Sonic Curiosity Logo

Anubian Lights

decorative rule

First, a few archeological notes: Once upon a time, Tommy Grenas played with a very strange band called Farflung. Then he joined Pressurehed, a West Coast spacerock band. Later, Grenas and Pressurehed mastermind Len del Rio wandered off to produce a series of solo and side projects, exploring the full spectrum of space music. Among these side projects was Anubian Lights.

decorative rule

ANUBIAN LIGHTS: The Eternal Sky (CD on Hypnotic Records)

At this point, Tommy Grenas and Len del Rio are joined by Paul Fox and Dorian Shelley (both from Pressurehed), with the inclusion of saxophonist Nik Turner, synthesist Del Dettmar and violinist Simon House (each ex-Hawkwind personnel). This is a pretty intense gathering of space rock talent...what will they produce?

Well, let's factor in a theme: the extrapolation of the theory of ancient Egyptian astronauts. That's right--the Land of the Pharaohs and flying saucers. But don't worry, there are very few lyrics to this music, so the concept is treated by sonic inference and emotion. With sinuous serpentine threads of hypnotic percussion, with rapid-fire keyboard cycles, with haunting drones and snappy tempos.

With this debut recording in 1995, Anubian Lights deliver 71 minutes of some of the most exotic space music around. The sound is a brilliant blend of ancient Egyptian music with modern electronic space rock. The elements gel, grooving on each other's vibes.

Shuddering electronics swim with bubbling synthi tones and astral bleeps and cyclic keyboards. Add shimmering ethnic percussives from the Nile to the already softly dominant synthetic percussion. Spotlight some searing guitarwork reaching heights Pink Floyd never dared to. Slip in some tasty distant fluting by Turner, who also provides the brief haunting lyrics in his commanding voice. It is all glued together in superb fashion, generating a majesty that is impossible to withstand.

Enchanting melodies, delivering a satisfying dose of space trance are the standard here, with nary a moments passive respite. The songs are tight trances full of vibrant power. When not undulating to sultry tribal rhythms, the music seethes with power lurking beneath the ambience...power that will inevitable creep through to dominate your rhythmic senses. It is not just the exotic allure of the music of the Nile that locks your attention here, it is the outstanding presentation of these ancient strains in a totally modern mode. This music pays off heavily in the catchy tuneage department.

You're going to have to expect a certain Hawkwind edge to the sound (for Turner and Dettmar helped forge the Hawkwind sound back in the early Seventies as founding members, while House's violin helped establish a later incarnation of Hawkwind's stylings), but Anubian Lights takes that sonic flavor and mutates it into a highly unique sound. It hooks you within seconds, mesmerizing you with the luxurious melodies.

And after such a strenuous journey--far into the past and deep into imaginary space--what better way to prepare to rejoin humanity than the finale: "Field of Reeds". A longing flute winds into a slowbuild of electronics, peaking with astounding brilliance.

decorative rule

VARIOUS ARTISTS: A Saucerful of Pink (A Tribute to Pink Floyd) (double CD on Cleopatra Records)

In 1995, while Anubian Lights was glimmering into existence, Nik Turner contributed a track to this tribute collection of cover versions of Pink Floyd song: a particularly hypnotic 9 minute take on "Careful with That Axe, Eugene". The cover portion of the song is generally subdued, replacing the classic scream with shrill flute-work. It is the late portion of the track (which actually occupies 6 of the 9 minutes) where Turner guides the piece into a startling rhythmic explosion of a highly exotic nature. Pulse-pounding drumming, rattling bone tempos, circling keyboard builds to epic proportions. This end riff was to become the signature sound for early Anubian Lights, finding itself reprising the melody in their "Pulse of the Nile" song on "The Eternal Sky" CD.

This double CD tribute collection has numerous other memorable moments. Contributions include: industrial grandfathers Psychic TV doing "Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun", noise sculptors Controlled Bleeding reconstructing "Another Brick in the Wall, Parts 1 & 2", dynamic spacers Spiral Realms (consisting of Simon House and Len del Rio) intensifying "Interstellar Overdrive", industrial dance masters Leaether Strip "Learning to Fly", electrified weirdoes Alien Sex Fiend doing "Echoes", and even songs by Pressurehed and Farflung.

decorative rule

ANUBIAN LIGHTS: The Jackal and Nine EP (CD EP on Hypnotic Records)

As EPs go, this one (from 1996) delivers more than its money's worth.

You get a remix of "Jackal and Nine" which actually finds a way to add to the snappy pep of the original and even inject a little trancier edge into it too. The percussive drive is heightened by the choppy keyboard electronics and twinkling guitar.

You get "12-24-2011", a spacey new song of cavorting ambient tones and pulses punctuated by stellar guitar and whispered echoes.

You get "The Ba and the Ka", another new song. Here, the electronics get funky with finger-popping drums and fusion bass. The twinkling keyboard loop provides a solid core for the other sonic elements to prance and entwine.

