Tuesday 9 May 2023

Choose the Juice - Meteoria (2023)

Country: Switzerland
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 10 Apr 2023
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I've been listening to this album a lot over the past couple of days while I work on book reviews and it's really got under my skin. It's psychedelic rock, for want of a single label when Choose the Juice work through at least half a dozen others—they call themselves a trippy alternative psych garage surf shoegaze tinnitus stoner space acid rock explosion, not unfairly either—but it's sublimely pure psychedelic rock because it feels organic, like a trip inside rather than outside. They're not taking me out to see the cosmos, they're drenching me in acid taking me inside my own brain.

It's patient stuff, featuring a notably high male voice that reminds me of the early seventies when certain singers favoured singing an octave or two higher than what everyone else might consider a norm. The singer is Mo Bernasconi and he also plays guitar here, as do two others, though both of them also have double duty: Andrea Kuster also plays harmonica, though I'm not sure if he does so much on this album—it's only overt on Acid Cowboy—and Andrea Künzle provides the synth work, which often dominantes the mood. And mood is everything here.

The Body Mind Split Orchestra may be the weakest offering for me, bizarrely for an opening track, until it unexpectedly but rather naturally trawls in folk music halfway and elevates itself. There are some very subtle harmonies here and I seem to hear more every time I listen. The guitar impresses late on as the song escalates and it's there right at the beginning of Photograph to set the tone, a sort of early Wishbone Ash delicacy but psyched up, as everything here is. This is a tasty song and I heard more early Ash on Sail too, an epic closer which has eight full minutes to build and knows just how to use them to their best advantage.

The Ballad of Cucumber Salad feels longer than everything else here, because it builds so well and from almost nothing, but it's actually the shortest at just over five minutes. It starts with a single soft drone and gradually layers on more and more until it's something completely different that's still a natural progression. Sail is the longest, albeit not by much, but it feels longer too. Much of it is exceedingly loose, but it reaches some wonderful intensity later, with a gem of a sustained note from Berlusconi.

Sail may be my favourite song here, but it faces tough competition indeed from Acid Cowboy, which isn't loose so much as it's carefree. It's constantly in motion and in an incessant straight line that's so typical of the deserts of the American southwest. The cowboy of the title, who's represented in musical form by Kuster's harmonica, sits back and enjoys the ride and doesn't appear to care much where it takes him. It's almost like the movement itself is the goal. Here's where elements such as surf and garage show up, not overtly but enough to remind me of the Shivas, a Portland surf rock band, who accompanied a different title character in Wade Chitwood's short film The Prospector.

That leaves the title track, which is may be the loosest piece of music here, appearing almost like a set of instruments playing in isolation but close enough to realise that they're utterly compatible with each other, including Bernasconi's vocalisations. Its organic bedrock reminded me of the Pink Floyd of the very early seventies, up to but including The Dark Side of the Moon, but thrown into more of a krautrock environment with maybe Hawkwind performing down the hall at the same time. Matheo Sabater is a jaunty accompanist here on drums and Nicolas Kölbener has more to do on bass as well.

Bernasconi's voice is there but it doesn't deliver lyrics and he was only a guitarist on Acid Cowboy, so that's a good chunk of the album that unfolds instrumentally and it doesn't seem remotely out of place. I think that's because, while he does sing on other tracks, I never really thought of him as a deliverer of lyrics, even though he sings in English in a very clear voice. I have no idea what any of these songs are about because I'm hearing that voice as an instrument and I'm enjoying it like the others, getting lost in the moods that Choose the Juice muster up.

This is an 8/10 for me, because the entire second side is comprised of highlights and I'm rather fond of Photograph as well, with its guitarwork hearkening back to Pilgrimage and Argus. It's music that I consciously listened to on every time through, because I was trying to figure out all its subtleties, but it works as a mood enhancer in the background too. I've been happier and more relaxed with it playing and that's never a bad thing.

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