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Music Review: Aspen Woods – New World Disorder

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Psychedelic shoegazers channeling mid-period Jesus & Mary Chain.  Which, surprisingly, is a whole lot better than it sounds.  I will confess, I wasn't particularly motivated into playing this CD.  It looked like someone had regurgitated a Gnarls Barkley video onto the cover, which was enough to put me off for a couple of days.  But I'm glad I went back and tried again.

The Bristol based psychedelic wig-out merchants have been building a name for themselves with a series of live performances and support slots with the likes of Italian space rockers UFO Mammut and Japan's instru-mentalists Mono.  Now, in the company of the fabulously named producer / engineer Latchman Manghat, they've put together an excellent debut album that shimmys all over the place from the 13th Floor Elevators to the Blues Magoos to Levitation and to the aforementioned Jesus & Mary Chain.

They're not particularly interested in the lyrical worlds of moon and June, unless it comes with a healthy portion of shroom, and their can't be many albums that include a song about the ritual sacrifice of Diana, Princess of Wales amongst a multiverse of ruminations.  In case you want to start there, that particular song is "Passing of a Moon Goddess."

They've adopted the whole back to the roots approach of live recording, in an effort to make it seem like an actual band, rather than the disassociated, computer created sounds that passes for so much of modern music nowadays. This gives a life and vigour to the album that lifts even the lesser tracks. 

They're also not afraid to let a song slowly come to life, allowing the music and melodies to unfold in your ears, rather than trying to condense everything into a musical soundbite.  A trait they use right from the off, with opener "All Roads Lead Here" easing you into things with its fragile meanderings.

They also take one of the greatest songs of all time and do the unthinkable. Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler wrote "Get Happy" back in 1929 for a Ruth Etting movie, although it's the Judy Garland version that most people will remember.  Well, here. Aspen Woods turn it into a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club epic that is just pure genius.

Messrs Spinelli, Lee, Wes and O'Connor, along with Miss Thompson, have done an exemplary job of twisting and subverting a clutch of past their sell by date genres into something vital and interesting.  Songs like "Outside In," "All Roads Lead Here," and "The Witch's Son" are songs that will live with you for a long time, settling in as only the best of friends can do.

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About Stuart A Hamilton