Astra - The Black Chord
Combining elements from all the self-indulgent, free-form and adventurous bands of the 70s, Astra create a hedonistic nirvana for fans of prog- and krautrock. Even a cursory listen to the fifteen minute epic that is the title track of their sophomore release The Black Chord will have men of a certain age writhing in ecstasy as they reference both Yes' Relayer and Echoes by Pink Floyd. Underneath all this are the thundering, driving motorik rhythms so synonymous with NEU! and their peers that emerged from Germany at much the same time, a beating heart that gives the music an urgency the English folks rarely had.
And it is this melding of the two that means despite clearly drawing from the above bands and more, the music is still uniquely Astra. Retro seems very much to be the in thing at the moment, and very few so brilliantly capture a past age in both spirit and sound as Astra - whilst still successfully bringing it into the present day and making it feel fresh.
But The Black Chord is not purely self-indulgent posturing, as the likes of the excellent 'Barefoot In The Head' that closes this delight show a knack for writing catchy and memorable tunes too. Despite flying on close to the ten minute mark, the pop sensibilities are clearly on display and compliment the more outlandish aural musings surprisingly well.
Although it is slightly disappointing at how close to their heroes Astra have remained, and their small steps beyond debut The Weirding, but the charm and class of The Black Chord certainly helps to lessen the blow.