, November 28th, 2012 08:25
Among the many highlights of this year's inaugural Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia – itself one of the festival high watermarks of 2012 – was the explosively magnificent half hour set courtesy of local heroes Mugstar. Drawing on influences far and away from the usual template of wah-wah pedals and ramped-up fuzzboxes, Mugstar are a band that dares to challenge standard orthodoxies as to what psychedelia actually is. This is a band less in thrall to the legacy of the West Coast cosmic explorers of the 1960s and more in keeping with the European standard bearers that appeared in the next decade.
As evidenced by Axis – the band's fifth album – Mugstar are less inclined to stretch out their grooves over extended periods of time and space as they are to offer more compact bursts of kaleidoscopic noise without sacrificing any notions of melody. Crucially, for an instrumental band, Mugstar retain the ability to maintain interest throughout thanks to a succession of hard-hitting riffs, insistent beats and a constant sense of drama that allows the listener to form a series of personalised images as viewed through the mind's eye.
Both 'Tangerina' and 'Hollow Ox' tether themselves to mighty slabs of organ that at once creates a mood of foreboding whilst marking them down as explorers of avenues not normally taken. The former allows the guitars to float in and out of the track as they punctuate with a series of distorted chords and snaking and meandering licks while the latter is characterised by a more portentous dramatic flourish that rises and dominates like a colossal monolith.
Elsewhere, the rollicking 'Axis Modulator' builds on the foundations of those tracks by some truly propulsive drumming that sees the band eventually coalesce into an almighty rhythmic pounding. It's guaranteed to shake even the most lethargic of space cadets out of their torpor and into new realms of travelling around the inner space of the mind.
Axis is an album that demands to be heard by anyone dedicated to altered states of consciousness or by those who refuse to believe that the psychedelia tag has but one simple approach. This is music that rises and falls, plots a chart yet isn't scared to take a detour when necessary. It's wonderfully economic too, and this leanness ensures that boredom isn't in option throughout while making this is an axis worth spinning on.