For Ulaan Khol, Steven R. Smith’s current space rock churning moniker, 2008 has been quite a windfall of creativity. After releasing the massive astral maw of I this spring, he’s pulled in the focus a little tighter for winter’s II. To be sure, it’s not like Smith’s treading any other path than heavy instrumental psychedelic music, but this second installment in his trilogy occasionally evokes adjectives like “gentle” and “wistful,” both terms that rarely register in the lexicon of this genre of music.
This time, Smith opts for subtlety and restraint in charting coordinates on his acidic nebula. His guitar tone/distortion/feedback ensemble remains largely intact from his previous release, but he brightens the previously dark gray palette with some warmer pink noise and deep blue echoes. Most shocking are the discernible chords and riffs that cut through the ether of backward soloing on track three. It’s not a straight composition, but it’s a definite trend toward song that wasn’t present before.
Prolific experimentation in music has a tendency to lead to more redundancy, but Smith’s guidance of Ulaan Khol’s trajectory sound solidly in place. It’s making for one of the better, and richer, multi-part avant garde projects to be released in recent memory.
Soft Abuse: www.softabuse.com