From Aural Innovations #33 (March 2006)
Space Rock is a very special genre of music. When people think of space rock they usually associate the music with the bands Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. In the 70's, these bands would define the genre and influence a wide range of bands. Germany had bands like Eloy and Grobschnitt. The Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland) have over the years produced many great bands, but most are not widely known outside of their own countries and this continues to be true today. In this article I hope to introduce you to the most prominent new and old space rock bands that are currently playing and recording today.
Gas Giant, a four piece band from Copenhagen, has been playing in Denmark since 1996 (first under the name Blind Man Buff) and in addition a lot of concerts in Germany since 2002. The band is more of a space rock band than On Trial, who are more of a psychedelic rock band. Gas Giant's first release, Blind Man Buff, was in 1998. This was a 4 song CD-EP which showed the direction that the band was heading with their space rock sound. In 1999 the band recorded the Portals of Nothingness, a very spacey record that was never released. In 2000 Gas Giant released their classic stoner-space rock CD, Pleasant Journey in Heavy Tunes, on Burnt Hippie Recordings. This was a monster CD full of heavy psychedelic spaced out sounds and amazing songs featuring the incredible guitar of Stefan Krey! It is now completely sold out and a collector's item, featuring the bands hit, Too Stoned. In 2001 the band released a split LP (also on Burnt Hippie Recordings) featuring the Norwegian band, WE. This was pressed in 500 copies with a very cool fold out sleeve. It is also sold out and a collectors item. It featured three, now classic tracks, including the Scott Heller (me) on Synthesizer on one track. Scott would later join the band for two years. In 2003 the band released the incredible Mana on the Nasoni and Elektrohasch labels in Germany. This was a real psychedelic space rock record with an amazing sound. The band are often referred to as the "Grateful Dead" of Stoner rock, a reputation built up from their amazing live concerts which always include a different set list and some long improvised jams. The band are all excellent musicians (Tommy-drums, Thomas-bass, vocals and Stefan Guitar, vocals). The band is currently making pre-production demos for their next CD to be released in late 2006.
Mantric Muse, who started life as Stonehenge and then Narnia, has been playing together since 1996 with various members. I first saw the band in 1998 at a small bar in Copenhagen called Backfisch. I was completely blown away by the guitar and bass players in this all instrumental band who are highly influenced by the likes of Ozric Tentacles, Santana, Phish and Pink Floyd. In 1999 the band produced an excellent space rock EP called Picks n' Space. It featured 6 tracks, including one with a live (not sampled) sufi singer. The band has solidified it's line up in the last year with Michael (bass), Magnus (Guitar and Synthesizers), Søren (Drums), and Mogens (Synthesizers). They are an amazing live band that plays 2-3 hour concerts with long improvisations. The band is currently finishing up work on its debut CD entitled Kap Næb (and searching for a record label).
The Øresund Space Collective (OSC) is a collective of current and former musicians from the Danish and Swedish bands, Mantric Muse, Bland Bladen (RIP), and Gas Giant, with guest musicians from the Carpet Knights and Sgt. Sunshine. The name comes from the bridge that connects Denmark with Sweden. The OSC started in 2004 and is a completely improvised electronic-funky-jazzy space rock band with two guitar players, two bass players (not at all jams), one drummer (there used to be two) and three synthesizer players. On the OSC web page the band places the majority of each jam session which take place every 3 or 4 weeks alternating between Copenhagen and Malmö. These high quality MP3 recordings give a great insight into the bands diverse sound. The OSC has begun to play live concerts in 2005 and recorded an all improvised studio CD in July 2005 that was released on the Transubstans label in January 2006. The band is also releasing limited edition CDs of the best jam sessions, similar to the Spacefold series by Quarkspace. The band have just finished recording their second CD, which we expect to be a double CD. Watch out for this amazing band in the future!
Circle, and the family of artists that are associated with them in Pori (on the west coast of Finland), have created an huge array of interesting and varied music. Some of the other bands include Ektroverde, Pharoah Overlord, and Kuusumun Profeetta. Circle began as a very heavy drone band in 1991 and has had 18 main releases (at least) and has evolved into a very difficult to describe improvisational spaced out band continuing to produce mind blowing music. Ektroverde are an off shoot of Circle and were very active between 1999 and 2002. Their latest CD released in 2003, Ukkossalama, was an amazing jazzy space rock journey. Pharoah Overlord have released three CDs now. The first was a stoner rock drone record of sorts, while the second was much more ambient and spaced out. Kuusumun Profeetta, began as a sort of jazz rock band that evolved into a psychedelic folk band. The band continues to push the boundaries on their journey to the cosmos.
