Tuesday 12 March 2024

Schubmodul - Lost in Kelp Forest (2024)

Country: Germany
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 23 Feb 2024
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

I've been listening to this album, the second from German psychedelic rock trio Schubmodul, for a few days now and it's still as fresh as ever. They play entirely instrumental music, but there is voice here, just not in the form of a band member singing. There's a female voice on Voyage that seems to be a sample, but it must be a long sample, because she's back on Renegade One, Silent Echoes and Ascension. A male one joins in on Revelations, to provide a radio news broadcast update on a kinda sorta concept that the female voice built.

I have to confess that, after maybe twenty listens thus far, I still haven't paid enough attention to that voice to figure out exactly what's going on and whether this is a true concept album, but the gist is that we're underwater, as the title suggests. There's a vessel called Renegade One which is doing something down there in the depths but the narrator or whatever she is sounds corporate in her demeanour and I imagined her as an inspirational canned voice over the PA on this vessel who anyone who's used to it simply ignores, relegating her to a sort of background instrument within a broader ambience.

I certainly didn't get any particular mood from her, just from the music. Much of the album seems welcoming to me, from Voyage onward, as if we were born under the waves and are very happy to return there on this mysterious mission. Emerald Maze, easily my favourite track, is a much more dynamic piece that suggests exploration. It's a long track, only a whisper off ten minutes in length, but it does a lot in that time. Maybe it's doing all the exploration the album needs, so that we can get back to the mission on Renegade One.

Talking of Renegade One, this is the only track where an obvious influence leapt out. Schubmodul, which means Thrust Module, tend to play instrumental psychedelic rock but without any real focus on a particular style. There are points where this is soft and peaceful music that reminds of post-rock, but more where it's harder, driving music right out of stoner rock. However, the name that I couldn't ignore on Renegade One is Mountain, a hard rock band from the seventies I encountered first on a TV theme, of all things. It's that heavy part from Nantucket Sleighride that Schubmodul echo here, a little slower but with the same tone and heaviness.

Oddly, when we get to Revelations, the final track, that radio newscaster explains that this wasn't particularly welcoming at all. This vessel was off the books, doing dubious science that backfired on its captain and whoever else might have been on board during the mission. I don't believe that spoilers really mean anything on an ostensibly instrumental album, so I'll point out that it was on a mission to create an energy source out of manipulated kelp, only to find that it generated some sort of psychedelic substance that sent the captain insane. Even more oddly, it still feels like it's a welcoming piece of music, so maybe that was a good thing. The environmentalists clearly think so.

Concept aside, because it really doesn't matter, I liked this album a lot. There are only six tracks to comprise almost three quarters of an hour of music, so Schubmodul let their music breathe. There isn't a rushed track here, but nothing overstays its welcome either, even though much of it is built on rhythm, the drums often setting the stage for the riffs to join in. They also like their rhythms to be repetitive, but without reaching the sort of trancelike states that come with drone metal. The variations are constant but relatively straightforward and they feel utterly natural, as befits this setting in the entirely natural world we're exploring.

There's only one previous release that I can see, a 2022 debut album called Modul I that suggests an outer space motif in its cover art and track titles. Maybe that dips into space rock, something that this album doesn't even hint at. I'm intrigued to find out, especially because that particular release schedule suggests that we won't see a third album until 2026.

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