OK, the terms of genres of psych are a messy affair nowadays and does anyone really know where motorik meets space rock and where space rock meets stoner rock? So I shall be reviewing Yuri Gagarin and their self titled album from my own psych based view of space rock, with the note that anyone looking from the view of a metal / stoner fan may see things differently.
In my own view, space rock should be like a cake. Specifically a Victoria sponge. The rhythm section is the sponge base, sure it may be not rock your world, but it provides the basis for your cake experience. Guitars and keyboards operate as the icing and jam. They’re the fun bits and delight your taste buds, but if you just had icing and jam you’d make yourself sick. A cake works in the big picture. The sponge fills you up and the icing is the treat. So it is with music. All rhythm and you’ve got a dry unappetising song. All guitars and what you are left with is a slightly nausea inducing chore that’s difficult to finish.
Which brings us to Yuri Gagarin. This Swedish outfit released their self titled debut last year. It’s a good, solid release but not helped by a top-heavy sound. Whether this comes from production or the band’s own choice would be interesting to know. The songs are in the classic space rock mould, a little more meandering than say White Manna and without the humour of Radar Men From The Moon. The trouble is the rhythm section is buried too low in the mix so what should be driving, pounding music often feels like formless noodling.
‘The First Orbit’ is a good example, I really want to love it but it’s just not down ‘n’ dirty enough, too much squall and not enough grunt, leading to moments that sound a little too close to rock for comfort. ‘Sonic Invasion 2910’ has all the parts in the right place but falls short of the target, the drums tapping where they should thump and the bass floating on the periphery where it should be kicking you in the shuns. ‘Za Kosmosom’ has a beefier groove but a sludgy one, essentially making it Bovril. ‘The Bg Rip’ gets it all right however, channelling Hawkwind with guitars and effects complimenting the free fall bass to a tee. A frantic onrush of energy and power it ends the album in exemplary style.
All in all, an album worth having checking out if you’re on the psych side of the space rock fence but may leave with the feeling that the cake isn’t quite as satisfying as it might have been. A few tweaks on the mixing desk and this could have been stunning…
SEARCH IT: YURI GAGARIN, ‘THE BIG RIP’
… 2 Years Later Postscript:
It turns out that the in 2014 the album the album was given a remix, with a bite more bite! Scope it out here…