Taipuva Luotisuora are based in Rauma (also on the west coast) and was started in 2002. The band feature at least 5 members and they play all instrumental progressive space rock music. The first EP and first gig was in 2003. The band's style was quite retro style progressive rock. In January 2004 they released a CD-R album called "planetaariset ilmanpainevyöhykkeet". It was very inspired by Ozric Tentacles and King Crimson. Soon after they replaced the drummer and became more interested in space rock. In February 2005 they released "I" and got rid of the second guitarist and added a live flute player. The band has started to play more concerts around in Finland.
Dark Sun is a very Hawkwind inspired space rock band from Helsinki. The band have been around since the early 90's and have stayed active on the live concert scene but sadly have only produced a few records. In 1997 the band released the now out of print and classic CD entitled Feed your Mind. This was an amazing space rock journey with great compositions and a fantastic space rock sound. The core of the band has remained the same with Dark Santtu (bass), Janne (Vocals), Mikko (Synthesizer) and Ylli (guitar), while they have had numerous other musicians playing in the band. The band collaborated with Nik Turner from Hawkwind in 1999 on the Electric Dreams EP and again on the live CD, Ice Ritual, which was primarily Hawkwind cover songs recorded live in Helsinki. The band is currently working on a new studio CD and are looking for a label to release it in 2006.
Hidria Spacefolk, are also from Helsinki and started back in 1999. They are a 5 piece instrumental band with 2 guitars, bass, drums, and synthesizer. The band has a highly original sound that is very addictive. They are also very influenced by the Ozric Tentacles and the space rock bands from the UK festival scene of the 80's. Sometimes you can really hear the influences of Finnish folk music mixed in with a bit of electronic techno as well. The band has collaborated with some techno artists to produce a remix CD of tracks from their first 2 releases. Most of this was extremely good. In addition, the band has produced an EP and two full length CDs, as well as a recent live CD recorded at the NearFest progressive rock festival in the USA in 2004. The band has recently had two of their releases come out in Germany on the TUG label. The follow up to the amazing Balansia CD should be out in August 2006.
Bland Bladen hail from Malmö, Sweden's second largest and most southern city. The band started jamming in the autumn of 2000. The guitarist (Sabana) and the keyboard player (Ola) came south from Örebro and met the freaks Dave and Kaufmann and started jamming. The band soon found they had quite a magical sound as they all come from very different musical backgrounds, with Dave and Kaufmann playing quite heavy rock or punk and Sabana and Ola playing in a psychedelic blues band. Together they create some very interesting instrumental psychedelic progressive space rock, also inspired by some Swedish folk music. The band has released a split vinyl LP (only 200 copies made) with a Swedish band called Soviet. In addition, a self released 4 track CD-R was released in 2003. Unfortunately they have recently disbanded.
The space ship that carried the First Band from Outer Space, for some strange reason, decided to drop them off on the west coast of Sweden in a city called Göteborg (Gothenburg). The group began trying to make music in the year 2002 and recorded their first demo (Further Magic) in February 2003. The band is a four piece with Starfighter Carl on Drums, johanfromspace on guitars and vocals, Spaceace Frippe on bass and moog, and MoonbeamJosué on flutes. The bands next demo was quite amazing and entitled Aboard the Mothership of Cosmic Sound Creation. The band recorded its first full length CD in 2003 entitled, We're only in it for the Space Rock. It was released on Transsubstans Records in 2005. The band has just finished recording their next CD, which they call a step towards a more "global spacerock" sound, with singing in three languages!
To reach Darxtar, who have been around for 15 years now, you have to go nearly all the way to Stockholm on the east coast (about 1/3 of the way to the top of Sweden). The band released their debut recordings on Acid Tapes in England in 1991 (this would be released later that year on CD). This was some pretty cool Hawkwind inspired Space rock with K.Sören Bengtsson and Juha Nurmenniemi working closely together with a drum machine. In 1992 the bands second recordings were rejected by the label and the band was slowly coming into it's own with the addition of Patric on drums. In 1993 the bands second recordings, Darker, were released on a Swedish label (Garageland). To complete the line up of the band, Fredrik joined on violin and Sören on keyboards. The band played their debut concert as well. In 1994 the band released what they consider their first proper CD on their on label. Daybreak is a classic by any sense. Long stretched out space rock adventures as well as heavier songs highlighting all the great playing by the band. In 1995 the band left Sweden for the first time to play in Belgium, Holland and Germany. After the tour, Juha and Patric left the band. Juha went on to form the band Pseudo Sun, who has made a two excellent Space rock CDs and one limited edition live vinyl record. The band plays much more progressive rock now but is still active.
In December 1995 Darxtar joined forces with Nik Turner for some concerts in Sweden under the guise of HawXtaR. The results of this were released in 1997 on their own label as a limited edition of 100 copies. Nik joined the band again at the Space and Rock Festival disaster in Jönköping in August of 1998. But before this the band released another fantastic and more progressive space rock CD and gatefold LP called Sju (7 in Swedish). The band also began to work on Tombola, which due to financial constraints, families, etc, was worked on for many years and not finally released until 2001 on the Record Heaven label. Tombola was a huge step in a new direction for the band and showed many new faces in the music but it was all excellent and a great CD.
