This review comes from The Obelisk, Aug. 5, 2011 of space rock merchants The Cosmic Dead’s first album. Unfortunately, I don’t see the name of the person who wrote the review. I believe the name is H.P. Taskmaster but I could be mistaken…
They’re on a search for space, and on their 80-minute debut cassette, Scottish psych rockers The Cosmic Dead find it. The tape is self-titled and also known as Cozmik Tape I, released by Who Can You Trust? Records, and the band seems to be centered around a varied lineup, mostly instrumental guitar-bass-drums three-piece with synth added. If all that sounds pretty nebulous, the music contained on the four tracks of The Cosmic Dead follows suit, geared as it is toward massive Hawkwindian swirling jams. Side A feels grand enough, with opener “The Black Rabbit” stretching toward 19 minutes, “Spice Melange Spectrum” at a relatively manageable 6:45 and “The Slow Dead of the Infinite Godhead” at 13:44, but The Cosmic Dead are just waiting for the side to flip so they can unleash the interstellar sprawl of timebending they’ve dubbed “Father Sky, Mother Earth” – a solid 40 minutes (okay, it’s only 39:59) of multidimensional psychedelia. Kudos to the band for being able to pay attention to what they’re doing for that long, let alone making something anyone might want to hear out of it.
But then, I guess that is the question. As The Cosmic Dead propel toward the outer limits of deep space (rock), the number of those who are going to be willing to follow them on the trip is going to dwindle, and though “Father Sky, Mother Earth” unfolds gracefully over the course of its first 10 minutes or so, James T. McKay topping oscillator noise with sporadic soft guitar flourishes, one might already be so hypnotized by the preceding 39 minutes of material that they miss it completely when the song begins to pick up. I guess that’s the tradeoff with this kind of psychedelia, that in part you’re just supposed to go with it wherever it takes you, but to miss out on the quality bass work of Omar Aborida (who appears on “Father Sky, Mother Earth” and “The Slow Death of the Infinite Godhead,” while Josh Longton handles duties for the first two cuts on Side A) is really a loss. The songs are worth paying attention to, is the point I’m making, but it’s hard to do that on a release so densely packed and purposefully repetitive. Life is busy. A lot can happen in 80 minutes.
“Spice Melange Spectrum” serves well to break up Side A and avoid some of that. It’s more straightforward in terms of McKay’s riffing, and the added synth of Joseph Quimby doesn’t push it so far out of range as to be as far gone as some of the other material. After acclimating to “The Black Rabbit” and holding on for dear life to drummer Julien Dicken’s steady, upbeat time-keeping amid the infinite echoing wah of the guitar, the more present bass from Longton adds a grounded feel, which leaves “The Slow Death of the Infinite Godhead” with the task of combining those elements into a subdued but still improvised aesthetic. The far-back ritualistic chants from McKay are the only vocals on the whole of The Cosmic Dead, but as each of the three songs on Side A of the tape have something to distinguish them, some unique element to stand each one out from the other – this is the active one, this is the bassy shorter one, this is the one with singing – it does show that The Cosmic Dead have some measure of concern for their audience. That might seem like a contrast to the meandering jams, but the flow of the tape is such that you’re either going to go with these dudes on their trip or you’re not, and if you are, it doesn’t matter how discernable the tracks are or aren’t.
And if you are signed up for whatever The Cosmic Dead might bring, then the ultra-lysergic “Father Sky, Mother Earth” is going to be all the more welcome. It’s basically an album unto itself, with a build to which the word “patient” simply can’t do justice. There’s a bit of back and forth, but for the most part, it’s linear, with the aforementioned highlight performance by Aborida and Dicken handling the Echoplex in addition to the drums, McKay putting his pedal board to the test, and where a lot of bands probably would’ve stopped somewhere in the middle and gone to get a sandwich, The Cosmic Dead keep a consistent atmosphere the whole time and, as far as they wander, never seem truly lost. Even as the guitars calm down around the halfway mark, Aborida keeps everyone on track with the grooving bassline, revising the build and starting it over for the song’s back end. The Cosmic Dead closes, of course, with noise, but prior to that, there’s ample payoff to justify the long road it took to get there. It’s not going to be for everyone, and as much ground as they cover, I’m not sure how much of it is really new, but for a certain type of expanded mind, these Glasgow rockers are going to be just blown out enough to fit perfectly.