Barnaby Monk 5 a.m., Sept. 17
- As I Hear It: "The Weirding" (July 15, 2009)
Originally formed in 2001 as SILVER SUNSHINE, ASTRA dubs its forward-thinking sound "freaked out prog rock." As ambitious a unit as you will find, the quintet's debut is described as an eight-song "progressive rock concept album . . . intricate and thoughtful in both concept and execution yet neither forced nor pretentious."
ASTRA's arsenal of sunward-reaching sonic harmonies, spiraling synth-laden melodies and art-rock uplift calls for comparisons to AMON DÜÜL II, CAN, GURU GURU, Syd Barrett-era PINK FLOYD and YES. Already making a name for itself on the West Coast, ASTRA has shared the stage with such like-minded and diverse acts as DUNGEN, EARTHLESS, BIGELF, SAINT ETIENNE, THE BLACK KEYS and DMBQ.
From the Mellotron-heavy title track to the ethereal strains of "Broken Glass" to the seventeen minute instrumental leviathan "Ouroboros" and through to album closer "Beyond to Slight the Maze" ("for the contemplation of eternal solitude"), the album invokes a celestial ocean of wah wah waves crashing against a never-ending shore of wonderment. Beautifully surreal cover art by Arik Roper (HIGH ON FIRE, SUNN O))), BORIS) furthers the record's ever-evolving mood.
As band founder Richard Vaughn explains, "The main themes are death, introspection and contemplating what lies beyond. It's about pondering the rapidly deteriorating state of the world today and trying to find an escape."
01. The Rising of the Black Sun (5:44)
02. The Weirding (15:27)
03. Silent Sleep (10:41)
04. The River Under (8:41)
05. Ouroborous (17:23)
06. Broken Glass (3:45)
07. The Dawning of Ophiuchus (5:29)
08. Beyond to Slight the Maze (11:36)
Recorded by ASTRA and James Mullen
Mastered by Noel Summerville at Metropolis
Cover design and illustration by Arik Roper
Recorded at ASTRA's Black Widow Studio / Autumn 2008