Exploratory heavy rockers Space Mushroom Fuzz may have decided to call their second tape boxed set Back from the Past, but it’s actually comprised of some of their most recent material. The prolific Boston space/jam/heavy rockers led by Adam Abrams (also Blue Aside) self-released four full-lengths last year between April and December, and all four — Man in the Shadow (April), A Possible Paradox (August), Stealing Some Time (November) and Burning the Almanac (December) — are gathered here, pressed DIY in an edition of only 20 copies (I got number 4, as I hope everyone does who winds up with one) and sold on the cheap for $8 through Space Mushroom Fuzz‘s Bandcamp. At two bucks an album, it seems fair to call Back from the Past a bargain even before one actually cracks it open and listens to the music, which upon play shows development over the course of the year and the band from the jammy sensibilities of their older material to a kind of garage space rock, Abrams a steady presence on guitar and vocals, as well as periodically working on drums and bass despite being joined in those roles by Clay Neely (Black Pyramid) and John Belcastro on drums, Scott Levine on bass for Burning the Almanac, and for a couple songs, Steve Melanson on saxophone.
More than anything, the mission of Space Mushroom Fuzz seems to be to weird out and have a good time. I can dig that. A studio project, that they’d have a slew of releases isn’t necessarily much of a surprise, and that there’s a glut of material doesn’t seem to take away from any kind of completeness in the songs — that is, sometimes when I band is geared toward putting out a lot of stuff, things can get rushed so they can move onto the next project. Abrams as the driving force of Space Mushroom Fuzz allows songs to develop to a natural point across these four albums, so that the layers of effects in “Gallopie” and “Wreckage” from Stealing Some Time are as much a part of the atmosphere as the root riffs and verses (at least verses in the case of the latter, since “Gallopie” is instrumental). In addition, I don’t know if it’s just because there’s so much of it all right next to each other, but it’s easy enough to read a sonic clarity coming into focus from one side of the tape to the next. The albums are positioned such that side one of tape one is the oldest album, Man in the Shadow — still less than a year old — and it runs through so that side two of tape two is the newest, Burning the Almanac. Finding a narrative arc there isn’t hard, and by the time Burning the Almanac comes around and Levine has joined his bass with Abrams‘ guitar and Belcastro‘s drums, Space Mushroom Fuzz sound that much more like the full band they’ve become.
That seems to be something the band acknowledge themselves on Burning the Almanac opener “The Cosmic Evolution,” though if I’m to be completely honest, I’ll say it’s an evaluation I made after hearing the digital version of that record, because when I flipped the tape over to listen to side two for the first time, my player promptly made a feast of it. Technical difficulties on my part notwithstanding, Space Mushroom Fuzz continue to be somewhat elusive as an act, working around a center of space rock that’s off-center and feeling its way through an ongoing progression even as it results in more and more recorded output, but in cases like Back from the Past, it’s interesting to have them step aside from time to time and take a look at what they’ve done. Their prior tape set, Seeing Double (review here), worked similarly if not as expansively, and the compilation format suits the project. As a lead player and the figure devising these songs and directing their progression, Abrams presents a gleefully strange take on psychedelia, weaving into and through convention en route to something decidedly and purposefully different. One might expect Space Mushroom Fuzz to lead with their newest work and move backwards from there, but listening to it front-to-back, their being counterintuitive seems to be part of the fun.