1. Nebula Rasa 6:12
2. Flying with Mihalis 12:50
3. Watching the Universe 14:06
4. Like a Fish in Water 10:25
5. Collapse in the Sylvan Aqueduct 12:22
Ivan Santos – guitars
Eduardo Velarde – bass
Adrian Arguedas – drums
Tavo Castillo – flute (3)
Georgia – voices
“Watching the Universe” is the latest outing by the Peruvian trio ETER-K (which, I believe, is Enter-Key in Spanish), released about a year ago. The CD arrived to me without a press kit, and there are still no reviews of it on the Internet.
As you can see above, the album is comprised of five tracks, almost all of which exceed 10 minutes in length. Disc opener Nebula Rasa begins with spacey effects and guitar pizzicatos that sound so much like those in the first segment of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall-1 that I expected it would continue as still something similar to that song. However, it didn’t. About a half of the piece represents space fusion-evoking arrangements, yet only quasi-improvisational jams similar to those on Steve Hillage’s ‘78 outing “Green”, although the trio’s approach is less-to-much less unpredictable. As to the other half of the tune’s content, I would describe it as follows. At one end, we get spacey Gong-like dreaminess with bubbling effects and glissando guitars, and at the other, a Hawkwind-like sound, but presented without the hard driving rock force, often leaning toward the electronic landscapes of a latter-day Ozric Tentacles instead. It also must be noted that the piece has a certain groove quality to it, which makes it sound much simpler than, say, is required by the standards of quality Space Fusion. What has been said is fully relevant to three more of the recording’s items: Flying with Mihalis, Like a Fish in Water and Collapse in the Sylvan Aqueduct – tracks 2, 4 and 5 respectively. In all cases, at the helm is guitarist Ivan Santos, who moves the trio through all the above realms, at times playing fast, yet never really diversely, avoiding any spectacular solo flights (due to his somewhat insufficient mastery, I surmise). But then – considering his arsenal of sounds – he uses the MIDI guitar or the effects module or, well, something that generates those. Effects are used liberally, albeit not too efficiently, as most of them either merely echo the guitar solos or appear as waves of ‘burbling synths’, which is to say rather than as traditional synthesizer layers. The first one-third of the album’s core track, Watching the Universe, comes across as a separate, world-fusion, piece full of Indian and Arabian folk motifs. The arrangements are based on a refined interplay between flute and what sounds not unlike a sitar, albeit there is not even a hint of the instrument in the CD booklet. The rest of the composition, however, adds nothing new to the album’s overall sound, delivering the already familiar landscapes – I hope you get the idea.
The five tracks presented, while all long, each only reveal a few different thematic storylines. Save the above world-fusion episode, all of them are products of the same compositional approach, and so the album appears as one long continuum, unfolding and growing slowly, more often drifting than shifting into anything else. Hypothetically, there’s quite much here for the neo-psych fan to enjoy, but unlike Gong, Hawkwind and other more complex bands, this one will not demand a lot of attention from an advanced prog rock lover even upon the first listening.
The Peruvian band ETER-K was initially formed back in the late 80's, releasing a sole album back then prior to going into hiatus in the early 90's. They returned towards the end of the decade, and released two more full length albums, in 2000 and 2002 respectively, and then entered another spell of inactivity. 2009 saw the band reunite again, and their fourth album "Watching the Universe" was released two years later.
Eter-K is an outfit described as belonging to the space rock category of bands. Which does look slightly odd admittedly, as their line-up of bass, guitar and drums doesn't really inspire associations towards this type of music. But with the aid of what I suspect are loops and delayed effects they do manage to pull it off, and often in a good manner too. As with many other bands that create their music through jamming and improvisation, the drums have the least dominant role on these excursions. They set the pace and intensity of the various transitional phases, but apart from that and a few clever details this isn't a production that will illuminate innovative use of the rhythms department in the space rock corner of the prog rock universe. The bass is given a much more prominent role in the proceedings, providing a basic motif that occasionally gets pulled up for a more dominant display, while the guitar has more of a subservient function. Bassist Velarde is skilled at maintaining a good flow just as much as incorporating the occasional clever instrument run or to go wandering off subtly improvising over this basic motif, a fine display that suits the relatively sparse arrangements on this CD very well. The pivotal contributions come courtesy of guitarist Santos, however, an instrumentalist that appears to enjoy using his instrument in a myriad of different manners. He'll typically hit out on improvised runs that wander freely but logically through a number of different expressions. Plucked notes in a manner similar to Pink Floyd in the calmer passages, reverberating, echoing licks and drawn out, distorted ones appear just as frequently as rich, textured display closer to post rock and swirling, drone-like sequences, frequently hitting off with brief, and sometimes elongated guitar solo runs too, often of a swirling ethereal character. A fair amount of variation in other words. And typical for the four epic length numbers is a first half with a relatively sparse arrangement, with a secondary guitar effect of some kind – a loop of some kind or a studio overdub – appearing for the final half, always with one guitar layer given a dominant role while the other is of a more basic, subservient kind. The end result is a pleasant and often enticing affair, space rock explored on a less is more line of philosophy, and of a fairly engaging nature too boot. As with all music that at least to some degree has an improvised nature about it, many of the tracks ebb and flow a bit in terms of tension, pace and an outwards oriented performance: a feature, I presume, isn't unheard of amongst space cadets, fans and artists alike.
Steady drums and nifty wandering bass lines are the core foundations for the band’s improvisations, with a guitarist that appears to thrive in exploring different manners in which his instrument can produce sounds that bring forth reflections of an inner or outer space. Varied in expression, sparse in arrangements and fairly effective in performance, this is a CD that should appeal to quite a few space cadets, with fans of acts like My Brother The Wind a likely key audience.