MUGSTAR: Magnetic Seasons – album review –
(ROCK ACTION RECORDS)
It’s odd that while Mugstar continue to be defined in terms of krautrock’s mechanistic rigidity, in practice they are expansively serpentine, their stained-glass melodies and amorphous bubbles of synth rejecting time and space to gradually fill the subconscious. Magnetic Seasons may dip into the motorik spirit, Time Machine accelerating through frantic guitar loops and cymbal tsunamis and Unearth’s tribal uproar plunging rather than coaxing the listener into it’s depths, but from La Vallee onwards, it’s an undulating slow burn that is more content to meditate than steamroll ahead, with Ascension Island not so much as lurching to a halt as settling into a natural state of rest. A shapeless collusion of windswept nature and kosmische sound, it’s a heady finale to a thoroughly magical trip.
Rock a Rolla magazine 2016
MUGSTAR: Magnetic Seasons – album review –
Label: Rock Action
Release Date: 4 Mar 2016
Writer: Adam Millard
A fine new album from Liverpool’s instrumental experimentalists Mugstar
Mugstar have been around since 2003 and they’ve released numerous albums and singles via various indie outlets. They’re something of a cult band (the fact that they recorded the last ever Peel session doesn’t do them harm in this respect), and a band that has eluded me until now. Rock Action records are releasing this latest double LP (a seal of approval that will surely perk many a casual listener’s ears), and what a fitting label they are for a band like this. Dark and intricate, but ultimately rewarding, Mugstar are a real pleasure for anyone who’s into sprawling instrumental, trance inducing musical odysseys.
Magnetic Seasons does a lot of genre hopping over it 4 sides of vinyl and the band have deliberately allowed themselves time to experiment and improvise during its recording. The resulting sessions are a real encyclopaedia of sonic ideas. In fact, the album opens with “Unearth”, an overture of sorts which takes in the band’s myriad of influences (Psychadelic segments, Doom/Dessert rock and even a fast poppy bit in the middle) and “Flemish Weave” continues this eclectic method of structuring songs, which works in spectacular fashion. In its lighter tones it resembles fellow North West dwellers Doves, but it goes a little ape-shit from there and includes an improvised melodica solo that’s never quite in tune with the rest of the instruments. Eventually though, the band settle down into some more single minded, less erratic compositions. The swirling one note psychadelica of “Remember The Breathing” is a particular highlight, taking what bands like Spiritualized and Primal Scream did brilliantly before they imploded into pub rock pastiche – using a single, simple idea and running with it until the song has reached its natural conclusion (15 minutes down the line). A fine album. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into their back catalogue and see what other nuggets I can find.
“Flemish Weave” and “Regency Blues” – these two tracks kind of sum up the two faces of Mugstar. The first finds them at peak crazy mode, and the second sees them focusing on a single idea and seeing where it takes them. Both techniques come off very well indeed. “Ascension Island” – a 17 minute monster which goes from spoken word to quiet reflection to full on impending doom. It seems that Mugstar are the David Lynch of the rock music biz, they just keep ramping up the tension without having to rely of noise or shock tactics, just an incredible lurking menace and a whole load of restraint.
MUGSTAR: Magnetic Seasons – album review – From The Quietus
Written by JR Moores March, 2016
MUGSTAR – Magnetic Seasons (Rock Action Records)
CD/2xLP/DL – Available from 4 March 2016.
“English post-rock acts never really mastered the enigmatic sense of mystery that kept international audiences rapt for the next Godspeed You! Black Emperor release, Slint reunion tour or countless Explosions In The Sky tracks that all sounded the same. Like 65DaysOfStatic, Mugstar have been taken for granted, perhaps because their lack of pompous earnestness meant that certain beard-stroking listeners lost interest. Unlike Canterbury’s precious Yndi Halda who return this year after a decade’s absence (and we’ll see whether that enigmatic sabbatical pays off), Mugstar are a prolific and unpretentious quartet from the North of England who may not play pseudo-classical suites that urge you contemplate the transitory beauty of each passing sunset, but boy are they fun. They’re having fun too, as signified by the not-entirely-necessary chanting and whooping in the background of Magnetic Seasons’ spacey opener. Elsewhere, ‘Time Machine’ initially recalls the exuberant space-rock jamming of Denmark’s Causa Sui, although as it gets heavier and heavier the stoned riffs of West Virginia’s Karma To Burn come to mind. ‘Flemish Weave’ is all mellow and floaty with rustic finger-picking until it transforms into a more intense kosmische throb. The simple, repetitive bass line on ‘Remember The Breathing’ is augmented by a lovely Hawkwind-style sonic whirlpool for fifteen hypnotic minutes. They showcase their more melancholic side on ‘Sky West & Crooked’, which is the closest Mugstar get to channelling the gloomier moods of their label bosses Mogwai. Taken as a whole, this long and loose record is an object lesson in how to be indulgent without resorting to tiresome po-facedness.”
