the factor that ties the tracks’ varying moods together, from the side A intro “Into the Abyss” to the side B intro “Surfacing for Air” and all along as each half of the record that unfurls from there, he enhances the ambience of “Interstellar” and brings progressive flair to “Jupiter” and “Solar Storm” at the record’s heavier post-intro outset. Though even this portion of the record is fairy dynamic, as King leads the way through loud/quiet tradeoffs in “Jupiter” that seem to mirror what will unfold on a grander scale with “Return Voyage” at the end of the record. They’re not quite going back the way they came, but one can read some symmetry there anyhow.

And it’s worth noting that the balance of Continuum, which takes its audience on this journey to Jupiter that the band seems to be making, is on the outward. “Return Voyage,” as the final statement they offer, certainly has its impact and fittingly provides a musical summary to coincide with being the final chapter of the narrative, but with one song about getting back to earth and seven about leaving or having left — the penultimate 2:47 piano piece “Orbiting Jupiter” is about having arrived — there’s little question as to which direction is the band’s priority when it comes to evoking a sense of story. Sons of Alpha Centauri are about the going and having gone. And the results of that, while grounded in their structure and presentation thanks to the foundation of Hannon‘s bass and Stevie‘s drumming, are more directed than your standard everything-hang-loose psychedelia, space is obviously still a factor sonically as well as thematically. The final build in “Return Voyage” as it crosses its midpoint might be the most Isis-reminiscent moment on Continuum, but like the rest of their discernible influences, this too is recontextualized in a sound that is the band’s own.

As, frankly, one would hope for a record having been a decade-plus in the making. I won’t say Sons of Alpha Centauri wasted their years, because they’ve clearly been able to enrich their own style by collaborating with those outside the confines of their own lineup. Rather, the fact that Continuum is their second full-length is somewhat deceptive given all the experience and sense of purpose they’ve been able to garner since their debut, which even then had a fervent progressive streak at its foundation. What Continuum represents, though, is significant growth on multiple fronts for the band, and an awaited moment of declaration of who they are and who they can be in aesthetic and performance terms. Will it be another decade before album number three? I don’t know, but if it is, it will still be worth keeping track of how and with whom Sons of Alpha Centauri choose to spend that time, since invariably they’ll continue to learn lessons that will feed into their own work later. That process has unquestionably worked to their advantage here.

Sons of Alpha Centauri, Continuum teaser

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Sons of Alpha Centauri to Release Continuum June 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Sons of Alpha Centauri

Space is the apparent theme of Sons of Alpha Centauri‘s sophomore long-player. Continuum is set to release on June 1 through H42 Records and Cobraside, and it follows 11 years after the band made their self-titled debut (discussed here). What have they been doing in all that time? Mostly releasing splits and collaborations. They took part in Yawning Sons with Yawning Man and Alpha Cat with Karma to Burn offshoot Treasure Cat, put out no fewer than three splits with Karma to Burn proper, as well as a split with WaterWays and Hotel Wrecking City Traders and a split with A Death Cinematic.

So they’ve been keeping plenty busy, in other words, just not putting out an album. Well, the eight-track/39 minute Continuum changes that with graceful progressive flourish and more weighted stretches to match its breadth of atmosphere in cuts like “Solar Storm” and “Interstellar.” A science-driven post-rock pulses through “Io” while the penultimate “Orbiting Jupiter” offers reflective piano ahead of the 11-minute closer “Return Voyage.”

Not saying I’ve heard it yet or anything, but it’s an album that covers a lot of ground and well earns its voyaging aspects. Here’s info from the PR wire:

Sons of Alpha Centauri Continuum

Sons of Alpha Centauri announce details from upcoming album “Continuum”

Over a decade since the release of their debut album, UK’s stoner/progressive metallers Sons of Alpha Centauri return for their sophomore album – an epic introspective journey of abrasive and ambient progressive electronic alt rock entitled Continuum.

Over a decade in development, Continuum is driven with a raw infusion of power that only Aaron Harris from ISIS and Palms (which features members from Deftones) could deliver from the producing and mixing helm. Harris has driven his unique and deep understanding of the genre to channel the album to compare against contemporaries such as the debut Palms album and the ISIS masterpiece Panopticon.

This raw and cathartic performance further reinforces that this is Sons of Alpha Centauri at their heaviest with Continuum wrought with dark anthems, intense textures, introspective interludes and tidal waves of immersive distortion.

Having just recently released a boxset of their collaborations with Karma to Burn and their partnership with Yawning Man known as Yawning Sons being widely regarded as a cult act the return of Sons of Alpha Centauri is something to really watch in 2018.

Continuum sees a development of the heavier blended concepts expressed on the debut album and Sons of Alpha Centauri re-emerge with Aaron Harris as the instrumental electronic alt rock titans!

New Sons of Alpha Centauri album Continuum will be released on 1 June 2018. H42 Records – Worldwide and on Cobraside Records – United States & Canada

Aaron Harris from post metal band ISIS and Palms (featuring members of Deftones) has engineered and produced the Continuum.

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofalphacentauri
https://twitter.com/SoAlphaCentauri
https://sonsofalphacentauri.bandcamp.com/
http://www.sonsofalphacentauri.co.uk/
https://www.h42records.com
http://cobraside.com/

Sons of Alpha Centauri, Continuum teaser

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