Monday 14 January 2019

Uluru - Acrophilia (2019)

Country: Turkey
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 7 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook

If acrophobia is the fear of high places, then acrophilia must be, well, an addiction to getting high. That's, erm, highly appropriate for this album, which is as strange a trip as Kadir Kayserilioğlu's gorgeous cover art might suggest. Uluru call what they do psychedelic rock and that works as well for a description as anything else, but this is a stoner metal jam that veers more and more into space rock as the album runs on. You could throw a lot of labels at it, but none of them would affect its quality. This is hypnotically immersive stuff.

I've been listening to Acrophilia a heck of a lot lately, whether in the background while I'm working or in the foreground late at night in the dark with headphones on, and it remains as fresh as ever. It's my first 9/10 review and it was hard to write because I kept getting lost in the music without putting virtual pen to virtual paper to talk about it.

It begins as it means to go on, with the bass of Oğulcan Ertürk and the drums of Ümit Büyükyüksel finding a neatly heavy groove and driving it forward, like a brontosaurus army. Then the guitar of Ege Çaldemir starts to swirl and wail and suddenly we're in a giant whirlpool that keeps on sucking us and those dinosaurs ever inwards. It's vivid and vibrant and tactile and all encompassing and I dug it a lot.

While Uluru is the Aboriginal name for the Australian rock formation often known as Ayers Rock, the band hail from the culturally diverse city of İstanbul in Turkey. Şark is where that enters overtly into their music, adding some ethnic flavour to the mix. Çaldemir's guitar plans on taking us to a lot of places, but initially they're all earthbound. I'm not sure where all of them are but I'm happy to visit, camp out and just bury myself in their environments.

Constantine slows things down a little but gets even heavier in the process. It's at this point that I really acknowledged that Çaldemir was adding synths to the mix as well as guitar. It's sometimes hard to distinguish between them, especially early on, but as the album moves off the surface of this planet to who knows where, the synths add another glorious element to this sound.

Acrophilia Jam is such a wild dance that it's difficult to believe that only three musicians are creating it. For a couple of minutes, we wonder if there are two bands duelling in an echo chamber, but repeat listens clear that up without reducing its admirable complexity. It's one band duelling with itself and winning but not wanting to stop.

While these aren't the longest tracks in the world (some folk have compared them to Earthless, who create twenty minute epics, and it could well be that Uluru took their name from Earthless's fourteen minute Uluru Rock), there's a feeling of eternity in each of them. When I mentioned getting lost in the album, I didn't just mean that I enjoyed it too much to want to stop, I also mean that there's no sense of time when listening to it. Insidious Queen might be 3:51 in length but it feels like I spend a happy month inside it every time I listen before it rolls over again to Şark.

The album gradually moves towards space rock and its closer, Aeternum, is the pinnacle of that. Never mind a whirlpool, this feels like a swirling trip through hyperspace. The synths battle the guitar for much of the song, which ends up feeling rather like an extended Hawkwind solo bathed in swirling light. It's a spiritual experience that's worthy of the ancient name of Uluru.

With a special shoutout for the slowdown a minute and a half into Sin 'n' Shamash, which is seven shades of exquisite, I'll just recommend this incredibly highly. It's the best album I've heard since starting this journey at Apocalypse Later and the one I'm returning to the most. It's also the first contender for album of the year and I look forward to finding something else that's worthy of challenging it for that title.

And, while we wait, Uluru also have a couple of other releases out: 2015's Dazed Hill EP and 2016's Imaginary Sun. They'll keep me busy for a while!

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