Thursday, July 21, 2022

Spacepilot – Hycean Worlds (Orbit 577, 2022)

Scientists recently defined a new class of exoplanet with watery surfaces and hydrogen-heavy atmospheres. These hycean worlds have rich potential for life. And they have inspired the trio Spacepilot to create an album teeming with strange forms and trans-galactic temperaments. Even the band was surprised by what they discovered. 

Spacepilot is a New York-based group featuring Elias Meister (guitar, effects), Leo Genovese (Rhodes, synth, Hammond) and Joe Hertenstein (drums). Hycean Worlds is their third release and explores a more experimental sound palette. “We’ve never talked about what we want to do, conceptually,” Meister said. “After a few years, we were like ‘Let’s not talk about it’. We decide in the moment when the music is going to change. That’s how we play. And it has taken us into this kind of groove-thing connected with very spacey effects, noise, and Avant Garde stuff.”

Synthetic and sincere

'Messier 87,' the album’s opening track, sets the direction of travel. Meister’s psychedelic-rock guitar is at the heart of the sound early – and stays there. Hertenstein’s drums concoct a head-bobby groove. Genovese’s keywork floods the gaps. It’s a starting point that reveals feverish excitement about where the music will take the trio this time.

The three musical stars shine brightly on 'Sagittarius A,' the second track. Meister is a master of putting melodramatic and matter-of-fact ideas into the same bowl, stirring up emotions that feel both synthetic and sincere. Genovese lets the Hammond stretch a flawless canvas for the musicians to splash with sonic color. The drums explode at the right moments. This open-hearted ballad, named after a black hole, swallows every sentiment. Then collapses. “Our rock-influenced stuff gets a little heavy and dark occasionally,” Meister said. “But that’s just how the music feels at the time.”

Irony and candor

The final twist in this eight-track odyssey, 'Hubble Deep Field,' is characteristically many-sided. Slipping and sliding guitar offers a series of false starts. Heavy drums shape a rhythm that could be reggae, or swing, or a ballad, or anything. The Hammond rings and wriggles. Towards the end, the piece delivers that typical mix of irony and candor. Things get dark and distorted. Then fade.

“We don’t usually do this kind of bluesy-rock,” Meister said. “The Hammond, which Leo Genovese was playing for the first time, pushed us into a different zone. We never set boundaries for where we can go.”

Layers and textures

This third Spacepilot record fuses rock, techno, gospel, noise, blues… and plenty more. The tracks were cut from entirely improvised live recordings at the iconic Red Horn District in Germany. Hycean Worlds probes a groove-driven and psychedelic corner of the sonic universe shaped by sudden shifts and alien accents. Its layers and textures create an out-of-this-world listening experience.

“I definitely sense our connection deepening over the years,” Meister said. “Our improvisations are more adventurous, but also more concise. I feel that in the music when I listen to it.”

The album is available as a digital download here. A limited release of 20 vinyl records, numbered and signed, is available by sending an email to Elias Meister here.

Check out this video excerpt of 'Sagittarius A':

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