Harmony Rockets is kind of a sideline project for Mercury Rev’s Grasshopper and Jonathan Donahue, allowing them to go off-piste as it were and indulge themselves. Here they team up with the little known but well respected sixties raga guitarist Peter Walker, an associate of Timothy Leary, for an album composed of three instrumental pieces which hark back to the times when Jerry Garcia was known as Captain Trips and flute players could record albums within the Taj Mahal.
Along with some cool chums in the shape of Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and Wilco’s Nels Cline, the ensemble recorded the pieces live in a spirit of improvisation, the names accorded to the three movements those of the Greek Fates of mythology who spun, drew and cut the thread of life for mortals determining their fate. The connection here is unclear but anyone wishing to investigate is surely welcome. For us mere mortals it’s sufficient to wallow in the sounds contained here, to turn on and tune in as it were.
‘Lachesis’ opens the album and it’s a 17 minute glide of cosmic sounds, glissando guitars, interweaving keyboards and sonic nooks and crannies. For the first six minutes or so it’s more reminiscent of Pink Floyd circa ‘Saucerful Of Secrets’ or Gong but then the rhythm slows and a sense of the good ole’ Grateful Dead creeps in slightly before the tune gradually resumes its patchouli scented Floydian meanderings with the guitars becoming noisier a la ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’. ‘Clotho’ next kicks in and again it’s less California dreaming which comes to mind as the opening sitar drone and glistening guitar is quickly replaced by a rapid driving beat reminiscent of what Julian Cope called Krautrock which only relents for a reprise of the opening moments in the dying embers of the tune. It does shimmer with a late night highway relentlessness and one of the guitarists cuts loose with some razor sharp notes midway through but overall it’s quite anonymous, the type of tune one might find on a library album. ‘Atropos’ is more interesting having a pastoral feel to it for much of its time and allowing Walker’s guitar some room to breathe. Here he sounds not dissimilar to Garcia’s contributions to the ‘Zabriskie Point’ soundtrack.
So, well recommended if you are into instrumental cosmic rock but not one for someone who wants a quick fix. The publicity blurb mentions the acoustic qualities of the album noting its recording, mastering and cutting (although we have no opinion here as we have a download copy) but it may well be that audiophiles will be the ones who most savour this.