Enough time has passed since that abhorrent festival of the mediocre, the Brits, I can go back to recently released tuneage now; and what better way to ease me back into modernity than a blast from the past? Glasgow is a city that has long been welcoming to alternative music groups, maybe more so than the more densely musically packed cities of Britain; there is also a curious tradition of Glaswegian spacerock in the style of Hawkwind or Bardo Pond. Most recently (and still going in their own elemental fashion) the excellent Moon Unit, who even got a slice of action on the page of my idol and god Julian Cope. Before them was Macrocosmica and the Radiation Line (who were from Stirling actually but fuck you if you adhere strictly to city boundaries), Radiation Line’s limited editions of all six EPs are sold out and I’ve never actually heard them, but they got some cracking reviews a few years ago. The tradition of Scottish cosmic bands (and there have been enough to discern a tradition) is to release a coupla smart and blinding recordings before fading out or breaking up just as everyone gets excited. On the surface this is still possible with the Cosmic Dead, the latest undead incarnation of the Scottish space phenomena, but something tells me these guys intend to live on. They currently have two releases, a self-titled debut (currently pending full CD release so I can talk about them because that’s a band event in 2012, screw you) and Psychonaut, an hour and a half one-idea percussion-led workout available for free on Bandcamp to whet your appetite in preparation for paying for the real album, which let me tell you now, contains a 40 minute masterpiece that has to be heard to be fully believed. [Since I wrote this opening paragraph they also released two live sets, so go love 'em]
The trips of the Cosmic Dead are appealingly fundamentalist, dedicated to the cause with admirable gusto, it’s rare a song comes down to land again under ten minutes and you can almost smell that very unique spacerock smell of incense mixing with the dope. The songs rattle and rumble like Victorian steam-powered spaceflight, as if we’ve forgotten how to build microchips and had to go back to voyaging through space in computers the size of skyscrapers. The lead guitar, when it can be arsed to scrape itself off the ragged sofa and join this bass and drums rabble who are permanently in orbit replicates the sound of these Victorian spaceships burning up in the atmosphere... it is appealingly lifted straight out of a much straighter record. The whole sound is utterly sublime, like playing an Om record at the wrong speed and watching it stretch, being muscularly pulled out by this buncha lunatic longhairs without any respect for classics!
It’s easy, in the ragged rugged Roman-free north of these British Isles, to feel a bit detached from everything. Were it not for the techno-gnomes beaming shit into my flat 24/seven and bringing me excellent music; and the odd live evening hosted by joyous friends who have been elegant enough to drop by and freak out the heads it would be quite easy to slip into a state of permanent indolence towards culture (and indeed, many Scots have) that we are approximately 400 miles from the nearest ‘cultural centre’ and any attempts to create our own culture come off as hopelessly pathetic, ooh look at this guy, trying to start a band in Glasgow, oh isn’t he just like that kid who thought he could make it big with his Hollywood blockbuster filmed in his garage; doesn’t he realise that the whole deal is rigged? You can’t go on the Jay Leno show with a Glaswegian accent unless you’re Kelly fucking McDonald, because of where you come from nobody will ever take you seriously. Any band started in Scotland feels more like a sense of duty than an actual attempt to do something original; like everything, it’s always too small and exists purely because someone has to try. The Cosmic Dead agreed, I dropped in on them in their least favourite way, digitally, and had a little tongue-wag, they said “I think it's a kind of escapism. It's the same reason Scotland has a lot of drug addicts and alcoholics. Psych music, as I understand it, is a kind of transcendental music which allows people to escape their context. The Cosmic Dead is definitely that, at times, but more often we are reflecting everything back through a special lens.”
The always enigmatic Cosmic Dead show admirable devotion to the cause. Another thing that used to typify these lysergic left-of-centre types was tape distribution. Kind of like when Jesus and Mary Chain started doing singles only on vinyl to fuck over people who got rid of their old record players, so the Cosmic Dead appropriately distributed their debut album, Cosmik Tape 1, on tape, why? “Tapes are a nice physical object to hold. We grew up with tapes and still listen to tapes in the car. It's not vinyl, but it holds a nice distinctive quality to the sound and retains a ceremony in playing it, something which is lost in 'the digital age'. It's kind of paradoxical in that the physicality of the tape makes the album more 'real' but the unfunctionality of it makes it kind of redundant. That's funny.” So by being corporeal instead of digital, the album is actually harder to find and harder to play (I myself never use my tape-deck ‘cept when heads pull shit like this). The Cosmic Dead aren’t totally tape-infused. They also distribute on bandcamp which is where most people will hear about them. Psychonaut was released in 2011 as a kind of compilation of live and studio cuts to freak out the heads totally for free, an hour and a half of totally free music. The band consider Psychonaut their ‘gateway drug’. It leads to harder things, both spiritually and corporeally. The self-titled album original tape run long ago ran out but you’ll be pleased to know they’ll be re-releasing on CD soon, as well as a new album in the works, “A lot of people aren't into the tape thing and that's cool - in some ways the album will be more accessible now. We're also really proud to have a release with Paradigm... We're doing some festivals and a tour in the UK over the summer. We've also got a new tape of jams coming out on Dub Ditch Picnic soon. We're doing a lot of recording at the moment and meditating on the sound for another new album. We'd love to make it over to Europe and the US as well, so if there's anyone that thinks they could seriously help us set up a tour that's reading this, fire us over an e-mail.”
While they have always been floating in space, it does seem as if the Cosmic Dead’s star will continue to be in the ascendant. The seeming endlessness of the psychic trip coming out of the central belt is being upheld by these guys, who already have more releases than most of their contemporaries. They play in Glasgow regularly and hopefully will come to a town near you if you’re English. Keep an eye out for official releases and off-cuts which can almost be sweeter. The Cosmic Dead are about to release the CD for their debut self-titled album, if you want to buy it, check out their Facebook. If you want to head over to their bandcamp they’ll part you with seven of your earth money for two and half hours of live trips recorded over the last year which they’ve just released. Cosmic Dead are certainly a spacial and a special addition to the Scottish music scene.
Written in space by Steven.