Review Summary: Trippy band name. Trippy album artwork. Psychedelic songs exceeding the ten minute mark. What's not to love?
The current music industry is based upon quickly releasing singles (no longer than four minutes in length of course) that follow whatever topic is trendy at the time. Often times very little thought is put into this music and its purpose is to instantly satisfy the needs of the masses with catchy beats and sing-along choruses. While this is not entirely bad, it provides very little room for experimentation and progress in the music scene. Also, with songs rarely lasting for the aforementioned four minutes, it is difficult for songs to develop and really capture the listener’s attention. Berlin-based band Samsara Blues Experiment aim to change things up a bit by providing a massive album with plenty of room to lose yourself in. With only six songs lasting for over an hour and one song surpassing the twenty minute mark, Long Distance Trip is far from accessible. The title of the album even warns that this will not be a quick experience. However, this album was not recorded for the purpose of being accessible. It was crafted for those who want to make listening to music an experience. So the question is did they accomplish this?
The album begins with Singata (Mystic Queen). Instantly, a variety of instruments are heard, intermingling nicely to create a pleasant soundscape. The instrumental section continues to build for over six minutes until we finally hear the first vocals on the album. Any band that waits for six minutes into a song to introduce the vocals clearly wants the listener to focus on the instrumental aspect of their sound. By the time the vocals come in the listener is already in a relaxed state and the soothing voice almost becomes another instrument to add to the mix. A majority of the songs throughout Long Distance Trip follow the pattern of creating a tranquil atmosphere before introducing the vocals. Despite acting somewhat as another instrument, the vocals do not become monotonous. Vocalist Christian Peters, varies the pitch and delivery enough to keep them interesting. But, as I mentioned earlier this album was clearly meant to be listened to for the instrumental aspect.
Long Distance Trip relies heavily on groovy bass lines and meandering guitar leads to get listeners through the album. More often than not, the guitars have a heavy dose of distortion or wah-wah effects that creates a haze of sound. The guitars also like to freely flow in and out of solos and guitar passages as the songs progress, rarely following any song structure. This makes the songs difficult to predict and adds variety to the album. Meanwhile, crisp bass notes can be heard through the mix easily. Smartly, the bass was not hid in the background as so many bands do nowadays. Not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere, thankfully the drums are kept as a timekeeper and rarely try to take center stage. They simply act as another source of sounds to enhance the listening experience instead of muddling it. In all, each instrument does its job well, and while the music within Long Distance Trip is rather freeform, the band stays tight and rarely gets sloppy.
As mentioned earlier the average song length is rather long and each track flows through multiple styles. A decent comparison would be Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd, as both it and the songs on Long Distance Trip are lengthy and feature various instruments and rarely repeat themselves. The bloated track lengths help develop a surrounding atmosphere, however it is not a suffocating atmosphere as, say, funeral doom would be. Instead it draws you in and keeps you comfortable as you listen. Also, interspersed throughout the longer song are two shorted, more focused songs. They act as breaks between the longer songs and help the album as a whole. Wheel of Life is a particularly enjoyable break, featuring clean guitar picking for its majority.
With such lengthy tracks, Long Distance Trip was always at risk of becoming boring, however as I listened to the album I rarely found myself waiting for a song to end. Double Freedom, taking up a third of the album, was the only track that I felt was too long. But don’t get me wrong, it is still a great song that is worth your time. While never really creating anything truly amazing (thus only a 4 star rating), Samsara Blues Experiment has crafted a very solid album that can truly take you on a musical trip. Overall, Long Distance Trip proves to be a very worthwhile journey and any fan of progressive or psychedelic rock music should check it out.