By and large I have a list of reviews to do and gradually work my way down it, it’s simple and orderly and works for me. Every once in a while, however, an album comes along that just blasts me out of my organisational reverie and just demands that I listen to it (over and over again) and write about it immediately.
Such an album is ‘Moral Machine’ by the unlikely named Colonel Petrov’s Good Judgement (CPGJ). It is an album that begins benignly enough before taking off into a spiral of guitar riff and death howls. This is an album that takes you on many different turns and you really do not know what it coming whether that be stoner guitar, saxophone jazz improvs, beautiful melodies emerging out of dark slabs of fuzz. This album is a complete one off, and one of those great finds that just keeps one giving overtime you hear it.
I can’t think of the last time I listened to an album all the way through four times in a row.
CPGJ are a five piece from Cologne comprising Sebastian Müller (guitar), Leonhard Huhn (saxophone & vocals), Resa Askari (bass), Nils Tegen (drums) and Rafael Calman (more drums). I have to say that I really dig bands with two drummers, I love the extra power and sheer depth the they tend to bring; and this goes some way to helping understand why I love this album so much. The band are named after a soldier in the Soviet Army whose ‘good judgement’ probably helped prevent a nuclear exchange between the USA and the Soviet Union in 1983 by assessing that what was judged to have been an attack by the USA was actually a computer malfunction (see Wikipedia for more of the story here).
The music by the band is somehow reflective of the bands name in that it is in no sense mainstream, and that what is achieved here is unlikely to ever become full appreciated for what it is. While Petrov is not as well-known as he should be for what he has achieved, neither are CPGJ ever likely to gain any widespread acclaim for this unique set.
The album kicks off with ‘Everybody’s Gut One’. As I’ve already said it starts quietly but it’s not long before you begin to get an inkling that something different might be happening here, especially when the massive stoner guitar hits you at two minutes, then the death call a minute later. From then on the track stretches out into a marvellous and trippy affair with all sorts of prog elements to it, but remains essentially and foremost a stoner jam that ends with a massive doom-laden riff. Woah!
With more ideas in the opening track than you get with many albums I was hard to know where things might go next. ‘Dark Star’ started with an improvised jazz feel and opens out into the most appealing of melodies which then becomes intertwined with some searing guitar that really soars and swoops through the sax and rhythm section. It is massively satisfying to listen to and something that could really go on and on.
Title track, ‘Moral Machine’, opens in an abstract manner until the stoner guitar burst in as if to demand some order and mellowness to the proceedings. From then on the two compete and complement each other as the band sweep through the track playing in a manner that feels totally free. I absolutely love how this track manages to be at the same time dissonant and together, easy going as well as stretched out and heavy. Most of all it is the sheer drive with which the musicians take this forward that just make it irresistible to listen to. To describe it sounds as if it might be rather ‘twiddly’. Really you just need to listen to it.
‘Sappattack’ opens up in a similar manner. Here the two drummers really let loose and hammer the track forward while the sax and guitar struggle to keep it reigned in. While a short track, it is anything but an interlude as it really sets out the bands agenda in microcosm. One and a half minutes of raw power somehow aided and abetted by some improvised jazz sounds. How the hell does that even work?
After that comes the mournful beginning of ‘Hole of Love’ (not on the vinyl version of the album) where sparse drumming meets a plangent sax, the ante being cranked up when the guitar kicks in to makes the song richer and more complex. Half way through the whole thing almost bridges to a halt as the instruments gradually disintegrate away from each other and find a fantastic resolution as the guitar shines through like some numbed beacon and all hell breaks loose. Breathless, I am totally taken away by the audacity of this track and this album.
After a screaming jazz intro of sax, feedback, and both drummers sounding like they are sound checking that heavy guitar bangs in slamming a hole in the sound and making way once again from some more bloody ace dissonant sax before the track ‘settles’ back into some sort of stoner epic, this is ‘Launch On Warning’ and it hammers right through you and just keeps on building.
The album takes yet another turn with ‘Dick Laurent is Dead’ (a reference to the David Lynch movie ‘Lost Highway’). Here the heavily effected death howl lyrics take centre stage and provide the punctuation between some soaring guitar work and, again, that two drum attack which adds so much texture and muscle to this album. This is another track that leaves you breathless just listening to it, even more so right at the end…brilliant.
Last up is the longest track on the album at just over ten minutes. Clearly taking up the Petrov theme ‘Next Time We May Not Be So Lucky’ begins reflectively, yet contains both fast and slow elements to it with a heavy ponderous guitar and considered sax while the drums are firing away. Is this the sound of nuclear armageddon? A war requiem for the 21st Century? By the halfway mark the guitar is sounding like twisted metal as the attacks seem to come thick and fast. It sounds like the end we are consigned to, the very pit of doom as the instruments are stripped away one by one until there is virtually nothing, and then there is nothing…just silence…for a whole minute…but actually for as long as you want because that is it THE END!
To say that this is a remarkable album would be a total understatement. It is a set that has grabbed me from the first moment I heard it and has just kept on giving…and giving…and giving. For me it is a total tour de force and, as far as I’m aware, really unique in its approach. The combination of a rhythm section with two drum kits, a mostly heavy, totally stoned and often fuzzy guitar, and a sax that just jumps all over the place is really a combination that shouldn’t work. Except it bloody does, and how?
I can’t recommend this album highly enough, and although I’ve spent 1200 words thus far trying to explain it it really does need to be heard to be believed…so what are you waiting for?