VALIS to Release Minds Through Space and Time on Oct. 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

If I was going to trust anyone to deliver on a record called Minds Through Space and Time, it’d probably be Washington heavy psych rockers VALIS, who’ve been in search of space since their first split with Kitty Kitty showed up on Man’s Ruin all those many years ago. They seem to have made a jump — at least as regards the digital issue — from Small Stone to their own Strange Earth Records, but as the PR wire says below, there’s a physical pressing to follow, so I’m not quite sure what the deal is there.

In any case, new VALIS is good news, as 2009’s Dark Matter (review here) was inter-stellar. Examine the following closely, and dig:

VALIS Announce Release of New Album Minds Through Space and Time Out Digitally On October 5th

Band Releases Free Single and Music Video for “Space Station”

Rock-trio VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) are excited to announce the release of their newest record Minds Through Space and Time on October 5th via Strange Earth Records. Minds Through Space and Time, the band’s fourth full-length album and first since 2009’s Dark Matter, will be available at all online digital outlets, with release of 180 gram colored vinyl and CD to be announced in the future. The album was produced by Jack Endino (Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and Nirvana).

The Pacific-Northwest band is currently made up of former Screaming Trees band member Van Conner (bass, vocals) and his brother Patrick Conner (guitar, vocals), with Matt Vandenberghe (drums) rounding out these two original members. Formed in the basement of Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters back in 1996, VALIS began as a casual side project for both Conner and Peters along with Van’s brother Patrick (Kitty Kitty) and Kurt Danielson (TAD). In 1996, VALIS released their first record, a split release with Kitty Kitty on Frank Kozik’s Man’s Ruin label followed by releases for the European label Lunasound, and Detroit’s Small Stone.

Over the years, the lineup has changed several times and has included the aforementioned Dan Peters, Kurt Danielson (TAD, Vaporland), Sean Hollister (King Krab), Adrian Makins (All Time High), as well as producer Wes Weresch. Matt Vandenberghe joined the lineup in 2008. Following the 2009 release of Dark Matter, Adrian left the band and Van switched back to his native bass. On Minds Through Space and Time, Van and Patrick share the vocal duties, and Matt lays down the heavy groove.

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Microdot Gnome, Low Flying Bird/Julian Hades: Space in the Fourth Dimension

Posted in Reviews on December 1st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Released on his brother Van’s newborn Strange Earth Records, the 7” single Low Flying Bird b/w Julian Hades from Gary Lee Conner’s Microdot Gnome casually reminds of the pop roots in psychedelic rock. The former member of Screaming Trees self-released a full-length under the Microdot Gnome moniker last year called 4D Sugarcubes, and with this follow-up two-song outing, he brings to mind Beatles and Floyd and joyfully engages blissful tones without leaving behind a sense of structure to do so. Both “Low Flying Bird” and “Julian Hades” are sweetly toned and melodic, and the current they follow is more revivalist than retro. Those inducted into the cult following of Screaming Trees will take immediate interest in Microdot Gnome based on Conner’s name alone, but there are some sonic likenesses there as well, and Conner is in full control here, showing a range of instrumental prowess – harpsichord, mellotron, guitar, bass, drums, vocals – as well as engineering and mixing the tracks in his home in San Angelo, Texas. Of course it’s a 7”, so there isn’t much time to really sink into the Microdot Gnome aesthetic – these are pop songs, besides – but Conner manages to evoke an atmosphere in the eight-plus minutes he presents, and to give some idea of where the project is headed stylistically.

As to that direction: just about any way you want to look at it, it’s backwards. Even to listen to “Low Flying Bird” on side A and hear elements from the Screaming Trees discography and that puts you more than a decade ago. That’s not to malign the work – clearly Conner’s intent with Microdot Gnome is to forge something new for the present out of these influences from the past, and in that he’s successful – it’s just stating a fact. In the 10 years between Screaming Trees’ breakup in 2000 and the release of 4D Sugarcubes, Conner was completely silent, so expecting him to follow that album with something wholly groundbreaking isn’t fair anyway, let alone something wholly groundbreaking in the genre of traditionalist psychedelic pop, in which half the point is found in that first word, “traditionalist.” The “Taxman”-esque 1965 rhythm that starts “Low Flying Bird,” with horn swells punctuating the end of verse lines and quick snare pops adding to the upbeat feel, finds its appeal not in its originality, but in what it does with familiar elements. Conner works a solid chorus and fills out the arrangement with mellotron and swirling layers of guitar leads, and though he’s never completely out of control, there’s enough happening in the song to make it exciting as he presses beyond the last chorus to the quick finish.

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