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Birth - Born CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.20 | 82 ratings

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5 stars I guess San Diego area psychedelic prog band Astra was the fetal version of what was to come out of pregnancy, as the revamped incarnation has now officially delivered a full-grown healthy baby. The natality needed some time in my prog nursery before even attempting a review, as it was quite obvious to my ears that there was a plethora of feelings and sentiments within the beauty of this rather fertile offspring! I took some tender loving care (no, TLC is not a mind trip drug) and repeated listens, as there were simply way too many thoughts and impressions that seemed to flood my senses. Birth is a prefect name and Born is the outcome, how wonderfully Californian! While keyboardist/ vocalist Conor Riley and guitarist Brian Ellis did bring their Weirdling gear to the clinic, they did add an excellent rhythm section to their musical family, with the arrival of bassist Trevor Mast and drummer Paul Marrone. The 10-year gestation period between Astra the Weirdling album and Born certainly honed their skills as this "debut" just may reach glorious heights as well as fame within the prog community. It did take me repeated auditions to calibrate their sound, as the foundational roots are clearly retro whilst adding a slick modern sheen that should appeal to many, as the playing is off the charts and the compositions are immediately attractive and compelling. The numerous winks and nods to past glories are not always that hidden and only adds to the pleasure. 42 minutes of absolute satisfaction.

From the cleverly labelled instrumental title track, the foursome set the mood right from the get-go, churning keyboard layers muscularly propelled by a roaming bass and some thunderous drumming, then settling down into a bluesy psychedelic groove, led by Ellis' spirited guitar, as he slowly ramps up the tension. His guitar style here and throughout took me some time to pin down, as there are hints at Duane Allman, and after a light lit in my head, Alvin Lee! Then, the flow then veers towards a glorious organ-led piece that offers up some effusive vocals, as Riley switches registers and hits some amazing high notes in the chorus while Ellis gets down and dirty on his sweltering axe, ranging from powerful to serene. Very retro, and very cool.

The third track "For Yesterday" is a 9-minute rambler that has an epic, grandiose and cinematographic sense, laden with whooshing mellotron, dripping guitar leads and the softest vocals one could hope, escorted by a simple organ whisper. Breathtaking in all its historical aspects, the sheer splendour of the melodies, the massive arrangements and the eloquent simplicity is beauty incarnate. The focus on little details is also exemplary, nothing overstaying its welcome, no filler, no wasted notes, just plain unadulterated bliss. As the screeching solo guitar slashes through the mellotron clouds, the paroxysm is just beyond the horizon, as the gentle vocal sets this one nicely into the comfortable crib.

Can this possibly get better? Well of course, just have to ratchet up the intensity with a heavy rhythmic groove, a playful and insistent synth, echoed by the same on the electric guitar and, here we go again on another thrilling "Cosmic Tears" journey, as the extended solo is a pure gem. Constantly shifting rhythms veer this monster into a jazzy foray, with scintillating drum work, rampaging bass and dream-like atmospheres that go from quilted tranquility to savage damage. The Alvin Lee image remains ironed on my mind, as the bluesy and speedy riffs and notes just keep on coming, unrestrained.

Change of pace, the bittersweet and blustery "Another Time" services a marvelous vocal with rapid fire exultations, intricate polyrhythmic explosions, fiery organ/ mellotron runs and then suddenly, reflective pools of bliss to keep the mood electrifying. And back and forth it goes, as the King Crimson influences start creeping in, setting up the climax yet to come. And what a finale "Long Way Down" is, since the theme here is birth, a trip down to the early glory days of King Crimson Mark 1 is called for, as this sounds like a homage to ITCOTCK/ITWOP, or even early ELP, as Riley's vocals are eerily respectful of Greg Lake's masterful voice and delivery, as on "Knife Edge". The guitars has definite Frippian tendencies as it rages uncontrolled, a "2022 Century Schizoid Man" slant, as Marrone does a fair tribute to Giles/Palmer on the drum kit. Shockingly impressive and deliriously attractive.

This album really knocked me for a loop, the sheer pleasure derived from listening to it repeatedly, in various settings, only improved further my attitudes about it. Unique music, not really, but since when is a giving birth an original concept? Yes, the mechanics are the same, but the results are all in the details, the spirit, and the character as the living entity evolves and matures into a hopefully valorous adult. This is a candidate for top album of 2022. To the purists who love all things negative, seek out Birth and get a life, tongue firmly planted in the facial cheek!

5 Renaissances

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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