Split releases come in a range of flavours – from new or smaller bands getting material out there cheaply, to labels showcasing acts they want to push, to ‘tour specials’ for bands going out together. This collaboration apparently finds its roots in a chance meeting at Psycho Las Vegas in 2017, and if you are familiar with either band, it is clear to see how they may have quickly found some kinship, or shared purpose, in their innovative use of EPIC and psychedelic sounds in doom.
Majestic Mountain Records then have facilitated a great pairing here, with each band presenting two new songs followed by a cover of their counterpart. For me, Slomatics are the more established act, although Domkraft’s Self-Titled debut was released back in 2015 and the song Slomatics chose to cover goes back to their 2016 album The End Of Electricity. After 2019’s Canyons Slomatics have been a bit quiet, with just a few splits, re-releases of old material, and live recordings, I’ve been impatient for new songs. Domkraft are here off the back of their 2021 album Seeds which was for me – like many – my first exposure to their distinctive driving and blown-out heaviness. So of course I was eager to hear what Ascend/Descend had to offer…
With The Core Will Pull You Home Domkraft throw straight into expansive space-doom, stepping off into a heavy psych nod, far gone in the way of Sons Of Otis or similar swinging groovers. Soon enough this works itself up into an insistent drive before stepping back into a smooth and swinging beat, teamed with distorted bass and effortless guitar soloing. The Brush Descends The Length takes a more languid approach, rising and falling beneath mantric vocals. As ever Domkraft offers multiple opportunities to the tuned-in listetner – relax in the nod, lift up on the vocal lines, or get lost in the swirl of distortion. This richness is another point of kinship with Slomatics, who have also always seemed to do so much with so little.
Closing out their contribution Domkraft have made a rocking cover of the Slomatics classic And Yet It Moves – in this case, ‘it moves’ surprisingly urgently! Where the original plays on the inertia of the riff, this one comes out of the gate at pace and hustles along, exploring guitar harmonies and a changed tonal texture. A different interplay comes out from Domkraft’s separation of bass and guitar compared to Slomatics’ twin guitar attack, and their musical identity comes through powerfully, not least in some luxuriant soloing as the song flames out at its midpoint. The dragging weight of the original comes to the fore after this, and Domkraft end their half of the split with a demonstration of their own ability to find great thickness of tone.
The format works so well for these two bands, playing off their similarities and differences in a way that brings the qualities of each to the fore…
Slomatics are also keen to make an impression from the off, reminding us with some squirling noises of their sci-fi bent, before bludgeoning with a typically monumental unison riff. Somehow, they have reached even further in this direction than my memory of their earlier work allows, with even more evident sonic enrichment of synth and vocal layering behind the core of guitar. From here Positive Runes pushes further into sci-fi territory, like a procession of unearthly machine-beings, it opens up gloriously.
After this euphoric climax Buried Axes On Regulus Minor reminds us that this stuff all starts in the two-step hood-up dirge. Quickly though Slomatics introduce a rhythmic patterning that sets off against the gravity and lifts into a triumphant refrain. Impossible to sustain that height in this gravity, the song falls back in on itself to brood awhile before ending with an audible snarl. It’s easy to see why Slomatics would go for Dustrider for their cover as the progression suits their style fantastically. The Belfast crew stretch the original out to almost twice the length, however, dragging the tempo down to a more stately pace before pulling back into a zero-gravity drift. Over soothing synths, they sing us out in an oddly beautiful end to the record.
If I have one complaint about Ascend/Descend, it’s too short! For me, this could happily be a full length, with one or two more songs and an extra cover each, but I suppose I will have to be satisfied with it as it is. The format works so well for these two bands, playing off their similarities and differences in a way that brings the qualities of each to the fore and makes for an intentional piece of work that stands in its own right.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes