Recent double-disc set from Expo 70 is Mother Universe Has Birthed Her Last Cosmos (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 162-2)…I think we last touched base with this cosmic traveller – American player Justin Wright – with the double live CD released in 2017, which rescued a couple of obscure radio broadcasts originally issued in very small numbers. Much the same ethos guides today’s item which is described by this Polish label as “a collection of rare recordings” and showcases the years 2008 to 2010. I see I personally may have been less than enthused about 2015’s Solar Drifting and not finding my spirit moved by the “portentous and rather solemn pseudo-mystical vibe”. I’m enjoying today’s spin much more, though. The first disc is just two long tracks, giving Wright and his collaborator Matt Hill ample space to stretch their astro-beaming reach to the furthest dusty corners of the celestial china bowl.
Both the title track ‘Mother Universe’ and ‘Ostara’ both start out with mind-numbing analogue thuds and pulses, which gradually spread outwards like ripples in the time-space continuum, to reach their own sunlit brand of trance-induced euphoria. Keeping it simple, minimising musical notes played per square inch, endless repetitions; all these formulaic approaches are reaping dividends on this light-years away trip to Jupiter. What could have ended up as sluggish, murk-drenched drone is rescued by frequent (but slow-moving) changes in the processed guitar decorations and effects that Wright lets fall from his axe shaped like a space-rocket, while the oscillations and pulses keep the music firmly on course. Hill plays a bass and an old-school drum machine, so it might be the latter that’s working so hard in the engine room to deliver propulsive churns. This originally came as two separate CDRs on two micro-labels, Universal Tongue and Small Doses, in 2009. Not since Spacemen 3 has there been such a felicitous blending of Suicide electronics with psychedelic fretwork.
Second disc is entirely solo Wright material, just him, his guitar, his Moog and his voice…again, two separate CDRs Mechanical Elements and Woolgather Visions have been yoked together, joining recording sessions from 2008 and 2010. At times, with this solo set-up and his rather romantic titles, one is tempted to compare him to Bill Nelson and his numerous solo records, although that comparison only holds up for five mins. Here, once again monotony is the guiding force as these 15-minute drones unspool their mysterious fuzz with largely unvarying textures and infrequent interventions from the guitar; the first two are mostly showcases for the Moog, tuned to a rather sombre key of C, and refusing to budge from that root note. I am intrigued by a title like ‘Hexed By A Devil In The Cemetery’, a title which would be meat and drink to any Black Metal band or dungeon synth droner, but I’m not sensing much of an evil or supernatural vibe from this rather static plodder. Equally unvarying is ‘You And Your Dreamcatcher Should Take A Hike’, which shows Wright becoming rather entranced by harmonic intervals held for a very long time on the keys, without managing to achieve much sublimation thereby. Wright has a tendency to sometimes fill up the atmosphere and space with his playing, which is why ‘Neither Here Nor There (A Study)’ is something of a relief, with its spacious minimal approach, hesitant guitar figures, and sketched-in synth backdrops. I’m not sure what it’s a “study” of, unless it refers to an imaginary space in his own mind; he seems prepared to stay there all week, if necessary. From 19th April 2018.