Jelly Planet - "Food"
(Pirate Records 2003, 510450-2)
From Aural Innovations #24 (July 2003)
It's hard not to be curious about a band that describe themselves as "the result of CAN meeting the DOORS in a dark alley and attempting to kick the shit out of each other, while the WHO shout encouragement from the nearest bar". Jelly Planet are a quartet from Germany who play an accessible but power rocking brand of space rock. The band consists of Stephan Hendricks on lead vocals and keyboards, Alexander Schönert on guitar, sitar, and vocals, Felix A. Gutierrez on bass and vocals, and Jens Küchenthal on drums. Food is their first album.
Jelly Planet incorporate a number of influences into their music, but the trademark sound is a skillful blend of structured songs and freeform space and psychedelic jams. In this sense, the band remind me a lot of Porcupine Tree, who in the past have achieved this same mixture, though Jelly Planet far exceed anything Porcupine Tree have done on their past couple albums. Songs like "Light Of Her Galaxy" certainly remind me of moments from Porcupine Tree's "Stupid Dream". But Jelly Planet have an excellent guitar sound that manages to be simultaneously power rocking and psychedelic, while also going off into a trippy space interlude that includes healthy doses of alien efx. And along with the excellent production the result is a potent assault on the senses.
Among the other highlights is Jelly Planet's cover of "Eight Miles High". Sitar and bubbling efx trip along for a few seconds and then the band launch into a rousing power rock rendition of The Byrds' 60's classic. Like so many of Jelly Planets songs this one blazes heavy guitar rocking trails, yet takes the time to trip in space like the best of the early 70's Kosmiche bands. On the more tightly structured songs these moments don't last long, but it's clear where Jelly Planets' heart lies and it's refreshing to hear a band so capably able to be accessible to the point of being radio friendly, while incorporating less than subtle space and psych influences into the music. Even lighter songs, like "Happy", that didn't grab me all that much, have an ethereal quality and the trademark Jelly Planet outer space atmospherics. There's also lots of variety on the album. "Yesterday You Was" is a heavy Stoner influenced song, though it also has some brief jazzy keyboards. And "Gunshoot" includes a psych rocking trip-hop segment that, even when it launches into the molten power rock portion, still includes little DJ scratching bits. Very cool effect.
But my hands down favorite tracks of the set are "Cosmic" and "Swamp", where we really experience what happens when Jelly Planet leave the tighter structures behind. "Cosmic" is an aptly titled track that opens with spacey efx and voice samples. When the band start to take off the cosmic efx continue while a fat driving bass and steady drumming lay down a potent robotic rhythmic pattern that has a wee bit of a techno feel but is still dominated by the Rock elements. And when the guitar kicks in the music has a killer Stoner-psych vibe that blends beautifully with the robot rhythms and space atmospherics. At nearly 9 minutes "Swamp" is by far the longest track of the set, and, like "Cosmic", it really takes off and explores. Winding guitar notes that sound like Robert Fripp in space combine with what sounds like a Rhodes piano for a little improv bit, before launching into a totally stoned space jam.
In summary, Jelly Planet do an impressive job of finding that elusive point between accessibility and freeform space rock. Reference points for space rockers would be Porcupine Tree and Farflung. Very different bands indeed, yet Jelly Planet succeed in blurring the lines.
For more information you can visit the Jelly Planet web site at: http://www.jellyplanet.de.
Note that in September 2003 Jelly Planet are scheduled to be in the USA on tour with Damo Suzuki from CAN.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz