Upload to Aural Innovations June 2006
Earthling Society - "Plastic Jesus + the Third Eye Blind" (Nasoni Records 2006, CD/LP)
Earthling Society - "Albion" (Nasoni Records 2005, 041, CD/LP)
UK based Earthling Society formed in January 2004 with the intention of creating music influenced by their heroes Funkadelic, Ash Ra Tempel, Can, Amon Düül II and Hawkwind. And boy… what an incredible job they do of synthesizing these influences into a Psychedelically Space Rocking whole. It's all drenched with a distinctly 70's sound, yet is nonetheless stamped with the band's own take on these varied influences.
Their debut album, Albion, was originally released by the band in a limited edition of 500 CD's, and later in the same year picked up by Nasoni Records and reissued on CD and LP with the same track listings but different artwork. The opening track, "Black Witch", is pure Space Rock, bringing to mind classic festie Space/Psych bands like Omnia Opera, along with the freewheeling tripped out ethic of early Amon Düül II, and then coming in for a landing in the last minute on a wave of pure space-ambient bliss. "Heart of Glass" is NOT a cover of the old Blondie song! The song is an easy paced yet intense slab of chest rumbling Space Rock which kind of reminds me of a track off Architectural Metaphor's Creature of the Velvet Void album. The title track is similar but more song oriented, though the song is shrouded in an earth shattering pool of freaked out guitars and molten Space Rock. "When It All Comes Down" is another more song focused track with a hip shaking cosmic funky groove to it. "Outsideofintime" is a liquid Psychedelic instrumental with a simple but entrancing melody. "Beltane Queen" is the most purely trippy track of the set, with flutes, acoustic guitar and distant angelic and cosmically efx'd vocal harmonies. "Universal Mainline" closes the album and is a 14 minute hodgepodge trip that features the band on a free-wheeling space exploration. It starts off very much on the experimental freaky side, but soon develops into a rocking jam full of funked up raga rhythms. Totally accessible for those who surrender themselves to alien abduction.
Albion is a powerful debut and a shining light in 2005 for a those who thirst for a well crafted blend of Space Rock and Psychedelia. And I'm pleased to report that the latest Earthling Society album, Plastic Jesus + the Third Eye Blind, takes the sound the band patented on Albion into the furthest reaches of the Earth's stratosphere. "Council House Mystics" opens the set, and while stylistically it's very much in the spirit of Albion, the music has a noticeably more spirited and ballsy quality. Experience and comfort among the musicians is apparent, the result being a much looser vibe. "Kosmik Suite No. 1" is next and sounds like a cross between the most spaced out Gong and UK festie psych bands like Krom Lek, along with what at this point is becoming a recognizable Earthling Society sound. The band excel at communicating a freeform improvised ethic while keeping the music cohesive, melodic, groove laden and even song oriented throughout. I love the combination of free-wheeling deep space jamming and funky hard rocking structured sections. "Plastic Jesus" is a short, freaky, ambient cosmic trip piece. "Psychick Sunday (Hallucinations in the Airscape)" goes into slightly different realms with a distinctly Neu! styled feel. "Girls Talk" is a cool tune, having a space-funky jazzy groove, but also a kind of 60's pop-psych vibe, AND they manage to work in some wailing cosmic trip guitar and alien electronics. Wow, lots going on in a relatively short song.
The 20 minute "Kosmik Suite No. 2" begins with a spacey ambient intro. Then around the 3 minute mark the band get down to business and launch into a rocking song with a bassline and groove that is very close to Hawkwind's "D-Rider". But once the vocals kick in it's clear that this is Earthling Society's own song. And an outstanding cosmic rocker it is, with a catchy melody, dripping bubbly trip guitars and jam sections that are as heavy rocking and otherwordly as Space Rock gets. Then in the last several minutes the band wind things down with a dreamy ambience, space symphonic keys, and finally a return to the song, though in the form of a smooth meditative landing. Along with "Kosmik Suite No. 1" this is mind blowing music that makes Earthling Society a shining light among contemporary psychedelic space rock bands. It's a great jam tune that runs through multiple themes, but is firmly based in the song that it's built around. Absolutely outstanding! Rounding out the set is a bonus track - a version of "Outsideofintime" recorded live at the Sonic Rock Festival with Harvey Bainbridge guesting on keyboards. A key difference from the studio version on Albion is that this one has vocals and includes an overall deeper space feel.
So… is the new album better than the debut? It's a huge progression for the band to be sure, and the superior production is a plus. The band is clearly more comfortable taking off into extended songs and jams, most notable by the contrast between the fun and freaky "Universal Mainline" on Albion and the highly impressive "Kosmik Suites" on Plastic Jesus. Wanting to know more about the band I conducted the following email interview with Fred Laird.
Aural Innovations (AI): Your web site says the band formed in January 2004. Has the same trio of Fred Laird, David Fyall and Jon Blacow listed in the Albion credits been consistent from the beginning until now?
Fred Laird (FL): Yes the same trio remains the same. However, we have taken a new keyboard player onboard called Joe. Initially he was recruited for the support slot with Julian Cope but we got on so well with him that we asked him to record his keyboards on the new album and is now a fully fledged earthling. He brings an element of progressiveness to the sound which I think makes the album sound differant from the more current Stoner/Psych rock bands without making it pretentious.