MUGSTAR: Magnetic Seasons – album review – From louderthanwar.com
Written by Glenn Airey February, 2016
MUGSTAR – Magnetic Seasons (Rock Action Records)
CD/2xLP/DL – Available from 4 March 2016.
Psych-rock explorers Mugstar unveil an epic new double album on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records. Louder Than War’s Glenn Airey hears them take it to another level.
The latest addition to Mugstar’s prodigious if somewhat tangled discography is all about scale and ambition. It’s also an effective statement of their comparative seniority in a field that’s grown rather crowded around them: when they started out in Liverpool, early in the new century, there was little to compare with today’s self-sustaining national scene of psych-rock labels and festivals. Practically a whole musical generation has grown up since, on a diet of the staples like Sabbath, Hawkwind and Neu!, to the point where even a painfully PC wonk like me can assume it’s probably alright to use the expression ‘krautrock’. I still think it’s a pretty puerile way to describe beautiful music made by fascinating people, however, so if it’s alright with you I’ll stick to the other, much more appropriate k-word, kosmische.
It’s a good time, then, for Mugstar to remind us of their time-served status with a special record, and that’s what they’ve done with Magnetic Seasons. Its nine tracks clock in at a hefty 74 minutes and, while quantity is obviously no guarantee of quality, those in the know will recognise that this music tends to be at its best when it has plenty of room to breathe. In one sense, there’s an intrinsic contradiction within music that might be described as psychedelic-kosmische. The German model, of course, was characterised to a large extent by rigidity, repetition and regulation. The psychedelic impulse, meanwhile, has always been to break out from containment, to freestyle and go wherever the colours take you. Those bands, like Mugstar, who really inhabit this music and understand it, can square the circle by panning-out: drawing back their viewfinder to display the bigger sound picture. Given the time to evolve, these tracks travel from their kosmische core to the unbound outer reaches and back again, without ever committing the cardinal sin of missing a beat.
In the lead track, Flemish Weave, the dichotomy is addressed head-on via the reverse technique of contraction, whereby weightless, vaporous sounds collapse after a couple of minutes back down into a terrific, pulsing motorik groove, complete with ghostly melodica for fans of the dub spectre. This and the epic Remember the Breathing are the key kosmische workouts that give the album its rhythmic spine.
Elsewhere, the Doors are stylishly evoked as exquisite guitar figures and keyboards ripple across the becalmed surface of the title track. Similarly chilled is La Vallee, a cavernous bass guitar describing huge underground spaces where a lone guitar howls just around the next corner.
If this all sounds a bit elemental, well yes, it’s that kind of album, and the two closing tracks absolutely exemplify its ability to replicate the power of nature. Both Sky West & Crooked and the stunning finale Ascension Island are as impressively windswept as their titles suggest. Indeed, Magnetic Seasons is a well-named collection. Within its covers are heat and light and dark and cold. Music fit to accompany you across oceans or deep into space. Don’t let the ship go without you.
Mugstar are on Twitter @Mugstar , Bandcamp and Facebook
All words by Glenn Airey. More of Glenn’s writing for Louder Than War can be found here – http://louderthanwar.com You can follow him on Twitter @GlennAirey
MUGSTAR & DAMO SUZUKI – “Start from Zero” review
Mugstar / Damo Suzuki – Start From Zero (2015)
Mugstar have won. All other psych bands should just go home. Why? Because Mugstar have recorded an album with Damo Suzuki…
It is titled Start From Zero and consists four tracks. Let’s have a look…
“Waken To The Night’ starts the album with the clanking, grinding machinery of noise that we have come to know and love from Mugstar, like the internal workings of Metal Gear Rex (colouhorizon is never, ever above a 1990s Playstation reference). It’s a furious Hawkwind meets the Duracell Bunny rhythm; relentless energy. Damo streams words against this backdrop and it is fascinating to hear him against a more vigorous musical backdrop than he had with CAN, yet the near drum solo past 6 minutes shows that Mugstar come from the same lineage as the krautrock overlords. The words come as thick and fast as the music, making for a white knuckle 13 minutes.
The mysterious foreboding of ‘Subway Sounds’ imagines Closer era Joy Division providing the music for a Nordic crime show. The bass; ten ton footfalls of a stone-spawned monster on the prowl. Glinting shards of ambient shine through an oozing atmosphere. At 4 minutes this is far too fleeting a treat.
