23 years in and Italian experimentalists Julie's Haircut show no signs of latter-career complacency. Invocation and Ritual Dance of My Demon Twin is the seventh album in their substantial history, which has seen them progress from the well-regarded garage rock of their debut Fever in the Funk House and the psychedelic rock of After Dark My Sweet to the experimental instrumental music of Ashram Equinox. Each of their progressions have been preceded by, or involved, collaborations with such luminaries as Spacemen 3's Sonic Boom (aka Peter Kember), former Can frontman Damo Suzuki, and Fluxus composer Philip Corner. Clearly, they are a band that thrive on their influences and collaborations, and their latest effort is a complete amalgamation of the music that has influenced them.
"Salting Traces" exemplifies the confluence of musical touchstones and genres that the band is so deft at merging. The relayed bleeps and tumbling percussion forge a solid groove that marries the laid-back rhythms of psychedelia with the repetition of Krautrock, and then adds jazz-shaped melodic experimentalism. There's no doubt that you can hear the impact of Sonic Boom and Suzuki, but it is always filtered through their own musical lens. Similarly, "The Fire Sermon" and "Gathering Light" are Doors-esque jaunts, producing psych-noodling pieces that are a soporific hit. This languid pace is first set out in the 11-plus-minute, meandering opener "Zukunft." Its rhythms plow a deep furrow that is elevated by the exploratory nature of the guitars, sax, and keys that make its repetitions far more engrossing than they have any right to be. That's not to say they pick a tempo or style and just run with it. "Orpheus Rising" delves into sax-led post-rock jazz to great effect, and "Deluge" is a harsh contrast to much of the album's relaxed pace and smooth sonic character. The angular guitar shredding is a shot in the arm, but is also in keeping with their jazz-infused experiments, just as "Cycles" -- awash with soothing harmonies -- takes yet another satisfying turn. These shifts are more than welcome, as an exclusively languorous pace could have become tiresome. In an era of bite-sized information and 140-character summations, it's both brave and satisfyingly stimulating to hear music that has the courage to stick with and pursue extended compositions. And it's great to hear a band that, over 20 years into their career, still push themselves and experiment when it would be so easy for them to rest on their familiar post-rock tropes. Equally, these songs aren't merely obsequious odes to their forbears; this is undeniably a Julie's Haircut record, which is as surprising and genre-defying as you'd expect.