Late last year Nasoni Records released Earthling Society’s ZodiaK on vinyl, consisting of 2 side long 20+ minute epics, plus a brief 2 minute space jam. The new CD reissue by 4 Zero Records doesn’t include the 2 minute space jam, BUT it does include 4 tracks not included on the vinyl, and the 25+ minute title track has 4 additional minutes to make the “full version”. ZodiaK is the band’s seventh album and features the core trio of Fred Laird on guitars, synths and vocals, Jon Blacow on drums, and Kim Allen on bass.
The title track starts off with a lead bass melody, totally trippy exploratory 60s San Francisco era psych guitar, and flittering, syncopated alien electronics. Around the 5 minute mark it shifts gears, with the drums being far more up front and the guitars retaining the 60s sound but veering into a combination of Grateful Dead and Indian stylings. But this is a mere transitional bit as the band soon launch into a rollicking space rock jam that reminds me of the first Tribe of Cro album. Yet nothing stays still for long on this monster, which includes some of the most powerhouse and intense space-psych rock I’ve heard from Earthling Society yet, as well as peacefully trippy 60s styled psychedelic jams. There’s lots of great rocking grooves and it all feels fantastic, but pay attention to the lyrics and you’ll realize how disturbing the subject matter is. It starts with “I need a witness. To document my sickness”, and ends with “Jesus can’t save me. A shadow baits me. I hate all human kind”. I suspect this is about the Zodiak killer who terrified northern California in the 60s-70s.
The Astral Traveller also covers a lot of musical ground. We’ve got steady grooving space-psych jams with trippy guitar leads and cosmic keys, and some deep space segments that focus on soundscape and effects creation like early Pink Floyd and, as Jeff pointed out in his review of the LP, Nektar’s Journey To The Centre Of The Eye. And we’ve got more killer powerhouse space ROCKING. Like the title track it all feels great but has lyrics that are more akin to doom metal than the music I’m hearing, like “Oh my darkly sweet, sweet Satan. I kiss your hoof”. Wow, serious stuff, but then I see the promo sheet description of ZodiaK‘s theme of “six portraits of alienation, serial killing, occultism and urban decay.” The contrast between the music and the subject matter is disorienting and kudos to Earthling Society for pushing my buttons in this way.
So those are the two tracks that made up the lion’s share of the Nasoni LP. The CD has 4 additional songs that round the set out at a full 71 minutes. I started off by describing the lengthy tracks but the album opens with the short The City Of Resurrections, an introductory piece that features an interesting combination of tribal percussion and spaced out minimal keys. The other three tracks add guests Neil Whitehead (of Vert:x) on synths and Lew Dickinson on sax. I Don’t Know Myself has the trademark Earthling Society style of song and jamming spaced out psychedelia. It’s a hip shaking rocker with lots of freaky electronics and the sax injects healthy doses of swing. Desolation is the most pleasantly melodic song of the set. And The Elevator Does Not Stop At This Floor is a cosmically grooving Dub infused instrumental that closes the set.
In summary, Earthling Society are at 7 albums and going strong, always doing something a little different but always recognizably themselves. And on ZodiaK we’re treated to different sides of the band’s blend of space rock and various flavors of psychedelia, both the lengthy stretch-out jams and the more concise songs.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz