Øresund Space Collective’s Tripple-Double of 2011

Intro

The days of yore when a band would release three albums a year seems like a time long forgotten, but sometimes it happens that exceptions are there to be made. There is a band, located somewhere between Denmark and Sweden, under the Øresundsbron, led by Californian Scott Heller named Øresund Space Collective. Scott is a passionate record collector, but is best known as an explorer of the vast and unknown beyond the genre of space rock.

A hunger and thirst for improvisation and jamming led this PhD in Endocrinology since 2004 and after 11 albums to the point where everyone would agree that ØSC today is one of the leading bands in the genre, sticking them perhaps right after the great Hawkwind.

But to justify the statement from the beginning, 2011 brought exactly three Øresund albums (actually four if we count Live at Roadburn), of which two of them (Dead Man in Space and Sleeping with the Sunworm) come from the same session (October 4th/5th, 2008), while Entering into the Space Country was recorded on September 24th, 2010. What follows is an examination of each of these three studio albums, so let’s start in chronological order.

Dead Man in Space

First in the ØSC’s triptych series of 2011′s releases is Dead Man in Space, which is comprised of four totally improvisational and mind-blowing jams. Wholly, it builds a strong record clocking over 60 minutes (63 precisely), of which the opening, High Pilots, takes up a freakingly massive 32 minutes. This slab is someone’s life wish, if you want it in short.

Inside and out, it kicks off with spacy sound effects and guitar noodling which could be labeled as space blues, but as soon as Kaufmann, the drummer, counts off with hi-hat the track floats into a completely new nebula, flirting with progginess . Mogen’s and Scott’s (aka Dr. Space) synths constantly move the band’s depth toward dimensional spaciness. The magic voice of the Hammond organ overridden by chaotic guitar soloing takes the whole construction into a completely new direction, making the middle part of the track the most improvisational and absorbing most of the creative energy from the jammers. Strangely funkadelic rhythms at the end of the song lead into Space Jazz Jam 2.2.

This jam in particular could be labeled space jazz. Improvisation – check. The odd rhythm structure – check. Space rock – check. The jazz spirit – check. So why not? While the rhythm section accompanied by Hammond and synths is backing up Stefan’s or Magnus’ guitarwerk, their space jazz is growing and is in development. And it’s beautiful. One could expect only raw unbrushed energy, but these guys are the masters on their style. Their sense of rhythm, melody, and their ability to form an inexhaustible source of creativity proves their space rock credentials. That’s what this piece in particular proves.

After this comes the shorter, but equally great piece
Who tripped on the c(h)ord?” which, compared with the previous two tracks, kicks off in  an emphasized ambient mode before building into a more straightforward psychedelic pace. . Finally, the last track on the album is also the title track and is “only“ 3 minutes long. It’s an atmospheric piece which comes as a nice epilogue to a massive jam.

Judging by the second jam session from October 2008, which is recorded on Sleeping with the Sunworm (check below for the review), the band has reached its glorious moments at the time and delivered the absolute greatness an unit can produce. Moving forward…

Entering into the Space Country

The way the release schedule was working it would have made sense for Sleeping with the Sunworm to come out first, but the band decided to go with Entering into the Space Country in June 2011 instead. This is the session from the September 24th, 2010, as previously stated, and is made of three pieces reaching 43 minutes.

I don’t know if that would be fair to compare this one with Dead Man in Space, as they come from different sessions, but considering music based on improvisation does not actually care so much for comparisons, the conclusion is that Øresund Space Collective is progressing since the self-titled debut release (2006). On the other hand, when comparing line-ups there are few changes. For this jam, the line-up was expanded by bringing up Nick and Johan (no last names given) on guitars, Jiri on bass and Mathias (I bet Danielsson from Makajodama, My Brother the Wind) on Pedal steel / guitar. It has to be mentioned that guitar duties were also given to Claus Bøhling of Hurdy Gurdy and Secret Oyster fame.

Besides space rock as the band’s natural habitat, the field of influences is broader, touching  on  progressive rock and psychedelic ground and delving even further. A much-more-straight-in-the-face vibe is reached via hard drumming and intense guitarwork with loud bass lines in the opener Born Between Stars. This 22 minute piece is a rock jam which fills other rock jammers full of shame. No one would ever be able to achieve what these guys have managed.

Rising Tides and Floating Nebulas opens with sort of a Floydian/Hawkwindian mixture followed by repeating bass patterns. That guitar solo sounds like they gave magic ‘shrooms to Andrew Latimer and let him plays whatever he wants. And that actually builds up a pretty nice soundwall with a kind of laid-back atmosphere which is brought to culmination by dual soloing and intense drumming. The space effects are there for, well, justifying the genre label. A wonderfully emotional segment in the song starts around 11th minute. Slow drumming, an expanding guitar solo and melodiousness which splutters from every tone – simply awesome.

The Construction of Red Earth Calling is sketched on an atmospheric/ambient soundwall, rooted in the darkest constellations of the cosmos. Floating through the same dark space with Eastern flavoured sounds and trippy echoing, Øresund Space Collective crosses the borders of space country and intersects its airspace simultaneously. Welcome to Space Country!

Sleeping with the Sunworm

As already mentioned in the text above, Sleeping with the Sunworm comes from October 2008′s session and is the newest of the three “studio“ works released in 2011. Unlike Entering into the Space Country which was released on vinyl, this record was released as a limited digipak edition of 500 .

The album is one long 56min space rock jam split into three parts for the ease of play. The jam’s flow comes from slow to heavy and spacy to deep in expanding directions. The quiet presence of Hammond organ makes a difference in the album’s rundown and I have to say that employing this instrument gives the whole work a big plus. I hope they will keep using it on upcoming releases as well.

There is no evident break between the tracks, everything flows smoothly threaded through improvisation, going to its final stop at the 56th minute. Now, if the comparative factor is granted, Sleeping with the Sunworm in comparison with Dead Man in Space appears to be far more spacy and psychedelically oriented. That freedom is gained through extensive guitar solos, lighter synth-tones and a more imaginative rhythm section, one would say.

Led by a delirium of experimentation, Sleping with the Sunworm is a stronghold established in the dark depths of space, transmitting signals to the mere mortals hungry for this jeopardized  genre of music.

Outro

There is not much left to be said, except that Øresund Space Collective is a serious player whose final scope extends far beyond any limitations. It’s been rumored that the band will set up a special jam session with Causa Sui, and knowing both bands this could really set new standards in understanding space/psychedelic rock. Besides, a show with the legendary Damo Suzuki was planned for late January or early February and that would be a fun and great experience both for the band and their fans.

Until the next installment, enjoy the Øresund Space Collective back catalogue with the high hopes that the future is bright.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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