Spiral Galaxy are a Chicago outfit consisting of flautist/painter Sara Gossett and treated guitar/machines manipulator Plastic Crimewave and this is their debut album. There are several special guests appearing on the album including such names as Jean-Hervé Péron of Faust, Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple and Alisha Sufit of UK 70s eastern-folk band Magic Carpet to name but a few. The album cover has been devised in a 70s kosmiche/krautrock style, in fact if you were passed this record without knowing anything about the artists background you would be convinced you had discovered a long-lost gem from that era.
Opening track Celestial Omen had a folk and Middle Eastern devotional influence mixed in with droney soundscapes reminding one of Kraftwerk’s first couple of traffic cone era albums, especially with the incorporation of the flute. This was a profoundly beautiful piece that sets you up for the rest of the album to come.
Tragique Mechanique started with a pulsating electro beat with some spoken word vocals layered over the top and some folk style flute. There was a Popol Vuh intonation, that brought to mind that band’s collaborations in the 1970s with West German (as it was then) filmmaker Werner Herzog (Aguirre the Wrath of God, Stroszeketc) while still managing to maintain a contemporary bent. There was also a heavy motorik beat and the heavy soundscapes reminded me of Klaus Schulz’s early solo output(Irrlicht).
Next, we came to Machine D, the penultimate and longest track on the album at over 14 minutes long, and there was a mechanical machine like feel to it as the title intonated. The steady motorik beat pulsated in the background like Kraftwerk at the time of Autobahn, you could imagine playing this on a long motorway journey at night with an environmental background that rarely shifts. Anyone like me who has had to utilise the motorway will know what a mind-numbing, repetitive, and exhausting experience it can be. This track perfectly captures this, while itself being none of those things. A stunning number and my favourite so far. Some mad props (as the kids say) need to be given to Ryley Walker for his excellent backwards guitar playing.
If you’re more inclined to the electronic wing of krautrock, then you will find this an immensely rewarding listening experience…
And then in what felt like no time at all we reached the final track Pendlewitches. Now I know little to nothing about Sara Gossett and Plastic Crimewave’s backgrounds, but I was wondering whether they had spent any time in Lancashire. The Pendle Witches, for those unfamiliar, were 11 individuals who were accused of the murder of 10 people using witchcraft in 1612 and they were tried in the courts in Lancaster (where I currently reside) where all but one was executed. The track was the shortest on the album at just over five minutes and had a Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun Pink Floyd feel to it. It is the most overtly Psychedelic sounding track on the album with little to no Electronic Drone style experimentation present. It’s the moodiest piece on here and perhaps taps into the mysticism and absurd injustice surrounding the witch trials.
The danger with music of this type is to get too carried away with the experimentation, thus rendering the sound self-indulgent or to put it into layman’s terms ‘more fun to play than to listen to’. Thankfully, this was not the case here, it was instead a supremely well-constructed and compact piece of work. If you’re more inclined to the electronic wing of krautrock, then you will find this an immensely rewarding listening experience.
Scribed by: Reza Mills