It’s not often that I let new acquisitions go ‘still sealed’ for long, but this one got away from me after finding it in the day-after-Record Store Day bin last April. An old friend of mine—who incidentally lived in a Portland house with one of these guys—turned me on to them saying “you like that Träd Gräs och Stenar stuff”—which is to say they’re reminiscent of that Swedish band’s expansive droney jams (and with a bass played named Krag, ET really coulda fooled me). So while I’m hearing this repress (5th anniversary, I guess) for the first time right now, I’ve had both their debut and most recent record for awhile, perfectly bookending this mid-period album, so I have a pretty good idea of what I’m in for.
A fade in of delicate ringing guitars—soon joined by a somewhat tentative rhythm section—usher in “Ancient Echoes” (from the name of the album to the individual track titles, their empyrean aims are clear). Apparently recorded at their rehearsal space, it sounds like it, giving the listener the feeling of being the unobtrusive visitor who wandered in and sat on the floor, soon to be blissfully nodding off in the corner. While not exactly a place of serenity, this is atonality that won’t make anyone want to leave the room. It’s a decidedly loose lo-fi affair, and arguable that a professional studio recording would make the listen more sonically immersive. On this first song, I can’t tell if Nick Bindeman is quietly singing actual words, but they communicate more effectively as mere added instrumentation anyway. A wind-like segue into “Cosmic Manhunt” carries on a similar vibe and tempo, with some nice controlled feedback. Comparatively brief, the track serves as kind of interlude, exiting quickly—either due to LP side constraints or possibly distilling the best they got on that improv. Mellow is the prevailing mode so far—when I saw them last year they were playing what sounded like boogie rock in comparison. “Galactic Derelict” gets a little heavier, with some wah wah and other activated pedals, though I can’t claim to identify the source of all these sounds (credits indicate there’s a synthesizer on here somewhere). Bindeman definitely sings the title words “Reflections in a Mirage” but soon regresses to primordial moaning, melding seamlessly with some modal saxophone tones. This is minimal music discretely played, each simple part a stone mapping a more elevated path. A rising cymbal wash cuts abruptly to the closer “Time Winds Through a Glass, Clearly.” It’s a slow burner for sure, but they’re soon floating, and by the end I’m shook to full alertness when all the moving parts have impressively locked into place, finally achieving the transcendence they’ve been after. If I were there I’d probably lose myself even more. Though I wouldn’t think of doing so as a guest, at home I’ll likely divide my attention with a book on future spins.