4 out of 5
Label: VHF Records
Produced by: Mick Flower (mastered by)
Bookended by slightly more “typical” Vibracathedral psychedelia, this untitled 2004 release fills up its expansive mid-section with relatively subdued affairs, spreading out the noise and pace such that rhythms are discenible and build, and individual elements like a propulsive bit of drumming or a notable guitar strum can take the spotlight here and there, mimicking typical song structure. Subdued is by no means a poor look for the band, though, bringing out a rather beautiful and soothing side of the project, which also happens to make the album quite accessible.
Opener Thrift is very recognizable: it’s clanky, and miasmic, and sudden, and would seem to be business as usual for this incarnation of VCO. Followup clear is a drastic juxtaposition into drone atmospherics, which also isn’t a new maneuver for the crew – although there is an interesting sense of restraint in the production and playing, keeping the mood rather murky. This is a clue for the batch of tracks to come, which are sometimes unremarkable intra-jams – the short Eat Like a Pork and Cyborg Sabretooth – but are otherwise blissfully laid back, vaguely post-rock workouts, either favoring something slower and burblingly smooth like Me Me, or the moving, long-form buildups of Ripe and Gist. Later in the album, Flotz starts to bring in more noticeable electronics, but it’s again implemented in a very complementary fashion that gives the songs a delicateness, and beauty.
None of the terms I’ve used are at all alien to VCO, but this is a very consistent application of them. At first blush, that can make the album seem without some of the peaks we might be used to from more abrupt stylings, but the group brings those in at start and end to make it clear we’re in the same ballpark. Indeed, once receptive to something quieter, there’s plenty there to sink in to, absolutely fulfilling the need for dense, celebratory blends of folk and psych of which we know the group is capable, while also passing as something you could slip into an eclectic playlist of more general-audience material, and gain some approving listeners.
As far as the VHF vinyl reissue’s quality, the review is based on that version, and I definitely don’t have the original to compare to. However, the pressing is clean, and presented with the label’s usual standard of packaging and LP quality from the 2010s in which it was released.