I’d certainly forgive someone who proclaimed that capital-P psychedelia’s death knell sounded long ago. With so many acts flogging the familiar, tired mélange of tropes pilfered from various underground-rock sources of yore, it’s difficult to find any new music coming from that general orbit. But Matt “Doc” Dunn’s The Cosmic Range is one of the rare shining examples.
The primary thing that sets the band apart is the diversity of musical resources its draws on—both stylistically and from its members. Its skeleton is undeniably psych, but its flesh and musical nervous system consist of something else altogether. The rhythm section carries rock potency, but its temporal demeanour is remarkably supple and often funky. Rather than opting for strident guitar heroism, Max Turnbull (aka Slim Twig) remains decidedly textural, although still tethered to the aforementioned gyrations. Dunn’s leadership from behind the organ, piano, or vibraphone integrates seamlessly with the ensemble, only occasionally emerging organically into the foreground. And though Dunn has recruited two analog synthesists, Jonathan Adjemian and Mike Smith (who play together as Transcombobulation), the pair offer a timbral array that’s well away from the knob-twiddling kitsch-trap that many stumble into while en route to celestial realms. Andy Haas’ characteristically nasal-sounding soprano-sax tone pierces the rich billows of sound, his sober and resolute approach to material providing tidy contrast.
When Isla Craig’s clean vocal colours waft through the mellow closing track “Look At What Our Love Has Done,” they offer a similar clarity. Though the instrumental portion is invigorating, Craig’s sonic charisma is magnetic: one is left hoping for more contributions from her on the next Cosmic Range outing.
The music may be pointed conspicuously skyward, but make no mistake: The Cosmic Range is a careful affair, reflective of keen-eared ensemble dynamics and equally acute individual listening practices. The tension they establish between restraint and bounty ensures that the music is imbued with momentum in spite of a marked emphasis on repetition and sustained tonal spaces. While ostensibly working out of a domain where pastiche is the norm, they’ve crafted a hybrid that’s both reverent of history and unique enough to stand sturdily on its own—an admirable feat considering the rest of today’s psychedelic climate.