West, Space & Love, Vol. II: Building a Franchise

west space love vol ii

A few years ago, in the always-curious and amorphous orbit of Denmark’s Øresund Space Collective there appeared lifesigns from an entity known as West, Space & Love. Further investigation revealed an album of improvised, richly organic space rock, pared down from some of the expansive jamming for which ØSC are known in favor of a naturalist experimentation. The record was called simply West, Space & Love (streamed here), and like any good science fiction tale, it easily warranted a sequel.

West, Space & Love Vol. II brings back the trio of percussionist Billy “Love” Forsberg and sitarist KG Westman — currently and formerly of Sweden’s Siena Root, respectively — and renowned synth specialist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of the aforementioned Øresund Space Collective for seven tracks/44 minutes recorded last December in Stockholm, expanding the scope somewhat from the first outing by bringing in guests on violin (credited to Jonathan), delay pedal (credited to Mathias) and santoor (credited to Moa) to go along with the host of instruments handled by Westman, Forsberg and Heller themselves, be it sitar, Hammond, double-neck guitar, bass, cajon, ki-gonki, qaraqab, spring drum, cuica, Roland SH1000, Korg or Dr. Space‘s own custom-made analog synth. Despite this varied palette, Vol. II of the West, Space & Love saga flows together easily, and held mostly true to the first album’s ethic of recording live to analog equipment, having done basic tracks in two days with minimal, also-live overdubs following, in order to preserve as organic a feel as possible. Those efforts are audible in nearly every stretch of the record, which arranges its two sides longest to shortest (immediate points) and offers maximum immersion across the board.

Well, maybe not entirely across the board. I won’t say much for the experiment “Pig in Space” which ends side A by overstaying its welcome at 2:30, but clearly the trio were having a good time while making it. That parrot-in-CitizenKane-esque jarring moment aside, West, Space & Love sets a tone early of blending the earthly and the cosmic and holds to it for the duration, beginning with 11-minute opener “Floyd’s Dream.” Of course, the title is referencing Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream, and the gracefully unfolding progressive guitar, electronic beats and space-drone that ensue reinforce that meld. The song follows a roughly linear motion, but its payoff remains somewhat understated — they never overdo it, in other words — and as sitar begins “Khaan Paan,” the vibe is immediately welcoming. For those who never heard Westman‘s work in Siena Root, he’s a player of significant ability and knowledge, and “Khaan Paan” demonstrates some of the form of his work as a whole, but winds up in an excellent call and response with violin in its second half, adding to the folkish impression.

oresund space collective logo

At five minutes, it feels short, but West, Space & Love still have a lot of ground to cover, as the space-swirling “2002” — another referential title — shows in its three-minute, synth-led course. Percussion pulses deep under the interwoven tones, but there’s no effort made to ground the proceedings, so they wind up that much more hypnotic, the trio lulling the listener in with this multifaceted approach and then surprising when “Pig in Space” starts out with its synth wash and oink-oink noises and moves into a funky groove with blown-out drums and more rhythmic oinking. It’s silly. It’s clearly supposed to be silly. I won’t begrudge West, Space & Love having fun. That’s obviously the point of their having gotten together again to start with.

Westman opens side B launch with meditative sitar on “Oscillations in D Minor,” an 11-minute companion-piece to “Floyd’s Dream” on side A that further emphasizes the increased breadth of West, Space & Love‘s second outing. One of the record’s most straightforward drum grooves takes hold late and provides a welcome and molten psychedelic apex, but “Oscillations in D Minor” is no less satisfying in its quiet moments, the group putting some of their richest sonics forward at the start of each half of Vol. II and still giving distinct impressions in each track. They keep expanding from there.

“Anybody out There” includes vocalizations — the only ones on the album, from what I can tell — and an overall softer touch of dreamy keys and drones, building to a wash of synth improvisation, suitably lonely in its vibe to warrant the title given but unremittingly progressive and feeding smoothly into closer “Time Compression,” which brings together both sides of West, Space & Love‘s approach in gorgeously textured space-prog, as though after all this exploring, the three-piece found a planet where all these things — plus Hammond — coexist in harmony. The prevailing vibe is perhaps more classic heavy rock with that addition of Hammond, but that hardly makes “Time Compression” out of place with the rest of the album before it. Rather, it adds to the context of the release as a whole, which builds on the considerable atmospheric accomplishments of the debut and establishes an aesthetic for West, Space & Love even more distinct from its members’ other outfits. One only hopes they decide to make it a trilogy. There’s certainly nothing here to make one think they don’t have more to say as a band.

West, Space & Love, Vol. II (2016)

West, Space & Love on Bandcamp

Sapphire Records

Øresund Space Collective website

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One Response to “West, Space & Love, Vol. II: Building a Franchise”

  1. scott says:

    Thanks JJ….. you really saw quite deep into the album… Pig in Space was very fun… Love had always wanted to use his pig drum and now he could….. Peace.

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