Earthling Society – ‘Zodiac’ Album Review

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Opening with a tribal jam that sounds like it was recorded on Mars, Earthling Society return with their most potent display of trippy, herbally-enhanced progressive rock yet on ‘Zodiak’. Now nearly a decade old, Earthling society have proudly played their game their way since the very beginning and it is telling that ‘Zodiak’ is the band’s first foray into a professional studio, having recorded their previous efforts at a home-made, 8-track studio. Such a DIY ethic is laudable, particularly in an age when so many bands are scrambling around for an identikit sound in order to impress the MP3 generation, but then one listen to Earthling society and you realise that for this band, the music they make is an extension of their way of life and nothing less than the naked, unvarnished fruits of their labours would ever do.

‘Don’t know myself’, the first track proper on ‘Zodiak’ is a prime example of a band who have their own agenda to follow – in this case a wondrous journey through the insane mind of a semi-mythical serial killer (the infamous ‘Zodiac’ killer). Delivered with wide-eyed excitement, it is a cross between DSOTM era Pink Floyd and one of the nicotine-stained aftermaths of a hawkwind listening session at Lemmy’s house. Indeed,  if the innocence and talk of coral caves had been burned out of Pink Floyd and replaced with the dark heart of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and acid soaked mentality of Lemmy this is likely the sound they would have come up with and, as dizzying piano combines with lascivious saxophone, the listener is caught forever in Earthling Society’s psychedelic clutches. The title track, at thirty minutes, is almost worthy of an essay all its own, its spacey opening somewhere between Om and 5ive’s continuum research project, the bass slithering over a thin veil of skittering effects and a hypnotic beat. Hints of the Doors appear in the haze, as do touches of early band supporter Julian Cope,  Sonic Youth (think ‘washing machine’), Spiritualized and Floyd. It’s heady, intoxicating stuff and it is all the more enthralling because no one makes music like this anymore, leaving Earthling society as sole guardians of hypnotic, psychedelic workouts that give you a contact high just from repeated listens.

Having battered any defences the listener might have down with the unfeasibly lengthy epic of the title track, ‘desolation’ is a strangely muted affair, the guitars, threatening to go out of tune any moment, neatly capturing the titular feeling even as the voice, fragile and alone, carries from out of the darkness, the eerie percussion merely adding to the feeling of a song on the verge of collapse. It captures the disturbed mind set of a killer with what one might imagine to be a fair degree of accuracy and it is all the more unnerving for it. ‘The astral traveller’, in contrast, is another lengthy space jam that takes a bouncy bass rhythm, echoing vocals that twist and shiver in the breeze and lengthy, King Crimson-worshipping guitar on an astral voyage that recalls the majestic progressive/stoner workouts of Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Carlton Melton and Sleep with its ever-evolving sound and other-worldly feel. In the hands of a less skilled band such lengthy tracks could risk inducing tedium, but not only do Earthling Society keep interest levels piqued, they manage to make the whole affair feel both eternal and short – time slows down, as you drift on the gentle waves of their sound, but you never feel anything less than content to drift upon their soothing sonic balm and you feel almost bereft when the music comes to a climactic conclusion.  The final track, ‘the elevator does not stop at this floor’ echoes and clatters at the outset, like being trapped in the shaft of the titular vehicle, before springy, reggae-influenced drum and bass riffs kick in for a song that sounds like a cross between Dreadzone and The Orb. It is an unexpectedly chilled out finale that shows the skill and diversity of this band, and leaves the listener feeling somehow revitalised, as if they’ve taken a trip away from the modern world itself, drawn away from the endless chatter of mobile phones and glaring computer screens by the power of the music and the inventive skill of the band.

Earthling society are a proudly innovative, beautifully imaginative band that hark back to the skilful experimentalism of the mid-seventies. Drawing upon almost three decades of progressive rock, ambient and alternative music, Earthling society are the missing link between the psychedelic behemoths of the seventies, the spacey indie of acts such as Spiritualized and the heavily Floyd-influenced ambient of The Orb and their lengthy jams are beautifully hypnotic pieces that draw the listener far away from the vicissitudes of the modern world. With a cleverly developed subject matter, few bands make music as beautifully hazy, as profoundly eerie and as often beautiful as this; don’t miss out on ‘Zodiac’, it is a recording made by a band at the very height of their powers and one which offers something new with every listen. Outstanding on every level, ‘zodiac’ is a towering achievement.

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