Ripple Music clearly know a good thing when they hear it. Their excellent vinyl-only split LP series Second Coming Of Heavy drew to a close late in 2019 with the tenth instalment, so what better way of following it up than… with another vinyl-only split LP series? I’m a firm believer that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so kudos to the good people at Ripple.
I have a narrow enough field of knowledge, or a broad enough field of ignorance if you prefer, to not know whether there’s another genre of music where the grand old split release has played as significant a role as stoner rock. Thinking back to seminal splits like the Kyuss/QOTSA, Unida/Dozer, Nebula/Lowrider, Iron Monkey/Church of Misery or Truckfighters/Firestone, split releases were where lots of soon-to-be-legendary bands first got themselves heard. And ignoring the history, you basically get two EPs (my personal favourite recording medium) from two different bands, so what is there to dislike?
Inadvertently continuing the fine tradition of split releases, Enter Galactic Wasteland features one familiar and one entirely new-to-me band. I’ll start with the previously unfamiliar Mr Bison, a three-piece hailing from Cecina in sunny Tuscany, who go for an unusual two guitars and drums set-up. Actually, I wouldn’t have noticed the absence of the bass if I hadn’t read it in the press release – there’s plenty of low-end – but I thought I’d mention it as it’s something I can recall coming across only once before.
Mr Bison seamlessly meld mellow psych-oriented passages with more traditionally structured stoner rock in a way that sounds entirely natural and organic. As a point of reference, they made me think of the late lamented Sungrazer, both in terms of song-writing and in the warm, enveloping fuzz tones they generate across their three tracks.
Enter Galactic Wasteland gets the Turned To Stone series off to an excellent start with two contrasting bands bringing the rawk in their own distinctive fashion…
If I’m being honest I was a bit underwhelmed with the Mr Bison side to begin with, but it really grew on me after repeated listens. I think that’s because the three tracks don’t follow a standard verse-chorus structure, so while there are plenty of vocal and instrumental hooks, it takes a while to become familiar with them. Opener The Grace Of Time is a good example: across 7 minutes it flows through a range of different sections, all of which are interesting but none of which are repeated. Overall, Mr Bison’s contribution does exactly what you want an EP to do: it’s a rewarding listen, but leaves you wanting more.
Flipping over (I’m being imaginative here – sadly I didn’t get an advance vinyl copy to review), we come to St Louis, Missouri’s Spacetrucker. I thoroughly enjoyed their debut album, Smooth Orbit, which came out in late 2018 and was glad to see that they’ve made no radical departures here. Despite being named, I assume, after a Deep Purple track, the thing that strikes you immediately about Spacetrucker is their unapologetic love of 90s grunge and stoner rock. In the last decade or so there’s been a bit of trend in our small corner of heavy music for bands to major on vintage equipment in a quest for that holy grail of warm 70s tone. Spacetrucker on the other hand are here to party like it’s 1999, plastering gratuitous amounts of fuzz and distortion over the guitar, bass and, to a lesser extent, the vocals.
The Spacetrucker half is neatly structured, with the more direct rockers Nosedive and King Cheeto bookending the longer instrumental Distant Earth. Nosedive picks up where Smooth Orbit left off – well directed angst, an awesome riff that stomps and swings through the verses, topped off with a memorable chorus. Distant Earth ebbs and flows, with bass and guitar taking turns to drive matters forward and building to a chugging conclusion, that for some reason makes me think of QOTSA’s Rated R. King Cheeto ups the tempo and rounds things off in fine style, crackling with energy, groove and infectious shout-along vocals. As with Mr Bison, but in a very different way, Spacetrucker totally nail the EP format.
Enter Galactic Wasteland gets the Turned To Stone series off to an excellent start with two contrasting bands bringing the rawk in their own distinctive fashion. Looking forward to Chapter 2!
Scribed by: Liam Blanc