Every so often I go to a gig that just completely knocks me sideways; a gig that has me buzzing afterwards and somehow continues to feed me for days, if not weeks. So it was when I went to see the Øresund Space Collective in what, surprisingly, was their first ever gig in Berlin. The fact that I was in Berlin at all was mainly down to the fact that I had to attend a family party, so you can also add a certain sense of fate to me witnessing that performance (I also saw amazing sets from Father Sky Mother Earth, Radar Men From The Moon, Mountain Dust and Black Moon Circle over two brilliant nights at the Sneaky Snake Festival). Whatever it was, it was something of a game changer for me.
Øresund Space Collective are a band that I’ve been previously aware of but somewhat apprehensive to get into because their output is quite prodigious, and I knew that getting into them would involve me delving down a huge rabbit hole of releases, jams and live recordings. What I wasn’t prepared for was how expansive and mind altering that particular cosmic warren would be. I’ll probably write something else about the evening itself at some point, but suffice it to say at this point that frontman Dr Space’s exhortations about taking the audience on a journey, freeing the mind, and taking us out of our daily life experiences was music to my ears, as regular readers will know.
So, after the band’s epic two hour plus performance, I headed to the merch table to see what the rabbit hole had in store, and decided to start with the collective’s most recent album (their 28th apparently), which was really a no brainer seeing as how it also features Gary Arce (Yawning Man) and Nicklas Sørensen (Papir). As a result this review is from the perspective of an ØSC newcomer who has only heard fragments of previous works. I suspect that by this time next year my perspective will be somewhat different.
Firstly a word about the different versions of the album available, as the ØSC bandcamp page explains:
This session was pretty fast, all done in one day and just 5 jams recorded. The vinyl is an edited version of the jams, while the CD features extended versions of the tracks so you can hear more or less the entire course of the musical journey.
I’m going to be reviewing the vinyl version which features four of the five jams (the fifth, ‘Celestial Sensation’ is available to stream on Spotify, and is featured on my most recent playlist). The album itself kicks off with ‘Peaceful Patterns’ which eases us in gently, a really cool atmospheric jam which sees the band click into a groove pretty much straight away and stay there for the twenty minutes plus duration. For me the track really cajoles and encourages the listener to just submit to the music and let it take you away somewhere, with the rhythm section providing that solid surety for other members to head off on flights of fancy providing control and allowing freedom in equal measure. The interplay of the collective is really tight, passing on that same balance to the listener who can be assured that they are in good hands to just let go… and this is what I’ve learned about this collective so far, that they are experimental and innovative… but you can trust them with your mind. As the track progresses they keep pretty close to the same central coda whilst the guitars, in particular but not exclusively, rise up like solar flares providing moments of bright clarity before settling back again into the groove. This is really a track to just sit back and let it wash over you.
With the mind suitably calmed I moved on to ‘Angular Ambrosia’. This starts off in such a chilled way, the sparing guitar caressing the soul as the synths further massage it as the weave their aural möbius strips through the music This is music that hits you on a deep level, and is definitely not something you can really listen to casually. This is the principal generation of the power that takes you out into the cosmic psychologies of your being. Takes you away from the daily grind and into somewhere that is altogether more positive and peaceful. Unlike the first track this one builds up more taking you on ever increasing levels of complexity and experience, yet always to some extent feeling grounded. Here, especially in the mid-section of the track, the synths really take over and bring the listener into a safe space, like the middle part of a ritual where the transformation occurs. It’s a moment of wonder as the sonic nebulae fly past and all just feels well with the universe. Then as the guitar kicks in again towards the end it’s like some sort of revelation has been attained, a kind of synesthetic nirvaña which somehow brings the whole experience together.
At this point you might think that you’d gone deep enough but, if anything, things get even more intense with ‘Turbulent Trepidation’. Before going any further though I just want to reflect on the idea that these five jams were all recorded in a single day, and the amount of emotional and psychical energy that it must have taken to record this album; the quality of which never once dips. I mention this here because of the sheer intensity of this track. Here you really feel that the band have not just gelled but bonded into some sort of osmotic whole. This track is heavier, tighter and perhaps less subtle than the previous two, and in that sense it represents a welcome change of mood; especially with a more evident free jazz element to it. Yet as it progresses you still get the same sense of oneness as it dips towards the middle before picking up afresh and hitting the boosters again, to the extent that towards the end of it you feel as if you’re far from home, somewhere deep and remote, perhaps alone but never in danger… its quite a sensation and one I’ve rarely experienced listening to music.
The final number on the vinyl double album is the title track ‘Chatoyant Breath’ which, I note, at just over twenty minutes is significantly shorter than the thirty six minutes on the CD. Here, on the shorter cut, the band certainly seem to have hit warp drive and are cruising on the musical eddies that they themselves create. Then gradually, almost imperceptibly they set the controls for the heart of the cerebral cortex and deliver a jams of such mind numbing intensity that it’s really hard to know where to start with it. Suffice it to say that I had to stop writing and just let it’s sheer passion and vigour hit me. I’ll have to go away and listen to the long version after this as it must be an immense experience.
Like at the gig, each track on ‘Chatoyant Breath’ seems to somehow built on the previous one and take the listener to the next level. This it probably something to do with the cumulative effect of listening to and playing this beautiful, spontaneous and yet focussed music. To reiterate what I have already said, this is not music to have on in the background; you need to give all your attention to it if you want it to repay you in anywhere near to its full potential. If you can do this and trust these musicians to take you on their aural space ship then you can truly experience this sonic soma as your mind goes places you would never expect.
I came away from the gig in Berlin feeling cleansed. Feeling like I had experienced something very special, but also something that was very personal to me. I can feel this too in listening to this double album. There is something quite liberating about the music of the Øresund Space Collective that I have not yet quite put my finger on and, actually, may never do so. All I do know is that I will be going to that place more often. This, for me, is space music in the sense that it provides you with the space in which to really express yourself psychologically and creatively… let go and enjoy the ride!
‘Chatoyant Breath’ is out now on ‘Space Rock Productions’. The bandcamp page is here.
Spofity playlists here.