Tulum - "Voluptuous Astral Freeze"
(Mancat Records 2011, Cassette, originally released 1986)
From Aural Innovations #43 (October 2011)
Attention ST37 fans: Tulum (pronounced Ta-loom, from the Mayan ruins in Central Mexico) was formed in Austin, Texas in 1985 by brothers Carlton (vocals) and Joel Crutcher (guitar). After settling on a bass player, drummer, and second guitarist they released the cassette album Vibrating Moods, and Tulum got their first show opening for Faith No More at the Austin club "The Beach." The band played more shows, experienced some more lineup changes, and in the Fall of 1986 recorded their second cassette album, Voluptuous Astral Freeze. An interesting factoid is that Tulum received a half page writeup in the punk/hardcore magazine "Maximum Rock'n'Roll", which lead to correspondence with Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedy's that lasted for many years. In January of 1987 Scott Telles of the Elegant Doormats joined on bass and Tulum changed their name to ST37, and the rest is Space-Rock/Punk history.
Mancat Records has reissued, on cassette, the second Tulum cassette album, Voluptuous Astral Freeze, minus a couple songs, but adding some live material. Carlton notes that the first Tulum has not been reissued because he feels this earlier material is not as well played or recorded. As Carlton describes, Tulum attempted to combine the punk hardcore sound and philosophy of the day with the spiritual insights inspired by the 60's and the psychedelic experience. Listening to the album the roots of ST37 are immediately apparent. The opening track, Averted Stares, is one of my favorites, being a mind-fucked slab of psychedelic punk. Imagine an acid rock jam where it seems like the band is split into camps that are vying for who can be more punk or metal. Wild stuff. Underlying Currents, Tulum is Gone, and Bold As You Are are psych-punk songs very much in the spirit of the earliest ST37, with Tulum is Gone being a standout for its psych-punk-metal assault. Summer of '79 is a sort of surf-punk instrumental. I like the dual guitars which are so raw and yet work together so well. Finger Disease is the most purely rock 'n roll song of the set and has a playful vibe.
There are also four live tracks which showcase Tulum as a seriously high energy unit. Two of them in particular stood out for me. Alien Intercourse begins with someone announcing, "this is our weirdo freakout song where we pretend we're hippies and freakout". And that's exactly what they do! This is a dark, aggressive, and seriously fucked up brand of psychedelia, which is precisely what would later make ST37 such a fascinating band. And Be Me Again is a lobotomizing acid-punk stew with Joel like a man possessed on vocals.
Finally, we get a 10+ minute cover of Chrome's Anorexic Sacrifice. The core riff is intact but beyond that Tulum take the song into their own lysergic, punked out and extremely noisy realm. Near the 4 minute mark the song portion ends and Tulum veer off into a spaced out Chrome-meets-Revolution #9 collage trip with lots of fun feedback, backwards sounding guitar and more. Carlton notes that this was the last thing Tulum recorded before becoming ST37. And given that this was clearly their most ambitious effort it's worth adding that it was the first time Joel multi-tracked on his own and Carlton added a lot of the guitar onto the extended end. (ST37 would later open a show for Chrome.)
As far as ST37 pre-history goes I've got some Elegant Dormats reissues but I'd not been aware of Tulum before this Voluptuous Astral Freeze reissue and I must say it was a very pleasant surprise. Carlton attempted to revive the Tulum material last year when he put together a band called Organians that consisted of himself on vocals and synth, brother Joel on guitar, Bobby Baker from ST37 on bass, Shawn McMillen on guitar, and Chris Cones from SubArachnoid Space on drums and started playing the Tulum songs. They played three shows that Carlton feels went off very well and says he got more compliments from audience members for those shows than he had received in the last 10 years. He is now thinking about tracking down the original members to see if there's interest in a Tulum show. We'll see. In the meantime, check out this reissue from Mancat Records.
For more information you can visit the Mancat Records web site at: http://mancatrecords.weebly.com
Reviewed by Spaceman33