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Review: Earthling Society – Crooked Under Moonlight EP (released December 18, 2017)

It’s been a good year for Earthling Society fans, with not one, not even two, but now three new releases that have come out in 2017. First it was the incendiary Zen Bastard, which featured both original material and a couple of new versions of old tracks, including the epic Kosmik Suite, originally from 2006’s Plastic Jesus and the Third Eye Blind. Then came Ascent to Godhead, that had everything from good old-fashioned space rock in the form of the spirited Can You Levitate? to the meditative Eastern influenced raga of its title track, and of course some epic guitar freakery on Electric Bou Saada. Now, just a couple of weeks before the new year, comes the high flying, down to earth Crooked Under Moonlight EP.

Crooked Under Moonlight originally came as a bonus CD-R with Ascent to Godhead, but now Fred Laird and company have released it digitally on Bandcamp, but with a few tweaks. The song Ritual in Bou Saada which appeared on the CD-R has been left off, but replaced with two new tracks that accentuate the ‘gardening’ theme of the EP. And although it’s referred to as an ‘EP’, clocking in at 43 ½ minutes running time it’s nearly as long as the Ascent to Godhead album. The EP features Fred Laird playing almost everything including guitars, wood flute, bass and keys with drummer Jon Blacow joining him on a few tracks. Regular bassist Kim Allen seems to have sit this one out.

Things kick off with the distinctly non-pastoral (considering the gardening theme of the EP) Babylon Grove, which opens with vocal samples and freaky electronic sounds set to a motorik, industrial beat, before it launches into one of the epic guitar freakouts that Earthling Society have become so good at. And although it does get a little repetitive towards the end of its 15-minute run time, it’s still a solid slice of heavily distorted space rock that will make your nerves tingle and your mind explode. From here on out, the rest of the EP falls more into the strange and hallucinatory pastoral style of the more acoustic oriented tracks on their previous year’s release, Sweet Chariot.

Earthling Society excel at playing a very loose, semi-structured style of music and it’s quite evident in these pieces, giving them a disorienting vibe that definitely adds a certain something to the psychedelic flavourings. Pomegranates is a folksy run featuring layers of acoustic guitar and exotic drones, with an echo laden flute playing haunting melodies that weave in and out throughout the piece. In the Garden begins as a slightly Eastern influenced raga awash with hallucinatory sound effects and Laird’s dreamy vocal harmonies, before it breaks out into an exuberantly phantasmagoric psych/folk marching jam. Sunshine Radiation redefines cool in its psychedelic mayhem as guitars scream and wail over a contrastingly jaunty and laidback rhythm. Like many of the pieces on this album, it’s filled with a celebratory joy that is quite exhilarating. Equatorial Gardens in the Rain places a jazzy rhythm with rolling hand drums amidst swimming distorted effects and distant, haunting wordless vocals echoing half-melodies. Things close with the gentle instrumental ballad Jerusalem Highway, with plaintive acoustic guitars and reverb drenched electric guitars creating an acid laced sonic picture reminiscent of early Pink Floyd.

As with every Earthling Society release, Crooked Under Moonlight manages to break new ground while still maintaining the band’s own distinctive sound. And although it’s an ancillary release to Ascent to Godhead, it is definitely strong enough to stand on its own as a welcome addition to the Earthling Society catalogue.

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