AI: You've said that Earthling Society was formed with the intention of creating music influenced by your heroes Funkadelic, Ash Ra Tempel, Can, Amon Düül II and Hawkwind. It's less than common to see Funkadelic included in the same breath as these other bands, but oh so appropriate.
FL: Personally I think that Funkadelic where the most cosmic band ever to to come out of America if not the world. To me they embody the whole LSD/Vietnam/badtrip experience of the late 60's, early 70's hippy comedown. The music is as sharp and as focused today as it was 30-odd years ago. What is also important about the band is the gnosticism of some of Clinton's lyrics. For an example on 'Good thoughts, Bad thoughts' They are so deep, yet spoken with utter conviction that its hard not to be moved. That particular track and 'Maggot Brain' are true cosmic masterpieces. They werent afraid of just doing whatever the hell they liked. Sometimes it fell flat on its arse but that's what happens when you're pushing the boundaries of music. I also think another important element is the groove of Funkadelic. That's what influenced E-S. The best kind of psychedelia for me is the stuff you can groove to. It's very important to us to have that kind of rhythm going.
AI: Albion was first released by Mylodon and then later picked up by Nasoni. I think Nasoni is one of the greatest labels in the world. How did you hook up with them and did the relationship help Albion reach a wider audience. And of course the new album is being released by them too.
FL: Well the Mylodon thing was a total disaster. It was initially to be released by them, but for some reason the couldn't burn the master off in Santiago. I'm not totally convinced of this and I do get the feeling that they got cold feet about releasing it. However, we had arranged to pay 50/50 for the release, and our half covered the artwork (which i think is awful by the way). So we ended up with 50 covers and no CD's. In the end we released it ourselves. Mylodon had no way shape or form of its release apart from bearing its name on the CD covers. I noticed Nasoni while trawling through the internet and they looked interesting. I contacted them about a possible release of a second album. They asked for a copy of 'Albion' to hear what we sounded like and they wanted to release it on their label. It was as simple as that.
AI: To my ears, one of the main differences between Albion and Plastic Jesus is the band sounds much looser and comfortable during extended instrumental sections. The difference between the lengthier tracks on either album, Universal Mainline vs. the two Kosmik Suites is striking. Would you just chock that up to experience?
FL: The first album was largely improvised apart from the title track and 'Beltane Queen'. We would get together in the rehearsal room and just play some rough ideas and hey presto! A song was down. 'Universal Mainline' was basically our bass-player coming out with a little dub riff and then Jon (drummer) and I would start knocking it into some kind of shape. Then we recorded the rhythm there and then and made everything up as we went along. Lets start with a mournful piano. We would just switch on the 8-track and record the first thing that came out of the piano. Lets put some radio on it. Jon got the idea from 'Snowgoose' by Camel and we recorded the radio through an Echoplex with Jon's hand on the aerial. Stuff like that.
'Plastic Jesus' turned out different. We had actually rehearsed the songs for a good couple of months and demoed them. The playing is tighter. I actually sat down and wrote structured songs to present to the band so I had a vision of which direction i wanted them. It's more focused and a lot higher quality in the recordings. This time I let Joe express himself a bit with the Synths because i didn't want it all guitars, guitars,guitars. It was a bit of a risk because he hadn't been in the band that long and we weren't too sure of his influences, but it has worked out well.
AI: I got a chuckle out of your news page report of the Sonic Rock Festival where you lost your keyboard player and Harvey Bainbridge and another stepped in. It may have been impromptu but I'm assuming it turned out well as the live version of Outsideofintime on Plastic Jesus is excellent.
FL: Yeah our keyboard player at the time made the mistake of bringing his conservative family lifestyle to Sonic Rock along with his 10 year old daughter. Not a good move. Especially as when we arrived on the second day everyone was out of their heads. He just upped and left. I thought "oh Fuck we have just driven 200 miles and we aren't even gonna play"!! Harvey had played the night before with Ego Prime and was swaggering around drinking tequila and smoking weed. We had met him at a bikers convention some months before and we got on really well. So we went up to him and said "look Harvey we are in the shit, can you help us out and play with us", and he just said Yeah no problem. Our keyboard player left his gear in the van, so we set it up, Harvey came onstage and wham!! it was a brilliant move.
AI: I see on your web site you recently played a show opening for Julian Cope. I also see where Albion was Julian's album of the month not long ago. Tell me about that show. Good exposure? Sounds like Julian has been very supportive.
FL: Julian has been very supportive. His review of 'Albion' was excellent and it helped us big time. He is also a very ego-less guy. Meeting him at the Manchester gig was an honour. This guy has been a hero of mine since i was 14 so you can imagine how I felt.
AI: Do you get to perform live much? Ever outside the UK?
FL: We have been very lazy, but we know we have to start changing our attitude towards gigging especially now we have the means to do so with our new keyboard player. We have played 3 gigs since we formed in 2004!! We have the Sonic rock lined up again this year, The Eastern Haze with Hawkwind and Tim Blake on the bill and the 10 year Nasoni festival in Berlin on 23/09/06. But we need to start promoting ourselves more especially now the new album is to be released.
AI: Tell me about the typical Earthling Society live show.
FL: Heads down and go for it mainly. No banter, no covers. Just drive it into the craniums of the audience.
AI: Any future news you care to report or parting thoughts you're busting to share?
FL: Just thanks to everyone for buying our stuff and I hope you enjoy the new album.