Friday 5 January 2024

Black Sky Giant - The Red Chariot (2024)

Country: Argentina
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Jan 2024
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Black Sky Giant, one of my favourite South American psychedelic rock bands, tend to knock out an album every January, occasionally adding another later in the year, and here's their 2024 release, a year to the day since Primigenian. I say "their" but I still know nothing about the band, which is very possibly one highly talented multi-instrumentalist recording in his basement somewhere in Rosario, Argentina. Whoever's responsible, I'm a confirmed fan of theirs because this is the third emphatically reliable release in a row that I've heard from Black Sky Giant.

As I've mentioned in my previous reviews, they play a form of lively psychedelic rock that's always in motion. I don't think I've heard a single track by them where I feel like I'm sat in one place just looking at some sort of spectacle; I always feel like I'm being transported through that spectacle, usually on the surface of some alien planet. While there's always a space rock tag on the album's page on Bandcamp, the same caveat as ever applies. Sure, I'm out there somewhere when I hear this, but I'm firmly planted. I'm not travelling through the cosmos, I'm travelling through the cool desert geography of a very large rock in space. I have no idea which planet I'm on but it's not this one.

This is more of the same, but with a few more tweaks. One becomes obvious on the title track that opens up the album, because it does so like an eighties goth song perked up in the early industrial era, before it develops into another psychedelic journey. A Timeless Oracle goes back to this sound too, as if it's a Bauhaus song played at double speed. It's an odd feeling, as if we're looking at this landscape through frosted shower glass rather. It's definitely more mechanical than anything I've heard from the band before, but it never trumps the organic feel that's inherent throughout. It's there on Submerged Towers too, so it's definitely a slight direction shift.

I like all three of those tracks but I like Path better. This one begins with a heavy chord and moves on slowly. As I mentioned, Black Sky Giant's music is always about motion for me but it's rarely this slow. It's steady too, as if we're unafraid of anything that shows up in our vision and from any side, given that the guitar darts around like it's playing every inquisitive animal on this planet. Even at the three minute mark when it gets dangerous and we speed up and that fauna gets agitated, we still feel safe because we're armoured. Two and a half minutes later, it all calms down again, as if we've passed the danger area or perhaps simply made friends with whatever was in it.

Danger is a rare creature in Black Sky Giant's music. Illuminated by Reflection is more typical for them, because there's all the exploration without any of the danger, either apparent or ignored. It's a more joyous trip, even when it bulks up late on. And that's how the album works through its second half. If there's danger, it's weird western danger, which is wild and unexpected and harder to plan for, so we just maintain an element of awareness wherever we go but don't overly concern ourselves with what might be out there.

I've praised the bass a lot on previous Black Sky Giant albums and every instrument does its job on this one, but, especially as the album moves towards its end, the guitar comes to the fore in ways that deserve credit. Everything here is instrumental, so it could be said that the guitar is soloing all the time on every track, but it's often playing a part. On Electrical Civilization, it feels open, as if whatever Moebius-esque vehicle we're travelling in has an open top and we're standing up and expressing our pleasure to our surroundings. I almost suggested that a passenger stood up to play guitar but I've never felt like there are passengers in these Black Sky Giant vehicles; I'm always on my own, revelling in the isolation.

Even more than Electrical Civilization, Augury is the first track where the guitar solo feels as much like a guitar solo as it does some sort of living being or emotional outburst. It's very tasty indeed, even though it's overshadowed by the best guitar on the album, which is on the closer, In the Sight of the Mountain God. This is the epic of the album, which isn't unusual for a closer, but it's only six minutes long, which doesn't seem particularly epic. However, it does bring back some of the weird western flavour that is never far from Black Sky Giant's sound.

And so this is a third 7/10 in a row for Black Sky Giant at Apocalypse Later. They certainly work in a very specific niche but they've nailed it and I relish these return trips to wherever it is that they're taking us.

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