Arenna, Beats of Olarizu: Life in the Age of Neospace

The last couple years have seen the rise of a new school in European heavy psychedelia. Taking influence as much from acts like Colour Haze, Dozer and 35007 as they took in turn from Kyuss and their desert ilk, bands like Samsara Blues Experiment and Sungrazer have been able to forge a new wave of heavy jamming that relies just as much on spontaneous-sounding interplay between band members as it does on warm, Orange-hued low end and fuzzy stoner rock riffs. The effect is often hypnotic and engaging, and with their Nasoni Records debut, Beats of Olarizu, Spanish outfit Arenna join the forerunners of the style. The two-guitar five-piece formed in 2005 and recorded Beats of Olarizu over the course of four days (two in May, two in September) last year, resulting in a CD that stretches 68 minutes and a double vinyl that’s even longer – three more tracks – of Billy Anderson-mastered psychedelic expanse. Information is minimal on who does what, but the band is comprised of Guille, Javi, Txus, Kike (that’s a listed name, no offense intended in its use here) and R. Ruiz with several guests throughout contributing synth and Hammond on later cuts like “The Strangest of Lives,” “Eclipse” and the sprawling CD closer “Metamorphosis in Ic (0.9168 g/cm3).”

Four out of the six CD tracks also feature guest vocals from Jony Moreno of fellow Spanish rockers The Soulbreaker Company, but as the first three of Beats of Olarizu’s cuts are more straightforward structurally, the album really is one that unfolds gradually as you listen to it. Opener “Morning Light” is longer than the two songs that follow, “Receiving the Liquid Writings” and “Fall of the Crosses,” but its slow amplifier hum intro and lead nonetheless into an upfront verse/chorus that reminds vocally a bit of an accented Goatsnake in the verses. “Morning Light” appropriately sets the tone of Arenna’s methodology to come over the subsequent material, but more even than that, it shows one of the band’s great strengths immediately to be in its rhythm section. The guitars are fuzzed out and the vocals are melodic – and, with the addition of Moreno, more intricately arranged than one might initially think – but the bass and drums are driving the song almost as soon as it kicks in. That holds true on “Receiving the Liquid Writings” as well, but perhaps most of all on the bouncy “Fall of the Crosses,” which is the shortest cut here at 5:26 and finds the bass taking lead setting a funky rhythm that III-era The Atomic Bitchwax might have concocted had they been so inclined. It’s a classic rock shuffle, and after the more directly riff-led “Receiving the Liquid Writings,” one of Beats of Olarizu’s refreshing changes of pace.

And while that’s true, there’s no question that the more individualized material on Beats of Olarizu comes in the second half of the album’s track list. “Eclipse” develops slowly with sampled nature sounds, acoustic guitar and Hammond organ, the electric guitars beginning to subtly wind their way into the mix only after three of the total near-12 minutes, taking the hold just before the four-minute mark. Even then, the song has a confidence in its open feel that I didn’t get from “Fall of the Crosses” or “Morning Light,” that Arenna are comfortable as a unit to ride out the bass line and let the synth fill out their sound, the guitars adding echoing notes here and there to highlight the sparseness. Rightly, “Eclipse” relegates vocals to almost an afterthought; they arrive with a chorus after six minutes in and soon enough are swallowed up for another three minutes of solid riff-led jamming before making another appearance with the aforementioned chorus lines, which in turn give way again to the guitars and the close of the song. Without knowing how the tracks are arranged across the two LPs of the vinyl edition, I’ll say “Eclipse” feels like an apex of Beats of Olarizu and could easily carry the responsibility of capping off a side and/or disc on its own.

It’s up to “The Strangest of Lives,” then, to reel listeners back into the flow Arenna have worked hard to establish, and to the song’s credit, it does that well. The first half calls back to Beats of Olarizu’s opening salvo, but just as the album itself has done, it soon unwinds to a synth-infused spacier feel, kept cohesive by the bass line and building to an effective payoff with more active drumming and Moreno’s backing vocals. That build gets a moment to sink in as the finale, “Metamorphosis in Ic (0.9168 g/cm3),” starts slow and quiet, eventually wrapping itself around a slower-paced nod-groove backed by well-separated drums. “Metamorphosis in Ic (0.9168 g/cm3)” is listed as clocking in at 30:48, but the song degrades to amp and synth noise at around halfway through that, dropping to silence altogether after haunting ringing tones at 19:04. Nothing to slouch at, but I was kind of hoping Arenna would fill out the time with a complete song – though a hidden track of interstellar guitar sets a decent atmosphere – especially given the breadth and effectiveness of the jam in ““Metamorphosis in Ic (0.9168 g/cm3)” proper. Can’t have everything, I suppose, and Beats of Olarizu’s finish isn’t at all lacking either ambience or energy, as the kick-in after the stop at 11:15 shows. There’s room for more, is all.

But if I come out of a 68-minute CD feeling like Arenna could have put more music on it (I guess picking up the vinyl would be a cure for that), the band must be doing something right. As the new Euro school of heavy jammers continues to grow and develop over the next few years, it will be intriguing to see just how deep into the cosmos they go, and if they can hold onto the sense of structure that keeps their material memorable as well as wide-ranging. Beats of Olarizu strikes that balance across its core six tracks, and hopefully Arenna will be able to maintain their natural feel within that framework in future creative explorations.

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One Response to “Arenna, Beats of Olarizu: Life in the Age of Neospace”

  1. Arenna says:

    Nice review … thank you!

    About Metamorphosis: It´s a 20 min. song and then 3:33 min. of silence. The last 8 min. are a hidden track: “The pain eraser”, that appears in the vinyl edition as “bonus track”


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