Earthless
Rhythms From a Cosmic Sky


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Kugaczewski USER (9 Reviews)
June 28th, 2013 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A sonic kaleidoscope of lava and lightning, doing you in your sound-hole

It’s difficult to suppress the nostalgia for classic cars, beaded curtains, and smoke-filled rooms conjured by the album art for Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky: wavy, fluid type is set against a galactic backdrop of burning stars scattered throughout the vibrant pinks and muted browns of a limitless deep-space sky. As cliché as the phrase is, it’s true; a picture is a worth a thousand words, and the word is “psychedelic.” Since their founding in 2001, the Californian trio has dedicated itself to mastery of the mind-bending jam session, evoking the spirits of Jimi Hendrix and Sabbath in equal measure. These two influences, among numerous others from the seventies rock/metal canon, formed the foundation for 2005’s Sonic Prayer. From the reckless abandon of the first track’s wild guitar solos to the spiraling, dirge-like riff of the second, Sonic Prayer established itself as an under-the-radar success, priming expectations for the group’s sophomore effort. For those who worship the “almighty riff” and “knob-to-eleven” guitar heroics, look no further – your savior has arrived on a flaming comet.
One of Rhythm’s most impressive accomplishments is how perfectly it walks the razor’s edge between pure improvisation and careful construction, convincing the listener that it is both simultaneously. Track one, Godspeed, begins much the same as the other-worldly sky depicted on the album’s cover with a chaotic swirl of synthesizer, guitar feedback, and rolling cymbals, rising and rising until a dramatic crash into classic riffs and pounding drums. At a purely aural level, it sounds spur-of-the-moment, as if the band “just went with it,” but at a cognitive level there’s a logic to the music that’s so sound it’s difficult to believe its extemporary nature. Sure, this is a jam band, and they are jamming, but Earthless are able to trick you into believing otherwise, and it’s a fascinating trick. By perpetuating the logical freedom established in the opener’s first minutes, both Godspeed and Sonic Prayer remain purposeful throughout their twenty minute running times, shooting into unexpected twists and turns, never failing to find an engaging way out and into the next moment of “*** yeah.” It’s easy to lose yourself in the storm, and nigh impossible to prevent yourself from moving along with it, bobbing your head and tapping your feet throughout the ride. Fascinating songwriting, or “songprovising,” however, isn't Rhythm’s only draw.
Draw number two is guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, a true force of nature. Hurricane, tornado, monsoon, take your pick. His guitar playing throughout Rhythms is, for lack of a better expression, damn impressive; it isn’t just his ability to lay down licks so tasty they belong in a five-star restaurant, and it’s not just his talent for scorching hot pyrotechnics: it’s his ability to effortlessly weave between the two that elevate Mitchell beyond the ordinary. This is heard most obviously from 16:30 onwards in the opening track, Godspeed, in which Mitchell hurtles like a rocket through an asteroid field, barrel-rolling and u-turning amidst the cosmic rubble, forcing you to wonder just how the hell he’s piloting the thing. This isn’t to imply he’s an entirely technical player, because he isn’t. Sometimes, such as at the 4:24 mark on Sonic Prayer, Mitchell opts to lay down a riff that’s just so irresistibly cool you’ll wish you were wearing sunglasses. Even though the axeman is the star of the show here, it would be entirely unfair not to mention drummer Mario Rubalcaba and bassist Mike Eginton, whose powerful performances propel each moment of the record to the next; whether it’s the high energy fills and complex patterns or the snake-like, pulsing bass lines, you’ll often catch yourself thinking some combination of expletive and compliment. Truly, each member of the trio carries his own weight here, and the results are intensely gratifying.
The only weak link here, if there even is one, is the inclusion of Cherry Red on the album’s CD version, a rock tune originally penned by the Groundhogs. While the song itself and the cover are both fun, the track is so immensely outclassed and overshadowed by the two behemoths preceding it that its inclusion almost feels extraneous. Even so, with Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky, Earthless effortlessly conjure a sonic kaleidoscope of lava and lighting, doing you in your sound-hole and establishing themselves as the contemporary masters of the riff-tastic psychedelic jam. That said, please excuse me while I don my space suit; another round of star-surfing awaits.




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Comments:Add a Comment 
Hoppoman
June 28th 2013


634 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album is Psychedelicious.

Underflow
June 28th 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It is indeed. Here's the track Sonic Prayer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykZcKFjx_OQ

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
June 28th 2013


16056 Comments


think i heard something by them before somewhere, going to check this out, nice review pos

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Underflow
June 28th 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the pos! You really can't go wrong with this or Live at Roadburn, which is a great testament to their jamming ability. The first track was full-on improvisation for fifty minutes.

Ire
June 28th 2013


41795 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

wag album

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2013


20989 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Major props for reviewing this. Awesome album.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2013


20989 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review btw, pos'd. I don't really see the Groundhogs cover as a weak link though, rather an added bonus. It's a great cover of a classic heavy psych track.

Underflow
June 29th 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, as a bonus track it's hard to fault the album for it, hence the 4.5 (even if the track wasn't
here, this review would still be a 4.5 and a not 5). It is a good track, and I definitely enjoy it.
From my understanding, Earthless had some shorter, original tracks stashed away at the time, such as
Demon Lady, which is only a bit over five minutes. If the intent was to provide a bonus, that would
have been better to me, but, again, it's not something that gets in the way of my enjoyment of the
album.

Perhaps I sounded too negative about it?

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2013


20989 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Perhaps I sounded too negative about it?


No, not really, I get what you're saying. I'm just saying that I personally see it as a bonus rather than a negative.

Underflow
June 29th 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Alright, cool. The band recently confirmed via Facebook that a new studio album is in the works. Definitely hope that comes out asap.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2013


20989 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh really? Awesome.

Underflow
June 29th 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Here's a live performance if anyone is interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y1bcc1Q7R0

alachlahol
June 30th 2013


7501 Comments


good album to listen to if youre in the mood for straight up masturbation. band is super noodle, liked this better than sonic prayer but cant remember the last time i listened to it

good review

DrGunther
July 1st 2013


184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, great album. Pos.

"...such as at the 4:24 mark on Sonic Prayer.."

-Haha, this is always the bit that sticks in my head as well. Should bump this to a 4 really.

Digging: The Machine - Calmer Than You Are

DrGunther
July 1st 2013


184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I loved Cherry Red but then I'd never heard the original at the time, I think that sometimes helps. Can ruin a cover when it's not the same as the version you're used to.

Both versions in this case are good though!

Nice list of recommended albums as well, that Assemble Head one sounds interesting.

Underflow
July 1st 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Assemble Head is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, modern psych rock band. Definitely give them a listen! And yeah, all of those albums should appeal to you if you enjoyed this, especially those Summer Sessions by Causa Sui.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 1st 2013


20989 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Only just noticed that rec list. All of those rule, except I haven't heard Golden Void.

Underflow
July 1st 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You definitely should. Isaiah Mitchell handles guitar duties, and it's good besides.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 1st 2013


20989 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cool, I'll check it.

Underflow
July 9th 2013


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Gonna jam this so hard right before From the Ages drops.



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