‘Innanewah’ rumbles with along like a psychotic, malevolent hoover. Scratchy guitar solidifies here and there. Damo’s vocals are right on the money, no idea what he is singing but he is in commanding position and his interplay with Mugstar’s brand of straight lined space rock is exhilarating. Throughout the album he sounds as invigorated by Mugstar as the Liverpool band sound inspired.
‘Zero Coda’ (click to listen) is sharp edges and frisky beats all the way. Mugstar’s strength is bringing giddy abandon to their music and this encapsulates that perfectly, the music here is as joyous as eating jelly on a bouncy castle. This moulds Damo’s words into an effervescent, fevered day-dream. Wonderfully, his delivery reaches ‘Halleluhwah’ levels of transcendence. By the way, ‘Zero Coda’ goes on for 22 minutes, so yes, the spirit of CAN is alive and well… Travelling deeper and deeper into this epic, the music flows and punches sharper and harder with Damo becoming increasingly possessed and hypnotic. An emblem of enraptured; his shamanic delivery elevates the music further. Together they build a psych feedback loop.
Mugstar and Damo Suzuki? Does this count as Christmas and birthday present combined?
Krautrock legend meets psych royalty to herald a future age… essential.
From THE SLEEPING SHAMAN webzine
Mugstar Live @ The Roadhouse, Manchester 1st June 2014
Scribed By: Adam Stone
Mugstar are the best psychedelic instrumentalists in the world right now (with the possible exception of Earthless, who plough a more free form Hendrix-inspired furrow than Mugstar’s very English/German psych-beat). Their punky chunky riffs and motorised beats draw deep on the balls-out cosmic crunch of the first five Hawkwind albums and the eternal autobahn mantra of the three Neu! albums (plus the hallowed sacred genius song-concept that was/is Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’), but to reduce Mugstar to such a focussed and specific historical output would be inaccurate. They have evolved since the early twenty noughties into a full throttle psych-machine that takes a well-loved template and hammers it with craft and guile into a new mode of inner transport, one that is so refined and beautifully executed in its simplicity that the music NEVER needs vocals, it just NEEDS to be heard live (preferably live, and if not live then loud on a quality stereo). A testament to their charging crackling power was the fact that amongst the modest and committed crowd a number of punters had started to properly dance, flinging their arms around and really bloody going for it like it was the 1972 Buxton Rock Festival . How could you not move to this? I myself was playing a kind of air drums set up, my right thigh being the high hat or ride cymbal, my left thigh the snare and my right foot naturally keeping time by snapping my heel on to the floor in syncopation to the bass drum. Whilst doing this I stared straight at the masterful Steve Ashton, battering out the most precise beats upon his kit with such loose-wristed ease it was like he had been drumming for a thousand years.
Kicking off with a head-kicking ‘Sunburnt Impedence Machine’ from 2010’s ‘Lime’, Mugstar steamrollered through their expansive back catalogue, including a circuit-frazzling adrenalin-burning ‘Today Is The Wrong Shape’ from the recently re-released on vinyl ‘…Sun, Broken…’ album. As tight as an amoeba’s anus, Mugstar work like a holistic unit of sonic attack, each member no more than the entirety of the band’s sharply defined and uber-driven sound. Having said that, Pete Smyth goes for the frontman role as he wildly oscillates and naturally draws the eye with his frenetic onstage activity, as he swaps screaming lead guitar for keyboards and then for melodica, whilst jerking around and twitching like a severed horse’s cock. Underpinning all of this are Jason Stoll’s titanic and ever undulating bass lines, perfectly recreating the massive cement and steel foundations that Lemmy so admirably provided on the early Hawkwind recordings.
If you haven’t already acquired their six studio albums (get them all from Mugstar’s bandcamp page) then do so with urgency. I find that I never take a Mugstar album off before its finished like I sometimes do with other bands, because their full blooded grooves never fail to draw me right in to their very centre. Indeed any time of the day seems to be Mugstar time. That sounded like a tag line for an advert didn’t it? Imagine a TV advert for Mugstar? Anyway, it was here in this very venue a couple of years ago that I first saw them, supporting Harvey Milk (where I memorably wrote “Mugstar wove a many layered Persian carpet of hypno-rock that showed off their pedigree as possibly one of Britain’s finest exponents of psychedelia, for want of a better genre term. Shall we just say music that is designed to appeal to ‘the inner voyager’?”), and then again last year at the second Liverpool Psychedelic Festival (where they completely wooed every midnight fuck-head in the hall). Both nights they pulverised the audience with mighty combination punches of out-there riffs, wildly off-kilter keyboard breaks and savage, ever insistent drumming. Where other instrumental combos often lapse into quiet noodlings and meanderings, Mugstar never ever let up the pace. Theirs is a breathless and joyful journey, where the drums and the riffs interlock in dynamic union to push forwards and ever onwards, an essentially punk aesthetic that says ‘don’t fuck about, don’t bore the listener, take the fucker by the throat and speed on down the road’.
