Alien Planetscapes - "SpaceRock USA" (Galactus 2002/1986)
Alien Planetscapes - "The Official Bootleg: Volume Three" (Galactus 2002)
From Aural Innovations #20 (July 2002)
It's always a happy day when Doug Walker makes Alien Planetscapes music available, be it reissues of old recordings or new material. This time around we've got a little of both. SpaceRock USA is a recording from 1986 that features Doug on synthesizers, flute, keyboards, guitar and effects, Cheryl Sobas on oboe, e-drums and voice, Carl "Nomuzic" Howard on synthesizers and e-drums, Al Margolis on bass and effects, and Larry Olson on guitar and effects.
It's one continuous 63 minute piece of killer electronic space rock that blends Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze styled space electronics with darkness and drones, fun freaky efx, and a steadily evolving theme that keeps things interesting throughout. I dig the tribal percussion that gives an ethnic or Native American feel to the tripped out atmosphere, and along with Margolis on bass we've got a bit of a band feel to the heavily spaced electronics. And guitar crops up from time to time to add a heavier rock element to the music. There are some seriously well crafted segments that would go great as the soundtrack to a martian invasion... though the music communicates to me that in this scenario Earth would be pretty well fucked. Overall this is very much an "in between" style bridging the purely electronic Alien Planetscapes and the full band version that was to shortly emerge. The band reach high levels of cosmic volume and intensity that left me a bit torqued up but completely hypnotized. Definitely a set that long time AP fans will enjoy.
The Official Bootleg: Volume Three is a 2-CD set that includes four lengthy tracks recorded in late 2001 and early 2002. All tracks feature the lineup of Doug Walker on synths, keyboards and effects, Chris Altenhoff on bass and effects, Josh Gazes on guitar, guitar synthesizer and effects, Matthew Block on drums and percussion, and Richard Orlando on guitar and effects. The 2001 sessions have the added bonus of Rob Alfonso on guitar.
Alfonso's guitar contributed to some of the hardest rocking moments in Alien Planetscapes' history, and the combination of his searing Robert Fripp-like licks and Gazes' more psychedelic style makes for some potent music. The Block/Altenhoff rhythm section forms a SOLID foundation for the band and keeps the pace rolling steadily throughout the first monstrous 32 minute track. This is just a completely spaced freeform jam that at various times rocks hard, trips lightly, and even gets jazz funky in a mind assaulting sort of way. This is without question the best hard space rock Alien Planetscapes recording I've heard since the Life On Earth CD. Honestly, Space ROCK - and rock music in general - is hard pressed to get much better than this. And not only is it a killer performance but the sound quality is better than heard on many of Alien Planetscapes' recordings. Yeeeeeees.... 32 minutes of mind bashing cosmic bliss. And if you're still fired up for more, you'll find another 26 minute track with the same lineup that will offer a similar experience, except I'll add that the spaced out funk factor is more in the forefront on the second track. Excellent!
The two tracks from March and February of 2002 feature the same lineup minus Rob Alphonso. The first begins with a busily atmospheric spacey intro and a deeeeep King Crimson sounding bass. After about six minutes of slowly ascending buildup the band smoothly lifts off into the main theme. The music rocks hard but has a bit more of a structured space-prog rock feel than the balls-to-the-wall jam quality of the recordings from several months earlier. That's not to say the band don't take off and let ‘er rip because they do. But the piece feels more like it was built from the ground up... rehearsed even. But then again, I didn't realize until later that AP's amazing Strange Daze 2001 set was totally improvised either. The second track opens in a similar atmospheric style with wildly bubbling synths and whiny Frippoid guitar lines. After a few minutes the drums kick in and the guitar takes on a rougher but still Crimson-ish edge as the band lays down a steady rolling space funky groove. Now we're back into cosmic jam territory and these guys clearly have Karmic non-verbal communication that allows them to just click. Yup, this 2-CD set is the among the best AP music of the past couple years I've heard and beautifully illustrates what a hot rock ensemble they can be. HIGHEST recommendation!!
For more information you can email Doug "Dr Synth" Walker at: Dwa2898572@aol.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Doug Walker; 191-32 116 Ave; St. Albans, NY 11412.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz