It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Bowing Not Knowing to What: Freedom in Blue Mountains

The title may be purposefully vague, but the debut full-length from New Paltz, NY, space-jamming trio It’s Not Night: It’s Space, the self-released Bowing Not Knowing to What, nonetheless displays clear ideas of worship and of purpose. Tonally warm and classically exploratory, the threesome’s seven-track/50-minute outing is somehow fitting the hippie-idyllic small college town from whence they come, Kevin Halcott’s guitar painting colors of fall leaves while bassist Tommy Guerrero and drummer Michael Lutomski offer the languid motion of sentimental dreams. With an album structure that places the 12:30 “Painted Serpent” as its centerpiece, there’s a pervasive ritualism in what It’s Not Night: It’s Space are doing, and the music answers back with like-minded richness, embarking on not exactly the kind of layering one would call lush, but still enough effects and wandering moments to sound full and periodically hypnotic. It’s an ethic that in some ways allies them more to European heavy psychedelia than North American, but the post-rock echo in Halcott’s tone is a geographical giveaway (at least as far as continents go) and shows a breadth of influence wider than just classic kraut and space rock, though those vibes persist as well as opener “The Gathering” introduces It’s Not Night: It’s Space’s first movement with burgeoning jam ethic and psychedelic expanse, slow percussion and ethereal vocals mixing with a wash of warm guitar drone and flute moving forward in a slow march before the nine-minute “The Mantis and the Cow” adds more propulsion. Bowing Not Knowing to What essentially breaks down into three parts. There are the first three tracks, the centerpiece, and the last three tracks, each representing a section within the whole of the album, so that it winds up looking like this:

Movement One
1 .The Gathering (3:19)
2. The Mantis and the Cow (9:00)
3. The Magus in the Valley (6:31)

Movement Two
4. Painted Serpent (12:30)

Movement Three
5. Blue Mountain Freedom (7:32)
6. Vibration Eater (4:13)
7. Palace of the Bees (7:17)

Helping this interpretation is the fact that Movements One and Three run for almost exactly the same length of time – 18:48 and 19:00, respectively – and whether or not It’s Not Night: It’s Space went into the studio with Rick Birmingham (who produced, mixed, mastered and also contributed sitar and other strings) with that idea in mind, the music supports it too, a full-album flow established between the movements but occurring within them as well. The first three cuts, “The Gathering,” “The Mantis and the Cow” and “The Magus in the Valley” find their culmination in the opening build of the third, with Guerrero matching Halcott note for note on impressive runs while Lutomski locks in the groove behind. “The Mantis and the Cow” was more expansive, using an early push and possibly the album’s single most memorable guitar line as a foundation for space-rocking indulgences, but “The Magus in the Valley” winds up summarizing the first movement effectively while also setting up a smooth linear transition into “Painted Serpent,” which is more or less an album unto itself. Growing in presence as it makes its way through the first four minutes, the song soon breaks while Lutomski continues the beat on his toms, only to gradually resurface and continue to develop and unfold naturally over the remaining time, sparse vocals echoing behind the patient progression. Guitar bliss ensues, leading to a slight shift at 9:45, when the riff and bassline change and “Painted Serpent” shifts into a more immediate build, reaching toward a heavier apex by the time another minute has passed and carrying those ideas to a fittingly natural conclusion, swirling with wah and righteous in its groove. A sudden and cold ending is somewhat jarring, considering the gradual feel of the 12:30 preceding, but I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if that was where the tape ran out. That’s the feel It’s Not Night: It’s Space elicit, anyway, if not the actual circumstance and here as with most heavy psych of Bowing Not Knowing to What’s jammy ilk regardless of its point of origin, the feel is paramount. The vibe. The atmosphere. Ambience. Call it whatever you want, but if a full-length from a band like these guys can’t put the listener where it wants them, it simply isn’t going to work.

Fortunately, though I’d still call It’s Not Night: It’s Space a developing act (by the very nature of what they do, they’ll hopefully remain so for their duration), they do establish a mood on these tracks and they do carry it across well to the listener. “Blue Mountain Freedom” keeps the crucial momentum of “Painted Serpent” going to begin the third and final movement of the album, giving its first minute-plus to what might’ve otherwise been the big rock finish of the track before it, only to pick up with an intricate, lysergic riff-led chug from there, cycle back to the initial progression and then wind up someplace else with its dreamy pulse. Halcott, Guerrero and Lutomski here show the already formidable level of their chemistry and “Vibration Eater” dips more toward the straightforward in an attempt at serving as the album’s peak. It works in a sense, but Bowing Not Knowing to What moves in and out as well as up and down, so it’s not easy to summarize the whole with one solo, even if it does bring to mind some of Earthless’ triumphant stretches. There’s a long fade, out, then back up, then out again, and closer “Palace of the Bees” takes a quick hold of the consciousness, eschewing earlier patient development to establish momentum that fluctuates but stays true to the balance the band has shown themselves capable of striking throughout the three movements between heavy rocking sway and psychedelic questing. At 4:30, “The Palace of the Bees” breaks into the ending build, culminating past the six-minute mark with a full wash that includes Birmingham’s string contributions. It’s a bit of a morass, but the single elements contained within are discernible, and if It’s Not Night: It’s Space take anything away from the experience of their first full-length, hopefully they take away how well they end it. The move is a little telegraphed, but well done all the same, and honestly, by the time the trio gets around to ending the album, it’s really just a last-minute formality in which they could just as easily have not chosen to take part. In any case, the effort is appreciated and hopefully, should they continue to work with Birmingham recording, it’s something they can build on their next time out as they also grow their sound, evolve stylistically and develop their interaction with each other as musicians. With Bowing Not Knowing to What, they show that’s a project worth undertaking.

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One Response to “It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Bowing Not Knowing to What: Freedom in Blue Mountains”

  1. dave iverson says:

    One of my absolutely fave new acts…can’t wait for Ichabod to join them on a stage somewhere!

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