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18 May 2013

[Band Visit] Lumerians [USA]


I decided to start this new series of post with a San Fransisco band which I had the chance to catch them live last Friday in Strasbourg. A performance which was a shock, but we'll talk later about it. Ladies and gents, I give you Lumerians.

2006 was the year Lumerians started their sonic explorations of psychedelic terittories. Formed in San Francisco by Tyler Green (vocals, guitar, keys), Marc Melzer (vocals, bass), Chris Musgrave (vocals, drums) and Jason Miller (guitar, keys, vocals). In 2008 Luis Vasquez joined them to add some latin psych elements in the mix mainly with his congas. Meanwhile the band moved in Oakland where they established their own studio in a converted church called Church Of The Living God (it was church's name from the beginning).

Lumerians began their hallucinogenic, ravishing journey in 2008 with the release of their first five-track same-titled EP. Υοu can feel warm grooves, diffused in every Lumerians' track, starting right from EP's first song "Corckscrew Trepanation". Keys and organ are playing a leading role not only here but generally in their music. And while they synchronize your brain, afro-styled congas are starting their seductive game. An ambient feeling is scattered everywhere in this recording and you can listen a lot of Wooden Shjips references.


Lumerians will need another three years in order to release their debut album "Transmalinnia" when Knitting Factory Records showed some interested in putting out their music. In the meantime in 2010 "Burning Mirrors" came out on white 7" vinyl, featuring two songs "Burning Mirrors" (included in their debut album too) and "Chevaux Fous". In the same year they have also taken part in UNKLE's "Answer" EP where they did "Separate Half" with the vocalist Rebecca Coseboom.

If you ask me "Transmalinnia" is one of today's best psych albums. An instant classic you may say. Rhythms? Pure, straight Krautrockish as Can and Neu! taught us. Vocals? Barrett would be proud of them. Bass and drums always create an hypnotizing pattern; congas add this extra ritual piece and guitars draw atmospheric pictures. Of course the highlight is once again the mighty fuzzy organ. Its warm, thick sound is simply amazing. As the album proceeds you're getting deeper in a psychedelic spiral vortex. And while their music puts you in another state of mind, at the same time their melodies are dance-able. Perhaps a shaman's style dance but still... Even if you find it somehow complex as a listening (I doubt though), give it a few spins because each time is getting better and better. Different eras and places are combined in a solid release. 

Somewhere in 2011 Luis Vasquez formed the minimal, post-punk act Soft Moon and subsequently left Lumerians. I don't know exactly when but they remained a five-piece when Tony Peluso joined them.

Lumerians are not your average "psychedelic" act. A lot of bands baptize themselves "psychedelic" or tumidily blazon their psych side. And I don't only talk about for -allow me to say- purely genre groups but also the ones thinking that by adding some effects or an organ, miraculously their music turning into a true psych/space gem. And don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be eclectic or anything. I enjoy a big amount of this music. But like it or not some things have to be said. Lumerians have explored and studied well their backgrounds, embracing a whole set of ideas, disconnect them from their source or even deconstruct them and building on them, their own vital world of authenticity. In this regard, I have to add that they make their own philosophical or even cosmic statement both musically and visually. A higher form of thinking far away from, mostly entertaining though, discussions between bong sessions.

2012 was the year when all the above mentioned became even clearer... They put out three releases, exposing their inner "universal" logical madness. "Transmissions From Telos: Vol IV" EP (by Permanent/Hands In The Dark Records) and "The Weaning And The Dreaming" (tape by Sanity Muffin) are two great examples of unveiling the burning impact of their solar, jamming explorations. In Transmissions From Telos: Vol IV they're going fully instrumental. It's somehow the no-radio friendly sibling of "Transmalinnia". Everything you possibly loved in their debut, is present here in an expanded, stretched and meditative form full of dark, mystic drones, ragas  (bringing in mind a Masters Musicians Of Bukkake touch) and jams.

"The Weaning And The Dreaming" is their most experimental contribution. First of all, one of the band's members works in a sensory depravation tank spa. Each member passed some time in the tank and then immediately went to record his part in the a room nearby. About the result I quote Aquarius Records description: "Lumerians, who for this single half hour track, recorded a handful of the instruments, then flipped the tape, playing back those instruments in reverse, and tracking the rest of the band to the backward sounds. And if that weren't cool enough (we're a sucker for backwards sounds), the B side is the A side in reverse, which makes the original tracks play properly, while the proper tracks/instruments from the A side are now reversed. Trippy! And seriously psychedelic.
I have listened to it and it was one of the most interesting things I ever came across. I won't go into details since it's hard to describe the whole experience. But man it was something completely different.



"Lumerians Horizon Structures EP leads off side A with The Bloom – a long-fused charge of anti-apocalypse rock. Change is not the end. Life persists. The world is not ending, but YOU are. The notion of apocalypse places undue significance to the brief tenure of Homo sapiens. Wintersong affirms preparedness is acceptance of the inevitable. Side B closes with two heavily synth layered dance numbers. Tawazula and Laser Barn, dances of creation and destruction in that order and out of order." And that's how Knitting Factory describes "Horizon Structures". Their dedication to synths is present and continuously evolving, making Lumerians an alive organism surviving through ages by changing, reforming and exposing its different nature.

And here we are in 2013 with "The High Frontier" by Partisan Records. The title comes from Gerard K. O'Neil's 1976 illustrated book used for colonization of space by humans. Here they leave behind jamming and follow a more structured approach. Krautrock is still the baseline having a more minimal approach; and references to Moon Duo or Beak> can be credited anytime. Distortion or harsh noise are absent and the songs have a hazy, dreamy fog around them, showcasing the continuous evolution I mentioned. You can dance in "Koman Tong" where afro-beat sounds are a high point of reference or get lost in the kosmik smoke of "Smokies Tangle".

Even if their recorded work is excellent, the real deal is when it comes to live performances. I was suspecting it since it's quite usual with bands like them but when I attended one of their shows last week.... They blew my head off. Their performances is a mixture of audio and visual orgasm. First of all they have a lot of gear. I mean a lot. Secondly they have some really intense psych projections perfectly combined with their music. They manage to create a visual representation of their music and subsequently transforming the place they play in their own vital environment. It's an experience. Imagine five people on stage having amazing energy combined with ecstatic music and visuals, and you got a small idea. Perfection!
I have Lumerians on my radar for a year and a half now. And I want to believe that they will remain there for a lot of years to come. In my mind's arrangement, they fall under the category of intelligent bands. Everything is perfectly planned before making their entrance to our world. My only objection has nothing to do with their music, only with the fact of following this new wave or hype of releasing works in different media types. Ok, yeah for vinyl but I can hardly understand this whole "cassette movement". Even if it has to do with an experimental piece like "The Weaning And The Dreaming", my disagreement remains.

And I will close this post by quoting Nicholas Zettel in an article he wrote about Lumerians:
"It is not a sucker’s game to associate psychedelic music with soul-building or mind-building exercises. Lumerians prove that through psychedelic exploration, we have a strong set of tools, sounds, and artistic forms that can orient ourselves to our universe. This orientation can ultimately lead us to better understand life and, as a result, become better humans, truly manifesting mind and soul."
The End.

by Thanos

Discography:
Lumerians EP (2008) Self-released
Burning Mirrors 7" (2010) Rococo Records
Transmalinnia (2011) Knitting Factory Records 
Transmissions From Telos Vol.4 (2012) Permanent/Hands In The Dark 
The Weaning And The Dreaming (2012) Sanity Muffins 
Horizon Structures EP (2012) Knitting Factory Records
The High Frontier (2013)




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