German psychedelic jammers Electric Moon have issued two live recordings from 2012, aptly dubbed Live 2012 One and Live 2012 Two. Each of the separately-issued jewel case CDRs (limited to 150 copies each) comes with artwork by bassist Komet Lulu and finds release through guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt‘s Sulatron Records imprint. The songs — six on Live 2012 One and four on Live 2012 Two – are named only for their runtime, and only the last track on each disc is under 10 minutes, while others range from 10:43 to 29:04. The implication is that the band, already prolific in terms of having multiple releases per year for the last few years, will add to the series as they go on, keeping and solidifying their penchant for limited live releases into a cohesive level of self-sustaining output.
I like where this is going.
Where is it going? Well, it’s going toward a catalog of live Electric Moon discs issued by the band on their own terms. Their music, their recordings, their label, their art. Even more, it’s going toward the very heart of what the trio of Schmidt, Lulu and drummer Michael Orloff are searching for musically. Where one segment of European heavy rock seems bent on capturing retro vibes of the early ’70s and another hints at a commercial vision of melodic heavy metal, Electric Moon are after something different altogether, their often-improvised jams reaching toward the very foundations of songwriting. Electric Moon on Live 2012 One and Live 2012 Two are stripping heavy psychedelia down to its essential core of three players on a stage, a massive range of effects and an ever-expanding sense of open space.
On the back of both discs, along with trippy fractals and the tracklisting, is the bold-letter message, “Underground will never die! Fuck the system!” That’s just about the most aggressive thing Electric Moon have to say with either of the releases — the band is instrumental and their music never approaching caustic in its explorations — both of which top 72 minutes long. That does make for a lot of material to dig into for followers of the band or anyone who might be so bold as to take them on for the first time, but the idea here is to be lost in the music, and once you are, it really doesn’t matter how long it goes for. On Live 2012 Two, which was recorded at the 2012 Rockt Den See Festival, Lulu leads the charge on “18:06″ with a running bassline while Schmidt trips out psychedelic swirling and Orloff keeps a fast tempo on drums while also changing up his fills and cymbal hits to match the changes. Even for those who haven’t had a studio primer for Electric Moon or who might be new listeners, most of what they do no matter how it’s recorded is live, and both of these albums capture their vibe excellently, sounding full in the low end and rich across the spectrum.
The highlight of Live 2012 Two is “29:04,” third of the four included jams, which starts off quiet and bursts to life as it embarks on a massive cosmic sprawl, Schmidt noodling echoed tones into oblivion while the rhythm section holds it together across what could’ve easily accounted for a full-album flow on its own. By seven minutes in, it’s huge, but the tide recedes and rises again, and it’s perhaps the best showing of the trio’s chemistry here — no coincidence it’s also the longest; Electric Moon have since their inception been given to developing ideas over their more extended pieces. Live 2012 One, recorded at Zytanien Festival, is longer overall at over 78 minutes, but its six tracks have a shorter average runtime and so might come off as the more varied of the two, but understand, we’re still talking about gradually unfolding builds and lengthy repetitions. Even thought closer “7:07″ feels more plotted in its progression than a lot of what precedes it on Live 2012 One, it’s not exactly like Electric Moon are breaking out the hit radio singles.
And it’s for that reason largely that I consider them an “extreme” band. They’re not extreme in the heavy metal sense of depicting graphic violence lyrically or blastbeating their audience to a pulp, but there’s no perceptible effort either at meeting anyone halfway or sacrificing any aspect of their creative process to crowd capitulation. Perhaps it’s a very specific extremity, of psychedelic or space rock, but it’s an extremity all the same of those genres, and Electric Moon seem only more comfortable with their format over time. Because of that almost as much as because of the interplay between guitar, bass and drums, Live 2012 One and Live 2012 Two fill a specific niche for anyone who might look at the laid back end of European heavy psych and wonder what it would be to take the jammed songwriting basis to its limits. If it’s those limits that Electric Moon are searching for, they haven’t found them yet, and the more immersive their material gets, the more I hope they keep looking.