Born in San Diego but bred in the mists of Avalon, Astra have fast-become a synonym for the ethereal, the sublime, and indeed the genuinely progressive. Ever since 2009’s The Weirding put these analog-inflected San Diego visionaries on the map alongside the likes of co-conspirators Earthless, Diagonal and Dungen, who – like some lost tribe of prog faithful – have brought this unwieldly and much maligned form of music out of the dark ages and in front of a new generation of mellotron-loving cognoscenti.
Like a Meddle-era ‘Floyd supercharged by a Mahavishnu-intensity not seen since for eons, The Black Chord is an album of blinding light and abysmal shade, of bone-jarring rhythmic density and vast, breathtaking mental vistas: nothing less than epic journey through the outer reaches of musical possibility tinged by an elegance and knowingness that suggests a creative maturity beyond the members’ collective years.
Therein lies their redemption, because this is a record at home in 1972 as it is in 2012. Think wailing guitars and dulcet harmonies thickened by Mellotrons and given hypnotic qualities by the kind of drumming that borders on the shamanic. Cinematic in scope but frequently yielding to a kind of melodic fragility that can only be the product of genuine emotion, The Black Chord’s musical ebb and flow prove Astra to be both a band’s band capable of an artistry all-too-rare among their generation, and it’s a sound to behold.
01. Cocoon (8.45)
02. The Black Chord (14.59)
01. Quake Meat (6.41)
01. Drift (4.39)
03. Bull Torpis (2.56)
04. Barefoot in the Head (9.13)
THE GATEFOLD SLEEVE (FEATURING STUNNING NEW ARTWORK FROM ARIK ROPER) COMES WITH A 4-PAGE BOOKLET ATTACHED TO THE INSIDE OF THE GATEFOLD ALA THE ORIGINAL PRESSING BLACK SABBATH’S VOL 4 LP.