German outfit Vibravoid are a hard band to keep up with. Since their 2001 debut was released on CD in 2000, they’ve gone on to become wildly prolific, working with labels like Nasoni, Sulatron, Fruits de Mer and Herzberg Verlag. In 2011, the Düsseldorf natives had their busiest year yet, with three 7” singles/splits, their second live album recorded at the Burg Herzberg festival (their 2010 set was also released last year), and the Minddrugs studio full-length on Sulatron (CD) and the Greek imprint Anazitisi Records (LP). Between that, their stake in the Timezine print fanzine and their affiliation with the ultra-retro Chenaski clothing line, the band has so much happening at any given moment that it’s hard not to get lost somewhere along the way. Even their lineup is nebulous. There’s no info included with the Minddrugs CD in that regard, except that the guitars, bass, mellotron, “stylophone” and theremin are played by Vibravoid, and depending on where you try to find the info, they’re either a trio or a four-piece, the only consistent member of which seems to be band founder/guitarist/vocalist Christian Koch. This can be frustrating if, say, you’re a stickler for including that kind of information in your reviews (cough cough), but ultimately, it stands in accord with Vibravoid’s propensity for mind-bending. Everything they do is steeped in a swirling, surreal psychedelia. What’s most surprising about Minddrugs is the varied forms that psychedelia takes.
Arguably, Vibravoid are best known for the kind of upbeat, late-’60s psych pop that hones in on the era before ballsy riffs took over in rock and it was more about the organ, the swirl, the echoes and the danceable feel. Even unto 2008’s The Politics of Ecstasy, that was the core of their style, and though those elements show up on Minddrugs as well, Koch and his fellow players are not at all limited by the confines of pop. In six tracks’ time, Vibravoid eases their way from the friendly garage fuzz of opener “Seefeel,” on which the vocals echo their verses and choruses bordering on indecipherability, to an epic closing rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” which comes in at nearly 23 minutes and boasts expansive sections of effects play, tripped-out singularities and, finally, cosmic triumph. In between the two extremes, cuts like “What You Want” and “You Keep on Falling” (the latter released as a 7” earlier this year) offer balanced space rock/pop, the 12 minutes of “What You Want” seeming to pass quickly through its undulating midsection jam for the strength of the hook surrounding, and shorter excursions “Do it Allright” and “Lost Intensity” offering deconstructed and surprisingly abrasive noise and subdued, well-executed sub-drone atmospherics, respectively. Minddrugs is every bit the journey its title and artwork suggest, but even as “Do it Allright” devolves into a long fadeout/in that immerses the listener in painful static and echoplex noise, one doesn’t get the sense they’re out of control or unaware of what they’re doing.