The band has not been very active on the live scene for many years but they do perform now and then. They have released tracks on several tribute CDs (Eno, Hawkwind and soon the Moody Blues) as well as the Copenhagen space rock compilation CD which includes two live archive tracks from '94-'95. The band has just released their new CD/LP on Nasoni Records and it is a fantastic psychedelic rock album.
To reach The Spacious Mind you have to travel far to the North of Sweden to the small town of Skelefteå on the east coast. The wilderness and dark cold winters are a great inspiration to this amazing psychedelic space rock band. The band began in 1991 and, like Circle, have a lot of trees growing out from it with projects like Moon Trotski, Cauldron, Holy River Family Band, Brotherhood of Eternal Love, and Gracious Pond. Think of Pink Floyd with the jamming vibe of the Grateful Dead and early Hawkwind and you have the spaced out sound of the Spacious Mind band. The band has been around nearly 15 years now but they have not really played that many live concerts due to living in such an isolated place. While the bands early material has vocals, the latest material they have released on their own God Damn I'm a Countryman label is nearly all instrumental and very spacey. This is one of Sweden's best and most original bands. Look for an interview in a follow up issue.
WE are based in Oslo and were started by two brothers, Kris and Don in 1993. The band started out playing music from their roots like FREE and Black Sabbath and then the grunge age appeared. The bands first CD, In the Field of Moose, was released in 1994 and was quite a psychedelic grunge rock experience. The band was signed to Voices of Wonder and produced three records between 1996 and 1999 (Violently Coloured Sneakers, Wooferwheels and Livin' the Lore). The bands sound and intensity continued to grow as did the space in their music. The band really broke it out in 1999 when they toured Europe opening for Masters of Reality. In 2000 they released a pplit LP with the Danish band Gas Giant. This is considered by most to be a classic psychedelic space rock LP. In addition, the bands From the Spaceways 10" record was released including a great cover of Cherry Red by the Groundhogs and the amazing track, Flyin'.The bands space rock classic, Dinosauric Futurobic, was released in 2002 in Norway and distributed throughout Europe. The band made an intense one month tour to promote the CD in February 2003. Like many other great bands, WE continue to evolve. Their latest CD, Smugglers, is a full on heavy psychedelic rock record and the band are preparing to take the world by storm! WE have an amazing live space rock sound and put on a great high energy live show.
Salvatore hail from Oslo and were formed at a bar one night in 1998 on the thought of creating a band around the groove created by the great German band, Neu! So they did! The band play very hypnotic grooving music with samples and very interesting sound effects that creates a very cool space rock journey at times. The band have created five CDs and toured around Europe nearly every year. When you go to a Salvatore concert you get transported to that other universe for those hours that you spend with the band. Nice trips to outerspace for sure!
To reach the space where Seid exists now you must travel many hours north of Oslo to the West Coast town of Trondheim. Outside of Oslo, Trondheim probably has the most active music scene in Norway. While the band started over 10 years ago in the southern town of Arendal, it was not until 2002 that the bands debut CD arrived entitled, Among the Monster Flowers Again. This was a classic mix of of psychedelia, folk, space rock and seventies prog added to what the band calls "fire up your ass rock`n roll". The band has also released three limited edition 7" records including one dedicated to music inspired by the Lord of the Rings, called the Mines of Moria. The band has also toured in Germany as well as playing in Denmark. Seid has been building their own studio the past two years and has begun to work on the next CD which they hope to release in 2006. One of Norway's best bands for sure! As the band says, Space is the Place...
Tangle Edge live in the far far northern town of Narvik. Narvik is so far away and isolated and dark that few people still live there (about 20,000). It is an iron ore town and was very important during the 2nd World War. This band has a long history going back to the late 70's. It was not until 1982 that the name Tangle Edge appeared and the band released their first cassette, Improvised Drop Outs, in 1983 (this will one day be released on CD by the band under the title, Avyayah). The band released several cassettes in the 80's before completing their debut record, In search of a new Dawn. This was an amazing instrumental psychedelic masterpiece and beautiful vinyl album as well. In 1990 the band went on tour in the UK and also recorded their second LP for the Demi Monde label called Eulogy. Before the LP appeared in 1993 the band had released a beautiful gatefold triple live LP (also released as a double CD). This was a very important release that gained them more international attention. The bands next release would be some years in the making and released on the Delerium label in the UK. It was a great CD entitled Tarka and featured amazing bass and guitar interactions. In the early part of this century the members were caught up with two side projects (Shango and Blue Lynx) and Tangle Edge did not get much attention. I have recently been informed that between 2002 and the present (including a recording session in June 2005), the band have produced enough quality material for several records. Tangle Edge has released two live CD's on their own label which have sold quite well. Tangle Edge are coming back to life again.