Review: Mugstar ‘Graft’

Mugstar‘s line-up for the Graft album is Neil Murphy – guitar, Joe Hirons – guitar & keyboards, Marc Glaysher – bass (who replaced God Unknown label owner Jason Stöll and member of many a Shaman featured outfit) and Steve Ashton – drums. They have been generically labelled a psych band but they also take their cues from space rock and krautrock. Graft is the band’s follow-up to the much-lauded live collaboration with Can’s Damo Suzuki from earlier in the year and is being jointly released by Centripetal Force in North America and Cardinal Fuzz in the UK and Europe.

Mugstar 'Graft'

For all you non-UK readers of this review (and The Shaman in general), Graft is slang for working hard at manual labour, a theme that’s further emphasised by the album’s cover which features a picture of a factory. Considering the fact that White Hills latest release Splintered Metal Sky also features an urban, industrial theme on the cover, one wonders whether Mugstar will also be adopting the flavours of that particular album. If so then opening track Deep Is The Air is certainly no indication of this, a blissful two minute and twenty five second slice of Brian Eno-esque atmospheric ambience which you would find on his Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks album.

Imagine a beefed up version of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun with a Stooges proto-punk/garage influence and you have an idea as to what Zeta Potential sounds like. This shows a harder side to Mugstar and is definitely one I would like to hear more of in the future. I am also reminded of fellow Liverpudlian eccentric genius Julian Cope’s power trio Brain Donor project which sees the one time Teardrop Explodes frontman exorcising his garage-punk and hard rock inclinations.

Ghost Of A Ghost is well over twelve minutes and is glorious meandering psych reminding me of Dead Meadow and The Entrance Band, especially the former’s trippier, mellower albums such as Old Growth. I don’t tend to indulge in substances, it’s not my bag as it were, and I’m certainly not of the opinion that you need to participate in illegal’s to appreciate tripped out music. So what is wonderful about this track is it takes you on a journey without you having to spend money acquiring and indulging in such hallucinogenics. It’s an absolute beauty that could also be used for the purposes of meditation and mindfulness if that is your trip.

a truly remarkable and beautifully balanced aural experience…

The tempo is upped once again with Cato as Mugstar smartly decide to keep your attention sharply focused with this compact piece of electro rock psych punk goodness which contains faint hints of Stranglers styled post-punk/new wave thrown in for good measure.

Low, Slow Madness lives somewhat up to its name, I’ve been listening to Temple Of The Fuzz Witch a lot recently and the bass tone reminds me a lot of the stoner/doom outfit. Albeit substituting the crushing riffs of Temple Of… for pleasant jazz style piano/keyboards and hypnotic Klaus Schulz new age influences. The album concludes with Star Cage, a track that reminds me a little of Earthless on their first couple of albums, motorik drumming, stoner Groundhogs riffing and High Rise noise attitude.

In my view it was wise for Mugstar to move into more structured song writing territory after the improv madness of the Damo Suzuki collaboration. That’s not to say they’ve simplified and compromised their sound so much as to become a pub rock sing-along band ala Oasis. Instead they maintain their experimental edge, but add a welcome conciseness that makes the album a truly remarkable and beautifully balanced aural experience.

Label: Cardinal Fuzz Records | Centripetal Force Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter

Scribed by: Reza Mills