Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Golden Void": Music Review

Named after a track from, for me, the last of the classic mid-'70s Hawkwind albums, Golden Void introduces Earthless' Isaiah Mitchell leading this Bay Area band, rooted in the bluesy, spacy, psychedelic sounds of forty years ago, when longer songs and a less frenetic attack typified album-oriented hard rock and concert jams. As with kindred San Francisco and Santa Cruz bands from this millennium, Golden Void kindles this slow-burning swagger. Yet, like Hawkwind then, it now does not fit easily into only a "stoner rock" category: this debut sustains seven tracks through depth, menace, and eerie moods.

"Art of Invading" opens frostily with Mitchell's echoed,  vocals--with its silhouetted shades of Ozzy--blurred over Justin Pinkerton's nimble percussion and Aaron Morgan's steady bass. Certainly, Black Sabbath fans will like this. But it's neither (too) sludgy nor doom-laden; Mitchell prefers to capture with wah-wah guitar breaks the spirit of his inspirations.

Camilla Saufley-Mitchell, of Assemble Head in Stereo Sound, who joined in 2009 what had been a core trio working together since their teens, emerges on "Virtue" interspersed within another dense mix. Here, the guitars and drums pick up the pace. Similar to the band's colleagues Farflung, this song enters an orbit where Hawkwind's sonic whoosh mingles with a sense of anticipation, or fear.

In Tibetan Buddhism, Tara the goddess of compassion is titled "Jetsun Dolma"; so is track three. As the download provided me does not allow me to consult lyrics, it appears to pay homage to this bodhissatva. Here, Saufley-Mitchell contributes a Ray Manzarek-styled organ accompaniment to a mid-tempo tune, with touches of psychedelia matching those of Assemble Head's revivalism.

"Badlands" follows in classic-rock form, dependably if like some of its AOR FM predecessors (Steppenwolf, the Doors, Deep Purple), without standing out for any particular moment as a homage to beauty amid bleak peaks. "Shady Grove" flecks in bits of the blues as it flows down a guitar-dominated, reverberating channel. Similarly, "The Curve" applies the pedals to slow the guitar down.

Closing the album (I think: my download shuffles the order on the official release), "Atlantis" starts with soft harmonies, layered and increasing into an assured, repeated structure where Mitchell's voice remains steady, while his concise riffs climb and descend over the reliable bass, drums, and organ support. It warbles and shivers, suitably.

Golden Void wisely does not allow its songs to wear out their welcome. They expand, but they avoid tedious or flashy solos. The forty-seven minutes move along smartly. While the murky production to me could benefit from more clarity, the haze will entice suitably altered listeners.

Less crunchy, more dispersed than some of its Northern California peers, Golden Void seeks out swirls and thickness, less febrile and more woozy, as its name promises. If you enjoy the bands name-checked in this review, you'll welcome this addition to the genre, another fine contribution from veterans of the assured Bay Area stoner rock scene. (Amazon US 12-18-12; 1-11-13 to PopMatters . Official website)

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