Album Reviews

Guardian Alien – Spiritual Emergency

(Thrill Jockey) UK release date: 27 January 2014

Guardian Alien - Spiritual Emergency Guardian Alien makes music to take drugs to; it’s as plain as that. It’s a project designed by shaman Greg Fox to get the whole world blissfully sedated via music. Or so it seems. Their last record, See The World Given To A One Love Entity, is a single-track experiment in sonic mixology, an insular, mind-altering voyage through a mixed bag of ideas, and generally it all hangs together and forms a mildly euphoric, instantly cathartic journey. If you are high.

Guardian Alien further their already impressive hypnotic dogma with Spiritual Emergency, and immediately noticeable this time round is that there’s more than one track, though this doesn’t necessarily predicate the album having more than one idea. Thankfully, in this case, there are many ideas to get drowsy to.

Opener Tranquiliser is a sparse, improvisational percussion-led trip through processed vocals and eerie guitar twangs and clanks and bangs. The sticks used to play the drums frequently collide with each other, and with the rim of the drum, and the sound is quite enchanting. It’s easy to drift away to music this bare and minimal. It carries with it hints of Can at their most spaced-out and pensive; the hushed vocals and free guitar sounds are a treat. What sounds like R2D2 having a stroke closes out the track. At nearly 10 minutes, there’s a chance for the mood of the piece to really ingrain itself into your chemically susceptible brain.

Psychobabble and back-masked sounds, percussion and glitching electronics are the content of the next track, Mirror. The track doesn’t come from anywhere, and doesn’t really lead anywhere in its eighty second lifespan, because the follow up track is another wonky interlude. Vapour follows the same ethos: less is more. Odd vocal samples are laced onto odd percussion to disorientating effect.

Penultimate track Mirage is fuzzed-out shoegaze/ambient new-age guitar hums and woozy whale-song vocal effects like My Bloody Valentine‘s Kevin Shields on downers. A downcast, understated style of psychedelic music like this can be really effective in the right hands. By corroding an often dense music style to its rawest components, these burnt out tracks become hypnotic if allowed to sink in.

Like many of their tripped-out forebears, Guardian Alien decide to end the album with a showpiece. From The End to Bel Air, bands that build an album towards a final crescendo of frazzled noise to showcase their style at its most potent. In The Doors‘ case, they built their debut record towards its Oedipal climax by precisely sequencing the tracks to carry momentum through the record, whereas in Can’s case, on Future Days, Bel Air is the epic closer to a majestic 17-minute one-two of the title track and Spray.

Guardian Alien’s closer is more in line with the experimentalists of psych, where waves of free-jazz, krautrock and wacked-out musical collage crash against each other for one third of an hour. This track is so easily replayable it becomes an instant favourite. Stellar drumwork is accompanied by a skeletal, minimalist guitar sound – and what instruments are being heard as-is and which instruments have been looped, sampled or distorted becomes unclear and ultimately irrelevant. The insistent percussion keeps the track from fading into muzak territory, as improvisational music is wont to do.

While there’s not a lot of fun to be had if experimental psych isn’t your thing, all in all, it’s a really cool album, easily recommended to the entire spectrum of recreational drug users.

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Guardian Alien – Spiritual Emergency