Thursday, August 18, 2016

Album Review: "Astra Symmetry" by Monkey3

The psychedelic slow groove music of Monkey3, isn’t going to generate any mosh pits, yet is still a heavy listen in its own right.  It is exactly the sort of music one would expect from a jam band sonically creating a map of the cosmos. 

Astra Symmetry, the fifth album from the Swiss quartet, is a concept album which attempts to serve as a trippy soundtrack to the zodiac.  Although they have toured Europe extensively and earned the respect of their native continent, this may be the album to finally expand the boundaries of their empire.

The influence of classic 70s stoner bands Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and especially Led Zeppelin can be heard throughout the album.  However, Monkey3 is consistently more atmospheric and less melodic than any of these influences. 

Many passages have a distinctly Middle Eastern sound to them, which is perhaps a second hand acquirement from Zeppelin. Vocals are dispersed sparingly throughout.  The listener often gets the impression they are floating through the icy, desolate expanse of outer space, interrupted in their solitude only when a new constellation appears.

My first listen to the album was in my car, but this is clearly not driving music.  The tempos are slow and meandering.  This is music which accompanies an evening under the stars contemplating the constellations, and is out of place in rush hour traffic.  

There are a few places where the pace of the tunes quickens, but these serve more as accents to the otherwise slow build and flow of the album.  Sometimes the creep between segments is painstakingly slow, and the listener must demonstrate patience as the next cosmic passage pulls into view.  The reward is great, but the process slow.

Astra Symmetry is not an album of singles.  To be appreciated it can only be listened to as a collective whole, with each song building on the foundation established by the prior.  Throughout are musical themes which recur and tie the whole composition together.  With Monkey3's Astra Symmetry stargazing now has a progressive rock accompaniment. 

Release: September 2, 2016
Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock, Stoner Rock
Label: Napalm Records

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