Earthmonkey - Alms of Morpheus [Beta-lactam Ring Records - 2011]Peat Bog was often responsible for the more overt and authentic rock elements that peppered Nurse With Wound’s atypically groovier output throughout the mid-nineties. His deft didgeridoo, psyche guitar and funky drumming that could be found throughout Rock ’n’ Roll Station and An Awkward Pause has since been given the freedom to plough its own path under the guise of Earthmonkey.
And after one listen it will come as no surprise to learn that Bog used to be a member of the notorious travelling convoy that battled with police in the mid-Eighties when attempting to reclaim Stonehenge and revive the free festival that used to take place there to commemorate the Summer solstice: his sound often recalls the space rock of old festival regulars Here & Now, Gong and particularly Hawkwind through a potent fusion of heavily-flanged guitar and rising and falling synth breezes that still has the ability to send the chemically-compromised soaring into the ether. Alms of Morpheus is his sixth release as Earthmonkey for Beta-lactam Ring Records that sees him ploughing the same field while delivering the most abundant crop to date comprising two disks clocking in at just under 80 minutes each.
The key difference, though, in Earthmonkey’s psychedelics is the rhythms which, whether played live or programmed on a drum machine, tend to be based on hip-hop patterns giving a more modern, party feel to the proceedings. This is perhaps most evident on ‘Scene Not Herd’, the opener of the first disk that, although retaining the wispy electronics of yore, abstains for once from layering on the soaring guitar and instead focuses on a dance groove of skipping beats and filtered synth patterns bringing to mind the early electronica of Black Dog Productions. Later on disk one, tracks three to five have the audacity to feature a human beatboxer and the odd bit of rapping offsetting Stooges-like riffing (on ‘I’m Just A Naked Man Screaming Here’), jazz funk stylings (‘Break It Down’) and arabesque didgeridoo (‘It’s Down’). But these departures are so submerged in Bog’s wailing ‘n’ wah-wahing guitar and glittering synth washes that they never seem to compromise the acid rock authenticity and by the end of disk one (that goes on to evoke Hendrix on ‘Mudskip Monnstomp’ and covers Zappa’s ‘Duke of Prunes’ on ‘New Cheese’) your brain is well and truly stormed, seventies-style.
At which point the hardy traveller may be persuaded to continue through to the second disk where the same recipes apply but the mix gets a little stewed seeming more like rough cuts from studio jams. In the midst of all this is the album’s title track, a mammoth, twenty-minute excursion that evokes the same galactic trip as Hawkwind’s original space rituals through lavish doses of filthy, throbbing electronics and grungy guitar dirges while a voice profoundly narrates nonsensical notions - this time something about a native American cat’s cradle type thing that produces a butterfly! But despite the overdose of a second disk and the frequent predictability of Bog’s shapes and forms it’s all pulled off with such a sense of mischief and fun combined with a total lack of pretension that Earthmonkey provides a particularly charming backdrop to the hedonistic pursuit of your choice, played with an obvious passion for the original space rock without being blinded to more modern musics.Russell Cuzner