Friday, May 16, 2008

Farflung: "A Wound in Eternity": Music Review
Hawkwind's epic drone, Kyuss' punchy hum, Chrome's metallic sheen: since the mid-90s, this California band's created a strong following for its infusion of these influences into its catchy, yet dense blend. Their earlier albums I've not heard; unfortunately if understandably, the outrageous prices (one for $320, one a bargain at $150) of the few still for sale dissuaded me. Well-produced considering probably a limited budget, their newest deserves attention, and should at its affordable price find it.

The band continues in the wake of these three groups. Tommy Grenas played with Hawkwind member Nik Turner, while the other members rank Pressurehed and Damo Suzuki's Network among their credits. This heritage, like some Pete Frame genealogy, shows Farflung lives up to its inheritance of formidably intelligent musical DNA.

"Unborn Planet": A spirited opener, more stripped-down akin to recent stoner-punk. Its kraut-rock pep ensures that while it could go on forever quite nicely, and you would not mind if it would, nonetheless it marches efficiently on to make room for sonic missions needing more time to let their emotions sink in and their ideas unfurl. The album keeps altering between such phases smartly and rhythmically.

"Endless Drifting Wreck": synths add spatial depth to this as it thrums along for nearly seven minutes. Sounding exactly like what its title promises! This more meditative excursion appeals to Hawkwind devotees; the band wisely alternates slower with speedier textures before building up momentum. "Like It Has Never Been" enters into tribal territory, slowing down into textures that recall Milwaukee's similarly inspired F/X. If Brian Jones had left the Stones and recorded a few decades more Moroccan cross-over tunes, perhaps he'd sound like this. Solid modern psychedelia that again mid-tune swerves into nearly Led Zep's brutal fortress. Vocals tend to accentuate rather than dominate, as one more layer, and this integration adds to the structure of the songs better for my tastes than some art-metal groups, where singing goes against the grain of the music. While bands like Sleep have been justly renowned for this delivery, I prefer the more organic, less abrasive vocals Farflung stirs in.

I hear less of the Pink Floyd or Black Sabbath comparisons than some others do. There's only a hint I heard of Sabbath, and that tends to be a common ground shared with many stoner-rockers, naturally. I'd emphasize Chrome, along with Hawkwind, as the likelier progenitor for the fusions created by Farflung today.

Perhaps because my own roots lie deepest in the original era of punk, crossed with 70s hard rock and tangled with psych new and old, I tend to recognize the tones closer to my own record collection. Farflung, as heirs not only to the early 70s but the later part of that crucial decade, wisely know not to let their songs go on too long. They've learned well how to couple the prog-rocker's liking of the long horizon with the punk's preference for confined restraint. The chafing of the concept album's need for volubility with the song-oriented emphasis on concision means that this band chooses to balance the two modes deftly.

"Stella Volo" returns to the opening song's jauntier stance, akin perhaps to Chrome. Farflung here may let the reverb effects linger a bit on the vocals to somewhat retro effect, which may bother Hawkwind fans less than those of Kyuss. For me, this slows the drive of the song, easing down the tune by this overlapping effect as the song tries to progress. Yet, this does increase tension before fading into a Middle-Eastern section that sounds as if enunciated from that alien bar scene in Tattooine.

"IX" advances along this caravan's trail, with the synths, drums, bass, and guitars supporting a harsher chanted vocal that matches the previous song's moods. The absence of manipulation of the voice, by contrast, for this track serves to concentrate the focus of the band on moving deeper into the locked groove underneath the keyboards. "Silver Shrooms" begins with a great bass riff, drum play, and synths laced into guitars to take the listener into the ethereal. It moves at a deliberate pace, while the mix emphasizes the rhythm section confidently.

"Invincible" enters into perhaps more urban realms, as it conjures up a concrete panorama at midnight. Midway, it too glides sideways into a rowdier crowd of anthemic playing and punchier singing. Such transitions, I imagine, in concert must allow for considerable expansion of these carefully composed structures, and here the album may succeed even better in capturing the stratified construction of its songs, which beg for such elaboration and experimentation. The song ends with clanking that makes its off-ramp flight hesitate almost nostalgically.

"Precognition" segues into hisses and exhaust, as if the voyage now underway's left you aloft. It takes its time getting its bearings. Notes ping for location before the voices return. A science-fiction tale's told, as one might anticipate from the title. The reverb's back, and the Hawkwind attitude of both intense involvement and detached scrutiny of one's feeble attempts to master the universe makes this a fitting conclusion to an album that feels longer than it is. That's a compliment!

Meteor City Label: Farflung
"Endless Drifting Wreck" video

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