It would seem that in their quest to reach as many different and wide ranging audiences as possible UK based instrumental experimentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri love a good collaboration. Working with luminaries such as Yawning Man’s / Waterway’s Gary Arce, Hotel Wrecking City Traders and more, the last few years have seen a slew of split releases, often on eye waveringly beautiful vinyl.
The latest release sees them reunite with West Virginia’s most enduring rockers Karma To Burn for a second 7″ vinyl split offering that features two bands who prefer to let their music do the talking. Following on from the popularity of the first release, this record sees both bands contribute brand new original tracks and the option of no less than 3 different coloured options to sit on your turntable.
The outer artwork is no slouch either; two unique sides reflecting the feel of each band and packaged in a deluxe sleeve courtesy of freelance illustrator and long time KTB designer Alexander Von Wieding add to the feel of the release – a fiery demon raining down sulphur on a burning landscape for the stateside band and a cool blue, tranquil, almost Greek looking palladium for the Sons. Once again it is a beautiful package and a real treat to entice you to spend your hard earned cash on.
Up first musically are Karma To Burn with the previously unavailable ‘53‘, continuing their elusive trend of assigning numbers rather than song names. Having spent time dallying with Daniel Davies of Year Long Disaster and flirting with former Kyuss man John Garcia in recent times, here the band get back to their driving instrumental basics with a laid back smoky intro, heavy on the stoner rock vibe with a lazy sounding, rolling guitar and rumbling rhythm section that just reeks of cool.
The body of the track kicks in properly with some top notch drumming and becomes an urgent, powerful hooky groove. The low end off set by some deft guitar flourishes that could be trademarked as classic Karma To Burn in terms of dynamism. Evan Devine’s muscular drumming really brings the track into focus, laying the foundations to allow the interplay between William Mecum’s guitar subtleties and Rob Halkett’s thunderous bass.
Clocking in at bang on the four minute mark ‘53‘ does exactly what a split release single is meant to do; draw you in, grab your attention and leave you wanting more. I know this has got me psyched ahead of their UK tour later in the year…
The flip side of the record sees the more considered Sons Of Alpha Centauri. Constantly looking to collaborate with a wide range of artists has seen the Swale crew push and diversify their sound which has resulted in an expansive kaleidoscope of psychedelics and dark, moody riffing. Here the also numerically titled ‘71‘ opens with an ominous guitar line and military tattoo like snare work before evolving into a lurching riff backed with other worldly space evoking effects.
As the song builds, it takes these bases and opens up the sound to include plucked/pulled/hit string effects as the song travels through movements evoking an epic journey through some far flung corner of the universe, stars exploding and colliding in dramatic fashion and then moments of calm before the track becomes harder edged and dripping with menace.
In the context of their body of work, this is a short sharp shock that looks to pull you in and then drag you under. It is intensely focused and all the more dramatic for the scope it works through in such a short space of time providing both heavy and light touches, spacey mellow, soothing passages and then the almost operatic vocalisation of pure darkness – spectacularly done.
Like the Karma To Burn, the track ends all too soon leaving you wanting more before drifting off into an off kilter aside where an answering machine message from Karma To Burn‘s Will is set to music to round off the split release on a thematic jointing of the two bands.
As a big fan of split releases and both bands featured and vinyl, so this was something of a treat, for the uninitiated this is a great taster for the works of Karma To Burn and Sons of Alpha Centauri, both songs here are potent examples of the individual qualities of both sets of artists, yet compliment each other without compromising their strengths.
For me a release like this is a success if it reminds you or makes you realise just how damn good the band (or in this case bands) are and you have to listen to it again or rush out and listen to their other releases, so you’ll excuse me I have a date with my iPod…
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden