Upsilon Acrux - "Last Train Out"
(Daft Alliance/Hactivist Media 1000)
From Aural Innovations #21 (October 2002)
The latest (that I know of) release from San Diego's thrashing-mad progsters Upsilon Acrux is 34 minutes of all I could say about the stylistic overlapping of their debut "In the Acrux of the Upsilon King", but more condensed. On that album they showed both compositional and improvisational aplombe, having 75 minutes of sonic space to play with, while this seems to almost be a demo in certain ways. They still have an extremely unique sound, references to Magma, Zappa, Beefheart, John Zorn, King Crimson and others aside, but are clearly just too damned impatient to be bothered with too much psychedelic meandering this time round.
Not that even the 1-3 minute tunes don't have some cool themes that couldn't have been built upon, hence you can decide if this is really just 34 minutes of music or 3 times as many minutes worth of possibilities had they not sounded like they had evil futuristic vermin at their asses at all times... good example being track #2, "Propeller", almost the closest they get to "catchy" for the whole album... though still way off the mark from "producing a hit" in any sense. There's a good deal of the tightly-composed prog-grind which could bring to mind Painkiller or even Naked City, except for the lack of blatant references to more popular genres (i.e. no cool-jazz, etc).
For pure description's sake, the instruments producing these sounds are basic enough: guitar, bass, drums and the occasional synth or pedals, but naturally it's their own tunings which contribute to their unique sound. There's something here called "Beez Kneez" which re-works the first "45 Seconds" of their debut in a cartoonishly chipmunk-twee self-mocking way. They finally settle into a groove somewhat with "Last Song (Rotheriffic)", a blatant tribute to classic Neu! ("Hallo Gallo/Fur Immer") but even in this case beat the original duo to the peak of the jam by about 8 minutes. "Intronics" promises a groovy surf-drone psyche number but inevitably gets into a more obnoxiously repetitive skip-psycho prog work-out. Still heavy, though, without a doubt. And it is pleasing that they have their own compositional themes and motifs, as they continue to refer to earlier material in different keys and tempos, granting the listener some continuity with repeated listens.
I've played this disc many times. Without doubt this is an exceptionally talented and unique ensemble, as they continually confuse the average reviewer (yours truly), but the album must only be recommended to the most serious and patient prog-types... otherwise you space-punks can go ahead and write them off as "wankers" right now if you wish.
For more information you can visit the Upsilon Acrux web site at: http://www.go.to/upsilonacrux.
Last Train Out is distributed by Hactivist Media. You can visit their web site at: http://www.hactivist.com.
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg