Guardian Alien: Spiritual Emergency

New York underground mob get transpersonal.

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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.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.