Then you get a 9 minute live dose of "Soul Herder", one of the standout tunes from "The Eternal Sky" album. The tribal essence is in full bloom with the powerful rhythms and astral guitar and lively flute. Turner's chant transforms the barbarity into celestial religion.

You get a powerful 11 minute retake on "Pulse of the Nile", subjecting the familiar melody to severe electrification that manages to soften the composition, stretching it into an ever-ascending pattern.

You get "Arcing into the Infinite Galaxy", a mutant version of "Arc of Ra". Again, this take is more sedate and pensive than the album version.

And you get another remix of "Jackal and Nine", this one being more abstract, pruning the mix down to a simpler structure.

And all in 55 minutes.

decorative rule

ANUBIAN LIGHTS: Let Not the Flame Die Out (CD on Hypnotic Records)

For this 69 minute release from 1998, the Grenas/de Rio core of Anubian Lights is joined by guest appearances by Nik Turner, Simon House, Dorian Shelley, and Gilli Smythe (from Gong).

This music still bears the signature blend of Egyptian and space rock, indeed in a more concentrated form. Tighter and less tribal, the music draws from more modern roots, splicing dance, pop and space with airs of the Nile. Even the Middle Eastern influences possess a modern touch, bringing the ethnic edge into the present day. Truly a solid evolution for the band's sound. Throbbing electronics swarm, dodging sinuous E-perc and haunting guitar. Infrequent vocal comments pepper the songs, sampled snippets and chants.

If there are UFOs in the sky over Cairo today, they were lured there by this music.

decorative rule

THE ANUBIAN LIGHTS: Naz Bar (CD on Crippled Dick Hot Wax)

In 2001, Grenas and del Rio shed the vestiges of antediluvian moods to pursue a wholly modern dose of modern Middle Eastern techno. "Naz Bar" features 71 minutes of thrilling and exhausting music...with contributions from Paul Fox, Tracy Garcia, and female vocalist C.J. Suez.

Fed by a bevy of electronics and sophisticated sampling equipment, this music manifests in a variety of instruments and curious noises, aided by traditional guitar, bass and drums. A selection of vocal snippets are tossed in to enhance the flow, delivering amusing elocution.

Any band can assemble an impressive array of technology, but Anubian Nights are blessed with the talents required to generate engaging compositions, peppering them with gripping riffs and trancey passages that convey the listener through a succession of different sonic environments. Jungle becomes infused with funk, trance gets energized by pop, intensity is softened by luxurious textures. Electronics bleep among sinuous rhythms, organ swoops punctuate stretches of playful weirdness, basslines ooze underfoot and guitars wail with ecstatic glee. Tracks spiral into each other, sweeping the listener through an entertaining vista of clever melodies.

There's a strange Fifties mood interwoven with the modern riffs, lending a pleasant nostalgic edge to the tuneage, as if the songs spill from some time warp linking the deco past with the techno present.

decorative rule

THE ANUBIAN LIGHTS: Outflight (CD EP on Crippled Dick Hot Wax)

This 21 minute CD EP from 2001 features five tracks: two edited versions and two extended remixes of songs from "Naz Bar", and a non-LP track.

Although pruned down from the original versions, the "edits" retain an engaging flair that does not detract from the songs' plush and exotic mood.

The remixes are fine examples of deconstructions, dissembling the tracks and restructuring them into mutant versions with additional tempos and treatments that liven without deviating from the original takes. The introduction of acoustic guitar lends an earthy touch to the otherwise stellar pieces.

The new track is resplendent with ricocheting notes and complex percussives, nudged along by the voice of travel guide who prepares the audience for their voyage through arcane prayer singing counterpointed by nimble electronics.

decorative rule

DAMO SUZUKI'S NETWORK: Metaphysical Network (double CD on Damo's Net Work)

(Some background first: Suzuki was once the vocalist with Can in the Seventies. During the Nineties, he formed Damo Suzuki's Network, touring extensively and releasing a profusion of CD sets documenting these concerts.)

"Metaphysical Network" features live material from the band's 2000 forays in Seattle, Eugene, Los Angeles, and Vancouver. This music also features Tommy Grenas and Len del Rio in the line-up (performance and composition, since this music is all generally improvised live). Also included in the line-up are: Ryan Kirk, Brandon LaBelle, Kevin Lee, and Dominik Von Senger.

Raw and unbridled space rock is the keynote here, with raucous vocals and intense rock-out immersed in a soup of sizzling electronics. Astral guitars are as prevalent as the kick-ass variety, giving things a fullness that is often a draining experience. The presence of theremin lends a classic Fifties spaciness. Admittedly, though, the central pivot of the music is Damo's earthy vocals and intricate lyrics. Several of the songs are of extreme length, allowing the music to fully mature and mutate with abandon.

This double CD totals 114 minutes, and the set comes in a lovely double pack of a different design than most, comprising a 5.5x10 inch cardboard flip-open jewel case.

decorative rule
Entire page © 2002 Matt Howarth.
All rights reserved.
Webpage design by Stasy