Psychedelia? While the last hippie was killed off in a hail of Altamont-Manson Corp. cue sticks over thirty years ago, lingering visual images of flower-powerish garb and dippy little twirly dances continue to dog the genre. But don’t expect incense ’n’ peppermints pop at a SubArachnoid Space gig. As evidenced on its eighth platter, this San Francisco instrumental combo’s genius resides in being able to channel several decades’ worth of psych without ever coming off tried, fried or tie-dyed. Ten-minute opening track "The Harsh Facts Of Life" alone is sufficiently cortex-shearing to resurrect images of Hawkwind in maximum Space Ritual
overdrive, Pink Floyd frammin’ on the jim-jam at Pompeii, Guru Guru at its most kolorful krautrockin’ and — just to cite a contemporary example — Bevis Frond excavating the rotten corpse of Hendrix and making the old sonofabitch do his Merman dance. Elsewhere on this album are finely sculpted slabs of tuneage that are alternately meditational ("Deep End," with luscious peals of organ and e-bow guitar and featuring a jaw-dropping orchestral climax) and tender (the delicately plucked, Ash Ra Tempel-like "Angel Food"). For some fans, though, the main draw may be no-nonsense space-truckin’, of which there’s ample
choogle here, notably the straight-up biker punk of "Tucson."
SubArachnoid Space operates within a growing international community that includes Japanese loonies Acid Mothers Temple, Philly hempheads Bardo Pond, Seattle drone kings Kinski and Detroit’s own resident space cowboys, Paik (who, along with ambient-rock avatars Windy & Carl, appear on the bill this week with SubSpace). So don’t dismiss the "psych" tag as something quaintly retro; the movement continues to mutate and expand. On a purely aesthetic level, you might want to leave your moth-eaten elephant bells and Nehru jackets at home when you head out to the gig, but hey, if the sounds inspire you to do a dippy little twirly dance, nobody’s gonna stop you. The play’s the thing, after all … —Fred Mills