Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Insterstellar overdrive

Space rock has never really been my cup of lysergic tea; it certainly has something to do with my abstaining from mind-altering substances (unless you count chocolate, but somehow I don't think you do), but also with the genre's hippie connotations. Too much noodling, too much babbling.

But I kept reading intriguing tidbits about a newish Brit outfit called Litmus that's said to play super-heavy space rock—so heavy, in fact, that the band's second and latest album, Planetfall, came out on Rise Above, the label run by Cathedral's Lee Dorrian and the home to Dilettante sludgy/doomy faves like Grand Magus, Witchcraft, Orange Goblin and Electric Wizard. Plus Litmus was being championed by Julian Cope, who has a pretty good ear for these things.

Well, Planetfall really is all that. It's heavy. It's fast. It's dense. Sure, like much of the Rise Above roster it's also unabashedly retro, and the mellotron whizzes are a bit conventional, but oh my god does it rock! It's got to be the headbanging-with-your-eyes-closed album of the year.

And in a super-rare occurrence, since I tend to believe 180 seconds is the ideal length for a song, my favorite tracks here are two of the longest ones: "Far Beyond," clocking in at eight minutes, and "Under the Sign," which goes on for 15 over-the-top minutes and just never lets up even as it piles on busy-busy-busy bass runs, atomic drum fills and endless guitar soloing—things start at full speed and just stay there.

Litmus "Under the Sign"
Litmus "Far Beyond"

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