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Sula Bassana - “Dark Days” (2012) review


Sula Bassana - Dark Days (Sulatron Records, 2012)

Sula Bassana [Dave Schmidt] does a most interesting hypnotic and almost ambient take on the genre of space rock, where here on Dark Days, more than on any other of his adventures, he has developed an ascending trajectory where he’s able to maintain a cohesive stellar direction.

The first thing I noticed, once strapped in and jettisoned into the expansive ride was his inventiveness and far reaching sonic texturing that are in no way grounded on terra firma in the least, and to that end, this jam-minded musical tripper comes across feeling very alone in maintaining his hypnotic looseness, as if he’s turned around in his cockpit, finding himself devoid of company, and must rely on his own intuitions to boundlessly carry him forward.

There are those who love making comparisons, though I’m going to avoid that here, as what Schmidt has done entirely belongs to him, where his fuzz and reverb are not mere accentuations, he actually creates sustained fuzz and reverb riffs that are filled with feedback ambience that don’t so much dance across your fingertips just out of reach, but fluidly engulf the listener with psychedelic solar winds that are built around electronic rhythm lines that require the expertise of hands who’ve considered these shimmering effects for a very long time.

His material can get very long, some albums consist of but two tracks, and others often exceed the ten minute mark, but in space, time is irrelevant, and Schmidt seems bound on proving that point. His compositions can also get very noisy in places where it’s obvious that he’s experimentally improvising, but if you’re willing to take the time, you’ll find that though you’re flying dangerously close to the outer rings of Saturn, your guide knows what he’s doing. On that note, Schmidt shares these lysergic skills with fellow Electric Moon drummer Pablo Carneval, though Dave is set on playing guitars, bass, drums, synth, organ, and the few vocal tracks, where Dave not only sits in the eye of the storm, but seems to be responsible for its creation, using his vintage analogue amplifiers mellotron and synthesizers to evoke a warmness to his sound.

Being from Germany, it would be easy to try and launch Sula Bassana into the realm of krautrock, yet that is quite impossible, because this project, one that’s filled with dynamic layerings and adventurous overtures is simply not subject to anything that’s gone before, though while you may hear hazy images from the past, these are merely stepping stones that are entirely unavoidable and merely help to create a connective coherence.

This is not music for the faint of heart, this is very heavy progressive acid stoner prog music that is nearly hallucinatory without the need for chemicals. Of course, the question remains, “How much of this music does one actually need before it begins to sound redundant, especially with seventeen full albums being released since 2002?” I answered that question by being fortunate enough to have been able to take all of Schmidt’s material, combing through it for the very best of the best, and laced my collection with what essentially moves me with the most skill into a pleasant wayfaring state of consciousness that allows me to return to time and time again for deeper immersion.

*** The Fun Facts: The name Sula Bassana is derived from the Northern Gannet Range, which is synonyms with Sula Bassana. The Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) is a seabird and the largest member of the Gannet family, Sulidae. “Gannet” is derived from Old English ganot “strong or masculine”, ultimately from the same Old Germanic root as “gander”.

- Jenell Kesler
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