If there were a stoner rock guitar Mt. Rushmore, you can bet your mom’s ass Ed Mundell’s face would be on it. When he suddenly departed Monster Magnet after 18+ years, fans prayed he wasn’t done. We all clung tightly to our first two Atomic Bitchwax records and waited. After a stint with quasi-super group 9 Chambers, he released his first “solo” record, Ed Mundell’s The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, an all-instrumental space rock blast that was the sort of record we all knew he had in him. A listen to the latest Monster Magnet record also reveals how much he brought to the party…
A year later, he brings on the next dose; a self-released, five song extended EP, entitled ‘Through The Dark Matter’ to coincide with the 2014 European Tour. A single run of only 500 CD’s and 200 blacklight cassettes are the physical evidence, but the download can be had on BandCamp if you miss the hard copies. And on a side note, fans should be loving this trend of DIY among rock n rollers. Nowadays, there’s no more sheeple in suits telling the bands when they can and can’t release material. It cannot be understated how amazing this is for underground rock music.
So, the lineup remains the same, with Ed Mundell handling all guitars, Collyn McCoy on basses, and Rick Ferrante on drums. Like the debut, Ed is in charge and he’s found a rhythm section in McCoy and Ferrante who allow him to do what he does. They play loosely together, debunking the myth that rhythm has to be tight in order to be quality.
‘Small Magellanic Cloud’ leads off this set with a minute of spacey, delayed, guitars and NASA-approved effects. Through headphones, we feel as if we’ve made contact and desperately need to call Mission Control. This morphs into why I’m here: Solid riffage!
‘Through The Dark Matter’ comes in sans hesitation with a towering riff. He’s always good for a handful per record and this is one of them. Over the course of his career, Mundell has never been shy about his influences and the droning octaves in the theme evoke early SweatyTeddy Nugent. And he’s also not in a hurry. Ed is more than content to pummel the listener with a groove for minutes at a time, ever churning and rotating, hard pans to the left and right speakers. It’ll make you hear the same riff four different ways. This particular track isn’t much on songwriting creativity and cleverness, it’s about riding the swell and letting the repetitiveness do it’s trick.
‘Spoonful’ enters with some pseudo- Bohnam drums, before Tim Sult enters on guitar. The latter isn’t true, but I’ll be damned if Mundell’s guitar doesn’t sound like Clutch. It’s eerie how “chords” can be played with identifiable style. Anyway, this romp of Willie Dixon’s-through-Holwin’ Wolf tune is probably the standout track on the record. The staccato nature of the opening strike is unlike anything we’ve heard so far. McCoy sings (believe it, the first UEMG tune with vocals) with power and his gruffness is sunken in enough to not get in the way. The band plays it pretty straight until about three minutes in when we take an unexpected, hard left turn to a double bass break. It’s pretty bitchin’ with McCoy’s vox over a bowed, upright bass and Mundell’s guitars roaming around in the background. Once the band returns, it’s full-on psychedelic, stacked, guitar chaos, with Hendrix-like theatrics and vibe while the vocals howl the main theme. This rock madness eventually leads to a drawn out ending of splattery fuzz and interplay.
‘Day Of The Comet’ finds the band back to the business. Heavy accents, noodling guitar; almost a 70’s jazz-fusion experience. With loads of wailing feedback and swirling oscillators, it’s hard to imagine how in the hell the band would even chart out the tune. I’d imagine it something like this: “Alright, we’ll start playing this groove and Ed, you just…you just do your thing.” Like any record with Mundell, the tones are superb and the recording sounds fantastic.
‘Large Magellanic Cloud’ bookends the saga with more low-key, trippy guitar, Fender Rhodes piano, and just a whiff of middle-eastern influence. Bass leads abound and let it be known that these guys are working HARD. Sure, there’s a metric shit-ton of guitar solos, but there’s a lot of finger-twisting bass work as well and the listener can hear it all clearly with the stellar mix down.
In closing, I’ll admit, I’m a guitar guy. I like big, colossal, power guitar, and I like it straight down the pike. To me, when Ed is at his best is when he’s hunkered down, working tight riffs and breakneck solos. BUT, he’s got a lot more to him than that and it’s evident all over this record. It’s a meandering, sometimes trying listen that rewards patience and in my case, tests it at times! In the end, Ed Mundell never disappoints and his latest The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic side is proof that in the pantheons of modern, psychedelic rock, no one stands taller.
Scribed by: Drew Fulton