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Expo 70 – Frozen Living Elements / Corridors To Infinity

Zoharum

Expo 70 - Frozen Living ElementsHaving previously appeared on the label’s From Earth to Sirius compilation in 2011, Expo 70 mark their full album début on Zoharum with not one but two CDs, one a reissue and another a brand-new offering. With a shade under fifty albums alone in his discography, it’s interesting to discover where Justin Wright takes his expanded one-man band on two disparate examples of his ongoing mission to construct a monster psychedelic rock discography.

Corridors to Infinity originally appeared on tape and CDR via Wright’s own Sonic Meditations label and brings McKinley Jones (who has also recorded as Breathing Flowers and Cantus Firmus) and his trusty Moog aboard the starship Expo 70, with this expanded album offering up not only the two lengthy numbers from the 2009 edition, but also three more unreleased tracks on a second disc.

The mood on “Meetings Of The Lunar Eclipse” is decidedly out there, washes of Wright’s echo-slathered guitar circling over and occasionally swamped by the equally-effected synthesizer drones for just under half an hour’s worth of full-tilt avant spaciness, the duo producing a sound immense enough to both shake mountains and pierce skulls. With plenty of room to breathe and expand, Wright and Jones circle each other and the emergent thud of an ancient-sounding drum machine like two doped-up participants in an avant-garde game of follow my leader on acid, the pair seeming to retain some sense of direction but willing to let go and unleash their inner space cadets at the same time.

Sometimes it seems as if there’s numerous extra implied musicians playing along too, and the overall effect can often be quite satisfyingly overwhelming as noises and effects clash and collide, sweeping in from every direction at once until control is wrested back for the drone-heavy ecstasies of the middle section which rises into a soaring quest for the stratosphere before that inevitable moment comes when it’s time to return to earth.

But what awaits is yet more cosmic immensity on “Black Pyramids Under The Martian Sun“, with the sonorous glide of guest organ from Matt Hill bringing Expo 70 up to trio drone speed. It’s far less chaotic but no less immersive, the wall-to-wall tonal soma bath  plunging the listener into somewhat more expansive, slow-motion territories where layered treble and mid-range glides coalesce into the sort of sound a migraine might possibly resemble if it had a pleasurably psychedelic effect instead of the more common brain-numbing agony. With the drum machine coming in like a reverb-drench heartbeat, the psychosomatic analogy develops further the longer the track persists, developing into a whole-(out-of-)body sensation, handily removing the need for the expensive space and cost considerations of the full floatation tank experience along the way.

If that wasn’t enough brain-frying for one album, bonus CD Star Coloured Clouds sets out three further ways for Wright and Jones to expand some more of their audience’s tiny little minds on a grand cosmic scale. Recorded a month or so before the other disc and titled simply “I” to “III”, the tracks may at first appear less immediately pummelling, but turn out to be equally worthy of lysergic respect, unfolding with the steadfast thousand kilometre stare befitting veterans of several dozen psychic journeys into inner and outer space.

Hypnotic pulsations, untrammelled loops and the wafting swoon of guitar are the order of the hour (and more), swallowing realities wholesale as musical singularity approaches ever nearer over the course of the disc. They may meander somewhat across “II”‘s sprawling passageway to the stars, but successfully wrangle the music back on course for a  tremendous final stretch where ripples of synth squirls travel the guitar’s somnolent astral planes until attaining final electronic nirvana, not with a bang, but a pitch-bend.

Expo 70 - Corridors to InfinityExpo 70 manifest in fully-rounded power space rock trio form on their newest studio release Frozen Living Elements (also available on cassette from Sonic Meditations) with old friend Aaron Osborne on bass and additional synthesizers, while Jim Button handles drumming duties. The mood here is more conventionally structured, perhaps, with a slow-burning build of wah guitar rising up and around the boom and crash of the rhythm section in a fashion that’s been familiar to the average festival-going psychonaut since the days of (say) Guru Guru, Flower Travellin’ Band and Hawkwind at the very least.

What helps, of course, is that this particular lineup of what is named here Expo Seventy is damn good at it. Justin Wright is an accomplished wrangler of the six-stringed guitar beast, and equally accomplished at  stepping back to drop out in preparation for the big return with extra toppings as he is at letting rip with blistering FX-laden fireworks. What’s especially impressive about Frozen Living Elements is  how comfortably it sits among the newish generation of amplifier worshippers and musical mood-elevators of the cosmic persuasion, from the obvious launchpad of Acid Mothers Temple via Electric Moon to Mugstar and White Hills and well beyond (and wherever they might end up, it sure isn’t Kansas any more).

The difficulty in describing what Expo Seventy do here exactly is that they pretty much simply make space rock, at once just like and also significantly different to the aforementioned groups, and of a particularity fine variety. The guitar not only soars and whirls, it drones and sweeps; synthesizers glide and trip out to the far reaches of the dark side of beyond (especially on the lengthy driftwork “Curiosities Of Levitation”), and when they want to rock, Wright, Osborne and Button damn well do, hard and with a stoner-fixated purpose.

Nowhere is this more evident on the last piece, “Thunderbird Mound”, a slice of dense riffmongering which sounds like it’s been excerpted from one of those hours-long sessions which are the ne plus ultra of the form, the trio locked firmly into a groove and making hay while the salad light shines, heads doubtless down and all three engrossed in the rhythm and flow. It beams in live and direct from the heart of the studio straight into the third eye, flowing with that tightly wound concentration which evolves in musicians who live to jam and who can take their listeners with them while they do so.

So when Expo Seventy do finally wind down — and stop, rather then fade out — it’s time to shake off that acid-drenched outer space feeling and return to mundanity after what seems like an aeon (but upon checking is only just about three quarters of an hour) of some of the most frazzled rock music available to humanity.

-Linus Tossio-

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