In my goal to discover new and interesting sounds for lovers of progressive rock, I present you the last album -a double CD - of this wonderful band from Columbus, Ohio, Quarkspace. The lineup is Chet Santia (bass, acoustic guitar, voices), Jay Swanson (synthesisers), Dave Wexler (guitar), Paul Williams (synthesizers, drums, loops, voices), and Darren Gough (guitar).
Their music core is cosmic space rock, to which brushstrokes of krautrock, progressive, techno and blues are added. This is their fourth official CD, in a discography that includes an impressive first CD "Quarkspace", a second live album "Live at Orion" that shows their improvisation capabilities, and a third minor album of improvisations "Spacefolds 5". In the past, the group also published a series of four cassettes of improvisations. Dave and Paul have also released an album as National Steam in 1998, more spacey and less complex.
reviewAfter this brief introduction to Quarkspace, let us now analyze their last CD, "The hidden moon". it has a really beautiful cover, with pictures from the artist David Gulotta, on a very similar style to that of Dalí, which already provides us an indication of the musical path these gentlemen walk by. As I have already mentioned, it is a double CD, with more than 145 minutes of music. Obviously, it is difficult to maintain a constant clarity and quality of ideas for this long time, and this is in my opinion the only global defect of this album. Nevertheless, it is very easy to condense in one hour a selection of the best moments, which would really deserve 5 stars.
In my opinion, it is worthwhile to highlight the easiness with which these four musicians move around different styles, being driven by music, without any hurry, improvising, and always maintaining interesting and complex structures. Their music presents clear influences, but they are perfectly integrated to create their own sound and advance a step forward.
We can distinguish four different styles in the 15 tracks of this CD, always with the departure point being an omnipresent space, cosmic sound:
1) In my opinion, the less attractive songs are those that include a more techno-electronic influence (as The Orb, Orbital, or Ozric Tentacles). The space-sound base is fabulous, with a spectacular work of the different musicians, but my brain is not able to mix the sound of the samples and loops with that of the remaining instruments. Nevertheless, I believe that we can expect from them that in the next CD this amalgam of sounds will be more precise. The best examples in this album are "Starbridge Freaks" and "Park rangers".
2) A second group of songs adds to the stew influences from krautrock, as that of the best Can or Amon Duul. In this album, the best example is "Krautball's demise", a fabulous song with heartbreaking guitars, keyboards that invite you to get up and dance and jump and fly, and a happy bouncing bass/drums sound.
3) Many tracks take us on a trip into the interstellar space flirting with psychedelia and blues, with well used influences from Hawkwind, the first Tangerine Dream, Soft Machine or even the "Meddle" - "Atom Heart Mother" period of Pink Floyd. Worth highlighting are "Nebula", and the monstrous and long (19 minutes) "Where Galaxies collide", a marvelous sample of head music. Listen to this in darkness and silence, and fly away .
4) Finally, in each album of the group, some delicate and brilliant progressive melodic jewels are included: those songs in which Chet Santia sings. A sensual and ethereal voice, similar to that of sweetest Peter Gabriel (sometimes I could believe Peter is in my room) or Nick Drake, in wonderful mid-tempo songs -please enjoy the 13 minutes of "Somebody else's dream" and "The Circle". In these pieces guitars move smoothly with slide guitar riffs and passages on the style of Camel or King Crimson, keyboards drift and create a pleasant ambient base, while the rhythm section plays in our ears. These songs, that at first, surprise us for being far from the habitual style in the group, are jewels.
In conclusion, Quarkspace has shown again their capacity to advance musically, with a very interesting album that although ends up being too long (almost two and a half hours of music), will transport you to the space and the stars. An advice, go to their web, listen to the sound samples, and buy their albums (firstly the first and the last one). You will not be defrauded.