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Mugstar – Magnetic Seasons

Rock Action

Mugstar - Magnetic SeasonsMugstar have been at the vanguard of the British space rock revival (though perhaps it never really ever went away) for a good decade and more now, and everything about their music can certainly be assessed in terms as broad and well-trodden as spacious, cosmic and psychedelic, and it conjures up all of the tropes — long hair, biker chic, salad lights, heavy wafts of fragrant weed smoke — that accompany that simple act of genre-assignment along the way.

Thankfully, save for the stupendously good live collaboration with Damo Suzuki on Start From Zero in 2015, Mugstar generally eschew vocals, and quite frankly work all the better for their absence. Space rock as a form doesn’t often really need or benefit from them (unless they’re

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Mugstar / Henge (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Electrowerkz, London 26 February 2016

Visiting London’s Electrowerkz in 2016 after spending far too many nights here at the legendary Slimelight in the ’90s is a singularly disorienting experience. It’s the same building, but where once there stood a dingy warehouse now stands an actual venue, even though they’re the same bricks in the same places. Indeed, it’s so disorienting that we may as well be on all the drugs we were twenty-odd years ago, though these days there’s an actual bar and we stick to booze, being old.Henge live at Baba Yaga's Hut February 2016

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Various Artists – God Unknown Singles Club Vol. 1

God Unknown

God Unknown Singles Club vol 1This review is based on seven of the first 7″s released in the God Unknown Singles Club Volume 1, of a total of 10. What is most apparent is the variety musical output on these tracks. No specific genre is represented, rather it seems like a selection of artists from some underground, more than half of whom I had never even heard of. They vary very much, not only in style or attitude, but there is also a bit of variety in the quality of the recordings. As a compilation, the collection of artists and tracks works quite well together, but mainly I will say something about each single individually.

Gnod / Eternal Tapestry

Gnod / Eternal Tapestry split 7″

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Mugstar + Damo Suzuki – Start From Zero

Important

Mugstar + Damo Suzuki - Start from ZeroRecorded live with no rehearsal, as is Damo Suzuki‘s way — he makes a habit of not meeting or playing with the group who will act as his ‘sound carriers’ before the night of the gig — Start From Zero does just that.

Mugstar demonstrate their proficiency as space rockers extraordinaire in a churn of muscular drums and wibbling synthesizers from the get-go. While there’s a certain inevitable lurch into the sort of free-form jam band workout that playing with Damo so often inspires — the urge to drop into “Mother Sky” seems always palpably present in his backing band whenever Suzuki plays live — Mugstar keep their playing restrained and spare for the bulk of “Subway Sound”, giving Suzuki the space

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Mugstar – Centralia

Cardinal Fuzz

Mugstar - CentraliaFor their 2013 contribution to Record Store Day, Mugstar unleash eight tracks (previously available as a tour-only CD) which emerge over the space of two sides of vinyl in an almost continuous mix of muscular psychedelic rock. Each instrumental merges with the next, the fading-out split between each side providing a suitable point to remind any stoners who might just possibly be listening that it’s probably time to manufacture another herbal cigarette or throw a fresh lump of resin on the burner.

Not that Mugstar’s music actually needs drugs to appreciate its cavernous reverb, phased intros, recursively expressive percussion runs worthy of Jaki Liebezeit or the frenetic lange gerade rhythms, but they probably wouldn’t go amiss for those who find such stimulating additions an aid to

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Mugstar – Axis

Agitated

Anyone wondering what kind of album Mugstar would follow up the far-out and extra solid Lime and the soundtrack to Ad Margineum can now find out. Lime was the point at which all the ideas heard floating around (and sometimes above) …Sun, Broken… and Mugstar coalesced into something greater than the sum total of the band’s reference points (of which let’s just mention Hawkwind, NEU! and The Heads for starters).

A surge of what have by all accounts been mind-blowing live shows has obviously strengthened Mugstar’s musical musculature, because Axis kicks off with an oiled tone on the guitars and smoothly-pulverising bass rumbles as the drums propel the workout into the supremely weighty “Black Fountain;” just the bass guitar here alone is

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Mugstar – Serra (Distant Sun remix)

Agitated

Taken – kidnapped, stripped, re-educated and reborn, even – from Mugstar‘s heavyweight slab of spacerocking goodness [post=mugstar-lime text=”Lime”] and given a thorough going over by Robert Hampson of Main and Loop fame, “Serra” reappears in a 39 minute extended format on clear green vinyl (split in two parts) and CD. And what a re-imagining this is. Hampson extracts the essentials, then reprocesses, extends, twists, unravels and distends them until he returns with something which has many affinities with Steve Stapleton‘s much-more-than-a-remix of Stereolab as the highly-lysergic Simple Headphone Mind.

There are quite often sounds present which are akin to radio static and disc-drive detritus interfering with the playback – and there are plenty of moments where a double-take on whether the fidelity of the audio reproducing equipment has been compromised. But it was always that way with Hampson’s work as Main

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Mugstar – Lime

Important (CD) / Agitated (vinyl)

Mugstar – LimeOnce 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

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Various Artists – In Search of Hawkwind

Critical Mass

In Search of HawkwindIn Search of Hawkwind is a tribute album, whereby nine venerable old battle hymns originally cranked out by the veteran psychedelic cosmonauts are re-interpreted by younger, hipper bands, mostly from the US (at least I think so — I’m not actually hip enough to have heard of all of them). There have been other Hawkwind tributes, but they’ve tended to be low-budget releases featuring deservedly obscure free festival-type acts, though the likes of Acid Mothers Temple (of whom more below) and Wire’s Colin Newman have popped up on them too. This looks to be a bigger-league affair, nicely packaged and featuring a couple of biggish names in Mudhoney and the aforementioned Acid Mothers, alongside established neo-psych stalwarts Bardo Pond and a clutch of younger acts: Kinski, Mugstar, White Hills, Magoo, and Wooden Shijps

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