So here I am gearing myself up to see active service on the psych rock frontlines tonight at the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, making sure my velvet cloak has been ironed, that my green corduroy bell bottoms have been extended to the regulation width and that my long straggly beard has enough twigs entwined within it to give me that ‘greybeard loon/idiot savant look’ that I’m hoping to channel later on tonight. I’m sipping strong coffee from a drinking horn made from the skull of one of my enemies and kicking back on my throne of purest ebony. Just another Saturday afternoon then here at 1537 Towers. So what am I using to soundtrack my preparations, Teeth of The Sea Master, that’s what!
I was lucky enough, with a little direction, to get this 2013 release for my birthday this year and I thought it was interesting and good, but it wasn’t until I used it soundtrack a long nocturnal car journey that I truly grokked it. One of the reasons why I like this so much is that it is really hard to pin down, to categorise. Broadly speaking I wouldn’t class it as psychedelic, despite their appearance tonight, their sound blends traditional instrumentation with beats, hisses and a lot of great synth lines*, trumpet and the odd snippet of speech. Master really is a unique cocktail of elements, tasty and like the very best cocktails liable to take your head off without your noticing**. This is progressive music, in the best possible sense of the word.
It is not an easy LP to discuss in terms of tracks since it is a whole, unified piece of work. So let’s tackle it in terms of mood. Imagine H.G Wells War of The Worlds set now, or the world of the Terminator movies, you know the one where the last dregs of humanity is fighting against the machines in a post-apocalyptic meltdown and you’re half way there, except there are moments of quietly expansive beauty in here too (‘Siren Spectre, Phase I and Phase II’, which almost flashes on Miles Davis Sketches of Spain towards the end), moments of hope. There are more climaxes, breakdowns and build-ups than a particularly exciting episode of _____ (insert name of melodramatic soap opera from your own country here).
I’m a huge fan of a muttered word or two during a track and so ‘The Servant’ with it’s emotionless narration is a winner for me, ‘November, in what remains of the city …’ over a taut, brooding skittering beat sets things up nicely for the Giorgio Moroder meets Van Halen and Vangelis thrust of ‘Black Strategy’. The almost thrash metal guitar interlude in ‘Pleiades Underground/Inexorable Master’ is almost worth the price of admission alone. The climax of the whole LP is the 10 minute ‘Responder’ a major key, surging war theme replete with techno thrum and bass, dissolving by way of yet more guitars into a trumpet lament – I don’t get to type that very often.
As usual with anything released on the excellent Rocket Recordings label, the quality is flawless. Great enigmatic cover, cool black and white rear sleeve that does that whole ‘popping in’ 3D trick – same on the record label. This is a pleasing object to own.
It’s great – put it on, close your eyes and I challenge you not to think of battling robots! Go on I dare you^. Teeth of The Sea have become the band I most want to go and watch tonight and the great thing is, I have absolutely no idea what to expect from them, apart from more more more. Everyone should own at least one copy of Master, secured somewhere safe so that humanity’s inevitable last stand against the killer droids can be sound tracked properly; you have a responsibility to do this.
*when the synth kicks in half-way through ‘Black Strategy’ it just makes me want to throw back my head and howl in complete rapture.
**although far less likely to leave you on your knees retching into the toilet bowl the next morning, in my experience.
^N.B – best not attempted whilst driving, people can get sooo tetchy about things like that!