Astral Social Club & Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra – Plasma Splice Trifle

4 out of 5

Label: VHF

Produced by: Neil Campbell, Daniel O’Sullivan and Alexander Tucker (recorded, spliced, and mixed by)

Delightfully woozy folk, psych, and drone from two artists – Astral Social Club & Grumbling Fur – who meet in the middle of their respective louder and more burbling sounds for something hard to pin down, but also absolutely true to being its own.

Plasma Splice Trifle feels fitting; the four tracks on the album are oddly fleeting, despite being 9+ minutes each, but also dense as heck. They are full of life, but without “identity” – there’s not a person behind the sounds (even when there are vocals, hazed and hushed), rather some type of force that hovers into existence, makes its noise, and moves on.

This can have structure, and evoke a sense of peace and beauty: Back to the Egg suggests a return to such comforts, and offers a hazy, warm melody. As it goes along, you pick out more depth and layers – that’ve maybe always been there – of fading and returning keys, some kind of heartbeat bass. It’s a mesmerizing start. Three Years Apart sounds like a Dirty Three title, and, coincidentally or not, this could be a fuzzed up D3 track, with its strings eventually giving way to some feedback and squalor at the tail end.

Ozone Antifreeze Intelligence is a mash-up of a title, and the song brings that to life: it’s the most brash, initially, with drum clutter and a whoosh of noise reminiscent of Sunroof!, but it shifts at some point to repeated vocal mantras, which duel with one another, then overlap, while the music moves around between unsettled clatter and touches of ambience.

Closer Toejam Boxdrum takes some notes from Ozone, bringing some clear instruments forward – drums, bass – but it’s back to the hazy folk of where we started, now with some more directness to it.

Back to the Egg and Ozone have a sense of give and take; Three Years and Toejam are a bit more drone-y, on the whole. In both cases, the group doesn’t seem out to sew chaos, or create smiles, or mesmerize; Time Machine Orchestra seems content to exist. On the one hand, it makes for an album that doesn’t beg for replays, while juxtaposingly being something that you can leave on for hours, and actively enjoy – it’s a unique sound, both for Astral Social Club and Grumbling Fur, as well as amidst the VHF roster.