We got one encore and then it was eleven pm and we all had to leave, satiated and filled-up on a creamy cosmic casserole of raw power. Sonic tonic.
From Middle Boop – MUGSTAR – LIME – Album review
If you are a fan of home-grown psychedelic rock creation, then you will no doubt be quite chuffed to know that Mugstar are bursting at the seams with musical output. This time, I have had the distinct pleasure of listening to “Lime”. It may only be four tracks long but I can tell you that this band has done them selves proud once again and fans of their music will not be disappointed.
The album begins with a dark, brooding and angst ridden track that announces itself like the driver of another car tailing too close to your vehicle. Called “Sunburnt Impendence Machine”, The vocal is primal, screaming out its frustration and perhaps relieving the artist of the built up and pent up attention. As the track thunders along, you can seen that musically, Mugstar have got a lot on their mind and a lot to tell you and like all psychedelic bands that follow the unwritten rules of the genre,Mugstar adhere to this by creating 4 epic tracks of scintillating music.
When the second track “Serra” begins I cannot help but think of influences ranging from Jean Michele Jarre and E.L.O to name a few being behind the collective and talented musical brain that is Mugstar. This is band who acknowledges their roots and you can cherry pick the influences that have driven this band. I am sure Pink Floyd and The Doors have etched their agenda onto the band’s minds. However, conjecture aside, the track is very thoughtful and you can tell that much effort and dedication has gone into writing it. Everything flow very nicely from start to end with organ and guitar sounds floating beautifully over a regimented drum beat.
The third song “Radar King” certainly shakes you out of the tranquil trance that the previous one soothed you into. The throbbing riff and the passion that has gone into the playing of the track just lets you know that this band is not afraid to mix it up at all; you don’t have longevity and a dedicated fan base by being boring and uninspiring and this is why Mugstar are as well liked as they are.
The final song; “Beyond The Sun” saunters the album to a gentle and reassuring end. Starting off slowly, almost simmering ready to bring the music to boil. I cannot help but liken it to film scores that accompanied the famous Fulci zombie movies in the 80s; which is quite ironic given the fact that the band has recently been commissioned to score a film. This track is definitely less obtrusive than its predecessor and that I not a bad thing at all. It shows that this band is willing to have versatility in their set and not just bombard you with the hard stuff which can be a little overwhelming to take in some of the time.
Treat yourself to a bit of Mugstar this summer, you won’t regret it.
From Terrascope – MUGSTAR – LIME Album review
Amongst my quirky filing system, in which albums are grouped along the lines of stylistic tendencies rather any rational chronological or alphabetical process, Mugstar albums hold pride of place alongside a string of Terrastock luminaries such as Bardo Pond, Kinski, Oneida and Grails as well as the odd Neu! and Hawkwind CD. This in itself probably tells you enough about the band to help you decide whether it’s for you or not. The British quartet rarely put a foot wrong in my eyes, and ‘Lime’, their third album (second this year I believe!) scheduled for an October release is if anything their strongest yet.
Whilst the thirteen-minute long ‘Serra’, with it’s extended Kraut-styled riffing, is obviously the stand-out cut of the album and a monster by any measure let alone Mugstar’s already high standards, ‘Radar King’ is marginally the most interesting of the four cuts on this collection: an instrumental which kicks off with a fairly typical for Mugstar Kinski-esque metronomic beat led by shimmering guitars and some gorgeous drumming (always a strong point if this band), before unexpectedly dissolving into an atmospheric space-rock cinemascape not a million miles removed from the Man band’s ‘C’mon’. The guitars then lead the listener out towards a blisteringly apocalyptic crescendo. A word of praise is in order too for the inspired addition of guest clarinettist Jonathan Hartley (of Clinic) who adds some hauntingly Hawkwind- and Beefheart-ian flourishes to the aforementioned ‘Serra’.
Opening cut ‘Sunburnt Impedance Machine’ is pure, undiluted Mugstar riff-trickery with chanted vocals which once again oddly enough brings to mind the Man band with perhaps members of Hawkwind joining them on stage at some celestial gig at the Roundhouse, whilst the closing ‘Beyond the Sun’ finds the band in a more reflective mood throughout the seven minutes of an elegiac, atmospheric synth / guitar ballet, with once again Steve Ashton’s brilliant drumming quietly insinuating itself into your subconscious.
That I adore this band probably goes without saying. That this is a contender already for one of my favourite albums of the year definitely is worth bearing in mind though.