If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in listening to music over the last few years it’s that there is no such thing as a typical Earthling Society album. The only thing you can expect with this band from Fleetwood in North West England, is the unexpected. The Earthling Society, I reckon, are a riddle wrapped in a huge cloak of musical mystery.
I’m going to stop that there though because it’s all getting a bit Middle Earth for my liking. That’s because this band also have a edge to them which, for me, always renders this Earthling enigma into a huge boulder of anticipation as it powers towards you at great speed.
Well that’s my metaphors well and truly mixed, and for good reason because ‘Zen Bastard’, the title of The Earthling Society’s seventh album, is just perfect for a band that fuse the qualities found above.
It’s fair to say that the band had a good 2016, at least music-wise, with a cracking album (‘Sweet Chariot’) on German label Clostridium Records, and a track on one of my albums of the year, Magnetic North, a magnificent compilation of bands from Northern England put out by Drone Rock Records, who are now releasing ‘Zen Bastard’.
Ok, cards on the table straight away. I’m a big fan of Drone Rock Records, this is the label’s seventh release and they’ve yet to put a foot wrong. It’s Earthling Society’s seventh release too, and has a similarly great track record…spooky numerical coincide? If so it seems like all is aligned for something pretty special.
Well this is one hell of an album. When you listen to it for the first time don’t stick it on then go off an make a cuppa, sit down and listen to the (Zen) Bastard…let the mellifluous tones of the opening, title track, wash over you. Wonder at the soaring synths , great drum patterns and repeato beats then…after two and a half minutes of that…
Get pinned back into your seat as the heavy riff hits you between the eyes like a tunnel borer that just keeps on going through your head. This is a total monster of a track which just keeps adding layers to its massive sound as the band include Middle Eastern themes and build up to one of those crescendos that has you in some sort of wonderful blissful state. Add in the siren-like chants and shouts and you have a track that is, if anything, far too short (you get a longer version with the download apparently) at nearly nine minutes.
Suitably softened up the next track launches straight at you, this time with a mega riff from the outset. ‘Outsideofintime’ certainly doesn’t waste any time, hitting the ground running. That riff stays in the background, coming back again and again giving the track an atmosphere of brooding introspection, the vocal adding the sort of edge that brings to mind some of the great psychedelic bands of the early 1970’s…in a totally great way. About halfway through though something weird and wonderful happens in a manner that could probably only happen on an Earthling Society track. In the midst of screaming guitars there emerges from the sonic wreckage a dub beat that at first feels incongruous but as it gradually takes hold it becomes a thing of great wonder. Rarely have I known a track transform in such a way, it’s utterly compelling and rather brilliant…I’m going to stop writing now because I just want to listen.
So am I…
How the fuck do you follow that?
Well the track’s called ‘Kosmic Suite’ and, at nearly twenty minutes, takes up the whole of side two of this album. I’ve a feeling that vinyl listeners will appreciate the chance to get up and pause for a moment. and so should we…
Right, as you would expect from a track so titled this begins eerily: imagine misty/ mystic auras floating around an enchanted forest until…whoa…a bass line kicks in and then…WHAT THE FUCK…Earthling Society sound, just for a moment, like Magazine…I fucking love Magazine…before kicking off into a massive rock track…bordering on the (gasp) anthemic!. Back to the Magazine bit again (did I mention….?) before soaring off into a total riff-fest, shit I’m knackered listening to this and I’m not even half way yet.
This marvelous cycle of sounds continues for some time hitting some bucolic highs at around the ten-minute point…it feels like we’re on the track’s plateau in true space rock style ,enjoying the dizzy highs that have led us up there before we head back into the chaos again. Sure enough the sense of lightness and clarity that marks out this part of the track is gradually subsumed by fuzzier and more opaque sounds as we descend once more into the darker world of the mundane…finally petering out in a electronic postscript that gives you chance to recover before lifting the needle.
‘Zen Bastard’ is one of those albums where you really feel that you have been on a journey. There seems to be a great deal of temporal and sonic distance between the start of side one and the end of side two. You are not entirely sure how you got there, but get there you did. I have a feeling that every listen of this superb set of songs will glean a different voyage.
I’d go further…this could well be The Earthling Society’s AND Drone Rock Records’ finest release to date…a confluence that is as impressive as it is surprising given what has gone before, from both parties. I’m not remotely convinced by numerology but the convergence of the sevens might just make me think again!
It really is that good.
Zen Bastard will be a pressing of 300 copies in total and, like the last 5 releases on Drone Rock Records, will be available in two different variants. Both versions also come with the added download of the full, unedited 16 minute version of the title track when purchased through the Drone Rock Records website.
Super Zen Edition
Previous Drone Rock customers and the mailing-list subscribers will be offered the chance to get their hands on this beauty first. The most ambitious looking record DRR have released yet, this edition will be pressed on a combination of transparent green and transparent blue vinyl with red, yellow and clear splatter effects. 150 copies in total.
A further 150 copies pressed on transparent blue vinyl.