Thrill Jockey is a label that seems to thrive on diversity; with over 300 releases under its belt, they seem to be on a mission to prove that Chicago’s place at the forefront of musical evolution is far from lost. With a roster boasting acts as diverse as The Boredoms, the much lamented Jack Rose, KTL and Sidi Touré, the good folks that run this record label are clearly uninterested in being pigeonholed in any way. Today’s offering comes courtesy of Illinois’s best record label, being the second album this year (!) from Portland Oregon’s Eternal Tapestry.
Suitably Moorcockian artwork adorns the cover, and the album starts with an ethereal mix of synth and heavily sustained guitar before launching into opener “When I Was In Your Mind”, with a smattering of effects. So far, so Hawkwind. The band jam the song out for a total of twelve minutes, with clear nods not only to England’s space-rock overlords, but also to Germany’s prime musical exports of the Seventies such as Neu! And Can. Unfortunately, as the song progresses, they start reminding me of the latter group for all the wrong reasons, extending an initially excellent and engaging idea out to twice the length it merits, dissolving into an indifferent pool of delay and echo. A real shame, given the promise the track shows initially.
Thankfully, the bloated indulgence of this opening track is not repeated again (at least in terms of terms of track length), and the rest of the album is a more consistent effort, with my favourite track being “The Weird Stone”, its beguiling melody and progression reminiscent of The Flower Travellin’ Band’s best oeuvres. “Apocalypse Troll” has the best riff of the album (strangely reminiscent of “Summer Breeze”…) and is likely to get the heads and hippies dancing on their European tour next April (see also the delightful electric raga of “The Currents Of Space”)! A welcome increase in tempo for “When Gravity Fails” gives the album a much-needed shot of diversity, which is also the quality of closer “Sand Into Rain”, a cut that could almost be the music to a lost Crosby Stills Nash and Young track.
Ultimately, however, the album feels a bit too meandering and lacking in focus to be classed as anything above average, which isn’t to say that they aren’t astonishing musicians. In fact, the playing is absolutely perfect throughout, with production to match. It leads me to wonder if producing two albums this year was a wise idea. If you’re Frank Zappa, then of course it can work, but then again he (as with any band that has worn the test of time) wrote good songs, and didn’t rely on mere technique or effects to do the work for him. If you’re looking for a modern progressive psych record, you’d be better off checking out New York’s Eidetic Seeing, who haven’t fallen into the traps Eternal Tapestry have with this album.
That said, to call it bad would be doing them a massive disservice, as I have no doubt that they worked hard to present us with this album. It’s just a shame that the end result is so average, as the makings of something great are there. Perhaps I’m being unreasonable in expecting restraint and/or structure from this kind of band, or maybe I’m just not doing enough drugs? I would argue that the best of the bands from whom they draw influence were able to hone their albums more and not be any less “out there”. I’ve now got a hankering to listen to The Mahavishnu Orchestra, see you on the other side…. Of space!
Scribed by: Saúl Do Caixão