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Independent Space Rock

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Space rock—rock'n'roll that goes for the spacier side of rhythm application and riff generation. Sometimes, the 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.

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ESCAPADE: Due to a Faulty Premonition (CD on Mother West Records)

Escapade is: Paul Hilzinger, John Ortega, Paul Casanova, Joey Murphy, Russell Giffen, and Hadley Kahn. They improve.

This 52 minute CD from 1999 is a fine example of versatile instrumental power rock. The music covers a range from abstract structure to cohesive balls of rhythmic fury.

Guitars scratch and scream while percussives chitter at the fringes. Electronics creep in, oozing between the scalding tension. There is a constant edginess going on with the guitars, accountable to the particularly un-guitar-like nature of the sounds they're producing. They evoke alien concepts and strange mathematical theorems with their plaintive wailings. Steadfast, the drums forge ahead with determination through a valley of stormy electronics. The bass remains so liquid as to defy identification, restricting its rumble to the subliminal range.

This music appears abstract at first sonic glimpse, revealing its involved and sneaky melodies in sly fashion. The chaos falls together, defining something so grand that it eludes description with its unconventionality. What is first perceived as looseness later transforms into a calculated structure whose harmonics and rhythms are quite compelling. The fires in these songs burn brightly but with a gradual brilliance, their flicker dancing to a strange tempo.

And when the music blazes, it sears everything in its path, as with the growling guitar and carefree percussion in "Undoubtedly". This piece cooks with funk and art-rock breaks.

This weirdling music will open new worlds for your mind.

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OZRIC TENTACLES: Pyramidion (CD EP on Stretchy Records)

This 41 minute CD EP is a companion to the band's "The Hidden Step" CD from 2000. While the EP's title track is an outstanding piece of exotic space rock with shimmery keyboards and searing guitar and intricate drumwork, the rest of the disc features four live tracks at the Sheffield Boardwalk on their Hidden Step tour in 2000. These songs are the meat.

From the very outset, this live set blazes, with the guitar wailing like a tortured beast and the bass rumbling the countryside with its liquid tempo. The serpentine percussives thread hypnotic patterns before the listener's gaze. The keyboards twinkle like an icy waterfall, spilling across the mix with refreshing effect. Flutes swim in this splendor, drifting like a magnificent beams of sunlight falling through a convoluted cloudcover, dancing in spirals and loops above the dynamic core of the music.

Known as a "guitar band", Ozric Tentacles are far more than that. Their music is brilliant fusion of each instrument into a sinuous mass that exists separated from any of its component parts. Granted, the guitar soars, scraping the ceiling of heaven with its astounding pyrotechnics. But that's out front where the guitar belongs, and in Ozric music, opportunities are given for each individual to fly and display their inventiveness. The keyboards/electronics are outstanding, burning with their own very unique dazzle. The drums are incredible, spinning rhythms that befuddle the fastest feet. Ah, the thundering tremble of the bass, how it tantalizes the abdomen muscles of the audience. The ghostly call of the flute as its cries enter the fiery mix.

Live is the best place to hear this band, and this EP delivers that with ample tuneage.

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QUARKSPACE: Spacefolds 7 (CD on Eternity's Jest Records)

Between their regular albums of cosmic space rock, Quarkspace is prone to produce releases devoted entirely to their improvised performances, a style the band has mastered to epic proportions. This 2001 release features 72 minutes of such glorious sonic finesse.

Quarkspace is: Chet Santana, Jay Swanson, Dave Wexler, Paul Williams, and Darren Gough.

Imagine searing guitar tapestries winding through powerful keyboard riffs. Dodge the spurious electronics that veer out of the mix, exploding to drench the listener with golden spaciness. Be carried away by the intricate percussive propulsion as drums natural and synthetic conspire to captivate your sensitivity to rhythms. Be warned that the bass will grab your gut with its quasi-subsonic rumble, delivering a stable grounding in the swirling melodies that are to found on this CD.

In Quarkspace's case, the term "improvisation" can be considered to be deviously misleading. Fact: the songs were created with no prior intention, they occurred as the musicians joyfully interacted with each other, playing their hearts out with astral fervor. Bigger fact: these songs are coherent and tight, with obvious structure and building harmonies that coalesce to form dynamic tuneage that will dazzle even the most jaded spacehead.

While Quarkspace's music is often compared to a fusion of Hawkwind, Gong and Can, this time there are tasty traces of Grateful Dead unfurling in the band's feverish jams.

Motivational datum: Quarkspace's "Spacefolds" series of awesome improv CDs are ridiculously low-priced considering the quality and quantity of music packed into these releases. They are (generally) only available from the band's Website.

Alert: Quarkspace's newest album is called "Drop", and the band has decided to release it into public domain. CDR's of this release will be available through various music dealers, but you can download it as MP3s in its entirety here.

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VARIOUS: Fluorescent Tunnelvision (double CD on Submergence Records)

This 119 minute extravaganza features the songs of 17 diverse musicians serving doses of space music in all its forms. From searing fusion to abstract industrial, there's something for everyone on this double CD...

Circle offers a relentless exploding sonic attack with blazing guitar and hyperactive drums.

F/I delivers a spacey carnival ride through the solar system with forlorn guitar and bubbling electronics.

Pseudo Buddha debarks on a voyage through cosmic space with spiritual overtones.

Zelany Rashodo explores ambient flute with a mild guitar undercurrent.

Oranj Climax provides a spacey electronic piece that meanders through nebulous pulsations.

Djam Karet contributes an outstanding excursion into dark progrock with their guitar sound being particularly synthi-heavy this time.

Quarkspace offers a tasty dose of jam fusion that starts the brain sweating.

Melodic Energy Commission bring the listener down to earth with ethnic electronics and fluttering strings.

Ektroverde deliver an aggressive duel between thunder bass and attack drums, with guitar struggling to break them up.

Faust come through with a totally abstract piece that takes the listener through a tour of the underworld.

Volcano the Bear mesmerize with violin torture and agitated tonalities.

Escapade offer a tight space rock piece that kicks out all the stops.

Tombstone Valentine offers a piano-heavy dose of electronic tension.

Mushroom delivers a strange fusion of tuba and guitar/bass/drums.

Tree Sine produce an electronic pause that slowly grows a beat.

2012 produce an agitated electronic pause.

Subarachnoid Space finish up the collection with a 14 minute epic that wanders from interstellar electronic space into the thick of a frantic rock explosion.

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