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Guardian Alien: Spiritual Emergency

New York underground mob get transpersonal.

You’ve gotta love an album that comes with its own instructions. In the case of Spiritual Emergency, the latest from drummer Greg Fox’s avant-garde troupe, the inner sleeve tells you not to listen to this record unless you’re in an altered state. Resisting the temptation to reach for the Night Nurse, this reviewer instead took the bold step of tackling it with a clear head.

Turns out you might need a pep or two to fully appreciate opening track Tranquilizer, a minimalist collage that goes on way too long, dominated by Fox’s incessant tabla. The rest of it, though, is pretty invigorating.

The frenetic pulse of Mirror and the ruthlessly rhythmic Vapor (the latter with cut-up vocals that sound like they’ve sampled the dry croak of a swamp frog) are mindfucks of the highest order.

The centrepiece is the title track, named after the 80s book by Czech psychiatrist a recording of the man himself (Grof is a ‘psychedelic therapist’ and champion of state-altering consciousness), it’s 20 minutes of shifting percussion, muted electronica, guitars, Indian zither and disembodied voices.

Acquired listening, perhaps, but it’s worth staying with it, straight or otherwise.