I hadn't heard of Frozen Planet... 1969 until recently, but they're a psychedelic rock jam band from Sydney, Australia and they've knocked out a bunch of albums in the past decade, each of them an entirely improvisational effort. I don't know how much preparation they put in before visiting the studio, but the songs are improvised jams. In fact, even on Bandcamp, this tenth album is credited as "Improvisation by Paul Attard (guitar), Lachlan Paine (bass), Frank Attard (drums)". I believe a few of their albums are improvisations on previous songs, so it may be that they have a base idea ready in place to build on in the studio.
As you might expect, these are extended jams, so the three quarters of an hour (exactly) comprise of only three pieces of music, all instrumental because, understandably, nobody in the band aims to conjure up a set of lyrics on the fly. Dissolver is the epic at an impressive twenty-seven minutes, but Strangelands, which is my highlight, runs seven, and that comes after opener Diamond Dust, a ten minute plus jam that was easily the weakest link for me on a first listen but continues to get a little more under my skin each further time through.
It's still the least of the three tracks, but the back end is getting to me. Lachlan Paine's bass amps up the fuzz and Paul Attard's guitar weaves its way through some middle Eastern melodies but it's the drums of Frank Attard that elevate it for me. They're relentless, not planning domination but ruthlessly keeping time, like Stefan Kaufmann did on Accept's Princess of the Dawn, albeit with a few more fills here and there. It's his fills that play with the tempo, which could so easily have got increased at a hundred moments but he stubbornly refuses to do that.
Strangelands starts off well with a good first half, but it's the second half that utterly sold me on Frozen Planet... 1969 and this album. Paine finds a fantastic groove, that's a little reminiscent of the bass line in On and On, from one of my favourite albums of all time, Saigon Kick's Water. That works perfectly under Attard's guitar, which wails and oozes rather like the talk box guitar Dean Parks played on Steely Dan's Haitian Divorce. It feels like a conversation and it's wild, mixing the funky bass with the psychedelic talk box and creating something sublime. It gets more fun every time I listen to it, though that does highlight how much it comes alive halfway. The first half isn't bad and it isn't that different, but the musicians don't nail it until almost four minutes in.
I'm not going to talk much about Dissolver, because it's such an epic jam that it's best to just lose yourself in it. It's bubbly from the outset and it builds well, but there's so much going on that it's always going to mean a lot of different things to different people. What I will say is that it speaks volumes about the confidence of this band that they can come into the studio to knock out a tenth album, maybe with some basic ideas of what to improvise around, but just jam for almost half an hour and make the entire thirty minutes worth listening to. You might imagine highlights, but it's strong throughout.
The other thing I should highlight is that it was Paul Attard's guitar that grabbed me first and it's Lachlan Paine's bass in Strangelands that sold me on the album, but, every time I listen through, I leave it more impressed with Frank Attard. Sure, he's notable on Diamond Dust as much for what he doesn't do as what he does, but he's utterly magnetic on Strangelands and he does a heck of a lot on Dissolver. I need to listen to this another dozen times just to figure out everything that he's doing.