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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Album Review: Interstelar - "On Black Waves" (EP)


Many EP's you hear are studio toss-offs, compilations, uninspired cover albums, or simply contractual obligations. With On Black Waves, Interstelar slice through convention and balance dusty stoner grooves with clean rhythms, creating a quick five-track collection that will capture your attention and leave you thirsty for another helping of fuzz.

Hit play and listeners are immediately crushed by the beats and driving riffs of Armada. Guitars hum with blankets of buzzing feedback, though Jason Kothmann's ambitious vocals cut through the haze and perfectly complement the woolly landscape. Choppy guitars serve as a welcome harkening to some of your favorite 90's bands, while Gladson's solo channels Kim Thayil. The ambiance throughout, however, is spacey enough to remind you this isn't the 1990's, and this is a forward-thinking band.

Luxury Car fades in, kicks up a sooty stoner tempo, and never lets up. Kothmann's vocals here are mellower, more subdued, but no less effective. The song is strongly structured, with guitars soaring and breaking until the solo sets fire to sand-blasted skin. It's fast, it's fun, and it's perfect on a long drive to the liquor store.

Houston's bass introduction highlights Drama Queen, a jarring, jaded romp that would make Kyuss proud. Vocals scratch and pair with licks that I would swear served as a B-side to Blind Melon's Galaxie. This formidable elemental tandem helps make this an album highlight. I spent more time with this track than any other, simply because it's amazingly accessible without being self-indulgent.

The chewy, southern riffage of Defined by Opposites (Opposite Daze) is slowed, stoned, and catchy. Excellent timing, germane pauses, and more than a little C.O.C. influence let you know Interstelar can put their own spin on a genre that despises counterfeit apes. These guys know their instruments, they know how the play them, and they know how to weave sonic webs with even-tempered drums, rolling bass, stuttering guitars, and hypnotic, tongue-twisting vocals.

On Black Waves saves its heaviest, choppiest track for last. On Interstelar Blüz, a bubbling fade-out follows blistering licks to brief, laid-back atmospherics. The listener's immediately thrust into a thick mist of bayou crunch and sticky rhythmic ascent. Guitars confidently wander, rhythm stays home to cook dinner, and Kothmann's vocals again bring everything together. Grunge knocks on the door, though listening to the song's opaque romp through a carnival of sound is likely to remain the best part of my day. It's a brilliant culmination to an incredible collection of tracks.

On Black Waves transcends any existing boundaries between stoner-rock, space-rock, shoe-gaze, grunge, and southern metal. Any one of these tracks stands on its own as the best song you'll hear this week, making this EP one to pick up. Let's hope this isn't the last we hear from Interstelar. Pick up the album at the Bandcamp link below, and don't be a stiff.



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