Thursday, March 3, 2011
Album Review - Tia Carrera: Cosmic Priestess
Ok, here’s the scenario…you have an opportunity to hear a trio who are equally as impressive as the Jimi Hendrix Experience in terms of their fluid jams and their knack for improvisation. You interested? Yeah…that’s what I thought you’d say…fuck yeah you’re interested. Tia Carrera are those three guys and on their latest Small Stone Recordings release, Cosmic Priestess, they have literally let the music guide them…and brother, it is one epic trip.
This trio doesn’t have Jimi, but it does have Jamey Simms and Jason Morales who seamlessly trade off on guitar and bass, and Erik Conn who lays down the beats that drive their musical whims. And while it would be easy to sit here and tell you that the intricate guitar soloing, complex drum flourishes and the band’s fusion of 70’s classic rock with stoner rock groove are the stars of this show, it wouldn’t actually be the truth. The fact is the show stealer here is the bass guitar, regardless of whether it’s Simms or Morales who’s strumming, plucking or straight up slapping the shit out of the thing.
You see, when I said “improvisation” earlier, I wasn’t kidding. Cosmic Priestess was recorded on a tape machine with the band playing live at Tia Carrera’s home studio in Austin, Texas and it is essentially three guys jamming the fuck out until they’ve gotten it all out of their systems. And while Simms and Morales noodle away impressively when they’re playing the guitar (and I mean impressively), it’s the bass lines that drive these four songs. That’s because Conn is busy doing his own thing behind the drum kit as well. Don’t get me wrong, he keeps a steady beat whenever its necessary, but if there’s an open space to be found, he crams it with his own fills, grooves and rides that are an absolute blast to experience. So that leaves only the bass guitar to keep the rhythm alive while the other two musicians sensationally imbibe in pure stoner rock embellishment.
So what about the songs? Well for starters, Tia Carrera hit all the stoner rock staples with their song titles, from muscle car engines (“Slave Cylinder”) to desert themes (“Sand, Stone and Pearl”) to the cosmos (“Saturn Missile Battery”). And it’s this last one where you’ll end up spending the majority of your time with Cosmic Priestess as it clocks in just shy of 34 minutes in length…talk about epic jams. The track is a perfect example of the band’s willingness to let the guitar and drums meander off in their own direction without ever straying too far from the consistent groove created by the bass. The song just sort of fades in with the band already in full stride and it takes you on a ride through sheer guitar wankery (and I mean that as a sincere compliment) and über-technical drum work that is interwoven with that steady bass rumble…a genre classic.
And while the other three tracks together don’t quite match the length of “Saturn Missile Battery”, they’re all just as impressive. “Slave Cylinder” transitions from a steady groove into a massive wall of fuzzed out riffs through a series of guitar solos and then back again. “Sand, Stone and Pearl” features a little organ creeping courtesy of guest musician Ezra Reynolds, which makes this song (the album’s most chill by far) sound kind of like the surviving members of The Doors got back together to jam out in tribute to the lizard king. And “A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing” (best song title ever) sees Tia Carrera shifting into a more southern rock mode with its bluesy, Allman-esque swagger.
This is a musician’s album. Cosmic Priestess is an example of a band showcasing their love for the music they play and showing off a little bit while they’re at it. The way they allow the music to take them in whatever direction feels best at the time is the aural equivalent of taking your hands off your bicycle’s handlebars when you were a kid…spontaneous, maybe a little crazy and a whole lot of fun. Don’t miss this one.
01 Slave Cylinder
02 Sand, Stone and Pearl
03 Saturn Missile Battery
04 A Wolf in Wolf's Clothing
Erik Conn - Drums
Jamey Simms - Bass/Guitar
Jason Morales - Guitar/Bass
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