Ah, the Thunder Rider… Of all the Hawkwind alumni, there’s no one quite as fiercely experimental as Nik Turner. It might appear that his every step leads him further out, but he was pretty far out to begin with, in the sonic sense. Even prior to Hawkwind, Turner had happened upon the concept of free jazz while in Berlin with Edgar Froese, and with the notion of ‘freaking about on saxophones’ in his head, he’d decided to ally such improvisational grooving with rock’n’roll. Here Turner takes his recorded oeuvre outside of the rock setting it’s largely inhabited since the first Hawkwind album and truly explores its avant-garde origins.
If 2015’s Space Fusion Odyssey was a bold first step, this collection with Seattle-based psych-prog ensemble Flame Tree represents a giant leap. Fair warning: this is a free-jazz album, with significantly more in common with Ornette Coleman than Hawkwind. While Turner’s tone recalls some of his more mainstream and accessible formative influences, the improvised material can jar and challenge with as little harmonic compromise as Coleman, Eric Dolphy and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Rock-attuned ears might take some acclimatising, but persevere and the rewards are rich.