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Expo 70 – Solar Drifting

Zoharum (CD)/Sonic Meditations (cassette)

Expo 70 - Solar DriftingFrom the ominous drones and splutters of “A1V” by way of the decidedly Harmonia-like curlicues of “Crawling Through Crystal Skies” — all twinkly echo trails and meandering electronic rhythms — to the freefall wafts of guitar feedback and multiple effects units orbiting each other in a docking pattern, Solar Drifting does exactly what the album title suggests, conjuring imagery which hovers and glides from the shimmering heat-haze of desert testing grounds areas into visions of extraterrestrial flight powered solely by the sun’s rays.

Assembled from the bulk of Expo 70‘s 7″ singles and cassette-only non-album releases which appeared between 2008 and 2011, Justin Wright has done a good job on Solar Drifting of collating them into an album which ultimately works well as a whole. Every track from the original editions has been retained, though Wright has compiled them into a new running order here, held together coherently by the sun-related titles and a shared feeling for the peripatetic sound of satellites dreaming their own quiet robotic way from lightside to darkside and round again, or of spacecraft set solidly on sundry Apollonian missions.

Compared to some other Expo 70 albums, Solar Drifting keeps matters to relatively concise track lengths, but there’s more than enough to keep the brain engaged on these excursions. “Transcending Energy From Light” appears in excerpted form, clocking in at just over five minutes of pent-up Ash Raisms, but it delivers plenty of motion through its slow-burning cosmic energy, diffusing the theta-wave transmissions in a fashion which also easily transcends the new age tendencies of all too much of this genre of music. It’s on the opening “Soft Wave Continuum” that the starship Expo 70 sets the controls for the centre of the solar system, heading for a mercurial stream of electronic consciousness-raising as it goes, deepening the drones and springing jets of reverberant materials to steer the progress of their interstellar rambler.

The title track is where looped guitar figures set up a solid basis for the coming journey between the planets, and it’s almost impossible to avoid yet more metaphors of space travel when the guitar starts to ignite the propulsion systems in preparation for a take-off. This turns out far smoother than might have been expected, achieving a throbbing, keening cruise control on the held drones of “Tarot Reading” before rendezvousing with the full-burn thrum at the point where “Sunglasses” become essential for protection from the cosmic rays — and perhaps also required for maintaining an aura of psychedelic space rock cool at the controls. This level of burning intensity ramps up on the concluding “Heterotopia”, where the cascading chorused guitar scrawls achieve their own particular kind of stellar nirvana.

-Linus Tossio-


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