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A review of...
Magnetic Seasons by Mugstar
A fine new album from Liverpool's instrumental experimentalists Mugstar
Mugstar have been around since 2003 and they've released numerous albums and singles via various indie outlets. They're something of a cult band (the fact that they recorded the last ever Peel session doesn't do them harm in this respect), and a band that has eluded me until now. Rock Action records are releasing this latest double LP (a seal of approval that will surely perk many a casual listener's ears), and what a fitting label they are for a band like this. Dark and intricate, but ultimately rewarding, Mugstar are a real pleasure for anyone who's into sprawling instrumental, trance inducing musical odysseys.
Magnetic Seasons does a lot of genre hopping over it 4 sides of vinyl and the band have deliberately allowed themselves time to experiment and improvise during its recording. The resulting sessions are a real encyclopaedia of sonic ideas. In fact, the album opens with "Unearth", an overture of sorts which takes in the band's myriad of influences (Psychadelic segments, Doom/Dessert rock and even a fast poppy bit in the middle) and "Flemish Weave" continues this eclectic method of structuring songs, which works in spectacular fashion. In its lighter tones it resembles fellow North West dwellers Doves, but it goes a little ape-shit from there and includes an improvised melodica solo that's never quite in tune with the rest of the instruments. Eventually though, the band settle down into some more single minded, less erratic compositions. The swirling one note psychadelica of "Remember The Breathing" is a particular highlight, taking what bands like Spiritualized and Primal Scream did brilliantly before they imploded into pub rock pastiche - using a single, simple idea and running with it until the song has reached its natural conclusion (15 minutes down the line). A fine album. Now it's time to dig a little deeper into their back catalogue and see what other nuggets I can find.
"Flemish Weave" and "Regency Blues" - these two tracks kind of sum up the two faces of Mugstar. The first finds them at peak crazy mode, and the second sees them focusing on a single idea and seeing where it takes them. Both techniques come off very well indeed.
"Ascension Island" - a 17 minute monster which goes from spoken word to quiet reflection to full on impending doom. It seems that Mugstar are the David Lynch of the rock music biz, they just keep ramping up the tension without having to rely of noise or shock tactics, just an incredible lurking menace and a whole load of restraint.