With each new release the Russian band Vespero further reinforce my feeling that they are one of the best instrumental bands on the contemporary Space Rock/Psychedelic scene. Their latest album – Subkraut: U-Boats Willkommen Hier – is described on the R.A.I.G. site as “a conceptual framework for six instrumental kraut-rock songs which are inspired by Russian Futurism of the early 20th century, German musical underground of the 70’s, modern American fiction writers, as well as mysteries of the Great Ocean still not completely explained by mankind.”
I don’t consider Vespero’s music to be Krautrock. To me they’re like a cross between early Korai Orom and Ozric Tentacles, with more emphasis on the former, though more overtly space rock than Korai Orom. The 6 tracks on the album clock in at 9-13 minutes so there’s plenty of room to stretch out and develop the music, which is precisely what they do.
The album opens with The Strangest Thing In The Ocean which has that spaced out ethnic drive that reminds me of old Korai Orom. It rocks hard with head-boppin’ rhythms that serve as the foundation for what starts off as slow, seductive guitar and keyboard melodies that weave a steady path alongside, around and through one another. But as the music develops we’re treated to freakier keys, electronics and tripped out deep space psych guitar. Anpeilen! consists of a playful robotic electronic pattern, space-jazzy saxophone, ripping guitar, and oddly metered percussion that makes for an interesting contrast to the electro pattern while the guitar and sax jam away. Underwater opens with spaced out atmospherics, symphonic keys, various electronic effects and light but steady percussion. It has a spaced out classic Prog vibe, but soon morphs into a trademark Vespero space rocking jam with an ethnic groove. Fantastic drumming on this track propels the ensemble into the stratosphere. Target Selection has a similar electronic pattern as Anpeilen!, but while it’s as deep space as the previous tracks, there’s a somber moody feel that makes for a cool contrast with the more rocking elements. Next we’re rockin’ right of the chute on Angriff, ran, versenken!, and that cool space-jazzy sax is back which I think fits in really well with Vespero’s music. This is one of the most intense tracks of the set. I felt like I was hurtling through space on an intergalactic jet-ski. Finally, ALARM… The Art Of Positive Thinking is a steady space rocker with well-placed freaky effects, powerhouse drumming and hypnotic whining and nearly screaming guitar leads, wrapping up the album with another seriously intense jam and leaving this listener drained yet wishing there was more.
The music alone is enough to give this album my highest recommendation. But then there’s the ambitious packaging, which is available in three options. The “basic” edition comes in an oversized thick folder of rough cardboard with silkscreened cover-art and contains a big full color submarine navigation map. Then there’s the “Seebar” edition of 50 units that comes packaged in an oversized foil stamped, hard cover case. You get the CD and navigation map plus a full color oversized booklet and postcards, special set of vintage photographs, hand-crafted replicas of U-Boat pennant, crew member dog-tag and cuff-title. Check out the R.A.I.G. site for detailed pictures. AND… there’s a 2-LP vinyl edition released by Krauted Mind Records that includes a 20 minute track that’s exclusive to the vinyl release.
In summary, this is a shoe-in for inclusion on my Best of 2012 list. Nuff said…
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz