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Mugstar – Lime

Important (CD) / Agitated (vinyl)

Mugstar – Lime

Once upon a time, a long time ago (but not long in the annals of Britain’s space rock godfathers), a bunch of dishevelled reprobates, part time musicians and full-time dopeheads used to play around with Hawkwind songs, frequently changing the words of “Psychedelic Warlords” to “My name’s Dave/And I’m a good bloke/Got a wife and kids/But I still like a smoke” in a suitably irreverent manner. These people are not connected at all to Mugstar, but somehow it seems an appropriate anecdote to mention in relation to the latter’s Lime album, or at least to its opener “Sunburnt Impedance Machine.” This is because Mugstar make good bloke (though not blokish, or laddish, and not just by or for men)  music, redolent of motorbike oil and real ale, of free-flowing beards, freewheeling festivals and squidgy black resin. In other words, of the Seventies and its fallout across a generation – by now probably two – of guitar-slingers and synth players who grew into slightly addled maturity on a steady diet of the leather-clad version of the anarcho-hippy rock’n’roll dream; but maybe one where the Pink Fairies and Mötorhead were the real punk seeds for musical revolution.

This is no bad thing.

Mugstar are from a tradition (see also Teeth of the Sea, Kinski, White Hills, US Christmas/USX and of course guitarist Peter Smyth‘s former band, synth-rocking fuzzsters Kling Klang) who never noticed or ignored the story that Hawkwind were meant to be old, crusty progsters. Their recent releases have confirmed this, as did their contributions to the recent [post=”artists-search-hawkwind” text=”In Search of Hawkwind“] tribute album which they compiled earlier this year as the culmination of a five-year run of 7” singles in collaboration with the leading lights of a new wave of unabashed space rockers. Which is not to imply that “Sunburnt Impedance Machine” is in any way a ripoff of anything as such; it’s more that it fits right in place with a certain atmosphere – a vibe, even – of how to make music which chugs and grinds and rocks without necessarily (trad) rocking out; music which can as easily be zoned out on a bedroom floor as freaked out to in a oil-wheeled tent, where the rolling with it is as key to the experience as thrashing away like a lysergic demon.

One facet of the form Mugstar have dispensed with (possibly for the better) is comprehensible lyrical content, preferring to wail into the aether in a wordless flow for the most part as the song sets its sights firmly on the far distant event horizon where the trip meets the peak and the colours are at their most vivid and synaesthetic. Since they’re not one-trick ponies, they go on to prove that another – related – influence comes from Düsseldorf as much as from Notting Hill (a previous record had a track named in tribute to Bo Diddley and Klaus Dinger) and Glastonbury Fayre as found in  the stripped-down motorik groove of “Serra,” where layered reverb provides the surrounding sound which wraps the euphoric beat and motorway bass in shimmering liquidity. A scrawny clarinet calls its echoed message as the beat revolves and the keys chip in with urgent repeated strokes which dissolve into the mix as it rises on a crest of organ drones, widens and makes a very creditable stab at encompassing time and space.

Mugstar – Serra from Ego Sensation on Vimeo.

So when the percussion ebbs into a long-drawn out, delirious fade into waves of analogue echo, it’s a sharp wakeup call when the energetic multi-limbed bass and drum workout which kickstarts “Radar King.” Here, Mugstar ramp up the phasers in a densely-packed surge of riffs before pulling the old pyschedelic trick of tugging back sharply on the reins, cymbals tripping and guitar stings twinkling gently as the FX are tweaked and the tension grows… more… and slower… and brighter… until….the drumrolls build hypnotically…. and… keyboards rattle … and … (get the album and listen to the track to find out how it – and possibly the universe – ends; suffice to say, it’s explosive, like  a sun going nova, of course). And how else could the record end but with a track called “Beyond the Sun,” where a circling bassline fritters out into less hectic space on a heaving organ, the track descending slowly in the entropic way that a comedown will.

If Mugstar come across on Lime like a bunch of decent chaps playing good, solid, workmanlike kosmische rock to keep the blues away in 2010 – a year which had a good (if not great)  speculative fiction film made about it in a decade when it seemed like the next century would hold out far more utopian promise than it has actually managed so far – then perhaps they are. Lime is a solid album of dependable music for space cadets everywhere, everywhen, delivered with reliable craft and obvious relish.

This is of course, nothing but a good thing.

UPDATE: Even better is the news that the album is being released on vinyl by Agitated Records in June 2011.

-Antron S Meister-

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