Over the course of nearly 20 years of playing together, Norway's Motorpsycho have become one of the most complex, erudite rock bands in the history of the music. With new (permanent) drummer Kenneth Kapstad, multi instrumentalists Hans Magnus "Snah" Ryan and Bent Saether have found yet another platform from which to launch their sprawling rock investigations. The group began as a heavy metal/acid rock monolith and evolved toward grunge, then stoner hard rock, post-rock and jazz, prog, and finally into Little Lucid Moments, the sonic terrain where all the music they've ever played or seemingly been touched by comes into play in one way or another. What's really incredible about Motorpsycho is that the band's sound, no matter how indulgent, has never been derivative of Yankee or Brit bands that were playing in any of the above rock subgenres. In fact, they have never sounded like anyone but themselves -- even if influences are readily apparent. Little Lucid Moments is Motorpsycho's self-produced debut for their homeland's Rune Grammophon imprint. It will welcome back fans who were put off by the trio's more experimental and electronic forays into reserved psychedelic ambience. This is a rocker, though no less experimental and far-reaching; it's a messed-up ride into Motorpsycho Land, without a net or gas for the ride home.
For starters, these tracks, which range anywhere from 11 and a half to over 21 minutes, move seamlessly between darkly psychedelic pop, the prog rock excess of Yes, the floating sprawl of Pink Floyd's Meddle and Atom Heart Mother periods, hypnotically rhythmic Krautrock, and the soulful heaviness of Deep Purple's Burn. But that isn't all they do; there are subtle electronic treatments and textures by unofficial member Jørgenen that meld one segment into another -- all of these pieces are like suites. To balance all the heaviness, there are such languid moments of quiet, blessed-out melodic reverie that it's hard to imagine there is only one band playing on this record. The title track opens the set; it's a four-part suite that begins as spacy psych-pop worthy of an Elephant 6 record, but is darker and a bit more sinister in sound. The vocals are in perfect harmony as the guitars distort and drums pop over and through the cut-time signature in a hooky spastic wash of sonic bliss. It gets countered by frenzied power chords, insanely tight drum fills, and a bassline that propels both ends. This should be a four-minute tune; instead, it begins to shift its shape within that time to become something wholly other; there are other vocal parts, and overdriven chords and twin leads give way to fingerpicked slide guitars on stun. The drift begins and continues into other regions too numerous too mention here -- except that near the end there is great use of the bassline in Pink Floyd's "One of These Days." Whispering quiet ushers in an almost dancing drum line mixed way back before it all explodes into something else again -- both heavy and majestic -- while maintaining a sense of stretched space and time before generating a punishing rockist vamp that walks the line between Motörhead and Radio Birdman.
Other cuts here, such as "Year Zero (A Damage Report)," are a tad more conventionally structured with even more dynamic range from shimmering melodies to bass and guitar throb in excess. "She Left on the Sun Ship" carries within it a hooky pop guitar line (that sounds like it was played and recorded on a Rickenbacker) and a rhythm part that is pure '70s hard rock. The striated, bent melody that emerges can't make up its mind whether it wants to just disintegrate or morph into a very heavy pop song. It manages both. The album's final cut, "The Alchemyst," beings on a note that is reminiscent of their more spacy albums from earlier in the decade, when ambience and gently insistent electronic textures provided by then-producer Deathprod moved the band toward something near electric nu-jazz. This is simply a teaser, though, because what emerges is something so freaky, tripped-out, nasty, and sprawling that it obliterates that earlier impression -- even as the whispered vamp remains a part of the tune for a few minutes longer. The pop angle is here; in fact, it's evident not just in the vocals but in the way the punk-pop hook generates a razor wire of pure rock attack. After an hour -- but probably long before -- the stunned listener has no choice but to conclude what many other fans have known all along: that Motorpsycho are in a league of their own, and have, despite the many types of music that have influenced them, come up with something so unique and genre-defying that they deserve their own category. If you've never heard Motorpsycho, start here and work your way backwards, or start at the beginning, but no matter what you do this year, make sure you find the time and space to give this a listen. It will literally blow your mind.