Guardian Alien – Spiritual Emergency (Thrill Jockey)

Someone finally decided Animal Collective, Jimi Hendrix and Apocalypse Now (Redux version) should have a party – and it was manically pleasant

Released Jan 27th, 2014 via Thrill Jockey / By Ian Stanley
Guardian Alien – Spiritual Emergency (Thrill Jockey) From the very first moment of pitter-pattering drums and oscillating guitar waves, it is obvious that this is going to be a progressive and delicately built album.

Drummer and bandleader Greg Fox used to smash the skins for black metal band Liturgy and has since stretched his musical talents into psychedelia in the form of GDFX, toured with electronic experimentalist Ben Frost, turned to all-out drumming with Man Forever and worked with Zs. Taking inspiration from these for Guardian Alien results in some similar roots, but anything that remained of the more structured energy found on his work with Liturgy has been pulled and smashed in Spiritual Emergency to patent effect.

The first track, ‘Tranquilizer’, is true to the standout moments on the album. When vocals arrive, they sweep in and out of the leading patter of drums. Then, when small, fuzzy, ever-changing, unstable guitar improvisations are placed into the mix they are not intrusive to the vocals. The mellow combination could quite easily be the track of choice to wake you up from sleep for the foreseeable future - that’s if Mother Nature hasn’t already bagged it for the dawn chorus.

The name of the album is taken from a book by Stanislav Grof whose voice is sampled intermittently. Reading from that very book, his voice is a lumbering presence that introduces the tracks with a sobering groan. It actually adds to the trippy effect and lords over the album, breaking up the sounds with his deep tones.

Fox takes the creative lead across all five tracks of the album as the sampled words of Grof calmly lick over the intros to one or two of the songs, including the stellar, drip-fed feedback, drilling drums and recording of the day when someone finally decided Animal Collective, Jimi Hendrix and Apocalypse Now (Redux version) should have a party: ‘Spiritual Emergency.’ The effect is that all five tracks drift easily in and out of one another across the 40-minute album – not entirely unlike 2012’s 37-minute album – featuring just one track, ‘See The World Given To A One Love Entity’ - though a lot more mellow.

The manic shaman call during the crescendo of the title and final track could have been ripped directly from a stumbled upon party in the woods. And as feedback begins to sound like a countdown to radioactive meltdown, Fox’s drumming leads to a hurried and furious conclusion. The album finishes with a flourishing energy from all members of the band. It’s a heady combination of all of their collected experiences pulled and stretched over 40 minutes of effusive acid-trip jazz rock sounds. And it’s worth being patient for to appreciate.