SubArachnoid Space - "Almost Invisible"
(Relapse Records 1997, RR6959-2)
From Aural Innovations #3 (July 1998)
Consisting of two guitars, bass, and drums, SubArachnoid Space play an improvisational blend of space and high acid psychedelia. Almost Invisible features portions from two of the band's performances from 1996. Tracks 1-4 were recorded live at Ptomaine Temple in Oakland, CA and run together as one continuous piece. Tracks 5-6 were recorded a month earlier at Spaceland in Los Angeles and also play as one tune.
The first piece lays down a low-end droning sound around which the guitars slowly improvise. Lots of sounds and busy drumming keep things interesting for a while. The guitars screech and wah-wah making for a pretty freaked out psychedelic atmosphere mixed with a crunching krautrock sound.
The music drags a bit until the drumming gets more intense, which awakens the guitarists and sends them a bit more into orbit. Drone music can often be boring, but because each instrument is distinct and relatively clear there's plenty to listen to rather than it all being one big ear splitting stew.
The music really consists of interesting passages alternating with those that really don't go anywhere. Whenever the pace and intensity increases (invariably provoked by the drummer) the band will settle into a nice jamming groove and all the great sounds these guitarists produce will have some sense of direction. But these moments tended to end too soon. The piece ended well, though, as an intense mini psych freakout. The two guitarists do play off each other well and produce great sounds without any need whatsoever for synths.
The second piece, though not different in style from the first, leaned more toward a heavy psychedelic krautrock jam sound and was much more to my liking. The tune was more consistently strong with the two guitarists dueling with each other to see who could produce the wilder sounds. The driving tribal drum beat kept the pace throughout. In fact, if someone told me this piece was a German band recorded in the early 70's I'd believe them.
I haven't heard SubArachnoid Space's previous works so I'm unable to say how representative this disc is of their sound. In terms of atmosphere and sound exploration there's a great deal of potential here. The guitarists know how to wrench sound and frenzy from their instruments and when they click the effect can be riveting. Unfortunately, these moments were not consistent throughout. Still, they've sufficiently aroused my interest that I'll probably explore their music further.
You can visit SubArachnoid Space at their web site.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz