Monday, 1 February 2016

Mars Red Sky - "Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)” (Album Review)

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/02/2016
Label: Listenable Records



"Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)" is a crazy psychedelic trip and Mars Red Sky is your tour guide. Pras leads the way with confidence and the full support of a hefty rhythm section. From the album’s plodding bookends to Side B’s catchy space rock explorations, there’s a gorgeous chemistry at play here. The result is one damn fine psychedelic stoner rock record

“Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul),” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). (Alien Grounds) 
2). Apex III
3). The Whinery
4). Mindreader
5). Under The Hood
6). Friendly Fire
7). Prodigal Sun
8). Shot In Providence

The Review:

Mars Red Sky started making waves early on in 2011 when they released their self-titled debut. On this album, the Bordeaux three-piece showed a penchant for 60s space rock filled with doomy tones and tempos, accentuated with pop sensibilities. That they could effortlessly combine these elements to create something that was just as soft and graceful as it was heavy and heady was a testament to their prowess as song writers. In the years that followed, Mars Red Sky continued to careen through outer space, releasing a series of EPs and splits as well as a critically acclaimed sophomore album, “Stranded in Arcadia.” Their touring schedule has been relentless, turning odometers all across Europe and South America, providing audiences both large and small with a unique, jaw-dropping experience. Now it’s 2016 and Mars Red Sky is set to release their third full-length, “Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul),” an album that represents the most significant sonic progression the band has made so far.

In a live setting, Mars Red Sky tends to slow their songs down, serving up a sluggish delivery that enhances the dreaminess of their far-out melodies. For their 2016 release, Mars Red Sky has embraced this element of their live performances and incorporated it into their song writing. That’s not say that they’ve doomed the hell out of their music, but they have shifted gears away from their comfortable space rock niche. They’re now on a mission to challenge themselves and keep things interesting for both band and fans alike. The result displays the band’s eye for detail when it comes to building atmosphere; there’s a different brand of heft being pushed around here through the deployment of interesting time signatures, while all the while, a keen sense of what’s good for the song is maintained.

Album opener “(Alien Grounds)/Apex III” builds from a mantra-state to a thunderous climax without ever quite lifting off from the landing pad. The slow, monotonous melody is first accompanied by a grand piano then later by Pras’s fingers dancing across the fret board. It’s a daring opening for a band whose previous outing focused much more on the heavy bounce of thick bass tones. These elements are here, too - consider the confident yet fragile “Friendly Fire” and album highlight “Under the Hood” - but they are no longer the only rabbits getting pulled out of the hat.

This new approach is showcased best on the first half of “Apex III” where the songs are allowed more room to breathe and instrumental intermezzos rise and fall like waves. Heavy-footed “The Whinery” gives the listener their first taste of this overall sonic progression, but it’s when the high voltage “Mindreader” comes calling that the band really takes to the sky. This song’s slow dirge is complemented by light, intermittent singular strums on the guitar that play out like light rain on a quiet lake, making Kinast and Matgaz's work in the low end more palpable because of it.

The album’s second half leaves the instrumental breaks behind for the most part in exchange for adventurous song structures. Pras’s trusty Big Muff Pedal is hard at work throughout, yet occasionally it takes a step back to allow the songs to blossom with clear harmonies while Kinast and Matgaz do what they do best. In “Under the Hood,” the band makes space for emotion to permeate the surface by embedding acoustic guitars deep in the mix, almost unnoticeably, secretly adding to the song’s building force before it breaks free into an extended chorus. “Friendly Fire” follows up with a bluesy walk while Kinast buzzes through the soundwaves with his four thick strings. And just when the songs couldn’t get any more out there, Mars Red Sky get a little Flaming Lips in "Prodigal Sun," a track that’s pulled along by a vocal delivery that sounds like a robot learning to love. “Shot in Providence” is up next and it brings things full circle with its slow, lumbering, rhythmically heavy guitars and hypnotic vocals similar to the ones used to start this record.

"Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)" is a crazy psychedelic trip and Mars Red Sky is your tour guide. Pras leads the way with confidence and the full support of a hefty rhythm section. From the album’s plodding bookends to Side B’s catchy space rock explorations, there’s a gorgeous chemistry at play here. The result is one damn fine psychedelic stoner rock record.


“Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul),” is available here

Band info: facebook

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