Beat Recommends: Space Rock Invasion

Old-time hairies with a hankering for long songs, take note. This Saturday night, the Key Club will be hosting one of the more robust prog/ psych/ space rock lineups LA has seen in recent days.

It’s the first time any edition of the loopy, minimalist jam kings Brainticket have appeared in the US, and a dip through Cleopatra’s Vintage Anthology 1971-80 4-disc set suggests things could get interesting. The band’s debut, Cottonwood Hill, instantly feels like a stoner classic, the kind of jammy, organ-dominated album designed to reward altered states and quality headphones, preferably at the same time. Dawn Muir’s spoken-sung gibberish has an arm-grabbing intensity about it, enough to become downright uncomfortable when it’s really good. Sadly, Muir disappears after the debut, and none of the other records have that same over-the-top quality. But none of the records sounds much like any of the others. Instrumentation shifts constantly, with a pleasant, tuneful tenor sax taking the lead voice on much of 1971’s Magic Theatre. but one constant is an ability to work with textures that keeps them interesting. By 1980’s Biomechanoid, they’re entirely electronic, working in tuneless soundscapes that could possibly contain the secrets of the universe but mostly sound like a guy fucking around with his new Mini-Moog, trying out all the settings. This is, presumably, NOT the repertoire the band is touring with in 2011; the one tour review I’ve seen so far complained about a female singer blathering nonsense, which gives me great hope.

Nektar, who haven’t been in LA since the seventies, are one of those bands I’ve often heard about from friends who were hip to things like Gong and Gentle Giant. But I’d avoided actually hearing them much prior to Clepotra’s Retrospektive, which compiles tracks from the group’s eight LPs, in addition to their early singles released under the name Rainbows (no relation, of course, to Richie Blackmore). They’re on the gentle, melodic side of prog/ psych, for the most part, groovy and tuneful, but beginning to show signs of hardness later in life, most successfully on 1975’s Recycled. Considering the fates of most of the prog bands gone pop in the 80s, they acquit themselves without much embarrassment on their late-career inclusions, even though you can easily imagine the videos they thought these songs could make, keyboard players in the alley with windswept hair kinda stuff.

Hawkwind, however, had a pretty darn good early eighties, as evidenced by Space Chase 1980-85, a collection of songs from what amount to the “Huw Lloyd-Langton Years,” the period in which the founding guitarist returned after a decade-long absence. While the box and packaging seem like a bit much for a single-disc release, it’s still worth pursuing if you haven’t aleady got the albums it’s sourced from. “Angels Of Death” is simply one of the best things they ever did, and this comp proves the records surrounding it were packed with similarly solid moments. Lloyd-Langton will be performing solo acoustic at this show, so bring your plastic raygun if you want spacey sound effects.

Also on the bill in LA, and the subject of his own Cleopatra box set over a decade ago, is Helios Creed, most famous for his work in Chrome but a formidable solo artist to boot. On unforgettable albums like Half Machine Lip Moves and Lactating Purple, Creed brought space rock to the punks, piloting the craft perilously close to earth and occasionally scraping the pavement. Expect to be kicked in the teeth right before the ejector seat activates.

Space Rock Invasion with Nektar, Brainticket, Huw Lloyd Langton, Helios Creed, Moksha, Rocketblast Bath, Lumerians and Lantvrn appears at the Key Club, 9039 Sunset Boulevard, on Saturday Sept. 3 at 7:00 pm. Tickets $35 in advance, at Ticketfly

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