This is psychoactive music for psychoactive times, and neither Earthless nor Harsh Toke falter in their mission to sing the words of the muse.
Earthless has a way of making brilliant artistry seem effortless. The San Diego trio has issued a positively awe-inspiring series of recordings that trace back to 2005’s Sonic Prayer. There’s a spontaneity in the juju, a sense of surprise that crawled from the deep lake of jazz, came ashore, and mated in a deeply spiritual ritual under the psychedelic moonlight. In the distance a fragrant blend of something grown in the fertile soil rose into the air and asked us to consider an intersection of soul and fusion and doom. It all creeps in and out of the spaces between the notes like breathing. You could be forgiven, listening to the all-time greatest live recording ever made in this style, 2008’s Live at Roadburn, if you thought maybe this stuff just tripped into the air itself, delivered by some kind of sky prophet.
We’ll never know if that’s the case, but we do know that the men of Earthless work hard to be ready when the muse comes calling. She visited the trio and gifted it with an easygoing 15-minute foray into the psyche called “Acid Crusher”. It occupies the first half of this split release with Harsh Toke and sounds as brilliant as anything these tres hombres have summoned in the past. There are dashes of jazz/soul organ floating in the air like perfume from a bygone era, something a little extra witchy atop the bass-heavy grooves that unfold like a dark desert highway when the peyote kicks in. The soul-searing guitar figures and Latin-inflected rhythms prove hypnotic, positively trance-inducing as they rush by at the speed of a spiritual epiphany.
Forget traditional structure, the verse-chorus-riff stuff that your parents instilled in you. Forget the jams the Grateful Dead laid out or the way the Allmans did witchy stuff over at the Fillmore. Forget the way that Can could take you deep inside the music. Forget all that and then brace yourself when it kicks in overtime via your genetic memory. It’s like déjà vu all over again. Earthless is stoned. Immaculate.
If a perfect sense of calm overtakes you at the end of this first side, then be prepared to have your illusions of tranquility shattered by the louder, brasher Harsh Toke. After opening with a groove that could be culled from Robin Trower’s classic Bridge of Sighs LP, the San Diegans lay into something more aggressive, more mathematically minded, something that only kids who grew up knowing the harsh realities of a circle pit would understand.
And yet the 20-minute monster that resides under the name “Mount Swan” is never as straightforward as anything you’ve heard before. There are twists and turns galore, passages that sound exactly like the mushrooms you scraped off your best friend’s kitchen floor and ingested with some Hawaiian Punch before you took off for waterskiing lessons. Others are mellower, more reasonable, cut from a cloth that feels as comforting as mom’s Psilocybin Stew and a warm glass of milk Grandma laced with some kind of hypnotizing powder Uncle Paul brought back from Haiti.
It’s no less cohesive than what Earthless gets up to, just a little more diverse. Together, these bands bring a perfect tide of psych-inspired rock that’ll leave you breathless and, yeah, floating about 75 feet above the ground.