Zone Six – “Live At Sulatron Records Label Night, Fulda, 2011″ (Sulatron Records 2011, STCDR16)

Zone Six was founded in 1997 by German multi-instrumentalist Sula Bassana (aka Dave Schmidt), surely a long-serving veteran of the psychic wars (having a spacerock career dating back to the mid-1980’s), and one of the busiest men in rock, with concurrent involvement in at least two other bands (Electric Moon and Weltraumstaunen), and curator of Sulatron records. The band’s original statement of intent was to play an improvised mix of psychedelic/space, trance and krautrock, something which they have held true to, despite the passage of 14 years and an almost complete change of line-up in that time (Schmidt being the sole survivor from the early days). Indeed, few of the members listed in their current Progarchives bio are still in the band. Nonetheless, they have delivered a stunning slice of instrumental spacerock which surely holds to their original vision.

The Zone Six line-up put together for what must have been a very memorable gig at the 2011 Sulatron Records Label Night employs the slightly unusual concept of having two basses, handled by Komet Lulu and Paul_Pott, respective members of Electric Moon and Vibravoid. Rainer Neef plays ripping psychedelic guitar throughout the album and Modulfix provides synth-noises, while Dave Schmidt opts for the drummer’s stool this time around. Just three long tracks are featured on the resultant live recording, which stretches to seventy minutes in length. Stoned Washed begins its 21 minute journey with menacing drones, which are gradually built up using the two basses (one distorted, the other clean) and effects-heavy guitar. The closest musical touchstones are perhaps a less-chaotic Acid Mothers Temple or heavier Spacious Mind. The even-longer Timmee (almost 34 minutes in length) goes through a number of phases according to the chemistry between the musicians, getting really wild around the twelve minute mark, and collapsing in on itself about five minutes later before re-entering the fray for another glorious freakout. The emphasis throughout is on guitars and bass, although the distorted sounds are so entwined that it can be disorienting trying to single out which instrument is playing what. At 22 minutes, the bass/basses start grinding out what could be the middle riff of Hawkwind’s Time We Left jam, with Neef’s guitar lines echoing those of Dave Brock circa 1973. Set-closer Isotoxick is comparatively short at “only” 14 minutes, and is probably the most restrained, with Schmidt focusing more on cymbal crashes than pounding beats, although the basses retain their heaviness throughout. All in all, a great come-down track at the end of a really intense album.

With fantastic cover-art taking its themes from classic ’60’s psychedelia (via Vibravoid), this live album is a limited edition of only 100 copies, so it will not be around for long. Fans of guitar-heavy improvised spacerock need to check it out quickly before it becomes lost in space.

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Reviewed by Pat Albertson

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