The last time we heard from Harmony Rockets, the Mercury Rev offshoot project from Jonathan Donahue and Sean "Grasshopper" Mackowiak, was more than two decades ago with 1995's single track, album-length ambient noise blowout Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void. Harmony Rockets subsequently played in the studio a lot but never released anything other than a pair of limited issue live dates in 1998.
Lachesis/Clotho/ Atropos is their second proper studio installment and features a host of guest participation. While fellow Woodstock resident and legendary American acoustic guitarist Peter Walker is credited on the sleeve, there are a slew of others on these three glorious, labyrinthine jams in guitarist Nels Cline (right side) drummer Steve Shelley, luthier/guitarist/bassist Martin Keith, and Midlake keyboardist Jesse Chandler, with Donahue on an Ondes Martenot and synthesized string ensemble, and Grasshopper on guitar (left side), mandolin and clarinet. The name of the game here is modalpsychedelic sprawl. Walker's trademark experimental raga and flamenco styles-popularized on his two brilliant Vanguard albums from the 1960s and his 2008 Tompkins Square date Echo Of My Soul, influenced another generation of players from Jack Rose to James Blackshaw are the hub on which this wheel turns. And while this album is loose--it is not a self indulgent exercise. "Lachesis" unfolds very gradually over 17-plus minutes, with the sound of a drone that resembles an Indian sarod, Walker's amplified acoustic and Chandler's electric piano flitting around a breathing drone. With Cline and Grasshopper slipping through the edgeds of the mix and Shelley beating a skeletal pulse, the drift becomes a waft and wane of pillowy bliss. "Clotho" begins the same way, but when Walker's single string puncutations on that synthesized drone are haunting, bluesy and spiritual. When the band enters a minute and a half in, it becomes a motorik ride to the other side of space with inserted electronic sounds, strummed and picked electric guitars entwining, Keith's bassline acting as an engine and Shelley's kit delivering the rockist glory. Nine minute slong, it introduces another episodic twist at every turn but never abandons its axis. Cline's squalling clangs, noise and feedback add drama and intensity before Chandler's Farfisa organ grabs the spotlight, only to give it away to all three guitar players who goad one another into finding the exit sign for heaven. Closer "Atropos" uses an imporessionistic, blissed-out piano and Walker's tender melodic harmonica playing to introduce his acoustic guitar flanked by Cline and a warm, Daniel Lanois-esque slide guitar. This jam reflects not the outer reaches of the universe, but the fertile landscapes of the earth. It's purposefuly beautful; the interplay of guitars swooning and slipping in an out of one another amid Shelley's muted dancing drumkit and Chandler's piano, all provide depth, dimension and the ghost traces of recognizable melody. This three track set is a casebook on the nature of true collaboration; everyone here places himself at the service of music made in the moment from mutally assured trust and goodwill; it sparks creation at every turn. God knows we need more albums like this. what an unexpected pleasure.