Mars Red Sky, Providence EP: Alien Technology

mars red sky providence ep

Before they issued their second album in 2014, Bordeaux heavy psychedelic rock trio Mars Red Sky offered up a short collection of tracks in 2013 called Be My Guide (review here) that, along with a prior 2012 split/collaboration with countrymen Year of No Light, helped to serve as a transition between where they started out on their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) and where that sophomore outing would ultimately take them. When it arrived, Stranded in Arcadia (review here) was nothing short of revelatory in its sound, leapfrogging the warm-toned fuzz of its predecessor and pushing further into psych and more adventurous songwriting without giving up the soulful melodic fragility of the debut or the heft provided by the guitar of Julien Pras and the bass of Jimmy Kinast.

As Be My Guide ultimately served to pave the way for Stranded in Arcadia, so too does Providence work in direct conversation with the full-length it precedes. If anything, more efficiently so. The title of the closing track “Sapphire Vessel” ties to the lyrics of “Apex III” from the forthcoming Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), and Providence acts as a showcase for another significant forward step the band — Pras, Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — has taken in what’s become one of underground heavy’s most exciting creative progressions. Comprised of three tracks and pressed up via Listenable Records, it is a brief glimpse of things to come, but offers plenty of substance as more than just a supplemental outing, giving the band space on its second side to flesh out experimentalist tendencies and bring some of their on-stage openness of form to a studio release in a way they haven’t done before.

Helming the recording of “Shot in Providence” is Gabriel Zander, returning to the producer role he held on Stranded in Arcadia, which was recorded when the band was in Brazil. Providence was tracked in Bordeaux, but there are of course traits continued from the one into the next. The track starts dreamy and coated in wah before unveiling the chugging riff that will serve as its core and jamming outward from there en route to its first verse, Pras arriving at about the minute mark to setup the hook with themes of alienation, repetitions of “I was shot in Providence” that will recur in each subsequent verse, and hard rhymes with that line atop that bouncing riff, which Gazeau meets head-on with tom runs and a hi-hat that seems to carry the load as far as time-keeping goes.

mars-red-sky

Just before 2:40, they abruptly shift back to the intro and top it with a chorus before quickly turning again back into the next verse, making the same change again and fleshing out a lead before stopping after five minutes in and gracefully unfolding a spacier verse of far-off guitar and vocals, building to an explosive heavier push — you’ll know it when Kinast comes back in — that serves as the beginning song’s peak. They’re content to ride that groove for a few measures, and rightly so, but soon enough they pull back on the pacing and open up to Stranded in Arcadia-style largesse that’s as forceful as it is righteous. A languid chorus finishes out in residual tones and echo that cap side A of the vinyl, leaving side B to pick up with “The Homesick Deaf,” which was recorded live in Bordeaux in May 2014 and is comprised of ambient and field recordings by Julia Al Abed, who was a guest at the show, which was dubbed “Into the Mars Red Sound.”

Beach sounds, birds, laughing children, quiet, emergent swells of guitar, a gradual drum/bass progression, and finally sirens and shouting would seem to make up the bulk of the four-and-a-half-minute “The Homesick Deaf,” though to be quiet honest I’m not sure of the exact moment when that ends and when “Sapphire Vessel” begins. Pras enters over a spacious guitar part for a verse, but the real course for the track seems to be set when the acoustics and electrics start to weave together, the former vigorously strummed alongside struck low-end piano, the latter patterning out wispy lead-line melancholia in multiple layers. Cello enters. The result is beautiful.

“Sapphire Vessel” moves forward patiently but with purpose, building along the way but never losing its evocative, wistful feel, and eventually it arrives at a point where a chorus shows up, and other elements begin to work their way out. The guitars go and come again, the piano seems to step back, and finally the song ends in a fashion that seems ready to shift right to the Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soulintro, “Alien Grounds.” The CD version of Providence includes four live bonus tracks recorded in the late hours of 2015 culled from prior releases, but the crux of the EP’s accomplishment is to step ahead from where Mars Red Sky were on Stranded in Arcadia and into where they’re going with Apex III. It shows that even the ground between the two can be a gorgeous, vibrant and expansive place.

[In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll note that I will be hosting the band at the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer in August at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, and that they’re being paid for that appearance. I think if you look at the review links above, there’s sufficient argument to be made that I’d be writing about this EP even if that were not the case.]

Mars Red Sky, “Shot in Providence” official video

Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks

Mars Red Sky BigCartel store

Listenable Records

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One Response to “Mars Red Sky, Providence EP: Alien Technology”

  1. […] em 29 de fevereiro. Além de criar este clima, Providence também parece ser musicalmente um antecessor de Apex III. Não um teaser propriamente dito, mas algo do […]

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