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Texan Space Rock

Space rock is music that shoots for an extraterrestrial brand of rhythm application and riff generation.

Sometimes, that spaciness comes in the subject matter of the music; other times it's the cosmic nature of the music itself that defines the other-worldliness. There are all kinds of avenues to explore when it comes to the sonic expression of the void.

Cradled in the technological shadow of Houston Mission Control, there thrives an independent space rock presence in Texas.

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YETI: Things to Come... (CD on Two Ohm Hop)

Yeti is Tommy Atkins on bass, Jon Teague on drums, Eric Harris on guitar, and Doug Ferguson on keyboards and electronics.

This 47 minute release features a dark and heavy form of space rock, in the vein of Magma or Univers Zero. This music is epic and thick with foreboding...and forewarning. Proceed with caution, for you will respond with delight.

The guitar snarls with haunted licks. The riffs scream like a newly-freed wild beast, scrambling through the air in search of escape into everyone's auditory canals. There can be no mistake: this instrument is furious about something.

The bass is subterranean and massive. The basslines rumble like a creature stirring between crowded mountain ranges. Periodically they pause in their monstrous breathing to engage in complex riffing, deep tones popping like sprung spinal columns.

The keyboards are dense and piercing. Their sweeps and intricate chords scamper through the mix, generating gripping melodies with incredible stamina. These riffs are frantic to capture more than the listener's attention.

The electronics are definitely exuberant and frequently quite ominous when they're not gurgling with gleeful vigor. Their deadly wailing is liable to disturb most household pets and small children.

The percussion is mammoth. These rhythms sound as if they're played with drumsticks the size of huge redwoods.

With instruments that are so tight and intense, it's no surprise that the compositions are equally fervent. These energetic melodies convey the listener to dark zones full of dangerous harmonics which are not afraid to show themselves. Facing them can be an exhausting but worthwhile experience.

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OHM: Voices (CD on Two Ohm Hop)

Ohm is Doug Ferguson, Nathan Brown, Chris Forest, and S. Forest Ward. Consisting mainly of saxophone, clarinet, percussives, all immersed in a seething pool of vicious electronics, Ohm creates a special breed of space rock that springs from avant garde jazz roots.

There are no vocals to "Voices", for Ohm speaks without words, using improvised soundscapes to communicate an astral message.

Mournful clarinets usher the listener through a trembling sonic portal to other worlds, where these woodwind cries echo across alien landscapes and through a fortress of ultimate darkness. Oom-pah sax swells into the nocturnal mix, lending a sobriety to the strange journey. When the esoteric percussives enter, the mood of sedate contemplation is given pep and quirky rhythm. By the time the electronics commence, the temperament is set: dark and eerie with the surroundings of foreign environments.

Although basically dominated by horns, this music is thoroughly drenched with electronics: squealing and shimmering, breathing and bubbling. The horns alternate between cosmic lament and luscious cacophony, generally creating a releaseless tension. The drums are unpredictable in a jazz manner, setting a tempo that could change at any point.

Mixing these classical instruments with modern electronics produces a odd fusion that evokes ancient plateaus bustling with technological activity.

Most of the tracks on this 74 minute CD are in excess of ten minutes, affording the compositions ample opportunity to evolve from meandering drone into spacey passion, inevitably leading to potent crescendos.

There are strong Sun Ra influences running very close to the surface of this music, not to mention overtones of Faust hiding in the mix.

The first song is a loose interpretation of a Gilbert Artman (Lard Free, Urban Sax) composition.

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FRANKIE TEARDROP: Electro-Acoustic Rollercoaster Ride (7-inch vinyl single on Two Ohm Hop)

Frankie Teardrop is Doug Ferguson (from Yeti and Ohm).

Here, Ferguson explores the realm of active electronics for a pair of pieces (totaling 10 minutes).

In track one: cyclic electronics are accompanied by delicate E-perc and a bevy of effects to achieve driving melodies that propel the listener beyond this atmosphere. Soon after the launch has commenced, harsher tones enter the mix, lending danger to the thrill of the ride.

In track two: the electronics go dense with moody sentiments that begin an upward spiral. Light and lazy rhythm-boxing occurs at the periphery, while the synthesizers mark out a tender but shrill rhapsody in praise of mythic romance.

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LIGHT BRIGHT HIGHWAY: Moon Glory and the 7th Sun (vinyl Album on Two Ohm Hop)

Light Bright Highway is Robbie Dwyer Jr on guitar, Trinidad Leal on drums, and Curt Christenson on bass. Across the Lone Star state, this band is known for its live shows of trance rock music of extra-long duration.

For this album they jam live for 48 minutes, belting out spacey psychedelic instrumental rock with deep Ash Ra Tempel roots. No layering, overdubbing or mix down tricks were utilized to make this recording.

Phase-shifted sounds establish a moody intro that slides into guitar pickings and hesitant percussion. As the guitar builds in strength, the drums ooze into a steadfast beat and the bass rumbles out to provide foundation. Slowly the music reaches a textural groove that drifts on an ocean of wavering riffs and languid drums.

Then the guitar goes ultra-spacey with long chords and organically extended riffs, vibrating the mix with lush results. The drums cascade smoothly through rolls as if existing in a slow-time dimension. The bass tends to become nearly invisible, generating a background thrum of ominous promise.

Side two of this performance features a passage of stellar sonics wherein the guitar turns shrill with alien passion. Throughout, the percussion remains cosmically distant and unhurried. For the closing, the guitar goes into a sustained hiss for a tailspin return to the Earth, dogged by controlled feedback enhancement.

This music is fairly brimming with power despite its relaxed nature. It fuses garage textures to produce a dense ambience growling with a heavy wall of mellow sound.

It's not common to see vinyl releases these days, making this album's white vinyl refreshingly as retro and cool as the band's Kraut Rock sound.

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