Wednesday 8 April 2020

Saturno Grooves - Cosmic Echoes (2020)

Country: Mexico
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 2 Mar 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

So I was stuck in the front room waiting for a package trying not to listen to the awful Mexican music being played at high volume inside the house over the street. I figured the best thing to do would be to play some really good Mexican music at high volume inside my house and Saturno Grooves did the job wonderfully.

They're a trio who hail from Durango and play instrumental psychedelic rock, that's equally effective soft and heavy. They start out with the latter and Fire Dome is a real highlight here. Initially hinting at being an old school Black Sabbath song, it promptly kicks into high gear becoming reminiscent of more modern stoner rock bands. José Peyro's guitar wails wonderfully and the mellow bass of Oscar Cisneros rumbles along like a lead instrument under the watchful and relentless pace set by Adolfo Solis's drums.

Having demonstrated that they can effortlessly rock the place, they promptly slow down. The first couple of minutes of Forever Zero are filled with just bass and drums, but it sounds fully formed. When Peyro eventually joins in, his guitar isn't a missing element, it's a whole new dimension to the sound. I should add that there are also vocals here, albeit not in traditional form and not for long. Nobody sings anything; someone merely recites a poem deep in the mix, so deep that I wondered if it was actually part of the song or I was so lost in the music that I wasn't hearing the delivery driver outside.

The band mix up their textures very well. Cosmic Echoes starts out abrasive before moving back into traditional Sabbath territory a couple of minutes in and jamming gloriously. The riff is a good one but it's incessant, as if the band want us to be hypnotised by it. I was paying more attention to the bass because Cisneros is high enough in the mix that I was able to just focus on what he's doing, which is fantastic. Even though the spoken word poem behind this song is easier to hear, I just couldn't pay attention to it.

Saturno Grooves's Bandcamp page suggests that these songs are compositions based on improvisations. I presume that means that they jammed for a while, found what worked and gave it a fresh runthrough in the studio. That makes a lot of sense, because this all runs free and loose but somehow manages to be structured and coherent. There are points where it seems like there are two guitars, but only Peyro is credited, so these songs presumably weren't live takes. I wonder how much work they had to do in the studio and how much was done before they showed up.

With the vocal work doing little for me, except on the atmospheric acoustic number, Blind Faith, where it's treated very differently, it really isn't a surprise to find my favourite tracks were instrumentals. The best of them is Celestial Tunnel, a seven minute journey that just flows gorgeously, easily as cosmic as this album gets and without any space rock effects (though what may be an organ does show up at points). On occasions it even turns playful with a sort of call and response between guitar and bass.

The remaining couple of tracks are comparatively short and mostly serve as a contrast to wrap things up. Blind Faith is soft, like floating clouds, while Dark Matter is volatile like churning earth. The band really thrash it up on this one, with Cisneros's bass getting really angry. These do add texture to the album, but feel just a little apart from it. The heart of the album lies in the the seven or eight minute jams, which means the able trio of Forever Zero, Cosmic Echoes and Celestial Tunnel.

This looks like a second full length album for Saturno Grooves, with EPs and singles earlier on. I'm interested to hear how they sound, after enjoying an impressive range here on only six tracks.

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